WordPress SEO is one of the most effective content management systems globally. That said, having an WordPress SEO audit and focusing on improving WordPress search engine optimization can significantly boost the performance of your site.
See how you can get the best out of WordPress.
This number becomes even more impressive if you limit the data set to websites with a known CMS — in this category, WordPress holds a whopping 60% of the market share.
When businesses are new to SEO, it’s a common misconception that WordPress is just for blogs and startups. The reality is that thousands of industry-leading brands use WordPress as a CMS for their websites, including Sony Music, Microsoft, Disney, and The New York Times.
Why do so many companies use WordPress? And why is it Fannit’s platform of choice?
Because WordPress makes SEO easy.
WordPress’s longevity as an open-source CMS means that our internet marketing company has had well over a decade to figure out how to use WordPress SEO to land your website on the first page of Google.
How do we do that?
I’m so glad you asked. In this guide, you’ll learn how to do SEO on WordPress and all the reasons why we think WordPress is the best CMS for your business.
Why WordPress SEO is the Best CMS for Your Business’s Website
Whether you’ve used WordPress before or are new to the platform, here’s a quick rundown of why WordPress is the best CMS for your website.
1. It’s Free
WordPress is free to download, free to install, and free to modify as you need. Need we say more?
2. Mobile Optimization
In 2018, Google implemented mobile-first indexing. Meaning that the search engine now ranks sites based on their mobile performance instead of basing rank on the desktop site.
For WordPress users, creating stunning responsive (i.e. mobile compatible) websites isn’t a problem, as there are hundreds of plugins and themes that enable mobile responsiveness with just a click of the mouse.
3. Fast Site Speed
A key perk of WordPress SEO is how the platform makes it easy to keep your site purring along at a fast pace.
Of course, it’s possible for a user to bog down their site speed by uploading full-sized images, lots of videos, and having too many scripts going at once. But WordPress comes through again by offering a number of robust speed-optimizing plugins (WP Super Cache and Autoptimize, for example).
4. Open Source Customization
This means that anyone can create a theme or plugin for WordPress and make it available for you to use.
Need a plugin that performs a specific function? Or a theme that is already SEO optimized? Odds are, a developer has already designed the exact thing you need! Which leads to our next point…
5. Customizable Themes for Any Website
WordPress comes with a plethora of easy-to-download themes that can be quickly optimized to meet the exact needs of your business. From e-commerce sites to social networks, directories to forums, there are thousands of theme options to choose from.
When it comes to costs, themes run the full gamut of budgets, from free to over $200 — WordPress has something for everyone.
6. Thousands of Plugins
Not everyone is an advanced developer who can create their own code.
WordPress makes customization easy for the everyday user by giving you access to the thousands of plugins and themes which developers have created for the platform over the years. The majority of these are free to use and come with support forums and the ability to contact the developer for troubleshooting.
Go Deeper: More Resources on the topic of SEO:
- What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- What does SEO Stand For
- What is Social SEO?
- The Ultimate Guide To Organic SEO
- The Top Local Ranking Factors
- Technical SEO and How it Affects Your Website’s Rank
- How Does SEO Work for Your Business?
- SEM vs. SEO: Tapping Your Business Potential
- White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO: Are You Doing SEO Right?
- Easy Guide to Getting Local SEO to Work for Your Small Businesses
- The Importance of NLP and What It Means For SEO
- The On-page SEO Checklist
- Keyword Research Mastery: The Beginners Guide
- The Ultimate Google Algorithmic Penalty Recovery Guide
- Questions you SHOULD Ask Before Hiring an SEO Expert
- The 5 Step Beginner Guide to SEO Writing That Ranks
Does WordPress Provide SEO?
WordPress is simply a platform that allows blog and site owners to host and share content. Despite sharing numerous tips on how to improve your WordPress SEO performance, WordPress doesn’t offer free or premium SEO services. In other words, you still have to implement your own strategy or find specialized WordPress SEO services for your site.
SEO and WordPress; Why Your Site Will Sink Without Strategic Optimizations
If you’re having trouble understanding why you should invest in optimizing your website for the search engines, on top of the resources you’re already spending to make it look attractive for customers, then this section is for you.
For most business owners, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to SEO and WordPress. But don’t worry, we’re going to clear that up right now.
