How to Make your WordPress Site SEO-friendly

When improving your site’s SEO, it is important to know the difference between onpage vs off page SEO. Off page SEO involves tactics like link building and the generation of referral traffic: essentially this is everything external to your actual site that improves its SEO.

Onpage SEO covers the internal elements of your site and its pages. There are a number of things you can do within your site to encourage higher rankings on search engines like Google. The use of keywords is the one we speak about most often, and this is important. However, this is by far the only type of onpage optimisation.

Both offpage and onpage SEO are important for optimising your site and should be given equal weight a part of your SEO efforts. In this article we are going to cover onpage SEO, specifically when it comes to onpage optimisation for WordPress sites.

Keywords

As you probably already know, key words are critical for SEO. We won’t get into the complexities of keyword research, tracking and so on here, but rather focus on how to include them on your WordPress site once you have already identified your keywords.

Google looks for keywords on your site to determine search relevance. However, it is not enough to simply include your keywords anywhere throughout the page and post text: SEO relies on keywords being in specific places. Google will place more relevance if a keyword is found in the page or post title, for example, then if it is somewhere in the general text. You should also make sure you have keywords throughout your text, of course, but also pay particular attention to placing keywords in certain key locations.

Specifically, the top on-page optimisation factors are:

1) H1 Title. This is the title of your page or post, which is the field at the top of your post in WordPress. You want to make sure to include primary keywords in the H1 Title. At the same time, be cautious of “keyword stuffing” – all too often we see posts these days with titles which are merely a string of keywords and do not make any actual sense. Remember that Google is smart, and not only values factors like keywords but also readability and quality of writing. Additionally, you want an engaging and inspiring title to encourage your visitors to read on.

Make your WordPress site SEO-friendly

2) SEO Title. This is the title of the post or page as it appears on the search engine results page, as well as the title which reads at the tab at the top of your user’s web browser. Usually, this will be auto generated by WordPress based on your H1 title. It is generally a good idea to review the SEO title for each post, as they have a different function to H1 titles and so are often better if tweaked a little. H1 titles set the tone for your article and encourage people already browsing your site to read the article. SEO titles, on the other hand, need to get search engine users to select your article from a list of results, so need to be as “clickable” as possible. They also can sometimes be adjusted to include extra keywords while still making sense in that context. Use a plugin like Yoast SEO to change your SEO title accordingly.

3) Permalink. This is the page’s URL and is automatically generated based on the H1 title. For SEO purposes the best permalinks are as short and keyword rich as possible. Ideally you should look for around three to six words long with no filler words. So, if your H1 title is “How to Use Digital Marketing to Promote Your Small Business: A Complete Guide” you should change this to something like “digital-marketing-small-business-guide”.

Change your permalink in WordPress by finding the permalink on the right hand column on the post edit page and clicking the “edit” button:

Make your WordPress Site SEO-friendly

The format of your permalink is also important so you should make sure you have the right settings in place for this: we will cover this in the next section.

Permalink Format

In terms of the permalink structure, you need to make sure you have the correct settings in place in order to be able to format the URL as described above.

There are a few different types of permalink formats.

1) Plain format which is very old-school and looks like this:

https://www.website.com/?p=123

2) Day and name format which used to be very popular:

https://www.website.com/2019/06/03/sample-post/

3) Month and name format:

https://www.website.com/2019/06/sample-post/

4) Post name format which is the format you should choose for an SEO optimised permalink:

https://www.website.com/sample-post/

Go to “Settings” on the left hand column on your WordPress dashboard and select “Permalinks” to set the permalink format. As a side note, domain names which start with “https” rather than “http” are more SEO friendly, as Google prefers secure sites. So when setting up your domain, be sure to select a “https” domain. If you have an existing site which is on a “http” domain it may be worth considering migrating it to a “https” domain.

Map Your Site

Another small but effective thing you can do to improve SEO on your WordPress site is to introduce a site map. These days, many people think that site maps are rather archaic, but they actually play an important role in onpage SEO. This is because site maps help Google’s bots navigate your site, allowing them to crawl your site more easily, and so making them more likely to rank your site.

In order to include anXML site map on your WordPress site you will need to use a plug such as Yoast SEO or Google XML Sitemaps. Yoast is also useful for a range of other.

