0Wordpress LogoThe WordPress Guide

Part 2: Attracting Traffic

2.1 Search Engine Optimisation

Make your site more attractive to search engines

2.1.1 The “wordpress SEO” plugin by yoast

This is by far the best and most comprehensive SEO tool I’ve used. There are also extensive and really thorough articles on Yoast explaining all the SEO options. It will take some time to figure it out, but its time very well spent.

2.1.2 Create your own images

A surprisingly large number of your incoming search results can come from image searches, and having images on your site is beneficial for other reasons too (see section 1.4.9). Creating your own images makes them more likely to be clicked on as you’re the only site with that image. Create large images and let wordpress automatically create resized images for display on your pages. You can link the resized images to the originals so the search engine crawlers will index the full size images.

There are 3 common image formats currently supported by web browsers: JPEG, GIF and PNG.  There is also a format known as SVG which has potential but this is not yet widely supported by browsers or wordpress.  GIF is no longer very common as PNG provides the same features with smaller file sizes in a royalty-free format.  Where possible we recommend using PNG images.  JPEG images are excellent for highly complex images like photographs, but the jpeg format uses lossy compression as standard so image quality is not guaranteed.  For icons, logos and simpler images the PNG format is superior.  It doesn’t use lossy compression so image quality is guaranteed, it supports transparent backgrounds, and it often results in the smallest file sizes.  For more information about image size efficiency see section 3.1.7.

2.1.3 Use videos

If you’re explaining how to do something, consider creating a video tutorial. Put the tutorial on your own YouTube channel and link it with your post. This can really help to illustrate what it is that you’re trying to explain, and of course, it will bring in traffic from video searches and YouTube.

2.1.4 Provide image information

This is important for accessibility as much as anything. You really should complete the alt text, description and title for your images. This is good practice for the visually impaired and the search engines like it. Simple as that.

2.1.5 Reduce duplicated content

Search Engines really don’t like lots of duplicated content. We show the first part of each article on the front page, but on the archives we show the excerpt. The excerpt is different from the first part of the post so the archives don’t duplicate the homepage or the article itself. Whilst the archives do duplicate each other to some extent, the level of duplication is reduced by different articles appearing on each archive.

2.1.6 Disable some of the archives

This is another way to reduce duplicated content. Having lots of different types of archive increases duplicate content and it’s confusing for readers too. We have disabled the date archives and post-type archives and only use category, tag and author archives. The search page is also a kind of archive of course, so take that into account. If you retain several archives, consider using your robots.txt (or the yoast SEO plugin) to prevent indexation of some of them. We have disabled indexation of the tag archives for example.

2.1.7 Use headings

Searching engines like keywords in heading tags. So will your readers. It will also help you, the author. Writing an article of this length would have been confusing if I hadn’t used headings! The headings also made it easier to refer readers to other related parts of the article.

2.1.8 Get listed on the DMOZ

All the main search engines give some weight to being listed on the DMOZ. It isn’t necessarily very easy to get listed, but if you can the pay-off is well worth it.

2.1.9 Configure appropriate permalinks

Having key words from the article title in the page address is good, having them diluted by dates, category names etc is not. I recommend using just %pagename% as your permalinks. Unless you are likely to have multiple posts with the same title there is no disadvantage to using this simple structure. In earlier versions of wordpress this had performance issues, but this has been fixed in wordpress 3.3. Reducing the length of the address of articles also reduces the chance that e-mailed links will get broken by a line wrap (see 2.2.4).

2.1.10 Use breadcrumbs

You’ll notice at the top of all our pages we have a line which starts “you are here”. These “breadcrumbs” make it instantly visible where you are on our site. They also provide an easy to use system to navigate around the site. Both your readers and search engines will find navigating your site easier if you use breadcrumbs.

2.1.11 Provide microdata

Using microdata properly will help to get your site listed for specific content types – e.g. reviews, recipes, etc. You can also user microdata to include author information which shows up in google search results, and increase the likelihood your link will get clicked on. There is anecdotal evidence that these will also improve your pagerank directly. You can use the rich snippets testing tool (see section 1.1.6) to check your code.

2.1.12 Don’t be tempted to “cheat”

There are lots of ways of trying to artificially increase your SEO. My advice is to avoid any that are clearly trying to trick the system. Sooner or later your technique will get spotted and you will be dumped into the “google black hole”. It’s not ethical, and in the longer term, it won’t work. Invest your time making your site better for your readers and you’ll reap the rewards.

2.1.13 Buy your domain for a long period

I don’t know for certain, but I’ve heard from various sources that google will rank you higher if your domain has been registered for a long time. Unless you don’t plan to keep your site going, it’s worth going for a longer registration if you can afford it. 10 years would be excellent.

2.1.14 Use a robots.txt

The Yoast SEO plugin will do this for you, but if you don’t use it, you should create one. A detailed article on SixRevisions provides more details.

2.1.15 Create xml sitemaps

Again – the Yoast SEO plugin will do this for you, but if you don’t use it, you should create a sitemap.xml. Submit your sitemap to google webmaster tools (see section 1.3.3). Again SixRevisions provide more details.

2.1.16 Consider a trademark

OK, this isn’t very cheap. But like a long domain registration, having a TM registered is rumoured to give a significant boost to google’s ranking of your site. If you’re a business this is likely to be of more interest than a smaller scale operation.

2.1.17 Create a dublin.rdf

See the guide on SixRevisions

2.1.18 Create a OpenSearch.xml

See the guide on SixRevisions

2.1.19 Google’s new ranking system

I’ve added this at the bottom to make you aware of it, even though almost all of the tips on this article address these issues. Google frequently update their ranking algorithms, and in Spring 2011 they introduced a new system. The algorithm is increasingly intelligent and will try to judge your site based on more “human” factors and less on just the number of incoming links. The important new ranking factors include: The average amount of time spent your readers spend on your site, the bounce rate of your site, the number of web pages viewed per visit, your page response times and your conversion rates. You can view this sort of data with Google Analytics (see section 1.3.1). If you engage and retain your readers you’ll be doubly rewarded thanks to the new ranking system. The ranking of page response times makes performance doubly important (see section 3.1). To deal with high bounce rates or low conversion rates, I recommend you start by reading the article addressing exactly that by Avinash Kaushik.

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