How to Use 301 Redirects

There will come a time when you may decide to obtain a new domain name for your website or you may even want to delete some pages in your website or you may want to change the URL of a web page to a more SEO friendly one e.g rather than www.mysite.com/123.html to www.mysite.com/my-product.html. The problem is you have probably spent weeks, months even years building links to these pages and the second you change the url structures of these pages they disappear in to the “404 – Not Found” abyss and losing you your precious search engine positions.

Thankfully there is a way to make sure your SEO is not undone and that is by using 301 Redirects. A 301 redirect is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for web page redirection. It’s not that hard to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page. If you have to change file names or move pages around, it’s the safest option. The code “301″ is interpreted as “moved permanently”.

You will need access to your .htaccess file to modify or add the redirects to your pages. The .htaccess file is a control file that allows server configuration changes on a per-directory basis. It controls that directory and all of the sub-directories contained within. In most cases, this file will be placed in the root Web folder for your Web site. If there’s no .htaccess file present, create one.

  1. Open your .htaccess file in notepad
  2. In your .htaccess file on a new page add the line:
     RedirectPermanent /old-file.html http://www.domain.com/new-file.html

    or

     Redirect 301 /old-file.html http://www.domain.com/new-file.html

    But what if you have dozens of pages to redirect because you have changed the domain name; well this can be done by adding the below code to your .htaccess file:

    Options +FollowSymLinks
     RewriteEngine on
     RewriteRule (.*) http://www.newdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

    This would require that the old pages you have redirected have the same URL structure as the new URL.

  3. Save your .htaccess file and re-upload to the root directory.
  4. To test your changes load the old page in your browser and see if it is redirected to the new page.

If you are using a cPanel hosting account then you can make redirects in your account.

  1. Log into your cPanel, and look for “Redirects” under Site Management
  2. Put in the current directory into the first box
  3. Put the new directory in the second box
  4. Choose the type (temporary or permanent) temporary=302 and permanent=301
  5. Click “Add” and you’re done

 

+Chris Dyson

How to add a website to Google Webmaster Tools

What are Google Webmaster Tools?

Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) is an important resource for any webmaster. It is designed to inform web owners about how “Google bot” is interacting with a website. It gives detailed information on important SEO factors such as broken website links, popular search terms (keywords) and how often Google is stopping by. It’s Google’s way of giving site owners the information that they need to be successful.

Google Webmaster Tools let you access data about the indexing of your website. This does the following:

  • Displays Google’s view of your site
  • Helps you diagnose site issues
  • Lets you share information with Google to improve your site’s visibility in search engine results
  • Provides you with crawl statistics, recent queries, errors, and other information that Google collects about your site

How to add your website

Getting started with Google Webmaster Tools is not to difficult. The first thing you’ll need is a Google account. Since all Google services use the same login, you may already be setup. If you have Gmail, Adwords, Analytics, Google+ or one of the many other services, then you are ready to go. If not, sign up for a free Google Account.

Once you have created or if you already have a Google Account you should be able to use that to login and then create your WMT’s account.

Then click on the “Add a site” link and enter your full website address. Site owners can add in as many sites as they want. Once you have done this it will ask you to “Verify ownership” of the website. To do this you need to add a meta tag to the home page or upload a file to your website that WMT’s will provide. We’ve found the easier and quicker method is to add the meta tag into your website code.

Verifying the site takes only a few seconds but access to the web server is necessary. Verification ensures that you are the site administrator/owner and can get the insight. If you don’t own the site, and you can’t verify it, then Google won’t give you the detailed information.

If you have difficulty setting up your webmaster tools you may need your web designer to help you.

Next you want to submit a sitemap to your new Webmaster tools, you can create and upload a Sitemap and use this page to submit it to Google. Just click Add a Sitemap and then follow the instructions.

Google Webaster Tools are a great set of resources to see how Google is interacting with your site. You can see issues, your site’s linking structure and how people are finding your site. It’s much more than other search engines are doing and something that is highly valuable for any site owner.

Improve your WordPress SEO

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.

Title Tags

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.

http://www.rootswebsolutions.com/?p=29

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:

User-agent:*
Disallow:

Upload this via FTP to the root folder of your website:

Like this => http://www.yourwebdomain.com/robots.txt

Headings

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.

Sitemaps

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.

Internal Linking

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.

13 Ways to Speed Up your WordPress Site

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our customers using WordPress for their blogs or websites is how do I speed up my WordPress website?

Website speed has become an important factor for SEO purposes, don’t believe me, check what Google say. It makes sense, I mean who wants to browse through a slow loading website? Most people will leave the site and look else where for the information they need.

There are lots of different suggestions out there. Some of them will speed up your website considerably. Others may only make a fraction of seconds worth of difference to your page load times. If you’ve got a massive site with hundreds of pages and posts and it is taking a long time to get anywhere then you’ll want to squeeze every bit of optimisation out of it. For a much smaller site, just one or two of the ideas below will be enough to get your WordPress installation running much faster.

Recently I made some of the changes below to one of our clients websites it was taking over 12 seconds to load a page now this is no more than 4 seconds per page.

Visit  http://tools.pingdom.com and enter your site url and do  a speed test to see how long does it take for your website to load.

