WordPress may not be the SEO weapon you think if you use it with only half an eye on SEO. Out of the box, WordPress is great, but what tends to happen is that people start to use it without setting it up first for good SEO. In doing so, they are starting to create something that cannot easily be repaired. Even when you are all set up correctly – if you are anything like me you may find yourself getting every new post interpreted by the engines incorrectly if you pess that “Publish” button too fast. Here’s some of the traps I noticed when setting up dixonjones.com last week.
1. I ignored the site that was there before. I had rather poor site up at dixonjones.com for about a decade. Written in Front Page 97 as I recall. Only about 10 pages of not very useful stuff – but it had link juice, for sure, and I ignored my own advice to 301 l the internal pages on the old site to the best new equivalent. As such, I am slowly bleeding link juice now that I have deleted pages that were of value. The result is links into 404 messages from around the world. I can (and will) fix that now, but once done, there is a slowly irrecoverable loss of link juice until it is fixed.
2. Fixing the Friendly URL settings before you start writing. There are many ways to ensure the URLs in WordPress are extremely SEO friendly. None of them are the “Quick SEO fix” that WordPress offers out of the box. For me, you need to set up something a bit dangerous. The danger being that if you write two posts with identicle titles, you will break WordPress. I was debating the ideal wordpress URL with Mikkel the other week and he fixes this by adding “-idno” (e.g. article 677 on this article) to the end of the url, where 677 is the database article number. I, however, went for the juggular, So my urls for the permalinks incorporate the category and the page title (or a slug if I am less lazy). That themes the articles much better, but offers no safety net. Others use the date, but that’s a poor excuse for a theme in my view. My solution, though brings me on to problem 3…
3. I should have thought up the categories BEFORE starting to write stuff. There is a feeling that WordPress is forgiving, that you can have every post uncategorized and then sort that out later. But that’s not very clever. When you publish an article, Google scans it in seconds. Seconds! the damage of publishing an article without setting up the categories first is instant. Even if you change the category just a minute later, Google has already often made its crawl and put a page in the index. If you change the category in WordPress, then (assuming you have SEO friendly URIs like I have set up) you change the URI when you change the category. Now you have another page indexed in Google that will return a 404. The damage in 30 seconds… one more 404.
I’m sure there’s many other traps. These three are good ones to start with!