WordPress for SEO: 5 Free Plugins

Excerpts from my latest article at NBC 5 Chicago’s Inc. Well blog: “Five Free WordPress Plugins for Better SEO.”

WordPress is a simple and flexible publishing environment used to create blogs, sites and even simple ecommerce sites. One of the reasons it’s so popular is the prevalence of plug-ins that make customizing its functionality a snap. These are my five favorite free plug-ins for SEO on WordPress.

  • WordPress SEO
  • Simple 301 Redirects
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
  • Sharebar

Read the article in full at Inc. Well »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

WordPress Decides to Share with the Hosted Masses

Folks with WordPress-hosted blogs now get to share with the big boys. Yesterday, WordPress announced the ability to include a selection of popular sharing icons in their hosted blogs.

wordpress sharing icons

Previously this was only easily done with JavaScript applications on blogs hosted on other servers. I for one had a superkludgy Word Doc saved that included a snippet of HTML in which I would search-and-replaced URL & post title and then paste the resulting mess into each post by hand. How very 1996. Let’s forget for a moment that I’m foolish for not hosting my blog on my own server for various reasons of SEO goodness and control, and think about the positive impact on the multitudes of bloggers out there hosted at WordPress.

The Good:

  • Add other sharing icons: I added Sphinn. As long as you can figure out the URL required to trigger a post, you can add a link, the anchor text and the 16×16 icon of your choice. Very cool.

Could Be Better:

  • Header styling: I added a header in my blog’s style above the icons: “Share Web PieRat, Matey.” I could have used the tool to add this text, but there’s no control of the styling. It’s inline with the icons, plain old bolded black. Boring! I’ll have to do that manually in each post, but I like the look of it much better.
  • Positioning: Only at the bottom of the post/page? I’d love the ability to have a ribbon at the top of the post as well for folks who don’t make it all the way to the bottom. Sharing is sometimes done before full digestion, as much as we’d like to think that readers are absorbing our every word.

I’m sure you can do both of these with the custom CSS upgrade, but I haven’t played with that yet. Seriously, though, how many folks who host a blog on WordPress’s servers are well versed in CSS? I’d bet that default hosting and less familiarity with HTML/CSS go hand in hand. Anyway. Offering the icons to folks of lesser technical experience (or time to manage our own hostings and technology) is a great step for WordPress. Thanks guys.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

SEO Lessons Learned Launching My Free WordPress Blog

Starting up my new SEO blog was an exercise in compromise. For once in my life, I decided not to obsess over the (super fun) details and instead moved straight to writing posts. I grabbed my domain, paid $10 to map a free WordPress blog to it, and slapped my social network icons in the sidebar.

wordpressI didn’t have the time to figure out hosting and plugins in addition to writing the content. I decided to focus on the things I had to have (content and a place to put it), and the things I could not change later (domain) without negative impact on the blog’s SEO. The rest (hosting, cool templates, control over SEO elements, plugins) can be added on or changed later after I’ve proven to myself that I have enough to write about.

In the process, I found a couple of important SEO elements missing in the free WordPress-hosted offering:

  1. No 301 Redirects: This is a biggie for SEO. WordPress does not 301 redirect when you move your blog. In addition, WordPress does not 301 redirect your blog’s subdomain to your mapped domain name. Example: http://jillkocher.wordpress.com 302 redirects to https://webpierat.com/w. Consequently, if you want your blog to build link popularity & keep it, map it to a domain right from the start so that you can either keep the same URLs or control the 301 redirects yourself when you decide to move it later. Without the mapped domain, your content will either be stuck at the blog’s subdomain or will have to leave its link popularity behind when it moves.
  2. No Plugins. Plugins are not available when blogs are hosted at wordpress.com. You can’t modify your title tags or meta data, no sticky posts or other great SEO plugins for custom WordPress installations.
  3. No Google Webmaster Tools Verification. WordPress is working on it, but the former verification method is kaput.

And a couple of social media and usability elements are also missing:

  1. No JavaScript Support. WordPress’s free blogs only support HTML. Many of the cool plugins and widgets require JavaScript. Bummer.
  2. No Social Media Integration in the Templates. If you want to offer quick logos and links to share posts on Twitter or Digg or Facebook … you can’t. That requires JavaScript, or manual coding in every post. There’s also no quick way to list all your social profiles in your sidebar without manual HTML.

That said, WordPress does include some nifty features in the free version:

  1. XML Sitemap: WordPress creates an XML sitemap automatically, and makes it autodiscoverable on the robots.txt file it also generates automatically. Example: https://webpierat.com/w/robots.txt links to https://webpierat.com/w/sitemap.xml. Unfortunately you can’t modify these manually.
  2. Edit Post URIs + 301 Redirects: Bloggers can edit the default title-based URL while they’re in the post admin. Cool. Better yet, if you publish the post and then want to change the URI after it’s live, WordPress automatically 301 redirects the older versions of the URL to the latest version (even through multiple URL changes).
  3. 404 Errors. Deleting a post produces a hard 404 error on that URL, which will prompt deindexation if a URL has been indexed. Would be better to 301 redirect it to harvest any link popularity the URL may have collected, but at least it’s a 404 and not 200 that lives on forever cruftily.
  4. Tags & Categories: It’s nice to have the ability to create tags and categories for posts to easily create a navigational hierarchy. Be careful to choose wisely, though, so you don’t give prominence to non-valuable keywords & phrases. Similarly, don’t name both a tag & category the same thing or you’ll inadvertently set up competition for the same keyword phrase at different URLs.

One day soon I’ll start experimenting with a custom installation, but I’m still too excited about the prospect of playing with 301 redirects and CSS to allow myself to get distracted by it. There are a lot of other pros and cons to starting your blog on WordPress’s free platform, but these are the ones that made an impression on me.

What has made an impression on you?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.