In this article, we’ll discuss in detail how WordPress SEO is done to effectively rank well on search engine results. So, are you ambitious about scaling your business and ranking your website? Everyone is, we too are! Online stores can improve their website’s ranking in Google and increase their organic traffic by using specialized eCommerce SEO and content marketing.
Medium and enterprise-level businesses benefit from a combination of SEO and content marketing to improve their brand’s visibility. New and improved content allows potential customers to follow the brand’s sales funnel more easily and progress from awareness to interest, onto desire, and then to purchase. Businesses can also use local SEO to increase their site’s visibility too.
By all means, local area web businesses, such as dentists, trades, lawyers, and accountants, can use local SEO to increase the visibility of their website on Google. By targeting a specific region, city, or town, people in their coverage area will see the business at the top of the search results for those locations.
Related Topic: Content SEO Audit | How To Improve Your Web Presence
Almost all types of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focus on increased ranking on Google, Bing, or whatever search platform your audience uses. The goal is to increase organic traffic and, as a result, gain more website conversions and sales. For this reason, if you own a website, or you’re a webmaster, the WordPress SEO guide below is just for you.
What Is WordPress SEO?
WordPress SEO is an act of test in isolation on the CMS root system to increase and improve the overall ranking of its built-in website. WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But, even though it gets a lot right “out of the box,” there’s still so much more that you can do to improve your web performance.
A WordPress SEO strategy involves a range of technical work, analysis, and creative input. Your lead team works on your campaign to reflect the diversity of all these tasks. From the research, planning, and technical on-site optimization to the creation of new content. Whilst, targeting ideal buyer personas at different stages of the buyer journey.
WordPress SEO Allows For:
- Content Auditing
- Keyword Research
- Web Analytics Setup
- Pages/Posts Optimisation
- Backlinks Analysis
- Technical SEO
- Competitor Research
- Content Creation
- Link Building
- User Engagement
Ultimately, every exposure SEO campaign is designed specifically for the client based on what’s required to get the fastest ROI. Bearing in mind, significant organic web traffic growth can be quite transformational. But, this sort of growth requires time, patience, and a wide variety of techniques.
You should ingrain proper techniques not just for your WordPress SEO, but in all aspects of your online marketing and PR campaigns. As such, this guide covers quite a lot of ground! Of course, it’s quite a long read, yes! But, I’ll make sure that I boil everything down to something more understandable.
How WordPress SEO Is Done Effectively
Before we start, it’s good to mention that this article assumes that you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin, just in case. A great tool that adds significantly more features and SEO tools to WordPress. If you’re not already using it, you can set it up right away with the full beginners guide to Yoast SEO in detail.
If you’re using another SEO plugin, most of the principles will still apply. Of course, I’d prefer you to switch over and make use of the potent WordPress SEO plugin. For this reason, that’s why there’s a written migration guide for you. Furthermore, it’s a very straightforward process!
Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well-optimized content management system. A basic setup can provide a strong foundation without extensive customization, theme optimization, and plugins. That said, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ranking, refine your workflow, and make sure your website is perfectly optimized.
By putting the right basic settings in place and applying a few simple techniques, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon! That said, let’s now have a look at how WordPress SEO is done in simple steps. We’ll start with getting your basic WordPress SEO right.
Step #1: Get Your Basic WordPress SEO Right
WordPress 5.2 introduced a brand-new feature called Site Health. This is a tool that monitors the health of your site and notifies you of any issues or improvements to make. It is important for you to keep an eye on this page as this is where all major plugins will drop their notifications as well. It’s very important to check your Site Health.
Before you make any changes to your site, it is good to see where you are now. There’s a lot to gain from getting it right. For instance, by running your website on a server with updated software at a web host that offers excellent performance. And at a well-known web host that fine-tuned its servers for use with your WordPress site.
1.1. Site Health
WordPress Site Health is a tool in WordPress that helps you monitor how your site is doing. It consists of two parts: a Status screen and an Info screen. You can find the Site Health tool via Tools > Site Health in your WordPress backend. In addition to WordPress checks, plugin developers can also integrate with Site Health.
In WordPress 5.4, the team added a Site Health Status widget to the dashboard — this makes it a lot easier for users to discover all site issues. Just as you should care about your own health, you should care about the health of your site. You could see Site Health as a kind of doctor — it finds problems and proposes solutions.
These improvements range from upgrading your PHP version to deactivating unused plugins for security reasons and from implementing HTTPS to checking if the REST API is available. Simply click on a notification to see additional steps to take or more information about the check. You’ll also see which plugin notified you of the improvements.
- On what hardware and software are your sites running?
- What is your hosting plan?
- Are you using a budget-shared hosting provider?
- Have you invested in a dedicated hosting plan?
This plugin gives you loads of technical insights and helps you get information that outside parties can use to help you improve your site. Eventually, all features of the Health Check plugin will move to WordPress core.
In the future, Site Health will be the go-to place for these kinds of checks and notifications. Increasingly, WordPress plugins will put relevant checks and notifications on the Site Health dashboard. This makes it a critical part of your journey towards building an awesome, secure, and up-to-date site. You can learn more about Yoast SEO & Site Health in detail.
1.2. Suitable Hosting
According to WordPress’s technical requirements page, the recommended hosting plan to run WordPress should include a modern version of PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS support. It is possible to work with older server software, but that is not recommended. If you check your Site Health, you can see the technical details of your installation.