In short, SEO refers to a wide range of strategies and practices focused on helping search engines understand what your site is about.
Why is it important that the Google algorithm understands your content?
Because search engines actually “read” your website! They do this through programs called “crawlers” that sift through every level of your WordPress site and try to figure out what your company is all about.
If Google’s crawlers can’t understand your content, then the search engine will drop your rankings. But, if the crawlers are able to accurately read your website, then you will gain higher rankings — hopefully capturing the coveted #1 position on the first page of Google!
This is why we place so much emphasis on your WordPress SEO — because Google needs to read your website and SEO is the way we help it do that.
The Best SEO Plugin for WordPress
One of the only disadvantages of using WordPress is that there are so many great plugins, it can be difficult to decide which plugin is truly “The Best.”
Currently, there are two plugins duking it out for the top title: Rank Math and Yoast SEO — both of these competing to be the best SEO plugin for WordPress.
The Yoast SEO plugin is massively popular, with over 5 million active users, and has been around for years. Rank Math, on the other hand, is a new addition to the boxing match but boasts a wide range of features.
Which one is better? And why should you use an SEO plugin at all?
Walk with me…
How Plugins Boost WordPress SEO
When it comes to optimizing your WordPress site for SEO, there are dozens of little adjustments you can make to help boost your Google rankings. Unfortunately, a LOT of these small SEO opportunities are buried inside WordPress’s code, so unless you know how to code, optimizing these elements is all but impossible.
Don’t know how to code? Don’t worry — hope is on the horizon.
Enter SEO plugins for WordPress!
SEO plugins help you modify all those hard-to-reach places by giving you a user-friendly interface from where you can make those little SEO optimizations — the list of which includes:
- RSS footer/header configuration
- Meta Robots configuration
- Title and meta description support for taxonomies
- The ability to change post SEO titles
- Canonical support
- Permalink cleanups
- Breadcrumbs support
- XML News Sitemaps
- The ability to edit .htaccess and robots.txt
Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. Rank Math vs. Yoast, which one is better?
Rank Math has loads of brilliant features, but it’s a newer plugin than Yoast SEO (released in 2019) and consequently has a number of kinks that still need worked out.
This means that Rank Math could be a good fit for experienced WordPress users who know how to troubleshoot their plugins, but inexperienced or new website owners are probably better off going with a tried-and-true plugin — which leads us to…
The Yoast SEO plugin Is the Best SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast has been around since 2010 and has developed a massive support system and community over the past 9+ years. This means you can easily find proven troubleshooting tips for any errors you might encounter, have access to Yoast’s massive WordPress and SEO tips blog and resource center, and can rely on Yoast’s proven tech support team.
For these reasons, the Fannit team considers the Yoast SEO plugin to be the best plugin for the majority of WordPress users.
How to Use Yoast SEO on WordPress
Here are a couple of quick, beginner steps that you can take to get started with the Yoast SEO plugin.
1. Walk Through the Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard
Once you’ve downloaded and activated the Yoast plugin, navigate to the Yoast SEO dashboard from your WordPress Dashboard Menu.
You’ll find it like this: Yoast SEO > General > Dashboard.
Found the Yoast dashboard? Good! Now click “Check SEO Configuration” to start the configuration wizard.
The configuration wizard will lead you through a couple of quick steps so that you can tailor the Yoast plugin to meet the unique needs of your website. Each step will ask you some questions and your answers will help the wizard configure Yoast’s settings.
2. Make Sure Your Posts are SEO Optimized
Click “Posts” in the WordPress Dashboard menu. Here you will see all the posts that you’ve already published on your site.
Now, look at the right-hand side of the Posts page. Here, you will see two columns:
In each of these columns, every one of your posts will be given a color rating based on Yoast’s evaluation of the SEO and readability of your content.
Here’s what the colors mean:
- Red: Your post contains major problems that will probably prevent you from ranking for your target keywords.
- Yellow: The SEO on this post is okay, but you could make some improvements.
- Green: You’ve done a great job with SEO! You don’t need to make adjustments on this post.
If Yoast gives your post a red or yellow rating, don’t worry, the plugin tells you exactly why it rated your post that way. It also gives you action steps you can take to make the rating green.
