Getting the Most Out of Your WordPress Site
Written by Cameron Archibald, Internet Marketing Strategist on February 3, 2015
Back in the olden days of the Internet, you used to have be a web developer or know someone who was in order to get a website launched. NOT ANYMORE. Now there are many programs that are free and user friendly that enable website building so easy that just about anyone that can type on a keyboard can do it. One of my favorites is called WordPress and it can be really good for SEO. WordPress is a CMS, or Content Management System, that is so popular among the general public that 19% of all web runs on WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is comparable to Blogspot.com, Tumblr or WordPress.com when it comes to easy blogging with no coding experience. WordPress.org gives you the functionality of a blog along with a full fledged website with pages, menus and even ecommerce functionality. Many businesses can use WordPress.org to feature their business online and gain customers through contact forms, emails and phone numbers. Aside from purchasing a domain and hosting services, WordPress.org is free. WordPress.org will simply be mentioned as WordPress from here on out.
WordPress is a great tool to use to rank your website high in the search engines and make it visible to as many users as possible. It is built and optimized to manage images, videos, categories and tags with fast loading times and great mobile friendliness. WordPress Themes, which are essentially a way to help your website look good, are also tried and tested to adhere to a high standard before inclusion in the WordPress.org Themes Directory. Best of all, these WordPress Themes are free as well.
Now that you have installed WordPress and picked out a Theme, here are some essential steps to setup WordPress to dominate at SEO. We are going to use ESPN.com as an example website.
Step 1: Optimize Settings
Go to Settings in the left navigation bar and click on General.
Choose Your Site Title
The Site Title is typically located in the browser tab and has a large influence on search engine rankings. With the proper WordPress SEO plugin settings (which we will go into later), the Site Title will be at the end of every page on your website. The Site Title will typically be your business name or something similar—e.g., ESPN MLB page found here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/.
MLB – Major League Baseball Teams, Scores, Stats, News, Standings, Rumors – ESPN
Notice “- ESPN” is located at the end of the MLB page. This will help support brand recognition across the web and in browser bookmarks. It will also help Google know that every page of ESPN.com was written by and on ESPN.com.
Choose Your Tagline
The Tagline is a simple mission statement or website slogan. Depending on your WordPress Theme, this may be located in the header when you view your website. This can be left blank.
A little self explanatory, but simply paste the URL of your website here—e.g., http://espn.go.com/—if it isn’t there already.
Site Address (URL)
This should be the same as your WordPress Address (URL) above. If you are having issues with your website showing up in www and non www versions, these two items may be a place to look.
The rest of the items in general settings are irrelevant to SEO, so we will skip them, but be sure to set this information up the first time the way you want it as it can affect the website later on.
Click Save Changes
Go to Discussion under Settings in the left navigation.
Most of this is user preference, but I would advise setting it up the way you want the first time. The one item that I suggest here is to uncheck “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).” Most of the time this leaves a mess in the comment section of your website and makes it look very spammy, especially if your page is linked to often. Google says no to spam, and so do I. You can still receive the SEO Juice your website deserves if it is linked to from a high-quality website without it being displayed on your website.
Go to Permalinks under Settings in the left navigation.
Select “Post Name” box. This enables your URL structure to be clean and user friendly—all of which Google loves.
Step 2: Plugins
Plugins are features that can be added to the default WordPress setup in order to simplify settings or help your website in overall success. Plugins for better SEO setup or social network sharing will be discussed here.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast, at the time of this writing, is one of the top 5 plugins ever installed on WordPress. Yes, there is another plugin called All in One SEO Pack that is similar, but my personal preference is WordPress SEO. You can compare the two just by Googling “wordpress seo vs all in one seo” if you want to learn more. For reasons of this article, I am going to help you setup WordPress SEO.
To install, go to “Add New” underneath Plugins in the left navigation bar.
In the top headings, click on “Popular”, then simply look for “WordPress SEO by Yoast” and click “Install Now”. You should see the plugin appear in the left navigation bar as “SEO” below “Settings”.
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “Dashboard”
Check the box for “Disable the Advanced part of the WordPress meta box.” This only matters if you have writers that you may not trust. If you only have a one-author blog, it doesn’t matter either way.
Click Save Changes
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “Titles & Metas”
Check the box for “Noindex subpages of archives”, as it states, “If you want to prevent /page/2/ and further of any archive to show up in the search results, enable this.” If you have pages that do this, it is important to noindex them to help your site avoid duplicate pages and only index the most important in order to improve the user experience. Nobody really wants to land on Page 3 of an article and start out confused on what they are reading. Google is all about user experience.
