A few weeks ago we posted the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org infographic and it was such a big success that I thought: why not stick with the theme? After all, while WordPress is awesome out of the box, there are so many tweaks that can make a big difference in your content marketing efforts.
Today, I’m going to cover four – just four. While these things may seem like a “duh” instead of an “oh!”, they’re often forgotten, even though you really can’t afford to if you’re trying to optimize your website.
1. Using WordPress Plugins for SEO
Right off the bat, I’m going to talk about SEO plugins. If you have the right plugin, it’s a very useful tool. However, I want to be clear. The plugins should NEVER be used as the solution; rather, plugins are a simply a tool to make optimization easier. You should never use an SEO plugin as a “set it and forget it” tool.
So how do you use them?
A good optimization plugin should provide ample opportunities to micro-manage your site’s optimization. While it’s nice to have something that gives you templates for the pages you aren’t targeting (who wants an empty title, after all), don’t trust that a program – no matter how good it is – can give you the best optimization.
Yoast SEO – The Plugin with the Most
We’ve been using WordPress for over seven years. We’ve tried and tested over ten SEO plugins. Some of them were okay until they stopped being supported. Some of them sucked right out of the running gate. Others, a very select few, started out great and are just getting better. Yoast SEO, in our estimation, is one of those. In fact, while there are others that come close, it’s our preferred plugin of choice.
Yoast SEO provides templated areas for titles and descriptions, yes. However, it also provides sections on each page and post to hand craft a search snippet. If you tell Yoast the keyword you’re targeting the page for, it can give you an idea of how well you did, with pointers of what you might change.
Yoast also gives you the ability to:
- Set your own canonical links
- Set 301 redirects on a per post/page instance
- Set a post or page to noindex, nofollow, noarchive, no snippet or all of the above
- Decide whether a post should show in a sitemap index
- Set what you want a Facebook, Google+ and Twitter posting to say for the post
- Block /pages/, tags, author pages etc. from search if you so choose
- Much, much more
Although we’ve tried several others, we have yet to find a single one with all the abilities of Yoast. I definitely recommend going with the paid version, but the free version is nothing to laugh at, either.
2. Image Optimization
You’re most likely going to be uploading images. If you do, you want to make them easy to load, and not so big that it takes hours to see them. One of the worst mistakes people make with image uploads is to upload an image much larger than is needed.
For example, say you buy an image from Shutterstock. If you’re like most people, you’re going to download the biggest size (normally in the 2400×2000 range). These images are huge. Now, it’s not a bad thing to download the biggest size, but take a moment to shrink it down to something manageable before uploading it to WordPress.
Most people don’t know this, but I’m going to let you in on a secret. For almost every image you upload, WordPress creates at least three other sizes. So every image ends up with a total of four versions (if not more, depending on your settings). You have your original image, but then you have a large, medium, and thumbnail version.
This takes up a lot of room, and you can run out of storage before you know it. I know, I’ve had it happen to a client of mine.
So, now you know, and you’ll do better. But what about the images that have already been uploaded?
WP SmushIt compresses your image files without the image deteriorating. It’s kind of like creating a zip folder for a single file. Not only can this save space on your server but, most importantly, it causes WordPress to serve smaller sized files to your visitors. In turn, this equals faster load time and happier people.
3. Using ALT tags
Maybe you don’t know this either, but there is a section that’s provided every time you upload an image. This section lets you add an ALT tag, image title, caption, description and link, if you so choose. So… choose. These are important sections, and should never be ignored.
The description, for example, is what shows if someone visits the attachment page. A brief explanation, a link back to the post you used the picture on… a little bit of extra time spent can help your image go that extra mile.
While you’ll have to go back and manually add Alt tags to images in the past, there’s a quick way to do this moving forward. It’s not the BEST way, as the best way is to always remember a custom ALT per post, but this is the next best thing.
Format Media Titles
Format Media Titles automatically adds an ALT tag to newly uploaded media. All you have to do is make sure you save the image with an appropriately named file name (no shutterstock_32542323, or that will be the ALT). Although I wish it were updated more regularly, it’s currently the best choice we’ve found. If you have another, please share it in the comments, as we’re still looking!
4. Remembering Social
Social sharing provides extra boost to any website. It can double or triple business reach, and help build a community. So why would you forget it?
Yet, there are many websites out there whose posts, when shared on Facebook or Twitter, have something like: websiteurl.com via @website. Nothing else.
Now what does that share? What’s there to entice the person the content is shared with to click through and enjoy? Nothing. Nada.
WP Social SEO Booster
While Yoast SEO does some of this, WP Social SEO Booster does nothing but this. It allows you to customize your social output for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Open Graph and Rich Snippets. The Pro version allows you to decide which type of Twitter card you want to use and much more.
All’s Well that Posts Well
There are many excellent plugins; adding a few to your WordPress site can greatly enhance its functionality, offering a much more pleasant, interactive experience. However, when it comes to WordPress optimization, it’s not the plugin so much as how you use it.
The four plugins I listed above are, we feel, excellent examples of what a plugin should be – helpful, without being intrusive. Each of these you can set where no one knows you even have them: you’re little WordPress secret.
Now it’s your turn. We’d love to know if there’s a plugin you feel is better than the ones I’ve covered. If so, please share it in the comments!
Otherwise, if you need help with optimizing your WordPress website and getting the best out of every piece of content, contact us. We’ll get you on the right track!