Improving your WordPress SEO is critical to getting more traffic to your website. If you want to increase your website traffic, you need to pay attention to the best WordPress SEO practices. In this definitive WordPress SEO guide, we will share the best SEO tips for WordPress to improve your WordPress SEO.
You may have heard that WordPress is SEO friendly. This is why many people choose WordPress to start a blog or website.
While WordPress makes sure that its code follows the best SEO practices, there is much more you can and should do if you want to maximize your SEO efforts.
We have compiled a series of feasible steps that you must take to optimize your WordPress SEO properly.
Introduction To SEO
We know that optimizing WordPress for SEO can be intimidating for beginners, especially if you are not a technology fanatic.
But don’t worry: it’s not that complicated. You can start here to learn the basics, and then you can start applying them to your website.
What Is SEO?
SEO is simply Search Engine Optimization. It’s used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.
Search engine optimization is not about deceiving Google or playing the system. It is simply about creating a website with optimized code and formatting that makes it easier for search engines to find your website.
When people search the web, your SEO content will appear higher in the SERPs, and you will reach more people clicking on your website.
Why Is SEO Important
Search engines are often the primary source of traffic for most websites.
Search engines use algorithms to understand and rank pages in search results. But they aren’t perfect – they still need help to understand what your content is about.
If your content isn’t optimized, they won’t understand how to rank it. When people search the web, your website won’t show up in search results, and you’ll lose all that traffic.
All business owners must make their website SEO-friendly so that they can maximize search traffic.
WordPress SEO Basics
SEO can become technical but not always. Learning basic SEO tips to optimize your website can significantly boost your website traffic.
You don’t need to be Mr. Robot to use the techniques below. If you are already using WordPress, you have what it takes!
Let’s start optimizing your website.
Check the Visibility Settings of Your WordPress Site
WordPress comes with an integrated option to hide your website from search engines. It’s an option proposed for maintenances, and to give you time to work on your site before it is ready to be made public.
However, sometimes this option can be accidentally activated and makes your website unavailable to search engines.
If your website doesn’t show up in search results, you need to make sure this option is unchecked.
Log-in to the admin area of your WordPress website, and visit the Settings » Reading page.
You must scroll to the “Search Engine Visibility” section and make sure that the box next to “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is unchecked.
Don’t forget to click the “Save Changes” button to save your changes.
Using URL Friendly SEO Permalink Structures in WordPress
SEO friendly permalink URLs contain words that clearly explain the content of the page and are easy to understand by both humans and search engines.
Some examples of SEO friendly URLs are:
Note that these URLs are readable, and a user can guess what he will see on the page by merely looking at the URL text.
How does a non-SEO friendly URL look like?
Note that these URLs use numbers unrelated to content, and a user can’t guess what they will come up on the page by looking at the URL.
The use of the SEO-friendly permalink structure improves your chances of obtaining better positions in search results.
Here’s how you can check and update the permalink structure of your WordPress site.
You must visit the Settings page » Permalink. Select the “Post Name” option, then click the “Save Changes” button to store your settings.
For more details, please have a look at our guide on an SEO-friendly permalink URL structure.
Note: if your website has been active for more than six months, please do not change the permalink structure unless you are using the Plain option. If you are using Date and Name or Month and Name, keep using it.
By changing the permalink structure on an active website, you will lose all the number of shares on social media and risk losing your existing SEO positioning.
WWW vs. Non-WWW
If you are just starting with your website, choose whether to use www (http://www.examplesite.com) or non-www (http://examplesite.com) in the URL of your site.
Search engines consider these two websites different, so you need to choose one and stick to it.
You can set your preferences by visiting the Settings » General page. Add your favorite URL in both the “WordPress Address” and “Site Address” fields.
The Best SEO Plug-ins for WordPress
In a self-respecting SEO WordPress guide, a part dedicated to plug-ins couldn’t be missing. One of the best parts of WordPress is that there is a plug-in for everything, and SEO is no exception. There are thousands of WordPress SEO plug-ins that make it more difficult for beginners to choose the best WordPress SEO plug-in.
