How to set up WordPress website for SEO?

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WordPress out of the box comes SEO friendly, however there are many tweaks you can make to further optimize it for search engines.

Here are a number of  advanced tweaks and WordPress plugins you can install to help with URL structuring, search engine crawling, handling duplicate content, optimizing title and meta tags, images and internal linking.

Setting Up the Permalink Structure

In WordPress:  Settings >> Permalinks

WordPress gives you a number of ways you can structure your post urls.  By default WordPress sets the urls like www.domain.com/?p=123. This is obviously not optimal because you are not gaining the benefits of having keywords in the url.

They also have options to set the urls organized by year/month/date, for example www.domain.com/2010/02/07/sample-post/. This is getting better, because you are able to add a unique post name in the url, however the post is four directories deep which can cause potential crawling issues.

The most effective way to optimize your urls is by using the custom permalink structure.  Choose “Custom Structure” and enter “/%postname%/ “.  By setting this custom structure your urls will look like www.domain.com/post-name/.  This puts your post directly off the root level and uses keywords based on your post title.

Setting Up non-www to www Redirect

In WordPress:  Settings >> General

The newer versions of WordPress make this extremely easy to do.  Simply change the Blog Address (url) to http://www.domain.com. WordPress will automatically update your htaccess file to redirect the non-www version to the www version.  If you have an older version of WordPress you will have to copy and paste the code provided into your htaccess file.  However I would upgrade to the latest version of WordPress before I manually add it.

Search engines treat the www and non-www version of a page as two different pages.  If not corrected, this can cause your blog to have hundreds or thousands of duplicate pages.  By fixing this you are minimizing potential duplicate content issues. 

Optimize Post Titles

In WordPress:  Settings >> All in One SEO Pack

By default WordPress creates page titles like “Blog Title >> Blog Archive >> Post Name”. This is ok, but not optimal.  Search engines will place more importance on the keywords at the beginning of the title tag so we will want to modify the tags so that the post name is at the beginning of the post and not the end.

To do this, make sure you install All in One SEO Pack.  This plugin will automatically set up your title and meta description tags the proper way.  Your page titles will now look like “Post Title | Blog Title“.  You will have the option to override a specific post title within the post if you would like.  Make sure you create a unique description after you have written your post.  All in One SEO Pack will not create meta descriptions, so when creating a post there is a section for adding unique titles and descriptions.

Block Certain File Directories in Robots.txt

There are certain directories that you should block from search engines. This will help with controlling which content you want search engines to crawl and not crawl.  There are many directories and files that are unnecessary for the crawlers to spider.  This will help the crawlers find the content you want spidered faster.

Install SEO Plugins

All in One SEO Pack

This SEO plugin is probably the best and most robust plugin for optimizing your blog for search engines.  This plugin will automatically optimize your blog category and post url structure, auto generate title tags, avoid duplicate content issue by restricting search engines from accessing pages that have duplicate content on them, and canonical tag integration.

Google XML Sitemap Generator

This plugin will automatically generate a XML sitemap of your blog that is formatted for Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.  Your sitemap will be sent to all of the search engines every time the plugin rebuilds your XML sitemap.  Having this plugin, ensures that the search engines are aware of all of your posts and will help with the overall crawling of your blog.

Google Analyticator

This plugin will add your Google Analytics tracking script to every page on your blog.  There are also other options and features which give you more accurate tracking.

  • Disable Admin Tracking
  • Enable Event Tracking
  • Track Outbound Link Clicks
  • Track Downloads (PDF, CSV, DOC)
  • Google Adsense Integration
  • Ability to Modify Tracking Script

SEO Smart Links

Interior linking will help with the overall crawling of your site, along with keeping readers engaged in your content.  You can also leverage your content by using keyword-rich anchor text and linking to other content within your blog.  This plugin does just that.  It will take keyword and phrases within your post and comments and link them to corresponding posts on your site.  This can really cut down on having to manually search for relevant posts on your site that you can link to within a post.

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Friendly Images will automatically optimize all of your images by adding alt and title attributes.  If you do not have an alt or title attribute for your images, it will add one for you.

W3 Total Cache

Load time is becoming an important factor in search engine algorithms.  Not to mention a page that loads fast makes a visitor much happier and is more likely to stay on your site longer.  W3 Total Cache will help speed up the page load times by caching pages, removing white space and comments, and compressing css and js files.  Here are a few reasons why this plugin boasts it’s at least a 10x increase in site performance.

  • Enable Page Caching
  • Enable Minify
  • Enable Database Caching

More SEOTips for WordPress

  • Allow commenting for user generated comment and higher engagement
  • Use good categorization for site usability
  • Add compelling graphics and images to your posts
  • Try asking questions at the end of your posts to encourage comments
  • Syndicate your content to your Twitter and Facebook profiles, and other social networks/sharing sites.
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