It seems like SEO is an elusive, ever-changing mystery. And while it’s true that search engine algorithms are constantly changing, the basic rules of website SEO remain the same. In this post, we’re going to go through these basic rules, step by step, so you can create and optimize content for SEO. Luckily, when it comes to how to optimize SEO on WordPress, it’s not too different from optimizing SEO on any other website.
Why is investing in WordPress SEO so important?
- Enhanced visibility: When your website ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords, more people are likely to find and click on your site. This increased visibility can lead to a higher volume of organic traffic.
- Credibility and trust: Websites that appear near the top of the search results are often perceived as more credible and trustworthy. Users are more likely to trust and engage with content from reputable sources.
- Cost-effective marketing: Organic search traffic generated through SEO is cost-effective compared to paid advertising. Once your site ranks well, you can enjoy a consistent flow of traffic without ongoing ad spend.
- Competitive advantage: SEO is a competitive landscape. By investing in it, you can gain an edge over competitors who neglect it. Optimizing your WordPress website can help you outperform them in search rankings.
- User experience: SEO is not just about keywords; it also involves optimizing your website’s structure, speed, and usability. This, in turn, enhances the overall user experience, leading to higher user satisfaction and retention.
A guide to WordPress SEO: Best practices
By implementing these website SEO basic practices, you can increase the visibility of your website, attract targeted visitors, and boost your overall search engine rankings. You’ll learn how to optimize your SEO on WordPress in no-time!
1. Ensure your WordPress visibility settings are optimized
Begin by configuring your WordPress site’s visibility settings to ensure it’s accessible to search engines. Navigate to the “Reading” section in your WordPress dashboard and make sure the option “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is unchecked. If this box is checked, your website will not be crawled or indexed by Google or other search engines.
2. Update your permalink structure for SEO
Update your website’s permalinks to make them more SEO friendly. Choose a permalink structure that includes relevant keywords, such as /%postname%/. To keep your URL short and succinct, we would recommend against using /%category%/%postname%/. Optimizing your URL’s for search engines and users can give your website a small ranking boost.
3. Use tags and categories strategically
Organize your content effectively by using tags and categories. Assign appropriate tags and categories to your posts, and incorporate relevant keywords to improve your content organization and discoverability.
4. Select an SEO plugin for WordPress
Opt for a reliable SEO plugin like Yoast SEO to assist you in optimizing on-page SEO elements, meta tags, and XML sitemaps. And the premium version of their plugin gives you additional tools, like their internal linking suggestions and their redirect manager. You can use both these tools to build an impressive site structure.
5. Generate XML sitemaps
Create XML sitemaps (using your chosen SEO plugin) to help search engines index your website efficiently. If you incorporate essential keywords, you’ll be more visible in the search results. Make sure to submit your XML sitemap in Google Search Console.
6. Implement internal linking strategies
Strategically link your website’s pages and posts internally. This not only helps your users to easily navigate your site, but it also helps search engines to discover and index your content!
In addition, you should manually add links within the pages and content. And don’t forget to use anchor text that accurately describes what you’re linking to. This will also help support your SEO efforts.
7. Optimize your images for SEO
To enhance both your user experience and image search visibility, you should compress and appropriately name your images. And don’t forget to use descriptive alt text!
8. Secure your website with SSL
Ensure your website uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption for improved security and search engine rankings, even if your website doesn’t handle sensitive data or you’re not running an eCommerce site. It will show your audience that your site is safe to use.
In 2023, it’s extremely rare to find a website that ranks on page 1 of organic search results if they don’t have an SSL certificate installed.
9. Prioritize website security
Manage your website’s security by using strong passwords, updating plugins and themes regularly, and implementing security plugins to protect against threats.
10. Streamline and optimize comments
It’s not a great look if your site is full of spam comments. That’s why you should manage and moderate comments on your site to prevent spam. User-generated content can affect your site’s SEO, so ensure comments are relevant and add value.
You may want to consider putting all comments into a holding period and approving them one by one, as to avoid comment spam and other irrelevant content on your website.
11. Decide on WWW or non-WWW URL structure
Choose whether your site’s URL structure includes “www” or not. Be consistent with your choice and set up redirects if necessary to avoid duplicate content issues.
12. Opt for a fast and responsive WordPress theme
Select a lightweight and fast-loading WordPress theme. After all, Google wants to provide users with the best possible experience. If your site is too slow, people will quickly leave, which might show Google that perhaps it shouldn’t rank your site too high.
