Good SEO for your WordPress site ensures that you get a steady supply of quality traffic. It might be too much to take in the first time but I promise, as you read on everything will fall into place. After all, not all of us were born as website geeks.
There are many SEO guides available but most of them are too technical and have intermediate to expert users at heart with very little to offer to beginners. However, this guide is meant to give you an easy time and literally spoon feed you on everything you need to know about WordPress SEO and how you can make it better.
Is WordPress a good choice for SEO?
If you have been snooping around WordPress forums then you must have heard some users claiming that WordPress is “naturally” SEO friendly. This is why you’ll find a lot of people choosing WordPress when it comes to setting up sites or blogs.
But is this true about WordPress? Yes, however, that’s not the end of it. There is still a lot more you can do to improve your site’s SEO and gain that upper hand against other users when it comes to search engine page ranking.
Let’s get started…
What is SEO?
Some of you might be wondering what kind of sorcery this is. SEO is the short form for Search Engine Optimization. Huh?? This is simply a strategy applied by website owners to be able to get higher rankings on Search Engine Results page and as a result, get a lot of traffic.
Please remember that SEO is not some sort of trickery to gain favor from search engines such as Google. It is about creating website codes that are optimized to make your website easily accessible to search engines. By the end of it all, you’ll find that it’s the users’ interests that are placed above everything.
If your Website is Optimized it means that its content is well arranged. And what is your reward? You’ll be first in line on search engine pages and as a result more traffic will naturally be directed to your website. Who doesn’t want more traffic?
Why the big fuss about SEO?
If you aren’t new to the game then you should know that a huge part of your website traffic comes from search engine results.
Your ranking on these results is usually determined by Google and other search engines algorithms that work to try and understand your website content and see whether or not it will be of use. But these algorithms can’t do everything, they still need your help. This help is now referred to as optimizing your website.
If you don’t optimize your site then search engines will have a hard time trying to figure out whether or not your site has useful content. If this is the case then it means that when people are searching for answers from Google, your website will not appear on the results page and you’ll end up losing a lot of traffic.
How do I make my WordPress site SEO friendly?
Does SEO sound hard to you? It doesn’t have to be. You only need to make a few tweaks on your website that will improve your SEO score and throw you up the search engine rankings.
You don’t need to be a guru to get that amount of web traffic you’ve always been dreaming about. If you already have your site on WordPress then you’re halfway there.
Here are some tips you can work on today to improve your SEO score:
1. Confirm that your site is visible.
WordPress gives you the ability to choose whether or not you’ll want your site to be visible to search engines algorithms or not.
Who would prefer their website to be invisible to search engines? Some check this setting when their site is undergoing maintenance services and they don’t any external interruption.
For now, make sure that your site is set to visible. Simply log in to your WordPress admin account and go to Settings >> Reading page.
You’ll then need to scroll down until you see “Search Engine Visibility” setting. There’s a box right next to a text that reads ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ make sure that this box is unchecked.
Once you’re done, click on save to apply the settings.
2. Use SEO friendly URL structures.
URL is simply the web address to a site for example www.google.com. The URL structure shows how webpages are arranged, for example, www.yoast.com/homepage. This means that you’ll be directed to Yoast’s homepage.
SEO friendly structures need to have words that are easy to read and understand. Here are some examples of SEO friendly URLs:
Have you noticed that the words used are easy to read and you can also tell where you’ll land should you click on them?
Now that you have seen the good guys, this is how SEO unfriendly URLs look like:
Have you noticed that the numbers on the URLs have nothing to do with the onsite content and you can’t also tell where exactly you’ll end up should you decide to click on them?
Here are the steps to take to ensure that your permalinks are SEO friendly so that you get favorable rankings on search engines.
Got to the Settings>>Permalinks page and choose on the post name option. You’ll then have to click on save for your new settings to be applied.
Important: If your site has been live for more than 6 months then don’t change your permalink structure unless it has initially been on the numeric post. If that is the case then you can go ahead and change it to post name. However, if it had initially been on Day and Name or Month and Name, then you go ahead and leave it as it is. Changing it might cause you to lose your blog shares and current SEO ranking.
