There are plenty of boxed website options for business owners. A perennial favorite is WordPress which has been around for nearly a decade. Originally conceived as a tool for blogging, this content management system is now seen as a one-stop-shop for website owners who have an eye on search engine optimization (SEO).
The beauty of WordPress is that, in many respects, it comes optimized for search engines. That being said, there are still ways to optimize your WordPress site even more. Why should you bother? The more optimized your site, the higher it will be ranked in search engine results pages (SERPs). And, of course, this can result in an increase in traffic to your site.
To SEO WordPress, there are technical and non-technical aspects that you will need to consider. You can probably handle much of the non-technical elements yourself or in-house. However, since WordPress is an open source platform, you may require the assistance of a programmer to help with some of the more technical SEO components.
1. Write High Quality Content
Let’s begin with the relatively easy ways you can SEO WordPress. For starters, make sure you have quality AND relevant content on your site. You probably see this everywhere when researching SEO topics. But it really cannot be stressed enough, especially if you are not new to online marketing or SEO. Content farming and keywords surrounded by nonsense content is no longer acceptable if you want your site to receive a high ranking or to avoid being penalized.
2. Optimize Titles, Descriptions, Etc.
This is where many webmasters and site owners start lagging in the SEO game. You spend all of your time on the content and pay little to no attention to your titles, headings, descriptions, or even directional texts. What you see as text is actually code or meta tags that provides a lot of the behind-the-scenes SEO work for your site. Yes, these are what visitors are likely to see first. But these tags are also what search engines use for SERPs. So you want to review these to see if they are too long or even too short. Have you included appropriate keywords? What do visitors really see when they read your titles or headings? Do they complement descriptions and actual content? Rather than saying “learn more” on redirect links, write something more meaningful that uses at least one keyword or makes a connection to the content. Keep in mind that meta tags are not always automatically included in WordPress. You may need to manually add them.
3. Respond to Comments with SEO in Mind
You should even optimize your response to each commenter. This is another area that is woefully overlooked. How many times have you visited a blog and noticed that several comments are actual questions to the blog administrator but there is no response beyond the sound of crickets? Not only do you drive traffic away by not engaging in conversation with your visitors, you miss crucial SEO opportunities. Respond to comments and include keywords in a natural way. You can provide links to other content or articles on your site. The idea is that every time you write something online, it is a chance to make an SEO connection that you should not discard.
4. Always Use Researched Keywords
Keywords have already been mentioned several times. Long tail keywords should be used in addition to your regular keywords. Use Google Trends to see what your customers are looking for and incorporate that into your keywords. The more relevant your keywords to your customers, the higher your site will be on SERPs.
5. Connect Your Articles
An easy way to optimize your site is to link your articles to one another. This should be done in a methodical manner so that each article is linked to related articles. Typically, you will do this using keywords or categories. You should not link all of your articles together.
6. Incorporate Social Media
WordPress makes this extremely easy. Now that search engines include social media in SERPs, you are already behind your competitors if you are not members of several social networks. It is not necessary to become the king of social media – but you do need a social presence. And it needs to be a consistent one so if you do not have a lot of disposable time, select one or two to begin with and use those ones on a regular basis.
7. Don’t Forget RSS
Any time you post a new blog entry or article on your site, be sure to include a link directly to your RSS feed. The link should point back to your original entry. Why is this important? Well, it tells search engines where the original article is located. Since you have the original, you can achieve higher rankings than the sites that scrape your content. They will be dinged as having duplicate content and receive lower rankings. What’s nice about RSS feeds is that WordPress can be setup to do this automatically for you.
8. Images as SEO Tools
Any time you add an image to your WordPress site, be sure to include a description to the alt tag. You will see this option appear when you go to upload a graphic. Incorporate keywords in your description which should describe the photo in the context of your site. The description should also be relevant to the content of the page on which the image is inserted.
9. Pages vs. Posts
New WordPress users believe that all new content must be included as postings. This is not necessarily the case, especially if you are looking for ways to optimize your site. Remember that for SEO, keywords are required. But it is the density of keywords that help get pages on SERPs. So, you might find that when you initially include a posting, it is high on SERPs but quickly falls when visitors begin to comment on it. Why? Every comment reduces your keyword density. To get around this, you can use pages for your most important postings. Then include a follow-up post that provides a bit more information and allows visitors to leave comments for you to further respond to.
10. Reconsider the Sidebar
The sidebar is often viewed as a static component of WordPress. But you can change the sidebar so that it is more robust on your homepage while being more specific on your subpages. You also want to be sure that the content of your sidebar is not duplicate content. If you have tabs on each page, the tab labels should not be listed the same in the sidebar. Carefully select the widgets you add to your sidebar. They should make sense in the context of your overall site scheme and be meaningful to visitors. Too many widgets or widgets that simply are not relevant can impede your SEO efforts.
11. Put Permalinks to Work
Permalinks are used by search engines to include your archived articles and postings in SERPs. With these particular links, you have the opportunity to include detailed information in the URL that keeps your content relevant for SERPs. For example, a traditional link to web page content might look like this: http://oldway.com/index.php?p=32. In contrast, a permalink to the same page might look like this: http://permalinkway.com/2012/03/31/read-my-book. Clearly the permalink provides more relevant content for search engines and users alike. Optimize your permalinks for SEO.
12. Check Codes for Errors
This is a bit more technical than the previous suggestions. You need to make sure that all of your WordPress codes are error-free and are validated as working properly. A code that does not work can literally stop a search engine from going any further on your site. Your site may get partially indexed by the search engine or not all because of the code issues.
13. Use Breadcrumbs
Several WordPress themes have what is known as a Breadcrumbs function. It is a navigational tool that allows you to customize how search engines view your site. With the new Google algorithm, site accessibility and functionality is greater in importance now than in the past. Google rewards sites that are user friendly and easy to navigate with higher rankings than those that are not. Being able to control what search engines see when they index your site is crucial for SEO.
14. Customize Robots.txt
All search engines recommend you take control of your robots.txt file which basically instructs search engines what content to look at and where to find it. This is essential if you want search engines to ignore certain pages or content on your site. Equally important, you can place emphasis on quality content files that can get you ranked higher on SERPs.
15. Employ Plugins for SEO
One of the best features of WordPress is its plugins. These are additional applications that you select to include on your WordPress site. They add extra functionality to your site which you can use to improve SEO. WordPress has built-in plugins and you can also get plugins from other developers. Plugins can provide page analysis, generate Google sitemaps, or coordinate link relationships. Their uses are very diverse. As an SEO resource, plugins are invaluable to both new and experiences WordPress users.
These are just some ways you can optimize WordPress. You can pick and choose which you want to implement but the reality is that if you want to rank high on SERPs, you need to do everything in your power to SEO your site.