14 February 2022
Are you a beginner looking for a WordPress SEO guide to help you optimize your website?
WordPress is the most widely used content management system (CMS) in the world.
It’s free and open-source. And above all, It’s SEO-friendly.
However, simply using WordPress won’t make your website rank #1 on Google. You need to follow WordPress SEO best practices to increase your website visibility and get more traffic to your website.
In this guide, we’ll share the best WordPress SEO tips and practices that you can use to properly optimize your WordPress SEO.
SEO refers to the way of optimizing a website or webpage to increase its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). The basic goal of SEO is to attract organic (not paid) traffic to a website by making it more relevant and appealing to search engines.
SEO is crucial in today’s competitive market for several reasons:
Below are some WordPress SEO tips & best practices you need to follow for your website optimization.
Your hosting affects many things related to SEO, including site performance, uptime, and security. So, think about it before you create a website.
If you already use a web hosting provider and are unhappy with it, you may always change it. The majority of high-quality hosting providers would be happy to help you in moving your website from one of their competitors.
Consider the following factors while choosing a hosting provider:
If you are not sure where to start, choose one of the hosting providers WordPress recommends:
If you’re already starting with your website, you’ll need to decide whether you want to use www (http://www.example.com) or non-www (http://example.com) in your site URL.
As search engines consider them to be two different websites, you have to choose one and stick to it.
You may update your preferences by going to the Settings » General page. Fill up your desired URL in both the WordPress Address and Site Address boxes.
Regardless of what someone else says, there is no SEO benefit to using one over the other.
SEO-friendly URLs include terms that clearly describe the page’s content and are easy to read for both humans and search engines.
Some examples of SEO-friendly URLs are:
It’s important to note that these URLs are readable, and a user may guess what will show on the website simply by looking at the URL text.
So, what does a non-SEO-friendly URL look like?
It’s important to note that these URLs use numbers that have nothing to do with the content, so users can’t guess what they’ll see on the page just by looking at it.
Using a permalink structure that is SEO-friendly increases your chances of ranking higher in search results.
Here’s how to check and change the permalink structure on your WordPress site.
You must go to the Settings » Permalinks page. Choose the post name option and then click the Save Changes button to save your choices.
Note: If your website has been up and running for more than six months, please do not change your permalink structure unless you use the numbers option. If you are using Day and Name or Month and Name, continue using that.
If you change your permalink structure on a long-established site, you will lose all of your social media share counts and risk losing your SEO ranking.
WordPress provides a feature that lets you hide your website from search engines. This option aims to allow you time to work on your website before it goes live.
However, sometimes, this option might be selected by mistake, rendering your website unreachable to search engines.
If your website isn’t showing up in search results, the first thing you should do is make sure this option is unchecked.
Go to the Settings » Reading page in the admin area of your WordPress site.
You must go down to the Search Engine Visibility area and uncheck the option next to Discourage search engines from indexing this site.
Remember to save your changes by clicking the Save Changes button.
For this guide, we will use Yoast SEO.
Yoast SEO is the original WordPress SEO plugin that’s used on over 5+ million websites.
Plus, this is the plugin that we use on the Pickup WP website.
It comes with powerful features like SEO analysis, readability analysis, advanced XML sitemaps, schema.org integration, social media integration, breadcrumb navigation, and much more.
Simply put, Yoast SEO handles all of the technical SEO optimizations for your WordPress site.
An XML Sitemap is a specifically structured file containing a list of all your website’s pages. This allows search engines to discover all of your data quickly.
While using an XML sitemap does not improve your site’s search rankings, it does help search engines quickly find and rank the pages.
If you are using an SEO plugin, it will generate an XML sitemap for you automatically. To find your sitemap, go to this URL (change example.com with your own domain name):
Google Search Console, commonly known as Webmaster Tools, is a toolset provided by Google that helps website owners see how Google views their content.
It is also one of the free SEO tools that help website owners optimize their websites for better search engine visibility, fix technical SEO issues, and gain insights into user behavior and search performance.
If you’re using AIOSEO, you can follow this guide on how to add a WordPress website to Google Search Console.
