WordPress SEO isn’t all that different from SEO on any other website. However, some of the mechanics are unique to WordPress, so it’s worth knowing what to look for. Here are 11 handy tips.
Google ranks all websites together in one pot. It does not separate out WordPress sites for a special index. That means that WordPress SEO is, at its base, no different than SEO for any other website.
As with any other website, you need both on-page and off-site SEO – both proper coding and content and good links and social signals.
As with any other website, it’s not how good your SEO is, it’s how much better (or worse) it is compared to the competition.
As with any other website, the title tag is prime real estate, as are the h tags and the bold tags.
As with any other website, the speed of loading and the mobile compatibility are crucial.
As with any other website, you need to know which search terms (keywords) people are searching for and, more importantly, which ones convert.
What’s different is that WordPress is a content management (CMS), so there are very specific ways to control some aspects that affect SEO.
There is much about WordPress that is already very SEO-friendly. It has clean code, it structures your content and has built-in RSS. Best of all, you can customize everything with plugins.
Does that make your SEO efforts any less important? Maybe. Maybe just a smidge. Maybe just a smidge of a smidge. The fact is that every other WordPress-based website has the same advantages, and in SEO there are no absolutes. Your success is defined as how much better (or worse) your website is compared to the competition.
If you do nothing else special for SEO in WordPress, you’ll probably want an SEO plugin. That’s the simple way to grab a lot of important, low-hanging fruit. Yoast SEO is the go-to all-in-one plugin. That’s right, the huge difference between regular SEO and WordPress SEO is that you don’t go in and code in WordPress. You install plugins. But you already know that, right?
The most important SEO real estate of any page is the title tag. The default title tag in WordPress is whatever you place in the page title – the H1 tag of the content. This might or might not be the ideal title tag for SEO purposes. Here is how I do it:
For sales pages, I optimize the title (H1 tag) for moving visitors through the sales process, then provide a separate title tag in Yoast (or right in the theme settings, where this exists).
For blog posts, I let the title tag be the page title, the natural default. In most cases, that title is at least somewhat optimized. However, these pages are not necessarily meant to serve as landing pages for the search engines.
How you address this dichotomy will depend on your various goals for each page.
Description meta tag
You will have to set this yourself, if you don’t want Google to grab something from your page. Any all-purpose SEO plugin will let you manually set title tag, description meta tag and keywords meta tag.
Keywords meta tag
Really? Do I have to? OK, add some keywords. It is best practice, and you never know if some search engine actually pays attention to the keywords meta tag.
Best practice is to make your URLs as short as possible, with just the main keywords. Start by changing the default permalink structure to something shorter. I never did that on this blog, and I don’t want to change all my links, but on any new project, I choose the “post name” option. Get rid of “from” and “of” and “the”. Yes, you can edit your URLs, so focus on the keywords for the page.
Tags and categories
WordPress has built in a field for tags and another field for categories. These help organize your content by topic and by keyword. Using these carefully to give clues about the meaning of your content might not skyrocket your rankings, but if some competitors don’t make good use of tags and categories, you have an advantage. No plugin required.
A lot of bloggers make use of this. In the margin, you can create a sitewide link to whatever content you most want people to see. This systemic internal linking also provides a strong SEO signal, so choose your content wisely for both humans and robots.
Some websites don’t need an XML sitemap. Seriously, a ten page pamphlet website has no need. All the pages link to each other. But a WordPress website is probably a little bigger. Or a lot bigger. Google wants an XML sitemap, so give it one. Create a sitemap right in your all-in-one SEO plugin or download a specific XML sitemaps plugin.
In WordPress, uploading images is soooooo simple. There is no excuse for not including at least one good image on each page to make it more sharable in social media and searchable in any image search. By “good”, think what somebody might want to share. Here are some examples:
Make sure to put a descriptive ALT attribute in the image’s upload panel.
WordPress is the CMS, and that is just the first layer of code. You’ll need a theme to organize the structure of your content and the layout. Pick a theme carefully. You want:
- Valid coding, obviously.
- Schema markup – not a necessity, but a nice bonus.
- A light theme, because too much code slows down the load time.
- A mobile optimized theme, else you will want an “accelerated mobile pages” plugin.
To help add a bit of speed, install a caching plugin. This speeds up your site because the minute a visitor goes to a second page, any files from the first page (images, theme files, etc.) are already stored locally. They don’t need to be retrieved again from the server.
WordPress SEO is no different than SEO on any other site. But the tools available and the process for optimizing can be quite different. This guide will take you far. But don’t forget the most important way to optimize your WordPress website is to create the most amazing content possible.Written by David Leonhardt
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