How to SEO a WordPress Blog

by Martin Malden

How can I SEO my WordPress blog? How can I make it easy to find on-line?

Those are questions I see quite often in the forums.

The fact is, your WordPress blog is already pretty search engine friendly.

If you don’t believe me take it from Matt Cutts, head of anti-spam at Google – here’s what he says about WordPress. (It’s a 45 minute video, but well worth watching).

SEO is not an ‘add water, stir and drink’ process.

The algorithms that the search engines use are highly complex and they change on a regular basis, all in the ongoing quest to provide the most relevant results possible to searchers.

I wrote some principles of a search engine effective page here.

In addition to the on-page stuff I’ve covered there, the off-page factors that the search engines use include the credibility of your domain. They look at things like the age of the domain, how long it’s registered for, and so on.

So if you have a new domain and you only registered it for 1 year, it’s going to take longer for your posts to start showing up in the top positions – simply based on your domain’s newness and the length of time you have it registered for.

There are other factors too, like the number of inbound links your blog has.

All of which means that even if you follow all the things I’ve set out below it’s still going to take a while before you’re on the first page, especially if you have a new site.

None-the-less – here’s how to SEO a WordPress blog:

Although the WordPress platform is naturally search engine friendly, there are some things you can do to give it an extra boost:

Install the All-in-One-SEO-Pack plugin.

You can find it here. This is probably the most popular SEO type plugin and one of the most popular plugins overall. If you don’t have it installed, get it now.

There’s an article here on how to configure it once you’ve installed it.

This plugin will enable you to set META Title, META description and META keyword tags for your blog’s home page, and for each individual post and page.

It will also enable you to Noindex your various archive pages.

If you use the Thesis theme you don’t need to install the All-in-One-SEO-Pack because Thesis offers you the same functionality.

Setting these META tags on a post-by-post basis gives you more granular control and definitely helps in the search results.

Remember – your blog’s home page will not necessarily be the first page people land on, so optimising each post is important.

Make good, efficient use of your tags and categories.

I’ve written quite frequently about these, but to summarise: tags and categories are WordPress’ filing system.

Like any filing system, using them properly enables people (and, therefore, the search engines) to find relevant content quickly and easily.

Here’s an example: I have a category on this site called WordPress, into which all articles on WordPress go. But I write articles on several different aspects of WordPress – for example WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.

So articles on WordPress plugins go into the WordPress category and are tagged as plugins, and articles on WordPress themes also go into the WordPress category but they’re tagged as themes.

If your blog is focused on a particular niche there’s no need to have lots of tags or categories. I have 8 categories and 86 tags on this site, and it’s been going for 3 years.

I review my tags frequently and, if a tag is in the list without any posts attached to it, I delete it. This keeps things focused and organised – which helps both people and the search engines.

Your tags and categories are a great SEO tool – so be sure to use them properly.

Cross and interlink your posts.

Wherever you can, cross link to relevant posts and pages. Good internal linking also helps to tie related articles together, but do make sure you’re inter-linking relevant articles.

There are two plugins that help with this:

1. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, which you can find here.

This plugin looks for related posts on your site based on title, content, tags and category and I’ve found it to be highly accurate. It also offers a lot of flexibility in configuration.

Once it’s set up it will display and link to related posts beneath each of your articles, which is very helpful to both people and the search engines.

2. SEO Smart Links, which you can find here.

This is another way of linking posts together. This plugin automatically finds posts to link to based on keywords in your article and, additionally, you can manually specify keywords and the specific posts you want them to link to.

Then, when it finds a keyword in an article it automatically creates a link to the related article.

Again, cross linking to relevant content elsewhere on your site is helpful to both people and the search engines.

Titles and Content.

At the end of the day, content is what will make your site figure well in the search results. So write good articles and lots of them.

And write for people, not the search engines.

Your titles, though, need to take the search engines into account. If you’re using either the All-in-One-SEO-Pack or Thesis you have the option to define META titles which are different from your post titles.

I tend to do this, although the difference is not that great.

My keywords are in both, but I make the post title more reader friendly and the META page title more search engine friendly.

This is usually just a case of making sure my keywords appear as early as possible in the META title.

So, for example, the post title for this article is ‘How to SEO a WordPress Blog’. The META title is ‘SEO for WordPress Blogs’.

It’s not a big difference but the post is about SEO for WordPress so in the META title I’ve put those words first, in order to make it easier for the search engines.

So to summarise:

  1. Install the All-in-one-SEO-pack, configure and use it properly.
  2. Make good, efficient use of your categories and tags
  3. Cross and interlink your posts and pages
  4. Write good articles for your readers and good titles for both your readers and the search engines.

It would be great to hear other ways of SEO’ing WordPress – leave us a comment and tell us how you do it!

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