How to optimize WordPress for search engines, Pt. 2

Sitemaps, plugins & accessibility

Interestingly, there are still search engine optimization tools that haven’t yet made it into WordPress. Thankfully, though, there’s a very robust community of developers who have developed plugins to handle some of the heavy lifting when you wish to take your search engine optimization to the next level!

Sitemaps

There’s a method to publish a backend file in XML that search engines can read to ensure they see every page of your site, know when it was last updated, and even understand the prioritization you wish to give it. That’s known as an XML sitemap and it’s an accepted format for all search engines… but it’s not built into WordPress.

You can customize and publish your own sitemap with any number of plugins.

The most popular SEO plugin, with more than 15 million downloads, is WordPress SEO by Yoast. Yoast offers a ton of options to customize and improve your SEO, including sitemaps. There’s even a paid version that includes training and support.

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Title tags

By default, WordPress publishes the title of your page or post as the title of the page. While that’s convenient, it’s not always the best for optimizing. You might wish to limit the characters and write a very concise title for search engine results pages but have a longer, more informative title to attract readers of your blog or social media fans and followers. The WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast allows you to modify that!

Meta descriptions, microdata and rich snippets

Within any web page, you can provide additional information like a title, description and even an image to display when sharing your posts. The combination of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin with Automattic’s Jetpack plugin even allows you to automatically share your posts via social when you publish them. Making your content shareable increases its exposure, which can lead to more people linking to your content, thus driving your rankings. Check out this post to learn more about Jetpack.

Citations

Search engine algorithms and crawlers continue to advance in their ability to identify terms on a page. For quite some time, it was fairly limited to understanding links on a page and the keywords within the anchor text of that link on the page. Over time, search engines began to understand co-occurrence terms. So if you spoke about SEO or Search Optimization, the search engine understood that you were talking about the same thing. It wasn’t necessary any longer to cram a ton of keywords into your content; you just had to make sure that your content was rich and you were writing about a central topic that search users were utilizing.

Search engines continue to evolve, also recognizing citations on pages. Author names, product names, addresses and phone numbers are all distinct elements that the search engines can be used to identify your site’s relevance and position it properly within a relevant search result.

Since author names are often distinct, search engines may improve the ranking of content that’s written by specific authors because they’ve built authority across the web on topics of that nature.

A physical address may assist your site getting ranked in local search results or a mobile search on a given topic. As a result, providing this information in a title tag, body of a page, or even a footer can get your site content aligned with the topic you’re speaking about.

Mobile

responsive_360Don’t forget to implement a mobile responsive theme for your site so that you’re found on mobile searches! Globally, mobile search accounts for about 30 percent of all searches and it continues to rise. Without optimizing for mobile, you’re not going to rank in mobile-based search results.

Lastly, be sure to link from your website to all of your social channels – including your LinkedIn company page, Google business or Google+ business page, Facebook page, Twitter page, Instagram page, Pinterest page and whatever other social channels you may be leveraging. Some search engine professionals have indicated that social accounts for seven of the top ranking factors! And social isn’t just critical from the direct impact on search — by promoting your content in relevant networks, you’re more apt to gaining backlinks from other publications referencing your articles. The more citations, the better!

Next up, we’ll take you through optimizing for local search. Stay tuned!

Image by: Graham Coreil-Allen via Compfight cc

Bryant Tutterow
Bryant brings over 18 years of business acumen to DK New Media focused on strategic marketing and e-commerce. He has more than a decade of P&L responsibility, leading in-house marketing organizations at Fortune 500 companies and building three separate marketing departments from the ground up into world-class teams of as many as 14 people. As the Chief Marketing Officer for DK New Media, he provides overall strategic direction for marketing and e-commerce while leading business development of all strategic advisory and measured marketing services.