Optimizing your WordPress Blog for Google: Part 2

This is part 2 in our series on how to optimize your WordPress blog for Google. In our earlier post we discussed how to avoid the duplicate content penalty when blogging with the WordPress blogging software; today, we are going to share how to optimize your WordPress blog for search engine friendliness especially for the Google search engine.

Interlinking your blog posts

Since your blog should be topically related anyway, you should have no problem referencing previous post from time to time in new blog postings. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to edit your older blog postings to include topically related links for new posts. Not only does this help to improve your internal linking structure, it can also help improve keyword relevancy for certain pages if you’re using keyword focused, or descriptive, anchor text for your internal URL’s.

Another approach to boost the link popularity and improve the visibility of your blogs internal pages is to offer a sitemap, one which will benefit users and work to help with search engine spidering.

XML sitemaps, such as the type used within your Google Webmaster account area, are only read by search engine robots. By offering a “static” sitemap, (though really it’s generally dynamically generated), you are giving your website visitors a location where they can easily browse your blog posting titles and find topics that interest them. You can manually update a sitemap page (not recommended for large websites or blogs), or you can hire a programmer to build a page that queries the WordPress database and lists all the postings. There is also a WordPress plugin that will build a sitemap for your blog, the Sitemap Generator Plugin; it’s one of the more feature-rich sitemap generators available for WordPress.

For those of you who are only interested in using an XML sitemap for your WordPress blog, the Google Sitemaps Generator will build one for you, and this XML sitemap generator will create a sitemap that can read by Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN as well.

Post high quality and useful content

Natural link building comes about by offering useful content; if you give your website visitors what they are looking for, a percentage of your blog readership will link to what they find useful or helpful. Continually posting informative and helpful content on your blog almost guarantees a steady flow of new incoming links without any additional work on your part all while increasing your blogs’ link popularity and overall visibility.

Optimizing your WordPress blog for Google

Now that you’ve taken steps to alleviate duplicate content from your blog and are working on building the link popularity of your blogs’ inner pages, it’s time to optimize your WordPress blog for ultimate search engine friendliness.

Create search engine friendly URL’s

WordPress blogs, by default, display the posting pages using a query string to represent the individual pages, such as:

http://exampleblog.com/?p=16

Now, search engines have come a long way since their conception and most major search engines can crawl and will index what appear to be dynamically generated pages using query strings, but setting up search engine friendly URL’s will not only help to improve relevancy for the pages for certain keywords, using descriptive URL’s can increase the clickthrough rates from the SERPS (search engine results pages) as well.

To set up search engine friendly URL’s, simply login to your WordPress administration area, then click on Options>>Permalinks. On the permalinks page, you will see a selection of choices and radio buttons. Most users opt for the Date and Name Based option, though if you know what you’re doing, you can choose the custom option and input your desired posting link structure.

Once you’ve setup your search engine friendly URL’s, you’ll likely need to modify your website’s .htaccess file unless yours happens to be writable by default.

Example .htaccess code for WordPress Blogs

The code below is an example of what you would add to your .htaccess file:


RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

This code is posted for example purposes only, and it is not guaranteed to work on your server.

A word of caution: modify your .htaccess file with extreme caution! Before you update this file, you should create a backup; this way, if for some reason your website messes up because of the code you have added, you have a working backup of the file.

For additional information about WordPress Permalinks, you can checkout more information on using permalinks on the WordPress website.

Add unique page titles to your WordPress blog

A web pages title is the most important “on site” element in regards to optimization for search engines. By default, WordPress forces the posting title as the page title itself, and is considered by top seo professionals as an optimization faux-pas. You should absolutely have unique page titles for every page of your blog, and you should avoid replicating the page title in your heading tags when at all possible.

Probably the most effective WordPress title optimization plugin is the SEO title tag plugin. This plugin allows you to create a unique title for your blogs’ home page, any supplemental pages, your category and archive pages as well as for each and every post on your blog. As an added bonus, you can “bulk modify” up to 20 pages at a time, so if you happen to have hundreds of posts on your blog already, it’s not too much of a chore to make each of them unique.

For best results when creating titles for your blog posts, the titles should be keyword targeted, concise with the pages contents and descriptive enough to encourage clickthroughs from the SERPS. Your most important keyword or keyword phrase should be placed at the beginning of the title, and you should keep the titles short, at least this is generally the recommended method amongst optimization professionals.

