WP Setup

WordPress SEO explained

WordPress SEO is often an overlooked area on the average blog or website. A lot of folks go ahead and setup a website and then months later, when their traffic is still minimal, they go ahead and look for reasons why they aren’t getting any visitors. What they often discover is SEO or Search Engine Optimisation, the not so secret success sauce in any website.

WordPress is a very powerful CMS (Content Management System) and as some people know, runs an incredible portion of the interwebs. Out of the box WordPress claims that it’s SEO friendly, but in truth there are a few things you need to setup and configure before WordPress is truly SEO friendly. 

In this article we’ll go through each of the following in detail, so that you have all the information you need on WordPress SEO. Feel free to skip ahead to any of the following by clicking on the links:-

Get  a decent SEO optimised WordPress theme

The most basic thing you can do to improve your WordPress SEO game from get go is to find yourself a proper SEO optimised WordPress theme. How do you do this? Well simply hop along to a site like Elegant Themes or ThemeForest and find a theme that is:-

1. Good looking – Sites that don’t look good have a high bounce rate and that can affect the way Google ranks you.

2. Optimised for speed – The creators of the theme have designed it with the latest web technologies. The theme should be as fast and bloat free as possible, to ensure a fast loading time.

3. Built with SEO in mind – The theme should be designed so that it can be easily crawled and understood by all the web crawlers such as the GoogleBot, BingBot, etc. That means that when you create a page and write some content, the headings, anchor text and content are all readable by web crawlers.

4. Fully responsive – Many folks surf the web on their mobile and tablet devices these days, so it makes complete sense to get yourself a theme that works on all devices and orientations.

Before you buy it makes sense to test the themes speed

Page Speed Test

First off let’s test the speed of any potential theme before you buy it by putting in the demo themes url into https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ 

Once you’ve hit ‘Analyze’ Googles mechincal web wizards will test the sites speed and give you a results page such as this:-

 As you can see you can toggle the results from Mobile to Desktop on the top right hand side as indicated in the red rectangle. 

 

The results go through an entire range of aspects that can affect your page speed. They even give you tips on ways to improve the issues currently slowing down your site. Isn’t that nice of Google? 

Once you’ve found a theme which ranks greater than 80 for desktop and greater than 50 for mobile (yep, mobile rankings are more lenient) you can checkout with that nice shiny new theme.

Decide whether you want to use www or non-www

From a SEO point of view and it really doesn’t make any difference at all whether you decide to go with a site with www in front or it or not.

Although it doesn’t make a difference you still need to decide whether your pages will be:-
 
www.yourpage.com or yourpage.com
 
At WPsetup we prefer the non-www version simply because it’s shorter and neater than the www equivalent.
 
WWW is the old school standard and that’s why you still see lots of sites using it today. If you enter in Google.com it will redirect you to www.google.com so the big G still uses www.
 
After choosing www or non-www we recommend you re-direct from one to the other. For example if you are using wpsetup.org make sure you redirect from www.wpsetup.org -> wpsetup.org and you’re gold.
 
When using Yoast with WordPress (which we recommend and cover later in this article) you can easily set up your site for www or non-www. 
 
 Setup friendly Permalinks
 
Permalinks, as the name implies, are the links to pages on your site or URLs. The standard WordPress permalinks are usually something like:-
 
https://www.yourwpsite.com/post120519
https://www.yourwpsite.com/p=1234
 
We recommend you use Yoast to customise your Permalinks so that you can choose exactly what text will appear in the slug, which is the text that comes after the ‘/’.
 
It’s pretty clear that
 
https://www.wpsetup.com/wordpress-seo
 
is better than:
 
https://www.wpsetup.com/post120519
 
This is not only for the aesthetic appearance but also because Google Bot, (Googles web spider) looks for keywords in permalinks to try and make sense of your page. Google Bot is going to identify the words ‘wordpress’ & ‘seo’ in the first example and is going to be lost in the second.
 
