We selected WordPress to power our blog as it’s a fantastic platform that you can configure to your SEO heart’s content.
The standard installation needs a few plugins and tweeks to make the most of it so here is our essential WordPress checklist.
Domain, Subdomain or Subfolder
This is always a tricky choice to make but is probably depends if the blog is your main site, supporting a new business or supporting an existing business or website. For independent blogs you should use your own domain name. If you are supporting an existing website then a unique domain or subdomain is likely to provide more value if you link to your main site. If you are looking to support a new business then subfolder will ensure that all inbound links count towards your main domain.
The first thing I do is change the Permalink URL structure on the WordPress Permalink Settings page to something better than the post ID which is the default and worst option. Most people recommend using the post name and some people like to include the date as well. Although the date can be useful if your content dates quickly, it’s more likely to put someone off reading older content and also prevents indexing by Google news which might become a problem if you have such grand aspirations.
The All-in-one SEO plugin plugin really does pretty much everything you could want and a whole lot more. You can fully customise the optimisation for every page but the basic installation sorts out the majority of issues like titles formats and noindexing of archive and tag pages. It’s worth installing even if you don’t intend to use any of the advanced customisation.
All SEO blogs have removed their blogrolls as they believe that the extra links on every page drain PageRank from internal pages. However, when you’re starting a new blog it’s an easy to way to help show your relevancy by linking to some good quality related sites. You might generate a few return links but do make sure you only link to reputable sites as poor quality links could do far more harm than good.
It would be nice to just have them on the home page but this requires a custom hack.
Webmaster tools is pretty limited but does offer some useful insights and is a must for any site. It’s worth it for the Google webmaster messages if nothing else.
Sign up if you haven’t already done so, add the site into the system and then add the custom meta tag on your header.php theme file or upload the special named empty HTML file to get past the verification.
You’re probably shouldn’t expect to get any social bookmarks until you’ve built some kind of audience but if you don’t ask, you don’t get and including the links is a nice way to remind people.
The Sociable plugin from Joost de Valk automatically adds any number of social bookmarking links from a huge selection. The liks are automatically nofollowed but as we all know by now, this doesn’t conserve PageRank. Some people might be tempted to remove as many external links as possible but we don’t think it’s quite as simple as that and think it’s worth including links to the main bookmarking sites.
XML sitemaps can definitely help get pages indexed more quickly for large and complicated sites. They are less useful on small sites with a good structure but this Sitemaps Generator Plugin makes it so easy it’s worth doing anyway. The standard configuration is perfect for most sites.
Installing analytics is a must for every site and worth a bit of effort.
If you have your own preferred solution, it’s easy enough to add any tracking code using the Theme Editor. It’s most common to install the tracking code before the </body> tag in the footer.php template.
If you’re using Google Analytics then it’s even easier as there is a great plugin to manage your code automatically. Joost Van Der Valk’s Google Analytics plugin – makes setup really easy. All you need to do is take down the account number from the accounts overview screen that looks like UA-xxxxxx-x shown highlighted in red. If you’re hosting your blog on a subfolder on your main site then you will probably be using the same Google Analytics account.
Add the account number to the WordPress plugin and it’s done. You can also configure a number of advanced options.
Joost’s plugin now tracks 404 errors automatically. You can search your Google Analytics content reports for the 404 pages and see the broken URL and the source. You can either fix inbound links or set up redirects as necessary.
You probably want to track your XML feed traffic as this is often a source of traffic for blogs. A quick and easy solution is to use a service like Feedburner which takes over the management of your XML feeds. You can set up a feed and then use a plugin to redirect all users on your blog to the new Feedburner URL. You then get lots of information on usage from the Feedburner control panel.
Here are some more things you might find useful.
Supercache creates cached copies of your blog pages to help speed up the performance.
I’d also recommend this article from Joost de Valk, The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For Your Blog.
Let us know if you think we’ve missed anything and give us your top WordPress optimisation tips.