How to Do SEO for WordPress Site

So you launched your WordPress site but have no idea what you can do to get visible on the web? This post tackles the basics of WordPress SEO that you most definitely need to keep in mind and implement as soon as your WordPress site is up and running. The tips tend to go in the order of importance but you can put them into practice as you see fit.

Allow Indexing

You want to take care of this issue (if you have it) first thing in the morning because this one is really crucial from an SEO standpoint. Believe it or not, people are prone to forget about this setting and they just prevent Google and other search engines from indexing their sites. Before we go any further, let’s see why you even want to block your site from indexing in the first place.

Thing is, while developing your site you may have tons of useless textual content (dummy text like Lorem ipsum, etc)  across multiple pages on your site. You don’t want Google to crawl and index that dummy content because it’s used on many sites across the web. So you block search engines from checking your site while you’re still working on it because you have lots of duplicate content that you don’t want to get crawled and indexed. So far so good.

Here’s the catch though. Once you’re ready to launch your site to the public, odds are, you or your web guy may just forget to untick the right checkbox and you’re bound to land in hot SEO water down the road. What’s more, it may take you a while – a few weeks or even months – to notice that something funny is happening to your site.

Now that you’re really scared and ready to reach out for that sedative pill, let me walk you step-by-step through fixing it. You need to go to your WordPress dashboard and select the Reading option under Settings. At which point, you just need to scroll down a bit to the checkbox entitled Search Engine Visibility. You want to make sure that it’s unticked. Save your changes and lay back! Easy, huh?

Allow Indexing

User-Friendly URLs (Permalinks)

Making sure that your WordPress site URLs are configured properly will help you make your site more comfortable both for users and search engines. Say, you created a blog post about using the French press and a direct link to that post is http://www.mysite.com/?p=123  If somebody (Google or a human being) sees that link, it’s absolutely not obvious what your post is all about.

If that direct link looked as http://www.mysite.com/how-to-use-french-press/, it would be beneficial both for humans and bots. Users would be able to see what the post is about even before clicking that link. When it comes to search engines it’s good for SEO because such blog post URLs (also known as permalinks) contain keywords. ‘French press’ in our case.

In order to enable user-friendly permalinks, you need to go to your WordPress dashboard, expand the Settings drop-down menu and select the Permalinks option. At which point, you want to tick the Post name radio button and your URLs will be both SEO- and user-friendly.

User-Friendly URLs

Yoast SEO for WordPress

At this point, it’s highly recommended to install the most crucial plugin for most things WordPress SEO. Since the plugin is super feature-rich, you need it so that you can set up the rest of the WordPress SEO aspects you’re supposed to take care about. But first things first. We’re talking about installing the plugin.

You should go to your WordPress dashboard, expand the Plugins drop-down menu and select the Add New option. Now you need to make use of the Search Plugins search bar in the upper right corner to find the  Yoast SEO for WordPress  plugin. Just type in the name of the plugin and click Search.

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Once found, you want to click the Install option and after installing you need to click the Activate option. We’ll tackle many more settings in the plugin down the road: robots.txt, XML sitemaps, configuring Google Analytics and Search Console. Speaking of which …

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Google Analytics and Search Console

You also want to make sure that you have both Google Analytics and Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools) enabled on your site. Using the tools allows you to keep an eye on your site’s overall sanity (broken pages, ranking keywords, etc) and all sorts of data that you need for fine tuning your site for your target audience.

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One of the crucial things that you need to configure is your preferred domain. Thing is, Google considers domains with www and without www (naked domains) as separate sites. That why you need to add both variants to your Search Console account and tick the version you prefer. Also, if you use SSL, you’ll need to add both versions (SSL and non-SSL) and specify which one you prefer.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a pretty time-consuming process (especially if you’re in a competitive industry) because you need to take into account multiple factors and process tons of data to reach at the right set of keywords you want to optimize your site for. In a nutshell, you need to select keywords (topics) that both have enough traffic and are relevant to your niche. That’s for your main keywords.

The problem with most highly-trafficked keywords is that they have a lot going for them. Since many sites want to rank for that sort of keywords, you may want to target keywords with lower traffic because they, as a rule of thumb, have less competition as well.

You may want to use Google Keyword Planner for keyword ideas and their traffic data.

If you’re launching a brand new website off the ground, you may want to google for your main topic (what your site is about) and see what sites come up in Google search results. Those are your competitors. Now you want to make a list with those sites and run them in www.spyfu.com or www.semrush.com. The tools allow you to see what keywords your competitors rank for.

Keyword Research

In case you’d like to see ranking opportunities for an up and running WordPress website of yours,  you can just go to your Search Console and export the list of keywords you already rank for. You want to choose the keywords that you rank #2-10, optimize the pages that rank for those keywords and consider building links specifically for those pages to boost their rankings.

