While it’s easy to create your own WordPress website, customizing it for SEO is a whole different story. It is difficult to know how to proceed and exactly which steps to take in order to achieve an edge over other websites. This is especially true for beginners who have no knowledge of SEO.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial to the success of your website. Better optimization ensures your website ranks higher in the search engine results page (SERP). Although WordPress comes with equipped features that can help you improve the SEO of your website, there is always a room for improvement.
Read below to learn the steps you can take to optimize your WordPress website for SEO. This field is constantly changing, so don’t forget to update your knowledge and apply changes in your SEO strategy regularly.
1. Take care of the basics
Before you make your blog go live, make sure you have everything sorted out. You don’t want others visiting your web page while its still under construction. So, make sure to enable the “discourage search engines from indexing this site” option. This will not allow the search engines to crawl your website. This option can be found in “Settings” – “General” page in your WordPress admin panel.
After doing this step, give some love to your website, preparing it for new visitors and search engines indexation. Create your site with a professional WordPress theme, and add some relevant content on your website. Make sure the site looks presentable before enabling the indexing option again. When you’ll be ready to publish your website, don’t forget to disable this option!
2. Set up an .xml sitemap
Although this feature doesn’t directly boost the popularity of your website, it makes sure that the search engines have an easier time indexing your website.
A .xml sitemap is a list of all the pages of your website. Better optimization ensures that your website is crawled more effectively by the search engines. This makes your website more visible on the web.
You can download and install a .xml sitemap plugin like “Google XML sitemaps” to generate a .xml sitemap of your website. The .xml format helps to index your website faster and easier.
You can also use the “Yoast SEO” plugin which will automatically generate a .xml sitemap.
3. Optimize the permalinks
All the static URLs that lead to specific posts on your website are known as permalinks. By default, their structure is
http://www.example.com/?p=[id] and this is not SEO friendly, unfortunately. It can also look confusing to your visitors.
You should change the permalink structure in a way that it contains some of the same keywords as the title of that post. By including the focus keywords in you permalink you can also increase the chance of targeting a particular segment of the audience who are relevant to your niche.
Permalink structure can be changed in “Settings” – “Permalinks” in your WordPress website:
4. Use external SEO plugins
You can find thousands of WordPress plugins online and all of them are designed to make your life easier. However, an SEO plugin can also be your best buddy. If you have limited knowledge of SEO, using plugins like “Yoast SEO” or “All-In-One SEO Pack” can help you immensely.
These tools will guide you to improve the SEO of your whole website. They will help you to optimize your titles, keywords, meta description, set categories, tags or archives and even help with link canonicalization.
Yoast SEO plugin also comes with a built-in feature that checks your posts readability, so you can improve your writing skills and make your website content even better for your readers.
5. Use proper keywords
Keywords are the most basic thing to attract your target audience. These are the search terms that people use to find any content they are interested to read. So make sure your focus keywords are related to the content you are writing. Your online content creation should be reliant on keywords definitely.
People search on the internet for a lot of things every day, and the most commonly used search terms are generally taken as keywords. In order to rank your blog higher in the search engine results page (SERP), you must insert some popular keywords in your articles. Doing so increases the probability of your website appearing higher in the search results whenever someone is searching for something using those particular set of keywords.
However, make sure not to overdo it as it can result in a penalty from the search engines. You must also remember to include these keywords naturally in the content. Otherwise, it can hamper readability of the content, and you’ll simply lose your customers.
Also, make sure to get in the habit of following trends and research the most popular search terms before writing any content, being aware of the most searched terms.
6. Use Caching Plugins to speed-up your website
Caching plugins are the most preferred way to speed up your website, besides choosing a decent host. These plugins decrease the page load time by caching static and dynamic content on your website. The most amazing and popular caching plugins are “WP Super Cache” and “W3 Total Cache”. These can cache your web pages, database or minimize the size of pictures to help speed up your website.