In WordPress you can easily customise permalink with Yoast. Once Yoast is installed, you’ll see the permalink box on the right hand side of your article, as shown in the green box below. 
 
 User Header Tags, H1,H2,H3 correctly
 
 Header tags are simply that, tags that structure your article so your users and web crawlers can navigate and understand what it is about.
 
It’s important that you structure your articles and use header tags correctly. So let’s start from the big guy, the H1 Tag. A H1 Tag is the tag that you give to the title of your content and only the title of your content. It’s bad pracitse to have multiple H1 tags. For example if you’re writing an article on WordPress SEO, your article title might be ‘WordPress SEO explained’ and that there is what you tag as your H1 tag.
 
H2 tags are section titles and break your article down into smaller ‘chapters’ for example in this article we have ‘Create quality Content’ as one of our H2 tags, and all the other subheadings are also market as H2 tags.
 
H3 tags are sub-section titles and further break down your article.
 
If it makes sense you can divide your article into smaller chunks after a H2 tag, and add a H3 tag. For example the structure might be as follows:-
 
H1 Tag = WordPress SEO explained
 
H2 Tag = Ways to speed up WordPress
 
H3 Tag = Using a CDN
 
The above also applies for H4 tags and beyond.
 
Header tags are important not only for WordPress SEO best practise, but also for readability. People don’t want to be bombarded with a wall of plain text and are less likely to spend time reading a poorly formatted article.
 
How easily a reader can scan an article and find their way around is called the ‘scanability’ of an article. The more scanable an article the more the visitor is likely to stay around and find useful information in your content.
 
So it’s important to use these Header Tags to break up the article and to provide structure to your article.
 
Another important thing to do when optimising WordPress SEO, is to include your keywords or key phrases in your titles. This can’t be spammy and has to come naturally. 
Do proper Keyword Research

All search engines use keywords and keyphrases to determine the subject and relevance of your content. 

It’s important to include keywords and keyphrases which are connected with your topic, in the body of your content. These keyphrases should have a decent amount of search volume and low competition.

The best way to determine the volume and the competitiveness of a keyword or phrase is to use tools like Ahrefs, Googles Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.io. Each of these can give you an accurate idea on what keywords you should use in your article. Note that some services are more accurate than others, our favourite being Ahrefs, but that’s quite expensive.

Say for example, you’re writing an article about fasting and you want to work out which keywords you should use to get your article to come up in search results. What you need to do is think of a bunch of keywords that might relate to your article and then punch them into the keyword tool. 
 
In this example we’ll use Ubersuggest, as it’s free and whilst it isn’t as accurate as say Ahrefs, it still gives you decent information on keywords.  Ubersuggest even have a ‘keyword ideas’ button which will suggest keywords / phrases that are similar to yours. 
So let’s give it a go with the following keywords/phrases which relate to our article topic ‘fasting’.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 As we can see above, the keyphrase with the highest search volume of 110,000 is ‘Fasting’. However this is also the most difficult (65), so that will take the most work to rank highly for. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have that as a goal, but first it’s better to pick off the easier ones first.
 
The best keyphrase to target would be ‘fasting for health’ as it’s got a search volume of 8,100 and difficulty of 18 (far easier than 65). We can use all of the keywords above (fasting; fasting for health; fasting health benefits) in our articles and posts, to ensure we rank for the most keywords above.
 
Longtail keywords like our ‘fasting health benefits’ are usually easier to rank for that shorter keywords like ‘fasting’ so we suggest trying out a few long tail keywords in your content.
 
Now that you’ve got your keywords and keyphrases set, you then go about inserting them into the article, but in a natural way so it doesn’t feel forced. 
Create quality, useful and sharable content
 
In WordPress SEO and SEO more broadly, quality content is King. You need to focus on writing content that is easy to read and offers something of value to the reader, which they can’t get anywhere else. 
 