After you’ve added your website to Google Search Console, go to the left menu, select sitemaps, and copy the last portion of the sitemap URL.
To save your changes, click the Submit button.
Your sitemap will now be checked by Google Search Console and used to optimize the crawling of your website.
Your sitemap will display as pending after you have successfully added it. It does take Google some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you should be able to check some statistics about your sitemap. It will display the number of links it discovered in your sitemap, how many of them were indexed, the ratio of pictures to web pages, and so on.
We recommend that you visit your Search Console at least once a month to gather information and track the progress of your website’s SEO.
One of the most important WordPress SEO tasks is to find the keywords that your target audience searches for on Google so that you can target them and get relevant traffic.
This process is known as keyword research.
There are two main types of keywords:
Long tail keywords are best for a new website to rank their site. Meanwhile, short-tail keywords are more effective for a website with a large audience.
There are a number of paid and free keyword research tools available to help you find the target keywords for your site. We recommended using SEMrush. It offers an extensive set of features that can help you identify relevant keywords. These include analyzing competitors’ keywords, keyword search intent, trend analysis, content ideas, keyword gaps, long tail keywords, and more.
The title tag of your website informs search engines and users about the content of your page. And it’s an essential ranking factor.
It shows up in search engine snippets and browser tabs:
As a result, creating powerful, well-optimized title tags is a crucial on-page SEO task.
The Yoast SEO plugin can also help with this. Scroll down to the bottom of the page you’re working on and edit the field under the SEO title:
The Title and Page placeholders will be filled up automatically with the post or page title.
You may remove them and create your own SEO-friendly title tag.
Here are some tips for writing eye-catching title tags:
While meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor, they help you increase your click-through rate (CTR).
In other words, writing excellent meta descriptions can encourage more users to click on your link in search results.
You can use Yoast SEO to add a meta description as you add your title tag by going to Meta Description:
Here are a few tips on how to write effective meta descriptions:
WordPress helps you to categorize and tag your blog content. This makes it easy for you to organize your content into topics and for your users to find the information they need.
Categories and tags also assist search engines in understanding the structure and content of your website.
Categories are used for broad groupings of your posts. If your blog were just a book, the table of contents would be categorized.
On the other hand, tags are more precise terms that describe a single post’s contents. For example, a blog entry in the WordPress category may include plugins, widgets, themes, etc.
By using categories and tags correctly, you make it easier for your users to browse your website. Because it’s simple for people, it’s also simple for search engines to browse your site.
Internal links lead from one page or post on your site to another on the same site. They’re essential for both SEO and site navigation.
You’ll usually use them to refer to other kinds of content you’ve written or to connect to your landing pages.
For example, here is how we use the anchor text “Free SEO Tool” in this internal link:
The link gives extra information on the topic contextually—right within the post’s content.
There are three reasons why internal linking is beneficial:
This will raise the number of pageviews on your site, the number of time users spend on it, and, eventually, the SEO score of your blog posts and pages.
In addition to providing internal links, you should also include some external links to high-domain authority sites. This improves your WordPress SEO by indicating to Google that you are connecting to high-quality, relevant content. It also enhances the user experience by offering more information to your visitors/users.
We recommend including at least two high-domain authority external links within each piece of content. When doing so, a good little tip to keep users on your site is to make the link open in a separate tab or window.
Writing comments on other websites to get backlinks was a common link-building strategy.
Of course, it doesn’t work as well as it used to (for example, all links in WordPress comments are nofollowed by default, meaning they don’t pass any authority).
However, many spammers continue to do it.
Having spammy comments on your website won’t affect your SEO efforts. Still, Google advises website owners to fight spam content.
Because spammy content can still harm your website in various ways:
Fortunately, WordPress offers a very easy solution for this.
Go to Settings » Discussion from your WordPress admin. Then check the box next to Comment must be manually approved.
This way, you’ll have to approve every new comment on your website before it is shown on a page.
However, it adds an extra task to your workflow. But it will prevent spammy comments from affecting your website.
