WordPress developer, consultant, nerd

Getting started with WordPress SEO

Establishing an online presence is, for many, a huge decision. Often, it takes a small orchestra of professionals from various fields to pull the kind of results that a business really needs. That kind of expertise will undoubtedly come with a considerable financial investment. Planning, design, photography, and of course, development, are all essential components for a solid website. But, even after all this, it’s not unusual for a business to wonder;

“Why can’t we find our website in Google?!”

This is a common question for new site owners, and can often be an initial source of frustration and worry. especially when considering the potential costs associated with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you don’t quite understand what SEO is, I recommend checking out this easy-to-follow video, which does a great job of breaking down the basics.

With a basic understanding of SEO concepts in mind, you might be wondering ‘How do I improve the SEO on my own site?’ If you have a site built on WordPress, the good news is that this is actually quite achievable without having to touch any code. Fortunately, WordPress is already quite good for SEO, and the changes that you can make to improve your rankings will only build on a solid foundation.

If you are interested in hearing more about SEO and WordPress, I suggest you check out this informative video from Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team, and answerer of many many SEO questions which you can check out at http://www.theshortcutts.com/

A quick note on what search engines really care about…

Once upon a time it was really popular to engage in somewhat dodgy techniques that would essentially trick search engines into giving pages better rankings. Over time, search engines like Google have become very good at detecting tricks and deception, and now punish sites who are caught practicing this type of ‘optimisation’.

Whilst there are still technical optimisations and best practices that we should all follow for good SEO, the most valuable thing is relevant, interesting content. That is, posts and pages that are full of information that people want to read and will find useful. The best thing any site owner can do is to publish quality content on their website and develop a solid reputation.

Note:

Please keep in mind that I am a website developer, not an SEO consultant. This guide is here purely to get you started, should you wish to take an active role in your own SEO. Doing the work yourself may take longer, but could save you money while increasing your skills. It may, however, be more appropriate for you to enlist the help of a quality SEO consultant, as the best advice will always come from someone who specialises in the field.

Tools & resources for Wordpress SEO

There is a wide range of tools out there designed to help you improve your own SEO rankings. These all come the form of plugins, which can be installed in your WordPress admin. To get an idea, take a quick look at the list of WordPress SEO related plugins.

Now, trying them all would be a lot of work. In fact, if you do a lot of chopping and changing between different SEO plugins, you may find it potentially having a negative effect on your SEO. So, the plugin I recommend to all my clients is the very popular, WordPress SEO by Yoast.

The ‘WordPress SEO by Yoast’ Plugin

Features (to name just a few)

  • Automatic creation of XML sitemaps. Automatic notification to Google and Bing search engines
  • Fine grained control over which pages/posts appear in search results
  • In-post analysis based on specified target keywords
  • Control over HTML meta tags (these control how your page/post appears in Google SERPs)
  • Google search results preview, so you can see what users see in Google SERPs
  • Canonical URLs

How do I use it?

If I have developed your site for you, it could very well already be installed. To check, you should head over to your sites admin and go to Plugins > Installed Plugins, then look for it in the list. If it isn’t already there, you can go to Plugins > Add New and search for it. Once you have found it, install it.

At first, the plugin might seem a little alien (like all new tech), so a user guide is what you want. Fortunately, the author of the plugin–Joost de Valk–has put together The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites. The guide takes you through SEO in WordPress and how you can leverage the plugin to increase your rankings.

Other Handy Resources

If you are really serious about your SEO, and really want to dig right in, the internet is awash with plenty of helpful information.