Starting a blog is only half the battle. I assume that you want to have visitors to your blog now. Luckily, WordPress is already fairly well optimized when it comes to search engines. However, this is not to say that there is anything left to do to increase your blogs visibility through a little search engine optimization (SEO). Below are 13 search engine optimization tips for WordPress blogs. These should not be taken as an end-all guide and some may not apply to your situation, but they should give you some ideas of how you can better position your blog in the search results.
1. Setup Permalinks
The first step you should take after setting up your blog is to configure permalinks. Permalinks turn the URLs for your posts and pages into search engine (and end user) friendly URLs.
2. Install a caching plugin
Site speed is critical to both your readers and search engines. If your site takes a long time to load potential readers will navigate away before it is fully loaded and search engines will penalize you for your sites speed. Installing a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache is a simple and easy way to greatly increase the overall speed of your site.
3. Install the Yoast SEO plugin
While WordPress is pretty good at optimizing your titles and meta tags out of the box, it is by no means perfect. Fortunately there is a plugin that is both easy to install and use that will greatly enhance the built-in WordPress capabilities. The Yoast SEO plugin is a great plugin for this. It allows you to setup custom titles for your posts and pages, customize the meta description and keywords, setup an alternative search engine friendly title, avoid duplicate content penalties by setting pages and posts to no-index, and one of the bigger features is it will give you an idea of how well each post or page is search optimized. While not perfect, this will give you a good idea of changes you can make to your content to make it more search engine friendly. While I would not focus entirely on getting a perfect score, it can guide you where your strengths and weaknesses are and give you ideas of how you can make your content more friendly. Don’t forget though this score is optimized for search engine friendliness and not necessarily reader friendliness so take caution in using all the advice given.
4. Reliable Web Hosting
When search engines index your site they take into consideration the reliability and speed of your site. Having a good web host will help with promoting your search engine rankings. When evaluating a web host you will want to find one that is reliable, fast, and provides 24×7 support (just in case there is a problem). You will want a host that has been around and is established, the last thing you want is to find out a week or two later your host is going out of business. Also, a reliable and stable web host will be less likely to tolerate customers who are spamming or scamming customers. Search engines, like Google, have a greater respect for these hosting providers.
If I can make a recommendation here, Bluehost is a great web host with superior support.
5. Write Quality Content
Unfortunately writing a blog does not mean just throwing up a WordPress site and hoping visitors will show up. And even if they do there is no guarantee they will stay. Coming up with content for a blog is hard. Personally I think of about 5 or 6 potential articles everyday. Whether these articles turn into blog posts is a different story. But I do act on each idea I come up with. I write the idea down somewhere and at the end of each day I create a draft post in WordPress with the title and any notes I am thinking about regarding that article.
During the week I will go back and add to my thoughts on each one. Finally, at the end of each week I go back through my ideas and try to build on each one. Some get a lot of attention and others fall to the wayside. While I may have thought the post was a good idea when I wrote it down, after thinking about it some and building on the idea the article may not be as appealing to me. Sadly, while these articles may be useful to others if they don’t have my mental support my writing quality greatly diminishes and the eventual article may not be what it could have been. At this time I may either decide to delete the article or if I think it has potential it falls to the bottom of the pack.
In the end, while writing the actual post may only take me a half hour, I have spent many hours building on the article and editing and deleting potential content. While there is a place for a blog filled with simple thoughts, if you are goal is to provide readers valuable content you must take time and effort to produce that content. You can’t just throw something up without giving it any thought. While your process may differ significantly from mine and you may be able to produce quality content quickly, making you content unique and giving it your spin will keep your readers coming back for more. The more readers and the more traffic your blog receives the better you will do with the search engines.
6. Setup a Sitemap
If you are not familiar with sitemaps, a sitemap is exactly what the name implies. It is an XML document that tells search engines the structure of your site and what pages are important. It provides them a map to your site making it easier to index. If you installed the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin mentioned above, creating a sitemap is much easier. With the plugin your sitemap will be automatically created and updated when you create posts or pages, plus it will automatically notify Google and Bing of those updates.
7. Start Sharing
If you installed the JetPack plugin (which I also recommend installing) then sharing is made easy. You can go to the Settings > Sharing menu on the left side and configure which social media sites you want to offer sharing options for, but more importantly you can configure which social media sites will get updated when you create a new post. Now when you publish a post WordPress will automatically send out a tweet, update Facebook, or post to Google+ for you. You can edit what WordPress posts and can even select which networks you want to post to. One thing I recommend doing is editing the updates to include a hashtag or two (don’t go overboard) so that your tweets/posts are more easily found when people search the various social networks.
Even if you don’t have hundreds of followers, by updating the social media networks, linking to your posts, and adding hashtags your posts will get attention from people who track trends, search Twitter or Google+, etc… These people will tend to follow back and may even retweet your post to their followers drawing more attention to your blog.
