WordPress SEO: A Simple Practical Guide
According to W3Techs, 37.5% of all websites run on WordPress. This is a third of the entire Internet! And, if we only consider large sites, the impact of this CMS would be much greater.
Large companies and popular bloggers choose WordPress for many reasons: an intuitive admin panel, a convenient and attractive interface, high download speed, and the ability to integrate with social networks and various software products. However, one of the main advantages of this CMS is that WordPress is SEO friendly, that is, the site can easily be brought to the top of Google for the specified key queries, even if you are new to this field.
Note, that we wrote it is easily brought, do not assume that running a website on WordPress itself can provide high ranking positions. The site still needs to be optimized. Fortunately, this popular CMS provides all of the necessary tools for effective SEO, including many useful plugins and tips.
Why do Top Companies Choose WordPress?
Before moving on to a step-by-step search optimization guide, let’s see what this CMS is and how to add SEO to WordPress.
The same W3Techs listed the top sites that chose WordPress. Here they are:
- Zoom – a video-conferencing platform.
- WordPress – CMS for launching a website or blog.
- Globo – the world’s largest telecommunications company.
- Udemy – a popular online academy.
- Freepik – a platform for searching free vector images and stock photos.
- Etsy – a marketplace for handmade, vintage, and customized products. More information can be found in the article: Secrets of Etsy SEO.
- Shutterstock – the world’s leading provider of high-quality licensed images, videos, and music.
- Iqoption – an online trading platform for traders.
- Mediafire – a company that provides files hosting services.
As you may have noticed, this service has all of the necessary tools for various types of sites. Global international companies would be unlikely to prefer WordPress if they did not consider it to be the best platform for conducting business.
Let’s consider this CMS more closely in the format of questions and answers to find out if WordPress does help with SEO.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is the most popular content management system that allows you to create, edit, and update different types of systems without programming knowledge. The web application is developed in PHP and MySQL. You can use this platform for free. Paid rates are available for those who want to improve the performance, functionality, and readability of their webpage.
Initially, WordPress was developed as a platform for blogs, but then the creators of the project Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little decided to expand its capabilities. The first version of CMS was released in 2004.
Why is WordPress so Popular?
The popularity of WordPress is due to three main components: convenience, simplicity, and accessibility. The system provides a lot of free templates and themes for creating web pages, as well as a large number of useful plugins that will help to both customize your site, and make it a successful and profitable business. Also, on account of the effective SEO tools. Read more on the topic in the article: Top SEO Tools for Businesses in 2020.
Unfortunately, the cost of the service’s popularity is hacker attacks. WordPress sites are hacked much more often than sites on other platforms. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No CMS is protected from hackers, but only WordPress offers its users such an impressive list of advantages.
Is It True that WordPress Is Good for SEO?
Search Engine Journal called WordPress the best CMS for SEO since the user can have full control over the management of their site; from choosing the appropriate keywords to customizing the design. And all of this without straying from the scope of the platform; go ahead and install plugins.
WordPress is well thought out from the view of the UX, it allows you to easily and quickly create user-friendly URLs, prescribe metadata, and optimize all images. Additionally, WordPress sites load quickly and are adapted for viewing on mobile devices. The creators of the popular CMS did everything necessary to ensure that your web resource could dominate the search results. Your task is to use these features to optimize your site. Read more in the article: Mobile Search.
And now, we will tell you in detail how to use SEO on WordPress.
A Step-by-Step WordPress SEO Guide
So, you installed WordPress on your hosting and launched the site. What is next?
Step #1: Pick a Theme
WordPress SEO optimization starts with choosing a theme. CMS offers a wide selection of templates for different types of sites. They can be free, paid, or shareware when several advanced features are available for a price.
Among the different themes, there are SEO-friendly options. How do you find them? Pay attention to the description. Developers almost always indicate that the template is optimized for search engines.
Visually, the best WordPress SEO themes are also noticeable; usually, they have two distinctive features:
- Adaptive design- the site will display normally on all types of devices, including smartphones.
- Ease of execution- the resource is not overloaded with additional scripts that would slow it down.
Google itself has confirmed how important these parameters are for SEO.
To check whether the site’s demo theme is mobile-friendly, use the service Search Google.
You can check the speed using the PageSpeed Insights.
Of course, it is not just the template that affects the site’s loading speed. There are other facts based on the type of hosting and server location. But in any case, your position in the search results also depends on the choice of a WordPress theme.