To view the “why” behind your color rating, open the post in question and scroll down to the bottom of the window. Below your written copy, you’ll find the Yoast SEO box.
Within the Yoast SEO box, click “Analysis” and you’ll see a detailed explanation of why Yoast rated your post the way they did, as well as directions you can take to improve the rating.
If you’re serious about auditing your website’s SEO, consider checking out Fannit’s SEO basics blog for expertise far beyond what the Yoast SEO plugin can tell you.
How to do SEO on WordPress
Quick recap! Now that you understand:
- Why WordPress is the best platform for SEO.
- Which plugin is the best SEO plugin for WordPress.
- Why SEO is crucial for the success of your WordPress site.
The next step is to learn the practical steps so that you know how to do SEO on WordPress!
Let me start with four of my all-time SEO WordPress tips, so that you can start ranking your website today.
1. Change Your Permalink Structure
Permalinks are your site’s page and post URLs. These are the links that lead people back to your content. For example: https://www.fannit.com/seo/expert/
When people see your website in search results or linked to on social media, it’s your permalinks that create the first impression of your brand — which is why their appearance matters. Easy-to-understand permalinks generate more traffic and are easier for Google to read and rank.
To optimize your permalinks, open your WordPress dashboard and go Settings > Permalinks. Here you will find your permalink settings and will have the option to adjust the information contained in your links.
While there are numeral based options, I would recommend steering clear of these as they don’t help search engines understand your content. The best permalink structure is “Post Name.” For additional customization, download the Yoast SEO plugin (as I recommended doing earlier).
Warning: NEVER change your permalink structure without talking with an SEO expert first. Doing so could result in broken links — greeting your site’s visitors with a wave of 404 errors.
2. Make a Sitemap
Originally created as a guide for your human audience, sitemaps are now used primarily as a guide for search engine crawlers. Because, hey — robots get lost too.
A sitemap is a list of all the posts and pages on your website, structured in a way that quickly communicates the hierarchy of your site. This helps crawlers understand the organization of your website and how the pages relate to each other.
Another reason why we recommend the Yoast SEO plugin is because it makes creating sitemaps quick and easy. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here is a guide from Yoast on how to create and share your sitemap with search engines.
3. Take Full Advantage of Heading Tags
Just like a sitemap helps crawlers understand the hierarchy of your entire website, heading tags help them understand the organization of each unique page and post. Headings are also vital for your human audience, as well-structured content makes it easier for readers to skim through your website — something 43% of internet users do.
A couple of SEO WordPress tips for your headings:
- Your H1 headings should closely mirror the post title and should accurately communicate what your content is about. Only use one H1 heading.
- Think of your H2 headings as chapter markings. These break your content up into topics.
- Your H3 headings serve as subheadings within your H2s.
4. Write Your Content Around Strategically Chosen Keywords
Odds are, you’ve heard about “keywords” before.
Keywords are short sentences that succinctly describe your post’s topic. For example, “luxury hotel in Manhattan,” or, “Korean food in LA.”
Contrary to how most people think of them, keywords are like salt — a little goes a long way.
When organizing your content, include your keyword in the title, the H1 heading, a couple of the H2s, and a few times in the content body. This should be enough times to communicate to search engine crawlers what your content is about and what they should rank you for.
How Else Can I Improve My WordPress Search Engine Optimization?
Here are 15 more proven WordPress SEO tips you can count on.
1. Post Content in the Right Category
When you look at newly launched blogs, especially from first-time bloggers, you might notice one recurring mistake. Some articles appear in the “Uncategorized” section because the writer didn’t check the blog post button before publishing it. How bad is it? Well, it makes it hard for a search platform to crawl these articles based on their target keywords.
When you’re about to publish an article on your blog or WordPress website, make sure you click the right box. This will help search engines index your site according to your target keywords.
2. Use Tags in Your Blog Post
Tags enable search platforms to get a better description of your website based on a list of various keywords. Include one or several keywords that are relevant to your content in your post. Doing this also enables visitors on your website to find specific elements faster through your own historic database.
How often should you use tags? Every time you’re about to publish new blogs, articles, or web copy. WordPress allows you to update tags of published posts as well as your drafts so that you can maximize traffic at all times.
