March 17, 2009
It’s no secret that a continually updated website with new content being added regularly stands a good chance of doing well in Google. One of the long standing methods to regularly expand a site’s content is through the use of a blog.
While there are numerous platforms to choose from for managing a blog, few can compare with the immense flexibility offered with WordPress, and at a cost of free, the price can’t be beat either.
Google likes fresh new content, and setting up a blog on your site, assuming it is updated often with interesting and relevant material, can be one of the best things you can do to help out your search rankings. The beauty behind WordPress is that there is a wide array of totally free plug-ins you can easily install that will make your blog totally search engine friendly.
The following are some basic guidelines and essential plug-ins you should consider when you install your WordPress blog.
The first configuration you need to do is work on customizing the design template to match your existing site. I suggest finding a template that matches as closely as possible to the look you are going for then work on tweaking its graphics, colors, and other particulars till you achieve the desired appearance.
Most of your changes will occur in the header.php, footer.php, index.php, and page.php files in the theme editor, however, the theme you install will dictate which files actually need to be updated. You will also need to make some adjustments to your CSS file. These changes all involve working with code and graphics, and are most likely left to a professional.
Once you have your design set up, the rest of the customization is considerably less technical. The following are suggestions that most people can do themselves and you probably will not need an expert to help you here.
The next thing you need to do is customize your URL’s. You do not want the default post URLs (“pageid=#”) as they are simply not search friendly and you want your default names to have some meaning to them. While you can customize your URL’s with various plug-ins, you may not always think to do this, so be sure to have a default you can live with.
Under the settings tab in your dashboard, click on permalinks. Here I suggest choosing one of the settings that includes the post name. Including the month and year is totally optional as it will have little to no impact on your search rankings, but you definitely do want to include the post name.
WWW or no WWW
With WordPress, there is no need to worry about the www vs no www redirects. It is handled for you, but you do need to select which variation you want, and it’s very simple to do. Under “General Settings” you will see two fields; one for “WordPress address” and the other, “Blog address”. Ensure that both these fields include the “www” (or not), whichever you prefer, and that’s it. (I always recommend using the “www” version of your URL as most people linking into your site will use it, and this will help keep a consistency among your site.
There is an almost endless supply of free plug-ins out there that you can add to your site ranging from photo galleries and spam protection, to social media integrators for Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and others. While many of these others will benefit your blog and search rankings, the XML Sitemap, and SEO plug-ins are truly essential.
When setting up your new installation, the first plug-in you need to install is one that will allow for totally customized title, meta description tags, and page URL’s. There are a number of tools that do this ranging from the widely popular “All in One SEO Pack” to a relative newcomer “HeadSpace2”.
While I personally have yet to try HeadSpace2, it is high on my list, as it has been recommended by many industry professionals as the best WordPress SEO plug-in. For any new blog installation I highly recommend this plug-in be installed right away.
XML Sitemap Plug-in
To the best of my knowledge, HeadSpace2 does not have an XML sitemap option, and as such I highly recommend “Google XML Sitemaps”. This plug-in will automatically generate XML sitemaps for you on the fly and submit it to Google every time you add, remove, or update a page or post. This helps ensure that Google has the latest information at all times. It’s a very simple plug-in to install and configure and once setup, you can forget about it and it will do the job for you.
A well optimized site loaded with relevant content can do very well in Google if setup correctly. The power of WordPress can make this process incredibly easy so all you have to worry about is writing those great articles and selling your customers. The plug-ins and functionality of WordPress are endless and when installed correctly can make the optimization of your blog considerably easier, increasing your chances for top rankings.
Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc.; based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott’s articles and those of the veteran StepForth team at http://news.stepforth.com or contact us at http://www.stepforth.com