WordPress Tutorials

Beginners Guide to WordPress SEO – WordPress SEO Basics

This is the second installment of the series on SEO for WordPress. In the previous installment, I defined the term Search Engine Optimization and highlighted its importance. In this installment, I will discuss WordPress SEO basics.

WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet. It powers everything from a personal blog to online stores to corporate portals. One important reason for this massive user base is the fact that WordPress is easy to optimize for better SERP rankings. With minimum effort, WordPress developers and administrators could get the good position in Google and other search engines.

WordPress SEO Related Options

The first step in the process of optimizing your WordPress website for search engines is to check and set (if required) the following options and settings.

Check Website’s Visibility Settings

The first thing you should check is whether your website is visible to search engines. A checkbox in the Settings menu determines if the search engines could see and index your website. This check ensures that under-construction websites do not accidently get indexed in the search engines’ results.

Check Website's Visibility Settings

In several instances, this check remains in place even when the website goes live. Thus, the first thing you should do is to make sure that this box is unchecked so that search engine could properly index your website without any problems.

SEO Friendly URL Structure

URL structure is important for both the people and search engines visiting your website. A SEO friendly URL clearly explains the content of the page and is easy to read for both human and search engines.

Example:

Suppose there is a page on your website that explains how to install WordPress. A SEO un-friendly URL structure for this page would be:

http://www.YOUR-WEBSITE.com/?p=32506

While search engines might not have any difficulty in reading this URL, people viewing this URL will have no idea about the contents of the page. A SEO friendly URL structure that is easily readable for both search engines and people would be:

http://www.YOUR-WEBSITE.com/how-to-install-wordpress/

Here is how you can update the WordPress website’s permalink structure.

Go to Settings > Permalink. Select the option for Post name and change the structure.

Warning: Be very careful when changing the permalinks of the existing pages because you will lose all your social links, which is terrible for the existing SEO rankings.

Permalink Setting

WWW vs. Non-WWW

Another URL related choice is between www (http://www.example.com) and non-www (http://example.com). Remember that search engines consider both addresses to be separate websites. However, there is no negative website related consequences for opting for either URL structure.

To set your choice, go to Settings > General add your preferred URL structure for both WordPress Address and Site Address.

WWW vs. Non-WWW

Meta Title Tags

Many people overlook the all-important meta tags for both the pages and post on the website. These tags are essential for high SERP rankings because these tags are the only introduction to the content of the page in search engine results. The following two images highlight the position of meta title and meta description tags in search engine results listing. The first image shows the meta title while the second tag shows meta description:

meta-title-tags

Meta Title Tags

Meta title gives a short heading for the page while the meta description gives a short description of the content of the page. Both these tags are included in the <head>  section of the HTML of the page/post. Always make sure that you have a relevant meta title and meta description of every page and post published on your website.

Keyword Phrases

Keyword phrases are targeted and focused long-tail keywords that people enter as search engine queries. A good SEO practice is to make a list of keyword phrases that you will target in your post. There must be at least one focus keyword phrase and 2-3 supporting keywords phrases that are related to the focus keyword phrase.

Warning: always observe the standards for using keyword phrases in your content. Excessive use will flag the article as an attempt to rank in SERP and search engines might penalize your website for such content.

Image Names and Alt Text

All images used on your website must have proper names that tell both the people and search engines about the image’s content. Similarly, always make sure that the Alt Text field for the images is properly filled with a description of the image. This field is used when the browser is not able to render the image properly. To boost SEO rankings, make sure that you have included the focus keyword phrase in the Alt Text field.

Image Names and Alt Text

Website Internal Linking

Internal linking is a popular SEO practice that links the various content pieces published on your website. In this process, you must include anchor text that could be linked to other blogs and/or pages on your website. This is a major component of the On-Page SEO of the website.

Interlinking ensures that the visitor stays longer on the website and reads more than one content pieces, resulting in an increase in page view time and a decrease in the bounce rate of the website.

Page Load Speed

If your website does not load within 2-3 seconds, the visitor will move away (in many cases, for good!). Page load speed is a key factor in WordPress SEO enhancements.

You can increase your page load speed with following techniques:

  • Choose reliable and fast hosting service providers
  • Use web-optimized graphical content on the homepage and posts
  • Optimize pages be resizing them
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Use the minimum number of widgets and plugins, particularly on the homepage

Do-Follow and No-Follow Links

Do-Follow links allow Google and other search engines to follow them and reach your website. In contrast, NoFollow links do not allow search engines bots to follow a link.

DoFollow link:

NoFollow link:

Remember that while search engines are not able to use a No-Follow link, people could easily click them to go to the target web page.

Categories

From the WordPress SEO perspective, category archives are more important than individual pages and posts. These archives are the first thing that a search engine checks on a website, and a properly organized categories archive will greatly facilitate the task of a search engine.

Conclusion

WordPress is one of the best options launching a successful website. I hope that by following the above suggestions, you have optimized your website for better SERP rankings. Remember that it takes some time for the results to be visible in Google. In the third part of this series, I will be focusing on best WordPress SEO plugins. If you have a problem or would like to contribute to the discussion, do leave a comment below.