The Beginners Guide to WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO has been covered by more than a few people, but the majority of readers are mentioning that several key points of WordPress SEO are being omitted and that many of the “WordPress SEO Beginners Guides” are not really oriented to complete beginners. I am going to solve those issues for you below, first we will cover the basics of WordPress and then we are going to delve into WordPress SEO so that you can show your blog to as many readers as possible.

The first thing you will find if and when you look at some of the other WordPress SEO guides is the mention of several terms, to make sure you are with me throughout the process, I am going to define some of the most common terms you will see below; if you already know the terms, just skip to the WordPress SEO basics section.

WordPress Plugins- WordPress SEO plugins are prevalent. If you do a quick search of Google, you will find thousands of choices; but just what is a plugin?  A plugin is a script or program that adds functionality to your site. The variation of plugins is near infinite.  For this article, I will be referencing the “Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin”

Title- This refers to the title that you will give your page or post in WordPress. A title should describe what your page is about and include the keyword you want to rank that page for.

SEO Title – When you are using a WordPress SEO plugin, you will often see a spot for this. The SEO title is what will be displayed in the SERPs (See Below). This is important and should clearly tell what that page or post is about.

This is what you will see below where you enter your page or post content.

When you search for the page, the information you put in the SEO title will appear.

Heading Tags- Not to be confused with title tags, heading tags are snippets of HTML that identify to search engines a structure to your site. They also often affect the styling of content on your site which helps readers scan and understand your site. These tags range from 1-6. The page title of SEO Title of your website should be an <h1> heading tag, while subheadings should be <h2> and so on.

Permalink Structure- This may sound a little tricky, but it isn’t. The permalinks structure refers to the way that URLs are created when you add a new page or post to your website. In order to get the most SEO value, I use the “Post Name Setting”

If you have a news type site, you may want to consider using the “Month and name” or “Day and name” setting. This is very important, so if you are not sure, please consult an SEO specialist. It will only take a few moments but could save you hours of work to rank your site.

URL- Uniform Resource Locator, or put more simply, this is the name for you websites home on the internet. It is also commonly referred to as a domain name.

301 Redirect- A 301 Redirect is nothing more than a short line of code that indicates your site has permanently moved and sends the search engine or user to the new location. If you move a page, you should use this unless you will be returning the page to its original location shortly.

Canonical URL Tag – For the longest time, Google and other bot driven search engines would roam aimlessly and index content. Eventually, they began to see if the exact same content appeared in more than one place, and if it did, they began to penalize sites hosting it. If you want to have duplicate pages on your site, you simply insert this tag on one of them and sites like Google will know not to index both pages. You should proceed carefully with this though; if you do in incorrectly you could have several pages not be indexed or duplicate content issues. I suggest that if you are a novice, you should seek professional help with this.

Meta Tags- Meta Tags used to be used to determine what your site was about. Like so many other things, this was abused by overzealous SEO companies, so this really has no value at this point. You do not need to add them and doing so can actually work against you as competitors will know what keywords you are attempting to rank for.

Meta Description- Although a Meta Description does not directly affect WordPress SEO or SEO in general, it is still helpful so I thought we should cover it here. The Meta description is the excerpt you see in the SERPs just below the page title. It gives a brief summary of what that page is about.  You will see this just below “SEO Title” with the Yoast SEO plugin.

Posts- A post is a chronologically displayed article or content added to your site. This is most commonly used for blogging.

Pages- Pages in WordPress are very similar to web pages on any site. The will each have a title and content. Pages can also have “parents” which could be “services” with a specific service being a page. Pages are static and are displayed in the same place as you originally put them.

If you need a complete explanation of pages and posts, you should visit http://en.support.wordpress.com/post-vs-page/ for a full explanation.

The Basics of WordPress SEO

Those of you just joining us… welcome, I want to mention again that we are referring to the “Yoast  WordPress SEO plugin for the sake of this article. There are several variations, but Yoast is the one I use. First let’s take a look at what your page will look like using the Yoast Plugin, then we will cover what each box is for and how you should use it.