It doesn’t make sense to just rewrite what already exists on the web, you should aim to create the best possible content out there. It’s important you are familiar with what is already covered by most articles and try and offer something new or a new combination of information not seen in other articles. If you write useful sharable content you’ll have a much better time getting quality backlinks, as people want to link to content that is fresh and useful for their visitors.
 
The better your content is the more chance you’ll have of getting backlinks as people would be willing to link to you as it’s offering something of value. In short, make good, sharable content, often!
 

Get quality backlinks to your site

So once you’ve gone ahead and created some useful, shareable content, it’s time you go ahead and try to get backlinks to your site. This alone is probably the single most effective way to improve your WordPress SEO game and boost your search engine rank. 

Firstly let’s explain how search engines rank sites in the most simple terms. Say two sites in the same niche have similar content and SEO practises; site A has 500 backlinks from decent pages; site B has 10 backlinks from equally decent pages, Google determines that as site A has more backlinks, the site is more relevant and useful therefore shows it higher in the search results than site B. Pretty simple right?

 
The idea is to build links in the most natural way possible. You can reach out to people via e-mail or social media and offer them your content to link to. The content  which they link will hopefully add value to their website. Both of you win as they get some useful content and you get a backlink, boom!

 

The structure of a link has two components the url and the anchor text which is outlined below:-

As you can see the target link is the url and the anchor text is the text that appears in the content, like so, Hide your IP

If you want to link to a page but don’t want to give them the benefit of a backlink you can use ‘nofollow’ links, which work like so:-
 
On the topic of building links, we need to add that you must never ever ever buy links, as this is considered ‘black hat’ and Google will punish you if they find out you are not playing by their rules. All links you build must be natural and free.
 
There are many techniques used to build backlinks and a lot of excellent detailed, free resources available to you here:-
 
 
 
So go ahead and get link building 🙂

Image SEO best practise

Naming image files

 It’s best practise to give your images a name before you upload them to WordPress. The file name should accurately describe the image. For example, an image of a person on a computer outside should be something like person-computer-outside.png We advise against stuffing keywords in your file names, as this is bad practise. The image file name should be a description of the image, nothing more.
 

Image alt text

An image alt text is an ‘alternative text’ it’s used for search engines to get an idea what the image is about. This alt-text should be the exact same text as the file name. 

 Utilise WordPress plugins that help with SEO

 

Introducing Yoast!

 
Yoast is probably the gold standard when it comes to WordPress SEO. The plugin is for FREE and offers some really critical features which we’ll get into below. The following terms will come up a lot in your SEO learnings, which will benefit you no end, so please take note of these. 

Once you’ve installed Yoast it’ll appear when you go to the EDIT section of your posts.
 

Then you’ll get a page like this (ours is different as we are using Elementor)

Now down the bottom there in the green rectangle you’ll see Yoast and the start of things it can do for you, which we’ll hop right into now.

Firstly you’ll see the Snipet Preview

This is how your page will show up in search engines, as you can see currently we haven’t entered in a proper Meta Description, which we’ll fix shortly. The beauty of Yoast is that it enables you to edit your Snippet so it will appear as you wish. This is super important for SEO as search engines use these ‘labels’ to work out what is what.

Page Title

With Yoast you can elect for the plugin to generate the page title based on certain characteristics. For example in the above image Yoast is using the title of the article which we have called ‘WordPress SEo explained’ + WP Setup + our website. 

The page title should have the following characteristics:-

1. Include your target keyword for us it’s ‘wordpress seo’

2. Be catchy and ‘clickable’ so that when people see your article in the search results they click it 😉

Slug

The ‘Slug’ is the unique string which comes after your domain name and in the case of our site wpsetup.org the slug for this article is

wordpress-seo-explained

The slug will help the search engines know what your page is about. Having a slug that is suited to your article is far better than one generated by WordPress. For example:-

https://wpsetup.org/wordpress-seo-explained 

Is far better than

https://wpsetup.org/article2019-1-2-wp

Keep your slugs relevant to your article, short and memorable.

Meta Description 

Meta description comes after the Page Title and Slug in the search result display and gives a summary of your page.

