One of the first decisions you’ll face when building a new website is figuring out which content management system (CMS) to use. There are quite a few CMS options available, but there’s one particular platform that reigns supreme, regardless of what type of project, budget or technical experience you may have.
That platform is none other than WordPress.
Currently over 74 million websites depend on WordPress, including CNN, Mashable, New York Times, Samsung, Forbes, and eBay, to name just a few. WordPress has made leaps and bounds since its initial launch back in 2003, and now larger brands are beginning to see WordPress’ true value in the marketplace.
But is WordPress a good solution if you’re concerned about SEO?
Well going by Rand Fishkin’s criteria for what makes a good CMS from an SEO perspective, I think it’s safe to say that the answer is a resounding yes. WordPress offers a relatively intuitive user experience, making it easy for just about anyone to implement basic SEO best practices.
After several years of experience working as an SEO and web design consultant on quite a few different WordPress sites, I put together some actionable tips to help WordPress site owners improve their on-page SEO strategy and get a leg up on the competition.
Using WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
WordPress offers two different platforms to build and manage your website – WordPress.com, which includes hosting and is essentially free as long as you abide by their terms of service – and WordPress.org, which is an open-source, self-hosted publishing platform, ideal for more advanced users.
The main difference is that on WordPress.com, you don’t have the ability to fully customize your themes, widgets and plugins. Additionally, WordPress.com has limited storage space and no FTP access. Don’t get me wrong, WordPress.com can be a great solution for smaller blogs and hobby websites, but if your business cares about SEO, you will probably want a little more control than WordPress.com has to offer.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, gives you complete control over your website. WordPress.org takes the simplicity of WordPress and makes it available as open source software. The only catch to using WordPress.org is that you need to set up your web hosting and perform your own backups and routine maintenance. But if you’re willing to get your hands a little bit dirty, you’ll have a lot more options using WordPress.org.
Also, please keep in mind the majority of the tips in this post pertain specifically to WordPress.org.
Editing Your Permalinks Structure
Your permalink structure refers to the format in which your page URLs appear in the users browser bar. It’s a good practice to keep your URL structure as clean as possible, not only for the user experience, but also to help search engines crawl and index the URLs properly.
According to SEO guru and WordPress enthusiast Joost de Valk, the most SEO-friendly permalink structure would either be /%postname% or /%category%/%postname%/. For instance, you wouldn’t want a URL to a page about blue widgets to look like this: http://www.website.com/?p=N/. Instead, the url should resemble something like this: http://www.website.com/blue-widgets – or with the category included: http://www.website.com/products/blue-widgets.
According to Moz, a lot like title tags, keyword-rich URLs can influence search engine rankings. They also tell the user what the page is about. You can change your default permalink settings by going to your WordPress dashboard and selecting Settings > Permalinks, then select the “Post Name” option. In most cases, this works on existing sites too.