Any search engine optimization (SEO) expert or enthusiast will tell you WordPress.org (the self-hosted one) is the foundation for a blogger wants to get optimal traffic from Google. Its the only blog platform that offers complete control of your search engine optimization features.
“You don’t buy a BMW automobile and then let the manufacturer choose what your radio plays, or how fast you drive. Don’t let the same thing happen to your blog!”
WordPress.org is required for these 5 quick ways to blog search engine optimization.
Want a more complete list of SEO plugins for your self-hosted WordPress blog? Read our WordPress SEO plugins list.
All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO Pack provides overwrite control for your blog site, page, post, and category titles, descriptions, and keywords. Perfect because you don’t have to depend on the SEO expertise of the theme developer who sometimes leave these critical elements out of the code, or give you little access to them. Screenshot from my plugin:
The title likely the most important piece of your page for search results. Your blog title is critical since your homepage is the most likely page to rank in search and the title is what will show as the clickable link in search results. Each page/post should have a unique title that describes the page while using keywords you want to rank for. I strongly suggest removing any traces of your main blog title from subpage titles and blog post titles.
The text underneath the clickable link in search results is a meta description (in HTML), the blog tagline (if it’s your blog homepage) and a post exceprt (if an individual blog post). Although the words in this description will not help your rank position, it may entice users to click through to your website. Learn more about how I would setup the All in One SEO pack in this YouTube video.
Permalink Structure and Slugs
Almost as important as keywords in the titles are keywords in URLs for ranking in search. A simple way to integrate more keywords into the URLs of your pages is to set the permalink structure under Settings > Permalinks to use categories rather than dates. While most blogs use a standard /year/month/date/post-name format, you would be wise to use a custom /category/post-name format. This is because dates have no valuable words in the URLs to help your rank and the closer your keyword is to the domain name the better. Lastly, dashes still beat underscores. Learn more about URLs in this article from SEOmoz.
You should also take note of the slugs (post name URLs) applied to each blog post, which helps form the full URL. In this case the default, 5-quick-ways-to-blog-seo, could be changed to add or remove keywords as necessary to make the final URL for this most better for search.
Important: By changing your permalink structure or slug after your blog or post is already live, your old URL becomes inaccessible! Any links coming into the old location will be broken and that can hurt your search results. This is not a support article for redirects, but I found this article on 301 redirects using an htaccess file to be helpful.
Google XML Sitemaps Plugin
Sitemaps make Google’s job easier to find and index content on the web and potentially return it in search results. Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator for WordPress put your blog content into an XML code format Google can quickly and easily understand in addition to what it may see from the front end of your website (by reading the traditional text and links on your pages).
With sitemaps your blog posts typically appear more quickly in search results. After installing this plugin my posts appeared in Google within an hour of posting them (instead of a day)! You can see below it notifies all major search engines each time it updates. You can control the frequency and priority of information using this plugin and also what pages to restrict from search (like tag pages, archives, or private areas).
You can also submit the sitemap file to places like Google Webmaster Tools. The more search engines know about your blog, the more edge you have against your competitors.
Data Mining via Lijit Search
Lijit Search offers better visibility to what users type into search engines to reach your website, then type into the search box within your blog once they are on your site. Just installing the plugin does not help you rank better, but knowing the keywords people use to find you and also what they are looking for within your site provides great insight to your audience. For SEO purposes you can create content that aligns with those phrases to reach more people. As an example, if users on my blog search for “key phrase X” then people in the Googleverse are probably searching for that too. So I should write a blog post about “key phrase X” and users on my site and out on Google will rejoice.
Lijit search can also return results from other website sources, for example when user search your website the results can show items from your social sites like YouTube, Twitter, or Digg for example. Nifty.
Nobody takes the time anymore to optimize their images! Most sites could see decent traffic from Google Images Search if they would just give their images a descriptive name. Not to mention that Google can’t read you image without this text (like a blank hole) and it will weight that text more heavily than other text on the page (probably because there is less imagery on the page than text). Most themes will automatically convert the image title to alternate text so that it shows as readable keywords in the HTML code. A short simple sentence that describes your image will do just fine – no keyword stuffing and don’t repeat the same text for all your images on the page. As a bonus, give your image a good file name since that shows in code too.
And the code will look like this: img src=”golden-gate-bridge-sunset.gif” alt=”Golden Gate Bridge through the clouds at sunset” In the end, when my image code looks like this, you can imagine it even though you can’t view it. Don’t you want the same for Google?