Did you know, WordPress is the one of the fastest growing CMS (Content Management System) on the web? Roughly 500+ new websites are being built on WordPress every day. It powers approximately 34% of all the websites on the Internet, including TIME, Mashable, and Marketing Land.
On average, 20 blog posts are published on the WordPress platform every second; a whopping 37 million Google searches for “WordPress” happen every month.
While powerful and versatile, WordPress doesn’t require a lot of complex coding, site architecture, or technical specifications to get started. Web designers and businesses owners alike are drawn to WordPress because of its simplicity and flexibility.
When proceeding down the path of developing a WordPress website, its ease of use and the wide available collection of themes and plugins can lull you into thinking that every WordPress instance is on a level playing field as it relates to SEO. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Whether you’re using a prebuilt theme or designing the site from scratch, it’s almost inevitable that you will need to further optimize your WordPress site for SEO.
In our guide, we’re going to walk you through the many aspects of optimizing your WordPress site for SEO. By the end of this guide, you will be more informed and empowered to optimize your WordPress website. When done right, this process will ensure better overall rankings and visibility in search.
WordPress Optimization Quick-Start Guide
SEO – An Outline
The process of enhancing online visibility and improving the ranking of a website in search engines is known as search engine optimization (SEO). As a matter of fact, the higher a website is presented in a search engine’s result page for a given term, the more visitors it is expected to receive. This is because more than 70% of visitors don’t scroll beyond the first page of displayed results.
Currently, Google holds more than 90% of the total search engine market, followed by YouTube, Yahoo, Bing, and Amazon.
To implement SEO efficiently, you need to first consider how search engines work, what people are searching for, and the words (keywords) users are using. As you will discover later on in this guide, one of the first and most important aspects of any successful SEO campaign deals with keywords.
Importance of SEO
It’s undeniable that your website is one of the first touch points a prospective buyer will have with your brand, your product, and your services. Even if you sell a product or service directly to the consumer, prospective buyers still want to research purchases – this is where your website comes into play. However, you can’t just build a site and expect a flood of orders, as you first need your site to be found online – this is where SEO comes into play. Investing in SEO may seem overwhelming, but without out it your website is little more than a fancy online brochure that few will ever engage with.
How search engine optimization works?
Search engines crawl (read) a website’s content using their indexing bots called ‘spiders’ (crawlers). These crawlers search for and parse out data on your site to better understand the topic and relevance of your website. The crawlers look for specific terms (keywords/key phrases) to build a contextual map of your site and to evaluate its relevance.
Now, let’s learn about the pillars of SEO as it relates to your WordPress website.
Keywords are the terms you incorporate into your website’s content. In order for a page to rank for a given search query, you need to have those target terms (or some variation thereof) in your content.
While search engines still can’t understand written text the same way a human user can, they’re getting better and correlating semantic range between terms in a larger body of text. Because of this, you don’t want to overuse a set keyword but rather develop content that has a good range of interrelated terms.
For instance, if your content is about “Social Media Marketing”, you would expect to see words/phrases referring to terms such as Social Media, Marketing, SMM, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Businesses need to pay attention to how they construct their websites; this includes focusing on both the structure and content of a site so that the site loads quickly and is easy to use. Googles crawlers scan through the structure of a given website in order get a better sense of its architecture, content, and usability, then make judgments based on this data. It’s this data, along with other factors, that dictate where a website and its individual pages will rank online.
Errors on a website can have an adverse impact on SEO and Google can be unforgiving when it comes to things like broken links, 404 pages, missing SSL certificates, etc. If you have too many website errors, your website’s rankings might drop as a result. Whether you’ve just launched a website or have had one up for years, it’s a good idea to regularly audit your site for issues. Often a quick review of your website’s status in Google Search Console is enough to inform you of any issues you might be having.
