1. Select An SEO Compatible Theme
WordPress has hundreds of visually pleasing themes that you can apply to the look of your website. However, not all those themes are SEO compatible. While they may look incredible, some themes come with plugins and scripts that aren’t SEO-friendly.
It is worthwhile to take a look at some of the premium themes, which are suited for SEO. Additionally, before installing a theme you prefer, ensure that it is the right choice by running it through Google’s Web.Dev tool to get information on the performance and any potential SEO issues.
2. Install SEO Plugins
Before you begin to optimize your WordPress site, install an SEO plugin that will help you on your journey to improve your ranking. There are many paid, and free plugins, the most popular and WordPress-recommended is Yoast SEO, which is free to install. Plugins can be installed directly through the admin panel, which is fast and convenient.
It’s important to note these plugins do not automatically optimize your website but rather give you insights and the best practices to help you improve your SEO ranking. Tips and techniques such as meta description suggestions, title change suggestions, etc., can show you if a blog piece/ webpage is SEO-friendly.
3. Choose A Good Hosting Provider
Google and other search engines take page speed into account when ranking websites, among other things. Therefore, your host must offer you the best service and perks. Distance between servers and visitors, downtime, or server failures are some of the few markers determining your website ranking.
Additionally, Google also gives HTTPS sites a boost in ranking because it perceives them as a secure quality website. So, choose a hosting provider that can give you all the services mentioned above so that your website has the best chance to rank high. Currently, BlueHost and Dream Host are the top-recommended hosting providers recommended by WordPress.
4. Choose A Domain
Selecting between www and non-www URLs for your domain may seem like a trivial thing when you have to navigate the many ups and downs of SEO. However, Google does see these as two different URLs. Neither www or non-www URLs impact SEO, but it’s essential to select one of the two so your site is accessible on just the one – this makes it easier for Google to rank your website.
On WordPress, head to ‘Settings’ and then the ‘General’ tab to choose and make sure your site URL and WordPress URL name are the same.
5. Get An SSL certificate
Another major factor that helps SEO ranking is proving that your site is secure. Google values secure websites over others, which means having an SSL certificate can give your website a boost.
When you get an SSL certificate, your domain will change from http:// to https:// this small change has an impact on SEO ranking as it signifies that your website is secure, preventing hacks or unauthorized parties from accessing your website. Additionally, your website will also get a small ‘lock’ icon on the address bar with the SSL certificate – users recognize this icon as an added security feature.
If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, you stand a chance of users getting a ‘Not Secure’ warning before accessing your site. This notification is a regular occurrence for Google Chrome users and will ultimately turn traffic away and affect your ranking negatively.
6. Optimize Speed
When was the last time you waited for a website to load before getting impatient and clicking away? This type of user behavior is important to note when optimizing your website. Ensure that loading time is under 2 seconds, as this is the preferred time for users and search engines that value fast websites over slower ones.
You can increase speed by reducing images/ video file sizes, use a CDN, update WordPress software, check on themes and plugins, etc. These are just a few of the ways you can optimize the speed of your website. Doing so will help rank your WordPress site high on search engines.
7. Make A Sitemap
In the past, sitemaps were created to help users navigate your site. However, nowadays, sitemaps are perceived as an SEO practice. Sitemaps don’t directly impact your SEO, but it plays an important role in website ranking when crawlers/search engine index your site.
Having a clear sitemap of your WordPress site communicates the flow and content of your site as well as helps search engines with indexing. This makes it easy for them to offer their users more targeted and relevant search results. You can add a sitemap to WordPress through Google XML Sitemaps, Yoast SEO, or any other SEO tool.
8. SEO-Friendly Permalinks
The structure of a URL should be SEO-friendly – it should directly convey your brand, concept, content, etc. WordPress offers various options for how URLs are structured, so take advantage of this. You may have noticed that your default WordPress URL is something like http://yourname.com/?345 – These sorts of URLs are not SEO-friendly and aren’t easily identifiable or memorable. Think of any top brand in your niche; chances are their URLs are clear and precise.
Opt for accessible brand name or niche-specific URLs; this will help rank your site with search engines. Choose an SEO-friendly permalink or create a custom URL structure by going to the ‘Settings’ tab in WordPress and click on ‘Permalinks.’
