If your WordPress website is not on the first page of the SERP, you might not exist for a huge section of internet users. This means that WordPress SEO requires your constant attention so that you can maintain and improve your SERP rankings.
Here are some of the most well-known companies that run their websites on WordPress.
- BBC America
- The Walt Disney Company
These websites receive millions of visitors in a month, just because they have applied SEO tactics for great SERP positions.
Welcome to this detailed article, where you can learn the essentials of SEO optimization for WordPress. The ideas mentioned below range from advice for beginners to experienced users. I hope that once you finish reading this article, you can easily understand what SEO is and how you can optimize your WordPress website SEO for better rankings and traffic.
Sounds good? Let’s dive right in.
- The Basics of WordPress SEO
- Best WordPress SEO Plugins & Tools
- Advanced WordPress SEO
- WordPress SEO Checklist
- Focus Keywords
- Title Tags
- Title Description
- Image Title Text
- Focus Keyword in the First Paragraph
- High-Quality Content
- Short URL Good URL
- WordPress SEO: Add Internal Links
- External Links
- Nofollow & Dofollow
- The Impact of Social
- Broken Links
- Responsive Design
- Avoid Copyright Violations
- Hidden Text
- Images, Video, and InfoGraphics
- Valid 404
- Low Quality and Useless Content
- Press & PR (Press Release)
- Customer Experience
The Basics of WordPress SEO
WordPress is an open-source content management system that simplifies website creation and maintenance. Whether you are a newbie or a techie, WordPress offers the perfect balance of simplicity and features for your skill level.
Now when you have created your WordPress website, how can you bring interested people to your blog and signal search engines that you are publishing ranking-worthy content.
While there are many ways of driving traffic to your website, the most effective way is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which helps your website rank higher in search engine results.
WordPress Search Engine Visibility
When you create a new WordPress website, it doesn’t get listed (or indexed) automatically. In fact, WordPress offers a core functionality that prevents search engine spiders from indexing the website. If you can go to WordPress Admin Dashboard > Settings > Readings, you can see the option “Discourage search engine from indexing this site” which is checked by default.
If you have finalized website development and are ready to live, uncheck this option and click the Save Changes button.
Make Your WordPress URLs SEO Friendly
SEO friendly URLs is a smart way to get your website ranked in the search engine. There are four ways to ensure all the URL on your WordPress website conform to the standard guidelines:
- Use SEO-friendly permalink structure
- Install an SSL certificate
- Use plugins to make sure the URLs are SEO-friendly
Let’s see these options in a bit more details:
Use SEO-Friendly Permalink Structure
Let’s first see two examples of URL structure:
Now, which one do you think is more attractive to both people and search engines?
Obviously, the first one which gives a clear idea of what the blog is all about and what to expect from the blog/page.
Implement an SSL Certificate
Google Chrome started marking non-HTTP sites as Not secure since July 2018. This signifies the importance of the SSL certificates in the getting higher SERP positions. Here is how SSL encrypted and otherwise URL looks like:
Not Secure: http://cloudways.com
You have a lot of options when it comes to securing your WordPress websites with SSL certificates. You can either buy a certificate or just install a free one. Similarly, the validity of the certificates ranges from yearly to lifetime. Usually, WordPress web hosting providers provide in-depth support for installing and renewing SSL certificates.
On Cloudways, we offer a free 1-Click FREE SSL certificate. If you want to know more about WordPress SSL certificates, here is a detailed guide on securing your WordPress websites with free SSL certificates.
Use Plugins to Make Sure Your URLs Are SEO-Friendly
When we talk about WordPress SEO plugin, then the one plugin clicks in our mind immediately and that is Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin tells you to either you have added focus keywords or not in your URL.
Not only the URL but also this will tell you each and everything about WordPress SEO which will help you to make your website complete SEO friendly.
Best WordPress SEO Plugins & Tools
Below the list, I have mentioned some of the good WordPress SEO plugins and tools which will help you to rank your website in Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
- Yoast SEO
- All in One SEO Pack
- Google Keyword Planner
Let’s elaborate one by one of these useful WordPress SEO plugins.
Yoast SEO plugin is one of the best WordPress SEO plugins in the repository. It has over 5 million active installs with full rating reviews. Moreover, this plugin will help you to make your SEO friendly.
All in One SEO Pack
When it comes to finding Yoast alternate plugin then there is no other one to take this instead of All in One SEO Pack. This is the second-best WordPress SEO plugin ever. It has over 2 million active installs. The features of this plugin are quite similar to the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.
KWFinder is keyword research and analytics tools which allows you to find out your web keywords. It doesn’t matter whatever business you have KWFinder helps you to find out any type out keywords with any business weather is it’s WooCommerce based ecommerce store, WordPress blog, etc.
