WordPress is one of the finest content management systems around the world, I know! Call me biased but I always encourage all of my clients to shift to WP as it’s a win-win game for me and for my clients. A client gets access to an easy-to-use CMS system that requires no special training or manual for updating a post or a page, whereas SEO becomes very easy for me on my end.
Many people think WordPress is a SEO friendly CMS system, which to an extent is right but not completely true as in if you use it in its original form without tweaking different parts of it, you might face a lot of different issues like URL friendliness, duplicate content issues and more.
In this post, I will tell you about what exactly you should be tweaking in order to make your WP CMS SEO friendly and get the most out of your website by easily getting indexed in different search engines including Google and Bing and by getting ranked for different relevant key phrases.
I am dividing these WP changes into 3 parts that include Basic, Professional and Advanced Level. I will try to explain everything in detail as much as possible so that you can deal with it yourself without a professional engineer, in case you are given a non SEO friendly WP site.
WordPress SEO Optimization: Basic Level
Following are few things that I believe you should focus on changing at your basic stage. Updating a website without these settings will hurt your rankings to an extent in search engines.
Setting of Permalink is very important as WP does not offer SEO friendly URLs by default. In order to set customized URLs, you have to get into the admin section of WordPress and choose settings from the side bar.
Once you get into the permalink section, you will see a lot of different URL options with radio button on default. You have to switch the URL structure from default to custom.
Custom Structure allows you to set URLs as per your need. You have to include /%postname%/ in the given space, which will make your URL structure the way you want. If we take my blog as an example, the resultant URLs will be similar to the one being displayed in the address bar at the moment.
Heading tags is a big debate in the SEO community. There are people who think that there is some value and weight in H1 tag when it comes to SEO, whereas there are others who oppose this idea. However, one thing is very clear that all the heading tags that include H3 to 6 do not necessarily have the SEO weight, and therefore the advice here is to avoid using those tags and stick to H1 or maximum H2 tags.
It is safe to use Post Title as H1 and other sub headings as H2.
Titles and Meta Descriptions
According to different experts, Google no more considers description as a ranking signal but it is still important to have a powerful description as it can encourage people to click on the link and increase the CTR rate. As far as title tag is concerned, it is important that the targeted keywords be included smartly.
WordPress does not allow you to include SEO titles and descriptions in its raw form so you have to include the plugin that can help you with it. There is a famous SEO plugin called “All in One SEO Pack,” however, if you seek my recommendation, I will advise you to choose “Yoast SEO” over “All in One SEO Pack.”
This plugin will allow users to include Titles and Focused Keywords along with Description of the post and pages within the website. This enables your content pages to be SEO friendly and get easily indexed and ranked in Google with respect to the relevant keyphrases.
There are other options like Social section as well, which allows you to customize descriptions and titles to be posted on different social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
The Keyword Chapter
Don’t get confused between keyword and Meta Keyword. Here at SEtalks.com, we do not really care about including a Meta keyword tag, no matter if we have a wordpress website or not; however, the keywords and the keyword research are the core and fundamental part of the whole SEO process.
While writing content for your blog or website, always make sure that you are selecting the right kind of keywords. As far as we are concerned, we have been using a Google external tool but now we are focusing more on SEMRush.com, a paid tool that really helps with keyword research and competitor analysis.
Once you will have the list of keywords, you can use them in your content keeping the priority in mind as the most important words are to be found in the title tag while the rest of them can be used in the sub headings, etc.
In a nutshell, Internal Linking is all about linking one blog post with another or linking one page to some other page within the website. For instance, I may be talking about how to take your blog to the next level while I would link it to the service page related to blog management, which is technically another page of the website.
My advice here is to either do the interlinking manually or install some plugin to do that work automatically for you.
WordPress SEO Optimization: Professional Level
This is the second part of the quick guide. At the end of this part, you will be able to customize your WordPress website in such a way that it may be termed as a professional and a SEO friendly website.