In 2015 Google rolled out an update that favored websites with a mobile-friendly design. This update meant that non-mobile-friendly websites were now at risk of lower rankings in the search results. If your business has a website which is not mobile responsive, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of prospective traffic and business growth. Brands need to ensure that their website and its content is mobile-friendly; the website must be easy to browse, quick loading on mobile devices, and easily readable too. Remember, avoid any unnecessary interferences such as pop-ups and other text that may disturb the end user and negatively affect the mobile user experience.
Importance of SEO for Your WordPress websites
To create TOMA (top-of-mind-awareness), a strong digital strategy is required. SEO and digital marketing strategies with unified color schemes, branding, and consistent communication help to build brand awareness and recognition. Over time, this brand recognition can start to translate into relevant search volume as more people become aware of your brand. Brand awareness is one of the best ways to separate your business from the competition and, as a long-term strategy, it can keep traffic coming to your site year after year.
Better rankings on SERPs
Once your website’s credibility is proven to Google through SEO best practices like relevant content, good site structure, and a mobile-friendly interface, you will start to notice your rankings and related traffic increase. As your traffic increases, there is a higher chance of nurturing more of those opportunities into leads.
WordPress SEO Fundamentals
WordPress SEO can be divided into 2 levels:
- Off-Page/Off-site SEO for WordPress
- On-Page/On-Site SEO for WordPress
Off-site SEO comprises generating or attracting trust signals into your website from other third-party entities. Most traditionally these come in the form of authoritative backlinks, but things like social signals are also thought to have an impact on how search engines evaluate your off-page authority.
On-Page SEO deals with the optimization of your website’s content and structure. Proper keyword research and optimization of content provides search engines with a proper context of your content’s subject matter; in return, this helps better your odds of ranking well in search and receiving more qualified traffic. The optimization and structural performance of your website also play important roles and improving things like a page’s load time, mobile friendliness, meta tags usage, UX, etc. go a long way in ensuring your website shows up favorably in a search.
Website Health Check
If left stagnant, a website can become outdated quickly, spelling disaster for your online visibility. Not only is it important to regularly add to and update your website’s content, but also the codebase itself. If you fail to address plugin or content management system updates, you can start to experience issues with your website – especially if these missed updates leave your site venerable to errors or, worse, attacks.
Simple and easy website health check-up measures can help you to save lots of time and money, ensuring you don’t lose traction. As a part of Healthy Website Check Planning, these things need to be taken care of:
One of the key factors that drives a website’s performance and minimizes downtime is reliable hosting. Things like session time-outs and downtime offers a poor experience to the end-user; if these kinds of issues become consistent, they can start to affect your website’s rankings as well. One measurement of a hosting platform’s effectiveness is uptime.
Uptime is the timespan in which your website’s connectivity is up and running. Reputable hosting providers typically advertise 99% uptime. A total of 30-40 minutes of downtime is anticipated per month for management and maintenance, but much more than that and you might be comprising your website’s health.
There are several recommended web hosting services, but the two we recommend most strongly are first WPengine and second Siteground.
Typically hosts offer different packages and hosting options. It’s important to know what you’re getting.
Shared Hosting: A single server is used to host more than one website.
Reseller Hosting: Web hosting is done by the customer themselves. This is primarily done for security reasons and flexibilities.
Dedicated Hosting: The customer gets complete control of the server, but the hardware is owned by the hosting service providers.
Managed Hosting: In this scenario, the customer does not have full control over the hosting services but the hosting service provider is bound by SLAs with respect to Quality of Service ( QoS), where data management is done remotely.
Cluster Hosting: Clustered hosting is a diversified model of hosting services across multiple machines, nodes, and hubs which decreases the dependency of one service affecting another service. These are used by large account websites where multiple hardware and devices are used with load-balancers to manage services.
Cloud Hosting & Grid Hosting: This is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) based cloud delivery model where services’ suites are delivered remotely – or more precisely, as a form of virtual services. A grid hosting service is a web hosting space taken on rent and is not located on one machine. Rather, it is deployed on a cluster of servers like a grid. VMware is an ideal example of this kind of hosting service.
