SEO is all the rage these days. Actually, it has been the rage for quite a while now, and just when people started calling it bunk, it started to surge back.
Personally, I’m a 50/50 believer in it. There are some good practices preached by SEO’s that really do help. Here’s the three I have found that make a difference.
#1) Get yourself an SEO plugin. The two most popular ones available (for free) these days are Headspace and All in One SEO. They both accomplish the same goal in the end, so it really comes down to a matter of personal preference. Personally, I am partial to Headspace.
Headspace is a beast because it has a ton of great functionality and settings in it. It’s a bit of a one-stop-shop.
After you get all your settings taken care of, Headspace will become part of your day to day publishing experience. The plugin allows you to write a title tag that is different than the title of the post. The title tag is the part of the HTML code that <title>Looks like this</title>. Ultimately, what gets in that title tag is what ends up in the top bar of most browsers. More importantly, it is what the search engines read as the “title” of that particular page. So writing a good title tag is critical for good search engine rank.
Unfortunately, search engine friendly title tags aren’t always the coolest article titles. I like to be a little snarky or humorous in an article title, but what I’m writing doesn’t have very good Google mojo. This allows me to write my fun “human friendly” title that shows up on the site while still writing a keyword rich title in the title tags.
The other great thing Headspace lets you control is the indexing of specific pages within your site.
Did you know that it is a bad thing to let Google index every page of your WordPress site? I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but it is true.
Google hates when it sees duplicate content on a site. It actually ends up hurting you in the long run. So if you have a post on your homepage, the post page itself, the archive by date page, tag archive, and search results page, Google will get confused.
By default, WordPress puts the article in all of those places for you. However, the search engines see it as 4 or 5 “pages” that happen to have the exact same content (because it shows up in all those places).
In order to tell the search engines that you are not duplicating content, you need to put a no-index tag on certain pages of your site. That tells the search engines, “Go ahead and crawl these pages but don’t include them in search results.”
The pages you do not want indexed are: archive pages, tag pages, search pages, author archive pages.
Really, the only page you want in the search engines is the actual post page itself. That way when a user searches for “How to blog like a ninja…” and your post comes up, the link will take them right to the post itself. Not some archive where the post may have fallen off already, etc.
There’s a lot of other cool things in Headspace I recommend you check out.
#2) Don’t forget about your images!
One of the most common mistakes I see is people forgetting about the SEO value of their images. Just slapping an image on your post may be visually appealing for the reader, but it can also bring people to your site through search engines. However, that’s not going to happen if your images are not SEO friendly.
When you load a photo or image into your blog post, you need to make sure to properly fill out the Alt tag and Title tag fields for that image. The Alt tag is the more important of the two. That text serves as a description of that image. Generally speaking, it is the alt tag that search engines use to identify the subject matter of a photo. So if you are leaving it generic, you are robbing yourself of traffic.
Also, the file name itself is important. VC100043.jpg doesn’t mean anything to anyone. Just because that’s the default title your digital camera gave it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. The image file name should be keyword rich as well.
There is a plugin called SEO Friendly Images that will automatically take the title of your post and put it in as your Alt tags. That way, you’ll never “forget” to ad alt attributes to your images. You can also manually override the alt tags if you want to write your own.
#3) Got SEO Slugs?
It is important to also remember the SEO value of your slugs. What’s a slug? A slug is the part that /comes-in-as-the-link-for-your-post.
By default, the newer versions of WordPress take the title of your post and automatically generate a slug for you. However, you can manually override that and write a better one. Words like a, I, am, the, from, go, etc are valueless when it comes to your slug. You want them to be short and sweet with good keywords. So for every post, you should at least be thinking about how to improve the slug.
There is also a plugin helper for this. SEO Slugs is a plugin that automatically weeds out these garbage words for you. It leaves your post with a nice, neat slug. Of course, if you want to change it, it will let you do that too.