SEO for WordPress: The Sole Guide to WordPress SEO

If you haven’t noticed I like using WordPress for all my sites. I use it on all my affiliate sites and my own blog. I’m one of the millions of bloggers out there that use this CMS, and I recommend it to all my clients that want to put something on the web.

Although its in my opinion the best of the software tools to use online, it’s not SEO friendly when you first install it. Having spend the last couple of years building affiliate sites, flipping site and selling stuff on the web, my experiences have taught me what works and what doesn’t in terms of having an optimized WordPress setup.

Note: Use these tips for getting more traffic to your blog wisely and at your own peril. Most of these tips have been tried and tested and they’re totally fine, of course not every person will agree with some of them. My clients have tested them and it’s worked perfectly for them just as it has for me.

Okay, now that I’ve made some disclaimers here, let’s just get into the content you came here for.

Getting Started

wordpress-seo-getting-started

It only makes sense to separate the beginner/getting started content from more advanced techniques if you’ve already done some of the basics of SEO. If you have NOT, follow the post down to a T.

Title Tags, Meta Tags, Permalinks and more

One of the most important on-site factors has been the title tag. The title tag is in charge of telling the search engine what your site (or page) is about. By now if you’ve set up your basic WordPress blog, it’s probably displaying “Blog Name >> Post Title”.

If your homepage is ranking for your site’s title, it’s not helping your site by putting the name of the site in the beginning. No need to rank for it anymore.

In every site this is one of the first things that I change, I remove the name altogether. Not only will it look better, but it’ll work better.

Small businesses I’ve worked with have made the same mistakes and once they’ve changed this, the results have been massively increased in search traffic when the brand name was gone from the title tag on the blog posts.

How to change it

If you’re not using DIYthesis I recommend you install the All in one SEO pack plugin. It’s FREE. And when you’ve installed it, you go to the Setting>> All in One SEO Pack. Here’s how I’ve done it:

  • Home Title: Social Media for Beginners | Twitter & Facebook for Small Businesses (These are the phrases I want Google to know the page is about)
  • Post Title:  %post_title%
  • Page Title: %page_title% | %blog_title%

I advice you to tweak this first, because it’s very important for the search engines to know what your site is about. The homepage and post titles are the main ones you should worry about.

Meta Tags

You know when you do a search on Google, you get a small description about what the link is about under the link? Well that’s called the “Meta Description”.

If you want to be able to tell Google exactly what to show in that section, you can. Another thing you can control is the “keywords” you tag to this page so every search engine knows what its about.

The keywords are not important anymore according to a recent post in the Google blog, but I still use them and other experts I know still use them.

I still recommend you place the keywords in there for the search engines to know what this page is about. I use the DIYthesis so every post already has a box where you can just fill it with your Title Tags, Meta Tag, and Keywords, but no worries because if you don’t want to buy it you don’t have to.

Before I had DIYthesis I just used All in One SEO pack or WordPress SEO by Yoast.

To get the best results with SEO it’s better to do every Title tag, Meta tag, and Keywords yourself in every post. Automation should be excluded from this process.

Permalinks

A Permalink is just what shows up in the URL after the .com/. When you first install WordPress they can look pretty ugly, for example, wilsonusman.com/?p=2255.

But if you take a look at this pages URL for example you’ll see it’s much professional and easy to understand. You decide which one looks better.

This helps a lot with SEO because it explains the readers what the page is about before they even visit the page, and if the person types something in Google or any other search engine that is in the Permalink it will be highlighted in the search engine results page (SERPs).

Change your permalinks, all you need to do is go to Settings > Permanlinks. This is what SEO experts and I recommend:

permalinks-example

The shorter the URL the better it is when you have a brand new blog. If you’re just making this change after you’ve posted more than a few times on your blog use a 301 redirect plugin.

The reason you should use the 301 redirection plugin is to move your URLs properly so that the search engines know this. If you forget to make your URLs shorter, by default WordPress will use your title of the post as your Permalink.

It’s All About the Keyphrase

The best way to optimize your website is around a keyphrase that is being searched on search engines in your niche. That’s of course if you’re not focusing on branding. Like most blogs you’ll probably end up getting the majority of links to your homepage, so it’s best to use those links by getting search engine rankings for your relevant keyphrase.

In my case wilsonusman.com, I’m going to rank for the phrase ‘social media for beginners’. Not a very competitive phrase, it has a decent search volume, but it’s relevant to what the blog is about: information to help small businesses use and understand social media.