That’s why you should choose a responsive design that performs well on both desktop and mobile devices, contributing to a positive user experience.
It starts with high quality content
1. Write authentic content
There’s a reason we listed this first. Writing authentic, unique, information-rich articles is what search engines like (Google’s artificial learning algorithms favor useful, natural content written for the user).
Why? Because that’s what your audience will respond to, so it’s what search engines want to promote. A lot of the content on the Internet these days is just a rehash of existing content, which is not very useful. Our tip: Write what you and your audience would like to read!
2. Create clear page, post, and article titles/headlines
The most important thing: tell people what they’re about to read (and enticing them to read more is a bonus). Think about using keywords, but only if they sound natural and help to describe your content.
Let’s say you have a website that’s all about dogs (dog training, adoption, diet, etc). You’re writing an article about teaching a dog to drop whatever they have in their mouth.
While a title like “OMG drop that deer leg right now!” creates a fun connection with your audience, “Train your dog to drop it” will be more effective, because it contains words and phrases that your audience is likely to search. (Good luck to anyone out there searching “what to do if my dog won’t drop a deer leg.”) Push the fun, relatable content into the body of your article, and lead with a straightforward and searchable headline.
3. Use headings that tell the story
Headings are section headlines, like the bolded ones throughout this article. And they do two things: they help your audience skim a longer article, and they help search engines detect major themes on your website. After you write an article, go back and just read the headline and headings. Do they help drive and highlight the story?
Let’s go back to the example of the dog website. Within the “drop it” dog-training article, your headings could follow the main training steps: give them a toy, show them a treat, treat when they drop the toy. The content under each heading could explain that action in depth.
That way, your readers can not only follow the article easily the first time but can quickly review the main points when they refer to it during training.
4. Get specific with image titles, captions, and alt text
The main purpose of image titles, captions, and alt text is to help your visitors understand what an image is, if it doesn’t load or if they use a site reader. Search engines will also use alt text to understand what an image is (so they can display them in image search results). Use keywords only if they really help explain, and keep descriptions short, natural, and accurate.
Example: Use “owner and dog play with a toy” to describe an image, instead of just using the keyphrase “dog training”.
5. Organize your content with clear categories and tags
In WordPress, both tags and categories are used to sort content for your audience. Both help your readers easily browse through the topics they are interested in. Categories create broad groupings of your posts, while tags describe specific details within those posts.
Let’s go back to the dog website example. Good categories might be “training, food, exercise”, while tags within training might be “sit, come, stay”.
Since search engines reward valuable and easy-to-navigate content, if you organize your categories and tags to help readers find information easily, your content will automatically be optimized for SEO.
While WordPress only shows categories and tips under “Posts”, you can download the Post Tags for Categories and Pages plugin to add the ability to categorize and tag your pages as well (if, for example, your website is set up with many pages versus posts).
Insert relevant keywords and phrases
SEO tip: Act natural
Use the words people are using to talk about your topic—the ones that sound right for your business, your audience, and your writing style. If you aren’t sure what words people are using, look on forums or use online tools to find and compare trending words (Google Trends, Rank Tracker, KWFinder, and Free Keyword Tool).
Warning: avoid the temptation to keyword-stuff. If your words sound unnatural, it will turn off your readers. Search engines won’t love it either. There is nothing worse than reading “how to optimize SEO on WordPress” in every other paragraph on this page, even when it doesn’t fit. It’s always obvious when you’re keyword stuffing, so don’t do it!
For the dog website: let’s say you want to use the term “dog training” because it sounds natural. However, you’re wondering if “dog obedience” would be a better keyphrase? Use Google Trends and other keyword research tools to help understand if one is better than the other.
SEO tip: Be descriptive with website names and taglines
Everything, down to your website name and tagline, is searchable. Adding keywords here can help, especially if your domain name doesn’t include any keywords.
Add relevant and user-friendly links
Create strategic internal linking
Internal links take people from page to page within your website (it’s like the secret passage from the lounge to the conservatory). You can add internal links within a post or article, or on the bottom or side. Putting a link within an article is common practice but, because they interrupt your reader, only use internal links that are intentional and relevant. Make sure links are in anchor text (visible clickable text, usually in blue).
