How to properly SEO your WordPress site

SEO has evolved quite a bit from the olden times when you could keyword stuff your content / title and rank for any desired keyword. That combined with the fact that the market was no where near as saturated as it is today, people were able to rank and rake in quite a bit of profit from their internet marketing (SEO) projects. Since the latest Google updates however, no one is certain what factors actually contribute to website rankings as there are far too many anomalies in ranking data for many profitable keywords.

WordPress SEO

Most people believe that it is easier to manage on-page SEO factors with a HTML website than WordPress — this is a misconception as it is just as easy (if not easier) to automatically SEO your entire WordPress installation with the use of a few innovative and easy to use plugins. Since WordPress is very user friendly, it is a very popular CMS amongst novice and professional bloggers — in fact, WordPress powers approximately 50% of websites on the web.

If you’re a blogger or taking part in any form of internet marketing, chances are you’ve heard of or even personally used WordPress to build websites. I’ve personally used WordPress to build all of my blogs and set them all up in the same manner SEO wise — not one has ever failed me. The reason people believe that WordPress is not sufficient for SEO purposes is because some individuals are still in the mindset of ancient SEO. Nowadays, search engine optimization has evolved drastically and having keywords in your content (or following a specific set of “rules”) will not ensure high rankings; in reality, over optimization actually incurs penalties from Google and other search engines.

In my blogging career, I have built several websites with WordPress and set all of them up in the exact same manner SEO wise — it has never failed. The trick here is to cater your content / titles to people rather than search engines; this is what marketing is all about, but we’ll get more into that topic in a later post. Now, without getting too far off topic (I can ramble on at times), let’s get down to business.

Before you install any plugins or themes, the first change you want to make is to your native permalink structure. WordPress uses an extremely ugly default permalink structure which is not only not good for SEO but also doesn’t appear too attractive to your visitors.

WordPress Permalinks Set your permalink structure to either custom: %category%/%postname% or keep it set to the “Post Name” setting — either is perfectly fine.

Tags vs. Categories

WordPress offers users two ways to organize their posts — through tags or categories. It is recommended that you use either one or the other for your website. If your categories are descriptive, there is no need for tags (and vice versa). Since tag clouds are now depreciated for SEO, my personal recommendation is to just use categories and not put too much focus on adding post tags as they are not essential nor important.

The only time I use tags is when the category keyword is not enough to describe the post (usually when the post has several sub-topics).

WordPress SEO Themes

Most WordPress themes now a days are designed with on-page SEO in mind, including the basic themes that come native with WordPress. When choosing a theme for your website, there a few things you need to look out for:

  • Is the theme attractive and suited to your website’s niche? (this is not for SEO necessarily but important nonetheless)
  • Is the post title in H1 tags? Is the website title in H1 tags (on home page)

People go into far too much detail in an attempt to SEO their WP theme when in reality, all you need to make sure is that the post title is wrapped in H1 tags. Since the post title describes what your article will be about and in most cases contains the keyword you are trying to target, the H1 tag helps ensure the search engines know what your post / article is about.

Again, as I’ve mentioned before, do not write your title with search engines in mind but rather your audience — you want to make the title attractive yet descriptive with the keywords you are trying to target. As an example, let’s take this post into account; the article is trying to target the keywords “WordPress SEO” but as you can see, the title doesn’t necessarily focus on that keyword. “SEO” and “WordPress” are mentioned separately and the use of the word “properly” intriguse users to click through to read the article. Old minded SEO’s may argue that the title needs to contain “WordPress SEO” in that exact order to achieve desired results — but a simple search on Google will reveal that is not the case.

When trying to find a theme for your website, don’t worry too much about the SEO aspect of it. Instead, as stated above, focus on finding a theme that will attract viewers and prosper conversions (which is the ultimate goal).

WordPress SEO Plugins

There are plenty of free and premium SEO plugins available on the market for WordPress — but there is one that stands out above the rest (and it’s free). The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin is the best (in my opinion) and I’m sure many other users will agree.

The plugin is quite self-explanatory with an extremely detailed guide to help users properly SEO their WordPress sites. The plugin can be easily setup with the detailed explanations available under each individual setting — but I will still go over some of the more important settings that need to be configured.

