Beginning your SEO with WordPress
Here we go over the best on page SEO for WordPress. You may have heard before that WordPress is SEO friendly. On top of being fairly simple to use and offering all the customizations to create just about anything you can think of, this is another big reason for many choosing WordPress.
But you can’t rely on the platform alone to promise you a spot on page one of the SERPs for any competitive keywords. You need to optimize your pages for both user experience and Google crawls.
So what is SEO anyways?
Maybe you have a good understanding of what SEO is, but if not, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of optimizing your website or blog to show in the highest possible position in Search results for specific search terms (or keywords). I focus primarily on Google because Google search make up the majority of all searches.
The reason for SEO is to ultimately acquire more traffic to your website or blog. The more people that see your content, the more people you have to market towards. Even if you, yourself have nothing to sell, you can make money with affiliate links or Google Adsense. Affiliate links are tracked and any time someone clicks your link and buys a product from a company that you are an affiliate of, you make a commission. If you sign up for a free Google Adsense account, Google will display other people’s ads on your site and you get paid every time someone clicks on them.
I think we can all agree that website traffic is important. Whether you have paid services to offer, sell physical products online, sell e-products (e-books, PDFs, etc.) are an affiliate marketer or you just have something you want to share with the world, you need traffic. Google, alone receives 3.5 Billion searches per day. This is one of the biggest sources of traffic for a lot of websites. Of course, it depends on the niche, the keywords they rank for and their SEO efforts but it should give you a good idea of why SEO is so important.
How does Google rank your site?
Google has a lot of ranking algorithms (over 200) it puts into play when deciding where your website or blog should appear in the search results for each specific keyword. I’m going to have to provide you with a link to Brian Dean’s article on Google’s ranking factors because it’s amazing and so is he.
I’ll go over some of the most important steps you can take to maximize your on page SEO. This will include things such as:
- Keyword research
- Keyword density
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Number of words / page
- Outbound links
In his article, Brian Dean talks about backlinks being big, which they are. I go over them in the next section – off-page SEO and different ways to acquire them.
The best on page SEO for WordPress
If you’re using WordPress, you’re off to a good start. First thing you will want to do, is head to your WordPress dashboard (yoursite.com/wp-admin). In the sidebar, go to “Settings” – “Permalinks” and if it’s not already selected, select “Post name” and save changes. A word of warning: If your site has been active for a while and you have lots of links and social shares, it might not be worth it to change the permalink structure. If you do, hire a professional that can set up all the proper redirects.
Then go to “Settings”- “Reading” and make sure the box next to “Search engine visibility” is NOT checked. If you’re just starting your website, it doesn’t matter, you might not want search engines to crawl it. Just make sure it’s unchecked later on.
If you’re just starting out, go to “Settings” – “General” and next to “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” choose how you want your site to display (www.yoursite.com or yoursite.com). Apparently it makes no difference to SEO so choose one and stick with it.
Which WordPress SEO plugin to choose
There are a lot of SEO plugins to choose from but the two most popular are Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. I’ve talked about Yoast in previous articles because it’s the one that I use and have the most experience with. If you haven’t yet installed it, now’s the time to do so.
For a detailed guide on setting up Yoast for the best on page SEO for WordPress, check out this article by WPbeginner.
Adding an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap is a list of all your pages and posts that helps Google find and index all of your content.
Yoast SEO automatically creates an XML sitemap for you so all you have to do here is install the plugin. You can access your sitemap two ways. Either through your WordPress dashboard under “SEO” – “XML Sitemaps” and then click the XML Sitemap button under the “General” tab. Otherwise, in the search bar, just type in yoursite.com/sitemap_index.xml.
In the sidebar, under “SEO” – “XML Sitemaps” – “Post Types”, you can choose what you want in your sitemap. (Posts, pages, images, portfolio, testimonials, staff). Just remember to save any changes.
If you haven’t already, you will want to create a Google Search Console account and submit your sitemap to Google. Go over to my Search Console section for setup instructions.
Continuing your On page SEO with Yoast
After Yoast SEO is installed and activated, you can go to any page or post within your dashboard, scroll down to the bottom and see a list of improvements you can make.
