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One of the reasons you have chosen WordPress as your website’s CMS might be because you have read that it is SEO-friendly out of the box. In fact, you simply have to check out WordPress' own list of 'powerful features' on their homepage to see that they are proud that the platform is SEO-friendly:
But that doesn’t mean that simply launching a WordPress website is enough to rank at the highest of the search engines. you continue to need to understand the right SEO tactics to use and how to implement these, but the great news is that WordPress makes this easy to do and makes it easier for beginners to grow their traffic from Google.
The platform has many features that adhere to SEO best practices to form your life easier, meaning you'll focus your efforts on the tasks which make a real difference to your rankings and organic visibility.
Below, you'll find our top WordPress SEO tips to help you optimize your website and enjoy SEO success. But only one quick word of warning first — these tips and tricks apply to those of you running self-hosted WordPress sites, not the hosted WordPress.com version of the platform.
What Is Wordpress?
WordPress is that the world’s most popular content management system, which runs 35% of the whole internet and powers many of the websites you likely browse every single day, including BBC America, Time.com, and TechCrunch. Even The Rolling Stones use WordPress for his or her official website. If it works for these global giants, you'll see why it’s the go-to for many website developers.
WordPress started off as a blogging platform in 2003 but quickly pivoted to become a powerful and flexible solution to run entire websites, and in 2020, it's also capable of being used as an eCommerce solution.
But why did WordPress become so popular?
For many, it's because:
It s simple and straightforward to use. You don’t have to be a developer to launch a WordPress website, and it's extremely user-friendly, even for beginners.
It is flexible and adaptable. With literally thousands of themes available (including many free options), you'll tailor WordPress to your needs, while also extending the core functionality with one among more than 55,000 plugins available. The platform also can host fully bespoke themes, if you're an experienced PHP developer, want to find out the language or choose to employ the services of a professional to turn a custom design into a stand-out site.
There is an amazing community. WordPress is open-source, and therefore the community behind the platform is simply amazing. From support forums to easy-to-follow documentation, there's always help at hand, however simple or complex the difficulty may be.
Of course, it isn’t the proper platform for everyone, and there are times when there could also be other CMS options that are better suited to your individual needs. Commonly cited disadvantages and cons of WordPress usually relate to the necessity for frequent updates, potential vulnerabilities (if you're not keeping your site updated), and a touch bit of a learning curve to launch bespoke themes. except for the most, it's an extremely powerful platform and one which also gives you great foundations for SEO success.
What Is Wordpress SEO?
WordPress on its own isn’t a replacement for a solid SEO strategy, and while there's no denying that the CMS saves you time and helps you to adhere to best practices without experience, you would like to understand that you need to put in the effort to rank your website on Google.
Your choice of CMS doesn’t dictate whether or not you'll rank well unless your site suffers from extensive technical issues that stop it from being crawled and indexed. You shouldn’t think that WordPress may be a magic weapon without further effort; it requires time and effort. SEO can get technical very quickly, but the sweetness of WordPress makes it easily accessible to those who aren’t experienced or even those who don’t class themselves as being technical.
Just because you are using WordPress doesn’t mean the SEO tactics you use will change. you continue to need to create great content, earn great links, and make sure that your site is well-optimized and free from technical issues that could hold it back. But WordPress helps you to require care of, out of the box, many of the SEO basics which help your site to rank, and what you'll find below are tips and tricks which help you to implement growth-driving tactics specifically on the platform. Getting Started: Wordpress SEO Basics
Before you find out how to properly optimize your WordPress site and start to increase your organic traffic, there are some basics that you need to make sure you have covered to be confident that you are working with a solid build.
1. Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider
You need to make sure you are hosting your site with a reliable provider — site speed, uptime, and security are all key reasons to think twice about who you will use as your host.
Site speed features a direct impact on your WordPress site’s SEO performance, and both poor uptime and security vulnerabilities may result in site quality issues. Don’t be tempted to travel for the cheapest option, as you're more likely to suffer from performance issues.
WordPress themselves recommend three hosting providers, and it is sensible to consider these options if you are not sure where to start.
2. Install an SEO-friendly WordPress Theme
When you first install WordPress, you'll almost certainly see the platform’s default ‘Twenty Twenty’ theme. However, likelihood is that this isn’t one you will want to use for your site.
There are actually thousands of free themes available straight from the dashboard and many more premium themes, you would like to choose carefully, otherwise you could end up using one which isn’t SEO friendly.
While many themes claim to be SEO-friendly, it's not uncommon for themes to come bundled with scripts and plugins that you will not use, which will slow your site’s performance down. Before installing a topic , run its demo through Google’s web.dev tool to urge insights on potential performance and SEO issues.
This should at least give you the confidence that you are choosing a theme that is not going to hold you back.