As you can see above, you have a “snippet preview”, “focus keyword”, “SEO Title” and “Meta Description” box as part of the Yoast plugin. If you look at the top left corner of the box you will also see “General”, “Page Analysis, and “Advanced”, let’s take a look at how to use those properly.

Snippet Preview –The snippet preview shows you what you will see when your web page is brought up in the search engine results page. As you make changes to the other boxes, you will see it update. If you leave the Meta description box empty, the preview will display the first 156 characters of the text on the web page. Advanced users can also dictate how the description will be generated, that will be covered in a later guide.

Focus Keyword –This one is pretty simple, but should not go unmentioned. For the plugin to work correctly, you must enter the keyword exactly as you have entered it above. This plugin can only review each page or post for one keyword. One common example is adding or taking off the (s) on a keyword. If the keyword appears in your post with and (s) and you add the keyword to the box without an (s) it will not recognizes the keyword. That being said, this plugin still works great for posts or pages with a single keyword variation.

SEO Title-The SEO Title will supersede the title that you entered at the top of the page in regards to what appears in the search engine results page. One of the ranking criteria for the plugin and SEO in general is the inclusion of the keyword in the title of your page. Essentially, you will have 70 characters to accurately describe what your page is about. Using generic titles like “home” or “about us” should be avoided. With this plugin in place, you can use the title box at the top of the page to enter the title as you want it to appear on your menu, so that is where to put names such as “home”.

Meta Description-You are given 156 characters to convince people to click on your site. It should give browsers and overview of what your page is about and why they need to visit it. As I mentioned above, if you do not write a meta description, you will have the first 156 characters of your sites page appear or the snippet you defined. For a complete look at how to create great Meta descriptions, visit:http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/09/improve-snippets-with-meta-description.html

 Using the Yoast WordPress SEO Analysis Tool

After you have filled out the boxes above, you should scroll back to the top of the page and “save draft”. At this time you will see a light appear next to the word SEO just above and to the left of the publish button.

Click on the link labeled “check” and you will be brought to this page:

As you can see, this page will tell you what is good about your page and what can be improved upon. Just go through the list one by one and correct as many of the issues as possible. Remember though, if you have used variations of your keyword, you will need to manually check some items such as keyword density. As you can see, even without completing every detail, your overall page SEO rating can be “green” which is good.

 WordPress SEO Advanced Tab

Above, you can see that there are several options available on the advanced page. Unless you are knowledgeable, you should avoid this page as you can create issues with your site. In case you are curious, here is what each of the boxes on this page are for:

Meta Robots Index –This box tells search engine bots whether or not to index the page or post. If you select the ‘no-index’ feature, search engines will not crawl your page or consider the information on it for the purpose of ranking or adding to the SERPs. In the event that you have duplicate content on your page, you should choose ‘no-index’ for one of them to avoid penalties, there are several reasons why you may want to make a page ‘no-index’ but you should never do so without being 100% sure it is the right thing to do or else all your hard work will be overlooked by search engines.

Meta Robots Follow-This lets the search engine bots no whether or not to “follow” links from the page. If you select ‘no-follow’ then outbound links from your page will not pass on authority to the site it is pointing to. This is also commonly used by sites who are attempting to consolidate the authority of a website into one page; again these are advanced features and should be left to the pros if you are not completely comfortable.

 Meta Robots Advanced –This box allows you to select various options for robot.txt codes, if you do not know what these stand for, you should not use them, but in the nature of education, here is what they mean and what they do.

NO ODP-This is a snippet of code that tells search engines to use the Meta description that you have written below your post and not information that is taken from the “Open Directory Project”

NO YDIR-Just like the NO ODP, this snippet of code tells search engines to use the Meta description you have written, not information that may be contained in the Yahoo Directory.

NO ARCHIVE-This code is used to tell search engines not to cache a copy of your website for display in the SERPs. This is commonly used by E-commerce stores as your prices could change regularly.

NO SNIPPETThis will prevent search engines from showing a Meta description in the SERPs, as a secondary effect, it will prevent search engines from caching your website. This one is really only needed for a few special types of websites, otherwise, there is not really any value to using this snippet.

BreadCrumbs Titles –If you have BreadCrumb navigation enabled on your website theme, then you can specify here what the title will be for each page.

