Optimizing Wordpress for Search Engines

Optimizing Wordpress for Search Engines

I lay awake at night thinking of things like this. Not long. A few minutes or so. Sometimes I get an idea when I am driving. Sometimes I write the ideas down. Sometimes I see if they will pop back up on their own. The ones that do get focus. But I always give them a little freedom. That way they can tell their friends that I am a good home. And then I wait on the friends.

Here are some random ones on SEO in general and Wordpress in particular. My blog seems to have focus bands like the power band in a dirt bike, following the hats I constantly change to keep this internet machine going. Welcome to an SEO focus band. It took a few months of dealing with Wordpress, but I think I'm on a roll now. I am the type of person who tears a car apart piece by piece to see how it works, puts it back together, and then goes to the manual for the technical terms to explain what I found. It takes a while, but it is well worth it and only makes your mind stronger.

Once I can write a post that covers everything blogging and fits my vision, it's time for me to start my other blogs up, because that means all the bits and pieces of ideas came together into a blueprint. A very adaptable blueprint, because change is the only common denominator in progress, but a blueprint nonetheless. This isn't a blueprint but it's signs of one to come and that makes me happy.

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Some Wordpress SEO Plugins

  • All in One SEO Pack - Set Titles and Meta Tags in your posts.
  • HeadSpace2 - Meta-data manager on steroids, allowing complete control over all SEO needs such as keywords/tags, titles, description, stylesheets, and many other goodies
  • Dagon Sitemap Generator - Generate sitemaps for your blog
  • Simple Tags - I hated the whole switchover to integrated Wordpress tags. The plugin developers did a better job. Then I finally found this plugin. Sweet
  • Related Posts - There are so many versions of this one that I am not even sure which I have active on my blog. But the Simple Tags plugin above has this fucntionality built it.
  • Landing Sites - Not sure if this would qualify as an SEO plugin, but it takes the query from search engine hits and presents the visitor with a list of posts they may be interested in, based on that.
  • Homepage Excerpts - It depends on how paranoid you are about the duplicate content penalty. It allows you to set the length of each post on your home page. On my blog, I have the whole content of the last post on the front page and excerpts of all the rest.
  • One Click Installer - Not an SEO plugin, but it makes installing plugins easier.
  • Permalink Redirect - Makes sure all links to a post go to the same place.
  • Alinks - Helps a lot with internal linking. Automatically links keywords and phrases in  your post
  • WP-PageNavi - Adds a better navigation menu (not just next and previous). Allows for deeper linking to older posts.

Random Widget Links for Varied Anchor Text

This could work for a Featured Post plugin or a Blogroll.

I looked at my blog as if it were the whole of the internet. My own little private internet here has 450 or so pages indexed by Google. That means that the links in my Featured Posts widget (which is really a Blogroll to begin with) link to the same pages with the same anchor 450 times.

Anchor text should vary. For one, it will help you rank for a bigger variety of key phrases. For another, if you don't vary your anchor text, you could end up like John Chow.

Whether or not I have to worry about the second reason, I'm not sure. The first is good enough to have me take a look at things. I figured out two options, still using a Blogroll category as Featured Posts.

  • Have a bunch of featured links. I am not sure if I have enough to do this yet. But have about 50 featured links and only display 10 at a time, using the random function and the PHP executable widget or by using this widget.
  • Or if the variety of featured posts you have is limited, you could recreate the same blogroll in seperate blogroll categories but use different anchor text each time. Then, using the PHP executable widget, randomly pick one of these category sets programmatically when the page loads.
  • Or do both. Mix up your anchor variety. Have random posts to prevent sitewide link issues. It should help keep visitors on your site too if you featured posts are different every time they come to your blog.

Random Anything for Longtail Phrases

I didn't have this section in the original draft. But I thought of it while I was researching the last section. I ran into this post on random Wordpress widgets. I like a little bit of randomness. I don't think you can have everything so planned that a random seed thrown in every once and a while will totally mess things up.

A percentage of my search engine hits on every site that I have dealt with have been on subject matter I have never covered. They are the result of the different elements on the page blending together. For example, Google will pick up one word from a title on my widget and one word from a comment and one word from the title of the post itself and I will get hits for the phrase built from those three words. I get a lot of hits daily that work like this.

Can I do anything with those hits? Not when they are occurring. But I could get an idea for another post, especially since I ranked high for the phrase without trying. You can never really guess every longtail key phrase. Let randomness do it for you. You'd be amazed.

Encourage Comments

Comments add content. Content that you could not have created yourself. Encourage them in any way you can.

Use Your Google History

If you used a phrase to find something, someone else will. But this doesn't mean you found the answer you were looking for the first try. I have received a steady stream of hits based on posts I geared around the phrases in my Google history, especially after long research session. I get a lot of "newbie" geek hits because I use less than technical language. So not knowing the correct terminology does pay off. People that do use the correct terminology probably already know about the stuff you are writing.

Conditional NoFollow for Sculpting Pagerank

Some pages on my site have higher Pagerank than others. If I wanted to funnel the Pagerank of that page and direct it like a laser to another page, I could use Wordpress conditionals to nofollow almost everything on that page except the link I am funneling the Pagerank to while leaving the rest of the site dofollow. On a blog, the pages that rank high are not necessarily the ones you want to rank high. I am not sure of the feasibility of doing this on Wordpress, but it's an idea. And it works. I have used this tactic on non-Wordpress sites.

