Does your WordPress feel like a remote desert island?
We just received your message in a bottle requesting assistance, and we’re here to help.
Fear not—you can transform your WordPress site into a hot spot teeming with enthusiastic visitors.
How do you do that?
By improving your search engine rankings.
But, this doesn’t happen overnight. You’re going to have to work at it and that means taking your WordPress SEO seriously.
If you don’t know where to start, then this post is for you. Below you’ll learn why SEO is important and the steps you can take to optimize your WordPress site.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the process of casting spells on your site, so it magically rises in the search engine results. Kidding, but for the uninitiated, it might actually seem like this.
It’s not as quick and easy as a spell, but SEO is still a littler simpler than you might think.
Essentially, it’s the process of improving your rankings in organic search results across various search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. There’s a variety of strategies you can use to accomplish these goals, which involve both onsite and offsite optimization.
Search engine optimization isn’t about gaming the system either. At the core, it’s about being the best resource possible in your chosen space, while adhering to certain search engine optimization standards.
There’s not enough room to cover all that here, so we’re going to stick with what you can do onsite with the power of WordPress.
How WordPress and SEO Make Magic Together
WordPress and SEO are a match made in heaven. Like two long-lost lovers perfectly compatible for one another. Right out of the virtual box, WordPress was developed in such a way to make SEO optimization even easier.
SEO can get quite technical. Luckily, WordPress simplifies a lot of these tough technical aspects and makes them incredibly simple.
Before we jump in, there’s a big caveat we must discuss.
If you end up choosing the wrong WordPress theme you could be doing your site more harm than good. All themes aren’t created equal.
WordPress SEO: 10 Incredible Tips to Smash the Competition in Rankings
Once you have a solid theme as the foundation for your SEO efforts, it’s time to begin optimizing.
The WordPress SEO tips we’ve got here will give you a solid strategy to grow your WordPress traffic with every passing day.
1. Change Up Those Messy Permalinks
Changing your permalinks is a quick win for onsite SEO. Your default WordPress permalink structure is going to be a little complex, which isn’t good for your rankings.
With a fresh WordPress installation, your current permalinks will look something like this: http://yoursite.com/page-id?237.
This is not only confusing for your readers but for the search engines as well.
To change your permalinks, navigate to Settings → Permalinks, then select the Post name option.
Now, when you’re writing a post in WordPress, you can change the URL to something very SEO-friendly.
2. Enlist the Help of an SEO Plugin
A lot of onsite optimization can be difficult, but you can use an SEO plugin for WordPress to save time and make your life easier.
To install this plugin, just navigate to Plugins → Add New and search for Yoast SEO. Then, click Install Now and Activate to enable the plugin on your site.
At the bottom of every post, you’ll now see an optimization section where you input your chosen keywords and the tool offers suggestions for improvement.
If you’re looking to optimize the settings for Yoast SEO even further, then check out this post.
3. Make Images More Than Eye Candy
Sometimes you can pull additional traffic to your website via image searches. One way to do this is to optimize your file names, alt tags and meta descriptions. This won’t help your post soar in the rankings, but every little bit does help.
Whenever you add an image to a post or your media library, you’ll be able to change the meta, alt and description boxes to a keyword-optimized version. Also, make sure to name your images with a suitable description that also includes your keywords.
Check in with your Yoast plugin after you’ve added images. Too many images with exact keywords in them can result in “keyword stuffing”—and at that point search engines may penalize you. In that case, try mixing things up with variations on the keywords or by using related keywords.
4. Link Smartly
When it comes to search engine optimization, your links means a lot. But, it’s not just the sites that link out to you. How you link out and interlink your content is also very important.
When you’re writing a post make sure you link out to authoritative and relevant sources. This is an indicator to Google that your site is of similar quality.
You’ll also want to link all of your content together as much as possible. This helps to pass the link juice throughout your site.