Images help capture the user’s attention and reinforce the ideas you want to convey. However, they may use a lot of resources and slow down your site.
Image optimization can increase your site’s loading times and accessibility, which may result in higher SERP ranks.
Let’s look at the three ways to perform image optimization.
Compress Your Images
Image compression will reduce the file size of your images and make your site lightweight.
You’ll have to decide between lossy and lossless image compression. The best decision will depend on the type of images on your website.
Add Alt Text for Images
Alt text (alternative text) makes your images more accessible. They explain what images seem like to search engines. Screen readers use alt text to help visually challenged users understand what images are saying.
Further, WordPress has a built-in feature for adding alt text to images. Users can assign it using the media library and the block editor.
We recommend adding alt text directly through the media library so that it is attached to the image whenever you reuse it.
Here are some WordPress SEO best practices for alt text:
Give Readable File Names for Images
File names can help search engines understand visual content. Even search engines are more likely to encourage images with understandable file names. As a result, using readable file names like slice-of-pizza.jpg is always better than IMG_01.jpg.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a type of encryption that secures the connection between a website and a browser. It protects critical information, such as payment information, against unauthorized access.
When a domain has SSL certification, the URL begins with https:// rather than http://. In addition, a padlock icon will display next to the address bar, as shown below:
When assessing the page experience of a website, Google considers HTTPS. If the content of competing web pages is of similar value, a high page experience score might be the determining factor in ranking high on SERPs.
Furthermore, if a website does not have an SSL certificate, browsers such as Safari and Google Chrome may flag it as insecure, warning users not to submit personal information. If you have a landing page or an online store, a warning like this might turn off potential customers and reduce conversion rates.
Website security is a crucial part of SEO.
Google blacklists about 20,000 websites every week for malware and about 50,000 for phishing. When a website gets blacklisted, it no longer appears in search results.
Therefore, the security of your WordPress site is important for getting high rankings. You don’t want all of your SEO efforts to go to waste if your site is hacked by a hacker.
We’ve already discussed the use of an SSL certificate above. Now, let’s look at some more ways you can use to protect your website from cyber-attacks.
Using a Backup Plugin
The first is to install a reliable backup plugin, such as UpdraftPlus. Creating regular WordPress backups is the most essential thing you can do for the security of your website. Backups create peace of mind and can save you in unforeseen circumstances, such as when your website is hacked, or you mistakenly lock yourself out.
Check our list of the best WordPress backup plugins.
Using a Security Plugin
A WordPress security plugin safeguards your website from malware, brute-force assaults, and hacking attempts. Security plugins are intended to prevent attacks and offer comprehensive security reports for your WordPress site.
Check our list of the best WordPress security plugins.
Outdated software may include flaws that attackers can exploit. Regular updates fix these flaws.
You need to regularly update your:
Simply go to Dashboard » Updates and check what needs to be updated.
Or, you can visit the plugins (Plugins » Installed Plugins) and themes (Appearance » Themes) sections to manage the updates of these respective installations.
Install Only Trusted Plugins
WordPress makes it simple to identify the best plugins. When installing a new plugin, ensure that it meets the following requirements:
Here is an example of a good plugin that is updated, compatible, and popular:
Schema markup, or structured data, is a type of code you add to your website to inform Google what your page is about. As a result, Google can improve your content in search results by showing it as a featured snippet.
For example, say you run a recipe blog that gives detailed instructions on how to cook.
By adding the Recipe markup, you can show an image, ingredients, cooking time, and star ratings to help Google read and understand these.
Then, Google can use this data in search results featured snippet:
You may mark up nearly anything, from basic details of your website (such as the name of your organization, articles, or authors) to more specific details (such as events, products, reviews, FAQs, how-tos, and so on).
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, it handles all the essential markup on your behalf based on the settings you set for your site and the details you provide during initial configuration.
You may additionally mark up certain specific content types in the Schema tab of the Yoast box that appears when editing a page or a post. Then, select a schema type.
You can also use the WordPress schema plugin to add schema markup for your site.
Before you start writing content with your target keywords, you need to know what makes a website or blog SEO-friendly in the first place.