In addition, if you open the dashboard of your hosting provider, you should be able to see what type of plan you are on. Remember, paying for good WordPress hosting pays dividends. Upgrading your hosting plan is one of the easiest improvements you can make.
1.3. PHP Version
One of the most important things you can do to improve the performance and security of your site is to upgrade your hosting environment to a modern version of PHP. While the numbers are going down quickly, many WordPress sites still run on outdated versions of PHP.
One look at the WordPress stats reveals that around 15% of the sites still run on a PHP version in the five series, while PHP 7.0 and up have been available for years. Backward compatibility is cool and all, but it’s holding back WordPress as a technology and site owners from getting the most out of their sites.
These old PHP versions don’t receive any more security fixes and are thus increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Luckily, the WordPress team has dropped support for anything older than PHP 5.6. As of today, the project recommends running WordPress on at least PHP 7.3.
There are a lot of benefits to this:
- PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost.
- It runs a lot more efficiently, meaning less stress on your server.
- Bring loads of modern development features.
- It’s a much safer and more secure environment.
- It’s future-proof.
Now, this is something we all want. If you’ve checked your current hosting set-up in the previous section, you have an idea of what your site runs on now. If this shows outdated server software like PHP 5.5, it is good to update this, if possible.
1.4. SSL & HTTPS
Historically, adopting SSL (getting an HTTPS URL and a green padlock icon in the browser URL bar) was an optional tactic. Many sites, arguably, didn’t need the extra level of security that SSL provides. Today, having a valid SSL certificate installed is mandatory — search engines may ‘penalize’ sites without valid SSL certificates and setups.
At times, such sites may show warnings next to their search results. Google has mentioned that HTTPS is a ranking signal to consider. In addition, it’s generally good practice for all websites to use SSL to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.
Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup. To take advantage of new, faster web technologies like HTTP/2 and the upcoming HTTP/3, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox need the website to have a valid SSL certificate.
If you want to move to SSL and ensure that your site is served correctly over HTTPS, there’s a guide with tips & tricks for moving to HTTPS. Now that in version 5.7, WordPress comes with a basic tool to make the detection of and move to HTTPS easier.
Step #2: Check Your Site Settings Like Permalinks
It’s worth spending some time clicking through all of the sections in the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options there can impact the SEO of your WordPress site. In particular, it’s worth double-checking your visibility settings in Settings → Reading, to make sure that you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your website.
That’d definitely hurt your visibility! You should also make sure that your Writing and Reading settings are all set correctly, these control your default categories, and what should be displayed on your homepage. Don’t forget to give your site a strong tagline in Settings → General, too!
As an example, your permalink settings define what format your page and post URLs will take, which can have a big impact on SEO. So if you’re creating a new site, one of the first things you should do is change your permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.
If you don’t change your settings from the default, all of your pages and posts will have URLs that look like
example.com/?p=123. Whilst this is perfectly okay, it’s not particularly nice, and it might impact how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.
2.1. Permalinks Structure
Changing the permalink structure alters the components, ordering, and structure of your website’s URLs. Therefore, it’s important to select the right structure when setting up your website, as changing it later can cause SEO issues.
We usually recommend that people use a structure that creates URLs that look like
example.com/category/post-name/, depending on how much importance they anticipate placing on the categorization of their content. For most WordPress sites, choosing either of these options will be perfectly suitable.
For the first option, you can just change the permalink setting to
/%postname%/, so to say. To include the category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value to
/%category%/%postname%/. If you previously had
?p=<postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you.
This is also true if you change from
/%category%/%postname%/. If you have an established site and change from any other permalink structure, you might want to check out the article on changing your WordPress permalink structure and the tool that you’ll find within it.
2.2. WWW or non-WWW
You need to think about what you want your site to show up as
www.example.com, or simply
example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected.
On one side, from an SEO perspective, there’s little difference either way. Additionally, most hosting and server setups will automatically redirect requests for the ‘wrong’ version to the version you’ve selected. That makes this primarily a branding consideration — which approach feels best for your site?
On the other side, from a technical perspective, there’s not a huge amount of difference, either. Some setups might have some minor headaches if they omit the ‘www’ component, but these are increasingly rare.
Step #2: Optimize Your Overall Site Content
Your site should provide the best content on your chosen subject — period. People are looking for engaging, authoritative articles and trustworthy answers to their questions. Writing high-quality content for your WordPress site begins with your unique ideas or distinctive take on a particular topic. But, it also means presenting these ideas in a well-structured and accessible manner.
Together, this will help you attract the audience you’re looking for and keep them engaged. Sometimes, Search Engines may choose to ignore your meta description if they think that it’s unsuitable for the page. Or they might choose to show a custom description from the page content if they think it’s a better fit. There’s no way of forcing them to use your specific snippet.
Before writing your content, you should think about what search terms you want to be found for. Then, you should optimize every page or post for a specific keyphrase. But how can you determine what keyphrase you want to be found for? To find out, you need to do keyword research. In this process, you should ask yourself a few questions.
Such questions include:
- What terms do I want to rank for?
- How realistic is it that I can rank for these terms?
Within a given niche, you can become an expert. Your expertise enables you to create content that goes beyond that of your competitors. You can go deeper than others or shed light on different angles of the same topic. For this, you’ll want to focus on long-tail keywords.
