WordPress is the most used CMS. But most of the users struggle while optimizing WordPress for the search engines. As most of the users are first timers, they are not well versed with WordPress, they are not WordPress expert, they don’t have required technical knowledge, or they lack the required knowledge about SEO.
In this guide, We will learn how to optimize WordPress for search engines. The guide covers, from the basic things to the technical things that are required to optimize a WordPress blog for search engines.
In this guide, we will start with the basics and will over it with the things that an expert SEO advises.
We have divided the whole WordPress SEO optimization process into three categories, they are:
- Basic WordPress SEO Optimization
- Technical things related to SEO
- Optimizing your content for search engines.
WordPress SEO Optimization guide
In the first part of WordPress SEO optimization guide, we will go through the basic WordPress SEO optimization and will see how can we configure the basic things related to SEO in our WordPress installation.
Basic WordPress SEO optimization
1.Setting Title and Description: The first step will be to set the title of your WordPress blog and description also known as meta description. Setting the title is important and I believe you have set it correctly while installing WordPress, but most of the users make the mistake of not changing the description and it always remains the default one i.e, “Just another WordPress blog”. Therefore, check it carefully, You can change the blog title and description by navigating to “Settings > General”. Enter your blog title and blog description at the appropriate place as shown in the below image.
2.Permalinks: Permalinks refers to the URL of a page on your WordPress blog, WordPress provides different options from which you can choose your preferred one for permalinks. We have already posted about in earlier that can be accessed here. Set your permalinks carefully.
3.Delete Default Content: By default there will be two things in your WordPress blog, a blog post and a page. Both don’t serve any purpose and you should delete them, as for search engines they don’t have any value because they contain few words and over that millions of other WordPress users have the same content in their WordPress blog. So, In order to have valuable content on your blog, you should get rid of these pages.
4.Install a WordPress SEO plugin: The first plugin you should install in your WordPress blog, should be a WordPress SEO plugin, it will make your WordPress SEO optimization process easy, simple and will save your precious time and effort. A WordPress SEO plugin is must and I’ll advise you to install a WordPress SEO plugin now, if you haven’t.
There are numerous SEO plugins available for free and paid plugins, you can use anyone of them. We have a list of some WordPress SEO plugins from which you can choose the one you like.
Technical things related to SEO in WordPress
Most of the users consider that search engine optimization is something like nuclear science and they cannot learn it and understand it, however, that’s not the truth. The Process of optimizing your WordPress blog doesn’t require you to write any code. However, you may have to understand some basic technical things and that is what we will be covering in this section.
5. Sign up for Google Webmaster and Bing Webmaster: How the search engines will know that you have a WordPress blog or a website? There are chances that they might get to know about your blog, but in most of the cases, it will not happen. Therefore, it’s important that you tell the major search engines that you exist and you have something that can be used by their users. So, sign up for google webmaster and Bing webmaster tools and submit your WordPress blog to them.
While submitting your WordPress blog, you will have to verify that you own the blog or website. There are various methods to verify your blog and one of the easiest ones is to add a meta tag in your website, you can easily add meta tags using any SEO plugin.
6.WWW or Non-WWW: Every website is accessible by two URLs. i.e, one without the use of www and with the use of www. For Ex: You can access wpcub using wpcub.com and also with the use of www.wpwcub.com, although non-www will direct you to the www version in this case.
Therefore, you should choose one of these as your primary URL and redirect the other one to the primary one as search engines may treat the content as duplicate and it’s technically possible that both the URLs may be used to have different content, and you can also set the preferred version in your webmaster tools to tell search engines which one of them should be used to index the content.
Note: You can choose anyone (www or non-www) as a preferred version as none of them will get preference over the other, both will be treated equivalent.
7.Submit Sitemap: You are producing great content, but it’s not necessary that search engines are crawling your content and know that you have some content that can be useful for their users. Therefore, it’s important that you tell search engines that you have content on your WordPress blog and where it is located in your blog. A sitemap helps the search engine crawlers in finding content on your blog.
