Setting Up WordPress for SEO

WordPress out of the box comes SEO friendly, however there are many tweaks you can make to further optimize it for search engines.   We recently covered 10 important tips to optimize wordpress for search engines, however this post will go more in-depth and offering further optimization tips.

Here are a number of  advanced tweaks and WordPress plugins you can install to help with URL structuring, search engine crawling, handling duplicate content, optimizing title and meta tags, images and internal linking.

Setting Up the Permalink Structure

In WordPress:  Settings >> Permalinks

WordPress gives you a number of ways you can structure your post urls.  By default WordPress sets the urls like www.domain.com/?p=123. This is obviously not optimal because you are not gaining the benefits of having keywords in the url.

They also have options to set the urls organized by year/month/date, for example www.domain.com/2010/02/07/sample-post/. This is getting better, because you are able to add a unique post name in the url, however the post is four directories deep which can cause potential crawling issues.

The most effective way to optimize your urls is by using the custom permalink structure.  Choose “Custom Structure” and enter “/%postname%/ “.  By setting this custom structure your urls will look like www.domain.com/post-name/.  This puts your post directly off the root level and uses keywords based on your post title.

Setting Up non-www to www Redirect

In WordPress:  Settings >> General

The newer versions of WordPress make this extremely easy to do.  Simply change the Blog Address (url) to http://www.domain.com. WordPress will automatically update your htaccess file to redirect the non-www version to the www version.  If you have an older version of WordPress you will have to copy and paste the code provided into your htaccess file.  However I would upgrade to the latest version of WordPress before I manually add it.

Search engines treat the www and non-www version of a page as two different pages.  If not corrected, this can cause your blog to have hundreds or thousands of duplicate pages.  By fixing this you are minimizing potential duplicate content issues. 

Optimize Post Titles

In WordPress:  Settings >> All in One SEO Pack

By default WordPress creates page titles like “Blog Title >> Blog Archive >> Post Name”. This is ok, but not optimal.  Search engines will place more importance on the keywords at the beginning of the title tag so we will want to modify the tags so that the post name is at the beginning of the post and not the end.

To do this, make sure you install All in One SEO Pack.  This plugin will automatically set up your title and meta description tags the proper way.  Your page titles will now look like “Post Title | Blog Title“.  You will have the option to override a specific post title within the post if you would like.  Make sure you create a unique description after you have written your post.  All in One SEO Pack will not create meta descriptions, so when creating a post there is a section for adding unique titles and descriptions.

Block Certain File Directories in Robots.txt

There are certain directories that you should block from search engines.  Check out the Robots.txt guide I wrote that will show you exactly which directories you should block.

This will help with controlling which content you want search engines to crawl and not crawl.  There are many directories and files that are unnecessary for the crawlers to spider.  This will help the crawlers find the content you want spidered faster.

Install SEO Plugins

All in One SEO Pack

This SEO plugin is probably the best and most robust plugin for optimizing your blog for search engines.  This plugin will automatically optimize your blog category and post url structure, auto generate title tags, avoid duplicate content issue by restricting search engines from accessing pages that have duplicate content on them, and canonical tag integration.

Google XML Sitemap Generator

This plugin will automatically generate a XML sitemap of your wordpress blog that is formatted for Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.  Your sitemap will be sent to all of the search engines every time the plugin rebuilds your XML sitemap.  Having this plugin, ensures that the search engines are aware of all of your posts and will help with the overall crawling of your blog.

Google Analyticator

This plugin will add your Google Analytics tracking script to every page on your blog.  There are also other options and features which give you more accurate tracking.

  • Disable Admin Tracking
  • Enable Event Tracking
  • Track Outbound Link Clicks
  • Track Downloads (PDF, CSV, DOC)
  • Google Adsense Integration
  • Ability to Modify Tracking Script

SEO Smart Links

Interior linking will help with the overall crawling of your website, along with keeping readers engaged in your content.  You can also leverage your content by using keyword-rich anchor text and linking to other content within your blog.  This plugin does just that.  It will take keyword and phrases within your post and comments and link them to corresponding posts on your site.  This can significantly cut down on having to manually search for relevant posts on your site that you can link to within a post.

