2.6 HTML sitemaps
For some sites an HTML sitemap might be nonsense, especially when your site is really a blog, for more corporate type sites with several levels of pages an HTML Sitemap might actually be very beneficial for both users and search engines. We’ve written an article on how to create an HTML Sitemap Page Template which would be a good start to get one going for your WordPress site.
3 Advanced WordPress SEO and duplicate content
Once you’ve done all the basic stuff, you’ll find that the rest of the problems amount to one simple thing: duplicate content. Loads of it in fact. Out of the box, WordPress comes with a few different types of taxonomy:
- date based
- category based
- tag based
Next to that, it seems to think you actually need to be able to click on from page to page starting at the frontpage, way back to the first post you ever did. Last but not least, each author has his own archive too, under
/author/<author-name>/, resulting in completely duplicate content on single author blogs.
In essence that means that, worst case scenario, a post is available on 5 pages outside of the single page where it should be available. We’re going to get rid of all those duplicate content pools, by still allowing them to be spidered, but not indexed, and fixing the pagination issues that come with these things.
3.1 Noindex, follow archive pages and disable some archives
Using the WordPress SEO plugin, make sure to prevent indexing (or even existence) of archive pages that do not apply for your site. You do this under SEO → Titles & Metas, where you’ll find the following options on the “Other” tab:
The settings above are the settings for our site. As you can see, we’ve completely disabled the date based archives, as we don’t use those. Any date based link will redirect to our homepage because of this setting. We’ve left the author archives untouched, but we have checked a checkbox on the General tab, which makes the subpages of those archives be noindex, follow by default. So you’ll never land on page 2 of an archive on our site from the search engines (change this on SEO → Titles & Metas → General tab):
On smaller sites it might make sense to noindex either the category or the tag structure, but in our experience noindexing those on yoast.com does little to no change at all.
There is one type of archive that is noindex,follow by default as well in the WordPress SEO plugin: the search result pages. This is a best practice from Google for which a setting is left out as you should just have that anyway.
A lot has changed in how Google handles paginated archives recently when they introduced their support for
rel="prev" links. We’ve written an article about that:
rel="prev" for paginated archives, which is a bit too technical to fully list here, but suffice to say our WordPress SEO plugin takes care of all the needed changes automatically.
3.2 Disable unnecessary archives
If your blog is a one author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use WordPress SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date based archive: disable it as we have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…
Thirdly, you’ll want to make sure that if a bot goes to a category page, it can reach all underlying pages without any trouble. Otherwise, if you have a lot of posts in a category, a bot might have to go back 10 pages before being able to find the link to one of your awesome earlier posts…
There’s an easy fix, in fact, there are several plugins that deal with this. Our favorite one by far is WP-PageNavi, maintained by Scribu, one of the best WordPress developers around. If you have the Genesis Theme like we do here on Yoast.com, you can just enable numeric navigation under Theme Settings → Content Archives.
In february 2009, the major search engines introduced the
rel="canonical" element. This is another utility to help fight duplicate content. WordPress has built-in support for canonical link elements on single posts and pages, but it has some slight bugs in that. It doesn’t output canonical links on any other page. With our WordPress SEO plugin activated, you automatically get canonical link elements for every page type in WordPress.
4 A site structure for high rankings
Blogs are spidered so easily due to their structure of categories, tags etc.: all articles are well linked, and usually the markup is nice and clean. However, all this comes at a price: your ranking strength is diluted. They’re diluted by one simple thing: comments.
4.1 Pages instead of posts
You’ve probably noticed by now, or you’re seeing now, that this WordPress SEO post is actually… not a post. It’s a page. Why? Well for several reasons. First of all, this article needed to be a “daughter”-page of our WordPress page, to be in the correct place on this blog. Secondly, to rank for the term [WordPress SEO], this article has to have the right keyword density. And that’s where things go wrong. Comments destroy your carefully constructed keyword density.
That’s why we decided to make our most important articles into pages. That way, you can easily update them and do a new post about what you’ve changed.
4.2 New wine in an old bottle
If a post on your blog becomes incredibly popular and starts to rank for a nice keyword, like this one did for WordPress SEO, you could do the following:
- create a new page with updated and improved content
- change the slug of the old post to
- publish the new page under the old post’s URL, or redirect the old post’s URL to the new URL
- send an e-mail to everyone who linked to your old post that you’ve updated and improved on your old post
- wait for the links to come in, again;
- rank even higher for your desired term as you’ve now got:
- more control over the keyword density
- even more links pointing at the article
- the ability to keep updating the article as you see fit to improve on it’s content and ranking
Some among you will say: I could have 301 redirected the old post to the new one with the same effect. True. Except: you’d lose the comments on the old post, which is in our opinion a sign of disrespect to people who took the time to comment, and 301 redirects take quite a bit of time sometimes. Of course you should treat this technique with care, and not abuse it to rank other products, but we think it can be done in everyone’s benefit. For instance this article: if you came here through a social media site like Facebook, expecting an article about WordPress SEO, that’s exactly what you got!
4.3 Linking to related posts
One way of getting search engines to get to your older content a bit easier, thus increasing your WordPress SEO capabilites a LOT, is by using a related posts plugin. These plugins search through your posts database to find posts with the same subject, and add links to these posts.
There are quite a few related posts plugins but we tend to stick with custom code in our theme. A very good alternative is Microkid’s related post plugin, which lets you manually pick related posts. This might cost a bit more time before you hit publish but might very well be worth your while.
There are also a lot of plugins that will automatically link certain keywords to certain posts. We do not like this at all as we find it to look very spammy.
4.4 Go easy on the tags
One of the most common issues we encounter on sites in our website reviews is the overuse of tags. Note that a tag in and of itself does not improve your SEO. The only way it improves your SEO is by relating one piece of content to another, and more specifically a group of posts to each other.