9. Use Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is a tool that deciphers your website’s statistics to see how SEO-friendly it is. It can tell you the average rank on SERPs, the number of clicks generated from searches, etc.
These insights will give you a clear idea of where your website needs to improve to increase its ranking. Add your website’s domain by following the steps on their website. Once your site is verified, you will get all the insights you will need to improve your SEO.
10. Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords are still a big player when it comes to SEO, and they must not be overlooked when wanting to rank your website on search engines. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting from scratch or making new content; keyword research must be done as soon as possible. When you begin your SEO journey, it is ideal to conduct keyword research at that time to know what search terms you should be using on your site and in its content.
Optimizing your site with the right keywords will have a significant impact on your WordPress website ranking. There are many SEO tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc., that will make the keyword research process easier and accessible at your fingertips. Invest in one of these tools or hire an SEO firm to help you with this research.
11. Create Valuable & Relevant Content
At the heart of SEO and website ranking is valuable and relevant content. No matter the algorithm changes, latest user behavior, or SEO trends, if your content is relevant, fresh, has value, and meets your target users’ search intent, your website will rank high on search engines.
Using a writing tool such as SEO Writing Assistant by SEMrush will make creating SEO-friendly content a little bit easier. This tool analyses your content and makes SEO suggestions as you write to ensure that you make the improvements before you publish it to your WordPress site. Additionally, this tool gives recommendations based on Google’s top 10 competitors for a specific keyword – so you can choose to add the more effective keyword to your content.
SEO Writing Assistant is available as a plugin on WordPress and on Google Docs as an add-on, which is highly convenient for content creators.
12. Audit/Review Content
Simply creating content isn’t the way to go when trying to rank your WordPress site. While your content might be great, it may not be SEO-friendly or relevant to your audience. It’s vital to do an audit and review the content that is consistently ranking. Knowing what content does well and what isn’t will streamline the creation process.
If you see a blog/video or page is ranking high on search engines, it is preferable to replicate or re-use the content to create more. Hire SEO experts that will review and give insights into your content. They can also create more SEO-friendly content based on their findings and show you how to write content to increase your ranking.
13. Customize Page URLs
WordPress, by default, creates the URL using your page’s/blog’s title. Therefore, if you write a blog title that doesn’t give a clear idea of the content or have the focus keyword, it can impact its page and overall website ranking. If a title and URL are too long it can truncate on the SERPs. Thankfully, there is an easy way to change the URL.
WordPress has a permalink bar that can be customized – take advantage of this. For example: if you’re writing about the best breakfast foods, but your title is ‘breakfast in bed is made better with these dishes’ – the title, while attractive, is too long and doesn’t contain the main keywords.
Therefore, keep the click-bait title for the Title bar, but edit the permalink to ‘best-breakfast-foods.’ This feature to edit the permalink is found directly under the Title bar on the WordPress platform. Optimizing each permalink to make it more SEO-friendly will streamline your website’s content and help with ranking on search engines.
14. Create Or Update Content Consistently
Users and Google want to constantly see fresh new content that is relevant to their searches. Unique, latest, and relevant content is ranked higher than older content containing the same information. Therefore, it’s vital to update ranking content and have a consistent publishing schedule.
A good SEO plan aims for consistent results over time. If your WordPress site has seen a drastic spike and then plateau in ranking, then you should reevaluate your content plan and SEO strategy. For better consistent results, implement a content schedule that uploads quality, SEO-friendly and relevant content on a weekly basis.
15. Don’t Ignore Heading Tags Or Title Tags
There is a checklist of things to implement for search engine algorithms and crawlers to make sense of your content, such as URLs, Keywords, Content Quality, Titles, etc. But, let’s not forget – Heading Tags. Besides the visual appeal of segmenting content on your website, these Heading Tags also help search engines to make sense of the blogs or pages it’s analyzing.
Formatting your blog post on WordPress is simple, as the platform offers many heading tag options that can be easily implemented directly into your text. When writing headings or subheadings, keep in mind the keywords and the context of your content. Doing this will ensure that the headers are SEO-friendly and help rank the content/page higher.
