Warning: this article is outdated (was written back in 2006). Main concepts are still OK, some details are different (in a good way) in the actual version of WordPress.
This article is about how to make WordPress search engines friendly, and optimized for.
A default WordPress installation is SEF enough, which means that the structure itself performs pretty good in Search Engines.
But with these hints, you will give your posts the best environment as possible to compete in the Search Engines Results Page (SERPs).
This guide is divided in five points:
- Site structure
Present your website with “the best looking face showing” to the Engines robots that scan and index your work.
- Content organization
Don’t play messy: if you give order to your content, it will be more “searchable”.
- Write content
A few tips about how to write your content optimally – not only for Search Engines.
- Interact with others
Subtitle is: Don’t just publish your stuff. It’s about being "social" when blogging.
- Help Search Engines Directly
Some final hints to perform well and maximize the power of your blog.
Optimize your theme markup
First of all, assure that your theme markup (both CSS) follows the W3C standard guidelines.
Put posts content’s code as higher as you can in <body>, the code block of your sidebar menu should follow the main content.
Use headings (<h1>, <h2> etc) for titles and category names.
Have static URLs for your posts.
Unless you own a news weblog (for which news evident freshness is force), I suggest to adopt this permalink structure: /%category%/%post_id%/%postname%/. It drops the defaut inclusion of date information in favor of more descriptive URLs, with a significant keyword inside (that is the category name).
Remember: unless you’re familiar with HTTP code status redirects AND search engines indexing behaviour, DO NOT CHANGE YOUR PERMALINK STRUCTURE once your website gets indexed and posts linked.
Link between posts having the same topic or subject
"If one is reading an article focused on a specific subject, probably he’s interested in reading other posts about the same, or at least similar, topic".
Do you agree with this sentence? Believe me, search engines do.
All you have to do, is to facilitate the chances of jumping between articles.
Link every post with others by the same category (maybe my plugin can help you), and also link posts that are in some way related each other, even despite the category information (try Related Entries plugin).
If you write articles on different topics, you should organize them in categories.
Open a category for each topic, and be descriptive in its name choose.
Then, be strict when it’s time to categorize your posts. Don’t worry about open a new category, if it’s necessary.
Organizing content into categories helps both visitors and search engines to easily understand what your articles are about, and to search them.
Don’t forget to place a link to the filing categories, for each post, in your template!
If you already know the number of articles you’re about to post for next, and you already know that some of them will be about the subject area A, and some other about another topic, say B, then try to post all your article about A, before you start posting about the topic B.
If you can, don’t alternate topics, but make a post being semantically related with its previous, naturally following them.
This will give continuity to your content posting, and will add strength in the engine’s view of your site.
Make your content searchable
WordPress gives two ways to search content: the search form, and the archives.
There’s not much to say about the search form (but maybe you want to track your user’s searches with a specific plugin).
But about archives, I suggest to give up the archive by date, in favor of the category-based one: users will be likely to search articles by content, and not by publish date. I’m sure your statistics will confirm it.
Tag your posts
Did you ever see a tag cloud? It’s a direct and very fast way to: 1) see what a blog is mainly about, and 2) find posts focused on a specific subject.
With the keyword tag plugin you can assign keywords to your articles: for every post, you will have links to searches for other posts tagged with the same key.
Since this plugin stores tags in a custom field named keywords, it’s particularly useful when applied in tandem with the meta keyword plugin.
I have noticed that the use of this tag plugin, in conjunction with the meta keyword one, gives great benefits on services like Technorati (without doing the claim for this blog, people are able to find my posts in Technorati by searching the tags I choose for them).
What you are going to talk about, is all up to you.
But you can help both human readers and search engines, making your content friendly. What does it mean, practically?
When you have found an interesting subject for your post, try to write an article that exhausts the subject matter in a single post; don’t break up the article in multiple posts: if you have long text, break it with a "read more" link, and don’t be afraid to use lists and paragraphs to separate periods (this helps readability).