Google Keyword Planner
If you don’t want to invest money for any SEO tools then this tool is the best to find out the keywords. Google Keyword Planner gets a bad rap, especially since Google removed the ability to see exact monthly search volumes. Now they just show an approximate range.
However, if you want to know the actual value of your keywords then we would recommend going with the premium tool.
If you want to know what your competitors are doing, in which keywords they are ranking and taken a position, how many keywords they are using in specific pages or any specific blog. Then the Ahrefs tool is the best. This is a premium plugin which tells you each and everything about your competitors along with keywords and ranking.
Advanced WordPress SEO
Now that you have read about the beginner level WordPress SEO ideas, let’s discuss some advance WordPress SEO tips.
Add XML Sitemaps to WordPress Websites
An XML sitemaps list all website pages and make sure that Google bots can easily find, crawl and index them all. In many cases, developers also use these sitemaps to make sense of the website’s architecture. Similarly, SEO experts use these sitemaps to apply many SEO tactics to the site.
The good part is that implementing XML sitemaps is a simple matter of using a plugin. In fact, if you are using Yoast SEO plugin, you don’t need to do anything effort as Yoast creates your website XML sitemap by default. If you have already setup the Yoast SEO plugin, you can see the sitemap at the sitemap_index.xml.
Image Source: Yoast
Add Your Website to Google Search Console
Regardless of the nature of the websites you have, you need to have detailed and up-to-the-minute data on WordPress website performance.
Fortunately, Google offers several excellent free tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
Google Analytics for WordPress is an excellent choice for analyzing visitor trends and traffic sources.
In general, when you install Google Analytics on WordPress, you get detailed insights into who visited your website and the user behavior on your website (such as page views, time spent on pages, bounce rate, the origin of the traffic, etc.).
We have a step by step guide on how to use Google Analytics for WordPress: All-in-One Guide (2019).
Google Search Console
Google Search Console allows you to check index status and optimize visibility of your websites. Moreover, you can use this tool to index pages and sitemap, page blocking, CTR, impressions, analytics, page performance, site errors, responsive issues, URL issues, HTML issues, and much more.
WordPress SEO Checklist
Now that you know the fundamentals of WordPress SEO, it is time to present the only WordPress SEO checklist you will need to make your website rank at the top of the SERP.
Keywords are important but focus keywords are necessary. Make sure you understand how search volume works and why you need to continuously discover new focus keywords to retain your rankings. These keywords should be included in the headings and subheadings of the websites.
Title tags are often the h1 and h2 on the website. Make sure that these tags include focus keywords. In fact, all titles of the pages should be SEO friendly and very much related to your niche and keywords.
For example: If you are writing about WordPress SEO then your title should be something like “SEO for WordPress Blog.”
You can see that I have added the focus keyword at the beginning of the topic. I know this is not possible for every topic but you should come up with creative ideas for including focus keywords in your title tags.
To make things interesting, Google only shows the first 63 characters of the title tag. This is such an important restriction that WordPress SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO has a special area for a title tag that indicates when you are about to cross this limit.
Tip: Your Title Act as a Headlines 🙂
Similar to title tags, description tags are another great opportunity for adding the focus keywords to your content. Note that Google shows the first 150-160 characters. A well-written description summarizes the idea of the content and induces the readers to click and come to your website.
The limit of the meta description is 150 to 170 character with space.
Image Title Text
Image title text help improve both the traffic and the overall user experience on the site. When the user hovers on a specific image, they can have an idea what the image is about by reading the image title text.
Similarly, you can add an ALT text field for every image that allows you a good opportunity for adding focus keywords and improve WordPress Search Engine Optimization.
Let me show you some examples:
It is a good practice to include the name of the image in the ALT text to help the visitors make the context of the image.
Focus Keyword in the First Paragraph
Google crawls your website pages from top to bottom, so including the focus keyword in the first paragraph is a good practice that indicates to the search engine that your content should be ranked for that particular focus keyword. In fact, the focus keyword should be included in the first 100 words for maximum effect.
Content is the most important for every website. And why not? It is the only way you can bring your products and/or services to the attention of the visitors. Whether it’s a blog, infographic or a video, content is everything.
If you are writing a blog, check out Google’s good content guidelines. The length of the content is a very important factor that you need to watch for. Similarly, you need to follow industry guidelines for producing videos and related visual content
Short URL Good URL
Always use short URL for your posts because they look good, clean and are easy to understand. Google likes a short URL with a good structure and the focus keyword. By default, WordPress can create your URL according to the title of the post. This is not a good practice and you can easily fix this issue
As you can see, the focus keyword (WordPress SEO plugins) is mentioned in the URL and the length is good enough for a quick scan.
Add Internal Links
Internal links are an essential part of any WordPress post. These links interconnect the content on your website and easily allow bots to crawl your website. The recommended number of internal links in a post is four to five. However, when linking your own content, remember that the context of the link is as important as the anchor text
External links are an important ranking factor that signals search engines that your content is validated by external websites. While there is no set limit to adding external links, it is important that all-important facts and statements should be validated by external links. So If you add some 80 plus DA website links in your posts, you get a chance to rank your post in the top ten SERP positions.
