How To Do WordPress SEO The Right Way

Andi Wilkinson
Andi Wilkinson 3rd July 2020

It’s hard to believe WordPress has been around for more than fifteen years now, but it’s slowly risen from a small open source project to the most ubiquitous platform on the web; powering about a third of all new sites. If you want to rank you need to learn how to do WordPress SEO the right way.

With such a significant market share, and millions of people and businesses using WordPress as the platform of choice, how does It perform from an SEO standpoint?

Is WordPress good for SEO?

A lot of people ask “is WordPress good for SEO”? If you search on the topic, the general answer you get is yes. But WordPress in itself doesn’t do anything to help SEO: it’s all down to correct configuration and technical know-how.

A well-engineered and well structured WordPress website can do wonders for a good SEO strategy. On the other hand, a poorly built site with little regard for design, speed or content, won’t perform j because it’s WordPress.

So if you’re asking how I can make my WordPress website more SEO friendly? Then I’m going to share my step by step guide to WordPress SEO.

Which WordPress SEO Plugin Should I Use?

How To Do WordPress SEO - Which SEO Plugin Should I Use?

It’s another common myth that installing a WordPress plugin will help your SEO. SEO plugins have a set of handy tools and act as a good monitor, but unless you know how to use them properly, the tool by itself won’t help your website.

But in answer to the question which WordPress SEO plugin should I use, I would suggest either RankMath or Yoast Premium. If you don’t already pay for Yoast Premium, such as redirects and multiple keywords, use RankMath. It has a lot of premium features for free. I love it.

In this article, I am using RankMath for images, but you should be able to get the gist and use either. Ok. So we have a WordPress Website in need of SEO, and we have an SEO Plugin such as Rankmath, All in One SEO or Yoast SEO plugin. So let’s get started.

WordPress SEO Step 1. Audit Your Website.

The whole point of SEO drives more clicks to your website, build domain authority and trust and rank. So a great place to start is to scan your site for errors and speed. We already know speed is a ranking factor. Page experience is also a new ranking factor from Google.

It’s also pretty pointless adding and optimising content if your WordPress website is slow and full of errors, so this is the best place to start.

Using a few tools like Google Page Speed Insights and SEMRush Site Audit, (free for one individual project) give your site an audit. We also offer this as a free service from our paid SEMRush account, so if you want a quick overview, fill in the box below, and you will get an audit by email.

Website Page Speed.

I won’t go into every issue about speed here, but check out this article on why your website speed matters. But I will say the biggest issue is often image size. Depending on your commitment and the size of your site, you may need to install an image optimisation plugin like Smush, but if you have the resource to recreate your images, I would attempt to do so, keeping smaller images at under 100k and larger ones under 150 if you can.

Remove irrelevant plugins from your site. How much code is your website generating? This can really make a difference in speed. If you want to check this out, in the chrome web browser, right-click on your website page and select ‘view source’ and see how much code is on the page. This website is pretty lightweight. If your page is relatively small and still generates several thousand lines of code, you know there’s a problem.

The best way to get a fast performing website is to have a bespoke WordPress website hand-coded. If you are serious about SEO, then speak to us, and we will happily quote to build one.

Mobile Friendliness

It’s 2020. Mobile traffic surpassed desktop six years ago. So if your site isn’t responsive, you really need to get a new one. I’m not going to mince my words here. Google search console will also tell you if your text is too small, content is too wide fr your mobile screen, or tap targets are too close together.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

AMP is a whole other level of mobile-friendliness and stands for ‘Accelerated mobile pages’ the amp WordPress plugin can handle this with ease. It works best with amp specific themes, but these can be so simplistic they lack design aesthetic. If you have a well crafted bespoke theme, then install the plugin and make your blog posts AMP compatible.

Upgrade To PHP Version 7

I’m going to file this under ‘speed’ because out of date PHP can affect your overall website performance. PHP is a web programming language, and its what WordPress is written in. If your PHP version is out of date, the WordPress Dashboard will politely inform you. You will need to update this in your hosting account, it can’t be done from within WordPress. If in doubt, contact your hosts and make a backup. WordPress doesn’t support PHP below version 5.6 now. PHP 7 is twice as fast, and it has been available for almost four years. So there’s no excuse.

Website Technical SEO Errors

Semrush will check for a variety of errors and issues. It will check for broken pages and broken links, missing title tags, duplicate content and more. Quite often, these are simple fixes you can resolve yourself quickly and without the need for a web developer. Do this first, before moving onto a more comprehensive SEO strategy. SSL Certificates

If your website isn’t secure, then it may be blacklisted, or at the very least show the ‘This site is not secure’ in google search results. You really don’t want that to happen. Your rankings will tank.