Once you type in your Focus Keyword, you’ll see more tips pop up for areas of improvement. The free version of Yoast will only keep track of one keyword or search term per page. This is just fine. You can still add variations of your keyword to your content (and you should), Yoast just won’t track those.
As for keyword research, I wrote a full page on this so if you haven’t yet gone over it, its worth the read.
Google snippet – Title, Slug & Meta Description
To start with, see where it says “Snippet Preview”? This is how your link appears to users in Google search. Click “Edit Snippet” and you’ll see the the SEO title, Slug and Meta description.
Your title tag is, by default, whatever you name your page right at the top. Maybe you want the title that appears on your page different than the SEO title tag. You can change your SEO title without changing the visible page title if you click on “Edit Snippet” and then edit your SEO title there. It’s important to include your keyword within this title and preferably near the beginning.
Remember how we set our permalinks to “post name”? Just under your page title you will see the permalink and it will be automatically created based on your page title. You can still edit it after without it effecting the page title but it’s also a good idea to include the keyword in the permalink. Another name for this is the “Slug”, which you can also see and edit within the snippet editor.
The Slug is the permalink extension. If you change it here, it will change how it appears in the search bar. If your site has been around for a while, I would just leave it as is to avoid 404s and having to redirect links.
The meta description is your page’s description that shows in Google search. Although it doesn’t have a direct impact on SEO, it’s still a good idea to write an enticing description that contains your keyword to catch user’s attention.
Word count and keyword density
Yoast will want your page to contain at least 300 words of content. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but generally, the more content you have, the easier it is to rank for a keyword and for multiple keywords. So use this as a rule of thumb but don’t force the content because you only want quality content and not useless fluff.
Yoast will tell you what your keyword density is (ex: 1%). It’s nice to get the green light with a note saying that your page has a nice keyword density but you still want it to sound natural. The longer your pages become, the more difficult it might be to obtain that green light without it sounding forced. Instead of focusing only on that one keyword, add a few variations of the keyword. Yoast will also want you to include your focus keyword within the first paragraph of your page. This is actually a good idea.
Headings are another big one. Especially H1 headings. You want to include descriptive, enticing headings to catch the attention of readers but also include the keywords you want to rank for. At the top of the page editor, click the drop down arrow next to “paragraph” to choose your type of heading (H1, H2, H3, etc.) H1 headings have more impact on SEO but you should only use one per page. You can use multiple H2 headings and H3 headings.
If your page contains a lot of content, Yoast SEO will also want you to break up your content with multiple headings.
Adding and editing images
It is said that pages with one or more images rank higher than pages without any images. Brian Dean did a test on this and found that it made no difference from pages that contained one image to pages that contained multiple images.
If you use images on your site, make sure they are high quality and you have the legal right to use them. When you download them or upload them to your computer, save them with a file name containing the keyword you want to rank for. This can be a small ranking factor. Next, upon uploading them to your WordPress webpage, you are able to add an image alt tag. This is another way for Google to indicate how relative your page is to a specific search term.
There is an “Add Media” button at the top of the page editor. Click that, then choose “Upload files” and find your image. Before you insert it into your page, look to the right and see an area that says “Alt Text”. You can enter an exact match keyword or variation of your keyword. Just remember, you never want to over do it with the same keywords or you could end up with a Google penalty.
If you already have images on your site, you can edit them and add / change alt tags by going to the backend of your page, clicking on your image and pressing the pencil icon. Here the alt text is “screen-shot…”. You would at least want to change it to a variation of your keyword.
Embedding Youtube videos
Videos are a good way to hold the attention of users, increase social shares and lower your bounce rate leading to an increase in rankings.
To embed a Youtube video in your WordPress blog, find the video you want on Youtube, press “Share” at the bottom of the video, then “Embed”. You’ll see the code snippet appear below. Before you copy it, press “Show more” and you can preview how it will look and choose the size of the video. It will also give you options to:
- Show suggested videos
- Player controls
- Video player and title actions
- Embed privacy-enhanced mode
Add some outbound links
Outbound links play a small part in SEO but small is better than nothing. They are really easy to add so you might as well. Just don’t link to a bunch of poor quality sites. Link to relevant, authority sites like Wikipedia, Newsvine, Buzzfeed, etc.
That is some of the best on page SEO for WordPress to start ranking higher in Google. Next we get into off page SEO, a major ranking factor being link building.