Thus, a good cache plugin can result in a better user experience and ensures that your website loads quickly. This, in turn, helps to rank your website higher in the search results.
7. Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A content delivery network distributes the static content on your website to various global servers. After doing this, whenever somebody tries to visit your website, the data is taken from the nearest servers.
This significantly cuts down on load times and gives your website a huge boost in terms of performance. There are both free and paid alternatives for you to choose from. Some popular CDN networks include CloudFlare and MaxCDN. By improving the speed of your website you can also gain an edge over your competitors.
8. Use a good, fast hosting
Sometimes even after optimizing the hell out of your website, you may not see any improvement in page loading times. If so, it’s time you change your web host. Besides the content on your blog, search engines also take faster server into consideration, so it’s definitely worth to take a closer look at this thing.
The long website loading time won’t get you to the top of search results definitely. If your host is not able to provide satisfactory loading times, it’s time to bid them goodbye and move on to a better and faster web hosting service.
Another important thing is to take care about your WordPress website security, to make sure that it’s safe and will display correctly for all your users.
9. Insert both internal and external links
You need to show the search engines how your website content relates to other websites on the internet. This helps them to learn what your website is about and this way they are able to serve your website to your target audience more accurately.
You can do this either by linking your own articles with one another or by linking to external websites with similar content. When you provide more relevant information to your readers, it helps to build engagement and can also increase your website rank as a result. Isn’t it cool?
However, don’t link unnecessary websites and cram the whole content with links. Links are useful, but only when used correctly and judiciously. You need to incorporate them naturally into the content. Don’t force them in as it can seem spammy.
Also, if you’re using external links, make sure to link only high-quality content, because anything less won’t be appreciated.
10. Set unrelated or useless external Links as NoFollow
Links are crucial in helping search engines decide which pages hold the most relevant information. Whenever you’re linking to other websites, you’re passing on some of your SEO score to them since users are leaving your site.
In order to secure a good ranking, you must keep in mind to score more points than your giving away. You can use the nofollow attribute, which will prevent the search engine from crawling the external links.
Similarly, set unrelated or useless external links like RSS feed or ads as NoFollow to stop them from being crawled.
11. Properly arrange the categories and tags
Proper organization is the key to the success of any website. Having a lot of information won’t do you any good if the users or the search engines can’t find it efficiently. Arrange your categories and tags accordingly so that the search engines can understand the structure of your website in a better way. This also lets your readers find relevant content more easily.
12. Optimize your comments
Comments are a powerful tool for raising your blog’s rankings. A more interactive comment section invites more traffic and encourages more links back to your website, thereby increasing improving your SEO.
However, comments can be a double-edged sword. Spammers can fill your comment section with links, and this can take affect and downright destroy your website rankings. This can also annoy your audience.
To reduce the spam in your comments, you can use plugins like “Akismet”, set links in the comment section as NoFollow, and definitely moderate all comments before publishing it.
13. Utilize the Google Search Console
The Google Search Console, formerly known as the “Webmaster Tools” is the must-use tool for all website owners. Let’s say that you have been working on your site for quite some time and want to know how it is perceived by the search engines. The Google Search Console helps you by providing data and reports about how your website appears in search results.
Not only that, but it also shows you the list of the keywords that are bringing traffic to your website. You will also know the ranks of your pages in the search results and how often people use the keywords to find your website.
This feature is extremely helpful as it lets you experiment with various ideas and helps you to determine what works best on your website. As an added bonus, the search console also alerts you in case of any dangers such as when the crawlers are not able to crawl your web pages. It also traces the duplicate content, restricted content and much more. Thus, it makes sense to use Google Search Console periodically in order to audit your website.
Hope it helps!
Search Engine Optimization is a huge field in the internet industry and should be known by all website owners. The most important is to all the time optimize your website – it’s content, loading time and usability, and also to gain more links from external websites following search engines rules (the “White hat” way).