Include In SiteMap –You will have three options here: automatically include, always include, and never include. The majority of pages on your site should be left as “automatically include” or “always include” if you want to manually update your sitemap. Duplicate pages should be omitted from the sitemap.

SiteMap Priority –This feature allows you to determine how much importance is placed on any page of your website. Unless you are experienced, leave this setting on auto and save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

Canonical URL –Sound pretty fancy, but basically this is how you tell Google which version of your site to use when there are variations. For an in-depth look, check out: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/

301 Redirect-This is how you tell search engines that a page has moved permanently to a new location. Using this method allows you to pass on the authority and links from the old page to the new page. This is the method that should always be used for a page that has permanently moved.

Now that you know how to use your plugin, let’s talk about a few other things that you will need to do to boost your WordPress SEO.

Keyword Research

It all starts here, if you do not have a keyword in mind; how will you rank for it? Even those of you on a limited budget can research keywords by using tools such as the Google Keyword Tool. The key is to find terms that are closely related to your product or service, have low competition, and a lot of traffic. Easier said than done, but certainly doable if you are willing to commit the time and effort. You can find an excellent guide on finding keywords here.

Content Creation

The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin will help you with the titles, Meta description, and even mild SEO analysis, but the content you write (or have written) is what will set your site apart. Great content should include keywords, but is should also help, inform, or excite the reader. Creating great content can be difficult and may even require the help of a content writing service, but in most cases, just one customer would more than cover the cost.

Social Sharing

Search engines are leaning more heavily on social signals than ever before. Adding simple plugins that allow people to share your site on Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites is a great way to get started. Don’t worry if things start of slowly, just be persistent and you will be fine.

Update Regularly

You can have the best homepage in the world on your site; but how many times are people going to read the exact same text? Blogging is a great way to provide regular fresh content that keeps people coming back to your website while building your credibility as well. If you are not blogging on your site, you need to start.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, WordPress is an excellent, SEO friendly CMS. Installing a plugin like the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin will allow you to complete somewhat advanced tasks quickly and easily. Remember though, if you are not sure of what to do or what effect your action will have, you should contact a professional who could save you time and money.

I hope that you have found this guide to be helpful and feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. Good Luck in your WordPress SEO Journey.

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Comments 4

      1. Nick, we’re out here listening in social media! We hope you’ll give All in One SEO Pack a review on your blog as well.

        Here are few key differentiators:

        1. All in One SEO offers free forum support at WordPress.org. Our competitor does not. You must buy their plugin to get forum support. We do have Pro support for priority requests.

        2. We are strongly advising against using a keyword focus tool, because keyword density is losing its relevance as as strategy. And, most good SEOs aren’t just focused on one keyword. They are focused on phrases and not keywords. For example, you can have a keyword “Hitachi,” but you can’t have a keyword “Hitachi power drills under $100.” As we move more into semantic search, keywords are limited as to their effectiveness. We are moving to phrases that people may speak into their phone in a mobile search. So, keyword density is not necessarily pointless, but it’s no longer as relevant as it may once have been. Therefore, we’re on the fence about adding such a tool, when it’s not really necessary and adds code bloat and slows load time.

        3. One small thing most people have no idea about is that Google Webmaster Tools explicitly states that you should not split your site map under 50,000 URLs. All in One SEO Pack has a feature to allow you to split the sitemap and paginate it once you get there. Out competitor splits their site map immediately with no ability to turn that feature off. Google has said it has a problem ingesting sitemaps that are split in this way. So, while having a sitemap is not a ranking factor, having a sitemap that functions correctly helps Google spider your pages efficiently.

        4. Our user interface it cleaner and more intuitive. We’ve spent a good deal of time ensuring that you only get what you really need and that it is laid out in an efficient manner. In fact, one SEO on Twitter just let us know he switched back because he simply liked our interface better. He liked out experience, which is just a much nicer and well thought out User Interface than our competitors.

        Hopefully, you’ll take another look at AIOSEO for WordPress SEO and see why professional SEOs like Alex Miranda of Marknet Group in New York prefer AIOSEO over our competitor’s plugin.

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