On-Page SEO

Once you’ve figured out what keywords you want to optimize your pages for, you need to go ahead and ensure that the keywords are used in the right spots. You want to use your keyword in:

  1. your actual page text (stating the obvious here)
  2. HTML title tag
  3. H-tags (H1, H2, H3)
  4. your permalink (see above how to do that)
  5. image file name
  6. image alt attribute

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Image SEO for WordPress

It’s very tempting to just take a shot with your high-end camera or even iPhone and upload it directly to your WordPress dashboard because it’s easy and time-efficient. Problem is, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if that’s what you do with regularity because you need to get your image ready for the web beforehand and only then upload it.

First off, you want to ensure  that your image filename contains the keyword that you optimized your post or page for. Secondly, if you use a stock image, you want to tweak it just a bit with Photoshop (just apply some slight filter) so that Google does not treat it as just one more copy of the same image that is used multiple times across the web.

And finally you most definitely should upload the size of the image that you will actually need in your post. For example, if your image place holder in a WordPress post is 600px width, it does not make any sense to use a 2800px image. Be sure to resize your image with Photoshop or any other graphic editor before uploading to your WordPress dashboard.

Image SEO

Site Speed Load

Now that site speed is also a ranking factor (Google officially confirmed that), you want to make your site as light-weight as it can get. As a rule of thumb, you need to avoid using overly large images (see above), videos (especially unoptimized) and JavaScript. Now what if your site is already lagging?

In that case you want to use Google’s page speed insights to get an idea what exactly slows down your site. Other than that, you should consider using Screaming Frog SEO Spider because you’ll be able to generate on-demand reports about your tech SEO issues and fix them if such come around.

google-chrome-page-insights

Other than that, it may also make sense to use CDN. That especially makes sense if you primarily cater for an international audience. That’s an especially viable idea if you must use multiple images or videos all over your site. In that case, you definitely should use rel=”canonical” that denotes the main site all the images and videos belong to from an SEO standpoint.

Mobile-Friendliness

Since more and more people start using their mobile devices as primary ones, you definitely want to make sure that your site both looks awesome and works great on all kinds of handheld devices. Responsive design is a very popular solution in that regard because it makes your site look great on smartphones with virtually any screen resolution.

Plus if your WordPress site is mobile-friendly, you get one more point from Google.

Mobile-Friendly-Search-Ranking

Link Building

As Rand Fishkin from Moz says, the best way of link building is link earning. That means you need to create awesome content on your site so that people link back to you without your direct involvement in the process. That’s why you need to share the best content you create on your site on all social media platforms you have accounts with.

Though you do want dofollow links pointing back to your site, it’s not the end of the world if a certain percentage of your links are nofollowed. If all your backlinks are dofollow ones, it’s overkill because it hardly ever happens when sites get links the natural way. That’s exactly why nofollow links are OK as well.

Though link earning is the best way of gaining links out there, it usually takes a while and requires lots of efforts on your part. With that in mind, you want to spy on what kinds of links your competitors have and do your best to get links from the same domains. Ideally, you need links all the domains with the exception of those that are potentially harmful (low-quality directories, etc).

You can get to know your competitors’ link profiles with the help of, for example, OpenSiteExplorer from Moz.com. Once you’re logged in under your premium account, you’re able to see domain SEO metrics (such as Domain Authority, Spam Score, etc) and social media contact details (Facebook, Twitter). OSE also gives you an email it was able to find on the target site.

linkbuilding

Now that you know what domains you need to build links from, you can launch your reaching out campaign by contacting the sites that your competitors have links from and arranging backlinks from the same domains as well. Just to get you started, you can offer a guest blog post, giveaway, promo and the like.

Social Media

Though social media signals don’t directly improve your keyword rankings (at least it was never proved), you still want to use them because doing so allows for building customer engagement and building your overall brand awareness on the web. If you installed the Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin as recommend above, you can easily configure basic social media settings.

In order to enable Facebook’s Open Graph metadata on your site, you need to select the Social option under SEO (in the left-hand sidebar in your WordPress dashboard). With that done, you should click the Facebook tab and tick the Add Open Graph meta data checkbox.

Now you’re able to select the title, description and image that will be used every time your post is shared on Facebook.

social-media-images

If you also want to use Twitter cards for your WordPress posts, you can enable that feature just as fine. The steps are similar as before, but this time around you just need to select the Twitter tab and tick the Add Twitter card meta data checkbox. Now just need to save your changes and off you go.

Bottom Line

All in all, WordPress is a great CMS when it comes to SEO. With just one or two plugins installed and configurations made, you can get your WordPress site off the ground and rest assured that your site will be noticed and appreciated both by search engines and repeat site visitors. It goes without saying that you also can’t go wrong with proper link building regardless of the CMS you use.

Combine those and get the best of both worlds.