Organizing WordPress for Search Engines

I recently read a wonderful post on VanSEO about how to organize the structure of a website to make it easier for search engines to organize the content.  Sure it’s critical for users to find your site easy to use!  But if you want your site to work well in promoting your business, and want good search engine ranking, you need to put some careful thought into organizing it.  Wordpress makes it especially easy, but you have to be deliberate, using techniques like siloing, robots.txt management, and link design to give your site good structure for findability.

The basic idea of siloing is simple:  You want to organize the directory structure in a heirarchical way organized around sections that target specific keywords that you want to use to help people find your site.  Then you make sure that links inside each directory for the most part stay in that directory.

WordPress has this great category feature that you can use to simplify the directory hierarchy.  It even allows subcategories.   As it turns out, the WordPress category feature is a great way to implement a siloing technique.

I started with a video from the above post from Michael Gray, to restructure my own PurpleIvy website.

From there I distilled some steps that you can take to get this process underway.

Set up and name your categories

You should be very careful and deliberate about setting up your WordPress categories.  The content in your site should be organized around the categories, and each post should be in one and only one category to avoid duplicating content.  Duplicating is really bad for your findability because the link flow to your post may get split between different URLs, and your page is competing with itself also through two different URLs.

You should give each category a good “slug” or URL name that includes keywords you want to target.  Use dashes and not underscores to separate any words.

Set up the permalinks

Go to your settings / permalinks section and edit the permalink structure.  By default WordPress puts posts in a format that looks like /year/month/day/post-name, but this isn’t good.  You want each post to appear in the directory for its category.  You can also add extra SEO keywords to all the posts in your site this way.   I use this format there:

/seo-keyword/%category%/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%

This way my urls look like this:   /web-design/seo/2009/01/somepost/

The category inside the URL is really important for the siloing.

I also use a prefix for all my category summary pages by putting something sensible in the Category Base field.   That way these pages have a distinct subpage as well.

Make sure your tags also use a prefix in the Tag Base field, because you’ll need that later.

Robots.Txt WordPress Plugin

You will need to be able to edit your robots.txt file.  Install and activate the PC-Robots.Txt plugin from your plugins tab in WordPress – just search for “plugins” to add it.

After you’ve added it, go to your Settings / PC Robots.Txt settings page to edit the robots.txt there.  You will want to add a disallow tag to prevent robots from sifting through your archives or through your tags. Here’s mine:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /wp-admin/
Disallow: /wp-includes/
Disallow: /wp-content/plugins/
Disallow: /wp-content/cache/
Disallow: /wp-content/themes/
Disallow: /wp-login.php
Disallow: /wp-register.php
Disallow: /tags/
Disallow: /2008/
Disallow: /2009/
Disallow: /2010/
Disallow: /2011/
After you’ve done that, googlebot won’t find duplicate content under your tags or archives, but will find it only through your category pages.

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