Common WordPress SEO Mistakes and How To Fix Them

By on November 17, 2009

WordPress is an excellent tool for publishing websites and blogs. This widely used CMS software does alot of great things like creating posts, pages and tags with clean URLs, linking everything internally and generating valid code.

Oddly enough though, the majority of SEO responsibility is placed within the hands of third-party WordPress theme developers as well as yourself, the site owner.

Some theme designers may not be familiar with SEO best practices, so you should take some time to examine your site for any ways to improve it’s effectiveness on search ranking performance.

I’ve come up with several common WordPress SEO mistakes that I see day in and day out. I hope you can use these tips to improve your blog or website!

1. Bloated Title Tag and Abandoned Post Titles

bloatedOne of the simplest concepts goes overlooked on even the best of blogs. The title tag is essential for ranking well on search engines.  Consider looking into the effectiveness of the way your title tag is currently displayed on search results.

The following method has proven to work wonders for me in getting posts to rank well on Google.

How To Optimize Your Titles

Luckily, this is a fairly simple, but important issue to correct. The code below will feature only the title of your post as the title tag of the page.

With a few simple statements in your WordPress header.php file you can make sure that titles on all posts and pages are properly formatted. Replace your current <title> tag with this code:

<?php if ( is_home() ) { ?><title><? bloginfo('name'); ?></title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_search() ) { ?><title><? bloginfo('name'); ?> - Search Results</title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_single() ) { ?><title><?php wp_title(''); ?></title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_page() ) { ?><title><?php wp_title(''); ?></title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_category() ) { ?><title><?php single_cat_title(); ?></title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_archive() ) { ?><title><? bloginfo('name'); ?> - Archive</title><?php } ?>
<?php if ( is_month() ) { ?><title><? bloginfo('name'); ?> - Archive</title><?php } ?>

If you must have your website name in the title of every post, then place the most condensed version of your name after the post title separated by a simple, search-friendly dash.

2. Lack of Relevant Keywords and Phrases

keywordsRepeating the same keyword or phrase over and over again will eventually hurt your rankings as search engines will recognize this as “keyword stuffing.” It’s a bad idea for usability as well, you don’t want to bore visitors.

Adding supporting keywords keeps content fresh and readable. This practice may show search engines that you have been doing your homework and deserve to be listed as a credible resource for a specific subject.

How to Find Keywords

As mentioned in the previous article here on DotSauce, the new Google AdWords Keyword Tool (Beta) has just been released. This is just one of many great tools for finding complimentary keywords and phrases to use for blog articles.

We’ve also featured SEO Blogger, a free keyword suggestion tool for Firefox. This tool opens up as a sidebar and suggests keywords as you write posts!

3. Disregarding the NoFollow Link Attribute

no-followLove it or hate it, the nofollow tag is helpful for publishers to direct mindless search engine indexing robots to your most important content.

How to Use NoFollow

It is very important not to abuse this link attribute. Slapping a nofollow tag on every external link is not the way to go about it. Here are some basic guidelines on when to use nofollow.

  • Use nofollow for external links to large sites that don’t influence your own or are not directly related to the content on your website. (Examples: Twitter.com, Facebook.com).
  • Use nofollow for internal links that lead to pages you don’t want to appear in search results.
  • Use nofollow on affiliate links and advertising banners, unless otherwise requested by sponsor.
  • Use nofollow on untrusted blog commentors.
  • Use nofollow when linking to an external video, image or other downloadable file.

4. No Sitemap or Ping Notification to Search Engines

sitemapA sitemap is a cleanly defined list of every post and page on your website. Search engines use sitemaps to quickly and efficiently find and index all of your content.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not come packaged with a site-map solution. There is some good news though! This is one of the easiest mistakes to fix.

How to Create a Sitemap

Simply visit your WordPress admin, search for and install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. You will find there are options to exclude certain categories, posts, and pages that you don’t want indexed.

This plugin will also ping search engines whenever your website is updated with a new post.

5. Not Adding Images in Posts

missing-imageYes, just one simple image can have search ranking benefits and I’m not talking about appearing in image search. Adding images is one of the most valuable things you can do for a blog post.

Take note, virtually all of the best online publications and blogs include images in their posts.

Your readers will love the accompanying graphic and will be much more inclined to read the post, share and potentially link to the post.

How To Properly Add Images

WordPress takes care of uploading media and clean image markup. So, you just have to take the initiative! Spend just a few minutes finding a cool image, crop and re-size it to fit nicely above or alongside your content.

Check out the WP Smush.it plugin to compress image file sizes on the fly.

Be sure to include 2-4 keywords that are related to your article and image as the ALT attribute of your image. This may get your original images indexed within image search.

6. Improper Anchor Text for Internal Links

anchorSometimes we have to trade off search engine value with usability, as is the case with most “Home” links. Website owners don’t won’t to rank for the keyword “Home” but it is good practice for usability.

Using proper keywords as link anchor text is important as it reinforces the keyword or phrase you want to rank for.

How To Format Links Correctly

Identify the root keyword phrase of the page you are linking to.  Check Google Analytics often to stay on top of what keywords are driving traffic to your articles. You will want to reinforce rankings that are doing well by using those exact keywords as anchor text for the article.

For example, a post entitled “55 Active RSS Directories to Help Promote Your RSS Feeds!” would benefit from using the keywords that are sending traffic to that article (i.e. RSS Directories). This is much better than using the entire article title as anchor text.

Make sure the links are readable within the context of use in an article. Users clicking through is ultimately more important than search ranking.

That’s all for now!

Know of any other common WordPress SEO mistakes? We’d love to hear your tips or success stories. What works for you? Comments are always open. Thanks for reading.

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About Mark Fulton

Mark is the Founder of DotSauce Magazine and a full time web developer, domain investor, SEO and online marketing professional residing in North Carolina, USA. Visit MarkFulton.com for information on freelance website development, SEO and consultation services.