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Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs

Yes, I know. Whine, whine. You can’t choose or tweak your own WordPress.com Theme. Heard it. Been there. Done that. Suffer for it, myself. While WordPress and most WordPress Themes come SEO ready out of the box, WordPress.com users can still use web standards and accessibility standards and SEO practices in your WordPress.com blog to help search engines enjoy visiting your blog and help your readers be able to easily read your blog.

Search engine optimization means making your website or blog as friendly and open to search engines as possible. It means having valid code that won’t stop a search engine in its tracks. It means having keywords used repeatedly throughout the content that helps the search engine understand the topic you are writing about and associate those words with search keywords. It means building a web page that search engines like and accumulating a good score card that will improve your changes of being towards the top of the list when the search results are ranked.

It simple terms: Search engine optimization helps you get your blog found in search engine results. You want to be found, practice good SEO standards.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is not hard. In fact, for WordPress.com users, it’s fairly easy. Most WordPress Themes come SEO ready, with solid validated code and usually meeting web and accessibility standards. The only area you need to worry about is what you put in the post title, post content, and image and link information.

I recently wrote about some simple techniques to help your search engine results ranking, and these techniques can easily be done by WordPress.com users, so let’s start there.

SEO: Good Keywords and Heading Tags

In tests done by Mike Industries, the placement of keywords in your post content impacts your ranking in search engine results with Google and other search engines.

Keywords are words used in the post content that represent the topic you are writing about, and are used several times throughout the document, adding emphasis to the fact that this is what the post is about. I’ve talked about how how keywords can actually help you write your blog, and Mike’s tests show that it isn’t just how frequently you use keywords in your post, it’s about where you use them, too.

Keywords need to be found in headings, links, and images, when possible. A headings is like a title or subtitle, but in HTML is is distinguished by being wrapped in a heading tag:

<h1>Lorelle on WordPress</h1>
<h2>Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs</h2>
<h3>SEO: Good Keywords and Tags</h3>

If you are writing a post that has sections, then use headings to divide those sections, as I have done in this article. I know that many are using bold to emphasis section titles, but stop it now. Use proper headings. I’ve asked the WordPress developers to add h3 and h4 heading tags to the quicktag buttons in the Post editing window for ages, but they don’t include it, yet, so just code your own.

Do it first because it looks good and makes an article read better when divided up into sections. Do it second because it is good SEO practice and helps your page ranking with search engine results.

You also need to know that headings have a hierarchy and structure. The web standard method of using headings in a web page is to use them in a consecutive order:

h1
h2
h3
h4
h5

Most WordPress Themes’ structure features the title of the blog in the h1 tag, and the title of the post in an h2 tag automatically. Some feature sidebar headings in h3 and/or h4 tags, but that isn’t as consistent. This leaves h3 and/or h4 heading tags for use within your post. Unfortunately, not all WordPress Themes style these headings, but test them out to see how they look, and then use them.

Using Headings in WordPress.com Blogs

To use them, instead of using bold or strong tags to divide up the sections within your post, just type in the HTML tag for the heading level you want and type in the text, and then finish with the closing tag. For Worpdress.com blogs, the first level heading would be <h3> and look like this:

...this is the end of a paragraph.

<h3>This is the Heading Line</h3>

This is the start of the next paragraph under the heading line...

To add a deeper level, like an outline, a subtitle or subsection under the <h3> heading, you can add the next level heading of <h4>:

...this is the end of a paragraph.

<h3>This is the Heading Line</h3>

This is the start of the next paragraph under the heading line... now I've 
written a lot on this subject but I need to make some points under
this topic so I will start a new subsection.

<h4>This is the Sub Heading Line</h4>

And this is the next paragraph under the sub heading line...

To see these in action, you can check out the source code of this post from within your browser from VIEW > PAGE SOURCE or something similar. On the page of code that pops up, hit CTRL+F to initiate FIND and search for Using Headings in WordPress.com Blogs and you will see that title in a <h4> tag. Look throughout the rest of the document for the other heading tags to see how they are used, and then inspect your own blog to see which heading tags are used where.

SEO: Good Links and Image Keywords

Using keywords is not limited to content and heading tags. They also influence search result rankings by inclusion in links and images.

A well structured link should include the link and a description of the link in a TITLE attribute.

<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/wordpress-resources/" title="WordPress Resources">WordPress Resources</a>

To make this link be even more “keyword powerful”, let’s change the title to be more descriptive:

<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/wordpress-resources/" title="WordPress Resources for WordPress Theme designs, plugins, and blogging tips">WordPress Resources</a>

Unfortunately, WordPress.com currently strips out titles from links, though much protesting is going on to have these restored to meet web standards. (Please add your voice to the protesting by using your FEEDBACK button.) Put titles into your links anyway, as they aren’t removed from your post but stripped when the page is generated. Your link titles stay in the database, so keep adding them and hopefully the developers will get a clue that these need to be restored, and when that happens, they will already be there in your content.