For example, a long-tail keyphrase might be [how to make a low-calorie vegan blueberry cheesecake]. A key phrase like this is more specific, and therefore easier to rank for. Also, it’ll be more suitable for your particular niche topic. It’s also essential to think about what your audience wants to achieve by searching for a specific term. This is called search intent.
For example, they could be looking for the answer to a particular question, and you can provide the necessary information. Or they might want to buy a specific product that you can offer them. Think about the needs of your visitors and address them accordingly.
Step #3: Write Great Content For Your Lead Site Users
After you’ve done your keyword research and know the topics you want to write about, you need to get to the actual writing. Most of the time, that’s easier said than done. To get from an idea to a great piece of content, most likely, you’ll have to follow a cycle of drafting, writing, editing, and rewriting.
Your first draft can be an outline of your structure. You don’t have to write out everything in perfect prose at this point, but make sure that you follow a logical structure. Most pieces will include an introduction, your main points of argument, and a conclusion. Of course, this will vary per genre – a recipe will have a completely different structure.
You can further flesh out the points in the writing phase, where you try to develop a first complete version of your text. Finally, you should check whether your piece is engaging and easy to read in the editing phase. You might be an expert on your topic, but your audience probably isn’t (yet). So, try to make your writing as accessible as possible. Readability is essential.
Fortunately, the readability analysis in Yoast SEO helps you improve your writing. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a friend or colleague for some feedback. Another helpful trick is to read your text out loud to yourself. You can even let your computer speak it. It will give you a better idea of whether everything flows nicely.
3.1. International Support
To optimize your site for audiences in several countries or language regions, you’ll need to optimize both your content and your technical setup. Let’s start with the content aspects of international SEO. Doing targeted keyword research and writing fresh content for each audience is crucial. Take items of clothing, for example.
An American vest is a completely different garment from a British vest, or a Dutch vest, or a French vest, or a Spanish vest… you get the point. We don’t recommend using automated translations. Invest time and resources in proper research and translations with which to optimize your keywords and copy.
Another important aspect of international SEO is picking the right domain structure. Generally, a different ccTLD (e.g.
www.yoast.de) for every variation is only a good option for very large companies with big budgets. In most cases, subdirectories (e.g.
www.yoast.com/de) are the way to go.
Talking about WordPress SEO, search engines want to display the right language version of your site to each visitor, whatever country they’re from. To help them, you need to implement
hreflang is code that tells the search engines what language variations of a page are available and helps prevent duplicate content problems.
It’s quite a complex piece of code, but our hreflang guide helps you along the way — or, you can take our Multilingual SEO training. This course is part of our Yoast SEO academy that’s free with a Yoast SEO Premium subscription.
Step #4: Optimize Your Individual Posts & Pages
When writing or editing your post, you need to pay special attention to some elements to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include your subheadings, your title, and your meta description — all of these need to reflect the topic of the specific post. Don’t forget, SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean that it’s easy for a search engine to grasp a page’s topic.
More importantly, it means that your visitors can get the gist of your page at a single glance. Your meta description and your title might be a deciding factor for whether visitors click on your page in the search results in the first place. And once they’ve visited your site, elements like subheadings can be critical for visitors to decide whether they want to stay on your site.
4.1. Focus Keyphrase(s)
One important rule is not to use a focus keyphrase on more than one page. Otherwise, you might end up cannibalizing yourself. Most of the time, you don’t want to rank for multiple pages on the same keyphrase because it means that you’re setting yourself up as your own competition.
It’s also essential to include the focus keyphrase in crucial elements of your post, such as the title, the introduction, your subheadings, and your meta description. All of these elements are signals for what your post is about. Since your focus keyphrase is, in fact, the main topic of your page, it’s a logical consequence that you should make sure this topic is reflected in all of these elements.
You can also make use of related key phrases to optimize a single page for similar, related terms. For example, if your keyphrase is [pumpkin soup], your related keyphrase might be [winter weeknight dinners]. This second, broader term gives additional information about your topic. It can also create coherence by establishing a link to similar pages on your post.
4.2. Relevant Content
The same logic holds for your text overall: you need to make sure that you don’t stray off-topic; if you stay on-topic, it should follow naturally that you use your keyphrase multiple times throughout your text. But avoid stuffing your writing with your keyphrase just for the sake of it.
If you find it hard to include your key phrase in your text a sufficient number of times, it might be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic. To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same or more or less the same as your keyphrase. An example of this is the words film and movie.
Search engines will recognize that they have the same meaning, which you can also check by having a look at the search results: if you search for a movie, a film will also be highlighted in the results, and vice versa. To get even ahead, you can also consider the Yoast SEO Premium to suit your needs.
The Yoast SEO Premium analysis makes it easier to optimize your post thanks to word forms, synonyms, and related keyphrases. Not only that, but Yoast SEO also comes with a Semrush integration that helps you find related keyphrases — like data trends.
4.3. Permalink Rules
In most cases, your post’s URL should probably contain your focus keyphrase, so that it’s obvious what your page is about from the link. That said, you should always try and keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean — don’t put unnecessary words in for the sake of it!
Before you publish new posts or pages, you may also wish to consider removing ‘function words‘ from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and”, and “the”. When done carefully, this may make your permalinks more readable, and easier to use or link to. Posts with especially long titles may benefit from this approach.
For posts that you have already published, I’d recommend being careful when changing permalinks. If people have already linked to your pages, changing the URLs may make a mess. Even though WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (the redirect manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles this automatically and reliably). Changing URLs can impact performance.
