I’ve just given this entire site a makeover. I got fed up with the hybrid site management I’d knocked together when I first set it up and I decided that migrating it fully to WordPress would be the best approach. At the same time I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some serious search engine optimisation, since WordPress, combined with the right plugins, would make the process much easier.
So which WordPress plugins are the best for SEO? In my opinion, these two are all you really need:
The All in One SEO pack provides, as the name would suggest, most of what you need for basic SEO of your site including the ability to set page titles and metadata. It’ll work with most templates out of the box, and it’s much easier to use than another plugin I’ve used in the past, SEO Title Tag, as it adds new dedicated fields to the post and page editor rather than clunkily relying on the use of custom fields. It also helps with optimising the indexing of your site, as it can set the robots meta tags on archive pages to ‘noindex, nofollow’, a recommended practice for blog-based sites to reduce the effect of duplicate content.
The Permalink Redirect plugin does a simple job well, by ensuring all internal page links on your site end correctly in a ‘/’. Without it, “http://my.wordpress.com/a-post” and “http://my.wordpress.com/a-post/” are treated as distinct pages and can lead to poor indexing. The plugin forces redirection from the non slash-terminated version of the URL to the correct one, which means only the latter is indexed. One thing to watch if you have any forms on your site, though: you must make sure that the action URL coded for each is to the slash-terminated version or it will no longer work.
As far as the actual optimisation of the site goes, I’ve just started really so as yet there’s not much measurable effect. To track visitors I’m using Google Analytics, because it’s both amazingly well-featured and free. I already had an account, and I incorporated the code for it directly into the WordPress template myself. For those less confident with template code there are a number of plugins available, such as The Ultimate GA Plugin, which I haven’t used myself though it does appear well conceived.
Since I moved wholly over to WordPress I haven’t had any major technical issues, though I did find integration of the search facility I use – provided by the Zoom Search Engine – a little tricky. I could not find a way that worked to embed the search form directly into a page, even using one of the plugins such as PHPEexec which allows inline PHP coding. The search form appeared but only part of the results list from a search was being output. The solution I found was to create a special page template with the Zoom PHP code added to it, then specify that template for the search page: bingo! (This approach may also apply to other integration problems that people have had with WordPress).
In summary, I’m a lot happier with the site now. It looks better and it’s a lot easier to maintain than its predecessor. If it also gets improved search engine rankings then I shall be a very happy bunny!