WordPress SEO – Part 1: Getting Started
This is part one of a three part tutorial covering everything you need to know to use WordPress 3.x for your business website or Blog and more importantly, to ensure your blog is best configured for SEO and Internet Marketing.
In part 1 we will take a look at getting a solid foundation in place so choosing a theme, the physical construction of the site, essential plugins, analytics, webmaster tools and last but certainly not least, making sure you have a solid back-up mechanism in place.
In part 2 we will look at the physical optimisation of the software, removing any potential problem areas and duplication and finally, in part 3 we will look at some simple conversion tracking and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) using google analytics and other free tools to measure the success of your marketing efforts.
WordPress Hosting – Building a solid base
Speed is an important factor for search engines but also for your users, a slow loading page is click back to the search results for me so make sure you use a hosting package that meets the requirements of your blog. Whilst WordPress itself is free don’t think you can use the cheapest bit of hosting you can find and get away with it – hosting for £1 a month is great, if it’s a hobby site but your business deserves better.
If the blog has almost guaranteed traffic then a virtual private server (VPS) will provide a good base with plenty of room to grow and Rackspace offer some great packages. If you are not quite there yet a standard shared hosting package from a quality host will do the job but make sure you are measuring performance (more on that later) so if your site slows down, you can move forward.
There is a bunch of clever stuff you can do to speed up WordPress itself but in most cases, a good hosting package will give you all the speed you need and we will cover some performance optimisations for large, busy blogs at a later date.
Most hosting companies will offer a ‘1 click install’ for WordPress making installation a no brainer. If you are using a dedicated or virtual server this may be a bit more complicated, not a lot but it maybe a job worth getting some help with. For the brave, there is a tutorial here.
Choosing the right theme
Once you have got your hosting sorted and installed WordPress the next job is to choose the right theme. Not to say you won’t get your designer to modify the theme for you and brand it up but ensuring you have a quality theme in the first instance will pay dividends and is a process you should be involved in.
We are looking for the following at a minimum
- well coded to take advantage of modern standards (HTML5 / CSS3)
- cross browser compatibility
- a mobile theme for your on-the-go & bandwidth challenged users
- optimised loading times
In an ideal world we would also like the following features
- granular control over widgets (what goes where)
- simple update process with verification of modified files
- theme specific plugins and widgets that just work
- ability to add google analytics tracking code
- social sharing functionality to enable easy sharing of your content
Ultimately, much of what is given here, we could do ourselves, but by choosing a theme that has most of what we need and has taken care of optimising loading times, the semantic structure of the generated HTML, cross browser support and the like, we are just saving ourselves a whole bunch of work / cost / trouble.
There are a bunch of great theme providers for WordPress, too many to mention here but I will put a WordPress links article together for Saturdays Likeable Links and will drop in all my favourites with a few notes. If you can’t wait till then you may want to checkout Pagelines.com, Yootheme.com and Woothemes.com for starters.
Essential WordPress SEO Plugins
Not every one’s needs are the same and if WordPress or your theme tried to include everything you may need it would end up bloated, slow and unusable so, we will need to install a few plugins to make sure we have all the SEO bells and whistles at our fingertips.
The best WordPress SEO plugin by a country mile. Pop over to Yoast.com for a full breakdown of what we can do with this baby and tomorrow we will go over exactly how to configure this to tick all the SEO boxes for your WordPress installation. Also, I could not write this without giving a quick nod to Yoast, he pretty much wrote the book on WordPress SEO and if you have not read his WordPress SEO article, you may want to skip over there and give it a read.
Note: The guide over at Yoast.com was put together before his own plugin existed and subsequently is a little out of date. It’s still a great read, but the list of plugins recommended are not required and nearly everything can now be done with this plugin. Worry not, we will cover everything in tomorrows WordPress SEO tutorial.
URL redirection has an important place in the optimisation of all websites and if you are optimising an existing blog then this plugin can save you hours of painful regular expression coding (if you don’t know what that means, just trust me, it’s a good thing). The plugin allows us to redirect one page to another, automates the redirection of changed page names and logs all 404 errors for painless redirection.
We will cover this plugin in more detail tomorrow but it is completely essential.
3. Social Sharing
Getting your content read is our primary goal so enabling people to share it is an important part of that. Additionally, social metrics are starting to play an ever bigger in role in SEO so getting those likes, tweets and +1’s should be on your radar now more than ever. You may have technically covered this off with your theme but if not, there are various options.
There are tons of these and the only big difference is visual so take a look around and see what you like if the the above suggestions don’t float your boat.
We want to know everything about your traffic so we can try to get more of it and make the most of what we have so we will want to install Google analytics. This may be supported by your chosen theme so certainly check the theme settings page first but if not this Google Analytics Plugin will do the job.
Both Google and Bing provide webmaster tools so you can see your site through the eyes of the search engine so whilst this is not a WordPress specific tip, be sure to get registered with Google Webmaster Tools so you can use that information. Google & Bing Webmaster Tools need verification but this can be easily done in the Yoast SEO Plugin dashboard (more on that tomorrow but if you are doing that bit now click on the SEO > Dashboard and enter the meta values to simplify verification).
Right, this is where it gets a bit boring, I know, but you simply have to keep things up-to-date. Fortunately WordPress makes this pretty damn easy and you can run automatic updates for the WordPress core and your plugins from the back-end. Updating your themes may take a little more work if you have modified them but this is where using a premium theme vendor comes in really useful and the yootheme options allow you to easily see modified files so you can merge your changes. Still, things can go wrong so it’s useful to make sure you have a comprehensive set of…
Backups smackups right? Who needs ‘em? Well, you do buddy, WordPress, just like any system can get hacked if it is not looked after then having a solid backup strategy and a painless path to recovery is all part of getting a solid foundation in place.
You can do this yourself by backing up the database and files and there are even plugins that simplify this but YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT. So, my advice is to use an automated backup system and the best one out there is called VaultPress. This is a true, enterprise level backup solution for your WordPress site and if you are going to put all this effort into content and SEO then lets get it backed up!
That’s it folks
So there you have it, a good foundation for your WordPress site and Internet Marketing. Be sure to swing by next week for a look at the physical optimisation of the blog software and again the following week for a look at some conversion tracking and optimisation. If you want a heads up when these posts go live follow me on Twitter or Google+ and ill give you a shout.
If you want to get this done professionally then give me a shout and I can get you set up from scratch with hosting, a theme, WordPress optimisation, maintenance and back-ups. If you have a blog and are just looking for a UK or Birmingham WordPress SEO Consultant to help you get more bang from your blog then likewise, just get in touch.
If you have any questions then please drop a comment below or get me on Twitter. If you know anyone else who would benefit from reading this then please share it with the social sharing buttons below the comment box.