Every site owner and blogger wants their content to rank highly in the search engines for key terms. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the content, how well it’s optimized and how many other well ranking sites think it’s worth linking to.
But, from a WordPress technical standpoint one of the most important elements is a hardworking plugin.
The hardest working plugin in my WordPress set up is the WordPress SEO Plugin from Yoast. While there are thousands of plugins for WordPress this is one of the few that I deem a must.
This plugin does so many good things related to running a healthy site and achieving higher rankings that it’s a bit limiting to simply label it an SEO plugin.
The function that most might be familiar with is the ability to customize many of the elements that search engines use to determine page content on a post by post and page by page case. Instead of the default WordPress on page optimization the SEO plugin gives you the ability to change title, keyword and description meta data. Couple that with keyword friendly URLs and image descriptions and you’ve got on page factors pretty nailed. (More on page ranking factors here)
What some may not know is that the SEO plugin is also your best option for producing sitemaps that make it easier for search engines to find all of your content and interact with new content in the best possible manner. For new sites this may be how your content gets discovered in the first place. For larger more established sites this is how your new content gets indexed in a matter of minutes. Another great thing about having sitemaps in the SEO plugin is that if you set a page to no index your sitemaps knows it too!
If you have not claimed your Google Webmaster and Bing Webmaster accounts and submitted your sitemaps to each this is another mandatory step. First, you’ll be sure they are receiving your updates immediately and you’ll find a lot of useful data on how they see your site along with any issues they find.
One the cool thing about WordPress is that you can sort by things like date, category and tag. The net effect of all these option however is that your archives create lots of duplicate content and the search engines have grown increasingly fussy about that. It’s not that Google penalizes you for this, it just means you don’t have control over which version they throw to the top of your results. Using the Titles and Meta settings in the plugin you can choose to disable your date based archives and set subpages to no index.
This is a little thing but Yoast adds a way for you to easily insert some text and links into the RSS feed for your content. This way those silly scrapers of content will have a line about where the content originated and a link leading the search engines back to your site as the original author.
Since SEO and social are so thoroughly connected why not make it easy to add Google+ authorship and Facebook OGP data. This way your images show up in Facebook along with the title and description you’ve chosen instead of the default first few words when you post and once you link your author content to your Google+ profile using the SEO plugin Google will start to attribute all of your content more accurately. (I wrote about Google Authority here)
For a full explanation and tutorial check out the last word on the plugin from the author.