WordPress SEO

Here’s a few simple tips for optimising your WordPress search engine rankings. This is mainly here for my own benefit – I forget stuff easily if I don’t write it down – but others might find it useful too.

If you have your own tips, feel free to share in the comments.

Permalinks
If you possibly can, set up a custom permalink structure (under options->permalinks) – you will need to be able to use .htaccess files on your server for this to work though. I tend to use this set-up:/%category%/%postname%/- rather than anything date based, as I think this gives the most logical structure to a site. It also means your category name appears in the URL, which gives your post some context.

Post Titles
Always think carefully about your post title. It’s important that it’s concise, relevant to the content, and if possible contains keywords related to the content. Looking at my own referral logs, most search engine hits are from queries that contain words I’ve used in titles.

Categories
Try to categorise your posts properly and don’t have too many categories on your site (I currently have just 5 categories). The reason for this is simple; Most search engines will penalise you for duplicate content, and WordPress generates a page for every category on your site. The more categories you have, the more duplicated content – and the lower the rank of each individual page.

Sitemaps
While this one may not increase your rankings directly, having an XML Sitemap will allow search engines to find all your pages and weight them properly. Google, Yahoo and MSN all now use the same Sitemaps format, so it’s a really useful thing to have.There’s a really good little Sitemaps plugin available here. Just download it and follow the instructions.You can now also include the URL of your sitemap in your robots.txt file to make it even easiear for bots to find it. Just add a line like this to the bottom of your robots.txt file:

Sitemap: http://www.mysite.com/sitemap.xml

You can find out more about the sitemaps format here and here.

Outbound LinksMake sure you link to relevant sources when posting, as most search engines will rank pages that link to other highly ranked sites higher. This is also a good way to attract new readers – people are much more likely to read your blog if you’re linking to them.Aside from SEO, linking to your sources is simply the right thing to do. Wouldn’t you want people to do the same for you?

RSS Links and Autodiscovery
While not strictly SEO, making sure your RSS feed is easily accessible is a great way to attract regular readers.The first thing you should do is check RSS autodiscovery works on your blog. If it’s working, your browser should display a little RSS icon in the location bar – clicking it should show your feed. If it doesn’t work, make sure you have a line that looks like this in the wp-header file of your WordPress theme:<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS 2.0″ href=”http://www.mysite.com/feed/” />The other thing you should do is to make sure the link to your feed is clearly visible on the page itself. I try to put my RSS link at the top of the sidebar, as it’s easily the most important option (IMO!).

Be original
While it’s easy just to post links to other people’s articles on your blog, it won’t get you a lot of traffic. A single, well researched article (with sources) will always generate more traffic than ripping off someone else’s post.

Commenting on other blogs
This should go without saying, but always try to comment regularly on the blogs that you read – particularly if you have something useful to add to the discussion. A useful on someone else’s blog not only lets them know you’re reading, but is usually a ‘free’ link back to your own site.

But always be careful not to spam other people’s blogs. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t post just for the sake of getting your URL on someone else’s site. Ever!

One thought on “WordPress SEO

  1. Great advice, especially about limiting the number of categories – I didn’t know that.

    Just a note about the permalink structure: I agree that changing it is a must – but if you’re just starting out, be careful about using /%category%/%postname%/. Using %category% isn’t sensible, unless you are very sure that your categories wonÂ’t change.

    Maybe it’s not a problem if you are limiting the number of categories, but I fell into this trap – I needed to tweak the categories, which broke my permalinks.

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