Step #2: Enter a URL
Choose a domain name that best reflects the activity or content of your site, but the name is not everything. You can also choose whether or not the URL will be www. For Google, https://www.music-news.com, and https:// music-news.com are two different links. Let it redirect those who enter the second address to a domain with www.
Fill in the URL fields in the WordPress settings. Other versions of the site are automatically redirected to the specified address.
Choosing a URL for a new site with or without www depends on your personal preference; it will not affect the ranking. But if you use the open HTTP data transfer protocol, we recommend switching to secure HTTPS as soon as possible. Otherwise, Google will warn users every time that it is not safe to go to your site. There is more information on this subject in the article: HTTPS vs. HTTP.
Step #3:Write User-friendly URLs for Pages
These URLs have a positive effect on page ranking for two reasons:
- CNC links often include keywords that search robots respond to.
- Proper URLs look attractive and speak of the site’s respectability, while long links from an incomprehensible set of characters often scare away potential users.
WordPress allows you to choose different ways to generate URLs for pages: date and name, month and name, number, just the name or other customized structure. Among all these varieties of CNC will include the name. And it is good that it uses relevant keywords.
You can select the type of permanent link in the settings section of the corresponding tab.
Take the URL formation structure seriously, because if you want to change it in the future, you will have to configure redirects from new addresses to old ones. Read more about this in 301 vs 302 redirects.
Step #4: Pay Attention to the Hierarchy
SEO Optimization of WordPress is impossible without creating a clear site structure with a well-thought-out hierarchy. Divide your resource into large sections and subsections so that you can add new pages to the appropriate categories. The list of created categories will be displayed in the Parent window. This way, when you add each post, you can select the appropriate subsection.
Step #5: Custom Navigation
Help users and search robots activate breadcrumbs so they can easily navigate the site.
For quick and easy navigation settings, you can use Yoast, a special WordPress plugin. Read more about this is the articles: Yoast vs All in One SEO Pack and Setting Up SEO Plugins. Install it, go to the SEO tab, select the Advanced section, and activate breadcrumbs.
After activation, you will need to specify the associated parameters for displaying them.
If the theme you selected at the first stage does not support breadcrumbs, you have two options: change the theme or use the hire a programmer who will fix this mistake.
Step #6: Ensure Content Quality
Google says: make your site interesting and useful, then advises on how to do so. Among the recommendations, include clear structuring and formatting of the text. For ease of reading, the material is usually divided into subheadings, bulleted lists are used, and important thoughts and quotes emphasized through italics or in other ways.
Of course, we must not forget about keywords and text optimization. But Google warns that content should be created primarily for users, not for search engines. This is the only way your WordPress organic SEO will work.
For easy formatting of content, WordPress provides a digital editor. Its intuitive design makes it quick and easy to use.
If you paste the finished text into the editor, make sure that it is not formatted. Otherwise, you will have a lot of extra characters in the HTML code.
Step #7: Optimize Images
When you add an image, you can add the Alt attribute to it in a special window in the visual editor.
Do not neglect this feature, as the image description allows you to increase its rating in the image search. The Alt text should be concise and informative. You do not have to use high-frequency keys here. But keywords with a long tail will have a good effect on ranking. For more information, see the Long Tail Keywords. material.
Also, do not forget to write the appropriate name for each image. Read more in the article SEO Images.
Step #8: Prescribe Meta-tags
Meta tags are the Title and Description that are most often displayed in search results. They must be prescribed for each page, enriching them with relevant keywords. Read more in H1 Tag, Meta Description, Title Tags.
The Yoast plugin allows you to do this easily and quickly. Moreover, you can even use it to create a template for filling in meta tags. This option is great for online stores.
Meta-tags are the first thing a user sees when they find a site page in the search results. Therefore, it is worth spending time creating them; make them attractive and concise. Remember, Google cuts titles longer than 60 characters and descriptions longer than 155 characters.
To manually set meta-tags for each page, click on the Yoast SEO-Edit snippet. After that, you will see a window where you can fill in all the data. More information on the topic is in Meta Tags for SEO.
Step #9: Add Internal and External Links
The Yoast plugin is also good because it tells you how to optimize the content to improve the rating of the page on Google. One of the points is to put internal and external links in the text.
Internal linking allows you to redirect users to your other content, so they stay on the site longer. This, in turn, increases the resource in search results.
To add a link, select the appropriate phrase or word in the text, click the “Insert/ Edit link” button, and paste the URL of the selected page into the window.
We recommend that you carefully consider the words that you choose as a text link. When indexing a page, Google takes into account the anchor it is linked to. Therefore, this should be a key phrase.
