How To Optimize Your WordPress Website for Search Engines and Overall Usability
WordPress (WP) has established itself as the most popular CMS platform on the web. It’s estimated that WP powers one in six websites. As a person who spends an enormous amount of time coding in WordPress, I can sell it to my clients with the utmost confidence that it is future proof the number of WordPress users grows on a daily basis.
As powerful as WordPress is, simply downloading and installing WP will not be sufficient to successfully optimize your sight for search engines, performance and security. Following are several basic steps that will help you improve your WordPress powered site for SEO as well as enhance the user experience.
Many of you reading this will already have an operable WordPress site, but to ensure its effectiveness, this post will start from the point at which you completed your five-minute install.
Removing Some WordPress Defaults
The defaults that you will want to remove are the “Sample Page” and Hello World” post. If your site is still in the development stage, it is okay to leave the defaults up for the time being, but you will need to take them down before you take your site live. It will be good idea to completely delete them in order to keep your database from becoming cluttered.
Tip: You will need to depend upon higher quality content than what is provided through the default post and page. In order to have better sample content, you should download and install the WP Example Content plugin by Josh Ferrara and Jonathan Simmons.
You will also need to remember to remove or change the default “Uncategorized” category setting. If you want to keep a default category, you will need to create a new category that you know will be hot and popular and set it as your default. This can be done by going to the admin area and navigating through Posts -> Categories.
The SEO rationale behind these actions: From an SEO perspective, the Hello World” post is not that problematic, but hit will become an issue on the user experience side of the equation. It is important to remember that user experience is key. Using great SEO to get visitors, only to provide a crappy experience does not make sense. The default category has to be a top SEO priority, and the vast majority of your post will not be “Uncategorized”, but targeted and relevant.
Set Your Permalink Settings
The default permalink settings are not as optimal for SEO as they can be. The common practice is to change the setting to (/%postname%/); however, there are some publishers who choose to use /%category%/%postname%/ for their default permalink setting, but this has the potential to cause certain issues when the content for the categories is not optimized.
The SEO rationale behind this action: The default WP setting is set for all pages to run through URL parameters, something that Google strongly advises against.
WordPress Home Page: Static Page or Blog Posts
When WP was initially launched, it was designed as a blogging platform. Although it is technically still a blogging platform, it has the capacity to be used as a complete CMS platform. Because the program was initially designed for bloggers, its default setting is set for the home page to log the most recent blog posts. If you prefer a static page, you can change the settings like so:
- Create an empty page for your most recent blog posts.
- Click Settings -> Reading
- Choose either static page or latest post for your Front Page Displays
- Show the except for every post in the feed.
- Make sure to disable the “Discourage Search Engines from Indexing Site” feature.
Note: There are some WP themes that will allow you to use a template to output your blog post, instead of using the default setting on the platform. Personally, I don’t believe that it is the best method, but at least you are aware that it exists. SEO rationale for this action: This measure will help remedy duplication and indexing issues.
Customize Media Settings
WP provides default settings that determine how the system will deal with image thumbnails. I am not a huge fan of the default settings, so I choose to set my own dimensions for all image sizes (thumbnail, medium and large). Even more important is the fact that I have a specific way that I like my thumbnails to be cropped. I prefer to have my uploaded images maintain their proportion win they are resized.
Changing the settings is simple. Go to Settings-> Media and simply change the settings to accommodate the way you want your images displayed.
Tip: If you already have a site and you are just now realizing that this function is an option, there is a way that you can make a retroactive change to existing thumbnails. Once you have made the adjustments mentioned above, download the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin by Viper007Bond to perform the retroactive change for you.
Also, disable the month/year feature hierarchy setting. There are some larger sites that can benefit from this feature from an organizational perspective, but as a general rule, it is not necessary.
The SEO rationale for managing thumbnails: Thumbnails are very beneficial in allowing you display larger images in a size that will reduce bandwidth usage. For instance, if you upload a 2,200 x 2,200 px image, this actual size is only necessary for those looking to download the full-sized version. You can set the large size display at about 940 px to ensure that the image is fully visible on most screens. Remember you have to keep user experience in view at all times.
Use Google Analytics
Managing a site without any type of tracking system does not make sense. It should never be done. Google Analytics is highly effective and it is free. This means that there is no reason that you should not use it.
First, you will need to create a new Analytics profile. Then install the Google Analytics for WP plugin by Joost de Valk. This plugin will eliminate the need for copy and pasting. Once you have connected to Google Analytics, there is a wide array of settings for you to tweak and play with.
By simply adjusting, tweaking or removing a few default settings you will have immensely improved your SEO capacity and enhanced the user experience in the process.
About The Author:
Chelsea Stamper specializes in optimizing WordPress websites. She has worked with dozens of websites and always follows the steps above to help her clients get the most out of their WordPress site. For more resources on optimizing your WordPress site, check her out on Facebook.
- Edit Images in WordPress: No External Editor - 11 February, 2015
- How To Optimize Your WordPress Website for Search Engines and Overall Usability - 6 February, 2014
- Steps to use Ultra Readable Typography WordPress Themes - 30 July, 2013