Did you know there are over 1.98 billion websites on the internet, and WordPress powers 43% of them? That is a huge number of websites and a lot of potential competition for SEO. So how do you make your WordPress site SEO friendly and stand out from the rest? When utilizing SEO with WordPress, you need to consider a few key things. Here is a detailed guide on how to make an SEO friendly website in WordPress.
What is SEO?
But first, let’s start with the basics. SEO means Search Engine Optimization, and it is the practice of optimizing a website to rank higher on search engine results (SERP) pages. SEO can be done on both on-page and off-page a website or blog.
You can do on-page SEO on your website to make it more SEO friendly, such as optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions. Off-page SEO are the tasks you do outside of your website to improve your SEO, like building backlinks and setting your website up for success.
There are many great tools out there that can help you with SEO. A firm favorite for doing SEO with WordPress is Semrush – the leading all-in one SEO solution out there. It makes it incredibly easy to find the right topics and keywords, and write SEO-optimized content.
Why Should You Care About SEO?
If you want people to find your website, you need to care about SEO. SEO is essential to help you rank higher in search engine results pages and get more traffic to your website.
As a website owner, this means more potential customers or readers for your business or blog. Search engines, including Google, are how most people find websites, so it is vital to ensure your website is optimized so they can see it.
By using a variety of complex algorithms, search engines like Google crawl the internet and index websites. They then use those algorithms to determine which websites should rank for which keywords. If you don’t know how to do SEO with WordPress or optimize your website for search engines, then your website will likely not rank as high as it could in search engine results pages.
The higher you rank in search engine results pages, the more traffic you will likely get to your website. Plus, the best thing about organic SEO traffic is that these people are seeking you out and looking for what you have to provide. That means they are more likely to convert if you are selling a product or service or more likely to read your content if you have a blog.
Why Use WordPress to Build Your SEO-Friendly Website?
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of SEO and why it is important for your website, let’s talk about WordPress. WordPress is known as a content management system (CMS) that enables you to create a website without any coding knowledge.
WordPress is simple to use, even for beginners, which makes it an excellent platform for building your SEO-friendly website. Plus, many SEO plugins and tools are available for making SEO in WordPress a straightforward process.
As previously mentioned, almost half the internet is built on WordPress, which shows how popular and user-friendly it is. Plus, since SEO is so important for website success, it only makes sense to use WordPress to create your website.
How to Set Your WordPress Site up for SEO Success
It can be easy to shy away from SEO because it seems like a lot of work, or you might not know where to start. Search engine optimization with WordPress is relatively easy, even if you are not a tech-savvy person.
Choose a Good Domain Name
After deciding you want to launch a website, next, you need to choose a domain name. A domain name is a direct link between readers and your site, such as www.example.com.
Ideally, your domain name should have SEO in mind, which means it should be relevant to your website’s content, easy to remember, and not too long. Your URL is one of the first indicators to a reader of what your website is about.
Of course, sometimes an SEO-optimized URL is not always possible, for example, if our site is named after a business or brand. In that case, you can still optimize your website by using other great SEO in WordPress tactics.
Top tip: avoid using the same domain host as your website. Occasionally, a host can experience technical difficulties, so it is best to spread the risk by using a different domain host. This way, even if your website host has a period of downtime, your domain will be unaffected.
Self-Host your WordPress site
There is a common misconception about what WordPress.com and WordPress.org are. WordPress.com is a website builder that provides hosting services, and you can create a website on their platform with free and paid options.
However, with a free website on WordPress.com, you will have limited control over your website and little to no customization options. Also, per the WordPress ‘Monetize Your Site‘ policy, if you want to make money from your website, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.
The only monetization options available on the free WordPress.com plan are affiliate linking and sponsored posts. While these are both fantastic money-making techniques, it isn’t ideal if you are hoping to have complete control over your website and the ability to use all monetization methods.
On the other hand, WordPress.org is where you can download the WordPress software for free to self-host your website. Doing this means you will need to find a web hosting provider and pay for hosting services, but in return, you will have full control over your website.
You can customize your website however you want, and there are no limits on how you can monetize your site. If you are serious about SEO, then self-hosting is the way to go.
There are several website hosts to choose from, including, but not limited to, Bluehost, SiteGround, BigScoots, and Lyrical Host. It is essential to research and see how much work you will be required to put in, what kind of support they offer, and how much it will cost you.
Check WordPress Visibility Settings
Now you’re all set up with your chosen website host; it’s time to launch your WordPress site. Before we get into the SEO nitty-gritty, you must check your visibility settings.