Web hosting services are crucial for many businesses and considered a long-term investment. Whatever hosting environment you start with, it’s important that your hosting is reliable and capable of handling technological advancements in the future.
Using SSL & HTTPS for WordPress SEO
When doing business online, it’s essential to keep your customers’ data protected and ensure their personal information is not exposed to any third party. Implementing an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) as well as HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is best practice. It’s important that you adhere to this, otherwise you risk your site being penalized by search engines.
SSL: SSL establishes a secure connection sandwiched between a browser and a web page. Every time data is transferred, SSL Certificates ensure that private information is safe and secure.
Here we see an example of a site that is encrypted with an SLL certificate:
There are multiple benefits for enabling an SSL certificate.
- For users, the data is safe and secure if they’re sharing private information and registering to your website.
- Your website has higher credibility when you are using SSL certificates.
- An SSL-enabled website gets a Search Engine Optimization boost over similar sites that are not SSL-enabled.
WordPress is a very popular platform and is currently supporting more than 70 million websites. Every now and then, backend and frontend enhancements are required so that it remains up to date. Apart from enhanced features and plug-ins, these updates keep the platform secure and patch previously unknown vulnerabilities.
Although there are lots of websites that are still operating on older versions of PHP (the scripting language WordPress is built on), the newest and most stable version as of this writing is PHP is 7.0
The benefits of using PHP 7.0 include:
- Higher safety and security than ever
- Offers high-speed boost to your website
If you determine your website is on a version of PHP lower that version 7.0, it’s a good idea to update that.
You will need to tackle this at least once for any WordPress website.
If you’re setting up a new WordPress website, there are a few things you will want to ensure you set up and configure properly.
Website Name & Tagline:
You may already have a name for your business, but it’s important to add this identity marker to your website. To do this, go to Settings > General tab
There you will see an option to set your Site Title and Tagline.
Feed & Home Page Set-up:
WordPress will automatically show your latest feeds and posts in your default homepage.
A consistent way to engage with your website visitors is to encourage blog commenting. Users are allowed to comment once the user registration tab is checked as enabled. You can see the settings snapshot as below:
Set to Default Images:
Higher quality images are best suited for the user experience, but the larger the resolution, the bigger the file size. WordPress has the capability of handling images in various sizes which are generated automatically.
These are small images shown on the left side of the website browser tab. Once WordPress is installed for the first time, it’s a good idea to install a website favicon.
Remove Unused Plugins:
Most of the plugins and themes remain inactive, so it is recommended to remove those that are unused. From the list of plugins, pick the ones which are not required. Simply deactivate and delete them to keep your website efficient and void of any bloated and unused code.
Deploying A Precise Permalink
This URL format “http://www.sample.com/?p=14 ” is generated by WordPress for websites by default. The link format is referred to as “permalink”.
As the name suggests, it is a permanent URL to web pages and posts and normally must not be replaced. The WP permalink structure adopts post ID numbers to generate URLs automatically. As purposeful as these may be, however, they are tough to read and remember.
Luckily, WP allows you to updated your permalink format to one that is much more readable and SEO-friendly.
How to Configure a Permalink Structure?
You can follow these steps to construct the permalink format for your WordPress website:
First, login to your WordPress website.
Go to Dashboard, click on Settings, and choose Permalinks. The settings page will show up.
WordPress allows you to choose your desired permalink structure. The options are below.
- Day and Name: http://mywebsite.com/2019/04/01/sample-post/
- Month and Name: http:// mywebsite.com/2019/04/sample-post/
- Numeric: http://mywebsite.com/sample-post/223
- Post Name: http:// mywebsite.com /sample-post/
Of all the options available, the Post Name option is the one most widely adopted by those concerned with WordPress SEO. The Post Name option keeps the structure term centric and eliminates unnecessary date parameters in the URL.