Here are some qualities of good SEO content:
For more details, see our guide on how to optimize your blog posts for SEO.
An SEO-friendly theme isn’t only appealing; it also provides a positive user experience and helps search engines browse the site’s content.
To find a WordPress theme that is SEO-friendly, look for one that is:
When it comes to site page speed, every second counts.
Page speed is also one of the Google ranking factors. As a result, having a slow website could negatively impact your ranking.
There are various ways to optimize your WordPress website to increase page speed:
For more performance optimization tips, check out our ultimate guide to speed up WordPress.
Always keep your content fresh and up-to-date by updating it on a regular basis.
When you update the content, you should also modify the date to inform users and search engines that it has been updated.
The best way to do this is to display the date when a piece of content was last updated.
Here is how Backlinko’s Brian Dean does it:
If you check the page source, you can notice that it was published in June 2021 and updated in April 2023.
This means a win-win situation for both Google and its users.
A breadcrumb is a text trail that usually appears at the top of a page and identifies the page’s position within the site structure.
This is how it shows up:
The main reason for using breadcrumbs is to help visitors navigate your website.
Second, they can appear in search results and enhance your SERP snippets:
If you are using Yoast SEO, you can easily enable Breadcrumb for your site. Simply go to Yoast SEO » Settings from your admin dashboard. On your Yoast SEO Settings screen, toggle the Advanced menu, and then click on the Breadcrumb.
If your theme is compatible with Yoast breadcrumbs, the toggle in the Breadcrumbs settings will be enabled by default. If your theme doesn’t support them, you will need to insert a title bit of code into your theme.
Optimizing your WordPress site for search engines is crucial for driving organic traffic and improving your online visibility. By implementing the best WordPress SEO tips and practices outlined in this guide, you can improve your website’s ranking in search engine results, attract more targeted traffic, and enhance the overall user experience.
Remember to create high-quality content, optimize your site structure and URLs, use proper keyword research, and implement on-page optimization techniques.
Additionally, staying up to date with the latest SEO trends and algorithm changes is vital for maintaining a competitive edge.
With dedication, patience, and a well-executed SEO strategy, you can maximize your WordPress website’s potential and achieve long-term success.
We hope this guide helps you learn how to optimize your WordPress site for SEO.
For your next steps, check out these helpful resources:
Yes, WordPress is a good platform for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). WordPress provides a solid foundation for building search engine-friendly websites and offers various features, plugins, and themes that can help optimize your site for better search engine visibility.
Google does not favor any particular website platform or content management system, including WordPress. Google’s primary objective is to provide the most relevant and high-quality search results to its users. It evaluates websites based on numerous factors, such as content relevance, user experience, site speed, mobile-friendliness, and overall authority.
There are many things you can do to improve your WordPress SEO. Here are a few tips:
Yes, there are several SEO-optimized WordPress themes available in the market. These themes are designed and developed with built-in features and code optimizations that can help improve the search engine visibility of your website.
Here are a few common WordPress SEO mistakes:
Installing Google Analytics and Google Search Console is the best way to track your WordPress SEO performance.
Yes, you can perform WordPress SEO without using a dedicated SEO plugin. While SEO plugins offer convenient features and functionalities, you can still optimize your WordPress website manually by following the best practices described in this guide.
There are many keyword research tools (free & paid) available that you can use to find WordPress SEO keywords for your site.
Yoast SEO is a popular SEO plugin that helps users improve their website’s SEO. It offers a number of features, including:
However, it is important to note that Yoast SEO is not a magic bullet. It is still important to create high-quality content and build backlinks to your website.
WordPress tags are not directly beneficial for SEO. They don’t directly affect your search engine rankings. However, they can indirectly affect your SEO by helping users find your content.
Yes, your WordPress site can be hacked. WordPress is a well-known platform, which makes it a target for hackers. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in WordPress to gain access to your site and install malicious code. This malicious code can then be used to steal your data, deface your site, or even take your site down completely.
However, with the right WordPress security practices, you can significantly lower the risk of your site being hacked.