What WordPress Developers Need to Know About Links and SEO
This is the final part of a presentation I gave at WordCamp for WordPress Developers and SEO in Asheville. Even if you don’t use WordPress, I think you’ll find this useful. Here’s the video, if you’d like to watch it.
This is where I get to wax eloquent for a moment here. What makes Google better (than, remember AltaVista) is that Larry and Sergey had a bad high school experience. As nerds, they were probably pretty conscious of the fact that they weren’t the most popular kids in their high school. And they took what they learned about what makes someone popular in high school and they made a search engine with it. What makes the kid in high school most popular? Is it that he says he’s popular? No, that’s probably, actually, the opposite, right? Before Google, it was the website that just said, “Ooh, I’m the most popular, I’m the most popular,” that made that the best website. But Google, Larry and Sergey said, “No, no, it’s not what they say about themselves, it’s what everybody else says about you.” Right?
Another analogy I like to use is, you go into a room and they’re full of plumbers. Which is the best plumber? Is it the guy that has plumbing on his hat, on his shirt, on his business card, on his truck? Or is it the guy that everybody says, “He’s the best plumber.” Right? This is what links do to help a website rank in Google. It’s what made Google different and makes Google the by far market leader.
How a Website’s URLs Affect Link Building
Now, link building could again be a whole really long topic, but we’re talking about developing websites and what we do with links. This may be outside your scope because you’re probably not responsible for what other websites say about your clients’ websites, but how you build your URLs will affect links. Sometimes they’ll get a site and there’ll be a complete redesign, rebuild and every URL is different. Great. Now, all the new URLs have no credibility because nobody’s going and saying, “That’s the best web page on that.” When you launch a website, please, please, please don’t forget to install the 301 redirects. A 301 redirect says to Google, “Hey, I know the page was here, too, now. Thanks.” And Google will pass the link credit from the old page to the new page. If you use a 302, no authority gets passed. The user still gets to the page, but the link credit does not. Make sure it’s a 301 kind of redirect. If the page resolves to a 404, all credit evaporates. So, you, please, when you launch a new website, ideally, you keep all the URLs the same. I have worked really hard on some websites just to make sure the URLs don’t change. Sometimes you can’t afford it, avoid it. So just be sure you install 301 redirects for every old page, new page. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt. Yes, it’s really difficult but it is the number one source of traffic decline after a new website launch I’ve ever seen, typically. Sorry, number two. Number one is “I turned off robots” and that’s clearly number one. Number two is no redirects. So, please take time. I’m happy to help you through that. There’re some tools that you can can use to help but, you know, it needs to be done.
Why a Website Needs Canonical URLs
Canonical URLs. Again, this is a moment where we all thank God we’re working with WordPress. This is really pretty easy with WordPress, but the idea here is that some sites add parameters to URLs in order to, for instance, sort items on the page, or sort different pages, or render the same page. A point is, if one piece of content can be seen from different URLs, we have a canonical problem. The solution for this as a canonical tag that is inserted inside the HTML that says to Google, “We know you’re on the sort by price page, but the real version of this page is this product category.” You have to take a little extra step to add the canonical tags the page to tell Google what is the right page. That’s where Yoast is awesome. Because if you install Yoast it’ll do the canonical tags right for you. I have seen some WordPress sites hacked so badly. Yoast, for some reason, couldn’t put the canonical tags on the page, but most of the time Yoast just adds them for you. Again, another benefit of Yoast outside of the red, yellow, green- who cares.
There’s More to Good SEO Beyond Development
So that’s SEO. It’s really not that complicated, guys. SEO is about measuring, crawling, content, and links. But remember, this is just the beginning of SEO. We are not delivering SEO’d sites to clients just because we built them, even when we use all these best practices. There’s a lot more to it that we have to engage in, but if you help me by installing some of these things, not only would your client benefit from the marketing efforts more quickly, because I’m not spending the first three months going backward, but you won’t hate me for breaking your website by trying to fix these things.
So, that’s SEO and developing websites for SEO friendliness.