WordPress is a great blogging tool, and if you’re looking to an easy route to SEO, even the basic install of WordPress will get you half-way there. Set up correctly, WordPress is ideal for SEO as it puts your keywords in good positions and has lots of options for further customisation.
This guide is intended as an introduction to the basics of setting up a WordPress blog and preparing it for extension with plugins. Once your blog is set up, there are lots of easy ways to extend WordPress and hook it up with your social networking accounts on sites like Twitter and Facebook.
You can potentially spend a lot of time tweaking your blog once it is set up, but this article should get you started on the right track, right from the very second you open your freshly installed WordPress blog.
1. Set Up Your Categories Properly
There’s nothing worse than a WordPress blog with all the posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’. Not only that, without proper categories you’re missing out on an opportunity to use keywords effortlessly in some of the most important places on the page.
Categories and tags are often confused, and it’s true that they do the same job to some degree. However, categories can actually be used in the page URL, giving Google something to go on when it scans your site. Instantly the Google crawler will know what the page is about, just from the category name.
So, create a number of categories relevant to your blog before you even begin your first post. Use your keywords to come up with tight category titles. Also, ensure the default category is the keyword you’re most likely to want to use – just in case you forget to set it when you publish a post.
It’s best to get this right straight away: any later changes to your category may change your URLs. This can make a mess of things if you’ve got your feed hooked up to social networks, as it may cause things to be double posted, or posted out of order (see step 4).
2. Use Permalinks Wisely
You’ll score SEO points for having your keyword in your domain name. If it’s not plausible to change your domain, changing your URL is the next logical step, and something that you can control very easily in WordPress. This is where step 1 actually comes to life.
WordPress makes it very easy to set up the URLs in a custom format. The settings can be found in the Settings -> Permalinks menu. If you’re smart, you can use the Custom structure box to come up with a URL with keywords in a good position that are customised to your post.
The Default setting in the Permalink page is no good, because it doesn’t tell us anything about the page content. Similarly, Day and name and Month and name formats insert lots of additional information into the URL (such as the post year, post month and post day) which is unlikely to be important. What we need is a custom format, such as /%category%/%postname%/
Type this in the Custom box, and save your changes. When we write our first post, the output will be a URL that looks like this:
As you can see, your category name – or keyword – is now sitting pretty in a great position.
But what’s a slug?
3. Edit The Slug
When you first compose a post in WordPress, the page title you type will be converted into a slug. The slug is a chain of words joined by hyphens. By default, that chain is the same as your page title.
So a page title of ‘This is the first post in my blog about spoons’ will become http://domain.com/category/this-is-the-first-post-in-my-blog-about-spoons
The slug allows Google to easily read your URL and pick out any keywords.
In many cases, it’s beneficial to edit the slug to remove certain words and soup up the SEO potential. Just click the button below the post title to edit the slug. In the example above, we might change it to:
This URL is neater, shorter and easier to read. We’ve cut out the unimportant words (this, is, the, in, my and so on), and we give the words that are left more relevance.
Remember to set your slug before your page is actually published. If you change the slug later, certain links into your site may throw up 404 (page not found) errors, which is bad for your SEO.
4. Connect The Dots And Dlvr
There are various free services which allow you to bridge your WordPress blog and social networking accounts on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. One such service is dlvr.it, and we’ll use it as an example for this section.
dlvr.it takes the RSS feed for your site and uses it to automatically post a message on your social network when a new item appears. This is really useful if you’d like to make the most of regular blog posts. dlvr.it can be tweaked to only post updates during certain times, or automatically append certain hashtags each time an update goes out to Twitter.
Here’s the clever part: now that your WordPress categories are set up properly, they can also be converted to hashtags in tweets. This will help your posts to link in with searches and trending topics for more exposure.
For example, if you want to discuss a news story about Facebook, ensure you select the category ‘Facebook’ in WordPress when you post. This will put the word ‘facebook’ into your URL, as explained in step 3. It will also ensure that the hashtag #Facebook is added to your tweet by dlvr.it.
Bear any trending topics in mind when creating your posts. If necessary, create a new category with the name of the hashtag to maximise exposure.
It’s a bad idea to rely entirely on automatic feed delivery to populate your Twitter or Facebook pages – you do need to tend to them manually as well – but it can be a useful way to drive traffic back to your site.
Be very careful not to edit your category or slug: doing so will trick dlvr.it into thinking you have a new post, and it will re-appear on all of your social networking pages.
5. Research Some Seo Plugins For WordPress
Now the basics are set up, you’re free to expand WordPress with a whole host of plugins. Here are just a few that will get you started.
All in One SEO Pack (Free) is a really popular SEO plugin which, at a basic level, requires no configuration. It can ensure your META tags and titles are optimised and has lots of detailed controls for further customisation. The Pro version of the plugin costs $69.
SEO Booster Pro (€14.95) automatically tweaks your WordPress settings to maximise keyword exposure. It can auto-tag posts and cross-link items without any intervention. You can also track keyword response to help you plan a smarter SEO strategy.
WordPress SEO by Yoast (free) scans the content you create and comes up with ways to make it more ‘search engine friendly’, allowing you to preview your Google search result to ensure it catches the eye. The plugin also creates XML site maps and page breadcrumbs.
SEO Slugs (free) does the job of removing unnecessary words from page slugs without you having to do anything at all. It won’t change any slugs that are already set on your site, so no need to worry about missing pages.