Install WordPress SEO by Yoast
This is the first and most important step. WordPress SEO is by far the best and most comprehensive SEO plugin for WordPress. To give you an idea of its popularity in the WordPress world, it has been downloaded a whopping 2,665,806 times since its creation. This plugin not only enables you to add Title tags, Meta Descriptions and optimise on-page content but it also adds an XML Sitemap, Breadcrumbs, Editrobots.txt and .htaccess files and Clean up the head section.
To give you a better idea of all of it’s features, juicy SEO benefits and to save me from rambling, go ahead and visit the WordPress SEO plugin page. To install it, all you need to do to install it on your self-hosted WordPress site is visit your Plugins tab via your dashboard, click on “Add New” and type in “WordPress SEO”. From there it will bring up a list, select the first one on the list and install. Then simply, go through each tab inside WordPress SEO and edit accordingly.
Make Space For Your Title Tag & Meta Descriptions
When installing the WordPress SEO plugin with your theme, it is often the case that when you view your source code that your Title Tag will be at the top of the page and your Meta Description will be somewhere down at the bottom of the head code. You can fix this by going to Appearance >> Editor >>header.php and moving your wp_head code to just underneath your default Title. This will ensure that your Title Tag and Meta Description are together and that your Description falls right below your Title in the source, right at the top of the page, right where Google wants it. It should look something like this:
<?php wp_title(''); ?> <?php wp_head(); ?>
Configuring Your Default 404 Page
Not configuring your 404 pages properly can hurt you in terms of your website’s performance and ultimately result in a loss of traffic and rankings. If a visitor follows a broken link and lands on a 404 page, they may be likely to bounce fairly quickly, search engines won’t like it either. Follow the basic tips below to setup your 404 pages so that visitors and search engines alike find what they want.
For this, you have two options. You can copy the first code below and simply insert it into your 404 page which will redirect all of your 404 pages to your homepage OR with the second piece of code, you can redirect your 404 pages to a specific page. I personally redirect to a HTML sitemap (which requires a couple of extra steps) so that visitors and search engines can choose the page they want to view if they can’t find what they’re after.
To complete this step and redirected 404 Not Found pages to your home page or specific page instead of showing a boring old 404 page, go to Appearance again >> then to Editor >> then click on your 404.php template which should be at the top, right-hand side of your file list.
To redirect to the homepage, insert the code below:
<?php header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently"); header("Location: ".get_bloginfo('url')); exit(); ?>
To redirect to a specific page, insert the code below:
<?php header("Status: 301 Moved Permanently"); header("Location:http://www.yourdomain.com/any-page-you-like/"); ?>
Or to redirect to a HTML sitemap page like I do:
- Install the following HTML Sitemap plugin
- Create a page with the slug “html-sitemap”
- Configure the basic options with the sitemap plugin.
- Insert the shortcode into the page and publish.
- Insert the code below and insert your HTML Sitemap URL:
<?php header("Status: 301 Moved Permanently"); header("Location:http://www.yourdomain.com/html-sitemap/"); ?>
Configuring Your Robots.txt File
As a starting point (Maybe a Google search for more best practices on how to setup robots.txt files for WordPress) you should prevent the search engines from accessing the core files of your WordPress install such as the wp-content, wp-admin and the themes and plugins files. You can do this by adding the below code directly into a text document, saving it and uploading it into your hosting files or by using the editor in WordPress SEO. To do this, simply use the code below:
User-agent: * Disallow: /wp-admin Disallow: /wp-includes Disallow: /wp-content/plugins Disallow: /wp-content/cache Disallow: /wp-content/themes
Improving Your Websites Internal Link Structure
Recommended: SEO Smart Links
Internal linking and also, deep linking are an important part of your on-page SEO Strategy as well as helping Google to navigate between the pages on your website. Once you have setup the plugin and inserted your keywords and key pages, SEO Smart Links will automatically create internal links to related pages helping Google and your website visitors find your most important pages or posts.
Checking For Any Broken Links
Recommended:Broken Links Checker
Broken links will do one thing…Send Google on a wild goose chase! This is NOT what you want. Broken links will have a major, negative impact on your SEO. Ensure that all of your inner pages correctly interlink between each other and all external links and pointing to the right place simply by installing the free Broken Link Checker plugin by whiteshadow from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. It detects broken links (obviously), it helps you to fix them and is super easy to use also.
Using Social Plugins To Help With Social Signals
Google has just introduced the Panda and Penguin updates which have shaken up the SEO world. As a part of the updates, Google has stated that it is now using Social Signals as one of its ranking factors. Social signals basically show Google that people value your content and are sharing it around. The DiggDigg and WP Socializer plugins help to increase your Social signals, increase your exposure and ultimately, help you to increase traffic back to your website.
Tracking Your Rankings In The Search Engines
Recommended:SEO Rank Reporter
The SEO Rank Reporter plugin enables you to track your SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions) and show you which of your URLs are ranking in the search engines. It’s super easy to install and is pretty nice to look at once you get it installed with neat little graphs and easy to read reports.
Caching Your Pages To Help Load Speed
Recommended:W3 Total Cache Plugin
I’m no whiz (I know absolutely nothing) when it comes to CDN or caching but I do know that a fast loading website is a happy website and a happy website ranks well in Google therefore, install the W3 Total Cache plugin on your website and watch the pages on your website load like lightning. If you have little know-how or knowledge when it comes to WordPress, I would suggest having your web host installing this plugin for you. If you have a decent host, they will generally do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
And To Put The Icing On The Cake
Recommended:JetPack For WordPress
Well, I haven’t got the words to describe this plugin and to be honest, its got more features than you could throw a stick at so here’s the link, go and check it out and just know that it will do wonders for your SEO efforts and for the performance of your website.
I know I haven’t covered off all of the best SEO plugins and tips for optimizing your WordPress website but in an effort to stop you from growing old and grey before I finish this post and having arthritis to the point where you cannot move your finders to write a comment below, I thought I would stop short and allow some room for suggestions and discussion. If you have used or know of any WordPress SEO plugins that gave you a great result, that you use on all of your WordPress installations or that you have come across somewhere out on the playground that got rave reviews, go ahead and list them below and if you need any help, I will stick around for some comment replies and to answer questions below.