3. Choose the best SEO WordPress plugin.
One of the major perks of WordPress is the fact that it is so customizable that there plugins for just about anything including SEO. You might be confused when it comes to choosing the right SEO plugin because there are thousands of them.
We want to save you the headache by giving you the two best SEO plugins on WordPress that are ABSOLUTELY FREE! These are All in One SEO and Yoast SEO. Since you only get to use one at a time, then we’d recommend you go for Yoast SEO. Yoast is the best plugin for beginners because it has a simpler user interface plus a dozen more functions.
4. Add your website to Google Search Console.
Google has also decided to help us on our SEO mission by giving us the Google Search Console also known as Webmaster Tools. This is simply a toolkit that helps website owners to see their websites just as Google and other search engines view them.
There you get access to a collection of information on how your website is performing on search engine results. This information includes what keywords users search to find you, the number of clicks your pages are getting, and how each page is seen on the search engine results page. This information is to help you plan your content strategy.
Apart from the information, Google Search Console also warns you of any malfunctions like when web crawlers are not able to find your website or when they find duplicate content on your site.
5. Create XML sitemaps to your WordPress Site.
An XML sitemap is a special file format that has all of your website’s pages listed on it. It works like some sort of ‘map’ that makes it easy for search engines to access your site’s content.
Please note even though adding sitemaps doesn’t contribute to improving your SEO, it does make it easier for search engines to find and rank your site. If you are using the incredible Yoast SEO plugin then you can skip this because they’ve automatically done it for you.
To see you XML sitemap simply use this URL:
Don’t forget to replace ‘example’ with your website’s name.
After you have created your sitemap, you can now go ahead and submit it to Google Search Console.
Go to your Google console dashboard and click on crawl. A drop-down menu will appear where you’ll be required to click on sitemaps.
After that, go ahead and click Add/Test sitemaps button.
Copy Paste sitemap-index.xml click on submit sitemap.’
6. Optimize your blog posts.
If you are dumb as I was then you’re probably thinking that adding Yoast Plugin is enough to do the trick. The search for the perfect SEO score never stops, with every post, there are things you’ll have to check on so that you can maintain or possibly increase your search engine ranking.
Yoast SEO will require you to fill in a title, short description, and focused keywords for every blog post you publish. The description and title are what you normally see on search engine page results. They easily give short previews on what your posts are all about.
On-page SEO is crucially important if you want to have high search engine results pages. This includes mentioning focused keywords in your titles and text. It is even better if you can also mention your keyword in the first paragraph of your text.
Also, write to ensure that your blog is long-form, around 2000+ words. This is because it has been proven by researchers and even SEO specialists like Neil Patel that long-form blogs and articles get higher rankings. Having long form posts also means that you’ll still be in the game if Google decides to switch and start ranking based on long-tail keyword variations.
7. Use categories and tags on WordPress.
I know that most of us make the mistake of ignoring categories and tags. I’ll confess that I used to ignore them as well. Do they help with search engine ranking? Yes. How? By categorizing and tagging your articles, you make it easier for search engines to access and understand the content on your website.
Here is how you go about it:
Categories are used for grouping large numbers of blog posts. You can have different categories for lifestyle, health, business, music, etc. You can even have mini categories under them.
Tags can be specific keywords that are unique to one blog post. For example, if you have an article on cake bakery then the tags might include low-calorie cake, etc.
8. Internal Linking.
Let me let you in on a secret most website owners don’t know, Google and other search engines usually keep authority scores for each of your web pages. This authority score then contributes to your SEO score.
To increase this authority score, you’ll need to portray your webpage as an authority in the industry you are in. How do you this? By getting other posts to link back to you. It doesn’t have to be an external post, you can increase your authority score by inter-linking your posts.
9. Optimize your WordPress Comments.
Comments are another way you can build your authority score which in turn increases your search engine ranking. But you need to make sure that your comments are real and not spammy. Spammy comments usually have broken links that slow down your page loading speed.
