If you wish to get huge numbers of relevant internet users on your site, it is significant that your WordPress site ranks on the first page of the search engine.
The secret to achieving high rankings lies in SEO, implying that WordPress SEO requires constant attention so you may maintain and improve your SERP rankings.
Some of the well-known brands that run their sites on WordPress are listed as follows:
- BBC America
- The Walt Disney Company
These websites receive millions of visitors a month because they have applied the best SEO practices for high SERP positions.
This article will teach you the essentials of SEO optimization for WordPress. The ideas range from advice for beginners to experienced users. At the end of the article, you will clearly understand how you can optimize your WordPress website SEO for better rankings and traffic.
Sounds exciting? Let’s dive right in and learn the secret to higher rankings.
- The Basics of WordPress SEO
- Best WordPress SEO Plugins & Tools
- Advanced WordPress SEO
- WordPress SEO Checklist
- Final Thoughts
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.
Once you have created your WordPress website, the next step is to make it available to the targeted audience and search engine bots that can crawl through your website and rank it appropriately.
While there are many ways of driving traffic to your website, the most effective way is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which helps your website rank higher in the search engine results.
Don’t fancy doing all the hard work? You may also hire agencies that provide SEO White Label Services. Explore the benefits of outsourcing SEO services to use them to your advantage.
Online SEO Audit
To start, you can use a host of online tools to run an SEO audit of your WordPress site. I will use the SEO Analyzer by Neil Patel to demonstrate the idea.
- Enter your site’s URL inside the field and hit the ‘ANALYZE WEBSITE’ button.
The tool will run an SEO audit of your site by analyzing it on various parameters and give you valuable insights.
The result starts with an overall SEO score after analyzing all the pages of your website. Next is the organic monthly traffic considering the organic keywords. Finally, it shows the number of website backlinks (discussed later).
The tool also shows other useful information like the overall health status of your site, as low performance has a direct adverse impact on your website’s SEO. You can click on errors, warnings, and recommendations for further in-depth information if you wish.
The second fold of the result page contains the site speed on both the desktop and mobile platforms.
Prepare yourself for the May 2021 Google Update.
Use our Page Experience Checker.
I recommend testing your website on other WordPress speed test tools to get a competitive analysis of the issues and in-depth insights into the performance of your website.
WordPress Search Engine Visibility
When you create a new WordPress website, it doesn’t get listed (or indexed) in the search engines automatically. In fact, WordPress offers a core functionality that prevents search engine spiders from indexing the website.
If you go to WordPress Admin Dashboard > Settings > Readings, you will see the option Discourage search engine from indexing this site checked by default.
If you have finalized website development and are ready to go live, uncheck this option and click the Save Changes button.
Make Your WordPress URLs SEO Friendly
SEO-friendly URLs are a smart way to get your website ranked in the search engine. There are three ways to ensure all the URLs 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 detail:
Use SEO-Friendly Permalink Structure
Let’s first see two examples of URL structure:
Now, which one do you think is easier to understand for both humans and search engines?
Obviously, the first one gives a clear idea of the blog and what to expect from the blog. Therefore, it is important to set the URLs that are easy to understand and give the idea of the type of content a reader expects to find.
Install an SSL Certificate
Google started marking HTTP sites as Not Secure from July 2018. This signifies the importance of the SSL certificates in getting higher SERP positions. Here is how SSL encrypted and otherwise URL look like:
Not Secure: http://cloudways.com
You have many 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.
At Cloudways, we offer a FREE SSL certificate by Let’s Encrypt. If you want to know more about WordPress SSL certificates, here is a detailed guide on securing your WordPress websites with free SSL certificates.
Likewise, if you have a paid SSL certificate, you can easily import and install it on your Cloudways managed servers simply by uploading the relevant files to the server.
Use Plugins to Make Sure Your URLs Are SEO-Friendly
Yoast SEO is perhaps the most popular WordPress SEO plugin out there. The best thing about this plugin is that it offers the use of focused keywords in the URL structure.
Note that this is just one of the many WordPress SEO-focused pieces of information that the Yoast SEO plugin provides for your website.
While Yoast SEO is a popular plugin (as I write this, it has five million active installations), it is always a great idea to have options. Here is a list of other great WordPress SEO plugins and tools that you can use to help you rank your website on all major search engines.
- All in One SEO Pack
- Slim SEO
- Google Keyword Planner
Let’s have a very brief intro to these useful WordPress SEO plugins.
All in One SEO Pack
When finding an alternative to Yoast, look no further than All in One SEO Pack. The plugin is considered a powerful WordPress SEO plugin with over 2 million active installs. The best part – if you have been using Yoast, there is little to no learning curve as the features are very compatible.
Slim SEO is reputed for being simple, lightweight, and easy to use. Without any configuration, Slim SEO will automate all the SEO work to help your site get a better SEO score right after you activate it.
Along with all the common features like Meta Tags Optimization, Schema, XML Sitemap, Breadcrumbs, Slim SEO has special features:
- Adding header and footer code to insert code for Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Facebook pixels, … easily;
- Auto adding alt text for images;
- Support page builder and shortcode for Meta Description.
KWFinder is keyword research and analysis tool that simplifies keyword discovery. KWFinder is an ideal tool for finding web keywords that you can use in your blog posts and landing pages for better SERP rankings regardless of the niche and industry.
Google Keyword Planner
If you don’t want to invest in paid SEO tools, Google Keyword Planner is the best bet for finding relevant keywords. Google Keyword Planner gets a bad rap, especially since Google removed the ability to see the exact monthly search volumes. Now they just show an approximate range.