Any decent web host will offer free SSL Or Let’s encrypt. You shouldn’t have to pay for it. We include it as part of our hosting packages, and if you read this post and want better hosting, then we can migrate you for free, and give you three months free hosting on our awesome WordPress servers if you quote his article! 

If you have crappy shared hosting, your website will be slow too. All the more reason to give us a call!

Now. Let us get onward to the good stuff.

WordPress SEO Step 2: Check Your WordPress Settings

In your WordPress dashboard, go to “settings > reading”. Make sure the checkbox that says ‘prevent search engines from indexing this site’ IS NOT checked. – It shouldn’t be, it isn’t by default, but it could be that it was turned on for development mode and forgotten about. Most web designers don’t know much about SEO.

discourage search engnes

In “settings > general” you can set a tagline. If the site says “just another WordPress website” this will show up in google search results, and you will look silly.

How To Do WordPress SEO The Right Way 1

Next in “settings > Permalinks” make sure your URLs are set to pretty. What I mean by this is by default, WordPress sites will just use numbers of the post ID which looks like www.example.com/?p=123. This is terrible for SEO: a word of warning. Changing your permalink Structure can harm your site if it ranks highly. That said, if it’s ranking well, its doubtful you have a poor URL structure, so now might be the time to make sure its right, before carrying on.

How To Do WordPress SEO The Right Way 2

www or non-www?

Ensure the version you want to show up is set in the WordPress dashboard. This has little to no impact on your SEO, but consistency is essential.

WWW or non WWW settings
WWW

WordPress SEO Step 3: Content Optimisation For SEO

It should be your aim as a website owner to write the best and most comprehensive content that you can. See each post or page on your website as looking after a specific keyword or key phrase, and then you can optimise each page accordingly.

Every page should have a unique topic; otherwise your content can start to cannibalise itself. Scary huh? All it means is your pages are competing with one another for ranking, and so link juice is diluted.

If you don’t know which keywords and search terms to optimise your pages for, then you will need to do some keyword research. This article on how to do keyword research can help. Genric keywords, for example’ shoes’ or ‘mortgages’ can be almost impossible to rank for organically.

Those words also have little to no intent behind them (intent to buy). So you should try to rank for longer phrases (long-tail keywords) that are more niche. Add your keyword to Rankmath or Yoast, and you will get a list of useful suggestions will appear.

Don’t feel you have to follow them religiously. 100% score does not mean you will rank on google, and a low score doesn’t mean you won’t. Its a set of suggestions only.

Once you have chosen a primary keyword for your page, these days it’s not about the old ‘keyword stuffing’. Google looks at the overall relevance of your article in the context of what you want to rank for.

So you want to add what’s known as ‘proof keywords’ or ‘LSI Keywords. Check out Neil Patels ubersuggest for similar keywords, or LSI graph. The idea is, if you enter a keyword, the software will give you lots of suggestions of additional and related keywords you should add.

The more of these you can naturally fit into your content, the more ‘proof’ the article will have that your page is relevant to the topic and will be indexed accordingly. Keep your website on the subject.

I’ve worked with a lot of small business, and most owners are savvy enough to know that content can help. But they say a little knowledge is dangerous. My experience is of business owners creating a blog and then just writing about any unrelated topic.

Let’s say, for example, your business is selling cars, And you have a website and create a blog. But your blog post starts to talk about things that don’t relate to cake in any way. You blog about travel or your favourite restaurants. This dilutes the overall theme of your website and makes it harder for Google to work out what it’s about,

So if you sell cars and want to blog about travel and food, that’s fine. Just make your travel blog about driving and your food one about using a car in the city. It’s all about context people.

Titles & Meta Descriptions

These can be added via your SEO Plugin. Include the keywords you are trying to rank for and potential other combinations. These ‘snippets’ are what will appear in google’s search results. Google won’t always show your description and can generate its own, but its best to specify one anyway. Currently, there is no way to force Google to use your specified snippet. And never let your theme or website auto-generate them. This is a shortcut and shouldn’t be used in SEO.

How To Do WordPress SEO The Right Way 3

Page Title (SEO Titles)

By default, an SEO plugin will generate a page title, but it’s far better if you write your own. If your page is default SEO Agency | Made By Factory, its not as effective as setting it to “Improve Your Traffic With Our Award Winning SEO” You can see which one is more compelling. You want users to click, so your words need to stand out.

Search engines are likely to put weight on words earlier in the title so think about that too. Volkswagen Car Dealership In Manchester is better than “We Are John Smiths Car Dealership & VW Sellers”.

Here’s a great post from Yoast on how to create good page titles

Make good use of page headings.

