And now for the topic of search engine optimization (SEO). As I mentioned last week, as I build this blog you’re reading I’ll write about everything I’m doing to it. Well today I’m working on improving its SEO. There internet is full of information on SEO and you could spend months or even years trying to figure it all out. I’ll start out with the basics of how SEO works and then give some practical examples of how I’m improving my SEO and how you can to.
1. What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of building your website in such a way as to give it the best possible chance of being listed highly in the major search engines. According to Jason Geiger, the top search engine position gets over 40% of the clicks for any given search phrase. So if you want traffic flowing to your blog (and who doesn’t?) it pays to be the top ranked listing for something that people are actually searching for (I’ll discuss how to find out what people are searching for in a later post). But how do you do that?
2. Types of SEO
There are two types of Search Engine Optimization. The first is on-page SEO. This involves only what you have on your site or page. This is the easier of the two types of SEO to improve, since you are in control of what you put on your pages. The second type is off-page SEO and it deals with links to your site and what people are saying about you. You don’t have as much control over off-page SEO. Today we’re going to deal primarily with on-page SEO and how we can improve SEO within WordPress.
3. What do search engines look for?
Search engines judge importance much like humans. If you were attempting to find out in a short amount of time exactly what an article was about, you would read the title and headings, right? So do search engines. They also look at the page URL. For example, something like:
gives a much better indication of what the post is about than the WordPress default URL:
We’ll look at how to change that in a few minutes. There are also a couple hidden fields specifically for search engines (description and keywords). Although they don’t matter like they once did (because they made it too easy to lie to the search engines) it’s still a good idea to use them properly. Now let’s get to work.
4. The All in One SEO Pack
The All in One SEO Pack is a WordPress plugin designed to make basic search engine optimization tasks easy. You don’t have to know any HTML or other technical gibberish. It gives you the option of customizing your title, description, and keywords. The title is what goes in the title bar of your web browser. Whenever you write or edit a post, scroll down to the very bottom of the page and you’ll find SEO options.
Here you can make sure that your title, description, and keywords are all present and accounted for.
I already posted a tutorial on improving the permalink structure in WordPress when I updated mine a few days ago, but I’ll give a brief overview here as well. Here’s the WordPress default I mentioned earlier:
That’s just not very informative. I prefer to have the URL display the category and then the post name. For example:
To accomplish this, go to Settings>Permalinks and paste /%category%/%postname% in the Custom Structure field and click Save Changes.
The slug is just the Title of the post as it shows up in the URL. For example, by default, the slug for this post would be wordpress-and-seo which would make the full URL to this post (due to our /%category%/%postname% permalink structure):
Not bad. However, if I were to name this post Ways to Increase Search Engine Optimization in WordPress things would get ugly:
Thankfully WordPress has a simple way of editing your slug, and it’s found just below the title box.
Click Edit and give your post an elegant and relevant slug.
Click Save and you should be set!
Sitemaps are a simple way of letting search engines know about all the pages on your site so they can make sure to index all of them. Keeping a sitemap up to date by hand would be quite a chore, so I’m installing a WordPress plugin to take care of it for me. I’ve chosen the Google XML Sitemaps plugin by Arne Brachhold. Install it just like any other plugin and then go to Settings>XML-Sitemap. If no sitemap has been created yet, there will be a link at the top to build one the first time. You can also adjust how often a new sitemap is generated, whether the search engines should be notified of a change, and more. Once a sitemap has been generated, the settings page will give you an overview of the last sitemap it generated.
8. Duplicate content
I didn’t mention at the beginning that search engines don’t like duplicate content. Unfortunately due to the way WordPress works, each post can be found at a number of different URLs, causing the appearance of duplicate content. Once again, I’m going to use a plugin to help fix this issue. This time it’s the Robots Meta plugin. You’ll find the settings for this plugin under Plugins>Robots Meta. It has quite a list of options, but each one has a nice explanation and often a suggestion or two about when or when not to use it.
Well that’s all for now. Do you have any other tips or tricks that you like to use to improve SEO on your blog? Please consider sharing it in the comments below.