7 simple steps to optimise your WordPress website
As many readers will know, one of the reasons websites built on WordPress are so popular is that they are generally search engine-friendly. What is less widely recognised is that by tweaking some of the WordPress default settings, a WordPress website can be optimised even more effectively.
Even better, a basic understanding of WordPress is all that is required to implement the seven steps listed below:
1. Customise permalinks
Whenever you create a new post or page on your blog, WordPress creates a static link to the content. By default, these 'permalinks' consist of the root domain name followed by a strange set of characters (e.g. www.yoursite.com/?p=123). This is not very helpful to search engines and looks ugly to readers.
Although you can customise individual permalinks, there is a better way. If you go into the 'Settings' menu on your dashboard and then select 'Permalinks,' you will see a list of options. Selecting 'Post name' is usually a good choice or you can create your own by highlighting 'Custom Structure.' For example, to include a category and post in every permalink you would enter '/%category%/%postname%' in the relevant field.
2. Get indexed faster by adding update services
WordPress automatically alerts its default update service whenever you add new content to your blog. This ensures that you don't have to wait for Google bots to crawl your site before your fresh content reaches the masses.
However, you can easily add additional update services to your list to get the word out even faster. Again, access the 'Settings' menu but this time go into the 'Writing' settings.
Under 'Update Services' you will see the default one: 'http://rpc.pingomatic.com/'. This article from Road to Blogging has an updated list of similar services. Simply cut and paste this list into the same box as the default.
3. Optimise your media images
Page speed is increasingly important for SEO and images often contribute to slow page loads. Wordpress can assist here.
Still in your 'Settings' menu, go into your 'Media' settings next. If you find that resizing images is a chore you will find some handy options here to make things easier. For example, you can reduce the size of thumbnails so that they consume less bandwidth and render more effectively on smaller screens. You can also ask WordPress to automatically crop thumbnails to keep them proportional.
Here is also where you can set the maximum size of 'medium' and 'large' images, helping you to be more efficient when adding media to posts and pages.
If you have a large amount of legacy images in Wordpress, the Tiny PNG Wordpress Plugin will compress your entire back catalogue of images in one hit. You may need to pay for a Tiny PNG user account for this, but the fees are one-off and rarely exceed a few dollars.
4. Activate Google Analytics
In order to monitor how your website is performing you need to set up analytics software. Google Analytics is a popular choice because it is free and will provide sufficient relevant data for most purposes. With Analytics you can find out how long people are spending on various webpages, how much of your traffic is coming from search engines versus referrals and more. You can also get a heads up about 404 errors and other problems.
Installing Analytics can be time-consuming and daunting as you normally have to copy and paste a code into the WordPress theme editor.
An easier way is to set up your basic Google Analytics account and then install it via a plugin. On your WordPress dashboard, under the 'Plugin' menu, select 'Add New' and type 'Google Analytics' into the search bar.
A selection of options will be displayed with information and user ratings to help you decide which to use. These can then be installed with a click.
E-commerce site owners should switch on 'Site Search Tracking' to track those queries typed into your site's own search bar. Back over on the Google Analytics dashboard, go to your admin page. You will find the 'Site Search Tracking' switch on the 'View Settings' page under the 'All Web Site Data' menu. Before saving you will be prompted to enter a parameter value – normally a single letter.
To find out what this letter is, simply perform a search on your own site, hit 'enter' and look in the search bar. If you searched for 'widgets' you should see something like this: 'http://yoursite/?s=widgets.' You would then enter 's' into the parameter field.
5. Install an XML sitemap plugin
While in the Plugins page you can also search for an .xml sitemap plugin. Installing and activating this will clean up the provision of links to various webpages on your site and help to optimise the indexing of your website. The Yoast SEO plugin will add plugins to your site.
6. Keep your content fresh
The above tips focus on tweaking the WordPress settings to help make your blogging more efficient. The last two tips deal with the actual content you are providing.
No matter how good your blog posts, following the same posting strategy week in, week out will become a chore and your content is likely to become stale. Every now and then, spice things up by introducing a different style of writing (e.g. a first-person case study or an infographic rather than a third-person article).
By changing one small thing while keeping everything else the same you can then use your Analytics software to measure the impact.
Also, make sure that you blog about the latest updates in your niche. You can use tools like Twitter to keep up to date with the latest trends.
7. Focus on quality over quantity
Finally, never post for the sake of posting. Your readers deserve well-researched, appealing content and this will also mark you out as a credible source of information in your field. You will also be more likely to attract backlinks to your posts, an important part of SEO.
Back up any statistics with links to their source and never be tempted to copy and paste content without permission.
As you can see, fine-tuning your WordPress blog or website isn't too demanding. By following the simple steps above, you can make more of an impact with less effort.