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How to make a WordPress blog visitor and SEO friendly

WordPress seems to be the blogging platform of choice for the majority of blogger-wanna-be's. But does everyone make their blog user and search engine friendly? It's easier than it sounds.

Basics

To make your WordPress blog user and SE friendly, you'll need to make sure there is enough navigation between your posts and pages, that your site performs well and that keywords are better placed. There are just a few things you need to handle:

  • setup additional plugins
  • redirect visitors and bots to only one version (www or non-www)
  • change the permalink structure

As basic SEO stuff is easy, let's start with 301 redirecting and changing permalinks.

Redirecting

As you need to tell the search engines to index only one version (search engines consider two versions as two separate websites with duplicate content), you need to setup a 301 redirect to one of them, if you haven't done so yet. Let's redirect to the www version, for example.

To redirect your site from non-www to www version with .htaccess, you need to create the .htaccess file in the root folder (It is simply a file named '.htaccess' without any extension) or append the code below to your current file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^domain\.com [nc]
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.domain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

To check if it is working, go to yourdomain.com and hit "Refresh". You should be redirected to www.yourdomain.com. If you get a server error, check if everything is correct and you have replaced domain.com with your domain. (Don't forget to make the .htaccess writable by typing 'chmod 666 .htaccess' in the root of your blog during an FTP session.)

Changing permalink structure

As a matter of fact, a blogging platform is a content management system (a CMS). It generates HTML code on the fly, so there are no real physical files. This allows you to change your file structure quite easily (if your hosting server is on Apache and uses mod_rewrite).

When changing the permalink structure, you'll need to make the platform put post titles in post URLs (this is a quite helpful) as well as remove the dates. Date's are not necessary (mostly) and Google values pages close to the domain root and Google supposedly prefers shorter URLs.

To do this, go to your Dashboard (domain.com/wp-admin or domain.com/blog/wp-admin), go to "Options", "Permalinks". Select "Custom" and make sure /%postname%/ is typed in the field. There, now virtual file names will start right after the domain.

If you do want to keep dates, at least make sure the days, months and year are separated by a hyphen (-) in the custom URL field.

Setup plugins

Now starts the fun part. The information above was pretty definite. Now you'll need to do some things yourself a bit (don't worry, it's simply anyway).

The main problem with WordPress is that it offers little navigation. You can only create pages (not necessarily linked to your posts), have categories for navigation and link to your older posts. What you can add with the help of plugins is recent posts and related posts. To cut the story short, here is a list of plugins that will improve your site SEO and usability:

  • Optimal title: changes the order of your post and blog titles in the title tag. Helps on both SEO and usability by showing unique post titles first, common blog title second. A 'must have' WP plugin.
  • Related posts: displays as many related posts as you want, as well as post excerpts. You may want to stick to 1-3 not to clutter your blog.
  • Recent posts: naturally, displays recent posts. Can display as many posts, pages or both as you like. Either for a number of days, of past days or just a fixed number of posts.
  • Post teaser: though you can show post excerpts by writing your own or by pressing the "More" button while creating a post, the "Post teaser" plugin simply shows a specified number of words from the beginning of the post. I have found that 60 works well for me, but may vary for your blog and taste.
  • WP-Cache: creates physical files for the site to load faster
  • Acronym replacer: if you use acronyms in your every post, it is time for you to get the "Acronym replacer" plugin. This way, you won't have to type in acronym titles every time either. The only thing you might need to do first is to update the plugin file to include more acronyms.

To install a plugin, go to the site, download the .php file, copy it to your wp-content/plugins/ folder if its a single file and to wp-content/plugins/plugin-folder if there are multiple files. Then go to Admin/Plugins in your WordPress admin panel and activate the plugins. Some plugins may require additional tweaking - such notes are located on the plugin's websites.

Naturally, this SEO-friendly WordPress plugins list is not complete. There may be dozens of equally useful plugins. So if you do see, use or code any, do let me know.

What else?

Becides fixing your blog with redirects and plugins, there are several more things you can do to make your site user and SEO friendly:

  • research keywords to use the words your customers use
  • write human-friendly titles
  • format the text for reading from screen
  • create pages with links to the most important or themed posts
  • use clear link labels
  • use simple English language
  • make the site accessible (crawlable) by using text instead of graphics and static-looking pages

Generally, the best thing you can do for your blog is to write naturally and with keywords in mind and place them well. Using plugins and additional navigational help, such as creating pages and listing your posts in them, like Brian at CopyBlogger, can definitely help.

As blogging is still a new industry, even if it's been for a few years, you can still experiment with blog layout by checking various themes, navigation structure and internal linking strategies.

More SEO WordPress plugins at:

Comments

Researching keywords or search phrases is the first place to start. I would agree with your advise on linking. Also you will want to ensure the search term you choose for your site is on that page and you get good quality inbound links.

To me it come down to inbound links.

Yup, can't have too many links :)

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