If the subject is really wide, write a post for each sub-topic, and exhaust it in the article.
Start your post with one or two sentences that summarizes what the article is about.
Repeat key-words and key-phrases of interest inside your post, and emphasize them with a bolder font weight.
Once you’ve finished, read again your text, and make it shorter. Summarize, and don’t go off-topic.
Don’t forget to check text for errors: avoid mispelling, typos, and grammar mistakes!
Try to post new content regularly.
Linked resources should help your post communication, deepening the subject. To do it well, simply follow these rules:
- If you cite a resource, link it. If you think that a resource can be useful to your readers, link it, too. But don’t place random or useless links.
- Place links naturally into text, don’t put them in a meaningless list at the end of your post.: a link should be a phrase that fits good into the flowing of text.
- Give descriptive names to link anchors: don’t call a link "click here".
- Give more descriptive titles to your links.
These rules applies both to internal links (links that point to a page of the same domain they’re on) and external links (a link pointing to another resource on the web).
Once you have the content ready, think to its title.
Find a short phrase that is well-descriptive of your content, possibly not shorter than three words and not longer than seven.
Then, run a search on your favourite engine for your title. See if someone appears in the first page with the exact match of your sentence.
Try a search with only the keywords of your title. Take note of how much results you get, and of who your competitors are.
Do the same for each possible title you’ve thinked at.
Then, think again at your title: be original, try to figure out what will be the keyphrases or keywords that one would type in a search to find an article like yours. If this match with your title, then use it!
Interact with others (don’t just publish your stuff)
Open your post to comments
Open comments, encourage visitors to comment your posts: place an evident Comment link, ask questions in your articles; in other words: set up some space for your visitors in which they can express themselves!
Comments are content; a good comment is related to your article and can add value information to it.
Reply to your visitor’s comments: they’re precious!
Fight comment spam, both manually and automatically (with askimet).
Track back other’s posts
If your post deeps something discussed on another blog’s post, or if you take a post just as reference to write your own, then link it and use the Trackback function to send a ping to the post you refer to.
There will be a link to your post in some other’s one.
Ping only posts that you cite in your article or that are, at least, strongly related with yours. DON’T DO TRACKBACK SPAM!
Once you’ve written your own, Comment others
Find another blog article related with the topic your post is about. Read it carefully, think on it and then, if you have something to say, leave a comment.
Comment intelligently, DON’T SPAM COMMENTS!
Don’t be shy about leaving your Website’s URL, just remember that many adds rel=”nofollow” to any link in the comment area.
Help search engines directly
Meta tags and information for search engines
Make sure that you have the following code in your <head> section:
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”/>.
Use the Description meta tag, as following:
<meta name = “description” content = “your blog description ” /> This description will be displayed in Search Engine Results Page in some cases, so use a short phrase that describes well your weblog, and invite users to visit it.
You could also use a personalized description for each post, page, and category page. I suggest to use the meta description plugin for this purpose.
Finally, add the Keywords meta tag. It’s useful if you customize it for every page of your blog, and show, for each post, only the really specific keywords. The meta keyword plugin can help you: it takes keywords from the custom field named keywords of each post. They will be likely the same as your post tags, if you tag your posts (see) .
Google Sitemap for WordPress
This great plugin automatically generates a fully-featured, and fully-customizable Google Sitemap of your WordPress blog.
It automatically updates the sitemap every time you update your blog, and then pings Google. This plugin’s result can be really fine-tuned.
Use the Update service function, to inform tracking services that you have updated your weblog.
By default, WordPress pings rpc.pingomatic.com, which is good (if you don’t want to change this, you don’t have to).
But if you want, you can add/remove services to ping from the list. There is a list of ping services you can refer to when modifying your Update Service list.
…that’s all, folks!
Post Scriptum: these hints are focused on WordPress and blogging in general, but many of them applies well to many types of websites: take the best of them and use it for your own!