Do you have a soft spot for WordPress? Well, join the club! I find WordPress to be among the finest content management systems out there. And considering how many businesses use it, it might not be surprising to you that I spend a major portion of my work hours on WordPress SEO Optimization.
To be honest, it is quite wild just how popular WordPress is. To put things into perspective, according to Kinsta, WordPress powers 34 percent of all websites out there! And it constitutes 60.8 percent of the CMS market share!
Many people think WordPress is an SEO-friendly CMS system, which to an extent is right but not completely true. This is because if you use it in its original form without tweaking different parts of it, you might face a lot of different issues like URL friendliness, duplicate content issues, and more.
Therefore, I have decided to share my accumulated wisdom regarding what you must tweak on your WordPress site to achieve a high search engine ranking across different search engines, ranging from Google to Bing.
I am sure that some of you might already know the basics of WordPress SEO. Hence, I am dividing this guide into three parts that include Basic, Professional and Advanced Level. Feel free to skip to a section you feel will best help you in optimizing your online presence!
WordPress SEO Optimization: Back to Basics
Following are some of the most important things to alter at the basic stage. Updating a website without these settings will end up hurting your rankings rather than improving them.
You must manually optimize the permalink of your WP website since it doesn’t offer SEO-friendly URLs by default. Go to the admin section of WordPress, choose settings from the sidebar, and switch the radio button from default to custom.
You can then set a URL that is best aligned with your need. For instance, you can include the website page name within the URL structure. In a similar manner, if you run a blog, you can alter the URL to the title of the blog by simply clicking on the post name option.
Use a URL that:
- Includes a gist of the website page to give people an idea of what to expect from your website.
- Add keywords in the URL to improve the chances of receiving keyword-specific backlinks.
Heading tags is a big debate in the SEO community. There are people who think that there is some value and weight in the H1 tag when it comes to SEO, whereas there are others who oppose this idea. Therefore, when wondering about how to SEO a wordpress site, this may not naturally come to your mind.
But, heading tags help in organizing content and giving important visual cues to the readers. Since it facilitates the website browsing experience, there is no harm in implementing them (but with caution).
For instance, one thing is very clear that all the heading tags that include H3 to 6 do not necessarily have the SEO weight, and therefore the advice here is to avoid using those tags and stick to maximum H2 tags.
Titles and Meta Descriptions
Page titles and meta descriptions are an imperative part of WordPress SEO Optimization. After all, according to Neil Patel, a whopping 43 percent of site visitors click on a given link based on its meta description!
While Google may not specifically consider it as an important ranking factor, since it improves website traffic, it is a significant factor nonetheless. As far as the title tag is concerned, it is important that the targeted keywords be included smartly.
For starters, observe how the following search results smartly optimize both their meta description and title tags for the local keyword “NY.”
WordPress does not allow you to include SEO titles and descriptions in their raw form, so you have to include the plugin that can help you with it. One of the best WordPress SEO plugin for the purpose is called “Yoast SEO.”
This plugin will allow users to include titles and focused keywords along with a description of the post and pages within the website. Additionally, what I love about Yoast SEO is that it allows you to check your SEO score in real-time and hence know where you stand.
The Keyword Chapter
Keyword optimization is likely to always be among the WordPress SEO best practices. After all, content optimization is as relevant today as it was a few years ago. Most websites treat it as an ongoing battle. According to Ahrefs, top-ranking pages tend to rank in the top 10 for over 1,000 relevant keywords.
The keywords and the keyword research are the core and fundamental parts of the whole SEO process.
While writing content for your blog or website, always make sure that you are selecting the right kind of keywords. For starters, according to Impact Plus, long-tail keywords experience up to 5 percent better CTR compared to the generic searcher.
As far as we are concerned, we have been using a Google external tool, but now we are focusing more on SEMRush.com, a paid tool that really helps with keyword research and competitor analysis.
Another worthy tool worth mentioning is UberSuggest. This tool doesn’t just list down high-performing relevant keywords but also gives you options for trending topics that can best include the mentioned keywords.
In a nutshell, Internal Linking is all about linking one blog post with another or linking one page to some other page within the website.
For instance, I may be talking about how to take your blog to the next level while I would link it to the service page related to blog management, which is technically another page of the website.
- Users to navigate through your website and reach the service page easily once the need arises.