3. Start Using Pingbacks
A pingback is where a WordPress site owner allows other people to post comments with links to their respective blogs and websites. In the beginning, this feature worked well because it enabled well-established sites to share traffic with budding ones. However, dubious companies marketing generic pharmaceuticals began spamming every WordPress blog with irrelevant links. That’s why most owners turn off the comments section.
The good news is that you might come across WordPress site owners in your industry who still allow pingbacks. The best way to get a pingback is to compliment the owner for publishing amazing content, then post a link that contains relevant resources. Here’s an example:
Thanks for sharing this amazing piece on the best road trip destinations in Utah. Allow me to share this post on 30 must-have items when planning a road trip (include a link to your post).”
4. Deactivate the Comments Section
Now, I know this sounds a bit selfish because you’re trying to get pingbacks while deactivating your comments section. Why is this necessary? Because doing this increases your site speed and makes your site more responsive when a visitor navigates from one page to another.
Site speed is an important factor in page rankings because search platforms determine a website’s relevancy based on the average time a visitor spends. If your pages load swiftly, then a visitor will want to explore your site more, while a slow site gives you the same unpleasant experience of standing in a short queue that’s barely moving.
5. Enticing & Optimized Meta Descriptions
A meta description is an excerpt of the main text that appears when a visitor places their pointer on your site. Search platforms use meta descriptions to index your pages and this makes a huge difference when you look at page rankings.
When you want to buy a computer, you’ll have a list of brands and features in your mind. Imagine walking into an electronics store, but there are no descriptions of the laptops available. How likely are you to buy one from the store?
The lack of information will make you get out and go to a store where each computer has a lengthy product description. That’s how Google and other engines get confused when they come across published pages that lack meta descriptions.
6. Focus Traffic on Relevant Pages Only
A do-follow link passes web traffic from one site to another one to enable it to rank better on search results. A common mistake you’ll notice is that some site owners build do-follow links to irrelevant pages. That’s why Google implements penalties because this is similar to spamming.
Do you currently have do-follow links leading to your About, Archives, or SiteMap pages? Well, you need to get rid of the links to avoid losing valuable WordPress SEO points. The key to getting visitors interested in these pages is in posting unique and relevant content that enhances your credibility.
7. Google WebMaster is Your Friend
What is Google WebMaster? It’s a system offered by Google that enables blog and website owners to keep track of their site’s performance. Online marketers use this tool to analyze a site’s strengths and weaknesses by assessing various data. And, it can also be combined with Google Analytics to provide a more wholesome picture of your traffic and audience.
In addition to tracking your website’s performance, Google WebMaster notifies you of any broken links in your site. Broken links can occur when a page gets redirected incorrectly and you end up with a “Page not found”.
You only need your Gmail account to sign in and start tracking your website’s performance on Google WebMaster. Google Analytics provides information about user behavior, so you can make adjustments based on the fluctuations in your audience’s purchase patterns.
8. Increase Your High Authority Backlinks
Backlinks have the same power as word-of-mouth, but on the internet. When a popular celebrity praises certain products or services, it immediately gets appeal and more people are drawn towards it. When a high-ranking website in your industry posts a link to your pages, search platforms reward you with high page rankings.
There are several ways of getting high-quality backlinks. The most effective is seeking guest posts that allow you to post do-follow links. Another way is looking for advertisement deals where you have a web banner posted for a specified period, then the product seller or services provider posts a link to your content on their website.
9. Use SEO-friendly URLs in WordPress Permalinks
A permalink is the URL format in which your online page address appears. The structure comes in various formats; for instance, Day and Name, Month and Name, or Numeric. When you look at these URLs, they usually have numbers, asterisks, and punctuation marks.
But, are they SEO-friendly?
No, they aren’t because they rank lower compared to permalinks containing targeted keywords. In addition, a visitor is more likely to visit a website containing a keyword in the URL.
So, go to your WordPress Permalink settings then choose the “Post Name” setting. This will give you nice short URLs that rank higher on Google and are easier to remember.
10. Use Keywords in Your Images Meta Data
Keyword research should not only be used for your written copy. Do you include keywords in your image titles and descriptions when uploading them to your blog posts? Well, the truth is, a lot of site owners lose out on web traffic by failing to do this step. The good news is that you can learn how to do this correctly and update your published posts.
