WordPress has to be my favorite CMS for carrying out search engine optimization within.
It has a wealth of great plugins that can be used, URL structure is easily manipulated and the general structure of the CMS is extremely flexible enabling users with basic coding knowledge to easily make changes.
Based on my past experience with carrying out SEO within WordPress, I will share some of my advice toward how you best go about it.
First Things First, Get Yoast’s Plugin…
As the heading suggests, I’m a big fan of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. This little beauty, developed by Joost de Valk, will save you endless hours of coding and frustration by simplifying most of the SEO tasks that you will need to do. Not only that, it’s free! Make sure you’re running the latest version of WordPress and then download the plugin here.
Site Architecture and Page Structure
From an early stage you should start thinking about the architecture and structure of the pages on your website. This includes how the pages link to each other, the structure of URLs and the hierarchy of the different sections of the site.
I have found that for the best results for your blog, you should keep a relatively flat hierarchy. What I mean by this is that from the homepage of your blog you should have top-level navigation links through to the main article categories so that the search engines will see these pages as being a priority for crawling. The more regularly your pages are crawled, the more likely you are to see rises within the search engine rankings. A good example of this type of navigation can be seen with John Doherty’s blog:
You can then optimize the individual category pages on the blog to rank for specific keywords. I will go into the specific of how to do this later on in the article, but it is incredibly important that you get the structure of the internal links within your blog correct in order for the search engines to effectively consume the content within it.
URL Structure – Get Your Permalinks in Order
For best results, the URLs of your webpages should have content-relevant keywords within them. As well as this, you want to avoid any dynamic or overly long URLs. By default WordPress adds the date of your post into the URL of your page, which is pretty useless, so you can quickly change this by going to Settings>Permalinks and then selecting the ‘Post Name‘ radio button (as shown below).
This will now ensure that the URLs of your blog posts will contain the words from the header of the post, which you should include targeted keywords within.
Deep Link to Other Articles within Your Blog
As well as gaining external backlinks to your articles, it is incredibly important that you are linking internally between each of your posts. This will drive PageRank through to the pages on your website and give the search engine crawlers an easy way to navigate through your content. Make sure that you don’t add too many links within each post though; as a rule of thumb I try to stick to no more than 3 links per 4-500 words (but this really depends on the content).
Optimising Your Page Titles
The titles of your webpages are an extremely important factor of on-page SEO. With Yoast’s SEO plugin that I talked about earlier in the article, this task has become easier than ever. At the footer of each of your posts you will see some extra options that allow you to do just this.
Make sure that you keep your page titles relevant to the content of the post, include keywords that you are targeting to appear in the SERPs for and always make sure that they make sense to the end user. There is no point in getting your post to page 1 of Google if your page titles make no sense as this will have a detrimental effect upon the click-through rate of the page.
Once you have entered your page title, you can see a nice preview of what it will look like within the SERPs.
Optimise the Images within Your Pages
With the increased number of blended search results appearing, it is more important than ever to ensure that all of the images within your web pages are optimised for the search engines. This can be done with three simple steps:
- Include relevant keywords within the actual filename of the image (i.e. wooden-ladders.jpg)
- Include relevant keywords within the ALT attribute of your image (i.e. alt=”image of wooden ladders”)
- Ensure that your images folder isn’t blocked within your robots.txt file
The first 2 steps are almost self-explanatory and can be done when you insert a new image into your post. Firstly, when you save the image on your local hard drive, make sure you rename it with the relevant keywords within it (words shouldn’t have spaces between and should by separated with hyphens. Next, fill in the fields ‘title’ and ‘alt attribute’ with the relevant keywords and press ‘insert into post’; simple!
To make sure that your site isn’t preventing the search engines from crawling your images, you may need to make some edits to you robots.txt file. Here is a nice starting point for how a good WordPress site robots.txt should look:
User-agent: * Disallow: /feed/ Disallow: /trackback/ Disallow: /wp-admin/ Disallow: /wp-content/ Disallow: /wp-includes/ Disallow: /xmlrpc.php Disallow: /wp- Sitemap: http://example.com/sitemap.xml
By default WordPress doesn’t have functionality for you to directly edit your robots.txt file but you can do just that by downloading this handy little plugin (for free, of course).
Set Up a Sitemap
High on the priority list is creating an XML sitemap for your blog so that you can let the search engines know exactly what to look at and where to find it. You remember that plugin that I talked about earlier don’t you? Well it’s coming in handy again! Navigate through to the Yoast SEO plugin setting on your WordPress dashboard and go to ‘XML Sitemaps‘.
Tick the box that says ‘Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality’ (Duh!) and the plugin will do all the hard work for you. It will automatically create the sitemap at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
Get Your Blog Social-Ready
Social signals are becoming more and more important toward SEO so it’s essential that you make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. I use a free plugin called Sociable which is great for this. You can specify which social media sharing buttons to place on your blog, where to place them, you can customize the buttons and a ton more of options. Download the plugin for free here.
A great way to improve the click-through rate of your content within the search engines is to add Google+ authorship mark-up data. This will allow your Google+ profile image to appear next to your webpage snippet in the SERPs (as shown below):
Another great feature of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is that they have simplified the way in which you can add the code to your articles in order to link up your Google+ account to them. All you have to do is go into your user profile from the WordPress dashboard (Users>Your Profile) and enter the URL of your Google+ profile. The plugin will then add the necessary code to the <head> section of your webpages.
Now that you have done this, simply go to your Google+ profile and add your WordPress website into the ‘Contributor to’ section.
After a week or so you should see that the changes have taken effect and your profile image (as long as it abides by Google’s ToS) will be displayed within your SERP snippet. It’s that easy