WordPress is a fantastic blogging tool and publishing platform, but is it optimized out of the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? Even though search engines tend to love websites built on the WordPress platform, it isn’t particularly well-optimized with a default installation. The default WordPress facility does not include meta tags such as meta description and meta keywords. If you want to supply search engines with specific information relevant to your website’s pages, you must add the metatag data yourself.
From my own experience with WordPress and getting WordPress-based websites to ranking well in the search engines, here are my Top 5 SEO Tips for WordPress:
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1. Title Tags
The title tag will probably always be one of the most important factors in on-page search engine optimization to achieve high rankings in the search engines. It has been shown that just “tweaking” your title tags a little can increase the number of times your link is clicked in a search engine. The title tag should contain keywords or keyphrases relevant to the page content.
Originally, WordPress placed the blog name before the post title. For example: “My WordPress Blog » Hello world!” In more recent WordPress versions, the post title appears before the blog title, like “Hello world! » My WordPress Blog.” There has been some debate about whether having your blog name tagged at the end of your post title is necessary. Some people have even reported that removing the blog title from post titles can help improve your rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPS). The main advantage of not including your blog title in the post title is that it keeps your title’s length at a more reasonable number of characters. I always try to keep my tags to less than 70 characters where possible. Having your blog name on the end of your page title may dramatically increase your title’s number of characters.
To change how your title tags work on your blog, I strongly suggest using one of the following WordPress plugins: All in One SEO Pack or Platinum SEO Pack. I use the Platinum SEO Pack, although both plugins are very similar. To change your title tags with Platinum SEO Pack, go to your WordPress Admin page and click the “Platinum SEO” link in the left-hand sidebar. Here’s how I have set the main three title settings for this website:
- Home Title: Small Business Search Engine Optimisation
- Post Title: %post_title%
- Page Title: %page_title% | %blog_title%
I suggest you look at this plugin’s other options and tweak them to your requirements.
2. Meta Tags
There are three main components to meta tags: meta title, meta keywords & meta description. The meta title will be taken from your post/page title, and if you are using appropriate, relevant titles, there is little need to adjust this with one of the previously mentioned plugins. When looking at your query results in search engines, you will see a section of content from your page beneath the page link. By customizing the meta description tag for the page, you control what is shown in the search engine results. Your meta description should be concise and relevant; remember, after the title (link) to your page in the SERPS, your post description needs to encourage people to click the link to your site, so make sure your meta description is appropriate for your content. This is also a good opportunity to include one or more keywords/keyphrases. Try to limit your meta description to less than 200 characters.
*It is worth pointing out that a few months ago, Google announced that it no longer considers meta keywords when ranking websites.
Despite this, I still think specifying your post or page keywords accurately is good practice. Platinum SEO has a nifty little option allowing you to use categories or tags for meta keywords. This may be useful to some users, but if you only post in a few classes, you may be better off specifying your meta keywords post-specific. Try to be focused on your keywords; aim for 4 – 6 keywords per page, although you can select more meta keywords if you desire.
3. Heading Tags
As discussed in this blog post, The Importance Of Heading Tags, Heading tags are a crucial part of an optimized page. Where possible, you should only include one H1 tag on a page (usually the title), but you may have multiple occurrences of tags H2 – H6. It may be appropriate to have more than one H1 tag within a page in rare circumstances, for example, where you discuss two equally important, clearly defined topics.
The H1 tag should surround the main heading/title of the page relevant to the content and should be positioned at the top of the content (not in the header or sidebar, but at the top of the main content area). For example, if you sell fruit with an article or page about “Apples,” this should be in your H1 tags. If you discuss various types of apples within this page, you might use H2 or H3 tags for these sub-headings, e.g., “Golden Delicious” or “Granny Smith.”
Using Heading tags will help the search engines determine the importance of the words in your content when they crawl your site.
Permalinks are URLs that point to specific blog posts and remain the same indefinitely. A permalink is what another blogger may use to link to your blog post, article, or category, or how you might send a link to your blog post in an e-mail. More importantly, it is the link the search engines will use to identify your blog post, page, or article. It is commonly accepted that keywords in the permalink can help contribute to a page, post, or article’s position in the search engines.
Optimizing the WordPress permalink structure is one aspect of WordPress Search Engine Optimisation that most users can do to configure a more desirable, readable permalink structure.
- There are three basic types of WordPress permalinks: default, mod_rewrite & pathinfo.
- Default WordPress Permalinks
- The default WordPress permalink looks like HTTP:// exampledomain.com/?p=N.
- N is the Post ID number. It works on all server environments but doesn’t look as nice as other options.
- mod_rewrite WordPress Permalinks
- Using mod_rewrite, you can produce much nicer permalinks. There are many different formats, but the most common and most commonly used looks like HTTP:// domainexample.com/category/post-name/
- This permalink structure is sometimes called “Pretty permalinks” and is most commonly used on Apache web servers with the mod_rewrite module.
- Pathinfo WordPress permalinks
- Pathinfo permalinks look very much like mod_rewrite (pretty) permalinks, but they have /index.php inserted before them, for example, HTTP:// domainexample.com/index.php/yyyy/mm/dd/post-name/
- Otherwise, they are the same as the “pretty” mod_rewrite permalinks and are similarly flexible.
- Changing your WordPress permalink structure is effortless by going to Settings -> Permalinks in your WordPress admin panel.
You can select one of the options using the radio buttons on the screen. To use “pretty permalinks,” you must choose the “Custom Structure” option and specify how you want the structure. WordPress provides numerous opportunities for the custom structure, but the most commonly used custom structure by bloggers is: /%category%/%postname% /
Permalinks are easy to set up and can influence how your blog is found & seen in search engines.
The generation and publishing of website sitemaps are quite often underestimated. There are two types of a sitemap: an HTML sitemap, which is readable for human visitors and helps them navigate the website, and an XML Sitemap, which allows the search engine spiders to navigate through the site.
There are many advantages to using sitemaps, for example:
– they help simplify website navigation for both visitors and search engines
– they help the search engines accurately index your site content
– they help advise the search engines how frequently your content changes and when it was last modified
WordPress’s Sitemap generation can be easily achieved using one of the various plugins available. One of the most popular plugins for generating Google sitemaps is Google XML Sitemaps. This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap to help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo Ask,, etc. better index your blog.
Usage of this plugin is nice and straightforward; install the plugin, then navigate to Settings -> XML-Sitemap in your WordPress admin panel and build the sitemap the first time. The plugin will automatically update your sitemap whenever you publish a new post. It is also worth telling Google exactly where your sitemap is; you can do this using the Google Webmaster Tools.