When you type a keyword in Google, you’ll notice that you get results in different categories such as Images, News, and Videos. Including your keywords in the image’s alt attributes and descriptions enables it to rank higher when someone clicks on the images related to your keyword, which in turn boosts SEO in WordPress.
11. Take Advantage of Internal Linking
Search platforms rely on high ranking websites to award page rankings on newly published content. That’s why you’ll notice most articles – especially newspaper sites – have several links leading to similar stories. Doing this helps readers get more informed on the topic and also increases the average amount of time visitors spend on your website.
If you’re publishing posts on smartphones, include internal links to relevant pages. For instance, include anchor text links that direct readers to articles on smartphone apps, accessories, or trending news. This makes newly-published content rank on top within a matter of days. Google Analytics can help you keep track of how well this is working and show you if there are any immediate adjustments you need to make.
12. Keep Your Content Relevant to Your Keyword
Potential customers use keywords to find certain products or services online. That’s why thriving e-commerce stores include a variety of keywords in their landing pages to make it easier for customers to spot them. But, how come some websites have higher rankings than others despite having similar keywords?
It all depends on the availability of pages relevant to the keywords. If you sell electronics but only have two articles, then you can’t have the same amount of traffic as a competitor who posts three articles per week. Why? Because once a visitor is done reading your two articles, there’s nothing left to engage their attention.
How Do I Add SEO Keywords to My WordPress Site?
WordPress enables you to fully exploit your keywords by not limiting you on where you can to place them.
When creating a new blog or WordPress website, it’s important to have a list of thoroughly researched keywords. You’ll use them to narrow down a suitable name for your website based on keyword research volume history.
Does your homepage have your keyword in the meta description, title tags, URLs? How often are you using your target keywords within the content? Websites that contain their target keywords in these areas helps to outrank rivals because search engine spiders crawling them can more quickly make sense of how to correctly rank the site.
13. Display Excerpts Instead of Full Articles
Hollywood makes billions of dollars annually because it’s successful in drawing and retaining the attention of a global fanbase. However, it’s obvious that some blockbuster movies perform poorly in terms of sales due to various reasons. But, have you ever wondered why Hollywood still rakes in billions?
That’s because they keep you focused on the next upcoming movie. They do this by dropping movie trailers that whet your attention. That’s exactly how an article excerpt works. It draws the visitors’ attention to your published articles by offering just a sneak peek. WordPress actually allows you to customize your excerpts by making them short and enticing.
14. Update Your Content Frequently and Optimize Your Website for Mobile Users
If you love basketball, then you probably have one or two sites that you visit daily to get the latest news happening in and out of the court. Each time you visit, you find new articles or videos that match your passion for the sport. So, in order to keep your audience hooked, they need to find new content to pay attention to, and this includes your social media channels.
How often should you upload content to your website? It’s advisable to post at least three articles per week. Doing this enables you to increase your number of frequent visitors. Plus, you need a large volume of new materials for internal linking.
Did you know that more than 50% of internet users today prefer using their phones to computers? That’s why newspaper publications have news apps on Android and Apple platforms to provide information in a digital format. The same can be said for consumers looking for your services.
Optimizing your website for mobile phone screens is important because some people prefer making purchases straight from their phone. WordPress has several themes that fit in different sizes to ensure fast loading when navigating from one page to another. You also get to choose your page layout before publishing articles or setting up web pages.
15. Avoid Clickbait and Implement Heading Tags
Clickbait is a link that’s used to draw high volumes of traffic to a website by enticing readers using controversial or unusually catchy titles. Have you ever clicked on a blog then noticed a screaming headline that reads something like “Kim Kardashian’s Secret Abortion!”? Then, the story turns out to be false and just a waste of your time.
Is clickbait bad for WordPress SEO? Yes, it is. If the average time spent on your site is less than two minutes, then your site ranks poorly because Google realizes that the high volume of traffic doesn’t correspond with the amount of time each visitor should spend.
WordPress represents headings and subheadings using H1, H2, and H3 tags. Using heading tags enables you to break down your article into various sections. If a reader wants to skip the introduction and head on straight to a specific area, they’ll just click a link rather than scrolling up and down.
Including these tags also boosts your page rankings by making it easier for digital spiders to crawl your articles.