You can create the sitemap for your blog using an SEO Plugin.
8.Speed up WordPress blog: Speed of a website, particularly of a web page plays an important role in ranking of the page on search engines, if a page takes too much time to load, there are high chances that search engines will rank it low in the search results as a user will close the page if it takes too much time to load.
There are various reasons responsible for the speed of a WordPress blog, You can have a great improvement in speed of your WordPress plugin using a cache plugin.
9.Focus on User Experience: Modern search engines are really smart and they know what the user wants and if a web page does have it or not. Therefore, it’s important that the content and your website provides what the user wants in a proper manner.
When we talk about User experience, we primarily talk about the presentation and design of your WordPress blog. It includes various things like navigation on your blog, ease of using your website, ease of understanding and finding the content on the page or on the website. When we talk about design. we do not say that you should or should not have fancy designs or colors. Whatever design or color you are using, remember that the user should like it.
Few examples of bad user experience can be like your web page is not responsive or there are pop-ups that irritate the users and messes up with the content. Therefore, you should be careful with these things.
10. Choose the right WordPress theme: Yes, having the right WordPress theme is really important as a WordPress theme is the soul of your WordPress blog, Your WordPress theme plays an important role in search engines optimization and ranking. We have a detailed post dealing with this topic that can be accessed here.
11. Noindex Archive, Category, Pagination or Tag Pages: Noindex means that you don’t want the search engines to include these pages in search results that mean search engines should not index these pages. Now, you may think why should you not include these pages in search engines?
Our aim should not be to index all the pages of your WordPress blog in search engines, as it’s a fact that not every page on your blog is relevant to the search users, these archives, category pages are useful for the visitors of your website but are irrelevant to the search engines, these pages will never show up for any search result as they don’t add any values to the search results. Not only this, these pages cause duplication of content in many cases ( we will see it in the next point). Therefore, you should Noindex these pages, you can do so by using an SEO plugin.
12. Adding a Post to too many categories: In our previous point, we said that the category and other pages cause duplication of data because there can be posts that might have been in two categories and tags, now they are showing in two pages, with the same excerpt which causes duplicate content. There is nothing wrong in adding a post to more than one category or tags but you should be careful with these things as this messes up content on your blog if they are not being well managed.
14. 404 Error pages: You should be careful with the pages on your WordPress blog if a web search engines discover too many 404 error pages regularly that will surely hurt your search engine ranking. Therefore, be careful with 404 pages on your website.
15. Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs play the role of secondary navigation on your website, if you are using breadcrumbs on your blog it helps the user and search crawlers in identifying where they are now and help in navigation on your website, not only this it also tells about the logical structure of your website which helps in better indexing. Not only this, sometimes search engines use these breadcrumbs in place of your URL while showing the search results to the users.
Most of the WordPress theme support breadcrumbs and in case they do not, you can use SEO plugin to add breadcrumbs.
16. SSL/HTTPS: It plays a small role in search ranking but it’s not a huge factor in SEO and you should not be worried about in until your website deals with money or confidential details.
17. Ads on website: It’s an important factor in SEO, search engines do understand that ads are important for the webmaster and help them in monetizing the website but at the same time search engines emphasize on the fact that the primary objective should be to help the user.
Therefore, you should be careful with placing ads on your website, even google in past had a specific update regarding this. Remember not to place too many ads above the fold( above the fold is the top area of your blog, means that area that is visible to the user as they land on your page), it is recommended to place at most only one ad in that area.
18. Robots.txt: Robots txt is an important file of your website, however, it should be handled with care, a little mistake can cost you a lot. Nowadays we basically use it to tell which part of the website should not be crawled and indexed by the search engines.
19. Social Media Role: Role of social media in search engine optimization is highly debatable by the SEO experts, some do believe that it plays an important role in search result rankings whereas others belief is that good content is bound to perform better in search engines and it is obvious that if it’s good, social media users will like it and share it.
Whatever, Social media can be used to drive traffic to your WordPress blog, also social media helps you in building a fan base and interacting with your users.
