WordPress is a great platform for building websites and we’ve had some great results SEO’ing WordPress installations. However, straight out of the box, its not perfect, but can be improved.
Page Load Times
Search engines such as Google put much emphasis on usability and if visitors are bouncing back out of your site after being frustrated waiting for pages or images to load, that sends a really bad signal to them, meaning your site will likely get pushed down the results.
Run your site through Pingdom’s free website speed tester: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/
I’ve seen some really slow sites, but typical WordPress sites on cheap, shared web hosting with (too many) plugins, tend to have load times IRO of 3-4 seconds (too slow). You want less than 2 seconds minimum with a target of below 1 second, and this is what you need to consider:
- Firstly, consider moving to a better quality host if your site is hosted on budget hosting, in order to increase speed. Downtime will also reduce which will also improve SEO.
- Make sure images are compressed.
- Always use good quality themes and carefully sourced plugins.
- Be careful with caching & minifying plugins. I little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing and popular performance plugins when used incorrectly with budget hosting can drastically slow page load times.
- Consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which are essentially high performance servers distributed around the world serving copies of your files (images, style sheet, etc) in the region closest to the visitor and can really speed things up. When used with performance caching, real speed improvements can be seen with page load times below 1 second. Learn more about MaxCDN
Take a look at the drastic improvements achieved here: http://www.crescentdigital.co.uk/case-study-website-improvement/
Set up your permalink structure in WordPress. Its been covered many times, so I won’t go into further detail, but I will add that you will also need to think carefully about the structure and navigation. Well structured hierarchical categories and navigation assist both SEO & the usability experience (which in turn, boosts SEO).
The main reason that 85% of us use Google and not AltaVista or Yahoo is because of the high quality of its results. Credible sites are distinguished from low quality sites by the search engines using several factors including:
- Domain age and length of registration (low quality sites come & go quickly)
- Relevant business information, include contact details, physical addresses and company registration details visible on the site.
- Terms & conditions and privacy policies.
- Schemas – these can give signals about opening hours or events (for further reading, please checkout schema.org)
- Go easy on the adverts. Whilst some bloggers rely on this for an income, Google is getting really good at spotting adverts – even text adverts within paragraphs – and sees this as a sign of a lower quality site.
Go Mobile Ready
Recently, Google has been experimented with listing ‘mobile ready’ labels next to its results. From April 21st 2015, Google will penalise non-compliant sites, so make sure your theme and any modifications are mobile responsive.
Again, I would emphasise to be careful of the plugins you install, and only install carefully sourced ones. Below is my list of recommendations:
- Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin – this covers most options. It checks on the keyword density of pages, rewrites page title and meta descriptions, produces xml sitemaps in addition to a few other tricks.
- W3TotalCache – performance plugin, which if correctly used with a CDN such as MaxCDN, can result in significant speed improvements.
- schema.org – this will provide search engines precise information about your business such as starred reviews or event listings
SEO is no longer about link building and keyword stuffing (if it ever was), which this article intentionally didn’t cover. There are now so many factors affecting SEO, with user experience and credibility being major considerations and we’ve had some great results using the above principles.