WordPress is one of the world’s most popular Content Management Systems (CMS), and it’s a great tool for setting up anything from a eCommerce boutique to a lively sports blog.
However, WordPress site owners don’t automatically receive a kick-start in the race for search engine rankings. They have to boost their SEO ranking just like any other site owners. Here are some of the best ways to do so.
Give Yourself Time to Craft A WordPress SEO Strategy
If you are setting up a WordPress site from scratch, the first thing to do is to give yourself some breathing space. You don’t want Google’s bots to start indexing your pages until they are ready for prime time. Thankfully, WordPress allows users to “discourage search engines from indexing [a] site”. You’ll find this toggle under the “search engine visibility” tab when you start your site. Make sure you click it, and keep your site shielded until it’s complete.
Perfect Your Permalink’s
Every page on your WordPress site has a link, and the default links will usually contain random numbers – not something that Google’s search bots find appealing. Whenever you add a page to your site, change the permalink to a text-based format, using SEO keywords that are relevant to the content of the page. Remember to do the same for meta tags as well. If you don’t know the best keywords, using Google Adwords Keyword Planner can help point you in the right direction.
Create A Bot-Friendly Sitemap
When search engines index websites, in some ways they act just like people. They find it much easier to get around with a well organized map, so make sure you have created a comprehensive XML sitemap in place. There’s a Google XML sitemap plugin designed explicitly for this purpose, so use it. Be sure to include any pages that users are likely to arrive at via a Google search (which means that ad landing pages and sign-up forms are probably less important).
Make Your WordPress Site Mobile-Friendly
Nowadays, most eCommerce purchases take place via mobile devices. WordPress offers a number of slick, responsive themes that are designed to provide a high quality user experience for mobile users. If you intend to attract shoppers via their phones, it’s a good idea to use one of these templates. Twenty Twelve is a great example, with an intuitive, clear layout and easy to access buttons.
Manage Your Images Appropriately
Images are always going to be a key part of a WordPress store, but they need to be handled with care if you want to achieve the best possible SEO ranking. Resize them to make them small enough to keep page layouts uncluttered, and think about compressing them to reduce load times too. There are special plugins such as Smush.it that will suggest the optimum image format, and it’s well worth downloading them.
Make All of Your Content Shareable
Whether a page can be shared easily is becoming a more important SEO metric every week. Every product description or blog should have buttons allowing customers to share the content with their social networks, so make sure you link to your Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook accounts as much as possible. Include a sharing call-to-action as well, to alert users to these buttons. It won’t just give you an SEO boost, it will also help to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty.
Craft the Right Linking Strategy
Linking between different pages remains an effective way to boost your SEO ranking (and it also enhances the user experience of your site). Whenever possible, include links to other blog postings or products that are relevant to the page visitors land on. Relevance is crucial here. Don’t link for the sake of it. Only link to pages on your site that make sense relative to the content of each page. If you do have to link to irrelevant pages, you can prevent search engine bots from indexing them by adding the “nofollow” tag to the link code.
Loading speed can be a huge factor in achieving a high SEO ranking, and WordPress provides a range of tools to make your site as efficient as possible, so use them. For example, caching plug-ins like W3 Total Cache can provide a huge speed boost. A CDN service is vital for image-heavy sites, and Cloudflare is a good option for WordPress users.
Use the Most Advanced SEO Analysis Tools Available
WordPress site owners can also access plug-ins that allow them to check their posts for SEO in real-time. Yoast is a great example. It allows you to check everything from permalink’s and meta tags to body content, site maps and headers. If there are any issues with missed keywords, it will tell you via a simple red or green light system, making it easy to catch any omissions.
Police Your Comments With an Iron Fist
Well, you don’t need to be a dictator, but it’s important to erase any spammy comments from your pages. Google is becoming extremely strict about irrelevant links, and spammer often post links to sites that have nothing to do with the original content. Always make a little time to sift through your comments and keep everything neat and tidy.
Focus Attention on Marquee Content to Dominate the Rankings
Above all else, WordPress site owners need to create high quality, marquee content – the type of content that provides exceptional value for readers and shows off your expertise or products to potential customers. Take the time to create a cluster of these texts and link to them from other postings. Not every post you make can be a masterpiece, but you can focus attention on your best blogs or articles, and these can be an entry point for users who arrive via search engine queries. These marquee texts also need to be the ones that include high value keywords. A few high quality pages can trump thousands of poor quality pages, so make sure you get them right.
Unleash Your WordPress Site on the World
When you have implemented all of these ideas, you’ll have a slick WordPress site that is ready to go live. Now is the time to allow Google and other search engines to start indexing your pages. If you have high quality content, the right page layouts and an infrastructure that delivers a strong user experience, high search engine rankings will be the inevitable result.