WordPress SEO – Essential Settings and Plugins
This is a guest post by Derick Schaefer from WP Host Co, a premium WordPress hosting company.
In the industry, WordPress has been tagged as “having good SEO semantics”. This is true in that it presents search engine bots with a clean experience. Some of the things I like about WordPress from an SEO perspective are that WordPress:
- Produces your content without surrounding it with a lot of programmatic artifacts (code variables, etc),
- Features a very clean URL structure
- Provides clarity in terms of canonicalization.
Did some of that just fly over your head? Unless you are an SEO, it should have! For that reason alone I like WordPress! Upon install a lot of the content between content management systems and search engines is taken out of the equation. With this said, lets move on to simpler things that are important for you as a website owner or blogger. In this post, I am going to highlight a few settings and plugins that can help.
WordPress Settings and SEO
A default WordPress installation has a few default settings that might work against your SEO efforts. Still, these are easy to correct.
By default, WordPress uses its internal URL structure which looks like http://mydomain.com/post.php?p0st=1 . A permalink implements a 301 redirect from a user friendly URL back to the internal system URL. Search engines respect these redirects and will pull keyword information from the plain English URL. Thus, http://mydomain.com/great-chili-recipe will internally redirect to the system name of http://mydomain.com/post.php?p0st=1 .
I highly recommend changing your permalink settings to something besides the default for three reasons. First, these URLs are a unique identifier to the search engine and you want to have it as something that is easy to manage in case you change a few things around in your blog in the future. Second, it presents an additional keyword opportunity. Third, they are easier for humans to share in email, social media, etc.
WWW vs. Non-WWW
As stated in my introduction, WordPress keeps the canonicalization of your URL straight. However, the default installation of WordPress is the “non-www”. If you migrating your existing HTML site to WordPress, they you will want to use the same structure you had before. If your site was, www.mydomain.com, then go into your general settings and change this in the “WordPress address URL” to www.mydomain.com.
Check and make sure that this setting is set to “
Having been on several custom CMS development projects, I can tell you that every additional feature to facilitate search engine requires cost $1,000 USD at a minimum. That is why I love WordPress is the plugin community has created some great plugins. Most are free and the ones that cost money are fairly priced. The following is my standard list:
Google XML Sitemaps
There are two kinds of sitemaps. The first is an HTML sitemap that is intended to help users find what they are looking for in your site. Though helpful to a search engine, the best way to instruct a search engine is to create an XML sitemap and leave it at the root of your hosting. If you’ve ever managed a traditional website, this becomes a pain as you have to recreate it every time you change the site. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin updates your sitemap on the fly and pings the major search engines to come get it. A must on any WordPress blog or website looking to play well with search engines.
All In One SEO Pack
WordPress does not provide you the ability to manipulate HTML titles and description meta-tags out of the box. There are several good SEO plugins that add this functionality. My favorite is All In One SEO Pack and my runner-up for favorite is Platinum SEO Pack. These plugins allow you to get very granular with titles and descriptions for your home page, posts, and pages. Furthermore, they allow you to place no follow tags on duplicate content found under category and tag archives. Spend some time on their sites and download one to play with it. Again, no blog or site should exist on WordPress without one of the two of these installed.
You can’t tell who is on your blog and what search engine keywords are sending them there with out analytics installed. An NO, your hosting Apache stats don’t count. For a freebie, sign up for Google Analytics and install Google Analytics for WordPress by Joost De Vaulk (Yoast). Spend some time on his site as this WordPress developer knows his SEO. Another free alternative is WordPress.Com Stats. I actually run both this and Google Analytics on a number of blogs.
If you want to get more advanced, consider real time analytics by Woopra. Woopra is the creation of JohnP who is a good friend in the WordPress community. You can rest assured that he and his team are evolving Woopra to new heights every release.
These are my three favorites. If you want to share another, please add it to the comments section.
If you’ve ever kept up with CopyBlogger.Com, you’ll understand why I say “Content Is King”. Thus it should be no surprise that the team over at CopyBlogger Media created a plugin that analyzes your content while in draft mode and gives you granular analysis, tips, and linking ideas. In full disclosure, I served on a past and present board with the plugin’s creator Sean Jackson. But that’s not why I use it. I use Scribe SEO as it keep my copy honest from an SEO perspective and we all need a little of that. The plugin has a free version but to get full use out of it you have to subscribe to one of their plans. They do have some cool video demo that give an overview of how this plugin works.
Many premium theme makers are building SEO features into their themes. Don’t feel you have to buy a theme for SEO compatibility. Still, avoid free themes that are not on WordPress.org as many are laced with hidden links and other tricks that could land your site in one of Google’s “Bad Neighborhood” lists.
WordPress is a great platform when it comes to SEO. Still, as a blogger or site owner, you will want to be cognizant of both configurations and plugins that help you to maximize your content with the major search engines.