We’ve recently released a tool we’ve built to help solve that problem, which makes it easy to delete & redirect and/or merge tags or other (custom) taxonomies. So if you’ve been guilty of using too many tags on your site you might want to check out our tool for optimizing tags.
5 Conversion optimization
Get those readers to subscribe!
A lot of bloggers still think that because their blog is a blog, they don’t have to optimize anything. Wrong. To get people to link to you, they have to read your blog. And what do you think is easier: getting someone who is already visiting your blog to visit regularly and then link to your blog, or getting someone who visits your blog for the first time to link to your blog immediately? Right.
One of the things we’ve found to be very important, and more bloggers seem to have found this, is that an RSS subscribe button is very important, as is offering a way to subscribe by e-mail. We offer a weekly e-mail subscribe options, using MailChimp, and have found that people tend to click through on those the most.
Another thing to be very aware of is when people might want to subscribe to your blog. If they’ve just finished reading an article of yours, and really liked it, that would be the ideal time to reach them, right? That’s why more and more people are adding lines like this to the end of their posts: “Liked this post? Subscribe to our newsletter and get loads more!”
Another great time to get people to subscribe is when people have just commented on your blog for the first time, for which purpose we use our own comment redirect plugin. Which leads us to the next major aspect of WordPress SEO:
Get those readers involved
Comments are one of the most important aspects of blogs. As Wikipedia states:
Comments are not only nice because people tell you how special you are, or that you made a mistake, or whatever else they have to tell you. Most of all they’re nice, because they show engagement. And engagement is one of the most important factors of getting people to link to you: they show you they care, and they open the conversation, now all you have to do is respond, and you’re building a relationship!
6.1 How you get people to comment
The easiest way of getting people to do anything is: ask them to do it. Write in an engaging style, and then ask your blog’s readers for an opinion, their take on the story etc.
Another important things is your comment links. Is your comment link “No comments »”? Or is it “No Comments yet, your thoughts are welcome »”? Feel the difference? You can change this by opening your
index.php template, search for
comments_popup_link() and changing the texts within that function.
6.2 Bond with your commenters
Another thing to do is thank people when they’ve commented on your weblog. Not every time, because that get’s annoying, but doing it the first time is a very good idea.
Justin Shattuck thought the same, and created the Comment Relish plugin which sends an email after someone has made his first comment, unfortunately, this plugin is no longer maintained. Another option, which is maintained and is also a bit less obtrusive / spammy, is to install our comment redirect plugin. This plugin allows you to redirect people who have made their first comment to a specific “thank you” page.
Now that people have joined the conversation on your blog, you should make sure they stay in the conversation. That’s why you should install the subscribe to comments plugin, that allows people to subscribe to a comment thread just like they would in a forum, and sends them an e-mail on each new comment. This way, you can keep the conversation going, and maybe your readers will be giving you new angles for new posts.
7 Off site blog SEO
If you’ve followed all of the above WordPress SEO advice, you’ve got a big chance of becoming successfull, both as a blogger and in the search engines. Now the last step sounds easy, but isn’t. Go out there, and talk to people online.
There’s been a movement on the web for a while now that’s called the “You comment – I follow“. They want you to remove the nofollow tag off of your comments to “reward” your visitors. Now we do agree, but… That get’s you a whole lot of spam once your WordPress blog turns into a well ranked blog… What we do advocate though, is that you actually follow your visitors! Go to their websites, and leave a comment on one of their articles, a good, insightful comment, so they respect you even more.
If you think that’s a lot of work, do realize that, on average, about 1% of your visitors will actually leave a comment. That’s a group of people you have to take care of!
Twitter is a cool form of micro-blogging / chatting / whatever you want to call it. Almost all the “cool” people are on there, and they read their tweets more often than they read their e-mail, if you even knew how to reach them through e-mail.
To boot, if you use WordTwit or Twitter Tools, all of your posts can be announced on Twitter, which will usually get you quite a few early readers! People will feel even more happy to comment on Twitter, which might get you into an extra conversation or two.
7.3 Find related blogs, and work them
If you want to rank for certain keywords, go into Google Blogsearch, and see which blogs rank in the top 10 for those keywords. Read those blogs, start posting insightful comments, follow up on their posts by doing a post on your own blog and link back to them: communicate! The only way to get the links you’ll need to rank is to be a part of the community.
8 Measuring results
A good SEO campaign relies on not only implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Two great Analytics packages to measure results are Google Analytics and getClicky. For both of these Analytics packages maintain plugins, our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin and our Clicky plugin.
You can also measure results by tracking rankings, the problem with rank tracking though is that it’s hard to determine “real” rankings because of personalized and localized search results. Really the best outcome of being great at WordPress SEO is to get more traffic.
Another great source of data is Google Webmaster Tools. One of the relatively simple tricks we always give people is the following:
- go into Webmaster Tools;
- go to “Your site on the web”, then “Search queries”.
- Click on “Download this table”.
- Open the CSV file you get in Excel.
- Replace all the instances of “<10” in the Clicks column with 9.
- Select the entire first row and click the filter button, usually the icon is a funnel:
- For the average position column, choose “greater than 5”, sort Ascending.
- Then for the “Clicks” column, sort Descending.
You now have the keywords people are finding you for in the results pages where you rank below #6 The fact that they clicked on your result proves that they found your result interesting: see if you can optimize any of those terms so you’ll rank higher than a #6 average rank: use the Page Analysis in our SEO plugin to improve the page, improve the copy, ask others to link to you, etc. Be sure to read our article about cornerstone content as well.
9 Conclusions on WordPress SEO
This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical tips, to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.
If you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, and hear more tips as we come up with them, then subscribe to our weekly newsletter right now.