WordPress is one of the most used CMS on the planet, more than 30% of the entire sites are using it. Having good SEO optimization done will help your site to be easily found on the internet. When it comes to SEO there are a lot of factors that Google is using to rank a site or article so you need to mark as many points as possible to be sure your site has the best SEO optimization possible.
I am building niche sites for a long time and I have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done when it comes to having the best WordPress SEO optimization ever. Just follow the points below and you will be on the right track. Some of the points have a lot of details and I have linked some resources that you can check to find out everything in detail.
I will split the points into chapters and grade every step from 1 to 100 in the function of how important is for SEO. If the point has 100 it means that is very important and you need to check it. The grading system is done based on the experience I have and based on the case studies that I have made.
1. Site Performance and Security – 70 points
Performance of the site it is an SEO ranking factor for some time and it is not only helping to have a better SEO position but it also helping in having a better user experience resulting in better conversion and in a lower bounce rate. All of these points are used to some degree by Google to measure your performance and rank your page. In the next chapters, you will see what you can do to your WordPress site to have the best performance and help your SEO.
This will not be a complete WordPress performance tutorial but some guidelines for you to do and have a decent WordPress load time.
Having a good host that offers a good performance is the first step that you need to take. If your hosting is slow there isn’t too much that you can do to speed up your WordPress site. There are a few WordPress hosting alternatives out-there and choosing the right one for your needs it can make all the difference.
If you are a non-technical person you can choose a hosting that offers cPanel or any admin panel. This will make things very easy for you. You can find decent hosting prices with very good performance at SiteGround, this hosting covers the most needs and is perfect especially for new sites. You can find out more in: How to Start a WordPress Blog on SiteGround
Dedicated WordPress Hosting
This is for the ones that have a higher budget and maybe started to produce some money with their blogs. There are some dedicated WordPress hosting out there that is offering a very good performance. You can check WPX Hosting or Kinsta which are some of the best.
This is a hosting that is more for the technical people as you need to install everything by yourself and support it. The advantage of this is that it can be cheaper and have a very good performance. For more details, you can check the articles: DigitalOcean Review or SiteGround vs DigitalOcean
To have a fast site you will also need to use a caching plugin. WordPress is dynamic and when a visitor comes to your site it will run PHP and create the page he wants to see. A caching plugin will cache the pages of your site and will serve them directly to the visitors. This will speed up WordPress. There are a lot of WordPress caching plugins out there that are free and paid and can help you with this. The best one that I am recommending is WP Rocket, it costs money but it does a very good job. No other plugins are matching it. In case you want some free caching plugins then you can try Autoptimize, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache
Below is an example of how fast my site is and what WP Rocket can do:
1.3 Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
This is a light version of your web pages, it was developed by Google to speed up the internet. They are used for mobile traffic and makes the page very fast as it strips the unnecessary items from pages. For more, you can check AMP. In WordPress is very easy to use, you just install a plugin AMP for WP you configure it and you will have your site AMP ready. AMP is good for SEO because:
- Offers a ranking boost– from my researches Google it is ranking higher the pages that are AMP then normal pages. So you can gain extra rankings with only activating AMP.
- Better Performance– Google is caching AMP on their server so when someone will click on Google Search result it will not reach your site but use a cached version. This uses Google Servers that are very fast.
Not all can use AMP. If you have some elements that need extra visual configs you need to see if they can offer also AMP support as it can look bad on AMP pages.
1.4 Use SSL
SSL is very cheap these days, you can basically set it up for free with no extra cost. Google made public a while back that HTTPS is a ranking factor so it’s important not only for security but also for ranking higher. Additionally using HTTPS will make use of http/2 and will make your site faster. In case you are a new blogger you can check the article How to Start a WordPress Blog on SiteGround it has everything you need to set up the site with SSL. I have also written an article with the best SSL plugins for WordPress that you can check and have a plugin used for extra features and be sure that your website using SSL properly.