If you don’t know what keywords consumers are using to find information in search engines use the Google Keyword Tool. It’s definitely the best place to find out what your market/audience is search for and how many times they’re searching each phrase per month. Select ‘All countries and territories’ on the sidebar and check ‘Exact Match’ for better results.

When you’ve figures what keyphrase to use, place it in:

  • Your title tag of your homepage
  • The heading of your website
  • The logo
  • And use anchor text in links when linking to your site from other websites.

Title tags and anchor text are the most important to help you rank higher in the search engines.

Enable Pingbacks

When growing up I was always told “you gotta give, to get back”. I think this works well in the world wide web also. One way you can start getting people to link back to you (which makes your site increase search engine rank and traffic) is to link to other interesting articles.

Usually some people will return the favor, so don’t come and tell me “Wilson!! I linked to 1000 websites and none of them linked back to me”. I’ve learned a few factors come into place.

One is  you need to be in the same market/niche. If you want to see who links back to, just turn on the option in WordPress to do so, it’s easy. Oh almost forgot, if they link back to you, you’ll get a notification also.

To do this step, go over to your Settings > Discussion, and check these two boxes:

Use Alt Attributes in Case the Image Cannot be Shown

Google likes to see the alt attribute being used in posts and it rewards your images very high in the search engines, as well as your articles too.

(if you can’t see this video click here)

If you really want to understand more about the Alt Attribute just “Google it”, but I don’t really think you need to know of why the alt tags are necessary. Just understand that it’s useful and it increase the chances for your page to get more search traffic, I believe.

Interlink Your Articles

Exactly what the sub-title says, link from one blog post to another blog post. If you haven’t noticed yet, I link from all of my posts to older posts. Say I write about SEO and I have a good post that is relevant to what I’m writing about in the moment, I’ll take a good keyphrase and use it to link back to that post.

This is a great chance for you to use  anchor text with a keyphrase that you want to be found on Google’s first page.

It’s good SEO, and it increases your pageviews too.

Canonicalization: WWW or NON-WWW

There’s a couple of ways to find some website online. For example, if you go over to amazon.com, you’ll see that you can also use www.amazon.com. You can test this with your own website also.

It’s better to tell the search engines to only use one. If you’re using WordPress it’s already being redirected for you, but it’s using a 302 redirect, which we don’t want. What you really want is a 301 redirect, because it tells the search engine it’s permanent, unlike the 302 which tells it’s temporary.

Although there are different ways of doing it I chose to do it using Google Webmaster Tools. What you have to do is setup an account here, head over to your Site Configuration > Settings > Preferred Domain > Check the box you want. It’s completely up to you which one you want to choose. I prefer the shorter version since these days you don’t really have to type www. to lookup a website anyway.

You’ll still want to follow the following process:

In your WordPress Dashboard go to Settings > General Settings > Pick www. or non-www

canonicalization

There’s other more technical ways to do this, but I rather keep it simple. If you want to know how to do it the technical way you can email me about that.

Advanced SEO Tips

wordpress-seo-advanced-level

Since I know some of you want to become SEO ninjas I’ve wrote this section for you. Don’t worry you don’t have to setup all the tactics in one day. If you’re done with the ones up-top take a break if you want, you’re already doing more than 90% of people ever do to their websites. Since we’ve already discussed some of the most common tips on WordPress SEO optimization, we are going to dig a little deeper now.

Nonindex Archive, Category, Pagination or Tag Pages

A lot of people have date based archives, categories, and tag pages. These can be good sometimes for usability purposes, but the search engines don’t like to think the same. All they really are is a bunch of pages with links to your other webpages.

Simply put, search engines don’t need to crawl those pages to find your blog posts. It’s for this reason, that I use the Noindex option on Archives and Tag pages, using the All In One SEO Pack plugin we talked about earlier, if you don’t get the DIYthemes framework. If you just go into the admin settings you can customize what you want to block.

Here’s an example how you do it in DIYthemes:

Thesis > Site Options > Robot Meta Tags > check the boxes you don’t want indexed

noindex-pages

As you can see I only allowed it to follow category pages and then block the rest to “preserve” link juice.

NoFollow Some Pages

note: Some people frown upon this tactic, but it’s nothing you should put much thought into.

Let me explain, the Nofollow attribute was actually designed to stop spam online from ranking on the SERPs. That’s why you see so many spam comments in big sites like Yahoo and Youtube, and other giant blogs too. But unfortunately for these spammers those links automatically are nofollow.

Sculpting with nofollow as seomoz put it “works pretty darn well”. What this does is help control the flow of link juice through to our more important pages.

