As many of you already know SEO or search engine optimisation has become so important in recent years especially with the advances and improvements in how search engines rank sites in their searches. Web designers especially now have a larger responsibility in creating web pages that are coded to standards and are search engine friendly. Some however still dispute SEO but believe me it is definitely necessary to achieve website success in today's competitive internet world. Well, on this subject there is so much to talk about but here I'm just going to concentrate on WordPress SEO (most of which applies to basic web design as well).
Right let's start with the on site basic. WordPress is very good in itself at being SEO friendly right from word go without having to do much at all. However like most things there is always room for improvement.
As standard WordPress creates permalinks using "p=" which as you can see isn't very search engine friendly (no one is going to search for page id's). You can have far more success with you permalinks just like your domain name if you use topic related post names and category names for you permalinks. To change the format of the permalinks just enter your WordPress control panel and go to Settings -> Permalinks and under custom structure enter /%category%/%postname%/. Now your permalinks contain keywords that users may search for increasing your chance of success.
Another thing you may want to think about doing to your permalinks to increase your WordPress SEO, is install the SEO Slugs plugin, this automatically removes stop words from your slugs once you save a post, this will stop those really long URLs being created if you develop a long post title.
Optimise Your Titles
This is a really important SEO factor. Titles are key when it comes to searching keywords. If your title doesn't contain the right keywords or they are arranged poorly then this can have a dramatic effect on where you rank. Your keyword rich post name should always be at the start of your title. Search engines put more importance on early words so putting them later not only puts less importance on them but in search engine results they also may be hidden from view of the user.
Check your header.php file, and make sure that the code for is like this: wp_title('');. This gives you full control over your title.
I would also recommend installing All in One SEO Plugin by Michael Torbert of Semper Fi Web Design. This gives you full control over all the important header meta information such as page titles. It will allow you to format your page titles whatever way you wish and will also allow you to customise page descriptions and add keywords for each post or page as well.
For me I have found the following formats work well:
Post Title: %post_title% | %blog_title%
Page Title: %page_title% | %blog_title%
Category Title: %category_title% | %blog_title%
And so on.
Create SEO Friendly Descriptions
In the categories section of your WordPress admin area use a decent and friendly keyword related description for you categories. This will not only entice people to click on a search result but can also be matched for your chosen keywords as well.
One important thing to remember when creating descriptions is not to allow for auto generation of descriptions. This is a poor technique and will not achieve the success you are looking for. Always manually add keyword related and post related description to all your posts, pages and categories for optimum success.
Many designers always overlook the importance of images to get some extra web traffic. It may not always be the traffic you want but any traffic is good traffic. By always making sure you add good alt tags and title tags to your images you are not only helping out yourself in terms of image search engine results, but it is also good practice to keep all your pages coded to web standards (another important topic) and help lesser able to make sense of your pages.
You may want to consider adding a navigational breadcrumb to all your post pages. This isn't really to help your search engine results but will really help your users understand where they are in your site and help search engine understand site structure. It may look like this:
Home>> Design >> SEO
All breadcrumbs should link back to the home page and indicate the category the post is in. There are numerous breadcrumb plugins out there for you to find to help with this.
Clean Limited Code
I now know many of you reading this are now smiling as this isn't always in our hands. There are however a certain few things we can do to help the process.
Like I said earlier remove unnecessary php and calls to the server which can slow down load times. If its not needed remove it.
Add a caching plugin to your site such as WP-Total-Cache or WP-Super-Cache. This will cache pages and return the user to visited pages quickly. Depending on which plugin you choose that may be in the form of a html created page, or some plugins will allow the use of a CDN (content delivery network) to quickly load images, external files etc.
Finally and probably the most important is choose your hosting provider wisely. The cheapest is never going to be the best or the quickest.
Don't fill your pages with unnecessary or unrelated links. I know sometimes we like to help others out by giving them links but one link on one page is more than enough. Giving anyone an unrelated or site wide link doesn't help them or you anymore than one quality related link.
Duplicate Content and NoIndex
With WordPress as standard there can be a lot of duplicated content in your site as well as search engines. Using The All In One Plugin I mentioned earlier there are options to reduce a lot of this duplicated search engine pages. If you create a post you are placing it into a date archive, a category, a tag all of which can be indexed but all of which are essentially the same. Using the plugin settings you can use the noindex option allowing you not to index all the content. I personally choose just to index the tags as this is usually the most post related.
If you want the search engine bot to be able to find all of your category posts or archive posts then it is necessary to have a direct link to them from every page. To do this simply add a pagination plugin and make a few tweaks to some of your template pages (index.php, archive.php etc) and hey presto all your posts can be easily sourced by the bot. To download a plugin either type into Google WordPress pagination plugin or visit my site where you can find a plugin.
Remove Unnecessary links
Another simple little alteration you can make to make your pages more SEO friendly is to stop linking to your login, registration or RSS feeds on every page. There is no problem in a adding a link on your home page or a RSS feed link after each post asking users to sign up but it is not needed on all pages.
Its funny that blogging is actually meant to be about interacting with user and other bloggers alike. However sometimes comments, especially a lot of comments, can actually ruin our posts in terms of SEO rankings. Comments destroy our carefully constructed keyword density posts. Obviously if you want success with your blog comments are necessary however a few small alterations can help. First if you have important or successful posts then why not after the initial period of release turn them into pages with the same URL. This will remove posted comments but why does this matter as you've already got your users discussing by posting it as a post. Another tip is to add a function to close comments after a short period of time. This allows our regular and loyal readers to add a comment but reduces the amount of comments which can destroy the carefully constructed keyword density. A simple function to close comments can also be found by searching on Google.
To give search engines a hand and allow them to easily find older posts is to add a related posts feature. Again there are many plugins out there to add this feature so give it a go.
I hear you say how can comments affect my status. Well probably more than you think. If you invite people to comment and get people discussing ideas on your site then people will feel engaged and fulfilled when using your site. If people feel involved and welcome them they are much more likely to link to you therefore improving your page rank.
Off Site SEO
Now we get to the real heart of SEO. You can do all the onsite SEO and improve your rank but still you may not be where you want. The reason for this is although the search engines love you they may also love other sites more as they are seen as more important due to how many people are linking towards them.
Twitter and Facebook
Nowadays these two social media giants control so much of the web. They are probably two of the most used sites out there so why not use them to your advantage. You can source so many new visitors by getting people to link to you on twitter or facebook and people are usually more likely to comment on twitter than on blogs.
Follow Other Blogs
If people follow your blog then why not follow others. It's so important to be part of the blogging community. If you comment on other people blogs and link to them in your posts it shows that you care and then they may just do the same for you.
Backlinks are important and we all know that so work hard and build them. The more you get, the easier it will be to get more. The more users you get, the easier it is to get more. But remember above all keep up the quality of your sites content and get people talking about you.