SEO for WordPress
WordPress is one of the most popular website platforms around and it’s naturally suited to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here we will take a look at the subject of SEO in more detail and provide some guidelines based on our experience in building websites over many years.
Search Engine Optimization is basically divided into on page and off page optimization.
On Page Optimization
On page describes those essential modifications you need to make to your site to make it easy to crawl by the search engines. WordPress has a number of settings which need to be changed in order to better optimize the site.
The first setting to change is Permalinks. This can be found in the admin panel under “Settings” and then “Permalinks”. The default setting uses web URL’s which include numbers and question marks but a custom structure can be constructed for the permalinks. To change the settings, click the radio button marked “Custom structure” and then in the available space enter “/%postname%/” without the quotes. Then click on “Save Changes”. Posts and pages will now be named correctly with the titles showing as part of the URL.
It is also necessary to optimize your posts for SEO. Think carefully when naming posts and make good use of your chosen keywords. The keywords should appear regularly on post and page titles without looking too obvious. Don’t forget to also include alt tags for all images. Search Engines expect this and if a reader is browsing the site using a web browser that does not readily support images then they will still see a description of the image. This is another opportunity to use keywords and all images should contain a description as an Alt tag. If you don’t know how to do this then there are a number of plugins which can do it for you.
Post titles should use the H1 tag in html and nothing else. The site’s name should also be a H1 on the front page and nothing more than a H3 on posts and category pages. WordPress does a pretty good job of getting these right but its worth checking them. They can be seen in the post.php and page.php templates which can easily be edited.
One other area which is often overlooked is to make sure that your site loads quickly. Sites that load slowly are penalized by the search engines. The easiest way to speed up the load time for your site is to install a caching plugin. These work by saving a local copy of certain pages and posts and then check to see if anything has changed since the copy was saved. If not then the page or post is loaded from the cache which is quicker than making more calls to the database for the information.
Off Page Optimization
As the name suggests, this means optimization by making sure that the website can be seen by search engines to an extent that it moves up the Search Engine Ranking Pages.
One of the most important aspects of off page optimization is to maximize the number of back links. These are links from other websites to yours. The more back links you have the more your site will rise in the rankings. It can be thought of as a type of popularity voting system – back links from sites which Google ranks highly are worth more than back links from sites which it ranks less highly. The best way of obtaining back links is to ensure your site has relevant and quality content. This will increase the likelihood of other sites linking to you. It is possible to look at the back links of competing sites by using a variety of software tools such as Market Samurai or SEO Spyglass.
The other very important aspect of SEO is to make sure that Google indexes your site content – which it does by crawling the site using an automated bot – Google’s crawler is affectionately known as “Googlebot”. Once the site has been crawled the search engine knows that new content has been added and the site can be re-ranked – hopefully higher – as a result.
These site crawlers can take some time to find new content and it’s possible to let the search engines and other sites know you have new content by “pinging” them. This means that you are telling the search engine and other sites that you have changed or added to your site and they should come back and crawl the content or provide a back link to the site. There are a number of tools to automatically “Ping” search engines and other sites and one of the best is Pingler.com. They offer a basic premium account in which 25 links or websites can be stored and pinged regularly automatically. Try it and see just what a difference it makes to your search engine visibility and traffic!