The most effective ways of building and running large scale link networks.

AS AN ONLINE marketing discipline, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed massively during the past couple of years and, surely, is going to continue changing. The same goes for WordPress, which quickly became one of the most popular pieces of open source software available on the market. And there are dozens of (valid) reasons for this success.

To name just a few:
• the software is amazingly easy to use and even works for people without prior publishing-knowledge;
• it’s easily customisable - which is true for the design part but also for adding functionality by using and/or creating plug-ins;
• and last but not least, WordPress is - out of the box - pretty solidly search engine optimised.
Sure, you could, and should, do much more than the core software provides, however, WordPress provides significantly more options than others.

Naturally, it didn't take long until the first SEO plug-ins became available on the market, each mainly improving one, two or three things that weren’t fully optimised within the WordPress core. I remember giving a talk on WordPress and SEO at a webmasters meeting a couple of years ago, where I presented our current WordPress set-up for maximum SEO success. Believe it or not, at that time we were using around 15 different plug-ins. That is a lot! And it was SEO-only, not including components such as maintenance, security and other additional functionality.

Times changed and so did the WordPress plug-in market

Another good thing about popular open source software is the (usually) amazing community around it. Developers and designers provide great plug-ins, themes and tools to extend functionality and make it even better. That said, my good friend
and Dutch SEO legend, Joost de Valk, decided to create an all-in-one SEO solution which, simply, does an amazing job.
Besides the performance improvements (1 Vs 15 plug-ins surely has a performance impact), this plug-in does everything you need in SEO. Just have a look for yourself: managing titles and metas on a global as well as per-post/page level (including templates), controlling indexation settings (noindex’ing as well as disabling parts of perhaps unused functionality), solving logical issues (do you really need categories and tags being indexed?), fixing URL issues (removing ‘category’ from the URL, adding trailing-slashes, etc) and much, much more.

Again, it’s the one thing you need, nothing more and nothing less. Be sure to check it out: http://yoast.com/wordpress/ seo/, and if you need a recommendation on settings to be used or have any questions, be sure to shoot me an email or contact me on twitter (@basgr).

Additional functionality to make your life easier

In addition to Joost’s plug-in, there exists an array of additional extras that will make things even better. WordPress isn’t very good at internally linking posts and pages (at least not in a way that makes too much sense); be sure to check out ‘Yet Another Related Posts Plugin’ (YARPP). Backing-up data is crucial and you don’t want to waste your time doing so. Using ‘BackWPup’ handles that task for you; it backs up files, themes, plug-ins as well as your database and can put them somewhere safe - be it a FTP account, your DropBox or simply by emailing it. You’d also want to have ‘Redirection’ on your blog. The plug-in does - as you’d guess from the name - handle all kinds of redirect issues. For example, if you change a URL slug, it can automatically redirect old to new URL parts, including the ability to do regular expressions and other fancy stuff.

WordPress and security

The downside of using popular open source software is - at least in my opinion - that you’ll automatically be targeted by (automated) hacking (e.g. code injection, etc) attempts. And this can be really, really nasty. I don’t want to go into all of the details about what could happen, but more provide some guidance on what you could do to (hopefully) prevent being hacked. In general you should, of course, make sure you’re always running the latest version of WordPress including updated themes and plug-ins. There is a handy plug-in called ‘WP Updates Notifier’ which can email you for each blog if there are updates available. That said, it’s also wise not to keep stuff that’s being deactivated - get rid of it.

In addition I’d recommend using ‘Secure WordPress by WebsiteDefender’ which controls many relevant settings (e.g. removing the WP version in front- end, back-end and themes as well as error messages) but also blocks malicious looking URL-requests. In combination with ‘WP AntiVirus’ which scans themes for bad code (daily) and ‘WP SecurityScan’ to check for correct chmod-settings and other potential issues, you should be all set. Happy optimising!
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