Instead of installing separate plug-ins for individual SEO activities, we will help you choose the best SEO plug-in for WordPress that does it all and is 100% free.
Choosing the Best SEO Plug-in for WordPress
When choosing the best SEO plug-in for WordPress, you will most likely narrow down your choices to the two popular tools: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack. Both are effective solutions.
In Dopinger, we use Yoast SEO, so in this tutorial, we will use Yoast SEO for screenshots and examples.
XML Sitemaps in WordPress
XML Sitemap is a particular file that lists every single page of your website. This allows search engines to find all your content easily.
Adding an XML Sitemap doesn’t improve your site’s search rankings, but helps search engines find pages quickly and start ranking them.
If you are using the Yoast SEO plug-in, it will automatically create an XML sitemap for you. To find your sitemap, go to this URL (don’t forget to replace example.com with your domain name):
Read the next step to see how to submit your XML sitemap to Google.
Add Your Website to Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a toolset offered by Google to give website owners a clue into how the search engine views their content.
It provides you reports and data to help you understand what your pages look like in search results. You can also see the actual search terms people use to find your website, how each page appears in search results, and how often you click on your pages.
All this information helps you understand what works on your site and what doesn’t. Then you can plan your strategy accordingly.
Google Search Console also warns you when there is something wrong with your website; for example, when crawlers are can’t access it, find duplicate content or confidential resources.
We have a guide on how to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console.
After adding your website to Google Search Console, go to Index> Sitemap.
Next, you need to add your sitemap.
Your primary sitemap is sitemap_index.xml, so add it to your site address and submit it.
After successfully adding your sitemap, it will appear as pending. Google needs some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you may see some statistics about your sitemap. It’ll report you the number of links found in your sitemap, how many of them have been indexed, a relationship between images and web pages, etc.
We recommend checking your Search Console at least once a month to collect detailed information and see your website’s SEO progress.
Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO
Beginners often make the mistake of thinking that installing and activating an SEO plug-in for WordPress is enough. SEO is a continuous process that you must follow if you want to see maximum results.
With Yoast SEO, you can add a title, description, and focus the keyphrase to your blog posts and pages. It also shows you a preview of your website’s Google result.
It’s recommended that you optimize your title and description for maximum clicks.
When you write your blog post, scroll down to the Yoast SEO section, and make the most of it.
WordPress SEO Best Practices
If you follow the basics of this SEO WordPress guide and use a good WordPress SEO plug-in, you will be ahead of most websites.
However, if you want even better results, follow the WordPress SEO best practices below.
These are not too technical, but they will make a big difference if you follow them.
Correct Use of Categories and Tags in WordPress
WordPress lets you sort your blog posts into categories and tags, making it easier for users to manage content by topics and search for content.
Search engines can understand the structure and content of your website with categories and tags.
Often beginners get confused about how best to use categories and tags. After explaining it to thousands of readers, here’s how we deal with categories and tags.
The categories are meant for a large grouping of your posts. If your blog is a book, the categories are the summary.
On a personal blog, you may have categories such as music, food, travel, etc. Categories are hierarchical so that you can add subcategories to them.
Conversely, tags are more specific keywords that describe the content of a single post. For example, a blog post archived in the food category may contain tags such as salad, breakfast, pancakes, etc. Think of these as a section of indexes in a textbook.
By using categories and tags correctly, you make it easier for users to navigate your website. Because it’s easy for users, making it easier for search engines to navigate your site.
Turn the Use of the Internal Links Into a Habit
Search engines allocate each page on your website a rating (page authority). The recipe for this score is kept secret so that people cannot distort the results. However, the most common signs of authority are links.
That’s why you must link to your content from other posts and pages on your blog.
You should make linking your posts whenever possible a habit. This will help you improve page views, increase the time users spend on your site, and ultimately improve the SEO score of your posts and blog pages.
Optimize Your WordPress Comments
Comments indicate user involvement on your website. The users involved mean more links to your site, more traffic, and optimized SEO.
But you need to make sure your comments are real and not spam. Spammers send comments with incorrect links that could affect and even ruin the search rankings.
This is why it’s recommended for everyone to start using Akismet. It is one of two pre-installed plug-ins on every WordPress site and helps you fight spam in comments.
