web development for search engine optimization

WordPress Setup for SEO Success

WordPress is a great CMS platform- it’s easy to use and can grow with your business. That being said, out-of-the-box there are a couple things you’ll want to do to ensure long-term SEO success.

  1. Suggested default “Settings”
    1. Settings > Writing
      1. Turn off emoticons. We’re all adults, here.
      2. Don’t use “Uncategorized” as a default category. In fact, delete that category to prevent this from happening. This is just sloppy.
    2. Settings > Reading
      1. “For each article in a feed show” should be set to “Summary”
      2. “Search Engine Visibility” should allow search engines to view your site. You’ll be surprised how many people overlook this.
    3. Settings > Discussion
      1. If you are going to use comments (I’d recommend them for most purposes)
        1. Under “Before a comment appears”, check only “Comments must be manually approved” and not the other option as well. This prevents comment spammers from overwhelming your blog.
        2. You should use the Akismet plugin (under “Plugins”)
    4. Settings > Permalink
      1. I’d recommend using the “Post Name” option for most blogs. This means your post’s title will be reflected in your post’s URL.
  2. Use the READ MORE tag in your posts. This means only the content before the MORE tag will appear in archives of your posts and you’ll have to go to the post’s URL to read it’s entire contents. This prevents WordPress from duplicating your content all over your website, diluting it’s value in Google’s eyes.
  3. Use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools on your website. There’s no inherent SEO advantage from these products but they will help you measure your efforts and identify issues.
  4. Typology (Categories and Tags)
    1. Sometimes people go crazy with categorization and tags. This creates a lot of unnecessary pages. From an SEO perspective this means the Googlebot is wasting a lot of time crawling unnecessary pages rather than looking at your unique and valuable content. The READ MORE tag helps with this as well.
    2. Categories
      1. What categories you use should involve some planning. Use categories to break your content into different groups to give people an idea of the breadth of content your blog is about.
      2. Rules of thumb:
        1. Every blog post should fit in one and only one category.
        2. Only build a new category if you have more than two posts in that category.
      3. Stick to your categories and be careful not to create extra categories. For instance, if you’re blogging about lawyers, don’t put some posts in a “lawyers” category and others in an “attorneys” category- unless you’re making a distinction between the two categories, they’re both the same thing. For example: in this website I have two basic categories that encompass everything- “Tips and Tricks” and “Portfolio.”
    3. Tags
      1. If I ever meet the idiot who started the rumor that somehow adding tags to posts “increases your SEO” I’ll punch them. There’s nothing magical about “tags”- only use them to organize your content and use them sparingly if you really need them. Most sites don’t need tags.
      2. Rules of thumb:
        1. Unlike categories where each post should have only one category, posts can have more than one tag. For example: in this site I have two categories and various tags in order for users to see all things about a particular tag no matter which category they fall into.
        2. Like categories, only create a new tag if two or more posts can be organized by the tag.
      3. Like with categories, make sure you’re consistent and not creating unnecessary tags that cover basically the same thing.

If you install WordPress on your own web server:

  1.  I recommend you use the following Plugins
    1. Yoast’s WordPress SEO
    2. Akismet
    3. iThemes Security
  2. Don’t use “admin” (the default username) for a login to your system. This is a security hole.
  3. Keep your website updated to the most recent version of WordPress. Please note: If you’ve customized your site or plugins, updates may break them.

Of course, if you setup your website like this you’re just getting started on your SEO campaign. There’s a lot more to Google’s algorithm than this- you have to understand how people are searching for the products or services you’re offering and provide content along those lines and establish yourself as an authority in your topic by getting other websites to link to yours. Hopefully, however, this will give you a good head-start.


Did I forget anything? Have any questions? Just leave them in the comments, below.

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2 comments about WordPress Setup for SEO Success

  • For social media links, I have noticed lately that a lot of big sites aren’t customizing them to be bit.ly short links. I clicked “share” on your blog and noticed the actual link, not a shortened one. Is this just the default setting or is it better for SEO that the links are not shortened?

    • If you’re going to use shortened links it’s important that they use a 301 redirect otherwise it would be better to use the full URL. Bit.ly uses 301s. So does the default WordPress shortener. Unfortunately, once a link makes it to a social media site the link often goes through a secondary redirect that does not help you from an SEO perspective. For example all links on Twitter also go through a t.co shortener that uses a 302. This doesn’t mean that sharing a link on Twitter is useless, it just means the link doesn’t have the same SEO value as a link on another website might.

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