2. On page Optimizations and Plugins – 100 points
These are the most important optimizations when it comes to WordPress and SEO, doing this properly will make all the difference. In this chapter, you will see exactly what you need to do and what plugins to install to properly optimize on-page SEO in WordPress and have higher rankings in search engines.
2.1 Use A SEO Plugin
An SEO plugin will help you with the on-page optimization factors and provide a analyze for your content. An SEO plugin will add the elements needed so Google better understands what is happening on that page. An SEO Plugin can help you with the below optimizations:
- What to index and no index
- Duplicate content configs
- Content analyze
- 404 Monitoring
- Structured data
These are some of the basic features that an SEO plugin can help with and in the function of the plugin, you can have more options. Some of the best WordPress SEO plugins that you can use are Yoast SEO and RankMath.
To properly configure Yoast SEO see The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Settings.
2.2 Permalink Structure
SEO-friendly permalink is the way to go when choosing the permalink structure. The permalink that you create needs to not be that long and have the keyword in it.
For altering the General you need to visit the Settings » Permalinks page. Select the post name option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.
When it comes to permalink some important guidelines that you can follow are:
- Not Make to Long – having a short permalink is always better as it easy to remember and looks nicer. For instance this WordPress SEO article it has the permalink https://www.wpdoze.com/wordpress-seo-tutorial – this is the exact keyword I want to rank for.
- Don include years in it – If you are planning to write an article with best <something> for the year 2019 don’t include the year in it. When 2020 will come you can go and edit the article and the title and have it for the new year.
2.3 No follow External Links
External links should be as no-follow. You may want to add a lot of resources in one article and you would not want to have them as dofollow. Having a lot of dofollow links may result in a penalty. Google is measuring all the external links you have and if you have a lot of articles it can add up. You may use affiliate links so you would want also to not be do-follow. To make external links nofollow you can use a plugin like Nofollow for external link
2.4 Interlink Your Content.
There are multiple ways to add links to your articles to reduce your bounce rate and boost your rankings. Having internal links to your content is important because you would want to keep a visitor as much as possible on your site and show Google that when it sends a visitor to your site is not just checking one article and leaving but staying and browsing also other articles. In this way, you tell Google that the link used by the visitor is relevant to the search query he entered.
When you write an article you just add some links to your articles when you write about something that can help the reader. An example here is the links that I have added in the performance part to my reviews and guides. You can do this when the article is written.
Automatic Internal Links
You can automatically interlink keywords but you will need a plugin to help you with that. For this, you can use an old plugin SEO Auto Linker but wasn’t updated for a long time and is not actually recommended to use it. Instead, you can use https://linkwhisper.com/. This is a new plugin that currently is not launched but will be soon.
Add Related Articles
Internal links are also built with related articles, they will help with bounce rate reduction as the visitor will see related articles and will be more likely to click on the article. It will also help Google see what exactly your article is about and have the pool with related ones. There are 2 related articles options that you can configure on your WordPress site, one is the related articles from the end of the article and the other is the in article body related articles. This can be done with 2 plugins.
Some good related articles plugins are the ones that offer relevant information, have a nice design, and don’t slow the site. Below are my recommendation for related post plugins:
- End Of the Post – for this I am recommending bibblio as is the best ones. It is having a free version that can be enough for most of the sites. It has multiple modules from which you can choose and uses AI to make the recommendations. Also it is ultra fast and will not slow your site.
- In Posts Recommendations – Inline Related Posts is the plugin that I am recommending, it has a free version that you can use and add in post related articles based on category or tags. I am using on some of my sites and it works very nice.
A detailed guide about these internal links you can check on Matthew’s site: The Ultimate Guide to Internal Link Building for Incredible Results and Internal Linking for SEO.
2.5 Title, Description, Article and Image Optimization
This is the most important part of the on-page SEO optimization, I wanted to have everything in one place and to go thru each and see how you can have a better SEO optimized post.