Yoast SEO Titles The main settings allow you to set the titles for each individual post type as well as the homepage. Go to Help tab to view available variables. Make sure setting in picture to left is set (click to enlarge).
Yoast SEO Social Adding OpenGraph meta data to your site will ensure that socially sharing your website pulls the right content. Make sure to set your homepage logo as well as a default image in case there is none for your post(s). Set your site’s Twitter username (optional).
SEO XML Sitemap The sitemap helps Google easily see the structure of your website (for better rankings according to them). Make sure to create an XML sitemap and submit it to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
WordPress SEO Permalinks Use the settings outlined in the picture. The first option will merely strip the word “category” from your category archives. The second checked option will make sure all the link juice flows to your posts instead of attachment URL’s.
Internal Links Breadcrumbs are not a necessity but make it easier for your visitors to understand the structure of your website (and easily navigate back and forth between internal pages). If your theme does not come with breadcrumbs, you can enable them here and embed them manually into your theme files.

Once you’ve setup the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, you’re ready to move onto configuring the other plugins to make your website completely search engine optimized. Fortunately, the next few plugins won’t require much configuration — they just need to be installed and activated.

  • Broken Link Checker
  • Broken link checker will scan all the links on your website and alert you via email (as well as on the main dashboard) if any broken links are found. You can then easily go to the post / page where the link is located and either replace it or remove it.

  • Related Posts
  • The reason I did not link this is because there are quite a few related posts plugin to choose from. Personally, I prefer the Efficient Related Posts plugin as it is lightweight and easy to configure, but you can pick whichever one you would like (just make sure it doesn’t slow down your website). Showing related posts will not only foster further visitor interaction but it will also create internal links that will pass link juice to other relevant content on your website.

  • WP Super Cache
  • WP Super Cache will store static content in cache so that it can load faster for your site visitors. This will drastically improve load time and help improve your rankings as Google has clearly stated that page speed is a factor in search engine rankings. You can always check your page speed here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/.

  • WP No External Links
  • This plugin is optional but still helpful. When you write a post and link out to another website, you are passing link juice to that URL. This plugin will let you mark external URL’s as internal URL’s or automatically add a rel="nofollow tag to your outgoing links. Personally, I prefer the second option as masking your external links can hurt your rankings.

Besides the plugins stated above, the only other plugin you should consider installing is the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin to help track your website with Analytics. Tracking is extremely important to understand how to optimize your traffic for higher conversion rates (but more on that later).

Before I close, here are just a few more WordPress SEO tips:

  • Use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to write individual meta titles and descriptions for each of your posts (the description should summarize the post)
  • Write engaging content aimed at users and not search engines. This will nurture natural link building to your website
  • Set a featured image for each of your posts. This image will be the one used every time your article or post is shared socially
  • Organize your website structure properly. Group posts into appropriate categories so visitors have an easy time navigating your site.

That’s about it guys and gals, I hope you found this post helpful! Look forward to more SEO and marketing related posts in the near future.

Comments, questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Boxing Week 2012 Web Hosting Deal

Boxing Day 2012 Web Hosting Sale

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from everyone here at WireNine! To keep up with Canadian traditions, WireNine is having a boxing week sale — users will receive 80% off their shared hosting plans along with a free domain (for the lifetime of their account).

Black Friday was a little messy with tons of different coupon codes for different discounts, so we decided to clean it up a little bit this time with a single coupon code. Without getting into too much detail, here are the details for the coupon:

80% Off Shared Web Hosting Plans + FREE Domain*. Use coupon:

holiday2012


Click here to see all web hosting plans

*FREE Domain only eligible with 1, 2 or 3 year billing cycles.

You won’t find a better web hosting deal than this! With 80% off, you can get our Starter plan for only $35.64 for 3 full years WITH a FREE domain name for the lifetime of your account. Don’t miss out, this deal is only valid from December 26 – December 31.

NOTE: New and current customers are both eligible for the boxing day sale. Offer not valid for renewals — new accounts only.

WireNine Increases Reseller Hosting Quotas and Introduces WHMCS

WireNine Logo

We just recently announced the addition of a third client, billing and support management software — WHMCS. Many resellers may already be familiar with WHMCS as its a top choice amongst web hosts thanks to its vast number of features. We also offer HostBill and ClientExec for those that are not interested in WHMCS. With the introduction of a third client management software, we have also increased disk space and bandwidth quotas across all reseller plans to be more competitive in the industry.

All three billing softwares are included absolutely free of charge with Level 2+ reseller plans. For more details, check out our reseller hosting page.

