Plugins for a Search Engine Friendly WordPress Blog

One of the first things that should be incorporated into a design is a strategy towards search engine friendliness. With the wealth of blogging platforms available, it isn’t immediately apparent what one can do to make a blog more search engine friendly. Sure, an author can lace the content with keywords and constantly update the content. However, with search engines, it’s the little things that count.

This article will be aimed towards WordPress users and the plugins that can assist the user in making a blog more search engine friendly. If you are not a WordPress user, some of the search engine tips you may find within may still be useful. Some of the tips that I will mention do not actually require plugins and will just require some modification of the WordPress settings or theme.

Human-Readable Permalinks

Human readable links aren’t as useful as they once were from a search engine optimization perspective. However, when searching for something in Google, one of the things that shows up with the search result is the page’s address. Furthermore, when a user clicks on the link, a useful link structure can inform the user what page that person is on and where in the site structure that user is.

So in essence, useful permalinks are more of a usability feature than a search engine feature. So why do I list it here? Because it does help some.

In WordPress, permalinks are easy to configure. In your administration panel, just go to Options and then Permalinks. You can then use the permalink options given to you, or create your own custom permalink structure.

Change Your Preferred Domain

Instead of www.devlounge.net, the next plugin will change the site’s URL to devlounge.net.

So what’s the benefit of the “no-www” plugin?

The “no-www” plugin allows you to specify which domain is indexed on your site. Google calls this a preferred domain. You can specify a preferred domain with Google Sitemaps, but I have yet to find a way to do this with other search engines.

The main benefit of this plugin is that all your indexed URLs will have the same prefix.

Change Your Title

The current title structure for WordPress is “Blog Title – Blog Archive – Page Title.” Ideally, the page title should be the first thing a user sees. Furthermore, when Google comes around and indexes the site, all of the indexed URL titles will look the same since the blog title is listed first (especially if you have a long blog title). There should be an easy way to change this.

And there is. Enter “Optimal Title.” This plugin makes the title first, so that all posts are structured as, “Page Title – Blog Title.” The plugin is simple to install and requires a small modification to the WordPress theme.

Submit a Sitemap

This next plugin makes it very simple to generate a sitemap that can be submitted to the search engines that support the format. Sitemaps are extremely beneficial and tell the search engine which pages are available for indexing.

The plugin is called “Google Sitemaps Generator.” There’s also a beta version that has added support for Yahoo and MSN.

Add Meta Tags

I noticed that when Google indexed my personal site, most of the pages would show up as supplemental because they all had the same description. After testing out some major sites, I noticed that Google actually included the description that was included in the meta tags.

This next plugin is called “Add-Meta-Tags” and is quite useful in allowing WordPress users to specify descriptions and keywords for each page.

The plugin uses a post’s excerpt as the description and the categories as keywords. You can also override the description and keywords by using a “description” or “keyword” custom field.

The plugin is versioned as 0.5 and is quite buggy. I found a bug just minutes after installing it. It doesn’t allow double or single quotes in excerpts, and also lets descriptions span over several lines. I’ve uploaded my own “somewhat fixed” version until the author of the plugin gets around to fixing it (Update: Author has fixed the version. Please download from the author’s plugin page).

Ditch Printer-Friendly Pages

Printer friendly pages are not necessarily website owner friendly. They’re useful for users wanting to print out pages, but they’re also useful for search engines. The design is stripped away and all that is available is the content.

I’ve personally stopped using the “WP-Print” plugin after discovering that the only pages Google indexed were my printer friendly pages. The fact that Google indexed my printer friendly pages is a significant problem because printer friendly pages are orphan pages with no link back to the main site.

An alternate technique is to use A List Apart‘s technique for using a print stylesheet and possibly using JavaScript to show a print preview.

Please note that one of the drawbacks of the JavaScript print preview technique is that it breaks the back button.

Use Tags

Although not necessarily beneficial to search engines, tags can help you place in blog search engines such as Technorati. One useful plugin that can help you insert tags into your pages is “Ultimate Tag Warrior.”

Other Plugins and/or Tips

This is where you come in. Have you found a WordPress plugin or technique that has helped you from a search engine optimization perspective? Please let us know about it.

For some related reading, here are some other links geared towards WordPress users and search engine optimization:

  1. By Sheridan posted on May 5, 2008 at 4:50 pm
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    Hey Ronald, I wrote 400 posts in wordpress before realising the benefit of seo friendly urls. I now want to use them from this point on. But as I still get many google hits from the old 400 posts, I don’t want to lose them. Which plugin will get round this problem?
    Thank you

  2. By anice posted on December 27, 2008 at 7:14 pm
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    cool tips… thanks !

  3. By Billige mobiler posted on August 4, 2009 at 8:55 am
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    nice post man..

  4. By mobiltelefoner abonnement posted on August 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm
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    Really nice post. I get your point:)

  5. By billig mobil posted on August 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm
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    I’m can’t agree with all of it, but for det most parts i think it’s a really god post..

  6. By a-kasser posted on August 12, 2009 at 5:13 pm
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    Nice articel… please keep them comming.

  7. By taletidskort posted on August 12, 2009 at 9:04 pm
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    A lot of good argument:) nice work..

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