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Friendly Images will automatically optimize all of your images by adding alt and title attributes.  If you do not have an alt or title attribute for your images, it will add one for you.

W3 Total Cache

Load time is becoming an important factor in search engine algorithms.  Not to mention a page that loads fast makes a visitor much happier and is more likely to stay on your site longer.  W3 Total Cache will help speed up the page load times by caching pages, removing white space and comments, and compressing css and js files.  Here are a few reasons why this plugin boasts it’s at least a 10x increase in site performance.

  • Enable Page Caching
  • Enable Minify
  • Enable Database Caching

More SEO Quick Tips for WordPress

  • Allow commenting for user generated comment and higher engagement
  • Use good categorization for usability
  • Add compelling graphics and images in your posts
  • Ask questions at the end of your posts to encourage comments
  • Syndicate your content to your Twitter and Facebook profiles
  • Social bookmark your best content

Share your tips and tricks with us via comments section.

Mark Thompson

Mark is the President of Search Creatively a Raleigh Internet Marketing company. He also is the creator of StayOnSearch, a search marketing blog dedicated to SEO's and Internet Marketing professionals. He also contributes to a number of industry blogs including Search Engine Journal, ProBlogDesign, and 1stWebDesigner. Follow Mark on Twitter (@m_thompson)

15 Smart Tools To Help You Build Your Freelance Business

Discover the awesome tools we use in making our clients comfortable and happy in learning new things every day.

Download Now

Comments

  1. says

    One quick question. In this portion

    Setting Up non-www to www Redirect

    In WordPress: Settings >> General

    The newer versions of WordPress make this extremely easy to do. Simply change the Blog Address (url) to http://www.domain.com. WordPress will automatically update your htaccess file to redirect the non-www version to the www version. If you have an older version of WordPress you will have to copy and paste the code provided into your htaccess file. However I would upgrade to the latest version of WordPress before I manually add it.

    On WordPress 3.3.2, it looks different (or I’m misunderstanding which url section you mean). I have

    WordPress Address (URL)
    Site Address (URL)

    under the General Settings. So, which one (or both) would I put the http://www.domain.com in?

    Thanks, and keep up the great work.
    Patrick.

  2. says

    this question might be a noob but a little enlightenment could greatly help. here goes:
    i have manually inserted meta data and google analytics in my header. i tried to use excerpt as meta description. do i have to remove them for the mention plugins to work properly?

  3. Sedov says

    Nice article but it’s good to know that there are some blog themes that already come up with an incorporated SEO.

  4. Gokken says

    Hi Mark, thanks for this handy list of plugins! Am making this list my default now for new sites. Quick question do you know if the “friendly images” plugin automatically adds size as well?

  5. Dheeraj says

    All in One SEO one of the best SEO Plugin. The only plugin i am trying on my blogs for SEO.

  6. Cassis says

    Thanks for the article. There are a good few tips here and if you implemented them correctly you should have some basic on-site optimization.

  7. Jennifer says

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks so much for this Article. I worked through it step by step. I already has some of the plugins installed but there were so many I added and I cannot wait to see some results in my Traffic from the great tips.
    In fact you have motivated me to go create a technical credits page on my new wordpress site to all the articles that are helping me along my new way in the affiliate world.Stay Tuned you will be number 1 on my list.

    Ever since I have started the amount of information I have learnt from sites like yours and other technical forums is amazing and its time to give credit where credit is due.

  8. Baburam Bhattarai says

    Informative article for WordPress SEO tips, I have wp site I will try it thanks for sharing

  9. Anuj says

    Interestingly, I did read a post by Matt Cutts which suggested leaving them dofollow, although general SEO opinion is to keep them nofollow.

    I think it’s definitely down to the individual and the site in question. As always, SEO is about testing, testing and retesting, and what we can learn from that

  10. Rachel says

    I have an ecommerce store and have a blog built into my shopping cart that I am using and also I also have a separate wordpress blog I am blogging on to promote my business and push it up in the search engines. Something is working or both, just not sure which. Anyone have an opinion on which is best? Built in blog on your site or seperate blog? Thanks!

