How To Make WordPress Great for SEO

WordPress is not only the most popular content management system for websites, but it also very good out of the box for SEO. Despite this, there are plenty of things you can do to your WordPress site to really get the most out of SEO. In this article, we will show you how to make WordPress great for SEO. 

URLs

The URL is the website address to your post or page. For posts, WordPress uses the post ID in the URL by default, like so:

www.awordpresssite.com/?p=123

We can see the name of the website (www.awordpresssite.com) and the post ID (123). This is not the best URL for SEO because we can not see the page title. It is better if your posts have their page titles in the URL because search engines use this to determine how relevant your post is. It also makes it better for users because they can get more information about the link before they decide to click it. To change the URL settings, go into WordPress, click Settings -> Permalinks. 

Choose the second to last option.  Now, your post urls will look like this:

http://www.awordpresssite.com/5-best-things-about-Wordpress

Search engines will now know your post is relevant to WordPress, and potential visitors have a better idea of what to expect when they see the link.

This URL can be better though. In English, there are a list of words called stop words which are generally articles (a, an, the), auxiliary verbs (will, have, is), conjunctions (and, or, but), particles (if), and more. These words are not counted by search engines and therefore do not help you rank. It is better to remove these from the page urls if the url is very long. You do not have to remove stop words, but you have limited characters that show up in search engine ranking pages (SERPs). You should cut out the stop words if your urls are more than 55 characters.

Page Titles

The page title is set with the <title> tag. This would be the title of your blog post. Search engines put more weight on the first words than on the last words, so make sure your keywords come first. A lot of pages have the name of the blog or site followed by the title of the post or page. This doesn’t help you rank for keywords, only for the name of your site or blog. If you want the post to rank for the topic keyword, put your title or relevant keyword first in the page title, followed by your company.

On growthlabs.marketing, our SEO services page title is, at the time of this writing, SEO – Services – Growth Labs because we want it to rank for the keyword SEO and not the keyword Growth Labs. Here is what our Page Title for our SEO Services page looks like in a browser tab.

Meta Descriptions

A meta description is a short summary of your page or post. On SERPs, it is the black text under the link and title. Search engines usually only show the meta description if it contains the keywords the user searched for.

Although not used in determining ranking on SERPs, the meta description is used to get people to click the link. It is an extra space for you to communicate with potential clients by encouraging them to click your link from the search engine page.

Some Wordpress plugins create automatic meta descriptions by using the first line or two of text of the page or post. Generated meta descriptions are less than ideal since the first lines of text could be merely introductory sentences and immediately relevant to your post. It is best to hand write the meta descriptions, using your keywords, and make it enticing for people to click your link.

If you are using images relevant to your post, make sure you add alt tags to them. This tells search engines what the image is showing, and for users on limited mobile platforms or connections, they can read what the image is of and decide if they want to load it or not. You can also get a few more visits from people doing image searches as well.

You can do this by going into the Media tab in your WordPress backend, and clicking on an individual picture and then on edit. This will take you to the screen of the image’s properties. The alt tag field is in the description under the caption field.  

Optimizing your Theme

WordPress and most of the themes available are pretty good SEO wise, but it does not hurt to double check certain areas.

First, you want to make sure what is set to the H1 tag. H1 is the first header, and is used to highlight very important information such as post and page titles or the name of your website  – but only on the front page! You really only want the post titles to be in H1. Keep everything else such as the sections in this post to be H3 and below. If you have a sidebar or other widget area, keep it free of heading tags.

These tags help signify what is important and how the information on the post is structured. They are used by search engines to determine what your post is about. You do not want more than one heading per page. H2 should be sub headings, H3 should be sub sub headings, and so on. You can have a H1 and some H3, but it is important to always have one H1 (and no more!) on each page.

The headings must contain valuable keywords. In this post, the title is the only thing set to H1. The headings for each of the sections is set to H3.

To check these, look at your post.php and template.php files in the WordPress editor.

Page or Post?

In Wordpress, you can create a webpage either as a blog post (Post) or a separate page (Page). It might be confusing at first to decide which type you should use.

Generally, pages are supposed to be used for content that does not expire, such as an About Us page, or a privacy policy. Posts are designed to host timely content and will be archived and hidden as more posts are made. Pages are meant to be static, do not have comments, and are not tagged or categorized but are hierarchical. Posts allow for comments, tagging, and categorization and are meant to be social. Posts are included in your RSS feed whereas pages are not.

As far as SEO is concerned, it does not matter too much whether it is a post or a page. The most important thing is to use them correctly. Google and other search engines tend to put emphasis on timely content, so a post is much better for SEO if it is a news update, a blog entry, or a comment on a timely event or situation.

The Need for Speed

One thing a lot of people overlook when evaluating their SEO is loading times. Wordpress sites can be on the slower time to load depending on how big your site is and your host. To alleviate some of the loading times, it is a good idea to install a caching plugin such as WP SuperCache or W3 Total Cache.

XML Sitemaps

A sitemap is a directory listing of your site and all its pages and posts. Having a sitemap doesn’t help you get a higher ranking but it is very important because it makes sure that search engines know all of the pages on your site. Without a sitemap, search engines may not index, or find, all of your posts. So while having one does not make you rank higher, it could be the difference between getting ranked and not getting ranked at all.

To create an XML sitemap, we recommend using the Yoast SEO WP plugin, because it automatically generates a sitemap for you.

After installing the plugin, go to the SEO settings -> XML Sitemap in the sidebar in the back end.

sitemaplink.png


Then at the top of the page, make sure the checkbox is checked and click the button.

Generally, your sitemap will be found at  …/sitemap_index.xml

If you are using the Yoast SEO Plugin, it will ping Google and Bing to let them know your site has been updated. But to make sure Google knows about it, we are going to upload the XML Sitemap directly through Google Webmaster Tools.

In Conclusion

There are plenty of other things we can get into for WordPress SEO, but these are the basics to get you up and ready right away. To simplify things, we recommend using Yoast’s SEO WP Plugin and refer to his documentation of how to use it. This simplifies a lot of the things mentioned in this post and it gets our seal of approval.