3. Install a Free WordPress SEO Plugin
Before you start to optimize your site, you would like to install an SEO plugin. Luckily, there are a pair of main options which come commonly recommended, both of which are liberal to install:
- Yoast SEO
- All in One SEO Pack
For the aim of this guide, we'll be using Yoast, but take a glance at our best WordPress plugins for SEO guide for both free and paid options.
Please note, a plugin won’t optimize your site for you; it just makes it easier for you to try to to blog SEO and to adhere to best practices.
One way to install a plugin on WordPress is to log in to the admin panel and navigate to the ‘add new’ plugin page down the left-hand menu: Plugins > Add new
Once you're there, look for the plugin which you want to install and hit ‘install now.’
Once it's installed, you would like to activate the plugin. we'll be installing additional plugins as we work through our top WordPress SEO tips. to work out other ways to install a WP plugin, visit this guide.
4. Set Your Preferred Domain
Whether you select your preferred domain as https://domain.com or https://www.domain.com won’t have an impression on your SEO, but you would like to make sure your site is accessible on just one of these, as these are considered by Google to vary URLs.
The other domain version will then be redirected to your preferred domain. If you're launching a new website, be happy to choose either option, but if you're replacing an existing site, make certain to use the same version you have historically used.
As a side note to the present , you would like to make sure you have an SSL certificate in place and run your website use HTTPS. If you haven’t got a certificate installed, speak together with your hosting provider or developer or explore the free Let’s Encrypt solution.
5. Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings
WordPress gives you the power to ‘discourage search engines from indexing’ your site, which essentially means it won’t rank. this is often commonly used by developers while a site is in development to stop it from being indexed while pages and content are not complete.
It is more common than you would think to find that this block is left in place after launch. you would like to check your site’s visibility settings under: Settings > Reading.
6. Enable SEO Friendly Permalinks
WordPress gives you variety of different options for how URLs are structured, and you would like to make sure you are using the most SEO-friendly option.
By default, WordPress uses URLs like this:https://domain.com/?p=123. These URLs aren't search engine-friendly, and there's absolutely no way to even begin to identify what the page is about from the URL alone.
Luckily, you'll choose a custom URL structure at: Settings > Permalinks
7. Verify Your Site with Google Search Console & Submit Your XML Sitemap
If you’ve not previously done so, you’ll have to verify your site with Google Search Console. If you've got never done this before, you'll learn how to do so in our definitive guide to Google Search Console.
Follow the verification steps listed and choose the ‘HTML tag’ method. From there, skip to the Yoast plugin: SEO > General > Webmaster Tools.
Once you've got verified your site, you would like to submit your XML sitemap by heading to the ‘Sitemaps’ tab. (Yoast generates an XML sitemap by default — check domain.com/sitemap.xml)
WordPress SEO Tips: Optimizing Pages & Posts
Once you've got implemented the WordPress SEO basics, you're ready to get started optimizing your site and working through the things that will make a real difference to how you rank.
First, we'd like to look at how to approach SEO when optimizing pages and posts before sharing a number of advanced tips and tactics you can use to take your site to the next level.
8. perform Keyword Research
Without keyword research, you're not going to know which search terms you should be optimizing your site’s content for. In fact, keyword research should come at the beginning of any SEO project and be used to plan your site content and on-page optimization.
You can use our Keyword Overview tool to identify the keywords you should be using and optimizing for.
To learn how to use SEMrush to carry out keyword research in more detail, take a glance at this guide.
Whether you're starting to optimize your site from scratch or are creating new content, knowing the keywords you're trying to rank the page for is essential.
9. Install the SEO Writing Assistant by SEMrush Plugin & Create Great Content
Before you begin creating or optimizing the content across your site, install our SEO Writing Assistant plugin (also available as a Google Docs add-on). As you write (or review) content, the plugin will facilitate your to ensure that it is written in an SEO-friendly way, and can give recommendations and an analysis based on your Google top 10 rivals for a given keyword.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you would like to rank at the top of Google with your WordPress site, you would like to make sure that you are creating great content. The SEO Writing Assistant will help make sure that your content is optimized and structured in a search-engine-friendly way, while also recommending additional keywords you would possibly consider working into your copy.
eview Ranking Content
It is important that you spend some time analyzing the content which already ranks for the terms you are trying to target. Without understanding what's already ranking, you'll start creating content blindly — why create content that won't work?
Here’s an excellent guide that gives more insight into creating content for SEO to help you improve your skills while approaching and writing content that will help you rank better.
10. Set Custom URLs for Pages & Posts
By default, WordPress uses your page’s title to make the URL, meaning that these can find yourself being lengthy and sometimes truncate on the SERPs.
Let’s say you've got launched a piece of content which is titled ‘The Best Dogs Beds to Buy In 2020.’ hooked in to how you set your permalinks, you're likely going to end up with a URL of https://domain.com/the-best-dog-beds-to-buy-in-2020.
11. Use Optimized Page Headings
As well as creating your page’s default URL, the page title also defines your H1 heading. Not conversant in what this is?
