If being found on Google, Bing and other search engines is a priority, and it usually is, then WordPress is fantastic straight out of the box. It only needs a few tweaks to the settings, a couple of plug-ins and a few checks to become truly incredible for search engine optimisation (SEO). Here’s a few tips from us at Electric Studio.
1. Getting the core settings rights
When you install WordPress for the first time, there are a few things you should do to ensure a smooth ride up the rankings.
1.1. Activate permalinks
Permalinks take advantage of a server function called mod rewrite to convert your URL’s to a human readable structure based on a hierarchical structure for pages, or a date, category and tag based structure for posts. Without it the URL’s will show a PHP search string like ?p=6 rather than /parent/child/grandchild which is much more user friendly and better for SEO. You activate permalinks under Settings > Permalinks. We usually choose the Months and Name option.
1.2. Allow search engines to crawl your site
WordPress can be shown or hidden to search engines very easily. Usually during development, we hide WordPress from search engines simply by not allowing them to indexing it. To make sure the website is indexable by Google etc, go to Settings > Privacy and select I would like my site to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Bing, Technorati) and archivers.
2. Take advantage of some free plug-ins
One of the many beautiful things about WordPress are the thousands of free plug-ins available to download and install. If you need a function on your website, like Twitter, Facebook or Linked in connections, there’s a very good chance you can download and install all functionality for free thanks to the wonderful WordPress community. Besides the social plug-ins, which also are great for SEO, we at Electric Studio never develop a WordPress website without installing the All in One SEO pack and Google XML sitemap generator.
2.1. All in One SEO Pack
This free plug-in is absolutely key for taking on the search engines. It adds the META description and keyword field. The latter might have diminished in value the last years, but the description field is vital. You can even have the plug-in auto-generate the description field. This plug-in also generates better page titles.
2.2. Google XML Sitemaps
Installing this plug-in is only half the job done. Once activated, you need to submit the link to the generated sitemap.xml feed to Google Webmasters (www.google.com/webmasters), and add a link to it from somewhere on your website. Google can then see all pages you have and this helps with getting more of your pages indexed. Add a link to this from your 404 page too.
2.3. GUAR Google XML Sitemaps
This is a plug-in that adds custom content type URL’s to the sitemap generated by Google XML Sitemaps, and you only need this plug-in if using custom content types as made available in WordPress 3.0.
2.4. Breadcrumb NavXT
What? A breadcumb generator for improving SEO? Yes, I know what you’re saying, but it adds both internal links and improves the usability.
2.5. Access Keys for WP Navigation Menus
Accessibility is a key factor when Google rank your website. Access Keys might only be a part of that, but it’s so incredibly easy to add using this plug-in and adds so much value for people with disabilities, so there’s no reason not to install it.
3. Content, content content + social media = success
Ok sparky, so you now have a great website, all optimised and ready for Google and Bing, now what? Simple, add content, internal cross-links and allow for people to share, comment on, and bookmark your beautiful content.
3.1. Adding Content
First and foremost, WordPress is an incredibly powerful Content Management System (CMS), so you should take full advantage of it and add as much quality content you can. Add blogs about anything you think will add value to your site visitors (like this post I hope) and add individual pages for each service area, product and solution you offer and don’t cram it all in on one page. when adding content, make sure you mention the keywords in the title, and provide a sort summary at the top containing all the keywords, Google only read the first paragraphs of each page.
It’s also important to take full advantage of the built in tag and category function when adding content. Look at the tags and categories and keywords and remember to be honest, eg. don’t use tags and categories that aren’t relevant to the content, when adding tags and categorising your blogs. Google is clever and will spot it.
3.2. Allow people to share, comment on, and bookmark your content
Social media is all the rave today with Facebook and Twitter making the headlines everyday, and LinkedIn being a must have for any executive, high flyer, so don’t make it hard for your visitors to share your content on these platforms. There are multiple options, most free, that easily integrate in WordPress.
Commenting is also a great inviter for people to participate in your community. We use the standard WordPress commenting system (with Aksimet activated to prevent spam) on this website, but are starting to look more and more at Disqus (www.disqus.com) as this allows your site visitors to use a standard login, and see all replies on the Disqus website.
3.3. Measuring success
The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics/). If you don’t use it today, you’re not taking your website seriously. If you don’t use Analytics today and think you should wait until you have that new shiny website before installing it, don’t. Install it now. Then you have the possibility to track how your current website is doing so you can compare it with your new shiny one. This is also a very good way to see if the money spent with a web design company actually was worth it from an SEO perspective.