4.4. Page Titles
Each page’s title — the contents of the HTML
<title> tag — can be one of the most important factors for ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, but it’s also the first line people see in the search results. In terms of WordPress SEO, it describes what your page is or is about and acts as an advert that encourages users to click.
On many websites, the default structure for posts and pages isn’t necessarily the most optimal approach for SEO. A title like “My blog » Cooking » Carbonara recipe” isn’t as compelling as “My 20-minute delicious carbonara recipe | My Blog”. You must think about the structure of your titles, as well as the content of the title on each page.
It’s worth considering that:
- Search engines may put more weight on the early words — so trying to get your keywords near the start of the title might make you more likely to rank well.
- People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing, your page is more likely to get clicked on.
Did you know? You can use Yoast SEO to structure your titles! You can control the default structure of your page titles and descriptions in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. Go ahead! Make sure you install and activate the plugin, and then get on the ‘SEO’ section in your WordPress admin.
4.5. Content Headings
Headings are great for structuring your content and helping readers process information in bite-sized chunks. They can also help describe a page’s layout and focus on search engines. WordPress transforms the headings you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (
<h3> and so on).
That makes it important to think about which type of headings you use, and in which order. Getting that wrong can make your content harder to understand. Although most themes for WordPress get the basics right, it’s worth making sure that your template sets your post title is an
<h1> tag, and that you’re not using
<h1> tags anywhere else on your page or in your post content.
Your post content should then ‘flow’ naturally; for example, large, significant headings should use
<h2> tags, subsections should use
<h3> tags, and then subsequent new sections should use
<h2>. To learn more about why proper headings are important, please read this article on headings and SEO.
In addition, you can read and learn more from the article about the heading structure for your blog — from which a lot applies to non-blog WordPress sites too. Not forgetting, for more explanations, you can read this post on how to use headers on your site.
Step #5: Maintain Your Web Content Quality
Usually, before I forget, don’t recommend automated descriptions. Not to mention, some themes and plugins try to produce descriptions automatically. By taking the first sentence or so of a post. This is a clever shortcut, but it rarely produces good descriptions. The first sentence of a post is often introductory information. Without a great summary or an enticing advert!
The only well-written description is a handwritten one, and if you’re thinking of auto-generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything, and let the search engine pick and control the snippet. Writing compelling, informative descriptions of your page content for every page on your site is best practice and allows you to attract more visits.
5.1 Meta Descriptions
Whilst it might feel like a lot of work to craft descriptions for every single page and post, it’s worth the effort. Search engines primarily use a meta description to describe your page in the search engine results, usually below your page title. Tailoring and writing a descriptive meta description can encourage users to click your results in the search engine.
More so, even if you’re not necessarily ranking in the top position. It’s an advert, and your opportunity to impress. If you don’t provide a meta description, the search engine will generally try to find the keyword searched for on your page. And then, it’ll automatically pick a string around that — and highlight the searched phrase in bold on the results page.
In some cases, Google will generate its own meta description for you. Automatically generated snippets (whether by plugins or search engines) are rarely as descriptive or as compelling as hand-written ones. So, I recommend that you use the meta description field you find in the Yoast SEO plugin to write a meta description.
At all times, make sure that your meta description entices the reader to click through. And also, make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.
5.2. Media Attributes
An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is handling your images, videos, and media content. To ensure that search engines can understand your images, you need to think about how you name and format your files. Make sure to pick the correct format and optimize every image.
Also, try to see if you can use next-gen image formats like WebP. Writing descriptive accessible text descriptions helps to make your images more understandable and can improve your performance significantly. As an added benefit, you’re also helping out readers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers.
Using the proper alt attributes for images, and transcripts of videos are also something that we check in the content analysis functionality of our Yoast SEO plugin. We have a longer article on image SEO and one writing alt tags, which can give you more tips to fine-tune your image optimization!
5.3. Cornerstone Content
As Google strives to show its users the best and up-to-date information, you should keep track of your content and revise it regularly. Even more so, because you don’t want to show the visitors of your website outdated, redundant or incorrect info.
If you publish regularly and have hundreds or thousands of blog posts, this is easier said than done. That’s why we’d advise focusing on two specific areas when it comes to content maintenance: updating cornerstone content and preventing keyword cannibalization. You should also try and update your cornerstone content.
Some pages on your site are more important than others. The most valuable content of your site is called cornerstone content. There’s a well-written and extensively clear article about cornerstone articles and how they can improve your rankings in detail.
In short, these posts or pages:
- contain essential information for your audience;
- are complete, up-to-date, and well-written;
- show authority;
- get the most links from related posts within your own site;
- rank higher than your other articles on the same topic;
- get the most organic traffic to your site.
When you’re in doubt about where to start with updating your site’s content, always give priority to your cornerstone content. Your business relies on them, and they should never go stale! Yoast SEO makes it a little easier to keep your cornerstones up to date at all times. If you use Yoast SEO on your site, you can mark a post as a cornerstone article.
In doing so, these articles will undergo a more rigorous SEO analysis. In addition, they’ll appear in a separate list in your post overview. Whilst, making it easy to browse through them and check if they’re still up to scratch. If you’re on Yoast SEO Premium, keeping track of them is even easier.
The Stale cornerstone content filter only shows your cornerstone articles that haven’t been updated in the last six months. You’ll find this filter in your post overview. If it doesn’t show any posts then you’re good. And if there are one or more posts in it, make sure you check and update them!
