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Resources for Writers

Tips to Make Your WordPress Blog Search Engine Friendly

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Article by Vanessa O'Loughlin ©.
Posted in Resources (, ).

Every writer needs a blog or a website – a shop window on the web to show what they do. But as we’re sure you’ve discovered, blogs vary hugely in quality and content. So how can you make yours the best that it can be?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the science – or some might call it art – of getting your web pages ranked appropriately for the keywords you’re targeting. There are a lot of theories about the best way to do this, and about the acts that might cause you to lose rankings rather than gain, and not a little controversy.  WordPress is a fabulous tool for newbie bloggers – it’s free, it’s easy to use, and you can do virtually anything with the range of plug-ins (extensions) that are available. That said, if you don’t have a WordPress blog you will still pick up some tips here to help your blog stand out:

Attractive permalinks

Ideally, search engines want to see URLs that tell them the meaning of a page.  WordPress assigns numbers and symbols for post URLs, also known as permalinks. Make sure you change these titles from numbers to words to ensure permalinks that will work harder for you.  Not only does this style of URLs guide search engines,  but it informs readers of the content to expect by clicking the link.

Customize permalinks by navigating to Settings>Permalinks in the WordPress dashboard.

Activate pingbacks

To immediately start getting links back to your blog, turn on pingbacks.  Pingbacks are a system where every time you publish a link to a blog, the blog is automatically pinged, notifying the owner you’ve linked to them.  Often, the blog owners will link to you in return. Pingbacks work really well when you’re linking to related blogs in your niche. They also allow you to thank any blog owners who have linked to you.

You will find the option to activate pingbacks under Settings>Discussions.  For default article settings, select both “Attempt to notify blogs” and “Allow link notifications”.

The more blogs you set up, the more you’ll learn which WordPress customizations work for specific marketing goals.  Tiny niche sites have a different focus than large authority or branding blogs.  What’s important to recognize is that WordPress blogs can be crawled by spiders from the search engines and indexed within hours.  A well-thought-out blog setup process will position your blog for SEO success from day one.

 Start with the title

When loading a blog page, the text that displays in the window bar at the top of your screen is the title tag. Normally, it shows in a sequence such as Blog Name>Blog Archive>Post Title.

The problem with this setup is all posts and pages show up with the same title.  Title tags are incredibly important in the SEC wrold, so this is a major problem. Keep in mind search engines rank individual web pages, not websites as a whole.

To ensure your individual posts rank well for the designated keywords, they need to be optimized as individual posts. The All-In-One SEO plug-in is a free WordPress tool that will help you with this. It’s an ideal plug-in as it has multiple functions.

Locate the All-In-One’s control panel from your WordPress dashboard, and change these fields:

  • Home Title – Add a keyword rich phrase describing what your blog is about in addition to your blog’s name.
  • Post Title – %post_title%
  • Page Title – %blog_title%|%page_title%

Dodge duplicate content penalties

By default WordPress is designed to file the same content in multiple areas-archives, categories, and tags. The idea was to enhance the usability of a blog for readers. This way, people could easily access information from various points.  At the same time, this structure appears as duplicate content to the search engines.   Even worse, the strength of your internal links are diluted.

As mentioned above, plug-ins are extra extensions that allow you to customise your blog, are in the majority free, and are available to perform just about every function you might need on your blog that you can imagine. One of these, the All-in-One plug-in, is a very handy plug-in that provides a no-index feature allowing you to choose which areas search engines should crawl. By adding a meta no-follow tag, search engines are blocked from crawling the areas you designate. Pick only one way for the search engines to follow be it categories, tags or archives. The choice is yours but make sure it’s going to showcase your work in the best manner as these are the pages that will show up in the search engines.

Just in case…automate meta descriptions

Most SEO experts agree that meta descriptions do little to improve rankings.  However, they are mandatory to compete on the SERPs (search engine results pages) and for drawing targeted visitors who actually take action. Meta descriptions are vital to give browsers an idea of the value of the information provided by your web pages. It’s best to provide a unique meta description for every post and page, but it’s easy to forget to add descriptions to every single post. If you’ve taken the time to optimize your post, you’ve won half the battle, but the the All-in-One plug-in also offers an feature that will auto-generate descriptions based on the first few lines of your post.

Static home page vs. posts: A simple technique to improve your blog’s SEO

Search engines love WordPress blogs for their dynamic nature. They’re a constant source of search engine “food” in the form of fresh content. Yet it’s surprising to know this same feature they love could cause your blog not to rank as well. Consider building a static homepage as a way to get around this conundrum.

Why a static homepage?

Recent WordPress developments have made the blog platform more SEO-friendly than ever.  In addition, easy to install WordPress plug-ins automate a variety of SEO processes in the background, without complicated coding.

But this simple software comes with a drawback, especially with regards to your homepage.  If you want a page to rank for a keyword phrase, there are standard on-page optimization procedures to follow, the most basic of which is to include keywords in the header tags and content.

Search engines crawl these areas to figure out the theme of your page.  However, with blog posts as your homepage, the content constantly changes.  So while your header tags say your page is about “X”, the words on the page say something else, indeed, even the comments readers leave on blog posts can dilute on-page optimization.

Sending mixed messages to the search engines confuses them –  publishing a static homepage is one way to make your SEO intentions loud and clear.  A static page stays put and tells the search engines exactly what your blog is about.

How to create a static homepage

Building a static homepage is a fairly simple process. Here are the exact steps:

  1. Go to Pages in the WordPress Dashboard
  2. Write and design the page you want to appear as your homepage.  Remember to apply all the SEO basics for optimizing a page. (Note: If you want this page to override the “Home” tab in your navigation bar, then just save it without a title).
  3. Next, find the Settings module and select the Reading section
  4. For the “front page displays” field, click on the radio button for “A static page (select below)”
  5. In the front page dropdown box, look for the page you created. (Note: Since there’s no name for the page, it will show up as a blank space holder amidst any other pages published to the blog).

That’s all there is to it!  Now you have your very own static homepage.

Depending on the specific goals for your blog, a static homepage may or may not be the right choice. If SEO plays a major role in marketing your blog, this technique is one to test.

Using social media to promote your blog

It’s true that Google uses your social media reach as one indicator of your site’s worth. But social media truly doesn’t care about Google. How your site ranks will have no bearing on whether your Facebook friends “like” your status or page, or whether your “pin” is “repinned” on Pinterest.

As such, it might be worth spending some time cultivating your social media reach. Build a Facebook page, start tweeting, reach out to other business owners on LinkedIn, comment on forums, and in general, make yourself knowing in your community. Once you build a solid fanbase, you won’t have to worry so much about how Google sees your site.

Listbuilding

Building a mailing list is essential to every blog or website. When you take the time to build a list of qualified, interested buyers, you can simply reach out to them directly with new information or special offers – you just send an email. Also bear in mind that while you mind have thousands of followers on Twitter, if Twitter morphed tomorrow morning, you could lose your audience. Build you own list using an opt-in system – anyone registering has to confirm their interest in being added to your list. DO NOT under any circumstances add people to your mailing list just because you know them, or worse, because you found their email address online. Approaching people in this way is spamming and will cause your entire list to be suspended. At writing.ie we use Aweber for our mailing list, we love it because it is the only mailing list provider who not only sends a welcome message but sends a follow up message too – so anyone subscribing to your list can immediately feel welcomed by receiving your current newsletter. It also has some natty newsletter designs that are incredibly easy to use – just drag & drop!