If you blog (and you should), it doesn’t get any better than WordPress. We here at Rocket Matter are unabashed evangelizers for the self-hosted WordPress platform.
But there are millions of blogs out there. To stand out you’ll need quality, current content. Search – Google, Yahoo, Bing — drives traffic. So you’ll also need a site that’s optimized to make search engines find you.
Companies have dedicated positions. consultants, even entire departments devoted to search engine optimized (SEO) strategy and implementation.
But with SEO enhanced infrastructure, themes and plugins, WordPress provides many of the basic and not-so-basic elements for an optimized blogging experience.
Here are 5 tips with accompanying plugins for a quick and easy, do-it-yourself way to get your posts discovered, ranked and read.
It’s important to make your site look pretty and engaging, but search engines go right for your content. Google loves fresh content. Write relevant, useful content, but think about the key words and phrases someone would use to find your post and use them throughout the post.
Go ahead and write the occasional tome, but generally, 400-700 words per post works well.
Plugin: WordPress SEO – Yoast’s all in one SEO solution for your WordPress blog: SEO titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs & much more.
Bonus plugin (premium): Scribe – Suggests keywords, analyzes content and has a link building tool. I’ve used this and it rocks.
Bonus theme (premium): Thesis – Airtight SEO, incredible design flexibility, and lightning-fast loading times. This theme has a bit of a learning curve, but once learned, it’s invaluable. I also use this for a couple of my blogs.
Keep your title to less than 70 characters — generally, 10 words or less — since this is the limit Google displays in search results. Search engines put more weight on words at the beginning of your title, so try to place your keywords there.
Good titles evoke an emotional response. Ask a question. Offer a solution. Make lists (like we did with this post).
Plugin: HeadSpace – a powerful all-in-one plugin to manage meta-data and handle a wide range of SEO tasks. The afore mentioned Scribe also does a great job.
Add textual content to your images. Search engines look for title and alt tags in link and image tags. Assign titles and alt tags for all images.
Good descriptions and words make your site more accessible and helps provide more content for search engines to digest.
Plugin: SEO Image – automatically adds alt and title attributes to all your images, improving traffic from search engines.
A blog that loads quickly allows search engines to crawl more pages. Google uses site speed in web search ranking.
If you are a site owner, webmaster or a web author, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:
- Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
- YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
- WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
There are a few infrastructure tweaks that facilitate a faster load time, but if you’re like most of us and acronyms like CSS, HTML and PHP make you run for cover, caching plugins will do the trick.
Plugin: WP Super Cache – a very fast caching engine for WordPress
Internal links to related posts and pages on your blog facilitate a more favorable bounce rate (the amount of time visitors spend on your site). An example is the first link in this post to a prior WordPress article that we produced on this blog.
Plugin: Efficient Related Posts – links to related posts are added at the end of each new post.
These are very basic tips that you can do right away to increase your site’s ranking and drive traffic to your blog. They’re not rigid and depending on time and budget constraints, some flexibility and experimentation is expected, even encouraged.