Electrify Your WordPress Blog With Plugins for SEO

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Imagine having the search engine traffic to your blog increased by 20%, 30%, 40% – or even doubling it – with only a few hours of work. By putting just a bit of SEO effort into your WordPress blog, you can increase your search engine traffic just by getting the basics right. Let’s go through them one by one to help you increase the visibility of your blog in the SERPs.

Improve Titles, Meta Descriptions, and “More” Text

There are a number of plugins you can easily drop into WordPress, enable, and instantly have everything you need to create good titles for blog posts and write compelling meta descriptions for them. It’s pretty important to do your titles and metas right, so here are some pointers:

  • Move the blog’s name to the END of the title on post pages, giving more preference to the title of the post.
  • Make sure you not only use keyword-rich titles, but also entice people to click.
  • Ensure each post has a meta description that is meaningful. The meta description is a two-line chance to get people to click on your post title. Most who read them only do so because your title did not entice them to click yet. If you don’t enter a description, the search engine will match some of the text with the keywords the searcher typed, preventing you from having a chance to get them to click. For this reason alone, each post needs a specifically written meta description.
  • Write your own meta descriptions. There are some plugins that will automatically fill them in. Don’t use these. Write the descriptions yourself to maximize potential clicks.

I prefer using the Headspace2 plugin to do all this. It has a nice added benefit: in the Headspace options, select the modules submenu, and drag the “more text” module from disabled to simple. This will allow you to change the “more” text on all your posts into something more appropriate, without becoming dull.

Now promise yourself to write a good title and more text for each post you write!

Pick the Correct Permalink Structure and Slug

Although everyone has their own preferred style, your permalink should look permanent. There’s no real reason to have “example.com/?p=2″ when you could have “example.com/awesome-post/” or “example.com/awesomeness/awesome-post/”. So after writing each post, think carefully about the slug you choose for it.

A good permalink should be short and preferably memorable. It need not have dates in it, but should give people the idea that they’ve found what they’re looking for. Keep in mind that if you want to be in Google News, you are required to have 3 digits in your URL.

Improve your Template

Headings

Although most themes for WordPress get this right, make sure your post title is an <h1>, and nothing else. Your blog’s name should only be an <h1> on your front page. On single, post, and category pages, it should be no more than an <h3>. These are easy fixes. Check out my article on Semantic HTML and SEO if you want to improve things further (http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/semantic-html-and-search-engine-optimiza/).

Clean up your code

Move all the JavaScript and CSS you have been keeping in your files into external JavaScript and CSS files. Keep your templates clean. Search engines, and some of your users, have no use for all that code on each page.

Using images? Use alt tags too!

When using images in your posts, make sure to add descriptions and titles to them as well. The few extra keyword mentions you can work in there won’t hurt, and they might get you some traffic from image searches as well.

Taxonomy

Choose one taxonomy and stick with it

As of version 2.3, WordPress comes with not one, not two, but three (!!) archives built in by default. It has a category structure, a tag structure, and a date-based archive. This creates an awful lot of duplicate content, so be sure to get rid of two of the three. Unless you are a newspaper, date archives are not too useful. After that, it’s just a matter of personal taste. I like categories and am not really the tagging kind of guy, so I use the category structure, but tags are fine too.

Go into your theme and remove all references to other taxonomies. Wipe out the date-based archive, and remove either the tagging or the category structure from the single.php, archive.php, index.php, and search.php files.

Add tag or category descriptions

Once you have chosen a taxonomy, make sure to give these pages a description, and show that description on the page. This is as easy as adding the following to your category.php template page:

<?php echo category_description(); ?>

Siloing

If you have chosen categories as your main taxonomy, make sure not to link from each category page to all other categories – just link to the subcategories of the current category. That way all the links on a page point to content within the same theme, creating nice “silos” of themed content within your site. Your goal is to link up and below in your site “tree,” but not sideways.

You can link to subcategories of the current category with this code:

if (is_category()) {
$this_category = get_category($cat);
if (get_category_children($this_category->cat_ID) != “”) {
echo “<h1>Subcategories</h1>”;
echo “<ul>”;
wp_list_categories(‘orderby=id&show_count=0&title_li=
&use_desc_for_title=1&child_of=’.$this_category->cat_ID);
echo “</ul>”;
}
}

For siloing purposes, on post pages, it’s actually best not to show the categories that the post isn’t in. However, a lot of people will land on your post pages from search engines, so you might want to show them all your categories anyway. A good solution in that case is to use the robots meta plugin, and add rel=”nofollow” to these category listings. This way, search engines won’t use those links to determine the content on that page.

Interlink related posts

You can help both your visitors and the search engines find more related content on the same theme in your blog by linking to related posts within your blog. There are plugins that can do this for you, but it’s also very important to teach yourself to constantly link back to related posts from within your new posts.

Breadcrumbs

Another way to improve your siloing is to add breadcrumbs to your single posts and pages. These should link back to the homepage and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories, the breadcrumb code should pick just one. For this to work, adapt single.php and page.php in your theme to link back to the category (or categories, if the post is in a subcategory) and to your homepage.

In archive.php, the template used for your categories, place the following code to display the breadcrumbs:

$this_cat = get_category($cat);
if ($this_cat->category_parent != 0) {
$parent_category = get_category($this_cat->category_parent);
if ($parent_category->category_parent == 0) {
echo ‘ / <a href=”‘.get_category_link($this_cat>category_parent).’”>’.
$parent_category->cat_name.” Archives</a>”;
} else {
$grandparent_category = get_category($parent_category->category_parent);
echo ‘ / <a href=”‘.get_category_link($parent_category->category_parent). ‘”>’.$grandparent_category->cat_name.”</a>”;
echo ‘ / <a href=”‘.get_category_link($this_cat->category_parent). ‘”>’.$parent_category->cat_name.” Archives</a>”;
}
}
echo single_cat_title().” Archives”;

Remove Other Duplicate Content

Noindex,follow unimportant or dupe pages

Even once you’ve picked one structure, you’re still left with some pages that have no real utility for search engines. Your front page normally only contains 10 posts, and when you have more, the search bots go to /page/2/, /page/3/ etc. There’s no real reason for those pages to be indexed, so I suggest getting the robots meta plugin, and adding a “noindex,follow” robots meta tag to them. This will prevent search engines from showing these pages, while allowing them to follow the links to your posts. Do the same to your login and registration pages, and your search result pages with the same plugin.

A one-author blog? Disable the author archives

Even when you’re running a one-author blog, WordPress will automatically create an “author” archive, which is a listing of all posts made by each author. This function has some use on multi-author blogs, but on one-author blogs, you should disable the author archives using the robots meta plugin.

Titles, slugs, taxonomy, siloing, and eliminating duplicate content. It may sound like a lot, but the available plugins can accomplish it all in a short period of time, making your WordPress blog much more SEO friendly. So make the effort – electrify your blog with these WordPress plugins and shock the SERPs this year!

About the Author

Joost de Valk is a Search Strategist at Onetomarket, based in Arnhem, the Netherlands. In his spare time, Joost maintains css3.info, considered one of the best online resources about CSS3, and blogs about SEO, WordPress and web development on his blog http://www.joostdevalk.nl/.

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