SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the key aspects to long term success with any online venture, so if you are looking to make your WordPress blog a success in the long run, you are going to want to consider how best to optimise your content for search engines. As it is out of the box WordPress has a few issues which need to be sorted out with plugins. In this article I will look at the key concepts of onsite optimisation, and I will provide you with links to all the necessary plugins to ensure your WordPress site is not ignored by search engines.
The foundation of all good SEO involves clever keyword selection before you begin. Your overall site should be optimised to eventually rank for some high search volume keywords, and you should also target lower volume terms with individual posts. The main concepts in keyword research are: search volume and competition. Obviously you want to target keywords that get searched often, so ranking for them will bring you traffic, but you also need to consider who you are trying to outrank. To find estimates of the type of search volumes keywords will bring I suggest using the Free Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool. On this tool use “Exact” rather than “Broad”, exact tells you how many people are searching for that keyword, but not other keyword phrases which might incorporate your term. To look at competition you need to search for the term in Google and analyse sites that are ranking for it. You would look for things like page rank, site age, keyword in title, backlinks to the page, and backlinks to the domain. I am not suggesting it’s practical to complete this sort of analysis on for every post you write, however, if you are planning a whole site based on a topic, you want to know how much search traffic that site can pull, and how hard it will be to obtain.
Also keep in mind that a high portion of search phrases entered into Google every day are being search for the first time. New topics and products come out all the time. So it is also a solid SEO strategy to simply write about hot trending topics. There may not be any historical data to suggest ranking for that term is worth while, but if it becomes hot, then ranking for new terms can be well worth it.
Of course not all SEO is done on site. If you know anything about SEO, you will understand that building targeted quality anchored backlinks is the main key in improving search engine ranking, however in this article I will be looking at mostly onsite SEO factors. The important onsite factors which you should be looking control include:
The title of your article is important, as it is the first indicator to a search engine of what the content on that page is all about. It is key to ensure your titles are optimised with researched keywords that will bring traffic to your site. Normally this just means inclusing your keyword in the article. For this article I might be trying to rank for the keyword “Wordpress SEO”, my title includes this term.
Although optimising Meta tags to improve search engine rankings doesn’t work like it did is the past, it is still important to optimise this content. The Meta Description is what Google uses to display as the description of your page when it is listed in a SERP (search engine result page), so you want this to be attractive to visitors to encourage them to click your link. You also want to this to be unique for every page on your site. For this task I use the plugin discussed below.
Post slugs are the name that each post gets in the URL of the page. You don’t need a plugin to optimise this, WordPress allows you to do it from the permalink page from your settings panel. I suggest using your post title for your permalink as the default permalink is involving an ID number will not help you rank at all. If you wish to have a different slug to your title for an individual article, there is also a field in your WordPress post page that allow you to change this. Here is an article about WordPress post slugs.
Internal link structure
How you anchor links around your site is probably the most important onsite SEO factor that people get wrong. When you link to another page in your site you want that link to be anchored with keywords. Look at how I linked to the WordPress post slug article in the paragraph above. This link tells search engine what that page is about. Wikipedia ranks highly in Google for millions of keywords many of which are very competitive terms, and one of the main reasons it does this is because whenever a keyword appears inline in a wiki article, that Wikipedia has a page about, it links that keyword to the page. This is a very effective controllable way to improve your sites ranking.
There are certain pages on your site which you probably don’t want to rank in search engines. So why bother passing authority to these pages? A common page to apply no index to is the contact page. Also including tag and category pages in search engine indexes will mean there is duplicate content included. This is a debateable topic, as many SEO experts will tell you this is a major no-no. However, others will argue, that duplicate content from on the same domain has little to no negative effect, and in some ways can be considered a positive, as if more of your sites pages are included in the search engines index, then that is more of your site’s internal links that will be counted. I feel that unless you are trying to get tag pages to rank for keywords there is little reason to include these pages, so I suggest applying no-index to them, and I will talk about a plugin a little further down which will do this for you easily.
Image alternative text
Including keywords or title as the alternative text of your image will help bring traffic from Google image search. Google image search traffic is terrible for converting into an ad clicks or sale, but for such an easy task this traffic is still worth chasing if you are not lazy.
Headings within an article
Heading or <h1> tags can be used within posts to help reinforce what an article is about, and what keywords you want to rank for. For this reason it’s a good idea to use <h1> tags within your article, and to use your keyword in the tag.
A site map is what tells search engine spiders what content you have on your site, and it makes life easier for search engines to find your important content. Using a plugin which I will talk about below to generate a sitemap, and submitting it to Google will help your site to be indexed and ranked more easily.
There was a time when simply including a keyword lots of times on a page meant that that page would rank well for the keyword, however, these days have long gone. It is still said to have some weighting when sued sensibly, 2-3% being a good amount. Basically all this means is that you should include your keyword a few times through out your posts.
Ok enough of the concepts, what do we use to improve rankings
WordPress SEO Plugins
There are plenty of plugins out there aimed to improve the SEO of your wordpress blog, lets take a look at those which are absolutely key, I use all of these plugins on all of my WordPress sites.
This plugin is the number one most downloaded (4,254,635 at the time of writing this) Wordpress plugin and with goog reason. It is essential, it does it’s job, and it’s easy to use. The first key task which this plugin does is that it allows you to define meta tag info for your site like homepage title, keywords, and homepage description. It also generates and rewrites this info for your posts using special tags (see screenshot below) and allows you to format this appropriately. And even better, it does all this for you out of the box. Above I talked about no index. This plugin allows you to apply no index to tag, category and archive pages, simply by ticking a box. This ensures only your post content and homepage is included in search engine indexes, and ensure your actual content gets all the attention.
As discussed above, having a sitemap for your WordPress blog makes life much easier for the search engine spiders to figure out where all your content is. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin easily allows you to generate a sitemap for your WordPress site, and also to customise the priority of content on your site specifying which pages are more important. Once you have generated a sitemap you need to go to Google Web Master Tools to submit your sitemap.
This little plugin is designed to optimise the internal link structure of your site like Wikipedia does, by automatically hyper-linking certain keywords which you specify to the pages that you are trying to rank for.
Using just these three plugins you can achieve all of the main goals with onsite SEO. There are other plugins designed to improve SEO of your WordPress blogs.
Best of the Rest:
- Headspace 2 – This does the same thing as All in One SEO, however, I find it a little more complicated for beginners.
- SEO Blogroll – A plugin that allows you to show who your friends are with a blogroll, but allows you to apply no-follow if you wish, meaning that the site doesn’t drain your page rank.
- SEO Paged Comments – Fixed issues with paged comments causing duplicate content issues. Worth looking into if you get lots of comments on your blog.
- SEO Friendly Images – Makes adding Alt tags and title tags to your image easier.
- SEO No Duplicate – Another plugin to fix duplicate content issues
- Efficient Related Posts – A related posts plugin – helps increase internal anchored links and helps maintain readers on your site.
- Platinum SEO Pack – Another complete solution like All in one SEO.
- SEO Title Tag – Useful tool for mass editing your post titles.