To deal with spammy comments you should install Aksimet. This plugin automatically helps you in removing spammy comments.
There’s also a threat if your real comments are so many that they end up also slowing down your load speed. You can choose to reduce them or split them into different pages. You will be able to do this once you go to settings>>discussion and check the ‘Comment must be manually approved’ checkbox.
10. Add “NoFollow” to External Links
We talked about Authority Score which is increased if other articles link back to you. If the reverse happens where you link out to other external posts, then you’ll lose your Authority score to them. You should ensure that you are getting more Authority score then the link backs you are giving out.
To avoid losing your authority score, you have to add the “nofollow” attribute to the external links. This code tells search engines not to follow that link.
Here is what I mean:
This is a normal external link
<a href=”http://example.com”>Example Website</a>
This is a “nofollow” external link
<a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>Example Website</a>
11. Google Analytics
Once again we see Google trying to lend us a hand. Google Analytics is very similar to Google Search Console only that it gives very detailed information about your website. You can also use it as your SEO score sheet that lets you know whether or not your SEO efforts are working. Do their charge for their services? No, it’s 100% free to open an account with them. Once you’ve created your account, the very first thing to do is to link it to your Google Console account.
12. Optimize your website for Mobile usage
Google announced not long ago that they will be testing their mobile-first indexing tool. This means that search engine algorithms will now be looking to see if your site is mobile friendly. Mobile friendly sites are set to have higher rankings on search engine results page. To test and see whether your site makes the cut, you are free to use Google’s mobile-friendly tool.
13. Fix or delete broken links.
Broken links in WordPress are usually treated like viruses in computers. We don’t like them and neither does Google or any other search engine. The best place to start is in your Google Search Console. Quickly head over to “crawl errors” under “crawl” and check to see if there are any. If you find some, you can go ahead and see their location.
14. Have a multi-language WordPress website
Neil Patel, an SEO guru, did some research and found that having your website in different languages can increase your website traffic by 47%! This research is based on his website which he translated to over 82 languages. I’m not saying that this will be your super serum, there are many other factors such as location and audience that determine whether or not it will be a success.
You don’t have to worry about content duplication because there is a code that automatically tells Google that the English version is the real deal. Despite the fact that there are many translator plugins, it is best to always go for human translators.
15. Local SEO.
Local SEO is still a grain field that many websites and business owners are yet to exploit. Local SEO improves your website ranking when a local user is looking for products or services from your area. Once he\she searches for something like “ice cream shops” your business will automatically appear on the search engine results page. Setting up an account at Google Business and Bing Places is free.
16. Link your social media accounts,
Chances are your traffic spend most of their time on social media platforms. In fact, by just searching for your website’s name, your social media page will rank on the first page. Despite most social media backlinks being “nofollow”, websites are still enjoying most of their website traffic redirected from their social media accounts. Start off today by using Namechk, this tool lets you see what names are available across all social media platforms so that you can go ahead and claim them.
While you are at it, you can also make your content shareable by adding social media buttons to your website. Not only does this improve your Authority score when your content is shared but it also boosts your website traffic. It’s now or never, harness your social media power today!
17. Create evergreen content
Ever had the saying “Content is King”? It’s true! It doesn’t matter how many plugins or “tricks” you use, if your content is not high quality, your SEO score will be less.
Evergreen content is the key to WordPress SEO and long-term supply of traffic. Evergreen content refers to content that is always relevant and is not dependent on time. There are bits of updates you’ll have to make but at least you won’t have to rewrite everything every year or even month.
Another perk of evergreen content is you are still able to reshare it on social media and add backlinks to social posts. If given the choice between evergreen content and news, then definitely go for evergreen.
18. Use schema markups.
What is this guy talking about?? Schema markup or schema structure is simply a tool code that enables Google to avail more data to users straight from the search engine results page.
Have you ever seen those stars on SERPs pages right next to product pages or videos that appear on SERPs? Those are as a result of website owners using schema markup codes.