***Before starting with anything, be sure to make a complete back up of your WordPress theme  and your WordPress SQL database. ***

Install a Cache Plugin

A cache plugin is an absolute must have plugin that cache’s the mostly visited pages on your website and make them available to the next visitor immediately. The plugin generates html files which are served without ever invoking a single line of PHP.

Try using WP Super Cache or if you have experience with caching plugins try W3 Total Cache, I also like the easy to use Hyper Cache which is great for people on Shared Web Hosting. Hyper Cache is a very lightweight caching option for the average WordPress blog, offering speed without a lot of overhead. For more information on the plugin’s features, configuration, and support, please visit the Hyper Cache homepage.

Remove Inactive Plugins

Most of us love to try out a fresh new WordPress plugin. We are all guilty of installing ones we don’t really need, or of installing a plugin, trying it out, deciding we don’t really need it and deactivating it, leaving it sitting inactive in our installation (nb – an inactive plugin won’t slow your site down but it will take up space. This will only cause you problems if you have restricted space).  Its better to remove all those inactive plugins that you dont use.  So make sure that the plugin directory is cleaned up.

Tip:  Don’t use a plugin when you can use code

Keep Your WordPress Version Up To Date

With the release of new versions, WordPress keeps on improving, the developers put their effort in making WordPress faster and safer.  So be sure to grab the latest stable installation when you can.

Optimise the WordPress SQL Database

Just like your hard drive the WordPress database too can become fragmented.

To optimise the wordpress database of your site, visit your cPanel & use phpMyAdmin to Optimise and Repair the Tables.

If you are like me and like to be efficient, you could automate this process by either installing a plugin like WP-DB Manager or if you are a very confident and experienced web site designer you could setup a Cron Job, an automatic program that you can execute at specific times and at specific dates. You can set this up through your CPanel, but I would not recommend this if you are at all unsure of what you are doing.

Flush the Buffer

When a visitor to your site visits a page, it can takes around 200 – 500 milliseconds for the backend server to put together the HTML version of the page. During this time the browser remains idle. The flush() function in php will help by  loading the partially ready HTML page to the browser and it can start fetching the components, while the backend server is busy with the rest of the contents.

To insert the flush() function in your WordPress site, open up the header.php file and find the </head> tag and insert the <?php flush(); ?> function right after it.

</head>
<?php flush(); ?>
<body>

Add Expiration to Static Items

Adding an expiry time to your static images can reduce the number of HTTP requests when loading other pages in the site. Adding an expiry time to the images in the site help in loading the pages faster.

Simply copy and paste this code into your .htaccess file.

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/gif A604800
ExpiresByType image/png A604800
ExpiresByType image/jpg A604800
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A604800

Disable Hot Linking

Hotlinking is when another internet user uses an inline link to display an image that is hosted on your website. You know, those people who do a Google image search and not only think that it’s okay to use your image but also are fine about embedding the image using the link to the one you host, thereby leaching up your precious bandwidth.

You can ensure that this doesn’t happen by adding the following code to you htaccess file:

WARNING! Always backup your htaccess file before making any changes.

RewriteEngine on
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?your-domain.com/.*$ [NC]
 RewriteRule .(gif|jpe?g|png)$ - [F]

 

Automatically Empty the Trash

You can set WordPress to automatically empty the trash. Simply add this line to your wp-config.php file. The number basically refers to how many days between WordPress trash dumps:

define('EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS', 10 );

Compress Your Images

The WP Smush.it plugin will automatically optimise your images for you. It removes extra bytes within them that are unnecessary, without compromising the images quality. Smaller images mean a faster loading site.

Host Video Externally

Unless you’ve got a super–fast server with loads of space, hosting your videos on services such as Vimeo or YouTube can help with your speed. If you have a site with loads of videos then no doubt you’ve already taken server speed into consideration but if you are just posting the occasional video you should definitely host elsewhere.

Compress the CSS Code

Compressing your CSS Code will make it’s size small and your browser can render it faster and that results in faster page load times. Compressing the CSS can be done in two ways. Either by doing it manually by using the service CSS Drive. But if you make changes to your CSS Code occassionally, then its better to use the WP CSS plugin. The WP CSS plugin will automatically remove the white space and compress your css files. Plus you will also have other options to set expiry time for the files.

Adjust Your WordPress Settings

There’s no reason to show 1000 posts on the home page of your blog, and you don’t even need to display the full post content on the front page. You can adjust this setting in the WordPress Dashboard under the Settings > Reading panel.

Turn off inter-blog communication

By default, WordPress interacts with other blogs that are equipped with pingbacks and trackbacks. Every time another blog mentions you, it notifies your site, which in turn updates data on the post. Turning this off will not destroy links to your site, just the setting that generates a lot of work for your site. For more detail, read this explanation of WordPress Pingbacks, Trackbacks and Linkbacks.

Look at your sidebar for any social widgets, plugins or javascript-based add-ons. Decide if  they are helping you bring in any traffic. Things like Google Friend Connect are almost never worth it and should be removed.

To conclude, what you want to do is look for scripts, add-ons, plugins,  javascripts, or social media tools with large load times or callbacks to external websites. Make sure you remove them whenever possible. Use basic file reduction techniques like using thumbnails instead of large images and use Caching plugins where possible.

Speed Testing Resources

What tricks do you use to speed up WordPress? Share it with us in the comments section & we will add it in to the post, so that everyone else can use it.