Hands down WordPress is the best CMS (content management system) when it comes to SEO, but does this mean that we take advantage of this inherent and potential optimization? Unfortunately the answer is usually no. SEO does involve many factors – both on your website as well as around the internet in general, but many businesses look to hire an SEO agency to increase their rankings and exposure before they have examined what they can do on their own.
This post is a short exploration of some actions you can take on your WordPress-run website to further increase your optimization and visibility in the search results. I'm not going to cover basic on page SEO topics like meta data, internal linking, keyword usage, etc. Instead these are specific things that pertain to WordPress that you should be doing to increase your website's SEO.
Revisit (or visit for the first time) your outbound page links
Wordpress is awesome in much of its flexibility. We all love the widget functionality that allows us to customize the sidebar or footer area, and a lot of other WordPress real estate. The problem is, many of these functions have links galore embedded in them or allow you to add hyperlinks to internal or external pages. Re-examine this. If you have a sidebar on every page of your site (or most) that is linking out to another website, you are losing visitors and potentially link juice. Be selective with outbound links in your sidebars – whether they are follow of nofollow.
URL permalink structure optimization – post name
While there are many factors in why a page ranks where it does in the search engines, what words or phrase are in the URL for that page do play a role. If you page is www.mysite.com/?s78y instead of www.mysite.com/best-blue-frisbees, you aren't getting all of the credit for the topic of that page. WordPress by default still use the permalink structure ?p=<postid>, so you need to change this. Under settings in the WordPress dashboard, go to permalinks. At the bottom you should have the ability to choose "post name" which will automatically propagate then below field with /%postname%/. If you do not see the "post name" option, manually paste in /%postname%/ under "custom". For more advanced permalink editing, you can check out a great page from Yoast.
Google Authorship Markup – your picture next to your website in the search results
Even experienced SEO consultants and web designers are new to much of what is working in SEO in 2013. Partly because SEO is changing quickly. Google Authorship and Publisher Markup language allows Google to track and assign authorship and authority to web publishers.
It allows publishers to get credit for their work and gives added SEO trust to their content. It also gives a better CTR (click through rate) than other websites who don't have markup. You can add the code for publishers (businesses) or authors (individuals) to your entire domain, a page on your site, or a blog post. Yoast wrote another great article (and simple) on how to do this with his SEO plugin. You can also do it manually. To check if you have correctly set up your author or publisher markup, you can use the Google Snippet Tool, as any changes you made will not show up immediately in the search results.
Plugins Plugins Plugins. which should I use and how many?
One of the best features of WordPress is the ability to use plugins. There are thousands of plugins from different programmers that do all sorts of things. Most of them are unnecessary. However, everyone has their own needs and functionality to their website, so there are definitely custom considerations and preferences. Here are a few you shouldn't live without that are specifically related to SEO:
Duh. As an SEO professional, I always recommend and personally prefer WordPress SEO by Yoast. There are other SEO plugins, but this plugin is the best in my opinion. You don't necessarily need all of the functions that it comes with, but as you progress with your website, you just might.
W3 Total Cache
Designed to improve site speed and thus, user experience (and SEO) the W3 plugin is a necessity for all WordPress users.
RB Internal Links
This plugin dramatically cuts the risk of 404s on your site by dynamically updating internal linking. Instead of using URLs, RB uses Post ID to track links – those eliminating potential errors for no longer existing pages.
You can use this plugin to control your external links, effectively pointing authority and link juice where you want it to go. Just install Simple URLs and control your outbound links from one place.
Slow down on your excessive usage of tags
The ability to quickly and easily add relevant tags to your posts in WordPress is great, but you need to consider that every time you are adding a tag, you are effectively adding a page to your site. Tags ability to benefit your SEO similar to the ability of a sign to point you in the right direction. The tag itself is not good for SEO; it’s the direction and navigation that can lead to proper site silo structure and therefore, relevancy and therefore, optimization. You can (and should) manually delete old and unnecessary tags – or you could look for a plugin to do it!
Wordpress is an amazing tool but like most tools, it’s all about the individual using it. Proper WordPress SEO begins with proper on page SEO just like it does on any other CMS. From there, you can begin to implement and understand some of the benefits of WordPress itself in terms of SEO specifically, and practice them on your website.