5.4. Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization means you’re eating away your own rankings by creating too many articles for the same or similar keywords. For example, if you have a dozen articles on the same topic, search engines don’t know which one they should rank highest. As a result, you’ll be competing with your own articles for a high position in the search engines.
If you frequently publish, as we do at Yoast, you’re bound to run into keyword cannibalization issues someday. That’s why we’ve created a framework on how to deal with keyword cannibalism.
In short, you’ll have to:
- Find out for which keywords it’s happening;
- Analyze which content performs best for those keywords;
- Keep the best performing posts;
- Decide if you should merge the other posts into the better performing one;
- Or delete and redirect them.
Check out this detailed guide on how to fix keyword cannibalization issues on your site to learn how to go about this.
5.5. Duplicate Content
Duplicate Content issues arise when search engines encounter multiple URLs with the same or very similar content. As a result, search engines don’t know which URLs to rank higher, resulting in lower rankings for all of them. In the previous section, we’ve already addressed keyword cannibalization caused by writing about the same topic too often.
But, most of the time, the root of duplicate content is technical and can happen without you even noticing. For instance, some content management systems add session IDs or parameters for tracking URLs. Or, you might have www and non-www versions of a certain page indexed. Accordingly, you’ll have multiple URLs showing the exact same content.
Besides the technical reasons, your articles can get scraped or copied by other parties. So, there are many different causes for duplicate content, as you can read in this extensive article on duplicate content. If you want to find out if your site suffers from duplicate content, you can use these duplicate content tools to check your site for issues.
What are the solutions for duplicate content?
How you should solve your duplicate content issue depends on the cause of the issue. In general, there are three ways to go about this — in order of preference:
- Whenever possible, avoid creating duplicate content. If your system creates session IDs in the URL, try to turn that off, for instance.
- Can’t avoid creating them? Redirect those URLs with a 301 to the original version.
- Really need to keep a duplicate article? Make sure to add a canonical link to the original version in the
<head>section of the duplicate article. It will show search engines what the original version of the article is, so they can pass the link juice on to the original version. In the next section, you’ll find out how easy this is with Yoast SEO.
If you want to learn how to solve specific duplicate content issues, check out Joost’s ultimate guide on causes and solutions for duplicate content in detail. The next thing is to optimize your overall site structure for easier navigation.
Step #6: Optimize Your Overall Site Structure
On the other side of WordPress SEO, a solid site structure helps your users and the search engines navigate your site. On top of that, it will make clear what pages on your website are most important. There are two pillars to a good site structure: organizing your site and contextual internal linking. To be safe, the first thing is to organize your site.
Organizing your site will help you set up a navigation path from your homepage to your individual posts and pages and back. Adding categories and subcategories will bring order to chaos. Ideally, your site should be organized as follows: a homepage with a clear menu, weblog categories, subcategories, individual pages, and posts, etc.
You should always make sure your homepage is clear and easy to navigate. Cluttering the homepage with too many options will make your site more difficult to understand. Adding a clear menu and breadcrumbs helps your user navigate your site.
6.1. Canonical Links
With Yoast SEO, it’s very easy to add a canonical link to a post or page. No need for a developer! Just go to the Advanced tab in the Yoast SEO meta box below your post or page or in the sidebar of the block editor. There, you’ll find the Canonical URL field where you can enter the URL of the original article — the one you want to point search engines to as such.
If you don’t set a canonical, Yoast SEO will set a self-referencing canonical for you. This means that the article will point to itself. Learn why self-referencing canonicals are beneficial for SEO and how they can help you manage your WordPress SEO audit.
6.2. Schema.org Data
Structured Data is kind of like a dictionary for search engines. By describing your content in code, you can make it instantly clear what that particular piece of content is about. Plus, you can describe who wrote it, on what site it was published, and when. Also, if this article featured recipe, FAQ, or how-to content, for instance, you could let search engines know about this.
This way, search engines get a better understanding of your site. In return, they can use this to help your site get rich results. Considering WordPress SEO, structured data is very essential in this day and age. It used to be hard to add structured data to your site, but with structured data in Yoast SEO, you’ll be all set at ease.
Today, search engines need to make sense of your site and its connections automatically. You only need to make a couple of choices in SEO > Search Appearance. Select Person if your site is a personal site or Organization if it is a business or professional site. Don’t forget to pick or upload the correct logo or avatar.
That’s not all: you can also quickly build specific types of content pages with structured data blocks. These blocks work in the block editor and at the moment, there are two types: FAQs and how-tos. These blocks help you visually build the content while generating valid structured data in the background. Plus, the Schema controls for specifying your page types.
6.3. Internal Linking
While doing WordPress SEO, besides organizing your site, you need to link up your content within your copy. We call this contextual internal linking because these links always appear within the context of a text. Contextual internal links set up a network of pages, which points your users to related content.
For example, in a post on keyword research, linking to an article on SEO copywriting makes a lot of sense. For search engines, these links provide insight into how pages are related to each other as well. Always make sure that the number of links to a page reflects the importance of that page. The ultimate guides get a lot of links from individual posts about related topics.
This helps users and search engines understand that these guides are crucial pillars of our site. When adding a contextual internal link, make sure the link makes sense within the current page’s context. Moreover, always use anchor texts which accurately describe the page you’re linking to.
