Ok, still can’t quite believe we’re going to do this with our our hard-won information, but, well anyone who’s put up with our constant stream of nonsensical musings here this long deserves to learn something useful by now..
We also want to make it clear we are talking about pure ranking power alone here, superior SEO rankings power, not social media promotion, subscriber figures, conversions or anything else, ultimately that will be down to the quality of your writing and content, just as (not so) coincidentally, will your rankings be.
..so here goes, this is the first in a 3-part series (maybe more depending on our propensity for rambling off on tangents) of:
The SEO Ibiza Guide to Awesome WordPress rankings
If you haven’t noticed yet, our blog rocks in the charts.
Most people who find us come from Google, we don’t really do social media, and apart from a few of the posts getting picked up and stumbled, twittered etc, the majority of our hits are Google, and Google images.
The blog was newly installed on 07 March 2008. We imported the contents of the old blogger blog (now seo spec ops) and deleted most of posts to avoid too much duplicate content (and left several duplicate posts there too, to see what happened to rankings etc, – there was no big bogeyman duplicate penalties, the blog post with more PR ranked, initially the blogspot one, which gradually faded across until the WordPress one started to rank on the same posts)
<<– check the penalty in action
Since then through an ongoing process of constant experimentation, refining and honing the setup on our WP SEO configuration, SEO content creation and ongoing operational strategies, we are basically at the stage where almost whatever we write about is highly likely to be showing up somewhere in the charts, and often very well indeed.
Check a few example searches bulleted below so you know that we have some clue what we’re talking about (there’s nothing lamer than reading “how-to’s” on blogs that dont rank for anything..)
So… how is it done? Of course there’s no one magic bullet, and there’s quite a lot to it, so we’ll start at the beginning and cover the whole thing over an estimated 3-4 posts, and try and give you some new stuff to think about in each of them.
So the list we are going to work through is
Setup structure, plugins, configuration, content / operational strategy & tactics
1. Setup & structure
Get this wrong and you’ll always struggle against those who get it right. On the bright side you can change it pretty much any time, but the further you are into a blog, the less attractive moving it becomes.
In our opinion WordPress works just as well, (and actually better) in a subfolder, and the advantage of this is that you can build a static site above on the root/ and totally explode your ranking potential because
- you can leverage the ranking potential and the content of the static site above, you can get indented listings showing one static page and one blog post, so the potential for longtail hits is in simple terms more or less multiplied by the amount of static pages above the blog.
- you can manage your linkjuice with more precise control than having it all hit the front page of the blog and necessarily distributed through the multiple links to content we want to have showing there.
Even if you don’t have or have any plans for a static site at this point, just put up an optimized holding/splash page and put your blog on site.com/blog/ (or /news/ , /yacht-news – or whatever) you will thank us for this further down the line.
It is not essential, WordPress on the main domain will also work very well, but we would bet that we would do better than a comparable site, with our blog on a subfolder and a static site above.
Later on, when you add pages to the static site, keep the architecture flat, and make sure all the pages link to each other using [ ..it's time to introduce the first acronym TAT - Target Anchor Text ] which should be the same thing as the first 1 – 3 words of that page’s title, and link to the blog domain.
If you are not putting the blog one folder level down from the root, and you have competitive words in mind as your ultimate targets, then seriously consider putting at least a WordPress static page on the front, and run the blog on another internal page.
Back to the blog. Did you read and act on Joost’s WordPress SEO guide? or SEO Design Solutions WordPress SEO tips ? hopefully you have, and that’s the tech stuff covered, but in case not we need to ensure a few things about the WP setup.
1. You need to use decent permalinks.
Not exactly big news, granted, but worth mentioning because it becomes much more important with the layering of keywords in our content work later on.
Don’t stress over what type, it’s really a matter of personal preference, as long as they’re not still the ?page_id=191 type, it doesn’t seem to matter too much. (if they still are, you can use this plugin to manage a switchover much more easily than in the past.
We use the 2009/04/23/postname format and it works just fine, you can make them look prettier if you want to, its not necessary for decent rankings.
2. You want Trackbacks switched on.
Trackbacks are vastly underused on most WP installations we see, and when they are used they’re mostly not optimized. We’ll get back to this subject later on.
3. You need the 5** WP SEO plugins here installed.
4. Sidebar -use it.
Don’t worry about “PR leaks” and that kind of stuff, we’re going to get much more benefit from showing a big list of previous posts and comments down the sidebar of every post than a little “PR leakage” might cause loss of rankings. This is a second order effect, and proper content creation / usage negates this in our opinion, but we’ll come back and cover this properly in a later post, what and why etc.
Blogroll – contrary to popular opinion (seo mythlore) blogroll links (inbound or outbound) will not “hurt you” but you do need to control their juice distribution by forward thinking, as in where you link and why, but this is a subject all on it’s own we’ll get back to it in one of the future posts (and will retro link it from here for first time readers)
Ok that’s pretty much it, and so on to the plugins settings..
Pretty much the default, and a good package, you can get away with running this although there are more comprehensive alternatives, this does a very solid job, its what we have come back to using on this blog, having experimented with both Headspace & SEO Sniper (since sadly deceased, RIP) both are more complex, but in many areas we don’t really feel are very necessary or important.
So… All in One, all you really have to ensure (at this stage) is
- Title is rewriting is on %post_title% | %blog_title%
- Categories and Archives Noindex /Follow (Tags optional, ours are Noindexed)
It comes preset like this anyway, some people like to leave “auto-generate description” off and just let Google pick up relevant snippets from the page
Dofollow Case by Case - great plugin, which allows us granular control over each and every link on the site that we can get to the URL of. Basically they are all on (followed) unless we decide to nofollow them for any reason. You just add /dontfollow
We support the dofollow movement anyway, we run 2 x dofollow SEO blogs and think that decent comments deserve a link. Depending on the quality of the comment we will also allow sensible anchor text, and we are no more swarmed with spam than our nofollowed blogs.
Take it off, and let the linklove flow, you need to anyway to use our system, so why not let your friends and any passers by who add value to your content in the comments, have links? …It will NOT damage your rankings !!
Redirection – just ensure it’s on and working, we’ll be using it properly later on
XML Sitemaps - not much to do here, activate it on, build the map, ignore.
Ok that about covers site setup and structure, part II – released simultaneously here
will start on how to get using it now.
Adios amigos, hasta luego