This document outlines the basic tasks that will be performed to improve the search engine results for a typical WordPress site. This is what is meant by search engine optimization (SEO). Unless otherwise stated, these tasks are one-time only tasks.
Configure Pretty Permalinks
Pages will look more like “http://yoursite.com/about-me/” rather than “http://yoursite.com/?page_id=4”. This would be an obvious SEO improvement.
Install the plugin “Wordpress SEO by Yoast”
This is one of the highest rated SEO plugins and has an array of great features. The plugin allows us to do the following:
- Configure Page Titles & Taxonomy displays.
- Get analysis data for search phrases against the content of every page, post and event.
- Add Facebook open graph meta data.
- Add Twitter Card meta data.
- Create and verify an XML Sitemap.
- Add more features to the Pretty Permalinks. (Strip off “stop words” and other non-necessary declarations.)
- Add breadcrumbs to the site. (Breadcrumbs are a trail of links that help visitors determine where they are in the hierarchy of your site, and allows them to easily navigate back up the organizational structure. Breadcrumbs are a very good SEO boost for harder to find pages of your site.)
This is a very important text file that gives the search engines instructions on where NOT to look. Most search engines “punish” your results if they find duplicate content. This simple yet important file helps to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Update services are listings of your site with blog-tracking services. They scour the internet for any other sites that might be linking back to a post or event on your site. If a link is found then a ‘ping-back’ link will automatically be added to the post on your site. It’s basically automated link sharing and is very good for the SEO of both parties.
WordPress comes with only one update service listed. The more you have the better, so I always list 25.
Social Sharing Buttons
These are buttons that allow visitors to your site to share posts or events on their own facebook page, twitter feed, etc.
Social Share Connections
Similar to social sharing buttons, this feature allows any new posts or events to be automatically shared to your own facebook page, twitter feed, etc. (This task requires some help from you, the customer, because it requires logging into your accounts with the various social networking sites.)
Allow any visitor to sign up for your email list. Any new posts or events will generate an email campaign to be sent to anyone on the list. (The list is limited, but when that limit is reached a MailChimp or ConstantContact account can be integrated into the site.)
Slow loading content does return lower SEO ratings with many search engines. A performance plugin helps the site load faster from page to page and helps the site deliver content asynchronously. In other words it won’t freeze if some piece of content (like a video or large image) is taking a long time. Other aspects of the page will be able to load around it.
Posts and events both have the ability to allow visitors to leave comments. This is where spammers love to spam. Akismet is a good spam blocking plugin. It is still necessary to check comments for spam content because spammers can be quite tricky, but this plugin will block most of it. It also blocks a visitor by ip address when one of their comments is listed as spam.
And yes, spam hurts SEO. If a search engine sees your posts or events with lots of spam that downgrades your result score.
The Events Calendar Plugin
There are a lot of calendar plugins for WordPress, but the one titled “The Events Calendar Plugin” is the one that produces the best clean, SEO-friendly output. The output (like a regular wordpress post) will have Facebook open graph meta data and Twitter Card meta data. Both of these meta types include a featured image link for good thumbnail generation during sharing.
Listing and Verification with Common Search Engines
This is probably the most important step, and the one we do last because the site should be prepared before the search engines “crawl” your site.
Using web master tools from Google, Bing and Alexa, I will list the site with those search engines and go thru the steps necessary to verify the site. This initiates a “crawl” and gives me a spot to tell the search engines where to find two important files – robots.txt and sitemap.xml.