WordPress has a handy tool that allows you to control how visible your website is to search engines. When the option ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is selected, your website may not be indexed by search engines and could not appear in any search results.
The site visibility tool is helpful when we work on our website behind the scenes and don’t want it to be live until it’s ready. Although, it’s important to note that WordPress does state it is up to the search engine to honor your request.
If you’re reading this article, then it’s safe to assume you want your website to be indexed by search engines. So, if you’re not experiencing any site users or suddenly see an unexplained drop in traffic, look at your visibility settings.
To check these settings in your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings > Reading. At the top of the page, you will see an option that says ‘Search Engine Visibility.’ Make sure the box is unchecked, and click ‘Save Changes.’
Format the Permalink URL Structure
Your URL structure is vital for SEO as it can help search engines understand what your website is about. After all, you don’t want your previously chosen domain name, which you may have spent hours trying to make SEO friendly, to be for nothing.
Setting up your desired URL structure before you launch your website is in your best interests. To access this in your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks. Please note that you should never change your permalink structure on a live site, as it could seriously impact your SEO ranking.
A good URL is short and easy to read. In WordPress, there are various formats you can choose for your permalinks, which are:
- Plain: https://example.com/?p=123
- Day and name: https://example.com/2022/01/01/example-post/
- Month and name: https://example.com/2022/01/example-post/
- Numeric: https://example.com/posts/123
- Post name: https://example.com/example-post/
- Custom structure: https://example.com/ (enter custom field)
Take a look at the above permalink structures. Which one reads the best to you? If you chose ‘post name,’ then you would be correct! The ‘post name’ structure is clear, concise, and SEO friendly.
Optimize Your Website for Mobile Devices
Most of your readers will be accessing your website from their mobile devices, so it’s crucial to ensure your website is SEO-friendly for these users. When a search engine crawls your website, it will automatically detect how mobile-friendly your site is. If the results are not ideal, it may impact how highly your website is ranked.
A responsive theme will adjust according to the screen size it is being viewed on, meaning it will be fully optimized regardless of the device.
To check this on your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Customize.
At the bottom of the sidebar, you’ll see 3 options: computer, tablet, and mobile. When you click on one of these options, it will show you how your website looks on that device.
Have you ever wondered why there is a little padlock next to some website URLs? It is because the website uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. With an SSL, any data transmitted between the user and the website, such as passwords and credit card information, is secure and less likely to be intercepted by third parties.
Using SSL is an easy SEO win with WordPress, as it helps to keep your site secure and appear more trustworthy. Your hosting company typically handles SSL, but if you are unsure whether your site has it or not, you can check by looking at the URL. If it starts with https://, your site uses SSL. If it just starts with http://, then it’s not.
If you’re not using SSL, we recommend contacting your hosting provider to see if they can enable it for you.
Enable XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap is a file that contains all of the URLs on your website. These handy sitemaps are beneficial for SEO as it helps search engines easily discover and index all of the pages on your site.
To access your sitemap, you must add ‘/sitemap.xml’ after your website URL. For example, if your URL is https://www.example.com, your sitemap would be https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml.
Utilize Google Search Console
If you’re serious about SEO, you need to use Google Search Console (GSC), also referred to as Webmaster Tools. It is a free service provided by Google that allows website owners to check indexing status and optimize their site’s visibility. Google Search Console is also a powerful business tool, allowing you to track potential trends and see what content users love.
GSC will notify you of any crawling or indexing errors on your website so that you can fix them as soon as possible. That is extremely important as any errors could result in your website not being indexed and, therefore, not appearing in search results.
Manually submitting your XML sitemap to GSC is a breeze. All you need to do is log in to your GSC account, click ‘add a property,’ select your website and then paste in your XML sitemap URL. Once submitted, Google will begin indexing your website, and it shouldn’t be long until you start seeing results!
Use A Plugin
The easiest way to create and submit an XML sitemap is by using a plugin. Various SEO plugins are available for download, and some include an XML sitemap feature. Each plugin will have different instructions on how to create and submit your sitemap, so be sure to follow the directions closely.
Search Engine Optimization with WordPress: SEO Plugins
Plugins are what make your WordPress site great. There are plugins for everything, from social media sharing to contact forms and even SEO.
There are many SEO plugins available, with each offering different options. Of course, you don’t need a plugin to handle SEO with WordPress, but they can make your job much easier. SEO plugins can help with tasks such as optimizing your titles and meta descriptions, generating XML sitemaps, and even helping speed up your website.
