It seems there is an epic, never-ending battle out there in the interwebs between those that argue Search Engine Optimization Matters and those that preach that Content is King. Of course, as in most things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
You don’t need to waste precious hours on complex SEO tactics that provide little benefit. You also don’t want to ignore it altogether.
Let’s take a bird’s eye view and walk through some common sense steps to conquering SEO for WordPress.
Get setup with an SEO plugin
Install the WordPress SEO plugin, because it will do most of your SEO grunt work.
Pay the most attention to your home page and post titles, and get familiar with the meta data preview in the post editor that really makes this plugin shine.
Is your blog new? Think about your site structure. Make sure the flow of your site fits the path you want the visitor to take.
Don’t weaken links
Links are probably the most important thing you can get from other people. It’s great for someone to tweet your post, but it’s absolutely fantastic if they reblog it.
Make sure that they only have one way to get to that content. Don’t give users an opportunity to waste valuable links on duplicate content.
Permalinks are important
WordPress does an amazing job to make your permalinks pretty. Take advantage of it.
Short, memorable, relevant permalinks are awesome.
Around here, we try to make our permalinks as a sentence to make them easier to remember.
If you don’t write consistently, noone will read consistently. If you are the place to read about WordPress news, then post WordPress news, alot.
A stale blog isn’t the type of blog I’ll share.
Even if someone finds a one-off “evergreen” article in search, if it was a decent article, they’ll click to your homepage and look for more recent content.
Don’t disappoint them.
Be yourself when you write
You’re not the AP news, so don’t act like it. Be real. Be yourself.
Write like you’re talking to another human being, because you are. If you don’t talk to them, they won’t talk back to you.
Write relevant content
People don’t want to hear your personal stories all the time. Give them answers to problems. Offer them a product for what they searched for. Don’t waste their time.
Create specific content
Be specific. And don’t be unrealistic. You can probably start a blog and in time become the go-to source for something like Alabama politics or Auburn football banter, but you will almost certainly never rank for “sports” or “politics”.
If you follow the steps above for creating valuable content, people will want to share it.
Social is becoming more and more important to search. We all see what our Facebook friends are liking online. We’ve seen blog posts go crazy on Twitter. Tools like Google’s new +1 button will apply weight to what others in our network have already said is good content.
And the search engines are integrating these things into their results.
So if you’re writing great content, people will want to share that. When people share it, the search engines are listening.
You’ll notice I’ve included some links so you can go and learn more from the real experts. My resources are blogs about the technical side of SEO and the emotional side. After all, as I’ve said, engaging your audience in a way that makes them want to share your content with others is extremely important.
Gone are the times where keyword stuffing and sub-standard tactics will get your content found.
I highly recommend Joost de Valk’s blog, Yoast.com. It is my go-to source for learning the best practices of optimizing WordPress for search engines.
I also would guide you to Social Triggers, by Derek Halpern, where he focuses on “what makes people tick online.” It’s a great resource for diving into user psychology so that you can sell yourself and your products effectively.
Finally, I’d recommend you start following Tentblogger, where John Saddington gives great tips to help you connect on a personal level with your audience. He also has interesting things to say about SEO, and he absolutely loves WordPress.
I’d love for you to share more resources in the comments, as these are simply my resources.
Wrapping it up
Yes. SEO is important. And it is not a one-click thing. I haven’t even touched on some important aspects like site speed, site maps, and plenty of other things in this article. But I have tried to give any beginner, and maybe some more advanced users, enough to stay busy for a while.
SEO takes planning your strategy, taking the extra step to get the most out of WordPress, and working extremely hard to create incredible content.
It can be tough, and time consuming. But it’s not rocket science.
So if your goal is to rank higher, and you don’t know why you’re not on the front page of Google for your desired topic, it’s time to get set up for better SEO and off your butt and writing great content.