WordPress is a great platform to create your website and optimize it for SEO. It has a vast amount of themes and plugins that allow you to manipulate and customize your site as needed. With that level of customization, comes the potential for issues as well. Though the system can be optimized for SEO, if you aren’t aware of the WordPress SEO basics you can unintentionally configure your site so it isn’t reaching it’s full SEO potential. Here are seven WordPress SEO improvements to add to your site.
Recommended SEO WordPress Plugin
Before we dig into the WordPress SEO aspects you’ll want to be aware of, let’s talk about Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin. There are several SEO plugins available, and a few that aren’t too bad, but Yoast SEO is the one I go with because it has all the features you need in the free option. There are additional enhancements in the premium version, but they aren’t necessary. And you don’t need to run multiple plugins to optimize for SEO.
Many of the SEO improvements we’re going to discuss are easier to implement with Yoast SEO.
Check Search Engine Visibility
First, you want to confirm you don’t have your website flagged to be hidden in search engines. In WordPress, go to Settings > Reading > Search engine visibility. Make sure the checkbox next to “discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not checked. If you had to uncheck it, remember to click Save Changes at the bottom.
Optimize Permalink Structure
You want your website URLs to be human-readable and concise. You don’t want them to include any codes or IDs. If your URLs aren’t already human-readable, you can change this under the permalink settings.
In WordPress, go to Settings > Permalink. I like to use the Post Name setting. You can choose a setting that makes sense for your website and then click Save Changes.
The best time to take care of changing the permalink structure is at launch. If you change your Permalink Settings once pages and posts are already created, it will change the URL structure for every existing URL on your website. This means any website currently linking to you will now be linking to a broken link. All of the pages indexed in search engines will also now be broken links. If you go this route, you’ll want to have a plan to add 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new.
If your site is ranking well already, you may want to just leave it. The URL structure is one of hundreds of different ranking factors. If it isn’t completely optimized, you’ll still be able to rank. If it’s working for your website it’s fine to leave it, don’t stress about it.
Create an XML Sitemap
You’ll want to include an XML sitemap on your website to make it easier for search engines to index your website content. If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, this is as easy as clicking a toggle button.
In WordPress, go to SEO > General. Then click the Features tab at the top. Make sure XML Sitemaps is set to On.
Optimize Your Content
Each post and page you create should be keyword focused and optimized for SEO. There are a handful of on-page optimizations you’ll want to add to each article. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, they make it super simple to identify and implement these optimizations.
Make sure you enter in your target keyword into the Yoast SEO section of the page. That way, the recommendations update. Now, you don’t have to go through and follow every single recommendation but they do provide a nice list to start with. The most important optimizations you want to make to your content is to add your keyword to the title tag, create a meta description and add your keyword to it, and include the keyword in the H1 tag and first paragraph of your article.
When optimizing your content for SEO, remember to think of the reader. Creating a high quality article is more important than checking off all the boxes in SEO best practices. If optimizing for perfect SEO makes the article less useful to the reader, then don’t do it.
Improve Page Speed
Improving the load times on your website improves both SEO and the user experience. You can run scans through Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to get a list of recommended improvements. Both tools will provide more information for each item and explain how to implement improvements. GTmetrix actually has an entire guide to optimize WordPress sites as well.
Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
You’ll want to use a theme that is responsive so your website is mobile-friendly. No matter what device people are on (a computer, tablet, or phone) you want them to be able to navigate and interact with your website. If you aren’t sure which themes are responsive and not sure what would be a good fit, here are my recommended themes to get started with.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools have been configured on your website. These tools are all free and they provide data that you can leverage to improve SEO.
Google Analytics tracks website visits so you can understand where site visitors come from and what they do when they’re on your site. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are both tools created directly by search engines to provide webmasters with personalized information about how their site is performing in search. This is where you’ll receive messages from search engines, get notified about penalties, and view search impressions and crawl errors.
Once you’ve tackled these items, you’ll be on your way to increased search rankings. The key will be creating consistent content and creating a routine to optimize that content each time.
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