CommentLuv and "query" for Super Targeted Backlinks

If you haven't learned this one you should. I am not talking about spamming. If you write a post on "Google Adsense", wouldn't it be great to get a backlink with anchor text from a page that focuses on "Google Adsense". By searching Google Adsense "CommentLuv", you can find these pages. You will be getting a link back plus adding a related link to the blog you are commenting on, thus adding to the conversation.

Infrequently Updated Blogs and the Top Commenter Plugin

This I found out by accident and it probably does skate over the line a bit. If a blog gets few comments and is barely updated, it may still have some Pagerank because high Pagerank doesn't necessarily indicate high traffic. One comment will get you a sitewide link for a while depending on how they have the plugin setup. Some change monthly. Some use "all time" top commenters. Like I said, it was an accident. I am not hunting for these blogs specifically and probably not worth the effort anyway but it's grist for the mill.


I don't really look specifically for DoFollow blogs much any more. I did at one time. But the lists and custom search engines for DoFollow blogs are not updated enough and I spent more time looking than commenting. But if I am reading a post and notice the comments are DoFollow, I do dig deeper and look for ways I can add to the material presented.

Find the flagship articles on your blog. Do a Google search using terms you think someone would be using to find your article. Find other blog posts that show for the  terms you used. Leave useful comments at these blogs. Instead of linking to your home page, link to that article.

Find the keyphrases you rank high for through your stats software. Replicate the search. See what position you are in. If it is less than #1, check if there are other blogs in the results. If so, do the same as in the paragraph above.

Keeping Your Archives Page Open While Writing

Remind yourself to link to your other posts. Just keep your archives page open in another tab. When you are done with your post, browse through your post for phrases and keywords that you can link to other posts. When I write posts in longhand, I circle the phrases because I know I have covered the subject matter before.

Silo Sites

This I have yet to look into enough to write about it, so I will direct you elsewhere. The basic concept in to break your site up into vertical topics so that post in each topic benefit from being around like posts. Great if you have a blog that covers a wide spectrum of ideas.

Silo Website Design

Silo Structure SEO and Wordpress

Silo Web Design


Trackbacking Top Google Results

Okay, so you can't rank high for the post you are going to write. But you can piggyback off of other posts. And since you just wrote something related, you should be able to contribute. So pick blogs with top Google results for the keywords you are targeting every once and while and link them from your post. Bloggers travel the blogosphere. Regular people use Google.

Optimizing Through Images

Yes, you can go this far, but you don't have to. If you get a change, name your images with keywords related to your post. Also, do the same with the Alt tag. It takes less than a minute and could help you out.


Excerpts Instead of NoFollow for Duplicate Content Issues

Your category pages and the like duplicate the content of your blog. Google doesn't like this. And of course, since Google owns the internet, we have to change this or else they will act like a five year old and take their search engine home. I call it an information delivery monopoly similar to what the church had before the printing press. Some say to use nofollow tags on links to these pages. Some say use excerpts of posts on these pages. I go with the second option.

NoFollow Unimportant Pages

Pages like "About Me", "Privacy Policy", and "Advertise" usually get a link from every page on your blog. They don't need any search engine ranking. Don't give it to them. Nofollow the suckers.

Use BloggingZoom

Not sure when this one is going to go in the Google crapper, but for now, one submission to BloggingZoom equals a backlink for each tag you use from a highly targeted page based on that tag. You can't beat that. Now I only pick and choose. I don't submit everything. In fact, only about 4 or 5 posts so far.  I don't want to create a lopsided link profile that will take part of my site down when another one goes down. Time spent getting links is best spent a little a time in as many places as you can. Know of other sites like this, leave me a comment.

Don't Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Just get to know it better. Search engine algorithms are based on sound ideas. On page, search engine algorithms are based on the way emphasis is given in a written work and off page, search engine algorithms are based on the way ideas spread through society. SEO is reverse engineering the search engines algorithm. But the algorithm itself was reverse engineered from the way we process information. Why not go to the source?

Think of your post as an article in a magazine. The main heading or title states the main idea of the article. Heading below that state the main ideas of each section. Search engines put a premium on the keywords in your H1 tags with a lowered premium on headings that are smaller. Just creating a good structure for your post is good SEO.

More Wordpress SEO Tips

These were just random thoughts. Here are some more posts to take you further:

On my blog:

On other blogs:


SEO as an Afterthought

I never write a post specifically for the search engines. I write without them in mind. After I am done, I go back and see how I can pump up the rankings for the post. That was just the disclaimer for any claims of me being a robot.

Some of these are utopian based on the fact you actually have the time. For me, the post is most important. After that, I use the time I have to do what I can. But it's good to have the tools available. That was just the disclaimer for "But you didn't do that here."

Many of these tactics can be use wrongly or artificially. That is not the point of this post. Guns don't kill people. People do. Use your ammunition correctly and none of this could be even construed as Gray Hat. That was just the disclaimer for the fact that I didn't used to care what hat I was wearing, but I do now.

A few of these ideas I haven't used yet and were doomed to the notebook. I figured a post would put them to better use. That was just the disclaimer for "That won't work."

And I am well aware that each one of these sections could have been a post. They just seemed to fit together quite nicely. And sometimes fleshing something out with filler until it's the size of a post is not good. That was just the disclaimer for "God damn, the scroll wheel doesn't work on my mouse." I have one at home like that.

Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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