There are a lot of themes on WordPress that automatically have schema markups in them. However, there are some that don’t. You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to find out. If there aren’t any then you can use the free schema plugin that will automatically add in all of the necessary schema codes.
19. Use Social Markups.
These are very similar to schema markups. They are behind the thumbnails you see on Facebook and Twitter posts that are shared from your WordPress website. Again, we see the Yoast plugin proving its worth. Yoast automatically does the work for you by adding all the necessary social markups. It’s never bad to let Google know that your social media profiles are linked to your WordPress site.
Simply go to your Yoast plugin dashboard and click on “Socials”. Fill everything out. You also get to choose what type of social media card you want. Once you are done click on save your changes.
20. Limit your affiliate links usage
Many websites and blog users add a lot of affiliate links because they can be a very good source of income. Unfortunately, Google and other search engines don’t approve these efforts. In case you have no idea what affiliate links are, these are links you add to your website that allow you to track commissions on purchases made through you.
To be able to use affiliate links without sacrificing on your SEO score, we advise you to use affiliate plugins such as Preetylinks or ThirstyAffiiliates. They automatically add “nofollow” codes to your affiliate links that instruct Google crawlers not to follow them.
21. Go for non-www domains
In case you didn’t know, there are two types of domains out there, the www as in www.google.com or non-www for example https://yoast.com. It’s important for you to know that this doesn’t affect SEO. It’s just a matter of personal preferences. Though we would advise you to go for a non-www domain because your domain will be shorter.
But why then do large companies still use www domains? The process of changing domains can be very time consuming and risky. After all, they already have huge amounts of traffics they cannot afford to risk losing.
22. Be careful with keywords
Hey, keywords matter! Frequent updates in Google’s algorithms mean that they now pay closer attention to keywords used in webpages and blog posts. Most people write with their audience in mind but forget to be consistent with their keywords for Google’s sake. But this doesn’t mean you can’t please both your readers and Google.
Yoast SEO plugin helps you out by calculating the keyword density in your text. You should aim for a keyword density of around 0.5%.
23. Do some keyword research
It’s important that your posts sound natural to your readers but you also have to write smart. You don’t just start writing, you need to first use tools such as SMErush, KWFinder, and Ahrefs to know which keywords are searched for the most. Once you find them, you can now go ahead and write content that is built around these keywords to ensure you get the most out of search engine traffic.
24. Track your keyword’s ranking
Since you were smart enough to do some little bit of research to find the best keywords to use in your niche and went ahead and used them appropriately, it is now time to check if they are actually working. We advise you to use AccuRanker tool for this task. The best strategy is to start monitoring the focused keywords in posts that are already at the top of the second page. Work the content in these posts to ensure that they make it to the first page.
A little tip: Don’t forget about multi-lingual keywords. These are keywords that are commonly searched for in other languages. You can choose to do this since English keywords are saturated.
25. Boost your Click through ratio (CTR) with quality Meta descriptions.
CTR refers to the ratio of the number of people who are clicking on your results to the number of people who don’t. Meta descriptions have nothing to do with your SEO rankings but they do help in convincing users to visit your website.
Meta descriptions are the small texts your see under search result titles. You need to have Meta descriptions that are going to attract and entice users to click on them. The character range for Meta descriptions is currently 150-170 characters. As you are writing your Meta description, it is also good to include your focused keyword.
Please note that sometimes Google might rewrite your Meta description to match users’ wants. Don’t panic if you see the change.
26. Use header tags appropriately
Again we go back to the site content, blog post or article. You need to make sure that you are properly using HTML tags like H1, H2, and H3. If you use Google Docs then you know what I’m talking about. Make sure that you have one H1 title per posed and several H2 titles that have mini H3 titles under them. This helps you in breaking down your content in a way that makes it easier for your audience to read.
Extra tip: It’s mandatory to mention your focused keyword in the H1 title. You should also try to at least mention it in H2 and H3 titles as well.
