As with most things in life, it is generally better (and quicker) to do things right the first time when setting up your new WordPress site. WordPress mistakes can always be corrected later, but wouldn’t it be better for your traffic and business if things were done right from the start? As a dedicated WordPress designer and developer, I have learned the hard way that some things should be done the same way, every time, regardless of what your site is designed to do. Rather than build your site, plan for your traffic, and then scratch your head wondering what went wrong, make sure your website complies with these nine simple rules. Whether your site is brand new, or an established site with disappointing traffic, following these 9 simple guidelines will deliver immediate results to your search results and your bottom line.
Here we go..
1. Update the Structure of Your Permalinks
WordPress, out of the box, has a very search-unfriendly default permalink structure. To make your content found on search, you need to have your keywords in the url and the page title. Luckily, if you took the advice above and installed a good SEO plugin, this can be accomplished with the click of a mouse. If course, it is better to do this before you start publishing content to your site, but even if you have already published using the default settings, with a little effort you can make changes now, and update the urls to your existing content.
2. Install a Quality SEO Plugin for Your Site
Unless you are an SEO expert (and even if you are), using a quality SEO plugin can be the key to managing your complete on-page and off-page SEO effectively. Personally, this is the very first thing I install on every site I build. My personal preference is the WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast. This comes with a free, comprehensive user guide that is constantly updated as search technology and guidelines change, and most settings can be set once to optimize some critical shortcomings of the WordPress dashboard and initial site settings. Another popular SEO plugin is All-in-One SEO Pack, which happens to be the top download. Again, Yoast is just my personal preference, so look at them both to find which is more comfortable to you.
3. Optimize Images and Media
If a considerable part of your content happens to be images and/or video, you can see a considerable increase in traffic my making sure your content is optimized properly for search. For images, make sure you use proper alt attributes and titles that accurately describe the image, and ensure additionally that the image is the correct size and quality for loading to your page. An image uploaded at an extremely high density, or extra-large size, slows the load time and diminishes the user experience. For videos, here is a great video plugin for increasing search visibility.
4. Install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Data is key to understanding your customer as well as understanding what is working (and not working) on your site. Adding your site to Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools gives you all of the data you need for understanding where your customers are coming from, where they are going on your site, and what they are searching for to get there. As it takes time to populate usable data, especially on new sites, it is important to get this set up correctly, and as quickly as possible. To make this easier, and not have to edit your header files, try using DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager. This plugin allows you to insert your code snippets without editing any files, and keeps your header clean.
5. Build Complete About and Contact Us Pages for Your Site
6. Avoid Thin, Low Quality Content
Especially beginning the end of 2014, Google has been paying attention to low word count, low quality content meant to target a keyword, with little value to the reader. Prior to this, it was fairly easy to rank for medium-to-low value keywords – simply write 300-400 words, with a keyword density of 4-5%, and build some links. Now, Google is focusing on long-form, detailed, 800 to 1,000 word posts that bring value to the reader and coordinate with the general theme of the website.
7. Choose a Quality Theme
Selecting a quality theme, one that loads quickly, allows customization, and works seamlessly with popular plugins, is a key to maintaining and growing your online presence. Whether you want to pay for a premium theme, or you are thinking of starting with a free download, make sure you get your theme from a reputable, quality source like Presscastle.com or Themeforest. The last thing you want for your site is to spend the time and effort building your new site, only to discover your theme is broken or, worse, contains code that possibly hijacks your site.
8. Ensure Your Site is Cross-Platform Friendly
An increasing and important amount of website traffic originates from tablets and mobile. If your site does not display properly across all platforms, you have crippled your ability to reach a large part of your potential market. With the large number of free and premium fully responsive themes available for WordPress, there is no excuse for not reaching your entire market across multiple devices.
9. Build Your Social Media Footprint Starting Now
Google, and other search engines, are relying increasingly on social signals as relevance for search results. Start organically building your social presence now by establishing your Google +, Facebook and Linkedin pages, as well as any other social sites relevant to your niche. Use a WordPress social media plugin, such as WP Social Booster, to maximize your social footprint. While this particular plugin has a bit of a learning curve to utilize all of the features, once you get it set it will handle 90% of the social media work for you, leaving you more time to develop great content.
Do you disagree with my path to WordPress success, or maybe you think I left out something important? Leave a comment and let us know!