Step #10: Take Care of the Technical Aspect of SEO
The technical side of SEO for WordPress will allow your site to load faster and eliminate all the reasons for incorrect page indexing.
To do this, we recommend the following four simple steps:
- Provide content caching
Static versions of webpages allow them to load much faster. W3 Total Cache is the best plugin you can use for caching. After installing, select Performance > General Settings and select three items: Page Cache, Minify, Browser Cache, and then done.
- Remove Low-Quality Content from Indexing
Your site may have pages that will interest regular readers but will be completely useless for new users. As you know, these pages are useless in search results and may even lower the rating of the entire site. Thus, it is better to close them for indexing; you can do this using the Yoast plugin. Click SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies, find Show Tags in search results, and select no.
- Remove Duplicate Pages
Unique content on each page is an important rule that should not be broken. If you have duplicate pages, remove them from indexing or set the canonical to the priority version. The Yoast plugin will also help you do this. When editing a page, click on the gear icon, and then either disable indexing or insert the Canonical URL. Read more in the article Rel=Canonical Tag.
- Compress Large Images
Images that are too large increase the page loading time. Therefore, it is better to compress them rather than optimizing. To avoid doing this manually, use the Smash plugin. It will compress all the images that you upload, and it will also reduce the weight of graphic elements that are already on the site. To do this, click Smash > Bulk Smash Now, and do not forget to choose the size to which you want to compress images.
How to Make WordPress SEO Better
It is important to do the basic search engine optimization of a WordPress site first, but you can always improve your rating. Below, we have collected some useful WordPress SEO tips that will help you bring your site to the top positions.
- Create a Sitemap
This is a sitemap that transfers information about the structure and hierarchy of your site to search robots, which facilitates its indexing. To add a map to WordPress, use the Google XML Sitemaps plugin or the same Yoast SEO. Learn more in the article: Sitemaps XML Guide.
- Pay Attention to Content
There is a lot you can write about content. In the basic SEO manual, we mentioned that you should take care of the quality and structure of the text, as well as create content based on the relevant key phrases. The next layer is to write long texts, the Yoast plugin SEO suggestions also include this. This is not surprising since more voluminous materials have advantages in ranking and increase the authority of the site. Naturally, when it comes to useful, informative, and expert content.
Along with the length of texts, Google takes into account the frequency of content updates or rather gives preference to new material. Therefore, when starting a site, carefully consider the content plan and post regularly. Updating old articles also has a positive effect on ranking. Check that your site is in order using the article: Website Content Audit.
- Enable Manual Comment Approval
It is important to create a community around your project and encourage communication under each publication. However, spam in the comments can be a serious test for the promotion of a site. In some cases, Google lowers or even excludes sites that are spammed by users from the search results, and such comments reduce the loyalty of the target audience.
WordPress automatically approves comments by default. Therefore, go to the settings and select the Comment must be manually approved option. If you have a large set, use the Akismet plugin. You can read more about these topics in the article What is SPAM and How To Protect Yourself.
We did not describe the WordPress SEO tips for external optimization here, as they are the same for all types of engines. However, for effective SEO promotion, it is important to increase the link mass, while ensuring that the quality of the donor sites is high. Learn more from the article 11 Off-Page Optimization Strategies.
Bonus: 10 of the Best Plugins for WordPress SEO in 2020
All you need to promote your site on WordPress is a high-quality SEO friendly template, an effective strategy, and special plugins. We have already mentioned some of them. Now, let’s list the top 10 plugins that will help your site rise in the Google rankings in 2020.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – the most popular, and probably the best WordPress SEO plugin. As you may have noticed, we mentioned it throughout this SEO guide.
- SEMrush Writing Assistant – provides recommendations for keywords and improving the quality of content.
- Rank Math – allows you to optimize content, headers, and metadata. For more information, see the articles Rank Math Plugin Installation Walkthrough and Yoast vs Rank Math SEO.
- All In One SEO Pack – it has the complete set of tools for a high-quality optimization of your WordPress site for SEO. Read more in the article Setting Up SEO Plugins.
- Premium SEO Pack – it helps to increase the SEO value of all pages of the site due to the extended functionality.
- WP Meta SEO – this is a meta-data editor for the mass optimization of all site pages.
- W3 Total Cache – this plugin is responsible for page caching.
- Rankie – provides detailed reports to improve your SEO strategy.
- Redirection – a tool for quickly configuring redirects.
- All In One Schema Rich Snippets – plugin for setting up the most effective and attractive snippet in search results.