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “Social”
Add a link to your Google+ business page here if you have one. If you don’t have one, get one! What better link to receive than one directly from Google.
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “XML SItemaps”
Check the box that says, “Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality”.
XML sitemaps help Google discover all the pages that exist on your website and index them appropriately. You essentially make Google’s job easier by enabling this. In the button that states, “You can find your XML Sitemap here”, it may not work until you publicly enable your website. We will discuss that in a minute.
Check the box “Disable author/user sitemap”
I feel it is unnecessary in an XML sitemap to display a list of all the blogs or articles that users have written; plus, it can duplicate itself with the posts section.
Check the boxes “Ping Yahoo!” and “Ping Ask.com”
This lets Yahoo and Ask know that new content was published on your website. Say yes!
Under Exclude Taxonomies
Check the boxes “Tags” and “Format” to exclude from sitemap, as you want to deindex them anyway.
Click Save Changes
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “Permalinks”
Check the box for “Enforce a trailing slash on all category and tag URL’s”. This helps your URL’s stay consistent and clean. Google loves this.
Check the box for “Remove stop words from slugs”.
This creates cleaner URL’s as well.
Check the box for “Redirect attachment URL’s to parent post URL’s”
Images or other attachments to posts are created as their own URL in WordPress. Checking this box redirects them to the main page they are located on. This keeps the SEO Juice where it needs to go.
Click Save Changes
Next, we can publish our website, but there are a few more steps we will have to go over right after you publish it.
Go to “Settings”, and in the dropdown, go to “Reading”
If you have a new WordPress Theme and it isn’t working the way you saw it in the demo, these settings will help you. Changing the Front Page display and how the blog posts are displayed can make big changes to your website.
Now the most important part: Unchecking “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”
This will publish your website to the web and help it become discoverable in Google search and others. This is what SEO is all about. Make sure you have this unchecked when you are ready to make your website live.
After you have done this, there are few settings that would not function until you made your website live. We are going to go back and fix them.
Go to “Settings” dropdown, click “Writing”
Scroll down to the bottom to “Update Services”. As explained there, WordPress automatically notifies certain websites that you have published a new post. When you ping these various websites, you also ping Google and index your blog posts faster. Go to http://codex.wordpress.org/Update_Services to copy where it says “XML-RPC Ping Services”—all the URL’s are in grey. Paste it into your website “Update Services” section.
Go to “SEO” dropdown, click “Dashboard”
Go to “Webmaster Tools” at the bottom. If you have setup Bing or Google Webmaster Tools, paste the HTML tags here.
In the “SEO” dropdown, click “XML SItemaps”
There should be a button that states, “You can find your XML Sitemap here:” Previously it did not function or appeared broken until you encouraged the search engines to find your site in the Reading settings above.
There are a few plugins that I would like to mention that we aren’t going to walk through here today but are still relevant to SEO and WordPress functionally and are worth a look for your own website.
- Google Analytics by Yoast: Setup Google Analytics on your website easily and track your successes and/or failures. SEO is not SEO without Google Analytics.
- Akismet:To combat comment spam, which will help SEO.
- Contact Form 7:Create easy contact forms and gain leads.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com:A few extra features including social sharing and a fast responsive image gallery.
Step 3: Optimized Images
Many marketers and business owners forget one of the most important steps of SEO: Optimizing Images. You want your images to look nice on the website but also be the right size without losing quality or page speed—both important SEO factors. Images should also include clean URL’s and proper alt attributes to help your website rank as well as have the images rank themselves in Google and Bing image search. This will help your website receive more traffic.
Both these images look the same, but both are entirely different underneath the skin. Lets compare them.
|large file size of 109kb||small file size. 10.9kb|
|long URL.||good url|
|no alt attribute||alt attribute|
You should notice by right clicking on the image and selecting “Open image in new tab” if you are using the Chrome browser or “View Image” in Firefox how large the actual image is. Image sizes matter, especially if you have a large collection of them on your website as it can slow it down and decrease SEO rankings A good rule of thumb is to keep image sizes as large as they are going to be displayed on the website. Of course, you may have your purposes for users to see a larger version of the image such as for higher quality photography images, etc., but keep the image size down as much as possible. Your site rankings will thank you for it.
Remember the 3 steps to SEO domination are Proper WordPress Settings, Proper Installation and Setup of SEO Plugins, and Optimizing Images. Hope you enjoyed learning about WordPress and that this article helped you find your way to WordPress SEO success. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions or follow me on Google+.
I have not gained my knowledge or optimization tips out of thin air. I have learned it from years of experience and a gathering of articles across the web. Feel free to take a look at these great sources.
WordPress Setup and/or Installing:
Yoast SEO Plugin: