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How to Search Engine Optimise WordPress

In this tutorial we'll learn to fully SEO optimise your WordPress website. Before we get started please understand that SEO is not something that can be done in a day, and requires ongoing work to successfully position your site on the first page of Google, and the amount of work will depend on how competitive your Keywords are, and how SEO friendly your theme is. This tutorial will tell you about the steps that you will need to, and can do to get there, including:

  • Finding and choosing Keywords
  • SEO Optimising Images
  • SEO Friendly URL's
  • Installing and fully configuring All in One SEO Pack plugin

##Finding and Choosing Keywords Before you get started doing any form of SEO, whether WordPress or not. You must find and choose Keywords to be used on your website. There should be 1 Keyword per page or post, and they should be based on what your audience will be searching for.

For example if your website is a review site about Movies you could have the following keywords for a few mentioned pages: - PAGE / POST : KEYWORD - Home Page : Movies - Comedy : Comedy movies - Horror : Horror movies - Reviews : Movie Reviews - Top Rated 2015 : Top rated movies 2015

The tool to use when trying to find the best keywords, is the Google Keyword Tool. To use this, go here: https://adwords.google.com and follow the steps to activate AdWords. Once completed, in the top bar, go to: Tools > Keyword planner.

After, you will come across several things it tell you can do, all of them have a purpose for finding Keywords, however for this tutorial, we are going to use “Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups”. This tool, allows you to think of potential keywords, which can be done fairly easily depending on what your website is about, and then you would place these keywords into this tool, to get the search volume for each, therefore enabling you to find the best keyword to focus your website page on. If you are unaware of the best Keywords you should use, the first tool to use here should be "Search for new keyword and ad group ideas".

Sticking with the example of a blog or review site about Movies. We will find the best keyword for the homepage to use. Think of some phrases or keywords you would enter into Google if you were looking for what you site was providing. Such as in this example: Films, Movies, Top rated films, top rated movies, feature films, blockbuster films, movie blog. Then after chose where you will be targeting the website, so if you were targeting your website at people in London; for example if you were creating a website for your London Coffee shop, you would set that option to London UK. In this example, we want to target All locations.

For the search engine, option, you can either chose Google, or Google and its search partners, to keep things simple, we will just chose Google. Then leave Negative Keywords as it is, and set a date range if you desire, the default of the past year will usually suffice.

After you have them listed out as above, click “Get Search Volume” and wait a while, once its been completed, you will be met with a similar screen as below.

Here you can see the average amount of monthly searches which you will be mainly looking at for this task. However for “Competition” and “Suggested bid”, this is related to Google AdWords, which is if you wanted to put an advert for your website under that search terms, it shows how many people are wanting an advert on this search terms, and how much it would cost per click on average for that search term.

As from the above image, you can see that the keyword “Movies” ranks by far the largest in average monthly searches, this shows that this will most likely be the best keyword to use, however it is always a good idea to test the keyword by putting it into Google to see what you come to, in this case we come to lots of movie streaming sites, and also movie review sites, such as “Rotten Tomatoes”. Therefore “Movies” keyword, will fit for your home page keyword.

You would want to then repeat this process for each of your pages, deciding the best keyword for each page. We will move on to what to do with these keywords later in the tutorial.

##SEO Optimising Images

To do this, we will be using a plugin, which adds and optimises the ALT and TITLE attribute for all your images. Please note, that it doesn't add it the changes the front end, so you won't see it working, it does it in the backend through direct HTML. What's good about this, is that it will add and change them on images you have already uploaded, or upload in the future for you automatically. Therefore saving you time, as you don't have to go through all your images and set them yourself.

To start, we will need to find and download the plugin, there are several plugins you can use to do this, however we will use our favorite “SEO Friendly Images”

In your WordPress admin area sidebar, go to: Plugins > Add New.

