Lower Head

Make Your WordPress Site SEO Ready

Make Your WordPress Site SEO Ready

Getting the most ROI from your blog starts with choosing which platform you’ll use, and continues with getting your blog ready for promotion on social media. Discover the benefits of using WordPress, how to install it on your site and which plug-ins will make your life easier.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • Why you should own the platform where you blog
  • Tips for installing WordPress and customizing it
  • The pros and cons of putting your content out via RSS feeds
  • How to prep your WordPress site for social media

Speaker: Stoney deGeyter, CEO and Project Manager

Watch Time: 00:31:27

Download How to: Make Your WordPress Site Search Engine Friendly & Web Marketing Ready slides on SlideShare.

[Video Transcript]

Hi there. Thanks for joining us. Today we’re going to talk about how to make your WordPress website search engine friendly and web marketing ready. We’re specifically focusing on WordPress itself, looking at some of the details, functionality of WordPress. But a lot of the issues here you can take and apply over into other sites on other CMSs, or even an HTML platform. Your settings will be different and the functionality, but overall, in general, you’re going to get a sense of what you do need to do in order to be search friendly and ready for a site that can be marketed to the search engines.

Real quick, this is me. I’m Stoney deGeyter. I do web presence optimization. I’ve got a team of people with me. And this is kind of my version of search engine optimization or web marketing, where really, everything comes down to the web presence. And that is what we focus on, not just one area, but all of them. You can follow me on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, and here is the locations. You can also check out my book, “The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist.” And, of course, there’s my company, Pole Position Marketing. We can help you out with any of your web marketing needs.

All right, so let’s jump into this and talk about setting up your blog. And again, we’re kind of focusing on WordPress here, but overall, we’re going to take a step back and look at, what do you need to make your blog, or even your website, search engine friendly and ready to be marketed?

First of all, you’ve got to choose a blogging platform. There’s a lot of different platforms, a lot of different options. Really, what you’ve got to do is look at what you need. Do you need something easy? Do you need something low cost, or is cost not an issue for you? Do you want something that’s more robust, and maybe you have to pay for, or a little bit less robust, but you get that at a minimal expense? You also want something that’s search engine friendly. And overall, when you are, if you are planning to engage in web marketing, you want to make sure you have ownership, and that is crucial. You don’t want to be on a blogging platform that doesn’t give you that ownership.

And there are a number of free blogging platforms that are very good for people who just want to get out there and start blogging, and ownership isn’t a critical issue. You’ve got Blogger, LiveJournal, tumblr, posterous, all of these are free platforms that you can just jump on, create an account and start blogging. Now, the content, it’s your content, but the platform, because of the way it’s set up, it’s on their domain name and they own it. They can shut you down at any time and you lose all of your content. They can decide if they go out of business, you lose all of your content.

So there’s some setbacks to having these free platforms. They can be very good, but again, depending on your needs, if you’re looking for long term web marketing ability, you really want to look beyond these free platforms and go with something that is hosted, which means you buy your own domain name. You pay for web hosting and then you install these platforms on your server space.

And again, there are a number of options here. You’ve got Squarespace, Joomla, Drupal, concrete5, TypePad, Movable Type and, of course, WordPress. And that’s, you know, personally my favorite. But you have a lot of different options, so you want to look at these and figure out what’s going to work best with the platform that you’re on or with your web host company or whatever your needs are.

Let’s look at a few of the differences between the two. Free platform, obviously, it’s free. Hey, that’s great. The hosted platforms, not so much. You do have to pay for the hosting. You got to pay for the domain name, but other than that, some of them, you know, are free beyond that. Some of them, you might have to subscribe to, pay something. But again, you just got to look into those variables and those differences there. The free platforms, like I said, you just go in, create an account and it’s done. The hosted require a little bit of technical set up. You might have to do some installations there. Some web hosts do easy installs for WordPress and some of these other platforms, kind of a click of a button. So it can be very easy, but again, it is going to be a little bit more technical than the create account and go type.

The free versions, easy templates, but you’re going to get a lot of similarities. The hosted platforms, you have a lot of customizability, but you have a lot of options to customize what you’re trying to do, your look and your feel of your site. And you can really own it. The free versions, you get a generic URL versus the hosted versions. You can buy the URL of your choice as long as it’s available. So you have a lot of options there.

The free version, very fast indexing in the search engines because they host those, those free versions have a lot of different blogs on there. There’s regular content going out, so the search engines are aware of that and they’re regularly going out and indexing that content. On the hosted versions, you’re going to have to do some promotion on your own. And that’s where the web marketing aspect comes in and whatnot.