Content is one of the most important elements when it comes to ranking. Without good content, you will have a lot of chances ranking high especially if your concurrence has good content. To have good content that ranks high you need to do some research and see what currently exist on the first Google page and include all the points + some extra points that are related. Researches show that longer content at least 1500 words tends to rank higher.
Producing quality content is the key, for more details on this you can check: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Blog Posts That Rank in Google’s Top 10 and SEO Copywriting: 7 Steps to Make Sure Your Content Ranks in Google
Title & Description
If you are using an SEO plugin on your WordPress site you will have at the end of the post a Box where you can insert your title and description as in the below image
In the above picture, you see that you have a special field for the title, slug, and description. In there you put your title somewhere around 60-65 characters and a description maximum of 160 characters. The keyword you are focusing on needs to be present here. In this are you can choose the article URL in the slug box. Be sure to not be that long but have the target keyword. An in-depth article about the title and description you can find here.
Using an original image can help but what matters more is using the keyword in the alt attribute and in the title. There are some plugins that can help you with this like SEO Image Optimizer but you can do this also manually.
2.6 Rich Snippets
These are formats that are displayed more animated in the search engine. For instance, if you want to write a review you can add the rich snippets elements in the post and Google will use them when it is indexing your articles.
Rich snippets help in increasing your CTR and help Google understand more about the article. An article, video, review, etc are only a few of the rich snippets that you can use on your site. The complete list can be seen on Google gallery.
To add a rich snippet to WordPress you need some plugins. There are free plugins and paid ones that can help you with this. Below are a few:
2.7 Site Structure
Before starting a website or blog you should think on the categories and pages that will need to have. A good site structure is the siloed one :
This structure is easy to crawl by Google and to understand and the users will find easier the information. Heaving a chaotic structure will not benefit anyone. One way to ensure your website is structured for the long click is to get your site architecture right from the start. Ensure your site plans allow for structured site sections that are logical in nature and appealing to your potential audiences.
2.8 Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is the same content that is appearing in different site zones. This can cause of some miss configurations like having a WWW and non WWW version, pagination, “/” from the end, etc. This is actually fixed by a SEO plugin that will use the canonical tag. So this is another important reason to have a SEO plugin installed.
Another duplicate content problem is caused by:
- Placing same article in multiple categories. Basically an article should have 1 category or maximum 2.
- Using Tags wrong. An post shouldn’t have a lot of tags, 3 or 4 are enough and I also no index them
- Using Author archives and date archive, if you don’t have multiple authors then you should not use them, you should deactivate date based archives.
- Media is pointing to attachment page. You should redirect the media ( images) to the article and not have a separate page.
In case you want to check the duplicate content on your site then you can use a tool like siteliner. This will check your site’s duplicate content. For instance, mine has:
2.9 Add Table of Content
Tables of content are sections that are placed at the beginning of the articles with the titles that the articles have in them. They should be added to big articles which have many sub-points to help visitors easily navigate to the chapter they want. They will also help your SEO as they will have your article chapters in there and will help with keyword density.
A perfect example of the article where to add the table of content is this one, the article is long and has a lot of chapters. Having the table of content is perfect on this one. On my article it will look like this:
In WordPress table of content can be added easily with the help of plugins. You can add them manually in the posts you want or automatically. I am using Ultimate Addons Blocks for Gutenberg to add them where I need them. I don’t want to add them automatically.
Another great plugin to use for automatic or manual adding of content tables is Easy Table of Contents, it’s flexible and can help with almost everything.
2.10 Use Responsive Theme
Google has split the search index into 2, mobile-first index and desktop one. The mobile searches have surpassed the desktop ones and because of this there is a split, the second reason is that there are a lot of sites that are not mobile-friendly and look horrible on mobiles and this doesn’t create a pleasant experience for the visitors. For Google to index your site into the mobile search you need to have a responsive theme that passed the mobile checks. To see if your site is mobile friendly just put the URL in the test tool, it should show be :
Mobile-friendly themes are the responsive ones that can adjust automatically on every device. A good one that I am using and has also a free version is Astra theme. It is also offering very good performance and customization options.
