WordPress SEO: 1 big lie and some truths

In Marketing by LauraLeave a Comment

While taking a fast skim through Facebook the other day, I noticed a pretty hefty rant by a fellow internet enthusiast taking massive stabs at the SEO value of WordPress sites. His position was that Google reads them as viruses and straight up doesn’t rank them.

Let’s just tackle that head-on: it is not true.

I love building on WordPress and it’s no secret that, if you ask nicely, I still build WordPress sites for small, mid-sized and huge businesses. In an age where efficiency in all things is critical, no one can overlook the extreme value you can gain from a well-executed content management system (CMS). WordPress provides that value in spades.

Out-of-the-box, no CMS platform is search engine optimized. (Don’t trust me – other pros say the same thing.) Most are “SEO friendly” to be sure – but that friendliness comes from the clean structure and organization of data and content. Optimization takes intention and effort regardless of whether you build your website on WordPress, another CMS or plain HTML.

Optimizing content

Optimization within a WordPress website is – like most actions – quite simple if your developer builds the site properly.

First, determine on which phrases you’d like your website to rank. It’s usually best to involve a marketer or SEO specialist in this step of the process. They can provide a holistic view of the ad campaigns, target audiences and strategic messaging initiatives across the company – amplifying the impact of your SEO efforts.

Then, adjust content within the site to target your desired keywords and key phrases. Landing pages, blog posts and beyond should include optimization keywords – giving you an opportunity to rank across many keywords or rank on a single keyword with many pieces of content.

There are a handful of reliable plugins that can make optimizing each piece of content a breeze. I tend to recommend Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin, but every developer has their preference. Regardless of which plugin your developer suggests, ensure the you have the proper tools to manage the details above. As you grow your site, it will become important to understand the function of cornerstone content as part of your SEO strategy, too. However, for the purposes of keeping this post succinct, we’re going to breeze by that one.

Optimizing development

We should note here that your website’s meta data and the actual code that creates each page will also have an impact on your SEO rankings. In a WordPress site, that means the theme, plugins and third-party add-ons all contribute to your overall SEO efforts.

In the past, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces and CMS systems have been criticized for outputting some truly atrocious code. Modern versions of WordPress have done quite a bit of clean up to rectify this issue and, inherently, it does the job of a CMS beautifully. The same can not be said for themes, plugins and add-ons. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true in this case. If you choose to load up your installation with free, poorly developed or poorly maintained tools, your SEO will suffer for it.

To that point, your own cleanliness factor within WordPress can have huge SEO implications when clutter, heavy files and outdated tools hit the brakes on your page load times, throw errors and more. Honestly, this is no different than if you left broken Javascript running in an HTML landing page packed full of high-resolution photos. WordPress or not – a clean environment will out-perform a dirty one. (Pro tip – please do no install a free clean up plugin to clean up old plugins. This is not a make-it-worse-before-it’s-better scenario.)

The truly mission-critical piece to this puzzle is that when building your website, you must involve someone knowledgable and capable of setting up your website in an SEO mindful way. Designers and developers that adhere to industry and platform best practices can ensure that all of the SEO basics are covered while stepping it up a notch to help you to select the themes, plugins and add-ons that accomplish your goals without tanking your site’s rank. Once the proper structure is in place, ensure that your developer hosts a fast training with you or your team – giving everyone the confidence to contribute to the website and keep its rank at the top!