  11. Jay Andrew Allen says

    Good tips, but you’re going to bog down your site with all these plugins. A lot of SEO tricks can be built into your template. More modern templates (like Lightword, e.g.) ship with SEO-friendly titles built in.

    As for Google Analytics, you can put this directly into your template. You can even add a bit of code to suppress Analytics generation for logged-in users.

    • says

      Totally agreed, but for some who hasn’t got skills or temptation to learn how to code, plugins are good escape plan, even if it slows down site..:) good points ;)

  12. Aron says

    Great, concise information.
    I use All-in-one-SEO on all mine and set perma links to category/postname
    -Stumbled!!

    thanks

  13. says

    I use Manual interlinks i.e. from WLW to link to my old posts with the anchor keyword rich text. Have been hearing a lot about SEO Smart Links. Will give it a go.

  14. Rick Grimes says

    Thanks for posting this! I’m sure you know what you are talking about since this came up among the top results when I search for WordPress SEO. You made it so easy by listing all of the plugins.

  15. Robert Bloch says

    Thanks for all the great inforamtion that this new kid will be sure to use.

  16. says

    Thanks for the tips and plugins but I have a question, what’s the recommended permalink structure for sites indexed as Google News Source?

  17. marco says

    there is a new plugin for wp called extreme SEO and i wondered if anyone had any experience of using it for seo and if they did could they explain if this is supposed to run along side the all in one seo pack and gives additional features or if it is meant to replace the all in one seo pack.

    Also if any experience is it easy to use and install and comp for wordpress 3 etc
    Thanks Marco

  18. Phillip Dews says

    What a Great post mark! I love writing about SEO myself and have written many articles on the subject!
    I love the w3 Cache plugin as I did not know about it and was havving issues with load time on my blog recently! so have it installed now!
    Many thanks for the list!
    -Phillip

  19. Paul Teague says

    Great post, really useful, I just worked through all these points one-by-one.

    I’ve been really lazy with my blog SEO and I intend to change that now :-)

  20. Kaxii says

    I was using joomla before but now I switched to wordpress because of the great seo plugins that are available. But i’m using Worpress Seo Master plugin instead of All in One. I find it more complete.

    Cheers

  21. Zack Nutter says

    Good to see that people love word press as much as I do. I have found that the best seo plugin for wordpress is all in one seo, does anybody suggest others?

  22. says

    Hi Mark, thats quiet a list of SEO plugins for wordpress.. did not know about the SEO smart links and friendly images.. thanks for sharing..

  23. says

    This article is really helpful for us who are freshers in the field of site optimization. I just want to know, is it necessary to post few articles on the site before Google site map insertion? Any help in this regard will be highly appreciated. Moreover, I have installed SEO ultimate for my WP blog. When I post a new article there is a box just below the post named SEO Settings with several options like, Title Tag, Meta Description, Meta Keywords, Meta Robots Tag, Incoming Autolink Anchors, Autolink Exclusion,More Link Text and Rich Snippet Type. What to do with these?

  24. says

    In these days wordpress is liked by search engine more so here in this post I have learn more thing that how we should optimize wordpress blog so I hope if I will follow rule then I can create a good blog in wordpress and can make quality of link.

  25. ArlinePortia says

    As you said it, WordPress is rather SEO friendly but in order to get good internet reputation management, a lot more can be done. Along with the tweaks you mentioned, I’d add use of other social media channels to promote your blog or site.

  26. says

    Question….in your post you suggest using %postname% but under the actual permalinks page in wordpress itself it strongly advises against it…
    %postname%
    A sanitized version of the title of the post (post slug field on Edit Post/Page panel). So “This Is A Great Post!” becomes this-is-a-great-post in the URI (see Using only %postname%). Starting Permalinks with %postname% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons..

    What are your thoughts?

  27. Master says

    Great article as I am about to start a wordpress blog. It is nice to know that wordpress offers various plugins and options to allow for easier SEO implementation.

