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Simple SEO: WordPress

Properly configured, WordPress can be an extremely effective way of designing, maintaining and managing your site. Not only that, but sites using WordPress tend to rank well organically within the top search engines, once properly configured. However, neglecting some critical configurations can cause pages and posts that make up your site to not even be indexed by the major search engines.

Because WordPress is open-source, thousands of developers are constantly releasing updates and plugins to enhance the functionality of the platform — many of which are free. And some of these plugins are essential to properly optimize sites for top organic results in the most popular search engines. My two personal favorites are Headspace2 and Google XML Sitemaps.

To prevent pages of your blog from appearing to be duplicates of other pages, it’s essential that each page and post have a unique meta title and meta description. Otherwise, only one page or post with the same meta title and meta description will make the cut. Headspace2 adds a widget inside the WordPress edit page/post screen where you can easily fill-out a unique meta title and meta description on a per-page or per-post basis.

The most recent release of Headspace2 has even more essential SEO features, such as the ability to no-index pages that you don’t want to be included in search results — a contact form or privacy policy, for example. More information about the Headspace2 plugin can be found at the WordPress.org plugin directory or at UrbanGiraffe.com.

Google XML Sitemaps will generate an XML-compliant sitemap of your site each time you add a new page and/or post. It also pings Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask.com whenever your sitemap has been updated so they can index the latest version. Although this hasn’t been proven to affect organic rankings, it can certainly speed up the time it takes for search engines to index your new information. More information about the Google XML SiteMaps plugin can be found at ArneBrachhold.de.

Of course, neither of these two plugins alone will cause your content to soar to the top of Google. There are literally hundreds of other on-page and off-page factors that go into determining how your pages rank. However, these plugins will help, and they are very easy to install.

WordPress.org or Your Own Domain?
People often wonder whether it’s better to host a WordPress site on WordPress.org or install and host WordPress on their own domain. Aside from the benefit of not having any out-of-pocket expenses to start, there’s really no other reason to use WordPress.org. If this blog is going to become a source of income, not having full control over the future of it is a big mistake.

For example, suppose the people responsible for running WordPress.org decide to terminate your account for some type of inadvertent violation? Or if the taxonomy of your URLs changes because of a major restructuring that the developers decide to take? Countless hours of your time would be wasted as all of the other external SEO factors such as article backlinks, press releases, social bookmarking, and comment links would no longer point to valid URLs.

Hosting WordPress on your own domain gives you much more control and isn’t that expensive. You can easily register a domain with any one of several registrars for under $10 (search online for coupon codes) and many of these registrars will offer low hosting fees as well. Some will even offer free add-ons and most will have a control panel that includes an easy way to install WordPress.

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