XML Sitemap is a sitemap protocol that allows websites to inform search engines about the updates that have been made on the website since the last crawl. It is important for a website to have a XML sitemap so that Google and other search engines are kept posted.
There are multiple plugins that you can use for this purpose but I prefer using the Yoast SEO Plugin, which includes XML Sitemap function.
Just go to SEO and the XML Sitemap option and make sure that the check on this box is available. Incase the check is not available, click to enable the XML sitemap functionality.
Make sure you are not using any other plugin that may produce some other version of the sitemap, consequently confusing Google and affecting the indexing frequency.
WWW vs. non-WWW
There are websites, which open with www and there are others that do not require www to be written with their domain name. At the user’s end, it doesn’t make a difference as in both cases, the user views the same content that they are looking for but technically they are two different URLs, which display the same content leading to duplication.
WordPress normally adds a 302 redirection here while what we actually need is a 301 redirection as we want users to move to a new location permanently, which could be www or non-www.
No matter what you choose as a preferable version, you need to set a 301 redirection manually by getting into the .htaccess file.
I am not good with the codes, and therefore, I simply take online help. Here’s something that I found on spinningmind’s blog:
Note: Replace domain.com with your website’s name in order to make this code work for you.
No-Follow Certain Pages
I have included this point because I have seen many people recommending this but if you ask me, I will advice not to use no-follow with any of your internal linking.
The reason behind using “no-follow” with certain pages of the website is simply to keep and divert link juice to the pages where you want it to go.
If you go through this Google document, you will see that there are specific conditions where no-follow should be used, which according to the documents, are paid links, untrusted sites or crawl prioritization. If I go by the book, “no following” internal links is akin to telling Google that you do not trust every part of your own website.
If you have been “no following” internal links with the hope that Google will help you with link juice, than you just need to change the practice and go by the rule book.
The Read More button
If you are displaying full post on the home page, you probably don’t have to care about it; however, if you have a blog that displays the snippet and ask people to click in order to read the full post, then this is something important for you.
No, I am not recommending you to include “no-follow” in the “read more” button but I want you to make sure that the read more buttons being used take you to the same version of the URL instead of the one that contains some read more variables.
In order to fix this, you can go through this document and follow the instructions accordingly.
No-Index Tags, Archive, Pagination and More
Now, this could be a controversial point as there would only be a few people who consider including these pages in the search index; however, if you ask me I would prefer cleaning my website’s index, and in order to do that, I would be excluding tags, archives, pagination or category pages to an extent.
The main reasons for not including these in the Google index are:
If not handled properly, this could create a duplicate content issue on the website.
Google prefers the real page more as compared to these pages.
If you belong to my school of thought, I would suggest using plugin like Yoast so as to exclude no index tags or these kinds of pages from the search index.
WordPress SEO Optimization: Advanced Level
In this section, I will try to cover the most advanced areas that can be optimized in your WP website making it Google’s number one choice for targeted key phrases.
The official Google blog clearly states that they use site speed as a ranking signal in Google web rankings. While searching something, here’s how it works: Important to Google; Important to webmaster!
So, in order to get better rankings, your wordpress website should run faster than most of the others in competition. This is not only important for Google but it also plays an important role in lowering the bounce rate. When your website loads faster, there’s a significant drop in the bounce rate as the desired results can be achieved within less time.
There are multiple ways that can be used for increasing the site speed and decreasing the page load time, which includes a good hosting server, shifting your images and other media content to CDN, choosing a SEO friendly theme and a lot more.
There could be more ideas, which require a decent level of PHP understanding. Thanks to Sujan Patel and Neil Patel for crafting this awesome infographic that covers all the details. I would prefer not to repeat these ideas in words but to link to a valuable resource in case you want to delve more into the advanced level WPR SEO optimization.
Are you using a wordpress site and you are not focusing on the above-mentioned issues? Think again!
At SEtalks, we convince search engines to talk about our client’s businesses. Via our upbeat strategies and innovative techniques, we strengthen the online presence for businesses. We work on the motto “We win only when our clients do.”