3. Other Factors – 100 points
In this chapter we will see some other things that you can do to further enhance your WordPress SEO, this is not that much related to WordPress but it is vital for ranking your articles in search engines.
3.1 Google Webmaster
You should add your site to Google Webmaster together with the Sitemap for your site. By adding the site in the Webmaster you will have access to advanced reports, you can add your sitemap to tell Google what to index and have it indexed faster, you can check if you have errors on your site. In case there is a mobile problem you will see it here also.
To add the site just visit the Google Webmaster log in and add your site. After you will need to verify it so Google can validate that it is yours.
Once your site is added you can add your sitemap. The Yoast SEO plugin or another SEO plugin you may use should create the sitemap automatically. To find it in Yoast SEO just check here, after just go to Sitemap section in Google Search Console and add them.
3.2 Keyword Research
Keywords are important when comes to SEO because you would want to see what people are searching online and how big the concurrence is for those keywords. If the concurrence is big then you will have little chances to rank your article especially if your site is new. The recommendation is to check for some keywords that don’t have that much concurrence to have a chance in ranking your article.
Keyword research is done also to see what article you can write and what chapters you may include in them. There are some free tools that can help you do keyword research and see if the keyword has a big concurrence or has high traffic. A free tool that can help you with the keyword research is ubersuggest. You just input the keyword you want and after you will see the metric with the traffic and the difficulty like below:
As you can see the tool offers some interesting metrics like keyword suggestions and traffic + difficulty. In the right side, you have also the concurrence. Don’t believe 100% of the estimated competition as it is a little off. Another free tool that you can use is the Google Keyword Planner.
3.3 Broken Links
Broken links are links that you have included at some point into your article and now they are not existing for some reason ( either the page is not there or the domain expired, etc). Google doesn’t like to see broken links into your articles as this means that the article doesn’t create a good experience for the user. When someone enters your article and wants to check the link it will not work when clicks it, this is not a pleasant experience. To check for broken links you can install the broken link plugin and scan your articles. The plugin will scan each link and see if is broken or not after you can decide what to do with the broken link.
3.4 Social Media Sharing Buttons in Posts
Social signals it has been a SEO factor for some time in ranking a site. From the studies that I am following it was seen that articles that go viral and have a lot of shares and clicks are ranked higher in Google also and receive immediate traffic. Implementing social media sharing buttons in WordPress is easy and it can be done with a plugin if the theme is not having something already. Some points you should follow when choosing the social sharing plugin are:
- Be fast – poorly optimized social buttons can slow your site a lot and you may want to avoid this.
- Look Good on Mobile – mobile traffic has passed desktop and you want for the social buttons to look good on mobile devices so it can be easier to have the article shared.
Sassy Social Share is the plugin that you can use. I am using it on my sites and has the above points and even more.
3.5 Build Backlinks
When it comes to ranking higher in search engines backlinks are the most important factor, as many as you have the better. They need to have also good quality and be relevant to your site. There are 2 types of backlinks no-follow and do-follow, the ones that are having the biggest impact are the do-follow as they are telling Google that you want to follow that links. There are multiple ways to build backlinks, the most known ones are comments, guest posts, Quora, etc. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to building backlinks that’s why is better to see what experts have to say.
When it comes to having an optimized WordPress site for SEO these are the configurations you have to make. Doing SEO right is not that easy and it can take some time until you see the results if you have a new site. There is a lot of concurrences when it comes to SEO as a lot of money is made online, doing things right from the start is important to be successful. This WordPress SEO tutorial has everything you need to do and a lot of resources that you can check and increase your SEO skills. Don’t be a stranger and let me a comment in case you feel that something is missing or is not clear.