- Spreads equity of links throughout the website, thereby improving authenticity.
- Increases the time readers spend on your site by redirecting them to different pages within.
- Google crawlers easily crawl your website on the basis of the importance of pages.
My advice for interlinking is to either do the interlinking manually or install a plugin to do that work automatically for you.
To all the professionals out there, make use of these WordPress SEO Optimization tactics to customize your WordPress website in such a way that it may be termed as a professional and SEO-friendly website.
XML Sitemap is a sitemap protocol that allows websites to inform search engines about the updates that have been made on the website since the last crawl. It helps:
- Search engines locate all the links published on your website
- Improve site ranking for relevant keywords.
- Boosts the speed of indexing of all images, links, and videos on the website.
- Create an RSS feed for you to share with your blog readers.
There are multiple plugins that you can use for this purpose. The top three options, ranked in order of my preference, are:
- Yoast SEO, which features a simple interface where all you have to do is enable the sitemap functionality and generate an XML sitemap.
- All in One SEO Pack, which requires SEO activation before you use its XML feature.
- Google SML Sitemaps, which barely takes up space and offers self-explanatory options. This makes it ideal for novices.
WWW vs. non-WWW
There are websites, which open with www, and there are others that do not require www to be written with their domain name. At the user’s end, it doesn’t make a difference, as in both cases, the user views the same content that they are looking for.
However, technically they are two different URLs, which display the same content leading to duplication. WordPress normally adds a 302 redirection here, while what we actually need is a 301 redirection as we want users to move to a new location permanently, which could be www or non-www.
No matter what you choose as a preferable version, you need to set a 301 redirection manually by getting into the .htaccess file.
No-Follow Certain Pages
I have included this point because I have seen many people recommending this, but if you ask me, I will advise you not to use no-follow with any of your internal linking.
The reason behind using “no-follow” or “no index” with certain pages of the website is simply to keep and divert link juice to the pages where you want it to go.
Generally, no follow feature should only be used for:
- Author pages when you have a single blog contributor.
- Thank you pages.
- Paid Links
- Untrusted and dubious websites.
It is important to understand the perception you send across when using this feature. “No following” internal links are akin to telling Google that you do not trust every part of your own website. So, it is best avoided unless necessary.
The Read More button
Imagine a scenario where a blog gives you a snippet of a topic and asks you to click on read more. However, when you do, you are redirected to a page featuring a plethora of topics. And you are forced to find your desired article all over again!
Sounds like a nightmare, right? You must ensure that you don’t fall into this trap. If you wish to include the read more button on your website, make sure it takes readers to the same version of the URL instead of the one that contains some read more variables.
No-Index Tags, Archive, and Pagination
Now, this could be a controversial point, but if you ask me, I would prefer cleaning my website’s index, and in order to do that, I exclude tags, archives, pagination, or category pages that are of no use to the overall essence of my website.
The main reason for doing so is to avoid duplication issues on the website, which in turn hampers search engine ranking. If you belong to my school of thought and wish to get rid of the extras, I would suggest using a plugin like Yoast to exclude no index tags or these kinds of pages from the search index.
Only Advanced Professionals Proceed
In this section, I will try to cover the most advanced areas that can be optimized in your WP website, making it Google’s number one choice for targeted key phrases.
The importance of speed and security for WordPress SEO cannot be stressed enough. According to Website Builder Expert, one out of every four site visitors abandons a site that takes more than four seconds to load! And the more bounce rate your site has, the lower its rank will be.
So, in order to get better rankings, your WordPress website should run faster than most of the others in the competition.
There are multiple ways that can be used for increasing the site speed and decreasing the page load time, which includes a good hosting server, using caching, optimizing images, and choosing an SEO-friendly theme, etc.
Use Schema Markups
Add context to your website content and data by using schema markups. This helps Google and its bots in understanding what your content is about and how it fits into the searcher’s query and experience.
Here too, Yoast will come in handy. Its full structured data graph feature helps in adding markups for every page and post on a given website.
However, if you wish to mark up specific content and blocks with your WP site, you can do so by creating custom blocks through the Yoast Structured Data Block Feature.
Let the optimization begin!
Have you been running your website without implementing the right WordPress SEO Optimization tactics? Surely, now you know why other WP sites rank better than you!
With your newly found SEO awakening, rule the search engines!