wp_yoast_dashboardSo, its time for the final article in this series, and throughout this I have discovered something: blogging and keeping up with it is harder than it appears.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO refers to adding the correct copy (your site text/content), markup, layout, and other things to get your website to rank higher in the search results. I myself am not an SEO master; I’m primarily a programmer, but I’m constantly asked to input SEO-related queries onto websites and do the parts of SEO that others aren’t capable of doing, so I do know a bit about how it works. This site will truly be the first site I do all the SEO myself.

Of course, like with sharing with social media, most of these techniques can be applied to almost any website. However, you wouldn’t get many of the internal advantages that WordPress has for SEO. WordPress by default has good internal SEO capabilities. WordPress url’s can be replaced with url’s that show more info about the page, referred to as “SEO-friendly” url’s, as opposed to classic url structures that simply show a page id. Also, WordPress is capable of installing other plugins like WordPress SEO to help improve SEO techniques even more.

Initialization

I began discussing some SEO techniques during my discussion of Setting up a WP Site. Typically that’s because I generally do go in and immediately set up a number of SEO-related issues right when I create a new site. I’ll reiterate these issues here and then go into a little more detail.

Don't enable indexing until your website is live, otherwise it will harm your ranking in the long run.

Don’t enable indexing until your website is live, otherwise it will harm your ranking in the long run.

First, until your site is live, disable indexing under “Settings > Reading.” Typically, though, you should just do that when installing your site. Second, change your permalink settings under “Settings > Permalinks.” The best option is usually “Post name.” At one point in time Post name caused extreme slowdown, but this was fixed a while back and is now always your #1 choice. Third, install WordPress SEO and Redirection. 404 Redirected is an option, too, but there are some issues I’ve found with the plugin, otherwise I’d recommend it over Redirection.

After this, the next step is to sign up with Google Webmaster and Google Analytics. Google Webmaster is very helpful for finding 404 errors and repairing problems. Google Analytics tracks visitors to your site. Just do a quick search to figure out how to install them. Google Webmaster can be added with WordPress SEO, but oddly enough, WordPress SEO as of yet does not have a built-in feature to add Google Analytics code (that I am aware of).

If at all possible, build the ability to add Google Analytics code into your theme. If not, search for and install the plugin Smart Google Code Inserter. I only recommend using Smart Google Code Inserter as a last resort, though. Definitely do not edit any theme you downloaded, only edit the theme files if you had your theme custom made.

Duplicate and Invalid Content

Duplicate content can cause some SEO issues. Forwarding your alternate domains should always be your #1 priority when dealing with duplicate content. As far as Google is concerned, subdomains are different websites, INCLUDING www. In the case of deciding between having www. in your url or not, all you have to do is define which you want in WordPress through Settings > General, and WordPress will automatically forward the other domain.

If you’re on a server such as Bluehost, you will have alternate url’s that you will want to forward to your main url. This only matters if your website is set up on an Addon Domain. Even then, though, I still recommend putting your root website inside a subdirectory with .htaccess as well.

As I stating in my first article on this issue, the following code can be used to redirect any subdomains you may have:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^tsr-online.org$ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www\.)?tsronline.jrconway.net$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.tsr-online.org$1 [R=301,L]

Although this may have been a little advanced for the setup, I typically do this immediately when I create a new website on Bluehost. Pointing your root domain to a subdirectory is more complicated, though, so I won’t discuss this just yet.

You should already have WordPress SEO installed, as well. Go to “SEO > Titles & Metas > Taxonomies” in your admin panel. On this page check noindex, follow in all three locations. Categories and Tags should not be indexed because they will often contain duplicate content which can hurt your SEO ranking, but should be followed so that any posts linked to can get indexed as well.

In some cases where duplicate content slips through and gets indexed, its always helpful to have a backup plan. Under these cases, you should 301 redirect the duplicate content page causing problems to the valid page you need it to be pointed to. That’s why I suggested you install the Redirection plugin.

