Lets get this straight from the start. Having your website hosted on WordPress.com severely limits the potential of your site and limits your control over many elements that are crucial to SEO. If you are at the stage where you are deciding whether to host on wordpress.com or use wordpress.org and install it on your own hosting – get your own hosting and install it on your own server you can get hosting for less than $10 a month and wordpress is free, seriously you won’t regret it. Just make sure you pick a good host and have backups set up. Many hosts have it available as a one click install and its geared towards being as simple as possible to install and use. However there are cases where you have already taken the plunge and have your blog or website hosted on wordpress.com and can’t move it away or don’t want to.
From WordPress SEO guru Yoast – >
@garethseo short & sweet: if you care enough to optimize, get own domain.
— Joost de Valk (@yoast) February 12, 2013
Limits of WordPress.com Hosted Blogs.
No Plugins which means:
- No control of SEO elements such as titles, description tags
- No url rewrites
- No 301 directs
- No broken link checkers
- No use of php plugins
- Lack of noindex/nofollow on chosen pages, and more.
- Limitations on what themes you can use
- No editing theme files to tweak and customise code
WordPress’s library of great free plugins has grown and its hard to imagine using WordPress without this level of control, especially if you are trying to optimise your site.
So what CAN we do within wordpress.com to help our SEO?
Make use of your title tags where possible
Ultimatly we don’t have control of the exact title tags in wordpress.com. Your “Site Title” (found in settings->general) will become the title tag on your main page so make sure it has your main keyword if it makes sense. However this will also appear on every sub page as the format is “page title – site title” so you will end up with “name of my post | the name of my site”. Because of this you will want to keep it short. You have two options on how to handle this.
Create a short keyword rich title eg
Widgets in My Town
You can then run into issues however if your page content doesn’t sit well with that format as you might end up with
- General business news topic | widgits in my town (running the risk of unrelated topics in title tag)
- News about another area | Widgets in my town (running the risk of stuffing unrelated towns)
- About red and blue widgets | widgets in my town (running the risk of stuffing keywords)
- Long page title or blog topic about your niche | widgets in my town (running the risk of overly long title tags)
Or “My Business Name”
This is a good option if you are then going to create sub pages that are going to contain specific content for areas or business services. as you will end up with a page title like
- Blue widgets in my town | My Business Name
- Red widgets in my other town | My Business Name
Although it doesn’t give you a nice rich keyword title on your home page, your site structure and content should make up for this and will give you relevant linkable pages for any topics or areas of business rather than trying to squeeze it all on one page.
Use the insert more tag
Use this tag to indicate where the “click to read more” text will appear. The text above this marker will appear as the snippet on your blog post summary page. Use this to avoid Google finding duplicate content of all the posts spread throughout the rest of the blog, ie on /blog and all the previous post pages. I am guilty of not using this one when I really should. Since you can’t noindex certain pages on WordPress.com this is the best option you can get to minimize duplicate content across your website.
Make sure your reading settings are set up correctly
Make sure you are allowing search engines to index your site. (This is the most control you will get over your robots.txt file on wordpress.com) this is still an important setting even on your own WordPress install. However on your own install you can control exact pages and categories etc you want to be indexed by Google. This option is an all or nothing setting.
Set it to show summaries of your posts too for the same reasons we mentioned above.
Your Post Settings
As mentioned above, the post title will become your title tag which is “post/page name + your site name” so think carefully about what you name a page or post. This will also become part of the URL. Try and keep it short and descriptive and if possible try and use your keywords without stuffing or making it irrelevant. As mentioned above you may need to get creative and create good on topic sub pages for specific business services in different areas. Make sure each page is useful, unique and helpful and not just a variation of a single page with the service/town changed. Annoyingly this is the most level of control you get on wordpress.com – you can’t even change the URL of the page like standard WordPress installs.
Make use of Categories
Create relevant categories and categorize your posts where possible. Again you don’t get much control over this or the URL structure but having a category for certain niches or services can be a good way to end up with a keyword rich page for some of your services if you don’t have a page dedicated to them already.
Link it to your own domain
You can pay to have WordPress use your own domain. If you aren’t going to get your own hosting at least set this up. You can then ensure your business name/keyword are in the URL. It also makes your site look more professional to just have yourbusiness.com.
Other Important Notes
- Make sure some kind of analytics are installed (As I understand it you can’t use Google analytics but you can use their own in built stats)
- Link your site to social profiles and enable sharing
- Verify your site on Google webmaster tools if you can
- Set up a Google places listing if you are a local business
I’m going to leave comments open on this post as I’d love to hear how you guys have got around WordPress.com limitations and make this page as helpful as possible.