20.Internal linking Posts: Internal linking of pages in a website is a good habit and helps in SEO efforts, it also helps the visitor in finding relevant related content on your blog.
However, you should be careful with internal linking. You should not link to irrelevant pages, also, there should not be too many internal links from a single page.
21. Disable author archives: If you are the only author on your blog, you should disable the author archives as it will be same as your blog, and in case even if you have multiple authors you should consider no indexing them as they really do not add any specific value to the search engines results, your aim should be to give some quality content to the search engines to index rather than providing them too much invaluable content to index which are of no use to the users.
22. URL: Uniform resource locator is the address by which a page can be accessed on the web, every page on your blog has a URL. Url plays some role in SEO, therefore, you should be careful with your URLs.
Here are some of the best practices for URLs:
- They should be in a readable form like if you are writing on the history of Africa the URL should be like “history-of-africa” not like “historyofafrica” or “21history”.
- The words in URL should be separated by hyphens or underscores, avoid spaces.
- You can use your keywords in URL but avoid keyword stuffing.
- URL should not be too long, this is not for search engines as they can read long URLs, URLs should be short for a better user experience.
23. Broken links: Broken links on your posts will not have any direct impact on SEO in the short term, but it might have impact in a long time especially in case if you have too many broken links, also broken links will cause bad user experience. Therefore, you should take care of them. Thera re number of free plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository to fix this issue.
Search Engine optimization of WordPress Content
In this section we will talk about the optimization of single pages on your WordPress blog, that means we will talk about the SEO of your posts and pages. These will be the pages that will bring you most of the traffic.
24. Optimizing titles: Title is one of the most important factors for ranking of a page in the search engine and the reason a user will click on your link. Therefore, the titles should not be only optimized for search engines but they should also be optimized for users.
These are some suggestions for optimizing the titles for search engines:
- The title should not be moe than 70 characters otherwise search engines will not show the whole title in search results.
- Use important keywords in titles but avoid keyword stuffing.
- Create a compelling title that forces the user to click on your link.
25. Meta Description of content: The importance of meta description in SEO is highly debatable but almost everyone agrees that it plays some role. Meta description is a short description about your content which gives an idea about your content to the search engines, not only this, the meta description is also shown to the users in search results. Therefore, you should be careful with it.
You can add meta description using an SEO plugin. These are the things that you should take care about while creating a meta description.
- The meta description should not be longer than 160 characters.
- The meta description should have the keywords you are targeting but avoid keyword stuffing.
- You should not fill the meta description with keywords, it should be meaningful.
- The meta description is visible to users in the search results and is a reason the users click on your link. therefore, create the meta description while keeping this in your mind.
26. Optimizing Images for SEO: Images can drive huge traffic to your blog if optimized properly for search engines, there are queries for which search engines show images in the result at the top of search results and also there are users who specifically search for images. This can drive a lot of traffic to you WordPress blog if the images are optimized properly for search engines.
The most important factors for optimizing the images for search engines are:
- Add alt tags to images, alt tags tells the search engines what the image is about.
- Choose the image title carefully.
- Add description to the images.
- Use caption for the images.
Try to present your content in such a way to the user that can be understood by the readers easily. For ex:
- Use headings, but remember do not use h1 headings in your post. A page should not have multiple h1 tags.
- Use bullets, or lists to present data in the form of lists.
- Bold or underline the content that you want to highlight.
- Proper alignments
28. Length of Posts and Pages: It’s highly debatable that the length of content has any direct impact of search engine rankings, but it’s obvious that the content should not be too short, try to have at least 250 words on every page that you want to be indexed by search engines.
29. Keep adding new content, search engines love new content.
The aim of this WordPress guide is not to make you an SEO expert. But to give you an understanding of Search engine optimization and understand how can you optimize your WordPress blog for search engines, we have tried to cover most of the important aspects of on-page SEO optimization but not the all, as there are more than 200 factors responsible for ranking of a page in search engine which includes on-page and off-page factors, however not all the factors have same importance. Some of the factors are really important whereas some others play a little role.