Once your settings are updated, save the changes and the URLs for the website will be instantly updated by WordPress.
Popular Plugins – Recommended Tips for Implementation
WordPress plugins can enhance the features of your website and enable the easy addition of extra features.
Interestingly, the WordPress plugin database has more than 45k distinct plugins available.
Advantages of Using WordPress Plugins
There are Plugins for almost every requirement, such as:
- Adding contact forms
- Optimizing your content for SEO
- Integrated automated email marketing
- Scheduling consistent backups of your website
- Adding live chat
Apps for changing requirements
WordPress plugins enable you to add features as per requirements. You don’t need to completely overhaul your website while using WordPress plugins.
Easy to add to your WordPress website
WordPress allows developers to add their own code. The WP plugin is enabled with hooks and filters allowing developers to add their own functionality into their plugins. Every WordPress plugin added to your website gets registered in the database and you can then choose to activate or deactivate them from the admin panel.
Our Favorite SEO-related WordPress Plugins.
Where there are thousands of plugins and likely hundreds related to page performance, the below list are some of our favorites for WordPress SEO related tasks.
While we rarely utilize the metadata, recommendations provided by Yoast SEO anymore, it’s still a great plugin that provides metadata fields to WordPress. It also makes syncing a site with Google Search Console pretty seamless and provides XML sitemaps out of the box. It does a lot of heavy lifting for one plugin.
Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Smush is a great image optimization tool that takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of image compression. We use this a lot with clients when addressing load times and websites that have a lot of bloated image files.
No more messing with the .htacess files to manage redirects, this tool makes 301 redirects a breeze with its dummy-proof interface.
All in One Schema Rich Snippets
This plugin is another major time-saver and makes setting up Rich Snippets very simple. No code needed.
W3 Total Cache
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics
They say that what gets managed gets measured; this plugin not only allows users to connect their WordPress to Google analytics, but also offers a mini Google Analytics dashboard right inside of WordPress. That’s good news for both vendors and clients alike.
Broken Link Checker
You can sleep better at night knowing that this plugin will let you know if any broken links are found on your site.
AMP for WP automatically adds Accelerated Mobile Pages –
While I’m not personally a big fan of AMP, it is part of the search landscape. So, when and if it makes sense, we will install and set up this AMP plugin on our clients’ sites.
Inclusion of XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps are XML files that list the URLs for any website. It directs search engines to each accessible web page on a given website. Sitemaps are important because they inform search engines when a website has structural page updates and they reduce the amount of crawl budget required by crawlers.
Under the Yoast Plugin an automatic XML is created, for example, using a URL as below;
http://example.com/sitemap_index.xml (here “example” refers to the individual domain name)
A step-by-step process is explained in the table below which can help you add an XML sitemap to your website.
In order to ensure your content is well-optimized, it’s important to first do your homework and make sure you have researched the topic thoroughly. If you’re new to the concept of keyword research, check out our article How to do keyword research like a pro.
Content that’s optimized for search should also be crafted in such a way that it reaches the largest possible audience available. This means it includes the proper setup and optimization of your metadata (Title Tags, Meta Descriptions), correctly implemented schema markup, and well thought-out headlines that encourage a high click-through rate in the search.
You can optimize the content for your website by:
Titles and Headings
Add appealing titles and descriptions to your content. This is one of the most important components and your best tactic for converting searches into clicks. The title must offer a hint of what your page is about while also being able to allure and attract audiences to click on through to the page from the search engine results.
Header tags are there to organize the various headings available throughout your page’s content. They consist of a primary header tag (h1) and sub-headings (h2 – h6). The h1 tag is the most important of the bunch and should be thought of as your primary title or headline. Because of this, it’s the only one of the group that should be shown only once. All other tags can be used more than once, each in conjunction to its top down hierarchy.