If you choose to use Yoast, follow these steps to insert a site map on your WordPress site:

  1. Download the Yoast plugin on wordpress
  2. Go to the SEO menu in the left hand column
  3. Active advanced features
  4. You will now see XML sitemap in the left hand column. Click on this and select “enable”

You will now have an XML sitemap on your site!

Test Site Speed

Site speed is a technical SEO element which is often overlooked, but is has an important impact on SEO. Although the exact details of Google’s algorithm are closely guarded, Google has indicated that site speed is one of the factors it looks for when ranking sites on its SERPs. This makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, faster sites offer better user experience (UX), so it makes sense that Google would promote sites with a faster speed over those with slower speeds.

Perhaps more importantly, faster site speeds are logistically easier for SEO. When ranking sites, Google sends in bots to crawl every site and search for indicators. The faster your site, the more quickly these bots can crawl it, meaning they are more likely to find flags to show that your site is relevant to user searches.

You can test your site speed using online tools like GTMetrix or Pingdom. If you find your site speed is slower than it should be, there are a number of technical solutions you can implement to improve your speed.

Subheadings and Image Tags

The SEO title, H1 title and permalink are the top three elements which Google checks for keywords to determine search relevance. After that, Google’s bots will check other elements for keywords also. So, although you want to prioritise the “top 3” on-page optimisation elements, you also want to make sure that every other aspect is optimised and contains as many keywords as possible. These days, many sites are highly competitive when it comes to SEO, so if you want to stand out from your competitors and have the highest ranking possible, it is necessary to do cover off on every possible aspect of optimisation.

One of these aspects is subheadings. As already mentioned, the H1 title is the most important, but Google also looks at the subheadings to find keywords and decide how to rank your site or page. In WordPress, you structure your article with subheadings by formatting them as “heading 2”, “heading 3” or heading 4”. By including these formal subheadings, this tells Google that these pieces of information are more important and it should look at the subheading to check for search relevance. Additionally, formatting your articles with subheadings improves readability and makes them look more professional.

Each level of subheading should sit under the higher levels of headings. That is, after you have set your H1 heading (title) for the article, you choose a number of H2 headings to go under it. Then, make some H3 headings to sit under your H2 heading, and so on.

Here is an example of an article which is structured like this:

Make your WordPress Site SEO-friendly

Another aspect you should look at are image tags. Every image has an “alt-text” tags which is designed to describe the image to people with visual impairments, or in case the image doesn’t load. These can also assist with SEO because Google will check these for search relevance also, so be sure to update your alt-text image tags to include.

This can be done in WordPress by selecting the relevant image and viewing properties. Then go to the “alt-text” field, edit accordingly (for example to include keywords) and update. You can also add the alt-text at the time of uploading the image.

Use SEO Plugins

If you’re familiar with WordPress, you probably already know that the key to creating a great WordPress site is using the right plugins, and SEO for WordPress is no exception. There are some handy plugins available which can help to optimise your site.

Probably the most useful and comprehensive plugin is Yoast, which we has already been mentioned a couple of times in this article. Yoast is a great little tool which covers the major aspects of SEO including the SEO title and tags. It is also simple to use and will walk you through the process with no coding required. This plugin also analyses your site and provides you with feedback in order to help you with optimisation.

Make your WordPress Site SEO-friendly

Another plugin which can help with analysis and improvement is Google Analytics by MonsterInsights. This tool is focused specifically on analytics in order to track, monitor and evaluate performance of your site’s SEO. This plugin delivers actionable insights in an easy to understand format.

You should also consider installing W3 Total Cache. This plugin is designed to test site speed, and delivers suggestions on how to improve low speeds. As covered above, site speed is an important factor for SEO, so being able to test and improve speeds is very useful!

In this modern, digital age, having an SEO-friendly site is essential for any business. The majority of consumers look for products and businesses online as their primary research method, and with so many sites and businesses online it is important to stand out from the competition by ranking as highly as possible on SERPs. For WordPress sites, there are a number of things you can do for onpage optimisation, from optimal keyword placement and optimising tags, to including a site map and ensuring that you have fast site speeds.

Effective onpage SEO of your WordPress site will result in higher traffic volumes, which will in turn see more sales, higher revenue, and will ultimately let you grow your business.

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