This is the fifth in the series where I explain how an individual or small or medium sized organization can get themselves noticed in the big bad world.
Before we commence a couple of definitions – SEO or Search Engine Optimization: is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via organic search results. Keywords: (1) descriptors that capture the essence of a topic or (2) the words you type into a search engine in order to find stuff.
WordPress is pretty well structured for SEO anyway but there are a number of things you can do to improve it’s performance thus winning you more visitors, collaborators and clients.
Get the right URLs
By default WordPress uses web URLs which have question marks and lots of numbers in them (for example: http://www.your-site.com/?p=N). It’s not good and it’s not pretty. In the WordPress admin panel go Settings > Permalinks. What format is the best to choose? I would go for
/%postname%/. This is best because the URLs to articles should never change and it gets keyword rich page titles in there separated by hyphens (for example: http://www.your-site.com/keyword-rich-post/). But, remember, don’t stuff any area with your keywords. Just use them naturally.
The most important part of a web page in terms of SEO is the title. Optimize what goes in between
on the top of your browser window. So the name of your WordPress blog to include the keywords that you want people to find you with when they enter them into a search engine. Do this in Settings > General > Blog Title in WordPress’s administration panel. My title is Freelance Graphic Designer London. That’s sort of what I am and I want to attract people who type those words into a search engine to me.
Search engines put more weight on the early words so it is better to have your page title (and then category) to come before your site title. There are many ways of doing this. I would recommend that you use the HeadSpace plugin to do this. Mac users beware that HeadSpace does not work correctly with Firefox, so try Safari.
WordPress offers excellent categorization of your content. Make sure the category titles are keyword-rich. Write enticing descriptions of your categories in Posts > Categories. Use HeadSpace to add that description to the meta description, by adding
%%category_description%% in the Description field.
Generally keywords are better off appearing within
<h3> tags than within
<p> tags. The
<h2> tags are the title of your post or page so put keywords in there. Within your posts and pages you can add subheadings (
<h3> tags) which can also contain keywords.
When including an image in the content of your website be sure to name it correctly. So make it “computer-screen.jpg” rather than “image01.jpg”. Also always put an
<alt> tag description of about four words explaining what the image looks like. By all means put keywords in there if they are relevant but (as always with keywords) don’t force it. I get about as much traffic from Google image search as I do from ordinary organic Google search just from doing this.
Sitemap and robots.txt
Creating an XML sitemap is often considered a boost to your SEO. It is a widely adopted search engine standard that helps search engine robots crawl your site. It was created by Google and adopted by Yahoo!, Microsoft and others in the search engine industry. You can do this very easily with the Google sitemap generator plugin for WordPress.
So you’ve created an XML sitemap so now what do you do? If you haven’t already, log on to Google Webmaster Tools add your site and submit your sitemap.
You need to add a reference to it in your robots.txt so robots other than Googlebot will know of its presence.
Search engines will look in your root domain for a special file named “robots.txt” (http://www.mydomain.com/robots.txt). The file tells the robot (spider) which files it may spider and where your sitemap is. Here is mine:
User-agent: * Sitemap: http://robcubbon.com/sitemap.xml
I have disallowed the robots from directories that have either no relevant content or duplicate content.
<strong> tags carry more weight in SEO terms (as well as visually) than words within
The meta tags provide structured metadata about a web page and exist in the
<head> section. They are generally considered to be obsolete but the description tag does appear on the SERPS and therefore should be generated separately for each page. Keyword tags maybe totally ignored but HeadSpace makes creating them very easy so you may as well.
Write your .htaccess
You can choose whether your site should be a www or non-www site. Your site with and without a www could appear to be two sites with the exact same content. Search engines don’t like seeing content copied. You can divert your www url to your non-www url or vice versa by entering a small bit of code into the .htaccess document on the root of your server.
Here are a couple of pages I have found to be very useful for SEO and WordPress:
These are only a few things I can think of in order to make a WordPress site optimized for search engines. If anyone knows anymore white hat techniques for SEO – let me know.
Apologies to my English brethren, forefathers and Shakespeare, I’m using American spellings from now on. Most of my visitors are American and with the pound down so low I’d be especially pleased to attract American clients! (As I am pleased to attract a client from anywhere!)