This provides users and search engines with the context they need to assess whether the link is useful. The internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium helps you connect your content by automatically suggesting relevant links.
6.4. Categories & Tags
WordPress has two default ways of structuring your content: categories and tags. Categories add hierarchy to your content and group topics broadly. On a website about cooking, pasta could be a category. Tags are non-hierarchical and can be used to describe your post in more detail. Dinner party themes, for example, could be a tag.
When setting up your site structure, pick a number of main categories. Adding them to your menu can be a good idea, especially if you only have a blog. If you have a blog and several products, a different setup might make more sense. Make sure your categories are roughly the same size. If your categories become too big, make subcategories.
Your category pages can be great landing pages, especially for eCommerce sites. Tags are useful for users exploring topics, but they are often misapplied. It’s important not to use too many tags, and to use them more than once or twice. Remember, you want to group your content, not just give it a description.
If you want to structure your content differently, WordPress also allows you to create custom taxonomies. Always consider carefully whether your custom taxonomy groups content in a way that makes sense and helps your visitors.
6.5. Archive Pages
If you use categories and tags, you will automatically create archive pages. These pages contain a list of the posts and pages within a certain category or tag. Besides categories and tags, there are date-based archive pages and author archives. These archive pages need managing because they cause SEO problems if you don’t.
First of all, you want to prevent search engines from indexing archive pages that don’t make sense on your site. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for this. You do this under SEO → Search Appearance, where you’ll find the key options on the “Archives” tab.
If your blog is a one-author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use Yoast SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date-based archive: you can disable it. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO.
There is one type of archive that is
noindex,follow by default in the Yoast SEO plugin: your own internal search function result pages. Perse, you can learn more from the blog on the best practice from Google in detail.
Step #7: Speed Up Your WordPress Website
If your website is slow, you risk frustrating your users. That makes them less likely to engage, browse, convert, or visit again. That, in turn, can make them less likely to share your content, link to your pages, or recommend your brand. In short, speed is an important part of WordPress SEO and a huge part of the overall user experience.
That means that it’s critical to measure and manage your performance — especially for users on mobile or slower connections! With Google’s Page Experience update, page speed and user experiences are front and center once again. Offering great performance will continue to become more important by the day. Another sure deal is to consider your site pagination.
If you have many posts on your WordPress site, you might want to think about how your pagination looks and works. Otherwise, you might find that your best content is ‘buried’ deep in your site, and users and search engines may struggle to find it. It would help if you also considered customizing how your pagination looks and works to be a bit more helpful for users and search engines.
7.1. Site Breadcrumbs
For your WordPress SEO strategy to be successful, you’ll probably want to add breadcrumbs to your posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that look like “Home > SEO blog > WordPress SEO“.
Breadcrumbs are good for two things: first, they allow your users to easily navigate your site. Secondly, they allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily. These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one.
To get breadcrumb navigation to show you on your pages, you may need to adapt your single.php and page.php files in your theme, and include the code for breadcrumbs from the Yoast SEO plugin. You find the settings and instructions on how to do that in the SEO → Search Appearance section.
Also, Yoast has a special breadcrumbs block for the block editor. Eventually, it makes it easy to drop in breadcrumbs on any page — without writing code.
7.2. XML Sitemaps
You can use XML sitemaps to tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated. While WordPress finally has native XML sitemaps, our solution is more powerful. The WordPress Yoast SEO Plugin automatically configures your XML sitemaps, so you don’t have to worry about anything. It generates sitemaps for your different post types.
Including your images, and make sure that it generates and loads really quickly. They intelligently split your sitemaps up into smaller bits. So that Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published.
You can check and manage which types of your content, archives, and templates should be included in your XML sitemaps in your SEO → Search Appearance settings. Content types that are set to not show in search results will be automatically excluded from your XML sitemaps.
Lastly, the Yoast XML sitemaps support has a pretty complete API. Whilst, allowing developers to add or change functionality through their plugins and themes. Their own Local SEO, News SEO, and Video SEO extensions (which generate their own, specific sitemaps) are built on this API. And, other plugins frequently build their own solutions on top of our system.
7.3. Site Speed
Measuring the speed of your site can be confusing. Different tools give different scores and results, and sometimes even give conflicting information. That’s why there’s this helpful guide on how to measure your speed — it’ll walk you through the basics of picking the right metrics. In addition to using the right tools for the job when it comes to monitoring and diagnosing issues.
Once you’ve identified what and where your bottlenecks are, the next challenge is to make hosting, theme, plugin, and performance tweaks to speed things up. Page speed optimization is a discipline in its own right and spans well-beyond WordPress SEO. That means that the biggest opportunities will vary from site to site, and situation to situation.
The next thing I’d like you to do is create regular backups. In case your site gets hacked, or something else goes wrong — for instance, when updating a plugin or theme, — it’s important that you revert that change in a heartbeat.
7.4. Harden Setup
Hardening your setup starts with picking the right hosting company for your WordPress website. That’s just the start, as every host will do its best to help you out, but it’ll still be your responsibility to harden your setup.
Also, tools like Cloudflare are good friends for any company/website in this. An easy first step is to limit login attempts. By limiting the number of times people can try to log in to your website — closing your login form after five false logins, for example — you are hardening your install against brute force attacks and other malicious acts targeting that form.
The next thing you need to do is to make sure that your WordPress install, including plugins and themes, is always up-to-date. Updates might fix security issues as well. Make sure to check for updates and keep your WordPress installation up-to-date regularly.
