Search Engine Optimization for WordPress

(photo by miss604)

“The problem with SEO is that the good advice is obvious, the rest doesn’t work, and it’s poisoning the web.” – Derek Powazek

Many people have asked me for help getting better search engine rankings. While I love to help, most have spent too much time researching SEO online and want me to help them change “meta tags” and “anchor text.”

You shouldn’t build your site for search engines; you should build it for users. Filling your site with keywords and obsessing over how many backlinks you have is NOT the way to a good search engine ranking. If you have a compelling site with relevant and updated content that users want, Google will rank you well over time. You need to align your goals with Google’s – providing the content that user’s are looking for.

I call it the 80/20 rule of SEO: 80% of Search Engine Optimization is writing compelling content for your readers. The other 20% is optimizing that content.

SEO is really simple. You follow a few basic SEO tips (have readable permalinks, descriptive titles) and then write original content that people will want to read. If you use WordPress, most of the SEO tips are already in place, so you just have to focus on writing good content.

Some people might not believe this, and think it’s too simplistic. The rest of this post will be notes from a WordCamp 2009 presentation by Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web Spam group. Video of the talk is at the bottom, and you can view the slides here: “Straight from Google: What You Need To Know.”

  • WordPress already takes care of 80-90% of Search Engine Optimization.
  • Don’t obsess about backlinks. Focus on being relevant and reputable.
  • Use analytics tools to see what people are searching for on your site (internal) and to get to your site (external). Make this information easy to access ( “Common Questions” on the homepage)
  • Some great tools: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Keyword Tool
  • Make sure your URL’s are friendly: instead of . In WordPress, go to Settings > Permalinks, select custom, and use either /%category%/%postname%/  or /%postname%/ (what Matt uses). Use the first option if you’re using multiple post categories.
  • Make your post categories descriptive and good keywords: “apple” instead of “cool-stuff”
  • Modify your post’s permalink to remove unnecessary words and reflect alternate keywords for your post. Example: this post is titled “Search Engine Optimization for WordPress,” and the permalink is “/wordpress-seo/” . When writing the post, directly below the Title box it shows your permalink with an “Edit” button.
  • Keep WordPress updated! Many WordPress updates are security updates, which means they fix a hole that makes your site vulnerable to hackers.
  • Don’t overuse keywords in the post. Write the post for users.

The overarching SEO tip is “write compelling content for your readers.” All these other tips are secondary.

Bill Erickson

Bill Erickson is the co-founder and lead developer at CultivateWP, a WordPress agency focusing on high performance sites for web publishers.

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  1. Bay Area Webdesign says

    As a graphic web designer , I’m glad to find that another individual thought to post this topic.

    Many people just don’t grasp the concept of what all is involved in this industry, and I think also we are all too often underrated
    or taken for granted. Never the less I’m very glad to see that you may feel the same way I do , thanks so much for this post!