In the search plugins box search for “SEO Friendly Images”, and press enter, after the search has been completed, look for the plugin we will show below, and click install, and activate it once installed. You will see in our image, we have already installed it.

Once installed and activated, navigate to it by in the sidebar, by going to: SEO Friendly Images > Settings.

Once at the settings page for the plugin, you will see the configuration options to be applied to all images.

For Image ALT, and Image TITLE attributes setting, usually the best ones to put here, are the default ones they provide, which is %name %title for ALT, and %name photo for TITLE. What this does, is optimises the ALT and TITLE attributes, depending on what the page you place them on is about. For example, you have a page about new Movie's that are coming out, and the page is called ‘Coming Soon'. Then you place an image on that page of one that's coming out soon, such as ‘Focus' the new movie with Will Smith, and the file is named ‘Focus Movie'. The plugin would then optimise the ALT to say: “Coming Soon Focus Movie” and the TITLE as ‘Focus Movie photo. Now you can see that these are both related to the page or post, therefore if someone is searching through Google images about ‘Focus' they will more likely come across the image that's on your website, then upon clicking the image, would have the option to view the page it is located on, therefore directing the viewer to your page. Along with this, Google crawlers, which are bots that crawl your site to index it, will see that the page that is about Coming Soon movies, and then also see lots of images, that reinforce that fact, therefore ranking your site higher, as it deems I'm more relevant, and therefore its more SEO optimised.

The override options, are there to set if you want the plugin to override the defaults or you would like to set them yourself, or for them to still be set in some cases. Normally it's best to select the ALT one, which would enable you to set TITLE tags yourself if required. The last option to strip extension and delimiter for the title tag should be ticked.

Once done, make sure to click the “Update options” button.

SEO Friendly URL's The URL structure of your pages is important, and very simple to get right. Search engines, can index your site with either pretty or ugly URL's. however structures that follow the rules that we talk about below, will make your site more attractive, and rank higher than ones that don't.

  • Pretty (good) URL: www.example.com/topic-name
  • Ugly (not so good) URL: www.example.com/?p=345234

###Rule Number 1 - Permalinks Permalinks are what format and structure the URL's for your site will be in, it can range from a numeric method, a date or time method, or a post or structure method. You may have reasons to have a certain permalink setting, depending on what your site is about, however for most cases, the “Post Name” permalink setting and structure is the best to use. Due to it naming the URL, depending on the Title of the page or post on your WordPress website. The title is what you name the page, and you should name it based on what the site will be about, as it will be what shows up in your Navigation bar, and with this setting the URL too.

To set your permalink structure, in your sidebar, in your WordPress admin area go to: Settings > Permalinks.

Then on the page that comes up, select the “Post name” options and save the changes.

###Rule Number 2 - URL's after title naming After naming your title, in the box shown above, the URL will be set in 2 ways, either: - www.example.com/aboutus - www.example.com/about-us

Here you can see that the URL could be set with or without a hyphen. A common question that we found asked, is: Which is better to use?. The answer is simple. You should use the hyphen, and its important you don't use any other symbols to separate words, always use a hyphen. This enables the search bot to correctly distinguish between 2 different words, and is also much nicer for your viewers to see, and remember. Which is important for return visitors.

It's very important, that once you start using hyphens to separate the words, you must use hyphens on all your posts and pages. This part is mainly to enable people to properly jump to a page on your site. For example, a visitor usually sees your URL's with the hyphen, however on a few occasions you don't or forget to use it, and then that visitor, wants to return to that page or post on your website and uses the hyphen, when the url does not. The visitor will be shown a 404 page not found error.

###Rule Number 3 - Consolidate www. and non www. domain versions. The reason behind this is to avoid 404 errors from backlinks to your site. Which will impact negatively to your SEO. Backlinks are links to your site coming from other sites, for example: someone writing a review on a blog about your website, and puts a backlink for people wanting to view your site after reading the blog post.