If Akismet alone can’t handle spam in comments, check out these tips and tools to combat spam in WordPress comments.
If your blog posts attract a lot of authentic and spam-free comments, of course, it’s a very good thing. Nonetheless, too many comments on a post can slow loading, which also affects search engine rankings.
To prepare your website so that it can manage the burden of your comments on your server and not lose speed, you can divide the comments into multiple pages.
Nofollow on External Links in WordPress
As mentioned earlier, links help search engines decide which pages are important. When you create an external link to another website, you pass part of your site’s SEO score to that link. This SEO score is called “link juice”.
For a good search ranking, you need to make sure you get links from other websites more than you give.
Adding the “nofollow” attribute to external links indicates that search engines do not follow these links. This helps you save the juice of the link.
Complete Posts vs. Summaries (or Extracts)
WordPress displays and links your posts on several pages such as home page, category archive, tag archive, date archive, author pages, etc.
By default, it shows the entire content of the article on all these pages. This affects the SEO of your site, as search engines may find it as a duplicate content. Full articles also slow down the loading of archive pages.
Viewing full articles anywhere also affects page views. Like, when users subscribe to your RSS feed, they will be able to read your articles without ever visiting your website.
The easiest way to solve this is, showing summaries or excerpts instead of complete articles.
All you need to do is going to Settings » Reading and selecting “Summary”.
Speed and Security for WordPress SEO
But still, even if you follow all the WordPress SEO tips and best practices above, if your site is slow or is removed by a hacker, your search engine rankings will not be very successful.
Please continue reading to know how to prevent your site from losing search engine traffic due to slow performance or poor security.
Optimizing the Speed and Performance of Your Site
In the Internet age, the average length of human attention is less than that of a goldfish.
Web experts believe that users decide whether they want to stay or leave a website within seconds of visiting.
Website owners only have a few seconds to present their content and engage users. So you don’t want to waste this precious time by waiting for your visitor to load your website. Search engines like Google admit that they rank faster websites better than slow-loading websites.
To improve your site’s speed, take a look at this guide on how to increase the speed and performance of your WordPress site.
Optimization of Images in WordPress for SEO
Images are more engaging than text but also take longer to load. If you are not careful with the size and quality of the images, they can slow down your website.
Make sure that you are using optimized images for faster loading.
Another trick here you can use to optimize your images for search engines is to use the title description and alt tags. These help search engines to understand what your image is about. They also help users with visual impairments since their screen readers can read the alt and title tags on them.
WordPress allows you to add titles and alt tags when you upload an image.
Security and Protection of Your WordPress Site
Every week, Google blacklists about 20,000 websites for malware and about 50,000 for phishing. When a site is blacklisted, it is not displayed in the search results.
It means that the security of your WordPress is essential for good positioning. You don’t want all your hard SEO work to be wasted if a hacker compromises your site.
The good news is that it’s not that difficult to protect your WordPress site.
Start using SSL / HTTPS
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that encrypts the connection between a user’s browser and the server they are connecting to. This adds an extra layer of security to your WordPress site.
A padlock indicates SSL-protected websites in the browser’s address bar. This makes your website more reliable and is necessary if you run an online store with WordPress and process sensitive payment information.
You can get free SSL with Let’s Encrypt. Several WordPress hosting companies such as Siteground and WPEngine have already started offering encryption integrations with Let’s Encrypt.
WordPress SEO: Other Tools and Resources
After learning the best WordPress SEO practices, we recommend that you further improve your skills to overcome the competition.
If you are ready to delve further into the topic, you can consult our WordPress SEO archive.
Yes! Although it was once a blogging platform, WordPress is now widely known for its reputation for providing an SEO foundation as a CMS.
With bare-minimum hosting fees and a theme, it’s around $125/year.
WordPress powers 30% of websites, according to data from W3Techs.
Conclusion For WordPress SEO!
That’s all! We hope this definitive WordPress SEO guide has helped you learn how to optimize your WordPress site for SEO properly. Go ahead and apply some of the tips in this SEO guide for WordPress, and you will see an increase in your traffic within a few months while the search engines process your changes.