How to Optimize WordPress Sites for the Search Engines

By Ryan Cruz | Small Business

A Fundamental WordPress SEO Guide

While there’s a lot of information out there on how to install wordpress and how to optimize it for the search engines, I felt that there’s a need to create this guide because some contains outdated information and wrong information.

I don’t claim to be the sole “expert” on wordpress seo, but I’d like to share what’s working for me. I’ll share every detail when I’m optimizing my websites for the search engines. These methods are what’s working for me even after the dreaded Panda and Penguin updates (Google’s Search engine Algorithm updates).

I hope that you’ll find this tutorial helpful, and easy to digest. If you liked this article, let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

This guide is intended for people who are:

  • new to wordpress (self hosted wordpress installations – not
  • have existing self-hosted wordpress sites but don’t know how to optimize their existing website for the search engines.

This guide is divided into 3 Sections:

  • Step by Step Process to Optimize your WordPress Websites for SEO
  • Best SEO Plugins for WordPress
  • Creating a Robots.txt file

Feel free to Jump to these sections anytime.

Follow these steps to optimize your WordPress Blogs for the Search Engines

1. Initially, you’ll want to create a clear plan of your site’s structure. If you have an existing site, you’ll want to create a silo structure (categories) for relevant keywords and content on your website. WordPress does a great job in creating categories and subpages on your website and you can use this structure to improve your chances of ranking high in the search engines.

A tool that I use to help me visualize categories and the site structure on my website is by using a MindMap. I’m using a free online mindmap tool called, Mind42 which helps me create these guides:

How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines image Mind Map3How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines

* The first WORDPRESS setting that you need to change here would be your Permalink settings.

Simply login to your WordPress Dashboard page, and Navigate to the Settings (Left sidebar) then click on Permalinks.

Change your Permalink Structure to /%category%/%postname%-%post_id%/ then Click Save Changes

This is the permalink structure that I’m using for most of my websites.

* The 2nd step is to install WP No Category Plugin which will remove the word /category/ in your permalink structure.

If you install this plugin, it will cleanup your URLs and you’ll end up with keyword rich URLs that the search engines love.

2. Install SEO Plugins 

For many years, I’ve used All in One SEO plugin as my SEO tool and it worked great. But today, we have better alternatives which supports a lot of function that all in one seo doesn’t have.

There are 2 plugins that deserves notable mention, but you can only use one at a time. You need to deactivate the other if you are already using one of them.

These SEO Plugins are:

a. SEO Ultimate

b. WordPress SEO by Yoast

Both plugins have meta data controls (so that you can change Titles, Descriptions, Keywords) on your posts and pages. They both allow you to speed up Google Webmaster Verification. They also allow easy integration of Google Analytics.

Here are the best functions of each plugin:

a. SEO Ultimate – This plugin allows you to quickly glance at the entire Meta Data of your website in one page. This is really helpful, if you are trying to change the Titles of several pages. (see image below)

How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines image Title Tag Rewriter3How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines

b. WordPress by Yoast  – the feature that I love the most on these plugin is that it assists me in determining if my website has a Good “SEO” score. For people who are not confident if they are creating content that is optimized for the search engines, then this plugin can be really helpful. It reminds you if your keywords are not found in the Title, H1 Tags, URL, content and Meta Description.

How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines image Wordpress SEO by Yoast 1024x6233How to Optimize Wordpress Sites for the Search Engines

*Both of these plugins have other useful settings for SEO. Make sure that you also generate a sitemap and submit the sitemap URL to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster tools so that these search engines can crawl and find your content.

3. Create a Robots.txt File

This file allows you to specify which folders and pages on your website should not be crawled by the search engines. You can usually find them at the root folder of your domain. Specifying Robots.txt is one way of preventing people from spying on your private folders, and it also prevents the search engines from creating duplicate content issues.

The robots.txt for this site is

User-agent: *
 Allow: /
 Disallow: /wp-content
 Disallow: /cgi-bin
 Disallow: /uses
 Disallow: /go
 Disallow: /wp-admin
 Disallow: /wp-content
 Disallow: /wp-includes
 Disallow: /tag

This means that you are instructing the search engines not to crawl these folders and they won’t show up in the search results.

*Note – Using Robots.txt doesn’t prevent people from accessing your URL and folder. If they know the URL, they can still browse it. The best way to prevent people from accessing specific urls on your website is to use some membership software like S2member which allows you to specify public and private posts.

And there you have it, these are the fundamental steps to WordPress SEO. 

(The original article on wordpress seo can be found on my wordpress blog)

Are your websites Optimized for the search engines? Let me know in the comments below.

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