One of the nice things about WordPress is that it’s as friendly to search engine optimization as a beagle is to a bowl of ice cream–even before you start tweaking it.
Long ago, I settled on WP because I was more interested in using it as a simple content management system than an actual blog. All I really wanted to do is build a no-fuss place–comprising four or five pages–where I could showcase my work and experience to promote my Web writing business. I don’t really know how WP compares to other blogging platforms because I haven’t used any of the others.
In recent years, I’ve been paying more and more attention to SEO best practices. I quickly learned a while ago that Web writing and SEO were immutably tied and there’s really no way to separate the two skills. You need to be on your game with both skills or you’re never going to get the ball from the business players. Anyone who tells you differently probably sells replica watches from the trunk of his car on the side.
Optimizing WordPress for Search Engines with plugins
I’ve had a chance to try out several SEO plugs in for WordPress and here’s a list of some I think are worthwhile. This is one of the “your mileage may vary” things, so if you’re using plugins you think are better, please drop a note into comments and set me straight.
All in One SEO Pack: This plugin automatically does a lot of the SEO work for you such as optimizing your titles, meta tags, keyword and “noindex” attributes for categories and other pages. Let’s not argue about the value of meta tags, please. Some people think they’re no longer valid; some people think they are. You decide.
SEO Smart Links: Vladimir Prelovac’s plugin automatically links keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog.
SEO Friendly Images: This is another plugin from Prelovac, and it does just what the title says: Optimizes all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes.
Multipage Toolkit: This plugin offers more than plain-vanilla SEO such as making it easier for you to insert page breaks and page titles. The SEO part about this is that you can add custom separators between pages to add advertising code and images.
KB Robots.txt: When searchbots enter your site they request the robot.txt file for instructions on where to go. You can control that activity by editing your robots.txt file. The caveat is that if you have WP somewhere other than the top-level directory it won’t do anything for you.
Google Positioner: Everyone must know by now that “searchengineness” is all about keywords and keyword placement. How do you know what keywords searchers are using to find your site and how those keywords are performing for you? There are different ways to go about getting that info. This plugin just makes it easier.
Automatic SEO Links: Searchbots literally feed on inbound and outbound links. If you forget to put in your links, choose a word and a URL and this plugin will search and replace only the first reference to the sought-after word (too many of the same links will trigger an alarm in the searchbot that you might be gaming the system).
WordPress Tweaks: This one has several nifty features that make it useful beyond SEO, which is why I’m including it. However, as far as SEO goes, this plugin will show the tag cloud widget on the home page and post excerpts instead of the full page on the archive pages (which increases keyword exposure).
LinkLaunder: Getting links, as I mentioned, is a huge deal for SEO. LinkLaunder grabs links from other sites. I haven’t put this one to work yet, but I figured that I would mention it because it’s a compelling idea.
SEO Slugs: Want more search-engine friendly filenames? SEO Slugs strips articles, prepositions and other little words (e.g a, in, the), which improves SEO.
There are several other plugins that will help you with optimizing your site. You can find them in the WordPress Plugin Directory.
Increasingly, developers are introducing themes pre-packaged with SEO enhancements. If you’re launching a new blog or revamping an old one, take a look at some of the newer themes that have been spiffed with SEO functionality. It will make your life easier, I think.
Unfortunately, when I was looking around for a great-looking theme, all those that appealed to me cost some dough but I bought one any way. Things might be different now.
I paid something like $65 for Chris Pearson’s Thesis theme and I think it was well worth it. It sells for $85 now and I still think it’s worth it. And I’m the kind of guy who believes the best price is $Free. Check out the Thesis Gallery Showcase while you’re at it.
One of the nice things about the Thesis theme is that it’s search-engine friendly right out of the box. In fact, with the latest version of Thesis, I deactivated nearly all my SEO plug-ins.