Another important thing to realize is that you deal with security every time you add a new user or writer to your WordPress install. There’s an article in the WordPress Codex regarding Roles and Capabilities you should read. It comes down to giving permissions only to those that need it when they need it and only for the time they need it.
7.5. Monitoring & Logging
Besides WordPress SEO, overall site security is an ongoing process. You need to keep a keen eye on any breaches and keep your website as secure as possible. You could put part of your WordPress security in the hands of, for instance, a company like Sucuri. In case of a hack, they’ll fix this asap. For your own monitoring, you could check your site regularly with their Site check tool.
A couple of plugins can help you secure your WordPress site by, for instance, monitoring files on your server, like WordFence, iThemes, or Sucuri. Pick your plugin of choice as long as you make sure that security is monitored. It can also be useful to just keep track of everything that’s happening on your websites like file changes and logged-in users.
There are several plugins and tools for that as well, like WP Security Audit Log. Keeping track of these things makes sure that you can find irregularities in your install and act on these, or find what happened when in case of a security issue.
Step #8: Your WordPress SEO Should Cater For Mobile Visitors
Take one look around, and you’ll notice that our mobile devices are becoming the de facto way of browsing the web, even when we’re at home, lying on our couch. But, we don’t visit mobile websites — we visit websites. See your mobile and desktop site as one entity. You, as a website owner, need to cater to your visitors.
According to Statcounter, mobile market share surpassed desktop market share almost all of 2018. This means that if you are only optimizing for desktop visitors, you are not optimizing for most of your visitors. Of course, it depends on your specific niche since those numbers could be different. Google Analytics can give you the exact numbers for your site.
With a market share like this, there is no way you can consider your mobile website an ‘extra’. It’s time for mobile SEO. Obviously, you should also make sure that your theme is mobile-friendly. After making sure that your site is fast, make sure your website, or rather your theme, is mobile-friendly.
Making your website mobile-friendly starts with making sure the links are not too close together, and buttons are easily clickable. Your font should be consistent and shouldn’t be too small and your images should not be too big. Both in file size and dimensions.
8.1. Mobile Users
Take a step back and look at your website: what do your users want to do here? Define the four to six main tasks your user performs on your website and focus on these. Maybe even give the most important task a big fat call-to-action button. Here’s an example: If you have a local business, the two main tasks might be calling you or finding the directions to your business.
That means you could add these as a special mobile menu, for instance — some bar that is visible all the time. Focus on your visitor’s main tasks and make their life as easy as possible. How to find these top tasks? Ask your visitors! Also, check Google Analytics for the most visited pages on your mobile website. More about Analytics further down this article.
8.2. Responsive Design
Responsive design means that the design of your website adapts to the screen size your visitor is using. You can do this by using specific CSS media queries. We wrote about the responsive design way back when, but on the basis, things are still the same. You have to address certain ranges of screen widths and design for those.
Most WordPress themes are now responsive. Depending on the part of the world you are targeting, no, depending on how fast their mobile internet is (2G? Already at 5G?), you might want to change a couple of things. Think about how you use images on your site. Are you using any text enhancements or font variations?
Well, you need to know that some of them might hinder the good performance of the mobile website. Responsive design helps you build a more focused website. Responsive design brings us to the next optimization element — AMP-ready and UX-enabled web design.
8.3. AMP Ready
If you are using WordPress, you could serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well. AMP is a 2015 initiative by Google and some major publishers. It allows for fast mobile pages and does so by stripping some of the design. AMP these days is used for both static content and dynamic content like news articles.
AMP has pretty strict code requirements, so be sure to validate your AMP pages frequently. One of the challenges you as a website owner might have is to make sure the AMP version of your website aligns with your branding. Make sure your visitor — used to visiting your desktop/responsive website — still clearly understands that he or she is visiting your pages.
Luckily, the difference between designs on all these platforms can be minimalized. If you are looking to kick-start the AMP version of your WordPress website, be sure to check the official AMP plugin. It’ll add an AMP version of your website after installation.
8.4. Web Tools
Of course, there is plenty of other useful WordPress SEO and web tools to get valuable insights into your website and find SEO opportunities. Everyone has their own favorite tools, so it’s important to start playing with different tools to find out what tool brings you what you need most.
There are all-in-one SEO tools that give you a complete overview of your performance, and there are more in-depth tools that give you more specific data. Think about site speed tools, duplicate content tools, site analysis tools, keyword research tools, etc.
Useful Web Tools:
Always remember, there are so many other WordPress SEO and web tools that you can utilize for the wellness of your site ranking. You just need to do thorough online research, test and settle on the ones that best fulfill your SEO audit needs.
Step #9: Analyze And Improve Your Site Performance
A good SEO campaign relies not only on implementing changes but also on measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works, and doing more of that. Google has developed two amazing tools to analyze the results of your website and to identify new opportunities where you could focus on in the future.
The first one, for analyzing results, is Google Analytics. By adding Google Analytics to your website, you make sure all user data will be stored in your own account. You can, for instance, check how many visits your pages get, how many of your visitors convert, how many visitors immediately leave your website after landing on a certain page, and much more.
Within Google Analytics, you can see how visitors behave on your website. Here’s how to track your SEO with Google Analytics. The second tool is meant to analyze how your website performs and to see how visitors find you in the search engine. That tool is Google Search Console.
