WordPress SEO Tips

seo

I’ve always had questions about SEO, but nobody’s ever been able to explain it in such a way that sets out what it is, why it’s important and how I can benefit from it. This post aims to do exactly that, with the help of some people much more qualified to tell you about it than I am.

My thanks to three awesome people for their help in writing this: Nathan Rice, Lead Developer at Copyblogger Media, Jeff Starr, WordPress Editor at Smashing Magazine as well as author of the excellent Perishable Press and co-author of Digging into WordPress and finally Alex Moss, Head of SEO at Banc Media and a Partner at Pleer.

So what is SEO?

 SEO: “The optimization of web pages for success with search engines.”

Jeff hits the nail on the head when he describes SEO as “The optimization of web pages for success with search engines.” That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Alex’s definition takes us through the slightly more complex definition:

“SEO is a process where you try to make a page, pages or domain as a whole get as high up as possible in search engines for the keywords you choose to target. These keywords would be chosen through research based on how hard it would be to get to page 1. The effect of SEO is made from 2 sources – one being what you do to the site/page itself and the other is based on how other websites link to you.”

Why is it important?

It’s about optimizing your code and your content in a way that search engines find easy to understand.

I asked Nathan why SEO was so important: “To me, SEO is about optimizing your code and your content in a way that search engines find easy to parse. I know there is so much more to SEO, like acquiring backlinks, interlinking your content, pagerank sculpting, etc., but in terms of return on your time investment, code and content seem to matter the most, in my experience. ”

I also asked Alex whether you or I — average bloggers — should be paying for SEO to reap these amazing benefits:

“It depends on what you blog about and what you want to rank for. If you blog about iPads, it’s going to be practically impossible to rank on page 1 for iPad. This is because you will be in competition with companies who have more money and more resources. However, if you are a blogger who writes about a certain niche it would be easier to rank for the less competitive terms.”

The answer is more or less no, unless you’re trying to rank highly for a competitive keyword, in which case you’re probably not an average blogger.

So how do I optimise my content?

“My current SEO strategy is mostly aimed at optimizing for people not machines. Great content is still king.”
– Jeff Starr

Clearly, there’s something to be gained from “doing” SEO. I asked Jeff what he does to optimise content as Smashing Magazine WordPress Editor.

“Smashing Magazine has an existing SEO strategy that involves keywords, meta descriptions, permalink and title optimization, internal linking and much more. Additionally, I like to focus on anchor text, keywords, and above all quality content that will benefit the WP community. My current SEO strategy is mostly aimed at optimizing for people not machines. Great content is still king.”

I also asked Nathan to what extent having an “SEO optimised” is important, or whether just having a sensibly coded theme will do the job:

“A sensibly coded theme, along with a decent SEO plugin, will work for most people.
–Nathan Rice

“A sensibly coded theme, along with a decent SEO plugin, will work for most people. But all things being equal, a person with a theme coded with SEO as a specific goal (and data to back up the choices they make) will have an advantage. Markup output (HTML) matters. Speed matters. Control matters. These are things that only a well optimized theme can offer.

So yeah, any sensibly coded theme will do. But for a small investment, you can really step up your odds by going with a theme that is built for SEO.”

How can I benefit from it?

SEO plugins aren’t the set-it-and-forget-it kind of plugin, unfortunately. You actually have to do something with them in order to get them to work for you.

There are a couple of places I’d recommend you start. WPCandy has an excellent guide which runs down the basics.

It’s likely you’ve got some sort of SEO plugin installed; pretty much everyone has, and they improve your SEO, right? I mean, that’s what everyone says so it must be true. For years I had the All In One SEO plugin installed on another blog, but I never actually did anything with it. In hindsight that was incredibly silly, but at the time I thought I was improving my SEO. I mean, I had the plugin installed and everything!

SEO plugins aren’t the set-it-and-forget-it kind of plugin, unfortunately. You actually have to do something with them in order to get them to work for you.

I’m a big fan of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin, which has a number of awesome features — as well as the usual changing of the <title> and description, it handles XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs and can insert certain content at the beginning and end of your RSS feed.

Have a browse through WPCandy and get Yoast’s plugin. Read up and it’s likely you’ll not make the same mistake I did all those years ago.

Thanks again to Nathan, Jeff and Alex for their invaluable contributions.

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About the author

Hello, I'm Alex! I started WPShout in 2009, just before my 16th birthday. Get in touch with me, I'd love to chat. You should also follow me on Twitter :)

8 Comments

  • Alex… I’m impressed with your contacts. Forgive me for saying though, three interviewees and you get 5 or so paragraphs? Would have been nice to see a post which went a little bit beyond the generic 10,000 foot view I’ve seen on hundreds of other sites – especially with the people of the caliber you interviewed.

    Your comment from your own experience, about “setting it and forgetting it,” I thought was actually the most unique on the page and helpful. That part is very rarely mentioned in other SEO posts and even with Yoast’s plug-in it’s hard work. [I hope that while you had them on the phone you were able to get a lot more specific pointers for your own use - I know I sure would if I ever had the chance to talk to Jeff.]

    • Alex Denning

      I only spoke to the guys via email and asked them two questions each, so this is more or less all I had. It’s quality, not quantity ;)

      I had hoped to get a couple more opinions, but unfortunately Yoast didn’t have time to send through some thoughts, which meant the post was slightly shorter than I’d hoped, but I hope you still got the right idea from it all the same.

  • I couldn’t agree more on what Nathan said two most important things in SEO were – code and content.

    Making sure your content offers something of a a value and producing clean code which goes along with it makes search engines quite happy.

    I like to consider web-usability and accessibility a part of any SEO campaign and, in that spirit, I’d really like to see this background swapped for something more eye-friendly.

  • All in one seo is very usefull & simple to use,its great!
    thankyou

  • Awesome article! You guys take a very technical concept and translate for the average user. Nice!