WordPress plugins, hacks and SEO

Mar
31

When mandrill asked me to share my WordPress hacking wisdom I replied that I would do a blog post on it, as well as on what plugins and search engine optimization I have applied.

Search Engine Optimization

Following the WordPress SEO guide ranked highest in Google (proof the advice works?) I applied the following changes:

  • Permalinks are now created as http://ghostfestival.net/myrhial/%postname%/. To avoid stupidly long url’s the SEO slugs plugin throws out all stop words. When writing or editing a post you’re still presented with the opportunity to make edits to this so you can tweak it to perfection. I did not need the Redirection plugin as it seems WordPress does this automatically but it might prove useful for users of older versions who do not have the ability or knowledge to upgrade.
  • Headspace 2 optimizes page titles, something of which I’ve noticed the results on my old Blogspot blog. When writing or editing a post you can edit what you’ve configured as default should you wish to. What wasn’t immediately clear to me there is that when you click “page title” or “description” in front of the input fields it automatically makes a suggestion for you. Headspace is also able to insert code for Google Analytics and various other webmaster tools, which made it my all-in-one solution replacing several other plugins that did this for me.
  • Writing good descriptions and alt texts have been drilled in during my education, and having had the experience of working with a blind student who relied on a screen reader made it all too clear how unusable the web can be. While an EVE Online blog might not be visited by this target group a search engine indexer pretty much works the same way. And then there are mobile users, who might opt to block images to save bandwidth. That last group however you can do a big favor by optimizing your images for the web so they can enjoy your blog in all its glory.
  • Breadcrumbs are more than a web fashion trend. They are one of the biggest investments in user-friendliness you can do, and help indexers make sense of it all.
  • Caching is your friend when set up properly. WP Super Cache works like a charm for this. It has a LOT of options but was pretty much configured right for my tastes out of the box. I’ve noticed the speed increase already, and despite enjoying the luxuries of unlimited hosting its still nice when you don’t go and hog all resources!
  • If you want more speed I recommend the YSlow and  Google Page Speed Firebug plugins and following their best practices.
  • The rest of the guide I’ve pretty much skipped or was implemented already. I’d like to add though that I do not agree on removing links to other blogs as a SEO solution. Keep your list trimmed and up to date, with an archive page is a good idea since an overdose of links might be seen as spamdexing, but if you need to take such measures to keep your readers on site you should consider other solutions like better and more interesting content.
  • There’s information floating around the web that adding rel=”nofollow” to all links means higher page ranking. This is not true. Nofollow should only be added to links of which you cannot guarantee the quality, or are paid advertising. Pagerank sculpting — adding nofollow to everything except a few preferred links — is something I personally frown upon. If I wanted I could add the attribute to all blogs except those belonging to Naraka members to boost their rankings, and ask them to do the same, but where would that lead us? Imagine the whole EVE blogging community starting to apply this. I cannot see it having any positive long-term effect.

Plugins

All of these are available under “Plugins > Add New” in your WordPress admin control panel.

  • Akismet: Comes standard with WordPress and is catching spam like it ain’t pretty. Getting a lot of the sneaky spam, vague comments with a link to some site on posts from ages back. Do not want! As pointed out in the SEO section this spam can be very harmful for your blog as without nofollow attribute search engines will downrank you for it. Don’t let it happen.
  • FD Feedburner Plugin: I highly recommend feedburner if only to keep track of who’s subscribing to you and how, and with lots of options to get the most out of your feed it sets you apart from the rest. Once you have it this plugin redirects all RSS to there, with options to also use feedburner for your comment and category feeds.
  • Google XML maps: Bit of a misleading name since Google, Bing and Yahoo all have webmaster tools with sitemap support. While an RSS feed can work just as well (not when run through feedburner) this plugin alerts these services of updates and allows for customizations to sitemap.
  • IntenseDebate: Makes commenting a lot more interactive and syncs with the classic WordPress commenting system so you don’t lose your comments when you uninstall the plugin. Had it on Blogspot too, but it cost me blood, sweat and tears to get the Blogspot exporter plugin to work. My workaround? Save your exported comments xml file on your own host to get around the password protection of the IntenseDebate site. Any kind of comments and post titles with quotes or other odd signs are going to be skipped and I found nothing faster than to manually add them to the database.
  • RSS footer: Inactive now, but might see future use to advertise new pages or other things not viewable through RSS.
  • Twitter tools: Tweets whenever I publish a new post, and has a nice sidebar widget. If I wanted I could even enable it to let me tweet right from my blog.
  • Yet another related posts plugin (YARPP): Adds related posts at the end of posts both on site and on RSS. Especially nice to bring the attention to previous installments of the Blog Banter and Friday Flash Fiction.

Hacks

Just one really, which I couldn’t find a plugin for, and what seems to be standard functionality on WordPress.com hosted blogs but not in the standalone version (why?!). I wanted to display categories and tags at the end of a post when read through RSS so confusion is avoided between in character and out of character writing.

  1. In your blog’s root folder browse down to wp-includes and open all files starting with “feed-”. These are the layouts of the various methods of RSS your blog supports. Skip the ones for comments.
  2. Locate the line looking like <![CDATA[<?php the_content_feed('something') ?> or  <?php do_action('rss_item'); ?> and add the following right behind: <p>Posted in <?php the_category(', ') ?></p><?php the_tags('<p>Tags: ', ', ', '</p>'); ?>]]>. Should be a </content> tag right behind it.

And you’re done! Wasn’t that simple? If you wanted you could add the post meta data instead. Does not include tags however so that bit you’d have to take from the short version I used.

Related posts:

  1. [OOC] Feedburner, tags, WordPress: help!
  2. New software, new look, new location!
 
  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Xeross Xeross

    Nice post, reminded me I should install headspace again, and the breadcrumbs look useful. Also going to change my permalink pattern, using dates seems useless.

  • Pingback: Wordpress SEO and Plugins | TheElitist

  • http://seobazooka.com Bess Sipho

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