You recently created a WordPress website for your business. Everything went well during the development process, and you were happy with the end result.
You had such high hopes for it. But after a few months, you realize that the site isn’t getting the traffic you envisioned. It’s not even ranking on Google.
What went wrong?
The answer is most likely your WordPress SEO strategy—or lack thereof.
Let’s start with the basics.
The Basics of WordPress SEO
WordPress SEO can be technical but not complicated. Just getting a few basics right should be enough to give you a considerable boost in traffic.
You don’t necessarily have to be a tech genius or hire an expensive SEO agency to do this. If you already know your way around WordPress, you can easily handle the basics of WordPress SEO yourself.
Let’s take a look at some of the most basic yet essential WordPress SEO tips.
1. Check Your Website’s Visibility Settings
The first thing you need to do is check your website’s visibility settings.
By default, WordPress comes with pretty decent SEO settings.
However, there is one setting in particular that you need to check.
Go to Settings → Reading in your WordPress dashboard and make sure that the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” option is unchecked.
If it’s checked, search engines are discouraged from indexing your website. As a result, your site won’t show up in the SERPs.
Don’t forget to click on “Save Changes” after unchecking the option.
2. Use SEO-Friendly URLs
An SEO-friendly URL is a URL that is easy to read and contains keywords that describe the content on the page.
Here’s an example of an SEO-friendly URL:
And here’s an example of a non-SEO friendly URL:
The first URL is shorter, contains keywords, and is easy to read. The second URL is long, difficult to read, and doesn’t include any keywords.
It’s pretty obvious which one is better for SEO.
If your WordPress site uses non-SEO-friendly URLs, you need to change that ASAP. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do.
Go to Settings → Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard.
Under the “Common Settings” section, select “Post name.”
Click on “Save Changes.”
That’s it. Your WordPress site will now start using SEO-friendly URLs.
You want to do this early because if you wait too long, Google may have already indexed your non-SEO-friendly URLs. Plus, you risk losing traffic all your social media share counts.
If that happens, you need to set up a 301 redirect from your old URL to your new one.
It’s an extra step that you can avoid by using SEO-friendly URLs from the get-go.
3. www vs. non-www
The next thing you need to do is decide whether you want to use “www” in your domain name or not.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it actually is.
If you don’t configure this correctly, search engines will see your website as two separate sites.
As a result, you’ll end up splitting your link equity and search engine rankings between the two versions.
The idea is to pick one version and stick with it.
To do this, go to settings → general in your WordPress dashboard.
Under the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” options, you can choose whether or not to use “www” in your domain name.
Your WordPress URL must be the same as the Site URL.
Once you’ve decided, don’t forget to click “Save Changes.”
From an SEO standpoint, there’s no advantage to using one over the other. So, it really doesn’t matter which one you choose. Just make sure that you’re consistent with it.
If you’re unsure which one to pick, I recommend using the version without “www.” It’s shorter and looks a little better.
The Best SEO Plugin for WordPress
To take your WordPress SEO to the next level, you need a good SEO plugin. While there are tons of plugins, my favourite is Yoast SEO.
It’s a comprehensive SEO solution that covers everything from on-page optimization to technical stuff like XML sitemaps and robots.txt files.
Plus, it’s free and easy to use.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the things Yoast SEO can do for your WordPress site:
- Generate an XML sitemap
- Help you optimize your title and meta descriptions
- Give you the ability to add Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Card tags
- Let you control what shows up in SERPs with the Snippet Preview feature
- And much more…
An alternative to Yoast SEO is the All-in-One SEO Pack. It’s a solid plugin with many of the same features as Yoast SEO.
AISEO is the original SEO plugin for WordPress. It was created in 2007 and has been downloaded over 3 million times. So, it’s definitely popular.
The main advantage of AISEO over Yoast SEO is that it’s easier to use. You might find AISEO a little less intimidating if you’re a beginner.
Both plugins are excellent choices. So, it comes down to personal preference.
If you want more control and customization options, go with Yoast SEO. If you want something easier to use, go with AISEO.
Add XML Sitemaps in WordPress
XML sitemaps are a powerful way to improve your WordPress SEO. They’re a map of your website that helps search engines find and index all your content.
It’s a specially formatted file that lists all your website’s URLs and important information about each page (like when it was last updated).
The great thing about XML sitemaps is that they make it easier for search engines to find and index all your content.
It’s like having an interactive table of contents for your website.
There are two ways to add XML sitemaps in WordPress:
- Using a plugin
- Manually adding the code to your WordPress site
If you want an easier option, I recommend using a plugin like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack. These plugins will automatically generate and submit your XML sitemap to Google and Bing for you.
While adding an XML sitemap isn’t technically required, it’s highly recommended.
Also, it also doesn’t boost your site’s ranking in the SERPs, but it does make it easier for Google and other search engines to find and index your content.
