WordPress is one of the easiest and best blogging and content management platform when it comes to SEO. Spending time to properly setting up your WordPress blog might seem like a waste of time but it is all worth it in the end.
Your job as a blogger is to tell the search engine what your blog is all about, and I will try to explain how to do that in this post. This SEO Guide is a self hosted WordPress. Some of the features explain here might not work on a WordPress.com account. If you don’t know the difference between the two, read my previous post on setting up a WordPress blog.
Before I continue, be careful researching different SEO practices or falling for any of the black hat SEO techniques. There are so many SEO companies, that will promise you first page ranking in search engines. Just like with everything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true then walk away. Unless Google’s Matt Cutts, Google head of spam, himself, promise you first page results then I won’t believe anyone else. And I know Matt will never ever do such foolish thing and he won’t be able to anyway.
Google has gotten smarter throughout the years. Not just in finding relevant web pages, but in fighting spam and filtering out irrelevant results. It is also getting a lot harder to rank well as a lot of the practices that used to exist before are now banned by Google because of how spammers took advantage of them to try to get a higher page rank.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how to setup your blog so Google, Bing, and other search engines know who you are.
Guide to WordPress SEO
WordPress is a pretty well optimized content management system. What I mean by that is, the underlying code was design to allow search engine easily spider your blog and index each page. This also depends on the theme you are using so make sure it is an SEO friendly theme.
The first thing you should do when you setup your blog is to think of a good title. You want to tell the search engines in a few short words what your blog name is, and what is it about?
– Login to your WordPress admin area and go to “Settings” on the left menu. Click on General and you will see a page the looks like this:
You probably set that up during the installation process but this time take a good look at what you have in the Site Title and Tagline. I like to keep the title short and basically just the name of my blog.
The tagline. Use this section to give your blog a very short tagline. This is the first thing the search engine will read so think of how you want others to find you. At the same time, don’t be too generic. So if you are a triathlon coach and your company is ABC Coaching, trying to rank for “triathlon coaching” might be a little difficult since thousands of other coaches are probably trying to compete for that same keyword. So try to add something like “Triathlon Coaching New York | ABC Coaching”. One of the things I like to do is start searching for keywords I want to target and see what comes up in the search results. This might take time to do but will payoff later.
WWW vs non-WWW
First, make sure you can access your website using a www. or no www. For example, if you type trinut.com or www.trinut.com in the browser address bar, you will arrive at my website. I am surprise how many times I get an error when I don’t type www in front of the website domain name. If you see that problem with your website, you need to check your DNS settings. Contact your webhost provider and have them fix that for you. If they don’t or ask for additional money, then find another one.
So, do you want your site to show as www.yoursite.com or yoursite.com? There is really no difference between the two from an SEO perspective but think about how you want your site to show in search results and browser. You can change that in both the WordPress Address (URL) and Site (URL).
Also, you should change that in the Google Webmaster Tool, by going to Site Settings > Display URLs. You will need to setup your Webmaster Tools and verify your site with Google to be able to make these changes in Google Webmaster Tool.
Note, whether you do the www or no-www, users should still be able to access your site using a www.yoursite.com or just yoursite.com.
What is the permalink structure? This is how your URL display for posts, categories, tags, archive, etc. We want to include the title of your posts in the URL. It might not matter as much these days but this is one of the first thing search engines will read. So instead of having your url look something like this: http://yoursite.com/?p=100, we are going to change it to look something like this: http://www.yoursite.com/xxxx/post-title/
To do this, again, in your WordPress admin area, go to Setting > Permalinks, click on Custom Structure and paste this in there:
On my site, I included the month and year. If you would like to do something similar, do this:
Now, when someone find your blog in search results, the results will look something like this:
Notice how the user now can read what the title of the post is, and see that in the URL as well, and a brief description of the post that Google generated.
Page titles is probably the most important factor in your blog design for many reasons:
- It is the first thing search engines will read when scanning your pages.
- It is most likely what the user will see on search engines results.
- If someone link to your blog, they are most likely to use your page title.
- A good page title will make your link stand out amongst other competing links.
- It is used by browsers to display on tabs and browser windows.
Controlling Titles With a Plugin
WordPress SEO by Yoast is a featured packed WordPress plugin, that I highly recommend. To install it, simply go to Plugins > Add New. Search for “WordPress SEO by Yoast” and click on Install.
Once it is installed and activated, you should see an “SEO” icon on your WordPress menu. Navigate to SEO > Title & Metas. Go to Post Types and you will see all the different options. If you are not sure what you are doing here, I recommend leaving all the settings alone. This plugin deserve its own post so I am only going to go through some of the features that you can work with.
After installing the plugin, you should now see an SEO section for all your posts, categories, links, and all the post types and taxonomies in your WordPress. So for example, if you head to Posts > Categories and click edit for one of your categories. You should now see a new section called “Yoast WordPress SEO Settings”.
Here, for example you can give a more descriptive title to your category rather than using the generic category name. So for example, I created a category and called it “Gear Reviews” on my blog.
For SEO purposes, I wanted to expand on this so I added “Triathlon Product and Gear Reviews | %%sitename%%”
Now, if you head to that page you will see the <title> tag now uses the value I entered in the Yoast WordPress SEO Settings area rather than the generic category name. This is how it will look like in your browser window:
Hopefully this guide will give you a lot of stuff to work on with your WordPress site. Setting up a proper blog is important for search engines and users as well. Once you setup your site, then work on content and think of what users want to see or read on your blog. Don’t worry too much about search engines. You can control what’s on your blog but you can’t control how Google will rank you for a specific keyword.
Now be patient, and wait for the search engines to spider your blog. It might take time so don’t expect results in the first few weeks.
Good luck and as always, feel free to ask any question in the comments below!