27. Add image ALT text.
I know it sounds complicated but it’s actually very easy to do. ALT text refers to the alternative text that is usually added to images. They tell Google that a certain image is relevant to the text around it. Take this as one of the laws of WordPress SEO, you should always add ALT Texts to your images.
If you’ve been using images without ALT text then quickly go to your post editor and follow the following instructions:
- Go to your blog editor and choose an image then click on the small pencil in the toolbar to access the visual editor.
- You then enter the ALT Text in the space right next to ‘Alternative text’. It is advised to include your focused keyword if it is applicable to the image. Don’t just throw it in there or Google might pick it up as spam.
28. Use short URL links
We talked about using SEO friendly links that try to at least explain what a page is all about. Today, we emphasize that your page and post links should also be short.
Is there a way to shorten long post links? Yes, not only does it boost your Click through ratio (CTR), but it also improves on your WordPress SEO score.
How to go about it:
- Go and edit your blog post.
- At the top of your page just below the title, you’ll see the permalink
- Click on edit and shorten your blog post link. Just make sure you put hyphens in between keywords.
You need to also make sure that every URL is unique.
Don’t use one URL for two different blog posts.
29. Edit and rename your image names
This is yet another mistake that many WordPress users are making unconsciously. Before you upload an image for your blog post, make sure you rename it from let’s say DA00001.JPG to wordpress-tips.JPG.
Always make sure that the new name is related to the content found in the blog post.
Don’t space the words using underscores or periods because Google won’t be able to read them. Instead, use hyphens to separate your words. For example, wordpress_tips.JPG and wordpresstips.JPG are wrong since Google won’t be able to read them.
Make sure that the featured image has the same name as the blog’s title so that the focused keyword is mentioned.
30. Submit your sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools
This is webmaster tool is very similar to Google’s Search Console.
31. Submit your sitemap to Yandex Webmaster Tools
After you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you should also do the same for Yandex. This is a Russian Search engine but since you really want to maximize on your traffic then it is good to be one step ahead of your competitors.
32. Check on your website’s speed
Having a website that has a high loading speed is a big plus when it comes to SEO. Page speed matters because it has a huge effect on how users interact with your page.
- You have a span of about 5 seconds to convince a user to stay on your website.
- 46% of users never go back to low performing websites
- ¼ of visitors will leave your website if it takes more than 4 seconds for your page to load.
Reducing your image size will go a long way in increasing your page load speed. The average web page size is 3MB. You’ll be digging your own grave once you upload several 3MB images. There are many tools you can use to compress your images such as TinyPNG or plugins such as Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin.
33. Be on the lookout for Negative SEO
This is a very important topic that many web users are yet to fully understand. I talked about getting backlinks and how they increase your Authority Score which in turn increases your overall SEO score. However, this trick can be altered by evil people to bring harm to your website.
Always make sure that you frequently monitor your backlink profile for any suspicious activity. It might sound like a trivial matter but a company website once fell victim to this. Its owners woke up one day to find 200,000 backlinks put against it. This mess took 2 years to clean!
If this ever happens to your website, use Google’s Disavow tool to create a list of domains you wish to ignore.
34. Claim the HTTPS/SSL SEO Advantage
Not long ago Google announced that HTTPS will be a ranking factor in SERPs!
What is HTTPS? See that little green lock that appears next to your domain URL in your browser’s search bar? It means that your website is secure and users are free to share their information without having to worry about piracy.
If your domain is HTTP then you are at risk of falling behind in Search Engine Rankings. Migrate to HTTPs and save yourself the stress.
35. Force crawl for early ranking
Once you publish a new blog post or web page, it might take a while before search engines send out web crawlers to check and index your site. It might take minutes, hours, or even days before Google decides to do this.
But there is a way to ‘force’ Google and Bing to read and rank your post immediately.
For Google Search Console:
- Go to your Google Search Console dashboard and click on crawl.
- A drop-down menu will appear where you’ll be required to click on Fetch as Google. Input the URL then click on Fetch
For Bing Webmaster Tools:
- Go to Configure My Site dropdown menu and click on Submit URLs. Paste your URL then click on Submit.