11/07/2012 — WireNine’s reliability comes guaranteed, and their reseller hosting plans are packed with features that put them well ahead of the pack, with increased bandwidth and storage allowances recently announced to keep them well ahead of their competition. As well as offering superior hardware to anyone subscribing to a Reseller Hosting package, they now offer the most complete range of software options available from any provider.

WireNine is one of a few reseller hosting companies that provides HostBill as an easy to use client, support and billing management software together with ClientExec for resellers on packages above level two. WireNine has also recently introduced WHMCS as a third option for resellers looking to effectively manage their clients, billing and support all from the same panel. WHMCS is one of the most comprehensive and best-reviewed hosting management systems available on the market.

WHMCS is provided free of charge to all customers using a Level two or above reseller hosting plan, which would normally cost $249 to purchase from WHMCS directly. It provides automatic, easy-to-use client management and billing for web hosts and online businesses with unprecedented flexibility and options. The complimentary package also includes access to WHMCS’ server status overview, a comprehensive knowledgebase as well as a support ticket system and downloads area. The software provides full-spectrum automated billing processes with associated accounting and reporting features, and automatically creates, suspends & terminates accounts in accordance with these features. This allows resellers to supervise the software while requiring very little personal grind.

Combining this full-spectrum software offering with the recent space and bandwidth increases, WireNine is poised to be the most comprehensive provider on the net.

A spokesperson for WireNine explained, “We’ve done everything we can to make our reseller hosting packages as competitive and industry-leading as we can. From our 99.9% uptime guarantee, to our commitment to pricing transparency with no hidden fees or charges, and a 60 day risk free satisfaction guarantee, we take customer service very seriously. But it’s ultimately our product that sets us apart, with cutting edge servers having at minimum 8 core Intel Xeon CPUs, 8GB+ DDR3 ECC RAM, multiple drives with hardware RAID10 for fast performance and redundancy. This combination can’t be beaten.”

StumbleUpon Gets a Fresh New Look

To my fellow stumblers, if you haven’t signed on to StumbleUpon recently, you may have missed that the social bookmarking giant recently went through a complete site re-design. As opposed to their previous design which was quite clunky (in my honest opinion), StumbleUpon has taken some design aspects from Pinterest, improved upon the color scheme drastically to come up with the nicely laid out and easy to use interface they have now.

The site now allows you to browse your interests in a Pinterest fashion with color coded interests to help you distinguish between shared content. Although StumbleUpon has updated their site design, they have not eliminated the popular “Stumble” option which allows you to view pages one by one based on your interests.

StumbleUpon New Design

As you can see from the above image, you still have access to all the cool features StumbleUpon is known for — now just with a fresh new and easy to navigate design. For anyone that uses StumbleUpon for social media marketing (and you should if you don’t), the trending topics as well as the activity of your friend’s on the site is a great way to maintain communication with potential clients. If you establish a strong relationship with fellow stumblers (with the same interests as yours), you can drastically increase your site’s traffic all around; but more on that later.

In any case, we didn’t notice too many “new” features to point out with the re-design, but StumbleUpon did add something called StumbleDNA; here’s how they describe what this new feature is all about:

Your StumbleDNA is a representation of your Likes. It’s also a quick way to see what you and other Stumblers have in common.

Every page a Stumbler likes belongs to an Interest. All of the Interests on StumbleUpon map to one of fourteen larger categories that are represented by a unique color (see below). The number of Likes a Stumbler has per category determines the amount of a category’s color in the Stumbler’s DNA. As you Like more content, your DNA will change to reflect what you Like.

You may disagree with me, but I think that’s a pretty cool feature (although I don’t see any marketing benefits). Look forward to more information on how to use StumbleUpon to market your website or business in an effective manner.

Until then, what do you think of the new StumbleUpon? Like or dislike, leave your comments below!

How to Optimize and Speed Up Your WordPress Blog

Did you know that site speed is one of the most important factors in determining your conversion rate? A study done by KISSmetrics analytics determined that if your website has not loaded within 4 seconds, you are already losing one in four of your potential converting visitors. In fact, you not only lose visitors by having a slow loading website, but you also sacrifice your search engine rankings as Google and most other search engines use page speed as a ranking factor.

Page Speed vs. Bounce Rate

Firstly, before you even get started on optimizing your website, you should check out your current page speed and then decide whether or not you need to optimize. It’s helpful to compare your page speed to your competitors to determine whether or not speeding up your website would ultimately be worth it to increase rankings or visitor retention.

