Getting your blog ranked highly on the search engines is as much an art as it is a science. Writing keyword rich content, linking (wisely) within your own site to pass “SEO juice” between posts, selecting good anchor text, perfecting your URL structure, fostering quality backlinks from authority sites… these are just a few of the things to consider when looking at SEO for you blog.
The good news is that there are tools out there to help. Some are more effective than others, and today we’ll be taking a look at the All-In-One SEO Pack plugin. This little site optimizing gem is packed with options to help configure most of the on-page factors of your optimization strategy, but if you aren’t sure what a canonical URL is, or what makes a good title tag, these options might leave you scratching your head.
Let’s go over the different options, what they mean, and what I usually set each one. These aren’t set in stone, the answers can vary depending on the site and the situation.
Canonical URLs: Definitely a yes. Check this box. This will make sure that every page on your blog has one address and one address only. If some visitors come to http://www.yoursite.com and some to http://yoursite.com (without the ‘www’), you’ll be splitting your traffic. If people are actually linking to the different versions, you’ll be dividing your coveted pagerank. These two different URL structures do indeed count as duplicate content. And no one wants that.
This option redirects all traffic to the same version the URL so there is no traffic loss.
ReWrite Titles: Generally I’d recommend yes for this as well. The title format of each blog is dictated by that blog’s theme. Themes like the default use structure that isn’t very SEO friendly, as they place the blog’s title first on every page. Ideally you want your individual page titles to be as relevant to the content on the specific page as possible. For a post, this is the title of the post (NOT the title of your blog). Some themes already do this, but I like to enable this option and use the structure that SEO pack provides as a default – this way the actual title of the page/post is at the beginning of the title tag (which makes it the first thing a reader sees in organic results). A lot of themes will put the name of your blog first, which probably won’t be as targeted.
Title Formats: I leave these as is. The defaults are awesome. They all put the item most likely to have a keyword relevant to the page it’s displaying right up front.
Use Categories and Tags for Meta Keywords: For me, yes on the categories, but not usually the tags. This option just takes the tags and the categories assigned to a post and inserts them into the Meta keywords tag in the header of your post pages. Granted, Google doesn’t pay much attention to Meta keywords anymore because they know a lot of sites abuse them with excessive keyword stuffing, but that’s no reason to ignore it. Your tags and categories are both likely to be relevant to your post, so you can add them in. The only reason I don’t add the tags is because I usually set the keywords manually for each post, which would make them repetitive if the WordPress tags were also included.
Dynamically Generate Keywords For Posts Page: This one doesn’t actually apply to everyone. Most bloggers use their root domain as their “posts page.” That means the keywords used are the “Home Keywords” set at the top of the SEO Pack options page. If, however, your blog uses a different page as “Home,” and your posts are displayed on something like www.yoursite.com/blog, (set on Settings -> Reading) then this option would control the keywords for that page, by displaying the keywords assigned to the posts currently showing on that page. Great option to keep the meta keywords relevant to the current content.
NoIndex for Categories, Archives and Tags: Depending on your site/URL structure, you may want to consider selecting some or all of these. From one point of view, you want to prevent the indexing of these pages because they will contain the same content as the posts listed on them. There is a chance that Google will find this page to be more relevant to a particular query than the post itself, because the tag/category page will likely contain other relevant posts.
This may not sound like a bad thing from an SEO point of view, but keep this in mind: if your potential reader is searching for a specific piece of information, and Google serves them the category page, they might not find the post they need. You could have the perfect article for that reader, but if it is the tenth piece of content and they need to scroll through nine other posts to find it, they are just going to hit the “back” button and try a different result.
On the other hand, if you have specialized URL structure, there may be benefits to not selecting some of these. But that’s a topic for another day.
Auto-Generate Excerpts: I have this option selected on my blogs, but it doesn’t actually get used. With this checked, the plugin will automatically create a meta description for your post (which appears as the “snippet” in search results), and I believe it uses the first 55 words or so. This only happens on posts where you haven’t declared a manual excerpt, which is then used instead. Personally, I add an excerpt to each post, and a separate meta description via the All-In-One SEO pack panel on the post writing screen. I target my excerpt (which appears on home and archive pages of my blog) towards visitors and readers, while the meta description is geared more toward searchers looking for a specific keyword or topic.
Exclude Pages: This isn’t a setting everyone will need. Basically if you have pages that behave differently than the average WordPress post/page, you don’t necessarily want to optimize it the same way. The forum example used on the settings page is really the best one I can think of, since a page of forum posts wouldn’t have a post title, or categories or tags, etc. for SEO pack to use. You’d rather let a plugin like that play by it’s own rules, because it’s pages are built differently.
Additional Headers: If you have any code you need to add to your header, these fields will insert it for you. You could reference a style sheet, add a “rel=canonical” tag if you wanted yet another layer of protection against duplicate content, things like that. I’d be interested to hear what others suggest for the use of these.
Log Important Events: To the best of my knowledge this will pretty much create a log of any errors the plugin encounters, and store that log on your server. I think the plugin creator (wisely) figured that not everyone would want an extra folder popping up, but still wanted the option of users being able to send error reports to help with troubleshooting.
Like I said before, the way you use all of these settings is going to be dictated by your specific site and your specific needs. These are my thoughts on them, but your site is likely very different than mine.
Be sure to drop any feedback or questions in the comments!