If you want to add an XML sitemap to your WordPress site, I recommend using an SEO plugin such as Yoast or AISEO.
Both plugins have built-in support for XML sitemaps. So, all you need to do is install and activate the plugin, and then the sitemap will be automatically generated.
To find your sitemap, go to yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.
Once you have your sitemap, the next step is to submit it to Google Search Console.
Add Your Site to Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and improve your website’s SEO.
It’s essential for any WordPress site that wants to rank higher in the search engines.
Some of the things you can do with Google Search Console include:
- Submit your sitemap
- Find and fix crawl errors
- Monitor your website’s backlinks
- See how often your site appears in Google search results
- See what search terms people are using to find your website
- And much more…
If you haven’t already, I recommend adding your WordPress site to Google Search Console. It’s a simple process that will only take you a few minutes.
Go to Google Search Console (GSC) Get Started and log in with your Google account to get started.
Once logged in, click the “Add a property” button.
Enter your website’s URL on the next screen and click the “Add” button.
Google will now verify that you own the website. There are a few different ways to do this, but the easiest is to upload an HTML file to your website’s root directory.
Once you’ve verified your ownership, you can start using all the features of Google Search Console.
I highly recommend exploring all the different things you can do with this powerful service.
For now, though, let’s focus on submitting your sitemap.
Go to the “Sitemaps” section and click the “Add/Test Sitemap” button.
On the next screen, enter your sitemap URL (yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) and click the “Submit” button.
That’s all there is to it. Google will now start indexing your website’s content.
Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO
Your work has only begun once you’ve installed an SEO plugin and added your website to Google Search Console.
To make the most of WordPress SEO, you need to start optimizing your blog posts for search engines.
All top SEO plugins (like Yoast and AISEO) come with built-in content analysers that help you optimize your posts for SEO.
For example, here’s what the Yoast SEO content analyser looks like:
As you can see, the plugin allows you to add things like your post’s title, meta description, and focus keyword.
It then analyses your content and gives you a score based on how well you’ve optimized your post for SEO.
The plugin also provides recommendations on how you can improve your content.
So, if you’re not using an SEO plugin yet, I highly recommend getting one. It will make it a lot easier to optimize your content for the search engines.
Do Keyword Research
Many beginner SEOs make the mistake of picking the first keyword they think of and then optimizing their content for that keyword.
That’s not the right way to do things.
You want to begin by doing thorough keyword research. That will help you find the right keywords to target for your SEO strategy.
Find out what words people are typing into the search engines when looking for information on your topic.
You can then use those keywords in your website content and blog posts to attract more traffic from search engines.
A good keyword research tool can make all the difference in your SEO efforts. I recommend using a tool like Longtail Pro, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, or KWFinder.
These tools will help you find low-competition keywords for which you can easily rank in the search engines.
Best WordPress SEO Practises to Follow in 2022
Basic WordPress practices will only get you so far.
To take your WordPress SEO to the next level, you must follow more advanced WordPress SEO practices.
Nothing too technical or complicated – just a few simple tweaks that can make a big difference in your website’s search engine rankings.
So, without further ado, here are the best WordPress SEO practices to follow in 2022:
1. Using Categories and Tags Correctly
Categories and tags are two important elements of your website’s taxonomy.
They help you organize your content and make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for.
However, they can also help you improve your WordPress SEO.
That’s because search engines use these taxonomies to understand your blog post topic and determine which keywords to rank it for.
Categories are a broad grouping of your blog posts, while tags are more specific.
For example, let’s say you have a blog about WordPress themes.
Your categories could be something like “Free WordPress Themes” and “Premium WordPress Themes.”
And your tags could be things like “responsive WordPress themes” or “WooCommerce themes.”
It’s important to use both correctly if you want to improve your WordPress SEO.
Here are a few tips:
- Only create categories and tags when it makes sense to do so. Don’t force it just for the sake of SEO.
- Make sure your categories and tags are relevant to your blog post.
- Use descriptive names for your categories and tags. Don’t stuff keywords in there just for the sake of it.
- Don’t create too many categories or tags. A few well-chosen ones are better than a bunch of irrelevant ones.
- Don’t overuse categories and tags. Stick to 1-2 relevant categories/tags per post.
- Create a hierarchy of categories and tags. That will help users and search engines navigate your website more easily.
2. Make Internal Linking a Habit
Not every page on your website is created equal.
That’s why Google scores each page differently, assigning “Page Authority.”
Some pages have a higher Page Authority than others.
These are the pages that Google is more likely to rank highly in the search results.
So, it stands to reason that you want to link to these high-authority pages from your other blog posts and pages.
That’s called internal linking, and it’s a powerful way to improve your WordPress SEO.
It also gives readers a way to find related content on your website.
It’s a win-win-win situation.
Here are a few tips for internal linking:
- Link to high-quality, relevant content.
- Use keyword-rich anchor text.