Descriptive keywords are also required to meet web standards for accessibility in all links to images, photographs, and graphics. Some users like to use both the ALT and TITLE attributes in the image link, but the ALT is required. WordPress.com strips out the TITLE tag from images, too.

Let’s look at a before and after image link that increases SEO practices.

<img scr="/files/10/2005/image456.jpg" alt="Mardi Gras" />

would be improved as:

<img scr="/files/10/2005/mysticstrippersmardigrasparade.jpg" alt="Mystic Strippers Mardi Gras Parade in Mobile, Alabama" />

People searching for information on the Mardi Gras parade in Mobile, Alabama, hosted by the group, The Mystic Strippers, would find these keywords in your image link as well as your content keywords, leading them right to your post.

WordPress now helps you add descriptive ALT tags when you use the quicktag links above the Write Post edit window. The first popup box asks for the link, and the second asks for the description, making the process of adding descriptive keywords to your images much easier.

Broken Code Breaks Search Engines

Without a doubt, the biggest brake put on search engines when they come crawling through your blog is broken and invalid code. While your Theme may pass all the tests for validation, your post content might now.

Luckily, most problems are easily caught in WordPress. By clicking SAVE AND CONTINUE EDITING in the Write Post panel, you can see a preview of your post in the Preview window below the editing box. Most broken code will be visible immediately such as a link that doesn’t turn into a link, a graphic or photograph absent, whole paragraphs in a link or bolded or italicized, or the sidebar is suddenly pushed down below the content. Look for any clues that things aren’t working right, and you can usually quickly find the culprit code causing the error.

If you are including a table for data inside of your post, these can easily have errors in them as they have so many tags, especially if you are using a nested table. If you are in doubt or can’t figure out what is wrong with the way your WordPress.com blog looks, you can run your own validation test on it before you hit the FEEDBACK button and complain to the developers. Do your own tests first.

Hit SAVE AND CONTINUE on your post and in another window, type in your blog address (URL) with the post ID number, such as:

http: ⁄ ⁄ lorelle.wordpress.com/index.php?p=596

You should see a “preview” copy of your post as it would actually appear on your blog. Using Firefox Web Development Extensions you can easily run your post through several validation tests from the Web Development toolbar. If you are not using Firefox, then visit any of the validation test sites found in my post on Validating the Code Behind the Page.

The validation results should help point you towards where things are messed up. Depending upon your WordPress Theme, errors found after line number 125 are usually the errors you have made in your post content area.

If you find consistent errors outside of the content area, please click the FEEDBACK button to let the developers know, and visit the link at the bottom of your WordPress.com blog to the Theme designer’s web page, and let them know so they can clean it up for future releases of their WordPress Theme.

Once you have tracked down the stray bit of code that is borking your site, fix it, hit SAVE AND CONTINUE EDITING, and revisit your other browser window and completely reload the page to see the changes. You can validate the code again, to make sure you fixed it all. When you are ready, then you can hit PUBLISH and your post will be lovely when displayed, and search engines will adore you.

SEO Happy

See, it’s easy to do a few little things as you blog to keep search engines crawling happily through your blog, adding your information to their databases, which hopefully will pop up on searcher’s screens when they go hunting for your information.

Just make good use of keywords throughout your content, use them in post titles, headings, links, and images, and make sure your blog stays error free for good SEO and web standards.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

16 Comments

  1. Posted June 12, 2006 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Wow, what a great article. I am new to WP and have found myself having a bunch of troubles. For one, Google has scanned my page and sitemap but hasn’t even added me to the index yet. So, I need some help! Thanks to you I have the new chapter in my SEO teach myself book.

    Love, Me

  2. Posted June 12, 2006 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Brad, if you are serious about SEO, then check out DYI Search Engine Optimization to really get a handle on the full-treatment. ;-)

    And thanks for the kind words.

  3. Posted May 18, 2007 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle!
    I recently started my blog at wordpress.com choosing the template called Fadtastic. I did as you said and looked at the source code to see the heading. H1 was my post title, H2 said Make a comment: None so far and there were two h3 tags. One said ‘about’ and the other said ‘RSS’.
    Does this mean I cannot add a H2 and H3 heading because it is already part of the template design?
    Thanks again!