Although you would assume most WordPress themes are developed to assign tags correctly, you should always confirm before taking a website live. We have encountered numerous WordPress themes that have been coded with incorrect header tags and thus need to be updated before the site was published. These tags don’t just breakup content, making it more readable; they also help to give structure to a page.
Relevant Keyword Infusion
It is important to avoid using a single focus keyword on more than one page on your website. Doing this causes the search engines to pick which page out of the two to promote. Usually, one page will get prominent visibility while the competing page will get buried in the results. This is referred to as keyword cannibalization.
Keywords and related terms offer up context for what a page is all about. Since your content revolves around the main keyword and those interrelated phrases describing the topic at hand, it is a logical consequence that you should include these relevant terms in your page’s copy.
When thinking about keywords and content, it’s also important to make use of the focus keyword in important places such as the title, introduction, subheadings, and the meta description. The key is to make sure you don’t use the same term too much, but also not too little. To know where the line is between proper keyword usage and keyword stuffing, take a look at your top ranking competitors and see how often and in what manner they’re using the target keyword in their content. This should offer a good idea of where to start.
Localize Content / Use Location Specific Terms
If you own a business that’s targeting an audience from a specific location, then it is a good idea to incorporate location-based targeted keywords in your webpages. Add these location specific keywords to your blog titles and pages, where relevant, and you improve your odds of showing up higher within local searches.
A blog with great imagery amplifies the rest of your content, making it more interesting and grabbing the attention of your readers – but that’s not the only benefit. Just like your content, images on your website can also rank in search and drive traffic to your website.
Since search engine crawlers can’t identify images like humans do, it’s important to help them better understand what an image is by adding ALT Tags to your images. ALT tags are an HTML element that serves the purpose of describing an image giving more context to search engine crawlers. They also offer a benefit to the visually impaired, who rely on screen readers to understand what a page is all about.
Much like ALT tags, captions added to images can be parsed and read by search engine crawlers. Unlike ALT tags, however, these captions are also visible to your website visitors. Adding a relevant caption to your image helps both search engines as well as users gain a greater context for what your image is, as well as its relevance to the content that surrounds it.
These days, there’s really little excuse for having a slow-loading WordPress website. It’s an important part of any UX strategy. Your website’s rankings can topple if users leave your website due to long wait times – three seconds or less is optimal.
Yes, it is that crucial, because Internet speeds vary from device to device and users are used to fast-loading websites independent of what device they are using.
Here are our suggestions for ensuring your WordPress website loads fast and, hence, gets some WordPress SEO love from Google.
A caching plugin can solve speed issues. These plugins ensure that there isn’t a need to download content every time a user loads a page. Repeat visitors can benefit from the caching process.
Optimizing the images on your site can speed up your website. High-quality photos can have a size heavier than 5mb and even smartphones generate high-quality images with good resolutions. These images can easily bog your website down.
Embedded elements can create havoc if they are not optimized or weighed against their potential impact on load time. If you’re going to embed a YouTube video, Google Map element, or any other item in your site, make sure to measure the impact on your load time to see if the added benefit this addition brings is worth the cost incurred.
A growing database will slow down your website. Cleaning and optimizing databases with plugins such as WP-Optimize is a good option.
For every file on your website, there is an associated HTTP request that references that file. The higher the number of requests, the more information going back and forth. This will increase the page loading time. Therefore, reducing the HTTP requests is a good way to reduce your page’s load time.
Breadcrumbs not only enhance UX, but can also give an upward push to your ranking on search engines. They are actually more important to your website than you might think.
This is because Google prefers well-organized structural elements in a website.
Here is how you can add Breadcrumbs to your WordPress website: a step-by-step guide
These are simple steps to add breadcrumbs to your WordPress website using Yoast SEO:
- Set-up the Yoast SEO plugin and activate it
- Add breadcrumbs code to your WordPress Theme
- You can now allow/deploy Breadcrumbs in Yoast plugin settings
If you prefer another option, then you can try activating the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin.
