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On-Site Optimization Tips for WordPress Bloggers
When it comes to search engine optimization, the first thing that you want to do before you start considering link building or other off-site ranking factors is to get your on-site optimization in check. If you a blogger using the self-hosted version of WordPress, then you're in luck - there are a lot of different (and mostly free) options you can choose from to help with your on-site SEO optimization.
SEO Plugins for WordPress
The following are the top plugins for WordPress that will help you get your site ready for the best search optimization possible.
- Google XML Sitemaps - This is an easy to use, set it and forget it plugin. Simply install it, activate it, and go to the plugin settings to create your sitemap for the first time. After this, the plugin will automatically update your sitemap with new posts and pages on your blog. The sitemap will then notify Google and other search engines of your new content so they can come and crawl it.
- All in One SEO Pack - This plugin offers a free version for optimizing your WordPress blog's homepage & individual post / pages and a pro version with advanced features, support, e-Commerce support, and much more.
- Platinum SEO Pack - Functions similarly to All in One SEO Pack without the option for a pro version.
- WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast - This SEO plugin goes a bit further than All in One and Platinum SEO Pack by giving you some suggestions for your on-site optimization.
- SEO Smart Links - This plugin will allow you to set specific keywords on your blog to link to specific pages. Great for internal link building!
- SEO Friendly Images - This plugin helps optimize your images for SEO.
Now that you know what your plugin options are, let's look at the basic on-site optimization you need to take your blog to the next level with search engines.
On-Site Optimization for Your Homepage
If there is one page above all others that most websites will be sure to optimize, it is your blog's homepage. The key pieces of optimization for your homepage include the following. SEO Title This is the title of your website. It should be under 65 characters and include the site's name and the main keywords for the site. The SEO title is one of the most important elements that will help with your homepage's ranking in search for keywords, so choose them carefully. It will also be what shows up in search engine results. SEOmoz, one of the top SEO blogs, ranks #1 for the keyword phrase SEO blog. The SEO title of their blog is SEO Blog | SEOmoz Blog Featuring Search Engine Marketing Tactics & Strategies. Although their title is longer than the usual 65 characters and gets cut off in search results, it doesn't actually hurt anything - least of all their rankings! Meta Description The meta description of your homepage will not help you in the rankings. What it will help you with is getting clicks to your homepage from search results. The meta description is the snippet shown beneath your link in search results. The SEOmoz blog's homepage meta description is as shown in the image above: The SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog provides tips, trick and advice for optimizing websites and getting better search engine rankings. A great meta description is essentially a 160 character elevator pitch for your blog. Think of why someone would want to read your blog, craft that in a sentence or two, and place it in the meta description field for your blog. Image Optimization The most important image optimization elements are the filename of the image and the image's ALT tag. While you might have a lot of images on your homepage that are not permanent fixtures (such as the images from posts, you do have images that are constant residents of the homepage including:
- Your header
- Social icons
- Buttons or badges
- Banner ads
When you're uploading these images and adding their ALT tags, think carefully about the keywords you are using. For example, if your site is about SEO and you have a banner ad for a gardening company, you don't want the banner ad's image on your homepage to be optimized for gardening. Instead, maybe name that banner ad's image filename seo-advertisement.jpg and the ALT tag similarly. The same goes for any other image you use on your homepage - be sure it is optimized for the keywords you are targeting on your homepage. Keyword Usage This part is a bit tricky, particularly for blog homepages that show your latest posts instead of a static homepage. After your SEO title, the next important SEO elements on a page will be the header tags (H1, H2, H3 and so forth). Chances are, your blog's theme will render each blog title in a H2 tag - hence, each of your post titles are counting towards your homepage's SEO optimization. Also, some themes will make the sidebar headers H3 or H4 tags, meaning that the titles of your sidebar widgets are also making an impact on your homepage's SEO. Therefore, make sure each of your post titles and sidebar widget titles include some good keywords when possible. Another thing to look for (and avoid) on your homepage is repeating text that isn't optimized. Some themes, for example, will allow you to show a post's excerpt on the homepage, then link to the post using the anchor text Read More or similar. This means you could have up to 10 instances of Read More on your page, and a search engine might consider that an important keyword phrase on your homepage. To fix that issue, see if there is a way to change the theme from saying Read More and, instead, linking to the post using the post title instead. To check your keyword optimization, set your blog up with Webmaster Tools. Once you are set up, look at the Keywords section under Your site on the web. This will give you a list of 20+ keywords that Google finds most common when crawling your site. If these includes keywords you didn't mean to target, you might want to find ways to change them on your blog - especially on the homepage.
On-Site Optimization for Posts & Pages
While your blog's homepage may target broader keyword phrases, your posts and pages may target more long-tail keyword phrases. For example, your blog's homepage could target online marketing, and your posts & pages can target more specific terms like online marketing strategies, online marketing software, online marketing tips, and other specific terms. The same elements that apply to your blog's homepage - SEO title, meta description, image optimization, and keyword usage apply to your post & page content as well. There are just a few additional considerations to take in for the SEO elements of posts especially. Social Sharing & On-Site Optimization The biggest consideration is that your posts are more likely to be shared on social media sites. This makes your SEO title, meta description, and images used in the post even more important because these will be included in social media shares. On-Site Optimization Going Off-Site The next consideration is how your on-site optimization will be used off-site. People who link to blog posts within their own tend to do so using the title of the post as anchor text. Hence, your keyword usage in the SEO title of your blog post becomes important for on-site optimization and link building all in one. Also, speaking of link building, the SEO title of your post will be used in most instances when your post when it is socially bookmarked. Another reason to pay extra attention to how you optimize your SEO title. When to SEO Optimize Posts The last, but not least consideration is when to optimize your posts. Do you choose keywords first, then build the post around those keywords? Or do you craft your post, then choose keywords to fit it? My suggestion would be to the latter, simply because this will make you focus first on your readers, and second on your SEO optimization. Header Tags Additional elements that you can use to further SEO optimize your posts include header tags - particularly the H2, H3, and H4. H1 is generally reserved for your post's title, so you will use the rest within the post itself. Be sure to include your keywords within these header tags to not only optimize your post for particular keywords, but also to help readers by breaking up the text. Headers make it easy for readers to scan through your post to find just what they are looking for without getting overloaded by the valuable information you present. Internal Links On-site link building is just as important as off-site link building. Be sure to include internal links within your post content using keyword-optimized anchor text. For example, don't link to a post saying click here, but instead say something to the effect of learn more about online marketing with your link built to online marketing. These links will help with on-site SEO optimization and help keep visitors on your site longer too! These are the most basic on-site optimization elements that you should always consider when crafting your blog's homepage and content for your new posts & pages. There are many others though - what other on-site search optimization elements do you focus on for your blog?