  28. says

    Hi Mark, Thanks for writing this article. It was very helpful. I was halfway there with some of these plugins but you completed the circle.

  29. alaJoAnn says

    Regarding page load speed:

    Being no expert, I was almost afraid to install WP Minify in addition to W3 Total Cache, which already has a minifying function. But it worked beautifully out-of-the-box, and reduced page load speed another 50%!

  30. says

    Hello,

    Nice information about wordpress for SEO.

    WordPress is getting more popular by the day. It enables people to set up a blog, and even a complete website within minutes.
    With all the great free plugins and designs out there it is really an easy to use and complete blogging solution.

    Thanks.

  31. Peter Roesler says

    I never knew this, this is super cool. love this blog. I am coming back tomorrow to check for more posts. This is one of the best resources I have found on the internet florida web design company

  32. says

    very good post just install one plugin after reading this post, i have done already other settings but just install SEO Smart Links plugins.

  33. Thomas says

    Great checklist! WordPress makes SEO much easier to implement then the standard site. Gotta love the ease and usability of plug-ins to.

  34. olivier says

    Thanks.

    I think I’ve installed all the plugins and set them up.

    However in my google analytics, I can’t see any visit (they should be at least one).

    How can I check that my blog is correctly set up for google analytics?

    Thank you

  35. Laurent JOUVIN says

    Loved this article very much. I have been using ping-o-matic to ping my blog to search engines. I will download the Google XML Sitemap Generator plugin and check it out. Thanks again!

  36. darren says

    you can also if you don’t want to use plug ins, add php to the meta data to pull page titles/post tiles and the like in.

    you can use php to dring teh exerpt in as a page description in too

    finally what about using “tags ” to generate your keywords, all via php in your meta data, no plug ins then and all coded into the theme, if your plug in doesnt work with a conflict or something in teh core wp files breaks it, its perfect.

  37. Jordan Walker says

    Now a days you literally have to know SEO and how to implement it. Thanks for the write up on implementation into WordPress.

  38. Christine Wilson says

    Thanks for this list of plugins to install. I already had some but this list is more thorough and saves time by automating some good SEO practices.

  39. Bharath Reddy says

    Thanks Mark..That was amazing…I have already installed most of the plugins that you have mentioned here…Only few missing..”W3 Total Cache” & “SEO Friendly Images”..Will get it done very soon..

    Thanks,
    Bharath Reddy

  40. says

    Check out the theme framework Hybrid. It does a lot of this for you with no need for additional plugins. Also remember that nothing trumps good content and frequent posting…

  41. Omer Greenwald says

    Useful set of tips.
    301 redirects are worth mentioning as well for good SEO.
    Just by adding the following line to htaccess file after changing slugs of posts that have links directing to them :
    Redirect 301 /old-post-slug /new-post-slug

  42. says

    Thanks for some great tips here. Changing the www in user settings was a great one. I just noticed the other day that I had two search results in google for my homepage and wondered what the heck was up. That solved the problem perfectly. Thanks for all the tips and for the great article.

  43. says

    No new tips here so I must be doing something right. :) Over the years I’ve changed some habbits, but the tips you list above are indeed worth your time. Some SEO ‘experts’ may recommend placing a category name in your URL structure as well, but I have found it more profitable to just use domain/keyword.

    One thing I do disagree with is using www URL’s. From my experience, this ads 4 extra characters to your display URL on the SERP’s — this space could otherwise be used for more keywords.

  44. Ted Goas says

    You have some good (yet basic) tips in here, but there are a few I’d shy away from. Namely SEO Smart Links and using a Robots.txt to deal with dup. content rather than rel=”canonical”…

  45. Baron says

    I was in the beta for Scribe SEO and it was awesome. I’m not blogging much these day so I didn’t buy it when it launched recently, but if you’re looking for a platform that really optomizes your seo I’d recommend it.

  46. richard hughes says

    some good tips here – thanks for sharing.

    For permalinks i use –

    post id / catergory / postname

    to get a few more keywords in the url. the post id is for speed.