Mastering SEO for WordPress
WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS, possessing an enormous 60% of the market. Part of the allure for bloggers, businesses, and entrepreneurs alike lies in its significant SEO capabilities, with webmasters wielding a huge amount of control when optimizing their sites for the search engines. But how exactly can you find the perfect WordPress SEO formula? Here are the key steps you need to make your site as optimized as it can be.
There are a few basic steps you should take to get your site in shape for the search engines, so let’s get these out the way.
First of all, while WordPress comes with a number of useful SEO features built-in, you’ll need the extra power of a specific SEO plugin to maximize your search presence. There are various plugins to choose from, but arguably the best of them all is Yoast. Once you’ve got Yoast installed, everything else becomes a lot easier.
Next, you’ll need to submit your sitemap to Google. Yoast makes this a breeze, but you’ll need to have a Google Search Console account. And while Google is obviously top dog, it’s worth submitting them to other search engines such as Bing.
After this, set up your permalink structure. This changes how your URLs appear, and you want to make them more search-friendly. To do this, go to “Settings”, then “Permalinks” and change them to “Post Name.” That way, when you publish a blog post, the title of the post will be used rather than a random string of numbers and letters.
As long as you use your keywords in your blog titles, you’ll now have them appear in your URLs — good news for your SEO.
Now go through all your main landing pages (Home, About, etc) and create unique titles for each one using your main keyword for each page. You’ll also need to create the meta descriptions for each page too. These are the descriptions that show up in the search results, so focus on creating copy that entices people to click rather than stuffing them full of keywords. The more clicks you get, the better your SEO will be.
Finally, get into the habit of linking internally (e.g. from blog posts to other blog posts and to your main pages). Go over your existing pages and blogs and add a few links, then start doing this for every new page you publish. This will help search engines crawl and index your whole website, rather than just a few pages.
Page loading times matter a lot for SEO. Why? Because a faster site provides a better user experience, and Google loves a great user experience. So you want to make sure your site is as fast as possible.
Do this by:
- Using a fast WordPress host
- Using a fast and lightweight theme (the Genesis framework is a good choice)
- Use a cache plugin like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache
- Cleaning your database (you can do this with WP Rocket)
This will help to get things into shape. You can also check Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out whether your site is fast enough.
Your website must be mobile friendly, and that goes without saying. Most good WordPress themes are responsive these days, which is a good start, but you can take this a step further by using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
These speed up your pages on mobile devices. People will be able to tell that your pages are AMP in search queries, making them more likely to click knowing they’ll receive a fast, optimized experience. To implement this on your WordPress site, simply install the AMP plugin, then follow the instructions. Simple!
Images also play a big role in SEO. While Google cannot see what the images display, you can tell the search engines by using alt text.
Label all your images before you upload them with descriptive file names. This is not hugely important, but it’s worth getting into the habit of doing. Once they are uploaded, add alt text in the media library. This is normally the file name, but try to use the odd keyword. Don’t stuff them in though — your aim is to be descriptive without being overtly optimized. If you’re using stock photos, many free photo sites (such as Burst’s collection of free pictures) come with alt text already written for you, saving you that extra bit of time.
Next, make your images load faster to speed up your site. Do this by making them smaller and compressing them — there are various online tools you can use to do this to make it easy for you.
Use rich snippets
Rich snippets are the little bits of extra information that show up in search when your link displays. They won’t help your site rank higher in searches directly, but they can improve your overall SEO.
For example, you could set up your site so that gold review stars show up alongside your link. These help to make your links stand out and look enticing to searchers, which can in turn help to generate more clicks. When that happens more often, your search ranking could go up.
Finally, you should make your site secure by switching to HTTPS (if you have not already). Google has stated that this is a ranking factor , so it’s an easy decision to make!
Beyond ranking, using HTTPS gives your site more trust. There’s nothing that scares visitors away more than an insecure site, and it’s especially important if you handle payments of any kind via your site.
These are some of the key steps you can take to boost your WordPress website’s presence in the SERPs. If you’re serious about driving targeted traffic to your site, you need to take your SEO seriously, and WordPress makes it easy and straightforward.
All of these steps are relatively easy to do yourself. Once you’’ve set up your site, get into the habit of optimizing new content you publish. After this you can focus your efforts on creating standout content to win links and shares, which will take your SEO to a whole new level.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce consultant who writes under Victoria Ecommerce, a leading blog delivering insight on everything from marketing to design. Find her online for all the latest to help your store grow today.