However the writer, may use either the www. or the non www. depending on which version your site is set up with, will either cause the backlink to correctly find your site and the page or post it links to, or result in a 404 error.

The way to do this, is by setting up a ‘Permanent 301 redirect' which is preferred by search engines, this then redirects any viewer to your prefered version.

This is very easy to do with WordPress, just navigate to your admin area and go to: Settings > General.

Then set your ‘WordPress Address (URL)' and ‘Site Address (URL)' to either www. or non www. under your preference, it makes no difference in terms of SEO.

###Rule Number 4 - Close of Irrelevant pages It's important to hide certain pages from search engines, as they won't contain your target Keywords, and will just make your site on a whole rank lower, due to crawlers finding unrelated pages to your site. A good example for this, are your terms and conditions. This will be covered later in the tutorial, when we configure the SEO plugin for WordPress, as an option for this is included in there.

Installing and fully configuring ‘All in One SEO Pack' Plugin When it comes to SEO plugins for WordPress there are quite a few options, however there are 2 main ones, that the majority of people prefer, these are either ‘WordPress SEO by Yoast', or ‘All in One SEO Pack'. In this tutorial, we will be using our preferred plugin, which is the All in One SEO Pack.

To install the plugin, navigate to Plugins > Add New, as we did above when looking for the Friendly Image plugin, and then in the search box, search for “All in one SEO”, after the search has completed, you should see the “All in One SEO Pack” such as shown below.

We have already installed the plugin, but you will need to click the “Install” button, and then once installed activate the plugin.

Then navigate to in your sidebar of your admin area: All in One SEO > General Settings.

###Section 1 - General Settings

The first section you will see when navigating to this page, will be “General Settings”, here you will want to enable “Canonical URL's”, this stops several URL's leading to the same content, which then avoids your site receiving penalties from Google for duplicate content.

In Fact, while we touched on the topic of duplicate content, you should know, that its very important to ensure your pages don't contain the same information, Google does not like this, and will penalise website that do. An example of what could be classed as duplicate content, would be that you're advertising 2 very similar products, but they vary in a small way, instead of having 2 pages, with the majority of the same content on both, with a small difference for the small difference in the product, its best to have 1 page, with the majority of the content, which would then link to a separate page for the product only information. This avoids duplicate content on your pages.

No Pagination and custom Canonical URLs are best to have un-ticked for the general user. They enable you to change the default way Canonical URL's are set by either removing Pagination from them, or creating custom ones.

For the protocol setting, leave it on Auto, which then uses get_permalink() function, which will use the protocol specified in your wp-config.php file.

Original title is an option which you can enable if you have conflicts with other plugins or your theme with All in One SEO pack writing Title tags. Which is set to Disabled by default, and can be left at this, unless you experience conflicts.

Use Schema.org markup should be enabled for SEO purposes, as Schema markup provides search engines with information about your website, and so that they can display rich snippets which are good for SEO. Please note, that this option will show errors with W3C validator, however these errors are safe and can be ignored.

###Section 2 - Home Page Settings This section, gives you the options to set what you want your Title, and Descriptions to be for your Homepage, this is an important section as the homepage is the forefront of your site, the Title should accurately represent what your site is about as a whole, and should be simple and less than 60 characters. Your description should describe what your website is about on a whole, no more than 160 characters, it should contain at least one target Keyword. These are both Meta, and will appear in the Head section of your source code, and will be what search engines display in the search results as your link.

###Section 3 - Keyword Settings This section is about meta keywords, these keywords have very little if any value in todays SEO, people are Google say this themselves, so you can trust that this is true, and is no longer a value to Google. So leave this disabled.

###Section 4 - Title Settings This sections is all about the titles of your website, it allows you to define the format in which you want the titles to be automatically created for each page, post, category, archive and more.