Tips to Speed Up WordPress

  1. Remove unnecessary plugins
  2. Many people use the thousands of available WordPress plugins to dress up their websites and add extended functionality. What most people don’t realize however is that extensive plugin usage only degrades your site’s performance and thus it is important to only utilize plugins that are absolutely necessary for your website. When deciding on which plugins to keep and which ones to delete, just ask yourself whether that plugin is ultimately benefiting your conversion rate; if its not, then deactivate/delete it.

    There are several plugins that make calls to external websites which can drastically slow down your site’s performance — try to avoid these plugins as much as possible and remove all other unnecessary plugins as well. This does not mean that the usage of any plugin is bad for your website; it just goes to say that using a ton of useless plugins that don’t really benefit you in anyway or contribute to your goals should be removed to help improve page speed.

  3. Use a WordPress cache plugin
  4. Caching is the process of storing any static parts of your website so that they only need to load once instead of on every single page load. Since most WordPress sites are mostly static, using a cache plugin can help drastically improve performance. When it comes to picking a cache plugin for WordPress, you have the option to choose between:

    • W3 Total cache
    • W3 Total Cache is meant for more advanced users due to its extensive number of available options but is also good for the beginner who wants to employ its basic functionality. There are plenty of guides available online to help you use the plugin to optimize your website; be careful however as incorrect settings can actually break your website.

    • WP Super Cache
    • WP Super Cache is an easy to use plugin that can be setup within a few seconds after installation. Simply install the plugin and turn caching on — or modify more advanced settings if you feel comfortable.

      WP Super Cache Settings

  5. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  6. Content delivery networks use server nodes nearest to the location of your visitor to serve your website — ultimately making your site load much faster. CloudFlare is an extremely well performing CDN that is available absolutely free of charge with any of WireNine’s hosting plans and can be activated from within cPanel. If you are not hosted with WireNine, you can also manually sign up to CloudFlare on their website and follow their simple step-by-step instructions to set up your website on a CDN.

  7. Optimize your WordPress database
  8. When you write new posts and save them as drafts or uninstall plugins, all that data is saved within your database. Having a large database can drastically slow down your website, especially if you are on a shared web hosting plan. Fortunately, there’s a plugin to help you optimize your database; use WP-DBManager to optimize & repair your WordPress database.

  9. Compress images on your website
  10. Images are usually the slowest loading aspect of any website (depending on image size), and if your website is jam packed full of images it only makes sense that your website will load slowly. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to optimize your images and make them load faster — however, you should first remove any images that are not necessary for your blog.

    Sometimes however, when your whole website is based around images (such as galleries), all you can do to increase your page speed is to optimize your images; use the tips below to speed up your image load time:

    • Use the best image format
    • Two of the best image formats to use online are JPEG and PNG. JPEG images will usually lose quality upon size reduction (compression) whereas PNG is considered a lossless compression format but can’t be reduced to the same degree as JPEG images.

      Image Compression Formats

      The image quality is dependent on the format; sometimes you may be able to produce a JPEG duplicate of a PNG image that is actually smaller in size and vice-versa. If you’re ever in doubt, just save your image in both formats and compare them side by side for quality loss.

    • Use WP smush.it to decrease image size
    • The WP smush.it plugin uses Yahoo’s smush.it service to reduce image size without compromising quality — and it can reduce the size anywhere from 5% to 50%.

    • Use Lazy Load for your images
    • The lazy load plugin essentially loads only the images visible in the user’s browser window (above the fold) and will load the remaining images on the page as the user scrolls down. This is especially helpful for websites that have galleries embedded within their posts as WordPress will not load all images at once but only a few at a time (using jQuery) to improve your visitor’s experience and the page load time as well.

    • Use image sprites instead of regular images
    • Image sprites are only intended to be used by advanced users as they require complex CSS modifications to function correctly. Sprites essentially allow you to display multiple images on your website from a single image by defining co-ordinates on an imaginary axis of your single image. This can drastically improve page speed as your website will now be loading a single image rather than multiple separate images.

If you follow the above tips, you can drastically speed up your WordPress installation and not only improve your overall conversion rate, but even your search engine rankings which will consequently bring in more traffic to your website. Keep in mind that you want to host your website with a reliable hosting provider to ensure your host is not affecting your page speed — a lot of low quality hosting companies will pack their servers full of customers severely degrading the shared hosting experience.

If you have any questions or suggestions, share them by commenting below!