Pro Tip:Don’t use the Google+ publicize option within WordPress. Separately post to Google+. The reason is that when you use the WordPress publicize feature the post will be shared privately on Google+. This means that only your followers and people within your circles will see your posts. You want to have your post shared publicly so that others can see it as well.
8. Setup Google & Bing Webmaster Tools
Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster tools. Both these tools allow you to submit sitemaps (#5 above) to help them better index your site and, more importantly, they let you track how well your site is being crawled and indexed by their respective search engines. You can also see the keywords that visitors are using to get to your site. Additionally these tools will alert you of any errors that the crawlers experience when attempting to index your site.
9. Clear Layout and Clean Design
As I highlighted in my previous post 14 Suggestions to Reduce Your Website Bounce Rate, having a clean design and choosing a good WordPress theme are critical to optimizing your site for both your readers and the search engines. You want the site to be easily readable to readers, while at the same time the code that makes up the site to be understandable to the search engines. A poorly laid out site will not only make it harder for readers to navigate your site, but also harder for search engines to follow the structure.
Critical here is to both link to other posts and pages from within each other. This will not only encourage visitors to check out other pages within your blog, but help the search engines to easily find other content within your site. When creating links within WordPress make sure to add a clear title element to each link. I also recommend installing a sidebar or footer widget for Recent/Popular Posts (this widget comes with JetPack). A recent/popular posts widgets will not only link to your other content, but tell readers what is new and interesting on your blog. The goal here is keep your readers on your site and ultimately coming back for more.
10. Post Frequently
A common misconception is that you need to post everyday to get more traffic and better search engine rankings. While I can say it does help, it is by no means a necessity. You are better off writing quality content once a month than writing bad content daily. The point here is to just come up with a frequency that your readers can come to depend on. Whether that is daily, weekly, monthly is your choice. If you want your content to be ranked well and receive traffic you need to post more than once or twice a year though. Come up with a cycle for posts. WordPress is great in that you can schedule posts. So if you are feeling ambitious one day and write 10 articles, only post one that day and schedule the rest for different days across the month. This way your content stays fresh and you don’t have to worry about writing something new everyday.
If you have not already done so, install an website analytics platform like Google Analytics (it’s free!). Not only can you keep an eye on your traffic, but can also get valuable input on what is working and what is not. You can see what keywords visitors are using to reach your site, where they are coming from, and what pages they are looking at. Based on these metrics you can further enhance your efforts and target specific sets of visitors or know where you need to strengthen your efforts.
12. Google Keyword Tools
While this technique is debatable to some extent it can still help with getting your content ranked, especially if you are just getting started. Regardless of the topic I am working on, I will often go to the Google Keyword Tool to see how I can better optimize the search engine traffic based on the keywords in that article. For example, this article is about search engine optimization tips for wordpress. In looking at Google I find that search engine optimization and SEO are both highly searched terms and thus my chances of getting organic traffic through search engines will be minimal unless I can write something that just blows the search engines away and gets linked to by thousands of sites in a matter of hours. However, by focusing my article search engine optimization tips for wordpress I have a better shot at getting ranked and therefore getting more traffic from this article.
The idea here is not to focus on a single keyword, but look for long-tail keywords that are easier to target. The Google Keyword Tool is a great tool for determining how to structure your keywords and also to give you ideas on how to structure your content. On the flip-side you will have to weigh your results against what is grammatically correct and what sounds good. For example, one keyword suggestion for this article is seo wordpress, but that phrase in itself does not work when building it into your content. You can end up hurting yourself if your content begins to sound to keyword rich or packed with keywords.
11. Give it Time
Okay, so you have followed all the tip and read all the articles, now what? Search engine optimization is not an overnight process, it will take time. The key here is not getting discouraged after a week or two of not seeing results. There are millions of sites on the Internet and it takes time for Google, or any other search engine for that matter, to get around to re-indexing your website. That’s not to say you can’t be doing anything during this time. Now is a good time to start building backlinks to your site. This will drastically improve your search engine rankings in the long run. One note of caution here is to avoid just going out and creating backlinks on any site you can. I would recommend doing some research on building backlinks and determine the best route for your site. Remember not all links are good links and can ultimately end up hurting you in the end.
Bonus Tip: Proofread your content!
There is nothing more embarrassing or a sign of lack of care than publishing a post with multiple spelling or grammatical errors. WordPress has a built-in spell check I recommend using it. I am guilty of failing to do this and often kick myself for hitting that publish button without spell checking. Also, preview your posts before you hit publish. Read them through and if you can get someone else to read them. You will be amazed at even the tiny things you find. You may even find where you can elaborate more or make your point clearer.
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