  4. Posted May 18, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    In your post content area, you can add any heading tag you want, as long as it works for you. Give it a try and test it out. And even though you are using WordPress.com, use some of the tag examples in Designing a WordPress Theme – Building a Sandbox for a test post to see what will happen. Some may be stripped but what remains when you save and continue editing will tell you much about what you can and can’t do on your WordPress.com blog and Theme.

  5. Tracy
    Posted October 2, 2007 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    What I like about your advice is your blog is very well positioned in the ranking systems both in the organic search engine listings and in the alexa system. This is testiment that you understand the priciples of SEO and should make readers aware you are offering good sound advice.

  6. Posted October 5, 2007 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle!

    It`s very interesting issue. I think you should place it on other sites.

  7. Posted October 5, 2007 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Place it on other sites? I don’t understand. Isn’t my site good enough? :D

    When requests for reprints come in, I customize the content to match the source, and I get a lot of such requests. Thanks for thinking of me, though.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    You mentioned that you can optimize one’s hdr tags and image titles and alt atrributes to enhance SEO on WordPress.com sites, but you didn’t mention anything about customizing title tags. Is that an option with WordPress.com? Since title tags are a ranking factor– more so than hdr tags–I’d like to have the ability to create unique keyword relevant title tags for each page on a site that isn’t being used as a blog but rather a business website. Is that an option with WordPress.com?

    • Posted January 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Custom title tags are not an option with WordPress.com as you have no access to Theme code. There are many things that influence SEO and the things you are looking at are the least of them.

  9. Posted February 22, 2011 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Hi, I am pretty new to these concepts. I tried the above, checking my page source to view which H3’s etc. were already being used. I could find only H1 and H2 in among all the code I saw. So I went into my blog post, and clicked “edit” and created two headings within my blog post carefully following your instructions. I hit publish but found it did not work. It had just published with the code showing. Is this my mistake? Are you supposed to add this code directly into the blog post (when in the edit function)? Or do I add the code somewhere else? Help!

    • Posted February 22, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      Nevermind, Just figured it out! Yippee! You first must click on “HTML” tab instead of being in the “Visual” tab

    • Posted February 22, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

      Spoke too soon! Did as followed, two of my headings look great, but two more are completely tiny. Am I limited to creating two headings, is that why? Here’s the post so you can see what I did: http://clementineandclover.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/a-modern-purple-wedding-buying-guide/

      I will keep it this way until tomorrow so hopefully you’ll be able to check out my mistake and how my headings look all weird and give me some advice. I appreciate it.

    • Posted February 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      LOL! Yes, you must use the HTML editor to add such HTML headings, or the bottom tab of the Visual Editor toolbar should offer a button for them. Check with your CSS to see what the headings are styled for. If they are too small (normally h1 is the largest and h6 the smallest) in the post content area, then consider switching Themes or buying the CSS extra option to edit it yourself. I recommend you use Designing a WordPress Theme: Building a Post Sandbox to create a test post to test what CSS is found within the post content area of your Theme. Download the text file and paste it into the post content area using the HTML editor. You don’t have to publish it, it can stay a draft. It will test all the design elements within the post content area.

  10. Posted July 25, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I posted a similar question on another of your posts just now. What I notice about this post, when I view the page source, is that the post title is h2 and your first heading is h3. When I look at my blog, either in the Ryu theme, which uses very large fonts, or the Twenty Fourteen theme, which uses normal sized fonts, I see that the post title is h1. I don’t know if what I see in Ryu and Twenty Fourteen is standard or not– apparently not, since I see your blog uses the Sandbox 0.6.1 theme and your post title is h2, not h1. I am guessing I might want to start the first heading in my posts with h2 since the post title is h1, at least in two of the themes I’ve tested. Does that sound right to you?

    • Posted July 26, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      There are so many more impotant issues than headings associated today with SEO than when this article was written, though the information is still valid. Choose a WordPress Theme you like, that matches and meets the needs of you site, and write and have your say. Forget about the hearings, except that you need to learn about using them, and focus on having something relevant and topical to say.

      Start with the heading that works for your design needs.

      Thanks.

    • Posted July 27, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Lorelle.


7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] headings (H1, H2, …) [...]

  2. [...] is well known that headings contributes to better SEO as well as semantic HTML. However, it also impacts the accessibility, for which using the heading [...]

  3. [...] sure, Google is the top one, but I do get significant traffic from images/photos (which is why I use the ALT tag religiously) plus Yahoo and [...]

  4. [...] sure, Google is the top one, but I do get significant traffic from images/photos (which is why I use the ALT tag religiously) plus Yahoo and [...]

  5. […] Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs […]

  6. […] Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs […]

  7. […] Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs […]

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