The free versions, as I mentioned, you can be censored. You do not own that content. You do not have the freedom to say and do whatever you want. They can shut you down without any notice whatsoever. The hosted version, you own the content. Even if your web host shuts you down, you can take your content and move it to another web host, again, provided you have backups, which I highly recommend you always back up your data. But if your web host shuts you down because they don’t like you, you can take your content and you can move it somewhere else, get it set up and you’re good to go. So, you’ve got to look at these and decide what is the direction that you want to go.

And of course, that decision is entirely yours to make. I’m not going to try and influence that decision in any way. However, what I will do is just continue on this presentation with the idea of focusing on WordPress, not because it’s any better than anybody else, but, you know, because it is.

So, let’s look at setting up a hosted blog. First thing you got to do is buy your domain name. You know, look for the domain name that you want. There’s a lot of options still out there, and of course, everybody thinks the good domain names are taken, especially all the good dot coms. And that may be true for the most obvious things that you’re looking for. But that just causes you to get a little creative and maybe look for something a little less obvious. And just look around and do some digging until you find something that really works for you.

You want to find stellar hosting. It’s really important. Hosting can make or break a website. If the hosting’s bad and it slows your server down, or you have a slow server, you’re going to have trouble connecting with people. They’re not going to want to wait around for your site to load. And then, you want to make sure that you install your blogging software. And if you got platforms such as WordPress, you can use that for a blog. You can use that for your main site, or you can use your main site, you know, do that separate and just install WordPress for your blog. But either way, you do have to install that platform if you’re going the hosted route. So you might want to get a developer involved to help you install that, and, of course, customize it to your liking.

WordPress used to offer a five minute install, and I’m not sure if they do that anymore, only because I haven’t gotten in and installed WordPress in a long time. But a lot of them are one click installs, whether it’s through WordPress, or whether it’s through your web host company. They make it very easy now to install. It requires very little technical capability. I’m not a programmer, but I have installed a number of WordPress sites using that five minute install option. Just make sure you install it in the correct place, and then you got to find a theme. Find something that fits your personality, that’s going to work for what you’re trying to do. Or get a designer who can customize, a designer and a programmer, who can manipulate. Maybe start with a basic theme and manipulate that for you into something a little bit different and something a little more fitting for what your needs are.

Okay, so next we’re going to move on to optimizing your WordPress site for search. And this is where we’re going to get into the settings for WordPress. And this will be specific for WordPress, but whatever platform you’re using, you might look for similar settings and see what are the options, what are some of the things that you can do.

The first thing you want to do is set the default address to use www. , or set it to use without. You want to just put in your domain name and put that in there. And right here under general settings, site address, make sure you get your full URL in there in the way that you want it to, whether you want to go https, if you’re going with or without the www. Make sure you put it in here and then use that consistently throughout the website when you’re doing any linking or anything else that you’re using that format.

Allow search engines to index your site, and that’s very, very important if you want to get out there and let the search engines find you and let other people find you through the search engines. So find the setting that allows you to turn on search engine visibility. This is a great feature to click and say, no, I don’t want anybody to come to the site when you’re in development. When you’re setting up a domain name and you don’t want anybody to go there, if you don’t have a separate development server, you can click this here. It says, hey, you know what, search engines, don’t come to my site. Leave me alone. Just make sure when you roll your site out, you’re ready to go live, you come back and you uncheck this. Otherwise, you’re going to have trouble and wonder why people aren’t coming to your site. One little thing, one little check box can make a world of difference.

Next, you want to set your URL structure. And this is setting the structure of all of your posts and pages and posts going forward, how do you want them to read? And WordPress has a few different options. You got the default, where does a parameter page equals whatever. You can do it date and time. You can do it month. You can do a numeric number.

My preference is to have the post name be used in the URL. And you can usually edit the post name and tweak these in the settings or when you’re doing individual posts using some plugins or whatever. But this is the best thing that you can do is just, very simply, just say, you know what, by default, use the post name. And that way, it creates a more readable URL, not just for search engines, but for visitors who are looking. They can look at the URL and go, “Oh, I know what this is about.” And that’s, you know, kind of a SEO thing that we try to do. It’s not just for getting keywords in the URLs for search engines, but just making sure that the URL is something that can be read and understood by somebody looking at that.

And configure your meta information. We have a tool, or there’s a tool called Yoast SEO plugin. And that has a lot of great functionality and features. And in here, there’s titles and metas. And you just want to make sure that you set some settings here that will help the search engines get to the pages that they need and they leave alone the pages that you don’t want them to get to.