A page’s H1 heading is meant as a way to give context on what your page is about to both users and search engines. consider it the same as the title of a book.
Best practices typically involve using one H1 heading (the page’s title), but you ought to also use H2 - H6 headings; they t give structure to your content, also to interrupt up the text and make it easier to read.
If your H1 is that the book’s title, the H2s are chapters, with subsequent tags acting as sub-headings. Page headings are an excellent place to include your page’s main keyword and variants but don’t over-do this and never force the inclusion of a keyword somewhere that it doesn’t naturally fit.
12. Craft Unique Optimized Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Your page's title tag tells users and search engines what your page is about and is usually regarded as being an important ranking factor. it's what feeds the clickable page title you see on Google search results.
You can either use snippet variables, add custom text as your title tag, or use a mixture of both.
Use keyword research to guide how you optimize each page’s title tag and skim this guide to learn more about how to structure this important page element.
13. Use Internal Linking
You need to use internal linking within your content to help establish topical relevancy between different pages on your site, to pass authority earned from external links, and to assist users efficiently navigate.
Adding in internal links to other pages in WordPress is basically simple. All you would like to do is highlight the text which you want to link (this will be your link's anchor text) and click the ‘link’ button on the toolbar, which can then allow you to either paste a URL or search for pages within your site.
Check out our guide to building an internal linking strategy to learn how to choose the most suitable pages to link to.
14. Use Optimized File Names for Images
You should be using images and rich media within your content. In fact, a Backlinko study found a correlation between using a minimum of one image on a page and rankings.
It is all too easy to simply upload a screenshot or image with a useless file name, and it's not something we always pay attention to, but we should always .
Before uploading a picture to the WordPress media library, ensure you are using optimized file names — this helps to give further context to a page. instead of /image123.jpg for a picture of a large dog bed, use /large-dog-bed.jpg. it's simple; make sure that the file name of the image reflects what it shows.
15. Add Alt Text to pictures
When using images in your content, ensure you are adding alt text to each of them. Not only are alt tags a principle of web accessibility to assist visually impaired users with screen readers, but they assist to give context and a description of images to search engines.
16. Install a Cache Plugin to enhance Site Speed
While WordPress undoubtedly offers strong performance almost out of the box, there are improvements to site speed that nearly all sites can make, especially once we consider that a site’s speed is a strong ranking factor.
You can get very technical on improving your site’s speed, but one among the most effective ways to increase this is by using a caching plugin to cache your posts and pages as static files. These static files are served to your users, instead of being dynamically generated each time and can significantly improve performance.
17. Optimize Images
Another proven thanks to improve your site’s speed and performance is to optimize your images, as these are one among the most common things which contribute to slow speed.
If you're using lots of images and rich media within your content, the dimensions of the page can increase noticeably, but this is often often because images not being properly optimized. a standard image issue is using one that is much larger than the size than the image will actually display at — this is a sign that the image was not optimized.
The good news is that you can quickly optimize your WordPress site’s entire media library, also as all future images you upload using the Smush plugin.
18. Noindex Tag Pages & Other Low-value Content
WordPress uses variety of different page taxonomies, including categories and tags. Categories serve an excellent purpose, especially when grouping content together:
Example: You launched a recipe collection, and you would like to use categories for different cuisines.
Tags are smaller and typically focused on specific topics.
Example: One recipe my tag parmesan cheese, pasta, and butter.
Tags are rarely useful to users that aren’t already on your site. From an SEO perspective, these pages rarely offer anything useful , and you sometimes don't want these pages to be indexed and send traffic from Google (traffic quality is low).
And the same applies to media pages and other post formats that WordPress uses. Usually, you don’t want these to be indexed by Google, and you'll add ‘noindex’ tags straight within Yoast.
Head to: SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies
Here, you'll choose whether or not to show the taxonomy type in search results.
Make sure you select ‘no’ for any taxonomies, content types, or archives (found in another tab), which you don’t want Google to index.
As another note here, head to the ‘Media’ tab and ensure that the ‘Redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself?’ option is selected as yes, as this helps to stop an issue which occurred in Yoast back in 2018 where individual attachment URLs were being indexed.
19. price Your Pages with Schema
Schema markup can help to reinforce your SEO efforts by adding context to your content and data. It helps Google to know your content, present it in several and useful ways, which reinforces a searcher's experience.
To put it simply, by adding context to your pages, you're making it more likely that you not only rank higher but also get clicks when your page receives impressions.
20. Use ‘Last Updated’ Dates
You should regularly be updating your evergreen content to ensure it is always current and relevant, but an issue that is often asked is whether you should be changing the original publishing date of your pages and posts, removing dates all at once or something else.
One suggestion is to use ‘last modified' or 'updated on' to point out users and search engines when your content was last updated, giving them the arrogance that the information is current and relevant right now. Thankfully, you'll easily add last modified/updated info on your WordPress pages and posts using the WP Last Modified Info plugin.