I have been setting up and running self-hosted WordPress websites for five years now and have to say, you never stop learning how to tweak and improve various elements of a website. With the constantly evolving and changing search algorithms of the likes of Google, you are always kept on your toes when it comes to search engine optimization.
Before I go into talking about plugins, there are a few things that you can do with your general settings to get the ball rolling on optimizing your site.
1. Edit your general settings
- Site Title & Site Tagline: make sure you keep this to the point and use your keywords
- WordPress Address (URL) & Site Address (URL): you will want to ensure that the “www” part is added in here after the “http://” (search engines like to see the “www” in your main URL)
Secondly, you will want to sort out your permalinks. The default on WordPress sites is usually the page ID code. This is not terribly helpful for optimizing your site as it wont include words in the url. This time, you will go to Dashboard => Settings => Permalinks. You will then select which permalink structure best suits your site. If you are publishing a lot, you may wish to include the date in your links, but either way, you will wish to ensure that the “post name” is included.
2. Upload suitable SEO plugins
I have tried many different SEO plugins in my day, moved away from some, returned to some and taken on new ones along the way. SEO and WordPress experts will no doubt argue about which ones are best so I am going to just focus on the two main plugins I use at the moment for my sites which seem to be doing the job quite nicely. These are:
- SEO Smart Links Professional: http://www.prelovac.com/products/seo-smart-links/. This is a premium plugin which means it comes with a $ sign. It is a good plugin though that is constantly updated and supported.
- All-in-one SEO: http://semperfiwebdesign.com/. This plug in comes in a premium and non-premium version. The non-premium version gives you many features and is just donation based.
- Google XML Sitemaps: This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
I use both of these plugins on my sites and make sure that keyword selection corresponds on both.
On the subject of keywords, the ones you choose for your website are crucial to the site’s success in allowing the search engines to find and index it. Try to keep these to a minimum and do your homework about your target audience and relevant content on your site. If you overdo it on the keyword front, search engines will not like that and they will penalize you for it.
3. Enhance your site’s performance
Other aspects to keep in mind for optimal SEO is the load up speed of your website and its overall general performance. Over time, websites that have regular content published on them start to get sluggish. Also, various plugins or themes can affect the load up time of the website so it is useful to do a bit of an evaluation of your site’s overall performance to see how it fairs. Useful plugins that every WordPress site should have are:
- W3 Total Cache: Just like you regularly need to clear the cache on your web browsers, website caches need a tidy up. This plugin is free and is really one of those essential plugins every WordPress site should have.
- WP-Optimize: This plugin helps you to keep your database clean by removing post revisions and spams in no time. I run a very busy rich content website, www.zomppa.com, that has many contributors. A good clean up every week makes a huge difference.
- Amazon S3 for WordPress with CloudFront: this plugin uploads your wordpress media attachements to Amazon S3 with an option CloudFront distribution. Using CloudFront distribution helps with speeding up the loading up time of your website as it relies on Amazon servers all over the world to deliver the content of your site more expeditiously.
4. Build your backlinks
Backlinks to your site are a huge boost for legitimizing your site in the eyes of search engines. The more you have the better, the better quality you have, the even better. Be careful in the quality of the types of banklinks you are getting as if these are coming from negatively rated spam type websites, it will not fair well on you. The more highly ranked a site is, the more reputable it is, and this will reflect favourably for your site in the eyes of the search engines.
One tool that I recently started using to help with creating backlinks to my sites is the Premium WordPress Plugin CommentLuv. I wrote a piece about this for Zomppa a couple of months ago, Sharing the Love with CommentLuv.
This plugin is really 8 plugins in one so if you know anything about WordPress sites, you know that the fewer the plugins you install on your website, the lesser the chances of miscommunications between plugins and also with WordPress itself. This plugin also eradicates spam on comments, and allows fellow bloggers who comment on an article of yours to include a link back to a recent post of theirs. This helps build-up their list of backlinks to theis site also. Likewise, when you comment on other CommentLuv enabled sites, you get to provide a link to your site. The plugin also has features which are integrated with social media platforms like Twitter.
5. Give your images SEO friendly names
Lastly, I wish to emphasize the need for properly named images can attract a lot of traffic your site from image focused search engines like Google image and more recently with Pinterest. If you want more of this traffic, you must learn how to optimize your images to score some of this traffic. Before you upload your image, make sure that you give the image file a name that includes keywords. You will then want to make sure that those same keywords are included in the image title once you have loaded up the image.