And in this case, we’re telling them, “Hey, you know what, stay out of archives.” Archives are just kind of a way to go back through. And, you know, you got several different ways. You know, here I’m going to go to 2012. I’m going to go to 2017, January. And they create extra pages by going through these archives and the search engines don’t need that. It’s creating a lot of additional URLs if you allow them to index that versus if they don’t index that, they can still get the posts by following page two, page three of the normal feed line. But with the archives, you’re creating a lot of additional URLs that you just don’t need. And it’s just going to slow things down. You want to get the search engines to focus on the content that matters.

You also want to make sure that you add the no ODP, meta robots tag, site wide. And this just tells the search engines to not use the open directory project directory as your title and description. And it gives you more control of your title and description, rather than another directory that Google will sometimes spider and transfer that information over into their results when you see your site come up in the search results. So this gives you the option to show what you want to show, rather than what somebody else titled your website from a third party directory.

You also want to clean up your head code as much as possible. There’s a lot of junk that goes into your heading code and Yoast gives you a good way to, you know, just get a few things out of there. One of the big ones is the short links. And here, you can hide short links for posts. That is a pretty big deal because WordPress puts in, by default, a short link URL. And that URL can be spidered, and it creates a secondary URL that can end up in the search results competing for space. So you just want to get rid of that. There’s no purpose, no value in that overall. I’m sure somebody, somewhere has a need for that, but for marketing purposes, it’s good just to get rid of that and pull that out.

You also want to optimize your pages and again, this is where the Yoast plugin comes in handy. It gives you some options for optimizing your title and your meta description. Use this for every post and every page on your site so you can customize the title tag, customize your meta descriptions. Now, again, we’re not looking just at keywords here, and what keywords can we get into the title and meta description. But how can we make those things compelling? How can we write a compelling title that makes somebody say, “Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m going to click in there, and they’re going to deliver the results I want.” Same with the meta description, you know, use that to draw people in and encourage them to click on to your website.

Set up redirects. If you have any URLs that are redirecting, there’s some tools that you can use to automatically redirect if you change a page, you change your URL from one thing to another. The redirect will automatically go into this, but you also want to look at, if you are deleting pages, URLs from your site, make sure you redirect those to the next closest counterpart. And this is very important because search engines come and they find a lot of dead pages. They’re going to have a hard time filtering through your site. It provides some kind of signal that says, “Hey, you know what, your site’s not really being kept up a lot because you’ve got all of these dead URLs.” And the worst thing about that is if those URLs have any kind of link value and they’re suddenly gone, that link value will not stay on your site. It’ll just be lost. If you put in the redirects from any page that has changed and the URL that has changed, you’re able to maintain a good chunk of that value that that page, that now deleted page, has, and you’re transferring that value to another page altogether.

Okay, so let’s talk now about optimizing WordPress for your visitors. There’s one aspect of optimization, which is optimizing for search engines. And the other aspect is your visitors. You want to make sure that you deliver a good visitor experience for everybody who comes to your site. One of the things you want to look at is if people are reading your blog through a feed, do you want to give them a summary of the post, or do you want to give them the full text of the post? Now, this is a personal decision for you. Now, there’s pros and cons either way. If you give the full text, then when somebody reads your, or pulls in your site through their feed reader, they can read the entire post right there, and they can get everything they want. Some people say, “Look I want to do a summary because I want to encourage them to click into my site and then read the full post.” Pros and cons of that, fewer people will read your content if they have to click to your site in order to read it. But at the same time, you are getting that traffic, and you are giving people an experience beyond just the post or that particular bit of content in their RSS feed. They are able then to move on and see other things and do other things on your site that you might want them to do, such as download eBooks or buy some products. So you just got to weigh the pros and cons and decide what it is you want to do there.

You also want to offer related posts. At the end of every post, don’t just end there. Give people some place to go. Now, there’s a lot of different things you can do. You can put advertisements at the bottom of your posts. Say, “Hey, look, download this eBook. Here’s some comments.” You want to put that in. But a great thing to do to keep people engaged on the site is, here’s more content that’s similar to what you’re reading that you also might be interested in. So look for opportunities or plugins that’ll add these things in there. Make sure it’s styled well so it doesn’t just look like, hey, you just throw this crap on there, but it looks like a good part of the site. And it really draws people in, gives them the opportunity to say, “You know what, I’m going to go from here. There’s something else I want to read. Let’s keep reading. Let’s keep exploring this site.”

Allow comments, and a lot of people now are not allowing comments. They figure, hey, social media is where people are commenting now. They’re putting all their comments on Twitter or Facebook or what have you. And you can go that route. I still think having discussions on the blog is important and it is valuable, even if it’s not a lot of discussions. But just use that. Decide if you want to allow those comments, and if you can really use it to engage with your audience, I suggest that you do that.