To increase your chances of getting Google love, the Meta descriptions should:

1. Include your target keywords in the first sentence

2. Be around 150-160 characters, anymore will be chopped off

3. Catch the readers attention and make them want to click!

4. Give a summary of the page that the user is about to visit

Keyword Density

Keyword/keyphrase density is something that you must be aware of and use in each piece of content you create. What it is, is the number of times your keyword appears in your paragraph compared to the number of words in the page. For example if your article has a total of 200 words in it and your keyword appears 20 times that is a density of 10%. There is a fine line between keyword stuffing (putting your keyword in too many times) and getting the right amount. Yoast tells you your density for each piece of content you create; and on average it should be around 5%.
 

Submit an XML sitemap (with help from Yoast) 

Go into the settings section of Yoast as follows and make sure the XML sitemaps is turned on. 

Now click on the ‘?’ and you bring up the following links, click on See XML sitemap to see your sitemap

 

A site map is a list of different links your website has and looks like this

 If XML sitemaps is already turned on, Yoast would have already created an XML sitemap of your site to make it easier for web crawlers to find their way around and index your site.

Use an image compression plugin (ShortPixel)

short-pixel-homepage
 

You might be wondering why we mention using an image compression plugin under SEO plugins? Well it’s simply because speed is a critical ranking factor and images are one of the main culprits when it comes to slowing websites down. An full high resolution image from an iPhone X can be anywhere from 1.5-6MB depending on the image itself so that is a super hefty load for a website. When you see an image online it is never in it’s original form and has been put through a compression algorithm to significantly reduce the file size.

The easiest way to do this is to use an image compression plugin like ShortPixel which automatically scans your WordPress site for images and compresses them down to a more manageable size. This might not seem like much but if your website has a bunch of images they all add up to something quite considerable. So hop on and give ShortPixel a try.

Ways to improve WordPress speed

 As we have already mentioned, page speed is a significant ranking factor. Nobody likes a slow website, so getting your website running as fast as possible is critical. We could go on and show you all the research done which demonstrates that, for every 1 second of page loading time you could loose x customers, but just take our word for it, a fast website is very much in your interest.

Use a fast and reliable web host

 It should be pretty self explanatory that the speed of your site is determined by the speed of the web server, which ‘serves up’ the people who visit your website. If you’re running your site on a shared host or one that does not have the latest tech and know how, you’re at an immediate disadvantage from the get go. We have reviewed a bunch of WordPress hosts here but without getting into all the specifics we recommend using Kinsta as it’s the best all rounder and is super super fast and reliable to boot.

Use a CDN or Content Delivery Network

 A content delivery network (as the title suggests) is a service that stores and delivers content from a vast array of servers. For example if you have a traditional hosting setup all your content is hosted on one server which is located in a single physical location, let’s say New York. Anyone accessing your site get’s content served from New York regardless of where they are physically situated. If I am in Tokyo, Japan I’m still accessing the website and it’s images, video, file from the server in New York. What a CDN does is distribute your content on a vast array of servers so that the server which is closest to the user serves up the image, file, video, whatever. This leads to a huge decrease in loading time as instead of me (in Tokyo) accessing a server in New York to get an image, I can get it from a CDN server in Tokyo.
 

We’ve tested the following CDN which you can read about here.

 

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Encryption

Another simple way to get a few extra SEO points from G daddy is to simply get yourself sorted out with some proper security. That means getting an SSL certificate. SSL is that padlock thing you see on various websites. You can get a free SSL cert from Let’s Encrypt or you can also use a faster paid SSL certificate from someone like NameCheap. Sites with the lock get the G love and G love is what you want. The more G love the more SEO web cred you get.

Conclusion

There are no easy ways or shortcuts to nailing WordPress SEO, but the above will definitely help your WordPress site to rank better on Google and other search engines. SEO is a game played over time, not a quick 5min thing you do on the side. So thanks for reading and we wish you all the best in your WordPress SEO journey to page one, good luck!

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