WordPress solves a lot of typical SEO issues straight out of the box; however, with a bit of tweaking and fine tuning, you can drastically improve the performance of your blog in the search results.
There are an overwhelming number of SEO-related WordPress plugins, from the “all in one” solution to a simple sitemap generator. For the purpose of this post, I’ve picked out some of my tried and tested favourites.
W3 Total Cache
With Google’s big push on the importance of page load times and the direct correlation this has on rankings, not to mention the positive impact improved site speed has on a user’s experience, it is now more important than ever to ensure your site is performing at its optimum level.
W3 Total Cache is (in my opinion) the best WordPress caching plugin by far. In their own words, the plugin “improves site performance and user experience via caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support.”
There are a lot of articles already written about installing and setting up the plugin so I won’t repeat that information here. However, what I will say is that at first, the sheer number of options and settings available can seem overwhelming, but it is worth your time to understand how to configure it correctly.
To demonstrate this, I have carried out a quick before and after test, measuring site performance using the Google Page Speed tool and the Yahoo YSlow tool.
As you can see from the above charts taken form YSlow, by installing the W3 Total Cache Plugin, I have reduced the number of HTTP requests from 71 to 10, a fairly dramatic improvement for only five minutes of work. This improved the overall grade of the site from an F to a B in YSlow and from 32/100 to 72/100 in Goole’s Page Speed tool.
Although not really an SEO plugin in the traditional sense of the word, Zemanta is a great way of improving the quality of the content you produce on your blog, making it more link worthy and also promoting it to other Zemanta users (of which there are more than 75,000).
So what is Zemanata? Once installed, Zemanta analyses the content of your posts as you write them and suggests related content to link to or embed in your post. It also has an internal linking function that links relevant internal articles.
Here’s what Zemanta is reccommending to me as a write this post:
Zemanata also provides a featured service where they will index a large volume of your articles via a feed and provide recommendations to their network of users based on a CPM model; this is an excellent technique for ethical link building.
If you havent already, I strongly reccommend checking out this service.
Continuing with the theme of non-traditinal SEO plugins, next up is Poll Daddy. Conducting polls and surveys on your site is a great way to engage with your readers and if done well, can be a great way of attracting links. There are a lot of good poll plugins available for WordPress but the best I have come across is Poll Daddy. It’s easy to setup and install, and has a variety of different great looking styles. Check out the example below:
With a continual increase of people browsing the web using mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, it is now more important than ever to ensure your blog is mobile and touch screen friendly. Again, perhaps not one that would usually be classed as an “SEO plugin”, but ensuring your site is accessible to mobile users should be an essential part of any SEO strategy.
And that’s exactly what WP-Touch does. Simply install and activate the plugin and anybody visiting your blog via a mobile device is served up a mobile app version instead of the standard theme. There is also an option for users to switch back to the original theme.
An even better solution to ensuring your blog is mobile friendly is to use a responsive design. Responsive means that the layout will adapt to the screen that it is viewed on. For example, for a desktop monitor, iPad or mobile phone screen, the layout will intelligently adapt so that no content is lost and there is no need for annoying zooming and pinching.
You can’t use a plugin to achieve this effect but there are some great responsive themes available.
Page titles, meta data and the Headspace 2 Plugin are some examples of the more traditional SEO issues. There are a variety of other meta data management plugins available, but in my experience, Headspace leads the way in terms of features, ease of use and reliability. One thing I would not recommend is leaving the management of your meta data and page titles up to the default settings of WordPress. The outcome of this is never satisfactory.
Full details of what HeadSpace 2 offers can be found here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/headspace2/
SEO No Duplicate
One SEO issue that WordPress does tend to throw up is that of duplicate content. Due to the category structure of most WordPress sites, posts with multiple categories tend to get duplicated across the category pages as well as on the homepage and in archives. Thankfully the good people at Omninoggin have created a plugin that makes use of the canonical tag to specify your preferred URL for each post. Its simple to use and does exactly what you need.
With Google’s crack down against duplicate content, it is probably a good time to sort out you own duplicate content issues.
Sometimes it’s necessary to move a page or change a URL on your blog. Unfortunately, if the redirect from old to new is not handled correctly, you risk losing search rankings that that page may hold as well as losing any incoming “link juice” to the old page. Left to the native settings of WordPress, moving a page will likely result in the old URL 404ing and not 301ing, an SEO disaster. Redirection solves these issues by allowing you to easily implement 301 redirects as well as capturing a log of 404 errors which can then be corrected. Full details of the features of this plugin can be found here.
SEO Friendly Images
With the ever crowded universal search results of the Google SERPS, making your images accessible and understandable to search engines is key. Although WordPress does allow you to set “title” and “alt” tags to images, if you have an image heavy site, doing this manually for every image can be time consuming and monotonous. This is where SEO Friendly images comes in. The plugin automatically assigns a “title” and “alt” tag to every image you add, according to the options you set. The plug recognises two tags: %title (title of the post) and %name (filename). By using a combination of the tags, it is possible to create relevant and unique tags for all images.
If Google Analytics is your web analytics platform of choice then Analyticator is a great plugin to enable tracking of your WordPress sites. Although one of a large number of competing Google Analytics plugins, Analyticator stands head and shoulders above the rest due to its ease of use and great set of features, including a WordPress dashboard widget, site speed tracking, support of advanced tracking code and support of the latest async tracking method. Full details and downloads can be found here.
Sitemaps are good for SEO as they help search engines crawl your site. This plugin does exactly what you would expect of a plugin named Sitemap Generator. Again there are loads of alternatives out there but this one made my list due to the fact that it is much more customizable than most. If you need an XML sitemap for your blog, you could do much worse. A full list of features can be found here.
That’s the end of my list. If you have a great SEO WordPress plugin that I didn’t include, please feel free to let me know about it in the comments.