A guide to setting up your WordPress website for maximum SEO benefits
WordPress is famous for being SEO-friendly, but you need to set it up right in order to reap the maximum benefits. Here are 5 easy steps to making your WordPress site SEO optimized:
1. Set up SEO-friendly permalinks
By default, WordPress makes your URLs look like this:
This works on all server types, but it's not SEO-friendly. Making a simple change to "pretty permalinks" like this:
will make your site friendlier to both visitors and search engines. Learn about the Best WordPress Permalinks here and then come back for the rest of the SEO tips!
2. Choose a SEO-friendly WordPress theme
WordPress consists of two halves: content and packaging. You'll need to write great content to optimize your site, but it also has to be packaged neatly for viewers to enjoy your site -- and for search engines to understand all that great content. That's where your theme comes in.
The theme contains all the HTML and CSS code your site uses, so if the code in your theme is messy, every page and post of your site will suffer. Search engines like minimal, W3C-valid code.
There are plenty of other SEO-friendly themes out there -- too many to list. If you know anything about HTML and CSS, just check to make sure that whatever you are considering is W3C-valid and that the code isn't full of extra garbage, like 10 nested divs when 2 would suffice.
3. Use robots.txt
WordPress creates certain directories that really don't need to be indexed by search engines. Blocking them ensures that when search engine crawlers come to your site, they look at the content you want them to list in search results -- rather than wasting their time in directories you don't even want to show to the world.
Create a file called "robots.txt" in your main directory -- the same directory where your "wp-config.php" file is located. Paste this text into that file:
User-agent: * Disallow: /wp- Disallow: /search Disallow: /feed Disallow: /comments/feed Disallow: /feed/$ Disallow: /*/feed/$ Disallow: /*/feed/rss/$ Disallow: /*/trackback/$ Disallow: /*/*/feed/$ Disallow: /*/*/feed/rss/$ Disallow: /*/*/trackback/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/feed/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/feed/rss/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/trackback/$ Disallow: /*/2/$ Disallow: /*/*/2/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/2/$ Disallow: /*/3/$ Disallow: /*/*/3/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/3/$ Disallow: /*/4/$ Disallow: /*/*/4/$ Disallow: /*/*/*/4/$
4. Install WordPress Plugins
As a general rule, try to use as few plugins as possible. Using plugins makes your site slower, and search engines reward faster websites. But that doesn't mean plugins are bad, or that you shouldn't use them -- a few well-chosen plugins will really help. Here are the best WordPress SEO plugins:
- WordPress SEO - this is THE plugin for WordPress SEO. This plugin adds a unique title and meta description to every page and post on your site, and you can set it up to add them automatically in case you forget to customize them.
- Google XML Sitemaps will automatically create a "sitemap.xml" file for your website. It gets updated every time you create a page or post, so you install it once and forget about it.
- Hyper Cache is a caching plugin. WordPress works with PHP and MySQL, which means every time someone visits your website, the server has to calculate code and look in the database for whatever content they are requesting. A caching plugin saves plain old HTML files on your server, so the information is sent to the visitor way faster. This is great both for visitors and for search engines, and this particular plugin is easier to set up than most of the other caching plugins for WordPress.
- Better SEO Slugs - if you tend to forget about your URL as you write posts, install this plugin. It automatically removes short words like "by" or "the" and keeps the URL trimmed to a certain length. This means your main keywords will stand out in the URL, and the length will be short enough for the search engines' preferences.
5. Create great content
Setting up WordPress is just the first step in SEO. Do yourself a favor and read Copyblogger's excellent Guide to creating compelling content that ranks well in search engines to learn... well, how to create compelling content (which means it's great for your visitors) that ranks well in search engines (which should be a secondary goal, since ranking well in the search engines means nothing if your visitors don't like the site enough to stick around and spend some money).