A Guide to WordPress SEO with Relevant Plugins

When it comes to WordPress and search engine optimization, the content management system does a pretty good job at being prepared out of the box, but with the use of some very useful plugins, as well as some hacks and some good blogging techniques, you could get your blog's posts and pages higher in the search engines thus attracting more potential visitors.

A Guide to WordPress SEO with Relevant Plugins

Optimizing Permalink Structure

Perhaps one of the most popular things to do as soon as you install and are setting up WordPress is to change the default permalink structure of your posts and pages to something more readable and search engine friendly. By default you have your post and page Id's in the permalinks, which even the WordPress team deems ugly.

Permalink

To change this, you can pick one of the options that comes packed with WordPress, or define your own structure. A lot of people recommend using the category and post name structure:

/%category%/%postname%/ 

But the problem with that is that this structure can add more load on your server, since the category is a text field and it would take more time for the server to distinguish posts between pages, so it is recommended that a numeric field starts off your permalinks. I personally use the year, month, day, and name structure for my permalinks. It reduces load on the server, and also allows readers to know what date the post was published on, and by stripping the title, you can access the archives for that date. So for those of you that want to know, here's the structure we recommend working with:

/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/

Using All in One SEO Pack

Without a doubt the most popular SEO plugin available for WordPress, All in One SEO Pack offers everything that you will need to get your WordPress-powered website search engine optimized with ultimate control over almost everything. Below you can see a picture of the current configuration that I use for one of my own websites, and then we will explain what each of these options does and offers.

All in One SEO Pack

Using All in One SEO Pack Part 1

Home Title

This is just what it says it is, what is shown in the browser when somebody visits your website. You want to include the title of your website obviously, and then add a tagline separated by a dash or vertical line, just make sure that you make your tagline simple and to the point.

Home Description

This is the description of your blog that will be shown by search engines when somebody comes across your website. As with the home title, make sure that this too is readable, but you want to do that by adding some more keywords about what your site is about. This will help with search engines associating your site with those keywords if they appear frequently enough on your site.

Home Keywords

Now go crazy with those keywords, just make sure that all of them are relevant to your website otherwise they will be completely useless and won't help you at all.

Canonical URLs

Canonical? Kind of an odd word, and I'm sure not one that is in everybody's vocabulary. Canonical URLs are duplicate content on a webpage, which will make your website rank lower in search engines. The most common problem is that the http://example.com and http://www.example.com are setup in a way that they are both individual web pages. So checking this will make sure that both of these URLs point to the same place, making sure there is no duplicate content on your WordPress website, and helping you rank higher in search engines.

Rewrite Titles

The “rewrite titles” option is all about the title tag of your WordPress site. When you check this, all of the titles on the page, post, category, search and archive page titles will be changed so that they are search engine optimized. So for an individual post, you will have your Post Title – Blog Name, for a page it will be Page Title – Blog Name, and so on. This is much more effective for SEO than the normal Archive – Blog NamePost Title that WordPress uses by default.

Rest of the Options

The first two checkboxes after all of the rewrite titles should be checked, as they will add all of the categories and tags that added to a post to be added as keywords for single blog posts and pages which will obviously be good for SEO. The third checkbox is good to have checked as it will dynamically generate keywords for a custom posts page.

Using All in One SEO Pack Part 2

The next three should always be checked, as they incorporate the noindex into your categories, archives, and tag pages which will help reduce duplicate content on your site.

Lastly, the auto-generate descriptions will make it so that a little excerpt is automatically generated for your post whenever you forgot or don't enter one in yourself. The last option will do just what it says: capitalize category titles.

Breadcrumbs

May sound like a funny thing to implement into your blog, but they do just what they say, leave a little trail of crumbs so that your visitors know where they are and can easily navigate themselves around. So if they were on a single post, the breadcrumbs to that would look like Home > Category > Your Post Name.

Breadcrumb

Now, there are many plugins to help do this easily, and my favorite would have to be Breadcrumb NavXT, but Yoast Breadcrumb works well and does the exact same thing.

Breadcrumb NavXT

Breadcrumb NavXT

If you wanted to implement the breadcrumbs manually and have more control of what they looked like and so on, you should definitely check out this excellent tutorial on Cats who Code that will guide you through the process: How to Breadcrumb Function for WordPress.

Speeding Up your Website

Search engines will crawl your website each day looking at pages and analyzing them, but how many pages are actually looked at depends on the speed of your website. So to maximize search engine exposure, a caching plugin should be installed that will help with this.