16. Mindful Use Of Internal/External Links
Another key piece in the SEO puzzle is the use of internal links and external links. Search Engines like to see how your content connects to others and will sometimes rank a website lower if it doesn’t have relevant links to other sites. This behavior tells us two things, one, you must link your content to reputed sites in your niche, and second, the links you chose to incorporate into your content must have value.
Adding too many links or linking to sites that aren’t strengthening the context of your content will also send a red flag to search engines. Using links that relate to your content tells search engines that they are similar. It also allows other people to link back to your website; this inter-linking system tells crawlers that your content is reputable and valuable.
17. Chose A Mobile-Friendly Design
More than ever, people use their phones to make their searches because of the convenience and accessibility – a smartphone is never too far away from its person. Google has recognized this behavior and gives websites with a responsive, mobile-friendly design a boost in ranking. Keeping this in mind, when selecting your website design on WordPress, go with responsive WordPress themes for desktop, mobile, and tablet.
Also, don’t forget to check that your desired theme has other valuable SEO features, as you want your page to look good and perform well on any device.
WordPress SEO FAQs
Q: What’s Better For SEO – A Custom Site Or WordPress?
Answer: Search engines only see the HTML, it doesn’t judge whether it’s a WordPress site or a custom site. So, when it comes to SEO, as long as you are incorporating the best SEO practices for your site, it doesn’t matter which you select. However, if you are well-versed with WordPress or creating a custom site, it would be advisable to go with what you’re comfortable working with since you will be dedicating your time and effort to one of them.
Q: What Is A WordPress SEO plugin?
Answer: A plugin is a tool or add-on to a page that helps with various things, e.g. An SEO plugin helps with SEO. There are many factors that play a role in WordPress page ranking; having a robust SEO plan is part of it. However, there is so much to keep track of, and that is where an SEO plugin comes in handy as it encompasses every statistic and suggestion in one place.
One of the best and recommended SEO plugins for WordPress is Yoast SEO. This plugin gives you insights into your page to help with ranking and SEO.
Q: How Can I Do SEO For A WordPress Site?
Answer: WordPress is a well-coded site, and therefore it’s considered a great SEO-friendly platform to build your website. Apart from hiring an SEO firm, the easiest way to do SEO is to get an SEO plugin for your WordPress site. Yoast SEO has a checklist of SEO suggestions that will help you with your website optimization. However, a lot of planning and strategy goes into SEO, so you need more than just plugins for your site to rank on search engines.
Q: Is Yoast SEO Enough For WordPress SEO?
Answer: While Yoast SEO is a great plugin to begin your WordPress SEO journey, it won’t be enough to keep your website ranking high on search engines. Hiring an SEO specialist or firm will undoubtedly be the best option, as they know the ins and outs of the SEO world.
However, if you’re on a budget or if you’re well-versed in SEO, there are many SEO tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, etc, that can help you create a successful SEO plan for your WordPress site.
Q: What Are The Best SEO Plugins For WordPress In 2021?
Answer: Yoast SEO still comes highly recommended by experts and WordPress when it comes to SEO plugins. However, there are many others that are just as helpful and good at getting you results. Apart from Yoast SEO, below are some of the best SEO plugins for WordPress:
- All in One SEO Pack
- Rank Math
- Google Search Console
- WP Meta SEO
- Google XML SiteMap
- Monster Insights
Q: Should I Avoid Using An SEO Plugin For WordPress?
Answer: SEO plugins are helpful when you want help with the SEO of your WordPress site. However, just installing a plugin doesn’t ensure an automatic increase in rank. You have to understand the SEO plugins and know how to use the information/insights and suggestions the plugins offer. Doing so will yield results.
Having said that, if you are not tech-savvy, installing an SEO plugin like All in One SEO Pack or Yoast SEO, is a good way to start, as these plugins offer a lot of helpful SEO practices. If you’re still unsure of how to use your SEO plugins, then hiring an SEO specialist is the right choice for you.
Joseph Schneider is the Marketing Director at Haitna Digital. He loves to write quality content on Search engine optimization, influencer marketing, social media marketing, and data analytics. His goal is to write content that educates and creates an impact among the users.