Visual stimulation, lifestyle inspiration, creative expression – these are a few of a blogger’s favorite things. Search engine optimization? Not so much. If SEO and XML sitemaps mean nothing to you then give this post a quick read. Given all of the hard work you spent crafting a beautiful blog post, it’s in your best interest (and the interest of eager readers searching for your content!) to put this into practice ASAP.
Lucky for me I sit next to a talented SEO analyst at work and I get to pick her brain whenever I want, and lucky for you she generously wrote up this easy to follow cheat sheet. Even if you are an absolute beginner (like me) there are a few simples steps you can take without a lot of knowledge to SEO your WordPress blog. I personally used them and if I can do it, then you can do it.
Susonnah Barklow, SEO Content Strategist at NaturallyCurly, says:
Those who are passionate about blogging will quickly learn that one of the best ways to generate traffic is to get found on Google. Creating excellent content is half the battle; the rest is making sure your site is optimized for users and Google-bot. Here are some easy, first time things you can do to make sure Google can crawl your site:
1. GET THE YOAST SEO PLUGIN
There are two kinds of people in this world: there are coders and there are the rest of us. I am not a coder, so installing a handy plugin that will do the coding and techy work for me will make my life a lot easier (and yours too!). My favorite plugin for SEO is hands down the Yoast SEO Plugin. It has everything you need and more, and it’s easy enough for beginners but useful enough for the SEO experts. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? Yup. Get on it.
2. CAN YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR URLs?
If you look at your URLs and don’t have a clue what the post is about…you’re not doing yourself or Google any favors. You want to be able to tell Google and readers what your blog post or page is about just by reading the URL. For example:
Now, ugly URls are not all bad. Google can still read them, so if you have a couple of these on your site you are fine. But for blog posts, it’s very important that your URLs are as semantic as possible to tell Google what this page is about. To change your setting on WordPress, simply go to
Settings>Permalinks>Common Settings. Then select “Day and Name.”
This will ensure that your blog posts have the name in them…making them very SEO friendly.
3. ENABLE YOUR XML SITEMAP
What’s a sitemap? It’s basically like the table of contents in a book. An XML sitemap is a table of contents for your blog that Google can read to know what is in your site and what this site is about. You can easily set up your XML sitemap with your trusty new Yoast plugin. All you do is click on
SEO>XML Sitemaps>Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality
This will create a sitemap for Google to crawl. If you’ve downloaded the Yoast plugin, you will see other options to exclude things from your sitemap. I recommend excluding Media, Sliders, Tags and Format. These are pretty useless and won’t tell Google anything important.
4. OPTIMIZE YOUR TITLES & DESCRIPTIONS
This is one of the most basic practices of SEO. Optimizing your <meta titles> and <meta descriptions> is an easy way to tell Google what this post is about, and possibly increase your click through rate. WordPress blogs are pretty nifty because they automatically generate meta titles, but in order to update your descriptions, you will need a plugin. If you decided to use Yoast, you can update the meta title and description within each post. Just scroll to the bottom of the post page and look for this:
Now you can write your own titles and descriptions. Be sure to write something catchy and creative that will get people to click on your post, but also make sure it’s descriptive enough so people (and Google) know what they’re about to read.
5. IMPLEMENT GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP
There’s been a lot of chatter within the SEO industry lately about this particular practice. I’ll break it down for you: authorship is basically a trait given to users on Google+ that tells Google “hey, this person is the author of this blog. They’re pretty trustworthy.” The problem is, so many people abused it that Google is only awarding authorship to the most influential and knowledgeable bloggers. But that’s you, right?! Okay, so to tell Google that you are an author of a blog, simply link your Google+ profile to your blog. Oh, you don’t have a Google+ profile? Better get on that quick.
Once you have created your Google+ profile, you need to be sure to link to your blog in the Contributor section. After that, simply use your Yoast plugin to apply authorship to your blog. SEO>Social>Google+>Google Publisher Page. Then, copy and paste a link to your Google+ profile into that bar. You’re done!
Note: for those of you who think Google+ is pointless and a waste of time because nobody is on it…I sort of agree with you. But Google doesn’t. So be sure to have a presence on Google+ if you want to reap the SEO benefits.
6. BE CAREFUL WITH ADVANCED TABS
WordPress is very SEO friendly. Most of your site should be indexable (meaning Google can access it). Therefore, you really don’t need to mess around with the advanced tab on your Yoast plugin. Accidentally clicking something in those tabs could result in Google not being able to crawl your site, so I would stay away from them and stick to the basics. The bigger and more complex your site becomes (offering e-commerce options, search pages, etc.) the more SEO you will need to put into it. But until then, these basic practices should be enough to get your site found on Google.
photo source Emerson Fry