More webmasters choose WordPress on which to build their site than any other content management system (CMS). Originally released March 27, 2003, the open-source platform now powers millions of business websites, blogs, e-commerce stores, forums and other web properties.
One of the great things about WordPress is its ease of use. Whether you’re a seasoned webmaster or first-time blogger, you can set up a new WordPress site in under five minutes, without any technical coding knowledge. But if you want your site to rank high in the search engines, you’ll need to make a few SEO changes.
1. Set Up SEO-Friendly Permalinks
One of the first steps towards optimizing your site for higher search rankings is setting up SEO-friendly permalinks. When you create a new post or page in WordPress, it’s given a generic URL by default, such as Website.com/?p=123. This isn’t necessarily going to hurt your site’s rankings, but it’s not going to help either.
A better solution is to use SEO-friendly permalinks that describe the post or page. If you publish a post titled “How to Aerate Your Lawn,” for instance, you should use the URL “Website.com/How-to-Aerate-Your-Lawn.” This helps both visitors and search engines determine the topic of your content.
To set up SEO-friendly permalinks in WordPress, log into your site’s dashboard and click Settings > Permalinks < Post Name. There are several permalink options from which to choose, but most digital marketers agree that Post Name is the most effective for SEO.
2. Resize Images Before Uploading
You should get into the habit of resizing images in a third-party program like Adobe Photoshop or Fireworks before uploading them to your site. WordPress has a convenient image-editing feature that allows webmasters to crop and resize their images in the visual editor. However, if you upload an oversized image and crop it to a smaller size using this feature, visitors will still load the original image first, which means the built-in image editor isn’t going to save bandwidth or reduce loading times.
By resizing images in a third-party program before uploading them to your site, you’ll lower the file size of your images and promote faster speeds. Being that speed is a ranking factor used by all major search engines, so this could also help you achieve a higher search ranking.
3. Handle Duplicate Content
While small amounts of duplicate content shouldn’t lower your site’s search rankings, it’s still a good idea to prevent it when possible. If you publish the same content on two or more URLs of your site, how will search engines know which URL to index?
By default, WordPress creates multiple URLs for the content of any new post or page. In addition to the original URL (e.g., Website.com/new-post), the content may be published on author, tags and categories archives. You don’t have to disable this feature, but you should let search engines know which URLs to index.
There are two primary ways to handle duplicate content in WordPress:
- Noindex the URLs you don’t want search engines to index, either by modifying your site’s robots.txt file or installing a third-party plugin like Yoast SEO or the All-in-One SEO plugin.
- Set up canonical URLs with the “rel=canonical” HTML element. This element tells search engines which version of the page you prefer. Both the Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO plugin support canonical URLs.
4. Moderate Visitor Comments
Like other popular blogging platforms, WordPress supports visitor comments right out of the box. Genuine comments are great for SEO because they add unique content to your site. The problem, however, is that some comments are nothing more than spam, which could ultimately hurt your site’s search rankings.
To prevent spam comments from hurting your site’s rankings, you should set up WordPress to moderate all new visitor comments. This is done by logging into your site and clicking Settings > Discussion > Comment must be manually approved.
After doing so, all new visitor comments will go into the moderation queue, where you can then approve or reject them. You can further prevent spam comments by using an anti-spam plugin like Akismet, though nothing is more effective than moderating visitor comments by hand.
5. Use an SEO-Friendly Theme
Even if your site’s theme looks nice, it may lack the necessary features for SEO. There are tens of thousands of different WordPress themes, each of which is coding differently. Some of them are cleanly coded and optimized for search engines, while others are not. All themes on Codester are reviewed before approved and are all SEO friendly.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing an SEO-friendly theme:
• Responsive design that automatically adjusts for proper viewing on mobile devices
• Supports schema markup
• No site-wide “sponsored by” links
• Compatible with your preferred SEO plugin
• Frequently updated
• Friendly and accessible support
• Does not feature homepage sliders
6. Create an XML Sitemap
You can’t always trust Google to find and index every page of your site simply by following links. If there are no links to a particular page, neither Google nor any other search engine will find it. For this reason, you should create an XML sitemap.
A sitemap is a list of all URLs in a site in the XML file format. Google first launched the Sitemaps protocol back in 2005, and since then it’s become an invaluable SEO tool used by webmasters everywhere. Once you’ve created a sitemap, Google will crawl it to identify its URLs.
The easiest way to create a sitemap in WordPress is to use a plugin. Visit WordPress.org/Plugins and search for “XML plugin.” Google XML Sitemaps is one of the most popular sitemap plugins, boasting more than two million active installs.
7. Content is King
There’s no substitution for high-quality content when optimizing a site for search engine traffic. Google’s search ranking algorithm has gone through numerous changes over the years, one of which is a focus on longer, higher quality content.
Rather than publishing hundreds of short, mediocre-quality pages, try posting fewer pages with higher-quality content. By building your website around great content, Google will reward you with higher search rankings.
WordPress is a versatile, reliable and trustworthy platform on which to build your website. But if you want to attract organic search traffic, you’ll need to optimize your site using the tips listed here.