Adding meta keywords and descriptions to your WordPress blog

The age-old discussion about whether the meta description tag and the meta keywords tag is beneficial for search engine optimization today will undoubtedly continue, but there’s one thing for certain; if you add these meta tags to your blog respectfully, without trying to keyword stuff unrelated phrases or insistently repeating words over and over, these tags certainly haven’t been proven to hurt your rankings.

In fact, if you haven’t yet noticed, a while back Google started using the Meta description tag in their search results. Whether or not this translates into improving rankings has yet to be officially determined, but Google is certainly putting the Meta description tag to use, that is undeniable.

Probably the easiest to use Meta tag plugin for WordPress is the Add Meta Tags plugin. With this plugin you can specify the meta keywords and meta description for your home page, category pages and each unique posting page. Using this WordPress plugin with the SEO title tag plugin offers a powerful plugin combination that is certain to improve the overall search engine friendliness of your WordPress blog.

UPDATE: Since more than a year there is a very powerful SEO plugin, developed by yoast.com. This plugin is a complete solution not only for page titles and META tags. Visit my WordPress plugin page for a complete of important plugins

While the tips outlined in this 2 part series on how to optimize your WordPress blog for Google will undoubtedly help to improve the overall search engine friendliness of your blog, it cannot be understated that if you want your blog to be successful, you need to offer something to your readership that will keep them coming back for more. In the end, people don’t care that you’ve spent days, months, or even years promoting and optimizing your blog for search engines; if you aren’t giving people something that is beneficial to them, your blog will end up in the “blog graveyard” amongst the MFA splogs and the outdated blogs of yesteryear. No form of optimization can make up for a blogs failure to share informative and useful information with its readers.

Now, if you already have the “unique and useful” content squared away, by using the tips outlined within this 2 part series, you will be doing what 80% of your competition isn’t doing, thus exponentially increasing your chances of higher rankings in the SERPS, more natural visitors and ultimately more money to your financial bottom line.

11 thoughts on “Optimizing your WordPress Blog for Google: Part 2

  1. I’ve implemented all of these ideas I think. I recently blocked the trackback links using the robots.txt file. Now google generated 69 trackback errors because of that (viewed in google webmaster tools) – i suppose it’s just telling me that there was a link for it, but google bot couldn’t follow it. In any case it was just a little frightening seeing all those ‘errors’ but I don’t think it will hurt anything.
    bb

  2. Oh yeah – sorry – reading a little deeper on the google webmasters page clearly says “if you’ve blocked access to these links using robots.txt then you shouldn’t be concerned about these errors” – or something like that. I always speak to damn soon…..

  3. Hello.

    what you’re saying is not true. If your server is right configured and you enter a URL like http: //domain.com/something you get a 404 error (try it on this blog as I did).

    I don’t understand the problem with webmaster tools validation process, it’s not a problem to upload the file or just adding the meta tag. I did it many times for WP blogs…

  4. One word of caution regarding the .htaccess code. The rewrite rules you’ve posted simply redirect the user to index.php if the request filename is not a file or directory.

    The challenge with this approach is that any page which should receive a 404 status will instead be redirected to the index.php page and return a 200 status.

    The Google Webmaster tool requires you to upload a unique xml file (or include a unique value in a Meta Tag) to validate you are the site owner. The service checks for a file which shouldn’t exist (e.g. noexist_(some-hex-values).html). If this file returns a 200 status, Google will know you are employing a redirection technique that it doesn’t approve of.

  5. Hi Enrico,

    sounds like that something is wrong with your links (check your templates).

    it should be possible to remove this trailing slash with mod_rewrite (search for these terms on google). Use also a sitemap for your weblog and don’t index pages like archives or tags.

  6. Well, I got some double titletags recently on google webmaster(about 200). The problem is that i get them double since it calculates links with or witout slash ending, and that’s weird!
    For instance: http :// www .site. com/tag/something/ and http :// www .site. com/tag/something, which obviously resolve both on my website to the same page, with thesame title, but I guess it does for everyone. Any way how to solve this?

  7. Hi there Olaf,

    I use a sitemap, but didn’t exlude tags and archives from robots file…maybe this caused that. I have to check templates for tag and articles than…

  8. Besides, the templates are not involved just the header of them, and since I have only 1 header, the code there is:
    see no other way apart from robots and htaccess, but still not sure why google sees both links with slash and without….

  9. For instance, i got this on my .htaccess:
    # BEGIN WordPress

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /blog/
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule . /blog/index.php [L]

    After modifying it according to the sample, I get a 500 error…my blog resides under http://www.site.com/blog, and the code I made was:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /blog/
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !index.php
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !(.*)/$
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.site.com/blog/$1/ [L,R=301]

    What did I do wrong to get the error?

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