For example, if you have a page that has a good amount of link juice (pagerank) you don’t want to pass that juice to a less important page like “contact” or something that’s not as important and doesn’t really need to rank in the search engines.

Normally a link looks like this:

<a href=”http://wilsonusman.com”>WilsonUsman</a>

If you simply want it to be a nofollow, you just at the nofollow tag like this:

<a href=”http://wilsonusman.com” rel=”nofollow”>WilsonUsman</a>

Just to let you know, use this tactic at your own peril. Google is not a big fan of it.

Adding NoFollow to Your “click to read” Link

If you’re showing full posts in your homepage you can totally skip this section. But, if you’re displaying post excerpts, like I am, (e.g click to continue…) or something similar then you’re probably interested.

Since your post title is already linking to the page with good anchor text, it’s almost pointless to give link weight to the click to continue link which is doing the same thing as the title (taking them to the page).

To do this simply go to your Theme Editor > Appearance > Editor open the index.php file, and find this text:

<a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>”

Then simple replace it with this:

<a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>” rel=”nofollow”

note: Just make sure that you’re changing the click to continue permalink, and not the post title link. To be sure, just contact person who owns the theme or Google it, most of the times that’s how I find things, in a forum or blog.

Disable Off Comments on Pages

If you receive a ton of comments and you’re really picky about your website speed, there is no reason to enable paginated comments on your website. Normally they come by default with WordPress, but it can be changed.

Settings > Discussion

comments

What this does is ensure your website doesn’t have a lot of duplicate content pages that show little to no content.

Allow Site Visibility

When I first did my WordPress setup I was a total noobie and I didn’t know much about how SEO worked and I simply didn’t know what I had to do next. I couldn’t find my website in the search engines what-so-ever. The problem I found out a week later was that my website wasn’t being indexed.

site-visibility

As you can see make sure you check the top box so that your website DOES show up in Google.

Building Links

If you’ve made it this far into this post I want to congratulate you for the effort. I didn’t intend for people to read this monstrous post in one setting.

But the reason I’m proud you’ve made it this far is because if you’ve applied just half of this entire article to your website you probably have better on-site optimization then the majority of the websites on the web.

It’s crucial to have all these steps in place and to focus on creating content, plus talking to your audience when you’re building a blog. But if you’re ignoring the huge traffic source when you can make all the important changes in just one day or two.

By the way, if I had forgotten about this last part I probably would be kicking myself in the butt, because a guide to SEO without talking about the biggest factor to search engine optimization.

Backlinks

Backlinks are incoming links to a website or web page. In basic link terminology, a backlink is any link received by a web node (web page, directory, website, or top level domain) from another web node.Backlinks are also known as incoming links, inbound links, inlinks, and inward links.

If you analyze a Google link in the #1 position for a search query compared to the #10 you’ll find that the no. 1 has more links than the no. 10 typically. It’s crucial that you put time into building links to your website so that the on-site optimization can work effectively.

In this guide we won’t get into the hundreds of ways you can build links, but I’ll give you a guide to get you started.

  • Write Epic Content — I don’t know if Corbett Barr coined that phrase, but I give credit to him since it’s the first person I heard it from. When you write epic content, it will get tons of linkback from others. Put time and effort and you’re involve in your niche, they’ll usually link back to your pages.
  • Guest Posting — I’ve applied this tactic in some of my niche sites and they work. They send traffic, they’re relevant, and when you do a guest post they normally will allow you to use a custom anchor text to link back to any pages that you want.
  • Link to Others — Give and you’ll get some back. Google is not a big fan of link exchanges or using a blog roll, but if you find something worth sharing don’t be afraid to share it on your website. You might get lucky one day and see massive traffic from that authority site you’ve been linking to.
  • Connect — You want to be involved with the top A-lister’s in your industry you’ll start learning and getting noticed more from other people that follow them and you’ll see others talking about you also. I’ve noticed that when you involve others into your blog post they get notification their site has been linked and usually they come and check out your site. And normally they’ll spread the word about you if they like what you’ve done.

I want you to know these are the strategies have worked for me thanks to great content I’ve spent hours learning and applying into my different websites including the one you’re reading right now.

Everything I’ve learned on SEO I’ve learned from SEOmoz, SEObook and Yoast. These are all great resources I recommend to anyone that’s interested in taking their SEO knowledge to the next level.

All the information I’ve put into this post isn’t anything new or any sort of magic pills to make your site rank on the search engines. If you have any feedback about this post, anything that you believe I missed, be kind, let me know on an email or you can @reply me on twitter. I really appreciate all of you for reading this post.