Blogging software, such as WordPress, automatically gives your content an advantage when it comes to the “on page” factors that search engines consider important in determining what content to show in search results.
That’s one of the reasons I promote the use of blogging software for every small business site on the planet. Right out of the proverbial box your site stands a better chance of ranking for key terms.
Of course that assumes that are consistently feeding your blog high quality, keyword rich, educational content. (But that’s a story for another day.)
Today I want to focus on the most important SEO factors for bloggers and talk a little about how you can do a few things to modify your blog’s default settings and get even more optimization.
The title is an HTML attribute that does not actually show up on your pages, but is displayed at the top of the browser window. By default, most blogging software makes the title the same as the post title or headline.
This may be one of the most important elements to consider altering. Many times your headline for a post benefits from being catchy or even intriguing to attract readers from Twitter, but that may not make the best title for people searching.
You can change default settings in the code or you can use one of the many SEO plugins designed to give you the flexibility to alter the important the elements I address in this post. I use a plugin from Yoast called WordPress SEO.
With the plugin installed you will see a screen below your post that allows you to change elements such at the title and description.
In most cases I create a much more search engine friendly title, with important search terms, no matter the headline of the post.
Preview of how this post, with modified settings, might show in search results.
The URL or permalink for each blog post is also something you can alter. The first step is to make sure you are using search friendly URLs. By default WordPress creates database URLs with numbers and such that aren’t search friendly at all. You can create customer URLs by going to settings – permalinks and choosing a custom structure that includes the post name.
Once you do this WordPress will by default create URLs from the headline of your post. You can edit these URLs and in some cases this makes sense. Some blog posts headlines, as I’ve mentioned, don’t make the best URLs, so this is the place to shorten and edit in some keywords for more SEO impact from the blog post URLs – another very important factor.
You can edit the URL in post screen for keywords and length
H tags are used in HTML to show hierarchy for things like heading and subheadings. (They are often used incorrectly by designers for styling as well.) Search engines use these tags as yet another way to make a determination about what’s important on a page so wise use of H tags can help emphasize keywords in the content.
By default your blog post headline is shown in the HTML as an H1 tag. You may also want to style subheadings with H2 or H3 tags (Something that you can easily do with the Visual editor.) Careful use of keywords in these headings and subheading can give your post a boost.
The description is another HTML attribute that does not show up on the page but does show up quite often when your post in featured in search results – it’s the text that describes what the post is about.
If you don’t complete this for your posts the description text will likely be the first few words in the post. This may or may not be a good way to draw someone in to reading your post.
Using the SEO plugin mentioned above I write descriptions that read more like an ad for the post so that someone reading it really wants to dive in and read the entire post.
You can add a title and alt image description in the Add Media screen
If you use images in your posts, and I believe you should, take the time to complete the title and alternate description fields when you upload an image as search engines can’t see the image so your descriptions in these fields offer another opportunity for keywords related to the post topic.
Also, choose the featured image setting for the image that you want to show when someone retweets or shares your post to Facebook.
Sitemaps are files or pages that as the term suggests map out all the pages on a site. There was a time when these were popular navigation tools but for the most part site maps have become a tool to let search engines easily access content and changes on your site.
The WordPress SEO plugin comes with a sitemap function and there are many others available as well.
Make sure that you also submit your sitemap to the Google and Bing Webmaster Tool Portals.
This last item isn’t an SEO or on page factor directly, but search engines, not to mention humans, hate sites that load slowly. Google has repeatedly implied that slow loading sites are being penalized in their latest updates.
There are many factors that impact site load speed, including theme issues, caching and plugins. Using a caching plugin such a W3Total Cache has become a pretty standard recommendation.
Another factor is hosting. Larger WordPress sites have big databases and when that’s coupled with lots of traffic a host configured for WordPress is a must. Over the years my site started to drag so I switched to Synthesis hosting recently and coupled with the Genesis Theme framework my site is once again lightning fast.
You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights test to see where you might have issues.