Take a look at the image to the right, these are our recommended options to have here. For Page Title Format, you would want to replace ‘Companyname' with the name of your company (or website, or can also include the same as Post Title), but should be simple, and Post Title Format, should include your main site Keyword or phrase, so if you have a website about movie reviews, you would put ‘Movie Reviews' here to accurately tell viewers in Google what your site is about, and for SEO purposes, so bots can correctly index your site. Seeing all post titles in the same format with the same keyword or phrase, gives the website a high density of said keyword or phrase, therefore ranking higher for that.

All the other options are pretty simple, and remain at what is shown in the image. For the two tick boxes at the top, keep them ticked to capitalize Titles, to make it look better, however these don't affect SEO in terms of ranking. Rewrite titles should be enabled so that as mentioned above, all titles follow the same format, and cause higher density Keywords or phrases to rank higher in Google. Please note that these changes, won't be seen on the front end in your admin area, as they are written directly to the source code.

For the structure of the Titles in search engines, with our settings, please see the image to the right.

###Section 5 - Custom Post Type Settings The recommend settings for this section you can see in the image to the right, these settings ensure that all custom post types are included and optimised by the SEO plugin, if for some reason you do not want your custom post types to be included and optimised by the plugin, you disable it. Advanced options remains off for our recommendation as we want SEO optimisations on all of our custom post types, however advanced options gives you access to 2 more settings, the first one: “SEO on only these post types” allows you to select what post types you want to SEO optimise with the plugin and ones that you do not. With the second giving you the option to manually set the title tag format for each and every custom post type and taxonomy.

###Section 6 - Display Settings These settings are all about what you see. It controls what and where the settings, SEO keywords, Titles and description columns are shown. It allows you to see an overview of the content that has been added and the SEO meta titles. We prefer to tick all of these, as it allows us to double check all of the settings ourselves, and optimize them further if required. The ‘Display Menu' options, just allows you to set where you want to see and be able to access the plugin menu and SEO settings.

###Section 7 - Webmaster Verification This section is about verifying your website with search engines, which can give you access to tools and metrics with them. Depending on personal preference, you may want to do one, 2 or all of these, they don't have a direct impact to SEO, however they give you access to tools, that can help and improve your SEO. As our preference is SEO, and the most commonly used ones, we will show you how to verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools.

Firslty you will need to go to Google Webmaster Tools here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools

Once here, log into or create a Google account, then you will be directed to Webmaster tools. Depending on if you already have a website linked to Google Webmasters you may be shown a slightly different page, however you will need to find a button or box that says ADD A SITE, and then add your URL of your website, and continue.

You will then be directed to several methods which you can do to verify your site, as we are using the All In One SEO Plugin, the verification is very easy and quick, and can be done by going to “Alternate Methods”, and choosing the “HTML tag” method.

When here, take the code that has been highlighted in the above image, without the quotes, and copy it into the Google Webmaster Tools box in the plugin.

After this, scroll down the plugin settings, and hit the “Update Options” button. Once updated go back to Google Webmasters Tools, and hit the “Verify” button at the bottom of the alternate methods.

Done, your site is now verified! You now have access to lots of interesting metrics, information and tools. Take some time to have a look around!

###Section 8 - Google Settings These settings allow you to customise Google author ownership, and adds publisher markup onto the site. Which helps people find great content, and the markup on a site may have additional benefits. As of August 2014, Google removed support for authorship in search results. But it is still worth doing this section because of the author and publisher mark up.

The first few of these settings are fairly straight forward, and just involve connecting your Google + Profile, and setting a few options. You should leave ‘Disable Google Plus Profile' and ‘Display Sitelinks Search Box' de-selected, and ‘Advanced Authorship Options' down to your preference. If enabled, it allows you to further control the display of Google Plus authorship information on your website.

The next options are about setting up Google Analytics with the plugin and your website, and the settings and tracking around this. As Google Analytics can be set up many ways, you can find out about the different methods and how to install Google Analytics.