If you shut down comments, especially if you’re new, you’re going to have a hard time interacting with people and really building an audience, because people will read the post and they’ll go away. And unless you’re really monitoring your social streams, and people are out there commenting on the posts, on the social feeds, then you’re going to lose an opportunity to have to build that back and forth engagement with your readers, because most people won’t go from your blog post to socializing it with a comment. They might socialize a post, but what you’re looking for is feedback. And the comments on the site do help you get that feedback from them.

Allow visitors to subscribe to the comment threads, and this is important. You know, if somebody posts a comment, give them a chance to say, yeah, you know what, let me know if somebody follows up. I know when I go to a post and I put a comment, I want to remember, you know, to stay engaged with the conversation. But I’ll forget to go back to that post. So when you…a lot of people just subscribe. They get notified anytime a new comment is made. And it allows me to read those comments through my email, and then I can go click back into the post, continue the conversation essentially, from there. But if you don’t have this option, then a lot of times, once a comment is made, it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, and you don’t get any further engagement, even if somebody is trying to engage with them, or you are trying to engage with them on the comments.

You want to make sure you prevent spam. CAPTCHA is a great way to prevent spam. There’s also a plugin called WP-SpamFree that does the same thing, a little bit, just more behind the scenes of filtering the spam out. But you want to make sure that you only get valid people, and these plugins, they’ll do a great job. They’re not perfect, and they certainly won’t weed out human spammers. But it will weed out most of the computer generated stuff. So this is a good way. If you don’t prevent the spam comments, you just get inundated with comments, and then you got to sort through them and delete, delete. And you just want to focus on what’s valuable and what you can engage with.

And, you know, speaking of engagement, you want to engage with your readers, and here’s another way, you know, using some of the discussion settings is get an email from the system, from WordPress, anytime somebody posts a comment or a comment is held from moderation. This is so you know somebody’s commenting. A lot of times, unless you’re in your settings, you’re in WordPress every day, you don’t know that somebody left a comment. So you set these setting to say, “Hey, notify me, WordPress, if somebody comes and engages with my site. Notify me if somebody posts a comment, so I can get in there and reply to that comment as quickly as possible.” If you don’t have these settings, like I said, then the comments can just come and go, and you’ll miss an opportunity to engage with your audience. And, you know, that’s not what you want to do when you’re building a blog. You really do want to stay engaged.

Prep your site for social media. Another option in the Yoast SEO plugin is to add open graph meta data, and this is like meta tags, but it’s specifically for social, where you can customize titles and descriptions different for social media than you do for search. So make sure you add that information there so it is social friendly. Append custom message on the end of a post. This is a great way to keep people engaged or to move them into other areas of your site. You can create a message, a sales message. We often use it for advertisements for eBooks or downloads or other things such as that, where we feel like, “Hey, this post is about this. You’ll be interested in this next thing.” Maybe it’s an advertisement for our services. A lot of times, it’s just keeping people engaged with the content itself.

You want to set up social sharing specifically. On each post, every person should have the ability to socialize that post, at least on the main social platforms, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Google+. Give an option that people say, you know what? I like this article. This is good information. I’m going to share that. One click of the button, it goes to their platform. The link goes out. Make sure you have that. If you don’t have social sharing set up, there’s just a good chance people aren’t going to socialize it, because that makes it easy for them. And it’s a reminder. They see that and go, okay, yeah, I do want to share this. If they don’t see that, they don’t have that option, they’re just going to keep going with their reading and forget all about it, even if it is a good article that they find valuable. The social sharing icons just prompt them to do those things.

Okay, so we’re going to go and look at a couple housekeeping things, overall, things you want to keep in mind for your site as you build this up and build an audience and build a destination for people to come to.

First thing, back up your database. On a regular basis, get a plugin that allows you to back everything up. Now, your web host should have a backup of your database. They should be doing that, but as we know, sometimes bad things happen. I’m a believer in backing up my backups, so what you want to do is take the opportunity on a weekly or a monthly basis to go in, back up your databases and move them to a hard drive somewhere or put them on your computer somewhere, where if something happens with the server, if the server crashes, or somebody does something and everything’s lost, you still have your information and you can easily, again, take that somewhere else, reinstall it, get all your stuff back and working again.