Nofollow & Dofollow
Nofollow and Dofollow are two very important link attributes that bots use to follow (or not) links. In simpler words, if a link is tagged as Nofollow, the bot will not follow it to the destination. On the other hand, if a link is tagged as Dofollow, the bot will follow the link. This forms a channel for the “link juice” to flow from higher-ranked websites to lower-ranked websites as a vote of confidence.
A backlink is exactly what it says on the package: a link that connects back to your website. This is why these links are also known as inbound links. A good strategy is to get “earned” backlinks that other content producers create while linking to your content. For Google, these links are an endorsement of the quality of your content. Thus, the more backlinks you have the higher you will be ranked in SERP.
The Impact of Social
If you have a WordPress website, you simply cannot ignore social media. The top two platforms, Facebook and Twitter have the potential of transforming your humble site into an industry leader. All you need to do is create an account and start sharing your content. As your profile grows, you will start seeing relevant traffic on the site. Eventually, you will form useful relationships that benefit you in unexpected ways.
Broken links on your website indicate that you are not serious about website maintenance. This issue can directly hit the UX of your website and thus Google takes the issue seriously.
Fortunately, you have a whole host of tools to tackle this issue and detect all the broken links on your site. In fact, several plugins such as Broken Link Checker plugin monitor your website and generate an alert when a broken link is detected. You can also check broken links and other error details from other tools also. Once you have the list, you can either set up redirects or remove the links altogether.
Responsive design has become the way all websites are built for a simple reason: Responsive design makes your website look and function great on any device. Since Google places a lot of value on mobile experiences, responsive design is an essential component of any WordPress SEO strategy. I recommend opting for a well developed responsive theme to implement this tactic on your site.
Avoid Copyright Violations
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns negatively affect your ranking in SERP. When using content by someone else, always check out the license to use. Experts suggest using images and videos available under Creative Commons (CC) or similar licenses.
Hidden text is an underhanded way of inflating the size of published content and adding unrelated keywords. While invisible to humans, the invisible text is very much visible to Google bots. Since this is considered an unethical practice, Google Google penalizes it.
Images, Video, and InfoGraphics
Visuals have a significant effect on bounce rate and content readability. In addition, these elements provide the alt text as an opportunity to increase keyword density. In addition, you need to make sure your videos and images are optimized and do not add to page load time.
404 indicated that a particular page does not exist on the webpage. While some instances of the error occur because of misspelled or related scenarios, there is always a chance that 404 indicated a broken link on the website.
Here are some best practices of designing a 404 page are:
- Tells visitors that the requested page cannot be found
- Shows easy navigation
- Track 404 pages in Google Analytics
- Make sure your 404 pages are not indexed
Low Quality and Useless Content
Avoid the trap of using low quality and useless content to quickly get the website up and running. Always give the content production adequate time and you will soon see its impact in SERP rankings.
Press & PR (Press Release)
Most people believe that press releases do not affect SEO because of no-follow links. However, PR has a great but indirect impact on SEO. Your website gets natural high-quality links that improve brand visibility and awareness.
Customer experience is the next big thing for SEO. Whether you are running an actual business or just a simple blog, your entire marketing pitch should be tailored to provide a great experience to your customers. You should have a clear idea about the demographics of your customers so that all your marketing and all other strategies start bearing fruit in the form of excellent WordPress SEO results.
Local SEO has a serious impact on shaping user behavior and thus the SERP rankings. The trust that local SEO adds to your brand leads to higher rankings. If you are not decided about local SEO, here is a simple fact for you: If your business has local customers, you have to do local SEO for more conversions.
Some effective guidelines for Local SEO:
- On-page factors targeted toward local SEO
- Citation (Local Listing)
- Verified with Google local listings
The simple truth is this: page load time affects SEO. For WordPress websites, the average load time should be 2 seconds, tops. The best tool for measuring this factor is Google PageSpeed Insights. Note that many speed-related issues arise on the server-side. For this try to host your websites on high performance and optimized-for-speed platforms. I recommend the best SEO Friendly Hosting: Cloudways
If users from everywhere (regardless of location and language) can easily understand the content and offerings on your site, you are in for great SERP positions. Here is a complete list of FAQs about Internationalization.
Several ranking related tactics to implement and integrate on your WordPress website are:
- Meta Data
- Proper OnPage Optimization
- Image Optimization
- Increase your Content Inventory
- Relevant Link Building
That’s it! In this article I have mentioned about WordPress SEO including the basics and advanced, also I have mentioned some of the WordPress tips which you can utilize.
If you have any questions regarding this article or if you have found any point which I have missed then feel free to let me know I would love to add your tip.
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Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org