So, if one of your posts has a lot of backlinks pointing towards it this “juice” will filter out into the other posts you’ve linked to. Which will strengthen your other pages.
Two small caveats: The text where you embed your links should be very relevant to the content you’re linking to, and you’ll want to avoid linking to so many things that your text becomes a sea of links.
5. Optimize Your Meta Descriptions
A post’s meta description is the little bit of text you see below the title in the search engines.
It’s always a good idea to optimize this to include the keyword you’re targeting. This will help with rankings, but it can also help to improve your click-through rates, as people will see the keyword in the results and know that’s what your page is about.
However, it’s important to write these descriptions for the reader and not the search engines. Think of an enticing lead-in that will actually make people want to click and read more. Don’t be a stiff—have fun with it, like you’re writing for your friends.
6. Never Sacrifice Quality for SEO
One of the best ways to rank in Google is, quite simply, to create high-quality content.
The days of writing tiny, keyword-stuffed blog posts are over. If you want to rank now and into the future, then you’ll place a premium on the quality and usefulness of your content.
You’ll still want to include certain keywords in your post, but not at the expense of the readability of your content. If you’re using Yoast SEO, you can simply input your target keyword and the tool will give suggestions for the perfect keyword density.
The trend among the best content marketers is now to swing wildly away from boring little SEO posts—for competitive keywords, they’re going ten steps further by creating 10x content, which is content that’s ten times better than anything else out there on the topic.
7. Face Your WordPress Heading Tags Head On
Google takes your headlines seriously, so you should too.
Your first heading tag should be in H1 (Heading 1) formatting, and it should be the title of your post or page. Make sure to include your target keyword as early on in the title as possible, but make sure that your title remains meaningful and exciting.
Other headings to optimize include your H2 and H3 tags. Include your target keyword in these, if possible, but make sure your headlines still make sense.
Again, it’s important to include keywords, but not at the expense of readability.
8. Map It Out with an XML Sitemap
Sitemaps are how Google knows which pages of your site to index in the search engines. They seem tricky, but with the help of a plugin these can be easy to create.
Yoast SEO has a built-in XML sitemap generator which can create a sitemap specifically to your own settings. To generate a sitemap navigate to SEO → XML Sitemaps, then select the elements of your sitemap you wish to include and click Save Changes.
You can view your sitemap by clicking on the blue link that says XML Sitemap.
Once you’ve created your sitemap you can link and verify it with Google Search Console. First, you’ll have to create an account and add a website property.
Then, navigate to Crawl → Sitemaps and submit the sitemap URL you generated above by clicking on Add/Test Sitemap. And you’re done!
9. Link Your WordPress Site to Google Search Console
We just showed you how to set up Google Search Console in the step above, but there’s a lot more you can do than just submit your sitemap.
With Google Search Console you can track the performance of your site. For example, in the Crawl tab, you can see if your site is experiencing any crawl or link errors that need fixing.
In the Search Traffic tab, you can see which sites link to you the most, how many internal links you have, and if your site is experiencing any mobile compatibility errors.
This is a great tool that will give you a cohesive picture of how Google actually sees your site.
10. Race Ahead by Improving Your WordPress Site’s Speed
Your site needs to be fast. How long your site takes to load is actually a Google ranking factor. So, if you have poor loading speeds your site won’t rank as high as it could have otherwise. It’s that important.
To improve the speed of your site first run your site through a tool called GTMetrix, this will give you a baseline to work from.
Once you can this number you can begin optimizing. Some of the best plugins to use include W3 Total Cache for caching your site, WP Smush Pro for decreasing the size of your images and a free content distribution network (CDN) like Cloudflare.
If installing and configuring the above plugins and tools doesn’t speed up your site, then it’s probably a problem with your host, and it might be time to start shopping around for an upgrade.
SEO isn’t a set it and forget it thing, but we hope that by following the SEO WordPress tips above, you’ll start to see your posts go up in search rankings—and the traffic your site receives should get a boost right along with them.