It’s been almost two months since I bought a hosting and got into WordPress blogging.
And you know what – although I’ve really been a fan of the simplicity that Blogspot offers, it’s really hard to compare it to the versatility that WordPress users have at their disposal.
But anyway, that’s not what I am going to cover in today’s article..
Search engine optimization has never been one of my strong points. Since day one of my blogging career, I decided to pay more attention to actually connecting with people via social media than building organic traffic. If you ask me now whether that was a good move I’d say no.
Organic traffic is probably the best in terms of bounce rates, average time the visitor spends reading and conversion rates.
So without much ado, below are five WordPress SEO tips, for all of you folks, who would like to get a little more attention from those fussy spiders and crawlers that search engines use in the ranking process:
1. Start With Modifying Your Permalinks
The permalink structure is one of the elements that the Blogger platform doesn’t allow modifications on. The good thing for us WordPress users is that here we have full control over that aspect.
And if you aren’t quite sure what a permalink is, that is basically how your URLs appear in the browser’s bar. For instance a blog might be set up to show blog posts the following way – domain-name.com/year/month/day/blog-post-title.html.
The above example shows a URL structure that is not quite ideal. The problem is that the main component i.e. the blog post is buried in the archive in such a way that the search engines need to first go through the year, then the month category and then the specific day until they reach the article. The deeper the crawlers have to go, the better the chance for them to decide not to waste time indexing a page. The latter is obviously NOT what you want.
So how do you modify your permalinks?
You simply open up your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings –> Permalinks. There you choose “Custom Structure” and add /%postname%/ in the field. That will result in a flat blog post architecture, which is best in terms of SEO and ease of navigation.
2. Get the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast
Although I included that plugin in my list of the Best WordPress Plugins for newbies, I would like to take a look at it once again. There are other alternatives that work on a similar principle, but from the ones I’ve tried, Yoast is my personal favorite.
The thing I found (and am still finding) most useful about it is the tab that you get under the post editor. There you have the option to choose the so called “focus keyword” for the post you are just writing. Based on that focus keyword you get different recommendations in the writing process, which aim to help you improve your on-site SEO efforts.
WordPress SEO by Yoast also allows you to write your own meta description tags plus custom descriptions for Facebook and Google Plus. Additionally you can also include a search engine title. That allows you to choose one title to be displayed on your actual blog and second, search engine optimized one for the SERPs.
Aside from that, there’s lots to do in the plugin’s settings page:
- You can set up breadcrumbs to help your interlinking
- You can modify your XML sitemaps.
- You have direct access to your htaccess and robots.txt files as well. That way you don’t have to go through the tedious process of using an FTP.
If you for some reason haven’t yet installed the WordPress SEO plugin, which is quite popular actually, you can do so by clicking here.
3. Premium WordPress Themes are a Good Investment
The problem with choosing a default theme like TwentyTen is not only that you don’t have as much control and flexibility over it, but also that those themes are simply not meant for the professional type of blogging.
A framework like Genesis (on which this blog is running for the past year) or Thesis and pretty much any other premium theme (although I’d recommend choosing one of the two) ensures that your content will be indexed by the search engines, since the developers have taken special time to optimize every aspect in terms of both security and SEO.
The unlimited support you get after purchasing a premium theme on the other hand shouldn’t be underestimated as well. Whereas with a free theme there are all kinds of glitches that can occur (the reason why I moved to Genesis), the same can hardly happen with premium themes.
If it does happen however, you get full support on dealing with the problem. And sometimes reacting timely can save you from losing search engine positions and traffic.
4. The “Slug” Plays an Important Role
Wondering what a slug is? Well that’s the part of the URL of your blog that you will point exactly to the post you are currently writing. Again unlike Blogger, WordPress allows you to directly modify the slug without much hassle, so that’s a practice well-worth following.
The slug is generated upon the title you’ve added in the title field in the WordPress post editor. However in 99% of the cases the end result is far from ideal. Modifying the slug is fortunately as easy as clicking on it and writing your own version.
There are three factors you should pay attention to when doing so:
- Length – the shorter and to the point, the better. Best for both the reader (yes, some people do pay attention to the URL) and for the search engines would be to keep it under 3-4 words.
- Relevancy – Obviously the slug has to be relevant and it has to point exactly to what you are going to cover in the article. Best would be if it consists of the main keyword (preferably long-tail one) that you will be using.
NOTE: Before you get started, keep in mind not to change slugs on already-published posts. The problem is that all links to those posts will still be pointing to the old URL, meaning visitors will receive a 404 error. If you still want to make changes, you will need to set up 301 redirects.
5. Add a Related Posts Widget
The two plugins I would give my vote to are LinkWithin and nRelate. The first I’ve been using when I was on Blogger and I was really happy with it. nRelate on the other hand doesn’t have a Blogspot version and I gave it a shot right after setting up my WordPress installation.
I don’t think there are many bloggers who don’t yet have one such plugin installed, but if you are one of them, you are missing out. You are missing out on more repeat visits, more internal links and better conversion rates.
The idea is simple. Since those kinds of tools aim to provide relevant content to the article that they are displayed under, the links there are valuable in terms of SEO. Plus the only thing you need is to download one of the two, install it, set it up and leave it do the rest.
Those are pretty much the most useful tips I have currently applied to my WordPress installation and that I believe are helping me improve search engine results.