- You don’t want to overdo it. 2 to 3 internal links per post should be enough.
- Add internal links when they make sense. Don’t force it just for the sake of SEO.
Internal linking is even easier with a tool like AIO SEO.
It automatically analyses your blog post and suggests relevant pages to link to. You can then approve or ignore the suggestions with just a few clicks.
3. Optimize Your WordPress Comments
WordPress comments can be a great way to encourage engagement and build relationships with your readers.
And the more engaged your users are, the more they will likely link to your site and share your content.
The best way to do this is using a WordPress plugin like Akismet.
Akismet checks all comments against a massive spam database and filters out the ones that are likely to be spam.
It’s highly effective and is what we use here at MediaOne.
We also recommend that you moderate all comments before they’re published.
That helps to keep the spam comments out and ensures that only high-quality comments are published on your site.
To moderate comments, go to Settings » Discussion in your WordPress admin area.
Then, select the “Comment must be manually approved” option.
You can also add keywords that will automatically mark a comment as spam.
These are usually words like “viagra” or “casino.”
4. NoFollow External Links
When you link to another website, you’re essentially vouching for that site.
You’re telling your readers that you trust that site and think it has good content.
Of course, not every site is worth linking to.
And there are some sites that you might not want to vouch for.
That’s why it’s a good idea to use the rel= “nofollow” attribute on some external links.
That tells search engines not to follow that link.
In other words, it doesn’t pass any PageRank or authority from your site to the linked site.
A normal external link looks like this:
A nofollow link would look like this:
<a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>Example</a>
You can also use the nofollow attribute on internal links, but it’s not as important.
Google’s official position is that they count nofollow links for ranking purposes.
However, they don’t pass as much link equity as dofollow links.
No-following comments is a good idea if you don’t moderate them.
That prevents spam comments from passing link equity to bad sites.
By default, WordPress comments are nofollow.
But if you wish to change that, you must install the “Remove NoFollow” plugin.
After installing and activating the plugin, go to Settings and check » Remove NoFollow attributes from comments.
5. Full Posts Vs. Summaries or Excerpts
WordPress has two options for displaying blog posts on your homepage and category pages.
You can either show the full post or a summary with a “Read More” link.
If you have a lot of content on your site, then showing full posts may not be a good idea.
It would make your blog page very long and difficult to read.
A better option would be to show summaries or excerpts and then link to the full post.
That gives your readers a taste of what the post is about and encourages them to click through to read the rest.
Go to Settings » Reading in your WordPress admin area to change this.
Then, under “For each article in a feed, include,” select “Excerpt.”
6. Speed and Security: The Two Most Important Factors in WordPress SEO.
A slow site can frustrate users and cause them to click away.
That will, in turn, hurt your traffic and search engine rankings.
It’s the same with security.
A hacked site will be blacklisted by Google, causing a dramatic drop in traffic.
So, it’s important to ensure your site is fast and secure.
There are several ways to do this.
- Choose a good WordPress hosting company
- Pick a light and fast WordPress theme
- Use a content delivery network
- Optimize your images
- Use a caching plugin
- Minimize the use of plugins
- Reduce the number of HTTP requests
- Add an SSL certificate
- Keep your WordPress site updated
7. Optimizing Images for WordPress SEO
Images are an important part of any website.
They can make your content more visually appealing and easy to understand.
But if not properly optimized, they can also slow down your site.
That calls for you to be careful with how you use images on your site.
Here are some tips for optimizing images for WordPress SEO:
- Use descriptive file names
- Use the ALT attribute
- Choose the right file format
- Optimize your images
- Use a content delivery network
- Lazy load your images
- Make sure your site is responsive
- Add structured data
We recommend using the WP Smush plugin to optimize your images.
It’s a free plugin that automatically optimizes images as you upload them to your WordPress site.
Enabling Gzip Compression in WordPress
Gzip is a type of compression that reduces the size of files sent from your server to a user’s browser.
An alternative plugin would be Envira Gallery. It’s a powerful image gallery plugin that can help you create beautiful photo galleries and albums.
8. Install an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are not just for eCommerce sites.
They’re also a good idea for any site that collects personal information from users.
That includes contact forms, login forms, and comments.
An SSL certificate encrypts the data sent between your server and a user’s browser.
That prevents hackers from being able to intercept and read the data.
Installing an SSL certificate is not difficult.
But it is something you’ll need to do through your WordPress hosting company.
Once installed, you can enable it in your WordPress settings.
To do this, go to Settings » General and scroll down to the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” fields.
Then, add https:// to the beginning of both URLs.
Don’t forget to save your changes.
You should see a green padlock in your browser’s address bar when you’re done.
That indicates that your site is now being served over HTTPS.
If you want to take WordPress security a step further, we recommend that you install a security plugin like Sucuri or Wordfence.
These plugins offer features like malware scanning, firewalls, and intrusion detection.
They can also help you block malicious traffic and bots.