I have been using WordPress for several years now, for both my projects and for working on my client’s web profiles. I’m certainly not alone when it comes to utilising this CMS though — tens of millions of sites online are powered by the software. The WordPress Codex says that “WordPress, straight out of the box, comes ready to embrace search engines“. I can safely say, that may well in fact be true, but I must admit to you that there is more than enough work that you’ll need to do after you’ve installed WordPress on to your server in order for it to interact well with the major search engines such as Google or Bing.
Obviously I can’t guarantee you first page rankings, and certainly can’t get you lots of quality links, but I hope I can teach you some useful tips to ensure that your site is optimised and improve your indexing rates.
I am going to split this article into separate headings for you to follow firstly we will cover what you need to do to optimise your WordPress Installation and Theme.
By default your WordPress post title will look something like:
Blog Title » Archive » Title of Your Post
Surprisingly, it is the exact opposite of what you should do in order to increase your SERPs. One thing you must understand is that search engines put higher weight on keywords that are near the start when ranking a post. So theoretically you are hurting your chances of ranking well.
Sadly since WordPress is not a static site, it is difficult to generate the title in the way we want. Fortunately there are some excellent third party developed WordPress plugins such as All in One SEO that allows us do that with a just few clicks. First thing you need to do is install and then activate the All in One SEO plugin and follow the settings which I suggest below.
Using this plugin, you can also write / modify titles for specific post or page. You can override the default post title and write a custom title for your meta tags.
Change your Permalink Structure
WordPress out of the box has a very “ugly” URL Structure that is both unfriendly to humans and search engine bots. It does not give anyone any idea as to what the web page is about, as it does not contain any keywords.
The goal of making the URL structure friendlier is that your users should know before reading the article what it is about by just looking at the URL. The same goal is to be accomplished for Search Engines as well.
You need to go to Settings > Permalinks and edit the settings to /%postname%/
Make sure you choose the structure that works best for you. And if you must choose a custom structure other than the one I used, see this reference for how to do it.
It’s best to do this on a fresh blog installation, but if you’re making this change on an older blog then make sure you install a redirection plugin. Also remember to shorten the post slug when you are writing an article, as by default the URL will use all of the words in your title.
Add a robots.txt file
Many WordPress webmasters forget about this, but one very easy thing to have on your site is a robots.txt file. This simply tells Google which parts of your website they are allowed to spider and add to their index. WordPress doesn’t come with a robots.txt file from a fresh install, so we need to add one. It’s a very simple thing to add, but it really can help to improve your rankings.
To create a robots.txt file create a text file named robots.txt and put this inside it:
Upload this via FTP to the root folder of your website:
Like this => http://www.yourwebdomain.com/robots.txt
Headings are defined by HTML with H1 (largest) to H6 (smallest). You need to use them in your articles when you write. Your article title should be in a main heading (H1), sub headings with H2 and small headings with H3.
The Google XML Sitemaps Plugin is very important to help to improve the number of pages that are added to the Google index. Sitemaps improve the “crawlability” of your site as they help the search spiders to find your content. Google XML Sitemaps plugin is great as it automatically creates a sitemap which you can submit to your Google Webmaster tools and it can speed up the the time it takes for your site to be indexed.
Images – Alt Text
One of the most overlooked, but powerful on-page SEO tweaks you can make, is to begin to religiously use the ALT and TITLE tag for your images.
The alt tag is a way to tell search engines what your images are actually about. Not only will it help you get more search traffic to your images, but I think it helps the overall rankings of a page, as well.
Make your Content Easy to Share
Social bookmarking is an effective way of promoting a website, Social bookmarking can add great value to your WordPress SEO allowing visitors to share the website pages and posts on social networks and generating massive traffic free of charge.
Allowing Social bookmarking on a WordPress website encourages visitors to get engaged with your site content and spread the word around to their social networks. There are many WordPress Social bookmarking plugins out there that can be used to add to your Website such as ShareThis.
There are 2 main reasons why I regularly dedicate time to go back over old posts on my blog and find ways to update those posts with links to other posts on my blog.
1. Readers – my number one goal with any website is to help people find what they are looking for. By interlinking pages you improve the chances your readers will return time and again.
2. SEO – another great reason to interlink the posts on your blog is that search engines look at the links within a post/page to both find content to index but also to work out how to index and rank content.
As you write a new article train yourself to be thinking about what you’re written previously that relates to your new post. As you identify related content start to interlink your posts (you can add links in your new post to old content and/or add links in your old ones to your new content).
Content, Content, Content
Finally the most important part of any SEO campaign is to right compelling, original and quality content. When you are writing an article ask yourself is this something I think people would find useful, would I want to link to this or share it with my friends.
Remember at the end of the day build your websites for people and not search engines.
If you have any more SEO tips for WordPress I’d love you to share them in the comments below.