Enabling Advanced Analytics options is recommended for 2 important options which we will show in the image to the right. To explain; t's important to exclude certain users from tracking, for most purposes, just excluding the Administrator will be sufficient, but you may want to exclude others as well. If you don't exclude the administrator, then you would end up getting invalid Analytics due to it tracking all your clicks on the website, as you, as the administrator will be viewing the site a lot more than the general user. It is also useful in site to see the outbound links your visitors take. This shows where certain users may be exciting the site.

###Section 9 - Noindex Settings

We talked about ‘Noindex' briefly earlier in the tutorial. These settings instruct Google, and other search engine bots what to index, and what not to index. This helps to eliminate pages, and sections that may decrease your SEO. Be careful with these, as setting a Noindex setting on something that should be index'd can drastically affect SEO, a Google bots will simply not go, view and read the data on those pages, therefore they may aswell not be there. So we recommend that you follow our recommendations here, or if you are worried at all, don't set any settings, however this may cause irrelevant, and potentially damaging pages and work on your website negatively affect your hard SEO work.

The last 2 settings you may question, the “Open Directory Project” in basically a huge web directory of internet resources; websites, images, pages, posts, blogs, forums and more. It's basically a giant internet and virtual equivalent of the Yellow Pages.

The Yahoo! Directory, is the same kind of thing as the “Open Directory Project” apart from its created and maintained by Yahoo!

###Section 10 - Advanced Settings Take your SEO optimisation to the next level! Advanced settings give you the options that let you completely fine tune your SEO optimisation with the plugin, we will walk you through what each option does, and weather we recommend it or not.

Avoid Using the Excerpt in Descriptions should remain de-ticked. If ticked it will cause all meta descriptions to not be generated from any excerpt. Forcing the plugin to use what it has generated or nothing. An excerpt is a short extract of text, and you can create these in the “Description” box for each of your posts or pages.

We recommend Autogenerate Descriptions to be ticked, so that your META descriptions will be generated from your excerpt or your content. So when and excerpt has not been created (as explained above), it will generate one from the first lines of your content on your page.

We recommend that the Run Shortcodes in Autogenerated Descriptions to be ticked, what this does is if text is wrapped in a short code on your page or post, it will still be read and sent to the SEO description, therefore making the description better resemble your content, and therefore result in better SEO. For example, if you have a drop down short code, which makes when you press a button it will open up a box below with the content in. If you then have this at the top of the page, but this option is not ticked in settings, it will not be picked up and ignored. Then the next text that is not wrapped in short code will be used for the description. Which in major cases may cause no description to be generated at all if all your text is encased in a short code on that page or post.

Remove Descriptions For Paginated Pages, Paginated pages are duplicate pages that have URL's like: www.example.com/example-page/page_2/. Doing this avoids getting duplicate description penalties from Google, and we highly recommended to tick this.

Never Shorten Long Descriptions, should not be ticked as the recommend description length is 160 characters, ticking this box would make descriptions that are longer than this, be included which would make your site description look ‘messy'. See the two below images for an example of a shortened (nice and correct) description, and a long (messy) description.

Unprotect Post Meta Fields, we recommend to leave this unticked.

Exclude pages allows you to set specific pages that you want to exclude from the All in One SEO Pack and any SEO optimisation. This is just good for pages that have been auto generated by a plugin. You may want the pages included, but if you don't enter their url extension in here. Such as /forum/ or /contact/. This will exclude all pages with that word in it.

Additional Post, Page, Front Page and blog Headers; these boxes don't necessarily have to be for SEO purposes, its just anything that you want in the headers of all those pages.

##Conclusion After following the above you should have a good start on SEO Optimising your Wordpress site. These changes are known as 'On-site' SEO, and it sets the foundation so search engines know what you're trying to target. After you've completed your on-site SEO you then need to get working on the other side off the SEO world, the 'off-site'. This includes things such as Social SEO - creating great content and getting it shared around Twitter, Facebook et al. Also, content outreach - getting your site naturally linked from other sites of similar content.

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