You want to find and fix broken links. There’s a broken link tool for WordPress. Now, some platforms don’t allow every plugin for whatever reason, so these may not all work with you. But there’s a great plugin that will just constantly monitor your links on your site, and anytime it finds a broken link, it’ll put this in this dashboard. And with one click of a button, you can fix any one of these broken links, or you can fix dozens of them at the same time. So this is a great tool just to keep your site tidy and up to date, especially blogs, when you’re linking off-site to other third party sites. Over the years, those sites come and go, and you’re building up a host of broken links, which isn’t a big deal because those are old posts. But if somebody does find that post, they click on a link, you know, it’s better just to remove the link entirely than to have them click on something and go nowhere. So use this just to keep your site nice and tidy.

And you also want to install Google Analytics. This is a site wide issue. You need analytics if you want to know how your site is doing, what your visitors are doing. So install the code there and make sure it’s working. Do a few tests. Make sure you’re collecting the right data, because you do want to be able to use that, even if you’re not digging into analytics on a regular basis. Now, you want the ability and the opportunity to do it down the road.

Cache your site for faster load speed. This is one of the things that is…page speed is very important now, and it’s becoming more important for search engine rankings, especially for mobile devices. So, use plugins that allow you to cache the site, so it can be loaded faster. And once somebody comes to the site, it basically takes a snapshot of that, so the next time they come, it doesn’t have to reload the entire site. It’s just got to pull from that cache, and it goes quick. It only needs to load new information that wasn’t there before. So this is a great tool just to speed things up a little bit for you.

All right, finally, we’re going to talk about establishing your message. And this is all about just being who you are and finding a way to connect with your audience.

The first thing to do is find your target audience. Who are they? Are they other bloggers? Are they executives? Are they hobbyists, professionals, DIY’ers? Who is it that you are trying to reach? And it may be more than one of these, and it may be somebody completely different. But the audience that you’re going after will determine what your message is going to be. It’ll be used to determine what kind of posts you write, what kind of tutorials you write. The information that you put out there is going to be vastly influenced by who you are really trying to speak to with your blog.

And what is it you want them to learn? Once you know who it is, what are they coming for? Or what do you want them to get out of your site? And this is very important, because a lot of people, they just blog and they don’t think these things through. And therefore, they never really resonate with their audience. They know who they’re targeting, but they don’t know what they want their audience to do with that information. But, you know, you need to know, what are they coming to you for? What are you going to provide that’s unique and of value to them?

Because the truth is, everybody’s looking for something. Every search starts on the basis of somebody is looking for some type of knowledge. They have a question, who, what, when, where, why? They’re looking for education. How to-, ways to-, ideas for-, and they’re trying to build knowledge by news, events, opinion. All of these things are important, and there’s all kinds of different ways to really connect with your audience. But you got to figure out what they’re looking for, who it is that’s looking and what you want them to learn and to leave with from your site that’s of value.

And then use keywords. You know, you got every searcher that’s a different searcher, they have a different interest, and they have a different need. And you got to put these pieces together to figure out what is the message that you want that is needed to hit that particular searcher with that particular interest, with that particular need. And now you have a piece of content. And then you’ve got a different searcher, with a different interest, and a different need. And that will produce a specific piece of content. So be thinking about these things. With everything that you write, who are you trying to reach? What is their interest? What is their need? And how do you craft the content specifically for that thing?

And you have to always understand the intent of the searcher. Just because somebody types in a keyword, and you say, “Hey, you know what, my keyword is relevant to that.” Well, maybe it’s relevant to that, but that may not be the intent. You might produce a piece of content that’s relevant to that search or to that keyword, but it’s not relevant to the intent of the searcher.

There’s four basic categories of searcher intent. There’s research, shop, buy and then the information seekers. The first three are part of the sales cycle. And this is for sites that sell a product or a service. People are looking for a TV, or they’re looking for a wide-screen TV, or they’re looking for a Sony wide-screen TV. Those are three different types of searches, search intents. And you want to land those people on very different pages based on each of those intents.

For bloggers, the information, that’s the category that’s most relevant for you. And if people are searching for, you know, TVs, well, that’s a bit broad for information. That’s somebody that’s just kind of starting the search. They don’t know what they want. So you want to dig a little deeper and look for the how to’s, the what to’s. Look for the information that teaches somebody something, not just about a product or, you know, “Hey, I’m trying to get you to buy a product.” But it really goes beyond that and educates them. That’s the information, those people seeking knowledge. And you really got to know your searcher intent, so whenever you’re targeting and going after, “Hey, I want to get people who are searching for these keywords, ” make sure you deliver the content that they’re looking for based on the intent of their search and where they are in that whole search cycle.

Well, thank you very much. I hope you got something of value from this. And, of course, you can check out my book at WebMarketingChecklist.com.