Are you a fan of using WordPress to make awesome looking websites for yourself, your business or company?  If so, you may have heard that WordPress is automatically set up for Search Engine Optimization right out of the box.  Although WordPress is a great platform to use for easy website creation, the core software needs a little help and a nudge in the right direction when it comes to SEO.

If you think that by simply placing your content into WordPress and then finishing up by clicking on Publish, you’re missing out on a lot of potential.  Let’s take a look at some common SEO mistakes made by those who use WordPress.

Not Providing an XML Sitemap

Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover.
– Google

According to Google, you should be using XML Sitemaps.  If Google says that they help find pages on your site that they normally wouldn’t discover, it would be a good idea to give them one.

Sitemaps do more than allow Google to easily discover the pages on your site.  They also can be used to supply additional information about your site, including how often your pages might be update, as well as Meta data relating to specific media types, such as the running time of a video.  In case you’re running a new site, or a small one that has a small amount of back lines that point towards it, a sitemap will be able to allow Google to Discover and index any and all relevant pages on your website.

Simply put, sitemaps  are specifically formatted lists of pages on your site that you would want to have Google index for the search engine.  There are two options for you in terms of sitemap creation.  You can either do one manually, or you can have them be created automatically.  Here are some ways to do it automatically:

Google XML Sitemaps: with over ten million downloads and an average rating of 4.7 out of 5, you can rest assured that this free plugin gets the job done.

WordPress SEO by Yoast: this free plugin has a number of SEO-related functions, one of which is an excellent XML sitemap generator.

Poor Categorization and Tagging

Utilizing the category and tag feature of WordPress is pretty important.  They offer opportunities for increased engagement and traffic.  Without proper use of categories and tags, visitors will be more likely to leave your site.

Ultimately, here is what  you need to know about WordPress taxonomies:  if categories are your table of contents, tags are your index.  By using categories and tags within your posts, you will make it easier for your visitors to find what they are looking for, but you will also see a boost in your onsite SEO.  Although Google may not rank category and tag pages high in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs), Google maybe be able to get a good hold on the keywords that are most relevant to your site by examining them.

If you want to know more about how to categorize and tag effectively, click here

Not Defining Canonical URLs

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Search, canonicalization is defined as this:

Canonicalization is the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages. For example, most people would consider these the same urls:

  • www.example.com
  • example.com/
  • www.example.com/index.html
  • example.com/home.asp

But technically all of these URLs are different. A web server could return completely different content for all them. When Google “canonicalizes” a URL, we try to pick the one that seems like the best representative from that set.

What this all means is, if you don’t tell Google which page to index and rank, how are they going to figure it out on their own?  What you don’t want is for search engines to have to pick from several instances what is essentially the exact same page.  This is why you provide them with a canonical URL.

This is essentially a three step process:

  • Tell WordPress how to present your site (i.e. http://www.yoursite.com/ or http://yoursite.com/).
  • Tell Google (using Webmaster Tools) which URL type you want them to use.
  • Use a plugin (such as the aforementioned WordPress SEO by Yoast) to ensure that canonical URLs are defined on each page of your site.

Not Optimizing Your Site For Google+ Authorship

It won’t matter if you’re not that big into Google+ or not, Google+ is here, and it’s being used by a lot of people.  Did you know that it is the second biggest social network, only to be trumped by the likes of Facebook?  It’s actually beaten Youtube and Twitter, believe it or not.

Not to change the subject to using social media, we are focusing on just the concept of Google+ authorship and the ways it can be utilized to bolster your position in the SERPs, which means boosted click through rates.

Have you even heard of Google+ authorship before?  Even if the answer is no, you’ve seen it in action, and never realized it.  All search results found in Google that uses a profile photo of the author is an example.  That one author photo has been shown to help boost CTR in the SERPs by 150%.

Getting Google to verify your authorship isn’t exactly a straightforward process, but it won’t take too long to go through.  Here is a great tutorial by WPBeginner.

Not Optimizing How Your Posts Look In The SERPs

Similar to the Google+ authorship, this issue relates to your CTR in the SERPs.

Usually, this one comes from the ignorance of the importance of what searchers see on Google, when compared to where they see it.  Your site’s placement on the SERPs is a key factor, but lower ranking sites can draw people in if the title and/or descriptions are compelling.  Optimizing each of your posts can give yourself the best chance of attracting a good CTR.

There are two things that you should concern yourself with:

  • The Meta Title: this is what will display on the SERPs in place of any headline you choose for the post onsite.
  • The Meta Description: Google may choose to use this in place of an excerpt from your post (which can often be nothing more than a confusing mass of words).

In WordPress, there isn’t a default way to define these.  You will need to install a plugin to get this done.  You can either uses a standalone plugin like Add Meta Tags, or a plugin that incorporates several SEO features, like WordPress SEO by Yoast.