By exporting and sorting through your search queries and impression data, it’s easy to identify opportunities where you could focus on improving clickthrough rates, content, and/or rankings.
9.1. Google Analytics
To start with Google Analytics, you need to create an account. Click the ‘Start for free’ button to start. To set up your account, you need to add an Account Name first. This could be your company name. However, when you add other websites to your account, we recommend choosing a more generic Account Name.
Also, you can always change your Account Name later when you want to. After setting up your account, it’s time to add a property: the website you want to add. Insert the Website Name and the Website URL. Make sure you add the precise URL: http:// or https:// and with or without www for collecting the right data.
After setting up your property, you can choose for yourself to enable some of the data sharing settings. Each data sharing option gives you a clear explanation of what you will be sharing, enabling it. And now, you’re almost ready to go! The last step to connect your website to your new Google Analytics account is adding the tracking code to your website.
After successfully creating your account and adding a new property, you’ll see a screen with your Google Analytics tracking code on top. This tag needs to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this within WordPress is by installing a Google Analytics plugin such as the MonsterInsights Plugin for WordPress.
9.2. Search Console
While installing the MonsterInsights plugin, you don’t need to touch the actual code of your website to connect with Google Analytics. You simply install and activate the plugin, insert your tracking ID, and you’re set! You can also use Google’s Site Kit WordPress plugin to get data from Analytics and Search Console in your backend.
For more technical readers, it’s also possible to add the tag manually to the head of every webpage or to add the tag to Google Tag Manager. Now your website is connected to Google Analytics, it will start collecting data of your users. Start clicking around to see what all can be found within the data.
Or rather, start reading one of the blog posts about Google Analytics for helpful tips. Forthwith, the second tool to think is important to set up is Google Search Console. I recommend going through all steps and you will be all set!
In brief, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Create or sign in to your Google Search Console account.
- Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
- Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
- Verify your website — within the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily copy and paste the meta tag to make it work.
After connecting your website to Google Search Console, it will start collecting data about the performance of your website.
Step #10: Promote Your Overall Web Business Presence
Now that you are through with the basic WordPress SEO strategy, it’s time to start promoting your site. You put a lot of time and effort into your site’s content and make sure that readers can find it via search engines, thanks to SEO. But there are other ways to get people to visit your WordPress site and read your posts.
But, how do you get and grow such an audience? Simply writing posts and putting these out there won’t do the trick: you need to promote your site! The first line is to grow your outreach. Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. You should be active on the social media channels where your (potential) audience is present.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are examples of popular social media. It might be a lot to decide on, so you can find out more in the blog post on social media strategy: where to begin?
10.1. Users Engagement
It’s always fun to interact with your readers, but how do you get them to engage? With engagement, we mean all the different ways people can interact with your post. It could be leaving a comment, sharing it on social media, or taking action on the topic in general. But, how do you get people to engage?
Well, you can always ask them! Write engagingly, and then ask your readers for their opinion. Then respond to these comments to keep the conversation going and build a relationship with your readers. Engagement also benefits SEO, as it shows that your site is alive and active. To dive deeper into blog engagement, you can read this post on how you can increase blog engagement.
10.2. Amplify Content
The number of blog posts published every day is enormous, which is why it’s becoming much harder to stand out. Your articles have a big chance of getting lost in the vast sea of content. To help your content reach its full potential you need to amplify it. If your content is original and well-structured, you’re probably able to reach new audiences.
Take a look at how you can reach new audiences, beyond your organic reach. Maybe advertising on Facebook or Instagram might be a good way to reach new audiences for your content? Analyze what channels you already use and decide where you can do more to broaden your audience.
10.3. Newsletters List
In addition to using social media to promote your blog, it’s often a good idea to invest in a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and other fun facts. Ensure that you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website.
Make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. But, most of all, make sure your newsletter is truly something special! That’s it! You now have a clear picture of how to go about your WordPress SEO audit. You’ve got all the tools you’ll need in order to make your site rank higher in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) like Google.
Overall, this guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do in terms of your WordPress SEO needs. It goes from technical SEO tips to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch, though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.
Rember, you’re competing with every other website and business on the planet for attention, visitors, and outcomes. Meaning, you have to put in a lot of hard work and keep your site SEO fit. But, don’t worry — we’re always here to help, whenever need be.
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For your information, we’re a results-driven web SEO agency in Kenya, delivering high-performing SEO campaigns for clients in E.Africa, and internationally. We work with ambitious business owners and marketing managers to deliver cutting-edge, commercially-focused SEO campaigns. Our SEO Specialists have expertise in providing SEO campaigns for all.
From eCommerce sites, service solution givers, SaaS businesses, WordPress SEO for local businesses, etc. I am quite sure that you won’t find a team anywhere else out there that cares as much about your business as we do. For one thing, we believe in building relationships with our clients based on trust, and we’re genuinely invested in getting you results.
Related Topic: Why Plagiarism Free Content Matters In SEO | 5 Basic Tips
Finally, start optimizing your WordPress site using the topmost tactics and SEO best practices today, with our consultation. Whereby, we’ll help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers or sales, and have a better website in general. Make sure that you follow all the outlined guides in this article to the letter.
But, if you’ll need more support, you can Consult Us and let us know how we can help you. By the same token, you’re free to share your additional thoughts, contributions, suggestions, or even more WordPress SEO-related questions in our comments section.
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