404 Redirected is a helpful plugin, but I’ve seen a lot of issues with it as well. 301 redirecting pages does not always work correctly, and you cannot make manual relative redirects, either. I highly recommend Redirection for adding in all your redirects. The only reason to use 404 Redirected is for its ability to track 404 errors, but I highly recommend turning off its annoying ability to automatically add 301 redirects. I often see it redirecting pages marked as “canonical,” even though I need both pages available.

Naturally, 404 errors are an SEO issue as well. If you spot any 404 errors through 404 Redirected or Google Webmaster, use the Redirection plugin to direct them to the correct url’s.

Using Valid Markup

w3_validator_indexA major SEO issue stems from not using proper markup. The reasoning behind this is that search engines scrape sites and follow the logical tag definitions as defined by W3C standards. If your site isn’t standard, your website often will not render correctly in the browser.

One of the last things you should do before making your website live is running it through the W3C validator. The reason I say “last” is because you’ll often make a lot of coding modifications. Even if you maintain excellent coding standards, you’re bound to come across a couple of issues. I had about 30 issues when I validated my website this past day. 29 of them were all from a WordPress-specific issue, which I fixed by following the instructions on this blog post. If you run the W3C Validation right now for http://www.jrconway.net, you’ll see that it shows my website validates successfully.

Even if your site does validate successfully, though, there are certain ways to improve search engine optimization. The main thing you should take note is that all markup tags have specific meanings. ALWAYS make sure to use them in a meaningful way.

For example, the main header on every page should be an h1 tag. You should only have one h1 tag per page (though I’ve heard that this may be changing). When I have a list of blog posts, I tend to make the headers of each post an h2. I use h3’s for my sidebar headers, and then h4-h6 are just for smaller headers in content.

Rather than using div’s or line breaks for spacing, use actual p (paragraph) tags. <p> tags should always, always be used for your paragraphs. If you’re just simply using wordpress posts and pages, though, WordPress automatically adds paragraph tags so you don’t need to worry about it.

There are also a number of other tags that can be used. Such tags include header, section, article, footer, aside, small, strong, em. The tags section, footer, and aside are content blocks that can be used to replace the more common div tag. Most content blocks on a page should be broken up into sections, the header should be a header as well as the header of each section, same goes for footer. WordPress defaults to using article for all articles, which is definitely the best choice. Finally, the aside tag can be utilized for side content, of course, such as your website’s sidebar.

The tags small, strong, and em are inline text tags. By default strong makes text bold, but its meaning is for text that holds greater purposes; it stands out more. Em is similar as it shows emphasis on the text, by default making it italic. Small tends to make text smaller, of course. This is primarily for copyrights and addresses.

Try to use the correct tags whenever possible for best results.

Copy

A common job you may see a lot is for a Copyrighter. I will flat out say right now, although I have learned a lot about SEO, Copyrighting still eludes me. Basically, though, the idea is to put greater emphasis on specific key words and phrases on your site.

Any individual page/post can have its title and description altered with WordPress SEO.

Any individual page/post can have its title and description altered with WordPress SEO.

Your meta tags need to reflect what your site’s content holds. WordPress SEO by Yoast allows you to alter all meta tags on your website with ease. You can change your tags on pretty much any post or page under the “WordPress SEO by Yoast” section of your post/page form screen.

In addition, if you go to “SEO > Titles & Metas,” the various tabs in here will give you greater options on how to control your meta tags. Changing the values of these meta tags is not always necessary, but sometimes is beneficial to improve your ranking.

The actual copy of your site must reflect your meta tags as well, though. When Google adds your website into the rankings, they always check to see what websites actually have more information about the subject at hand. Again, this is something I’m not as keen on, choosing the right words and fitting them well into the content of your website. I’m well aware of most of the programming and markup aspect to SEO, its the copy itself that I’m still working out.

Wrap-Up

In any case, I’ve covered about all I can for now. Time for me to start working on actual programming for a change. I’m now currently looking into seeing how HTML5 games work, as I’ve been wanting to do a game for a long time. I’ll likely have another article about related to this tomorrow or Sunday.

Until next time.