Back to the example! You’re writing an article about teaching a dog to roll over. The first step you write is “Ask your dog to lie down” and, in case people haven’t taught their dog to do that, you could link straight from those words to an article on your site about teaching a dog to lie down. Then, at the bottom of your “lie down” article, you could encourage people to try teaching their dog to roll over next.
Start building credible external linking
External links can be inbound (links from other websites to your site) or outbound (links from your site to other websites). It’s good to have both:
- Inbound links: These are good to have, if the websites that are linking to you have good quality content. If you want to grow your inbound links, think about where your content would be an asset, and reach out to those specific websites, bloggers, and brands. Reach out with a personal, well-thought-out message, not a form letter.
- Outbound links: Use these to provide your readers with more information and references about your content. Avoid undisclosed paid ad links or any link that doesn’t help your readers.
Ensure mobile friendliness and usability
A responsive theme reorganizes your website for different screen sizes so visitors who are looking at your website on their phone or tablet will automatically see your full content in an easily readable format. It also means that your visitors will recognize your content and know where to find things whether they’re on a laptop or phone.
Related: View the top rated WordPress themes
If it’s hard for visitors to navigate through your website on their phone, they’ll quickly leave and bounce right back to their search results. And since search engines want to promote helpful websites, if visitors bounce quickly from your website back to their search, the search engine will make note of that, and it can hurt your website’s ranking.
Use an SEO-friendly WordPress theme
When you first install WordPress, you will almost certainly see the platform’s default “Twenty Twenty-Something” theme. The theme is good, but you’ll probably want to explore different themes to personalize your site.
When you’re browsing, make sure that the theme you choose is lightweight and loads fast. Because when it comes to SEO, website performance is critically important.
How to test a theme
Thousands of free themes are available in the official WordPress theme library (as well as many more premium ones). You can either look for themes that performed best in independent tests (like Fastest WordPress Themes by Kinsta) or test the theme yourself:
- Just find the theme demo site (It can usually be found on its official website.)
- Paste the URL into Google PageSpeed Insights and run the tool.
- If the Performance results look something like this (i.e., it scores 90 or higher), you know you’ve found a lightweight theme.
Other tips on how to optimize SEO copy on WordPress
Under Settings > Reading, there is a line that says, “Search Engine Visibility”. Make sure that box is not checked. We know, the wording is confusing, but checking that box checks “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” and stops search engines from indexing your site.
Master the SEO basics
It might seem obvious, but learning about SEO in a holistic way is the most effective way in learning how to create optimized SEO content on WordPress.
Optimize page loading speed
Page loading speed is a critical SEO factor. Use caching plugins like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache to improve your website’s speed. Compress images without compromising quality using plugins like Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer. Minimize the use of heavy scripts and optimize your website’s code to enhance performance. Because faster loading speeds contribute to a better user experience and higher search engine rankings.
Common questions about SEO Content and WordPress
To enhance your website’s visibility, focus on creating high-quality content that addresses user intent. Implement on-page SEO by optimizing meta titles, descriptions, and headers. Secure high-quality backlinks, ensure a mobile-responsive design, and enhance site speed. Lastly, regularly update content and use schema markup for better search result presentations.
Frequent errors include ignoring meta descriptions and titles, neglecting an XML sitemap, using non-SEO-friendly URLs, failing to optimize images for speed, and not setting up proper permalinks. Ensure you’re also avoiding thin content, duplicate content issues, and over-optimized content.
Utilize tools like Google Analytics to assess website traffic and user behavior. Google Search Console provides insights into search queries leading to your site, indexing issues, and mobile usability. Additionally, tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs help track keyword rankings and backlink profiles.
Ideally, review and refresh your content every 3-6 months. This ensures information remains accurate, relevant, and engaging. Regular updates signal search engines that the content is current, improving the chances of ranking higher.
WordPress, being open-source, offers extensive SEO customization with plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. Wix has improved its SEO capabilities but still has limitations compared to WordPress, especially in advanced SEO tasks. Shopify, designed primarily for e-commerce, has built-in SEO features tailored for online stores but may not offer as much flexibility as WordPress for non-eCommerce sites.
The importance of putting these WordPress SEO content methods into action cannot be underscored. You are creating a solid foundation for long-term online success by investing in SEO-friendly themes, plugins, and best practices, ensuring that your WordPress website shines in the ever-changing world of search engine optimization.