Optimizing WordPress Page Titles, Post Titles and Page Slugs

While wordpress is one of my favorite CMS platforms, out of the box it isn’t search engine optimized. Combine this with people who aren’t SEO aware, and publish a blog, and you almost always end up with an implementation that’s sub-optimal. Here are some tips to help you get things on track and moving in the right direction.

First off you are going to need Stephan Spencer’s SEO Title Plugin. I may totally hassle him suggest improvements at every conference, but it’s a kick ass plugin every wordpress install should have. What does it do … it allows you to isolate the post title from the page title, we’ll get into why that’s important later.

Next is one of my big wordpress gripes. Out of the box wordpress puts the blog title in an H1 tag on every page. While this makes sense on the homepage, on individual posts, it’s just bad information architecture, and shows a complete lack of understanding of SEO . The best thing to do is to put the post title in an H1 tag.

Ok enough with the tech stuff lets get down to business and an example. If you follow Rae or I on twitter you know we read celeb news. So for this example I’m going to use the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy as my topic. By default this is pretty close to what you would start with:

Page Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Post Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Page Slug: jamie-lynn-spears-is-pregnant

However I’d argue that you could do better, lets get the easy one first the page slug. Take out the stop word “is”. You could make an argument to take out “spears” as well but I think people will use it as a search term so I’d say keep it. I know some people might also search for something like [jamie lynn spears baby] so let’s add that in as a keyword to the slug as well. So we end up with this:

Page Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Post Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Page Slug: jamie-lynn-spears-baby-pregnant

Next lets look at the post title. Again we’ll start by pulling out the stop word “is”. In the celeb trade the vernacular currently favored for pregnant is “baby bump”. So lets change the title to “Jamie Lynn Spears Baby Bump”. I also know that if you don’t have tween in the house who happens to watch Zoey 101 you may not know who Jamie Lynn is, but chances are you do know her sister Britney. So the terms “Britney” and “Sister” add context to the story, so lets add them, giving us “Britney Spears Sister Jamie Lynn Spears Baby Bump”. There’s one two many “spears” in there so lets drop one, giving us “Britney Spears Sister Jamie Lynn Baby Bump”. Since people are going to get the post title in their RSS we want to spice it up, so lets add in that she is 16 years old, giving us “Britney Spears 16 Year Old Sister Jamie Lynn Baby Bump”. Close we just need to make it english. Now if this was a rumor we would probably go with “Does Britney Spears 16 Year Old Sister Jamie Lynn Have a Baby Bump” however at the time it was a pretty solid story so I would have went with “Britney Spears 16 Year Old Sister Jamie Lynn Has a Baby Bump”. Ok so that gives us:

Page Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Post Title: Britney Spears 16 Year Old Sister Jamie Lynn Has a Baby Bump
Page Slug: jamie-lynn-spears-baby-pregnant

Lastly lets look at the title. IMHO the most important factor for your site is domain trust and authority, however page titles are the most important on page factor, so it’s the one you really need to get it right. The phrases that are going to be most searched are “jamie lynn spears pregnant” and “jamie lynn spears baby”. So we want to try and get those words into our title, and we want it to be as natural language like as possible, not looking spammy or keyword stuffed. So I’d go with this “Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant and Having a Baby”. I don’t know how she could be pregnant and not be having a baby, but that’s not the point, we got all of our keywords in the title without looking too stupid. Lets look back at where we started:

Page Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Post Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant
Page Slug: jamie-lynn-spears-is-pregnant

and here’s where we ended:

Page Title: Jamie Lynn Spears is Pregnant and Having a Baby
Post Title: Britney Spears 16 Year Old Sister Jamie Lynn Has a Baby Bump
Page Slug: jamie-lynn-spears-baby-pregnant

A subtle point to notice, “baby” and “pregnant” are reversed in proximity in relation to jamie lynn spears in the title and slug, that was intentional. Experienced SEO’s do this kind of thing naturally within a matter of a minute or so, if you are less experienced it will take you longer. Additionally if you aren’t familiar with the topic you won’t be clued into terms like “baby bump” and you may have to go out and do some KW research to make sure you optimize for as many combinations as possible. For example you could also use the post and page title to target singular and plurals like “Buying a Cheap Airline Ticket” and “Buy Cheap Airline Tickets”. Again look for the term that has the most volume or the least competition and use that as your post title.

So hopefully this helped give you some suggestions on how to get the most out of your wordpress install.

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