Headings are an excellent way to structure your content, and paired with a table of contents they can give search engines lots of information about what is in your content. The order of your headings is also a useful clue to web crawlers. Your content is seen in nested order, H2, H3 and so on. Also, you should only ever have one h1 (main header) tag on any page.

Optimise Images and Media.

Like I said before, pay attention to image size. But aside from that, every image should have an ‘alt’ attribute. Use your keywords in your alt text attributes too. Not only does it help your SEO, but it can also help out readers using assistive visual technology. With this In mind, describe your images and don’t keyword spam them.

What To Focus On If your blog is huge

Your primary focus here should be to concentrate on your main pages and posts (What is sometimes known as cornerstone content) and watch out for keyword cannibalisation. SemRush has a handy tool that can scan your site for this and let you know if two or more of your pages are competing for a keyword.

If you find that you do have cannibalised content, then see which page has the best engagement and either remove or reword the other one. If the lesser page contains keywords that your better page is ranking for, then link that phrase from the more mediocre performing page to the better performing one. That will pass all the link juice to the new page.

Keep your content. Up to date

Your website content should always be relevant. If it’s outdated and adds no value to the user, consider removing it. If it’s only out of date but can be amended, then rewrite it and resubmit to Google.

Make sure you don’t have duplicate content.
This is effectively cannibalisation. If for some reason your content is duplicated or in two places, then set a canonical URL.

WordPress SEO Step 4: Website Structure

Your website should be organised, a well-organised website is much better for search engines to get their robot brains around. Proper website structure also makes it more evident which pages in your site are more important. For a more detailed commentary see this post on website structure for seo

XML Sitemaps.

Your SEO Plugin will generate XML Sitemaps. Rankmath will ping the search engine when you make any changes. I recommend submitting your sitemaps to the search console. That way, they know to look out for any changes in your content, and search console will always have the latest sitemap.

How To Do WordPress SEO The Right Way 4

Website Navigation

Firstly create a clear navigation structure. Our website is organised into services, projects and blog posts. Our blog posts are also categorised. We try to keep these to a minimum, as too many categories can be chaotic. We also link to our most-read blog posts from the individual blog pages. Always make your site easy to navigate. Breadcrumbs can be useful. Especially if your website is retail.

Categories and tags

WordPress use categories and tags to organise your site, and in some cases, custom categories or tags known as taxonomies. These help to create a hierarchy for your content. For example, if your website is about recopies, the categories could be diets such as vegetarian, vegan and tags could be the cuisine such as Italian or French. It’s up to you to decide this, but the key is to be consistent and not clutter your site.

As a rule of thumb, categories are broader, and tags are more specific. You can just use categories and ignore tags. Pick a group of categories and set these up to group your posts into.

If you plan to use tags, don’t use them like Instagram -WordPress creates archive pages for every category and tag, so you will have a page in your sitemap for every tag. I recommend checking if these are indexed in your SEO plugin. I de-index my categories and tags, as they are effectively duplicate content, and I don’t want users to land on a category page. De index any page that it’s not valuable for your users to land on. We don’t have date-based archives, authors or tags indexed.

Internal Linking

Use plenty of internal links. Make sure the anchor text (The text in the link) contains keywords for the page you are linking to. Avoid using any links like ‘here’ or ‘click here’, they don’t help your SEO or the user. These links will also help search engines understand how your pages relate to each other.

The more content you have, you will find that much of it starts to fall into related categories. Creating relevant links between these pages will help your users and search engines to understand how the content fits together.

WordPress SEO Step 5: Measure & Track Progress

There’s no point in doing anything if you can’t measure the results. Make sure your site is hooked yo to Google Analytics and Google Search console at the very least. It’s also useful to track your website as a project in an SEO package like SEMRush. These tools will not only track and measure but often suggest opportunities for improvement.

Outreach, Engagement & Audience Growth.

I haven’t gone into these topics in-depth here since I am focussing on on-page and technical SEO. But lots of visits, links and shares will grow your overall domain authority, and that will have the most significant impact of all on your rankings. A good backlink strategy is essential for any serious SEO campaign. Getting a company to do it can be costly, and you need to do your research and make sure white hat techniques are used.

To conclude

This is just a basic overview of what you can do to help your SEO on your WordPress website. If you are a business owner, you probably have way more important things to do, so it’s better to find a trusted digital media partner to work with you. We can help with an overall digital marketing strategy and help your business grow. If you want to know more, get in touch today!

Andi Wilkinsonmade By Factory Digital Marketing

Andi Wilkinson is Creative Director of Made By Factory. UX Designer & SEO Nerd, Andi is also a board member of Manchester Digital, and speaks and writes on a variety of web-related topics.

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