- Access your WordPress Dashboard Panel
- Go to Plugins > Select Add New
- Run a search in the WordPress database to find breadcrumb navxt
- Now click to setup and start activation
- Analyzing Website Traffic
Google analytics is one of the most effective tools available for analyzing your website traffic – and best of all, it’s 100% free.
To install it, go to https://google.com/analytics to start using this powerful tool.
Understanding Google Analytics Metrics
- Sessions – Sessions are a series of interactions (page views, events, social media interactions, etc.) taken on your website in a given visit period. Currently, Google restricts each session to around 30 minutes.
- Users – A user is the total amount of new and returning visitors to your site in a defined period of time.
- Pageviews – The total pages viewed within a session.
- Pages/Session – The total count of pages divided by the total count of sessions
- Average Session Duration – The total duration of each session.
- % New Sessions – A new session initiated by a new user.
- Bounce Rate – The percentage of a single landing page session that exited without interacting with further.
Generating Quality Traffic
A high bounce is a signal to coax you to take steps in generating high quality traffic to your website. In fact, it is recommended to apply modifications even if your website stats are satisfactory to enhance performance even further.
You can try:
- Streamlining navigation to give visitors a trouble-free technique to access the required information with fewer clicks.
- Content that is sticky and engaging will ensure users stay on your page for longer; this leads to improved quality of website traffic. To do this, include things like multimedia, webcasting, webinars, infographics, whitepapers, etc.
- The design strategy for a good website should always be seamless and alluring. A cluttered website will repel visitors; try running spit tests of differing design elements on your website to see which perform the best.
Social Sharing Methodologies
Your brand visibility can get a boost when you use social media as a tool to reach your audience. These are big platforms and will enable you to reach a wider audience.
Unfortunately, social networks try to fill gaps when you share a URL on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, etc. if the Open Graph tags are not specified. If Open Graph tags are not set, social networks tend to pick up the wrong images and display them along with your content. The images might be free to use, distorted, or inappropriate. To end such hassles, WordPress has a quick and easy solution to this – the Yoast SEO plugin.
Yoast is a very popular WordPress SEO plugin on WordPress. It includes snippet review and page analysis functionalities, enabling you to optimize your page content, images, title, meta, etc.
Therefore, if you use the Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress, you will be able to optimize your images for social media platforms individually and in no time.
The Yoast social settings assist Google to learn about your social media profiles. Furthermore, it also helps you to format your content and gives you a preview of how your content will be displayed on search engines and social networks before they go live.
Five step procedure for setting up your social profile on Yoast:
1. Scroll and select the SEO button in your WordPress dashboard
2. Click on the “Social Tab” under the Yoast SEO heading
3. Subsequently, click on the “Facebook Tab” and select Enable under the “Add Open Graph metadata”. Click Upload Image to set a default image URL, then check if the currently-connected Facebook admin is appropriate. Finally, save the changes.
4. Before you go ahead with adding images, make sure to optimize them using Tiny PNG’s website. Mostly, the size of the images is reduced by almost 60%. Moreover, do not forget to add ‘alt text’ to these images when you upload them for better search engine results.
5. To change the image, click on “Upload Image”. The recommended size for a Facebook image is 1200 x 628px. For Twitter, the recommended image size is 1024 x 512px. Run a final check on your website’s Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts to see whether the changes have been implemented. Share this post from your social media account to see how these images render. You can also use the Open Graph Debug Tool to check that your posts are rendering correctly.
A good WordPress website with the latest SEO techniques, fully-integrated – that’s the perfect combination for a high-ranking business site. There’s a lot to consider when optimizing your website for search engines, but the results will eventually speak for themselves.
Remember, though; WordPress SEO is a long-term play. The results are not instant, but organic traffic still remains one of the most cost-effective marketing channels online and the results often compound over time, as long as you keep at it.
In case you face any difficulties implementing any of the above points, you can drop a comment below.
Also, if you have any other WordPress SEO tips that you want to recommend, again, drop a comment below