Now, my personal favorite would have to be W3 Total Cache and is what I would recommend to everybody reading this article right now. It offers complete caching of your entire website, reduces load times significantly, and saves bandwidth thus allowing for more visits to your blog depending on what hosting you're using.

W3 Total Cache

W3Cache

Another thing I love about W3 Total Cache is that it has built-in minify, which when enabled, will compress all of the pages on your blog by removing white spaces and comments in your code, embedded or 3rd party JavaScript, and much more. This plugin, in my opinion, really does it all in terms of speeding up your website and reducing load times to help optimize your blogs for search engines.

Optimizing Images

Another great way to get traffic to your website is by image search engines. One thing that many people don't do when uploading images is give them proper ALT and TITLE attributes, thus reducing the probability of the images getting very high in search engines and reducing visitors.

Well, the SEO Friendly Images plugin will help you out with just that by automatically adding the title of your post to the image that you upload for both ALT and TITLE attributes, so that these images are more readily available for search engines.

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Image

Internal Links

Another great way to get people to your content is by leaving internal links to your content. If you have a keyword or title in your post that is associated with something else you wrote, leave a link on that text and people could get interested and check out the link. Just make sure that you don't do this with every little keyword on the page and spam your content to people, as that's a good way to lose readers and credibility.

Another great way to do this is by having a related posts section after your post content. This can be achieved via many different plugins, my favorite being Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP). The plugin can be used on posts and pages, is compatible with the latest version of WordPress, and is extremely easy to setup and use.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

Of course, there's always a way to do these things manually. So if you prefer to have a little bit more control but perhaps lose the fancy algorithm and therefore relevance of related posts, you can check out the tutorial here on how to implement related posts without a plugin.

Using Sitemaps

Using a sitemap is a good way to get all of your content, including authors, archive and post dates, categories, and much more in a single page that's easy for users to navigate and allows search engines to know exactly when your content is available to be indexed, as well as other metadata including publish date, revision date, and much more. They are a good way to boost your search engine rankings as well as increase internal links in your own site.

Sitemap

Now, you could code yourself a sitemap by hand, but that would be a terrible amount of work if you have a lot of posts and pages, and regardless, a plugin would be much easier to use and save you a lot of time.

Now, there are many plugins out there, but my favorite and by far most popular is Google XML Sitemaps which creates a sitemap for you, sends a ping to search engines to know when new content is up, content priorities and much more.

Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps

Robots.txt

Interesting title for a file, huh? Well, what a Robots.txt file does is tells the search engine which pages of your website should be indexed, and which ones shouldn't. This will help search engine rankings by making sure the most important content on your site is indexed.

Like most of the tips and tricks here, there is always a way to do this by hand. In this case, I would recommend checking out this website on how to manually create a Robots.txt file, but I would definitely recommend using a plugin to do this for you.

The one plugin I would recommend above all others is Joost De Valk's Robots Meta plugin. This plugin will allow you to prevent indexing on search result pages, subpages, and much more.

Joost De Valk's Robots Meta

Robots Meta

Link/Traffic Building Through Social Networking

Social networking has been a great way to build links and website visibility for a website, but only if it is used correctly. Also, depending on what type of site that you have, different social networking strategies may be more affective and practical than others. I'm am going to give you guys some links to a couple of great articles for the major social networking sites out there that will help you with just this, as I think that this will be much easier than me regurgitating the same information to you.

Social Media
Image credit: daniel_iversen

Twitter

SEOmoz has a great article that goes over the basics of link building with Twitter, including the best ways to go about doing this, as well as what type of websites and blogs are suited for link building via Twitter.

Facebook

New Media Bytes goes over a very practical guide to increasing traffic for your website or blog using the immensely popular Facebook, without the hassles or costs of developing your own application. From building relevant friends to sharing content, this article will cover everything to get you started with gaining traffic from Facebook.

Reddit

Popular link and information sharing website Reddit is a great way to get traffic, but there is a very distinct way to go about getting traffic from such a popular website, and ProBlogger's article will teach you just that.

Conclusion

So, by using some or all of these techniques on your own WordPress site, you are sure to up your rankings on search engines and increase visitors and traffic to your website. But remember, no matter how many SEO tricks and tips you try, none are going to get you far unless you have good content. Content is what will get you far, and when used in combination, SEO can get you even further.