However, if you want to know the actual value of your keywords, I would recommend going with a premium tool.
Ahrefs allows you to analyze your competitors in the best manner. You can see the keywords they are ranking on, the number of keywords they use on specific landing pages or blogs, and much more. This premium tool is ideal for discovering all keyword and link-related information about your competitors.
Advanced WordPress SEO
Now that you have checked out beginner-level WordPress SEO ideas let’s discuss some advanced WordPress SEO tips.
Add XML Sitemaps to WordPress Websites
XML sitemaps list all website pages and ensure 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 several SEO tactics to the site.
The good part is that creating a WordPress sitemap is a matter of using a plugin. In fact, if you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, you don’t need to put in additional efforts as Yoast creates a website XML sitemap by default. If you have already set up the Yoast SEO plugin, you can see the sitemap at sitemap_index.xml.
Image Source: Yoast
Add Your Website to Google Search Console
Regardless of the nature of your websites, you need to have detailed and up-to-the-minute data on your WordPress website’s performance.
Fortunately, Google offers several excellent free tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics for this purpose.
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 using Google Analytics for WordPress: All-in-One Guide.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console allows you to check page indexing status and optimize the visibility of your websites. You can use this tool to index pages and sitemap, page blocking, measure CTR & impressions, analytics, page performance, site errors, responsive issues, URL issues, HTML issues, and much more. Check out the Cloudways webinar video on Google’s New Page Experience Signal: How To Ace the Test.
WordPress SEO Checklist
Now that you know the fundamentals of WordPress SEO, it is time to present the WordPress SEO checklist that will help you rank your website on top of the SERPs.
Keywords are important but focus keywords hold much more significance. Ensure you understand how search volume works and why you need to discover new focus keywords to retain your rankings continuously. 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 the pages’ titles should be SEO friendly and very much related to your niche and keywords.
For example, if you are writing about WordPress SEO, your title should be something like “SEO for WordPress.”
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 develop creative ideas for including focus keywords in your title tags.
To make things interesting, Google only shows the first 60 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 acts as a headline.
Description tags, like title tags, are another great opportunity to add 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 read your website’s content.
The meta description limit is 150 to 160 characters, including spaces and special characters.
Image Title Text
Image title text helps improve both the traffic and the overall user experience on the site. When visitors hover on a specific image, they can understand what the image is about by reading its title text.
Similarly, you can add an ALT text field for every image; another excellent opportunity for adding focus keywords for improving WordPress Search Engine Optimization.
The best SEO practice is to include the name of the image in the ALT text to help the visitors understand its context.
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 site’s content should be ranked for that particular keyword. In fact, the focus keyword should also be included in the last 100 words for maximum effect.
Content is an essential aspect of every website. And why not? It is the only way to bring your products and services to the visitors’ attention. Content is everything, whether a blog, infographic, or video.
Go through Google’s content guidelines before writing a blog. The length of the content is a significant search signal, as are proper subheading structure and keyword distribution. Similarly, you need to follow industry guidelines for producing videos and related visual content.
A Short URL Is a Good URL
Always use short URLs for your posts because they look good, clean, and are easy to remember. Google prefers a short URL with a good structure and the focus keyword.
By default, WordPress creates URLs according to the title of the post. This is not a good practice, and you can quickly fix this issue by changing the URL.
As you can see, the focus keyword (WordPress SEO plugins) is included 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, remember that the link’s context is as important as the anchor text when linking your content.
External links are an important ranking factor that signals search engines that external websites validate your content.
While there is no set limit of external links, external links must validate important facts and statements. 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 vital 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.
As the name suggests, Backlink is a link that points 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. These links are an endorsement of the quality of your content for Google. Thus, the more backlinks you have, the higher you will rank in the SERPs.
The Impact of Social
You simply cannot ignore social media if you have a WordPress website. The top two platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have the potential of transforming your humble site into an industry leader. You need to 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 your website’s maintenance. This issue can directly hit your site’s UX, and Google takes the matter very 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 the 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 through a host of free and paid tools. Once you have the list, you can either set up redirects or remove the links altogether.
Responsive design makes your website look good and function well on any device.
Since Google places a lot of value on device 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) takedown negatively affects your ranking in SERP. When using content created by someone else, always check out the license to use/redistribute.
Experts suggest using images and videos available under Creative Commons (CC) or similar licenses to avoid DMCA strikes.
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 visible to Google bots. Google penalizes this practice, as it is considered unethical.
Images, Video, and Infographics
Visuals have a significant effect on the bounce rate and content readability. In addition, these elements provide the alt text to increase keyword density. Moreover, you need to ensure that your videos and images are optimized and do not contribute to increased page loading times.
404 indicates 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 indicates a broken link on the website.
Here are some best practices for designing a 404 page:
- It 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 get the website up and running quickly. Always give the content production adequate time, and you will soon see its impact in the 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 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 aware of local SEO, here is a simple fact: You have to do local SEO for more conversions if your business has local customers.
Some effective guidelines for Local SEO are as follows:
- On-page factors targeted toward local SEO.
- Citation (Local Listing).
- Verified with Google local listings.
The truth is that page load time directly affects SEO. The average load time should be around 2 seconds for WordPress websites. That said, the less, the better.
The best tool for measuring this factor is Google PageSpeed Insights. Note that many speed-related issues can happen 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 coming from anywhere (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.
That’s it! I have mentioned the best WordPress SEO tactics in this guide, including the basics and advanced. I have also mentioned some easily actionable WordPress tips that you can deploy almost immediately.
If you have any questions regarding this guide or if you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to let me know. I would love to incorporate your suggestions in this blog.
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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 [email protected]