It’s important to do your research when choosing an SEO plugin, as some are better than others. While there are many SEO plugins, there are two that have remained at the top for years:
- Yoast SEO: Yoast is a popular and trusted SEO plugin which can help with everything from title tags to meta descriptions and sitemaps. Yoast SEO is a wonderful option for beginners as it offers an on-page SEO analysis tool that gives you feedback on how to improve your website’s SEO. Yoast SEO is free but also offers a paid upgrade.
- All in One SEO: All in One SEO (AIOSEO) is the original SEO plugin. It can help with optimizing your website for search engines. AIOSEO includes features such as XML sitemaps and support for Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). This plugin is also free and offers a paid upgrade.
How to Install an SEO Plugin
To install a plugin in your WordPress dashboard:
- Go to Plugins > Add New.
- Search for the plugin you want to install, such as ‘Yoast SEO.’
- When you’ve found the right plugin, click ‘Install Now’ and then ‘Activate.’
On-Page SEO in WordPress
It’s now time to move on to some SEO basics. On-page SEO refers to all the measures you can take to make your website more visible on search engine results pages; essentially, these are the SEO factors you have control over.
Produce SEO Optimized Blog Posts
Creating SEO-optimized blog posts is the first step in on-page SEO. Search engines love high-quality, user-friendly content, so it’s essential to ensure your blog posts are well-written and engaging. Of course, if you’re using an SEO plugin as outlined above, it can help with this process, but it does not do all the work for you.
To understand what your readers are looking for, perform keyword research. Doing this will give you an idea of the words and phrases people use to search for topics related to your blog post. Once you have gathered a list of keywords, you can then include them throughout your blog post in the following places:
- Headings and subheadings
- Image alt text
- Meta descriptions
You’ll soon realize how much keyword research tools can help. The free Keywords Everywhere browser extension or paid options like Semrush or Ahrefs are some examples of these tools.
Create In-Depth Content
Where possible, aim to create in-depth content that covers all aspects of the topic. Not only will this help the search engines understand what your website is about, but it will also show you have authority in the topic you are discussing. Long-form content also keeps readers engaged, which can help reduce your website’s bounce rate.
Of course, not every blog post needs to be X amount of words long, so don’t add any ‘fluff’ to your content just to hit a word count. When creating a short blog post, ensure your content is unique and user-friendly.
Develop Internal Links
One of the most important SEO factors, yet one that is often overlooked, is internal linking. Internal links are manual links from one page on your website to another. Links help search engines understand your website and can improve SEO rankings. Plus, it keeps readers on your site and off your competitors.
When adding internal links to your blog posts, link to other related articles on your website. For example, if you’ve written a blog post about SEO basics, you could link to another post about more advanced SEO techniques.
Make sure your links are relevant and use keyword-rich anchor text (the clickable text in a hyperlink), if possible. Avoid using the exact anchor text for all your internal links, as this can look unnatural to search engine crawlers.
Check Page Speed
The loading speed of your website and its pages can significantly impact SEO. Not only will fast page speed improve the user experience, but it can also help you rank higher on search engine results pages.
There are a few things you can do to improve your site speed:
- Optimize images by reducing file size without compromising quality
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Avoid page redirects
- Reduce the number of plugins you use
- Enable browser caching
Off-Page SEO within WordPress
Off-page SEO is a powerful SEO tactic, which usually refers to one central point – backlinks.
Consider External Backlinks
One of the most important SEO ranking factors is backlinks. A backlink is simply a link to your site from another website or page. External backlinks tell search engines that your website is trustworthy and relevant. The more high-quality backlinks you have, for example, from well-known websites, the better your SEO ranking will be.
External links are mainly built in two ways:
- Manually: Manual backlinks are acquired when you contact bloggers or website owners and ask them to link to your website or from social media shares (social signals).
- Organically: These backlinks are earned naturally when other websites or bloggers link to your website because they think your content is relevant and valuable.
To encourage other websites to link to your website or blog, create compelling and high-quality content that contains value for their readers. Once you have published your content, you can reach out to other relevant website owners or bloggers and let them know about your article. They may then choose to link to it from their website.
Top tip: There will be times you will externally link from your post to another website. To avoid passing your ‘link juice,’ aka SEO ranking power, to the other website, use the ‘nofollow’ tag. Search engine optimization with WordPress avoids you needing to manually add this tag, simply selecting ‘nofollow’ when adding a link from the options.
Final Thoughts on How to Do SEO With WordPress
By following the SEO tips and tricks in this article, you should be well on your way to optimizing your WordPress website or blog for search engines. Always remember to put your users first, as SEO is not just about ranking higher in search results but also providing a better experience for your visitors.