How to SEO Optimize Your WordPress Website Skip to content

How to SEO Optimize Your WordPress Website

Having a website is one thing. Making sure it’s fully SEO optimized is quite another. And often it’s the latter that leaves people overwhelmed and frozen. 

If you’re working with WordPress, SEO optimization can be much smoother than you might think. But there is still a bit of know-how involved and for a lot of marketers, keeping on top of SEO optimization can be … challenging.

In this article, we’ll cover all the basics you need to know to get (and stay) on top of your WordPress SEO optimization game.

(Panic averted.)

Table of Contents

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of boosting your website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) by improving your website’s free and organic ranking and visibility. This can be done in many ways including keyword research, internal and external linking, and optimizing images, just to name a few. 

The key here is free and organic. With effective SEO, your page will show up in SERPs just below the ads (which are something a bit different and called search engine marketing).

It’s that simple … and that complicated. SEO takes a fair amount of savvy and should be monitored constantly. 

It’s pretty easy to see why SEO is important: when users search specific keywords or phrases (also known as long-tail keywords) that are relevant to your product, service or brand, you want your website to display among the top rankings. Users generally won’t scroll too far down results pages and are more likely to only click on the first few links in the results. So it makes sense that you will want to ensure your website is one of those lucky few. This can increase your visibility and traffic to your website, boost leads and conversions, which is your ultimate goal.  There are two general types of SEO: technical or off-page SEO, and on-page SEO.

What is technical/off-page SEO?

Technical SEO is the process of improving the performance of your website so that it ranks highly on SERPs. This includes: 

  • Fast site speed: Slow loading websites will likely rank low on SERPs.
  • Make your website easy for robots to read: This includes website organization, link hierarchy, using robots.txt file, and using canonicalization to avoid duplicate content.
  • No dead links: Dead links are links that direct your visitors to a website that no longer exists. Not good.
  • Mobile optimized: As more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, Google now uses mobile-first indexing.

What is on-page SEO?

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your webpages so that crawlers are able to identify your website’s pages and add them to their index. (To learn more about how Google indexes websites, head over here.) 

Some strategies for on-page SEO include:

  • Keywords: These are words that users are entering into the search engine when they are looking for content. By using terms that users are searching for, your page will rank higher in SERPs.
  • Content: Google and other search engines will prioritize high-quality content over content for content’s sake. This is content that is reliable, trustworthy, and what users will repeatedly refer to
  • URL: A URL that is simple and includes keywords will likely rank higher in SERPs than one without.
  • Image optimization: When using images on your website, make sure you use accurate alt text that hits the appropriate keywords. This will help your website rank higher.
  • Meta tags: Meta tags and titles are the code that you build into your website to help search engines read what you are and therefore, index your website pages appropriately.

What is WordPress?

WordPress started in 2003 as a blogging platform, quickly shifting to become one of the most popular content management systems. It runs up to 35% of the world’s internet and hosts many of the websites users visit every day.  

While WordPress’s capabilities are robust, it is fairly user-friendly with thousands of themes to choose from, including many free ones. There are more than 55,000 plugins available and if you work with a skilled PHP developer, they can customize a bespoke theme for your business and brand. 

One of the drawbacks of WordPress – and one of the reasons why businesses and marketers might be hesitant to adopt it – is that it’s a bit of a learning curve and because the SEO capabilities of WordPress are so powerful, it also requires a bit of know-how. For many in-house marketers, this time commitment is prohibitive. That’s why they work with an experienced and expert website developer who can also customize your website’s SEO effectively.

11 ways to SEO optimize your WordPress website

Even when working with a website developer, it’s always important to have a basic understanding of the ways SEO can be optimized on your WordPress website. Here are 11 of them. 

1. Choose a good hosting provider

Making sure your website is hosted by an excellent hosting provider is essential for your website’s SEO. This impacts your website’s speed, uptime, and security. 

A good website hosting provider will monitor and maintain your website. They will address issues such as patches and other security issues, complete updates, run speed tests, and generally oversee the health of your website.

This is the first step to making sure your website is SEO optimized. Remember, if there are any issues loading your website, it doesn’t matter how high your website ranks on SERPs, potential visitors will move onto the next.

2. Use an SSL

SSL refers to Secure Sockets Layer, and is a standard security technology that manages encrypted links between browsers and servers. It’s basically how information that is shared between visitors and your website stays secure. 

But what exactly does this mean? Well, think of all the times you purchase something on a website using your credit card or other financial information. That information must remain secure. This is where SSLs come in. They make sure that the information you enter into the website is not intercepted by cyberattackers.

You might be wondering how this impacts your website’s SEO. It’s pretty simple: Google looks for secure and encrypted connections when indexing a website’s ranking. If your website doesn’t have secure SSLs, you risk it being bumped to the bottom of the list (where no one goes).

3. Optimize images

Google doesn’t just search websites; it also searches for images attached to websites. How does it do this though? Through alt text. 

When you use images on your webpages, WordPress gives you the option to add alt text. This text is only visible when you look at the code, but is something search engine crawlers will search for an index. So make sure your images are also SEO optimized with accurate descriptions that hit on the right keywords.

This is also an accessibility-friendly way to help users who use screen readers know what is on the webpage. And the more accessible your website is, not only will you attract a wider audience, but you’ll offer an equitable experience for everyone.

4. Do keyword research

Keywords are one of the factors that search engines look for when indexing your website. If users enter specific keywords that are relevant to your website’s offering, you will rank higher on SERPs. So using keywords in the text on your webpages is the easiest way to rank higher. 

This means you need to do some keyword research. You can run some simple checks by entering a few search terms yourself and see what pops up. For a more comprehensive analysis you can use tools such as SEMRush or Ahrefs.

Alternatively, if you go with a website developer and maintenance service, oftentimes they will do this for you.

5. Choose an SEO plugin

There are many free WordPress SEO plugins available, so make use of them. Plugins like Yoast SEO and SEOPress PRO can do the job for you. 

Keep in mind that SEO plugins won’t actually look after all your SEO tasks for you. What they will do is make the SEO optimization process a lot easier and help you keep on top of best practices.

If you work with a skilled WordPress website developer, this is something that will be looked after for you.

6. Implement internal links

Linking internally might sound like tooting your own horn, but who is a better authority on what you offer than you! But it goes a bit deeper than that. 

Using internal links not only increases your authority, it helps keep users within your environment and gives them the sense that you are a “one-stop-shop” (which you are).

However, using internal links shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Use too many, and Google crawlers will flag your website. Too little and you will lose effectiveness. Find a middle ground that is just right (sort of like the Goldilocks of hyperlinking).

This is also where website organization and hierarchy can be your best friend, and in all honesty, is essential. Learning about cluster pages and pillar pages can help you nail down your website organization and make your internal links more effective. To learn more about website organization, check out this guide.

(See what we did there? Implemented an internal link that is relevant, useful, and organized.)

7. Use Nofollow external links

While linking your own pages can help SEO, externally linking to other websites requires a pause for consideration. 

If you’re linking to a website with strong authority, like LinkedIn or Wikipedia, no problem. But if you’re linking to a smaller website, you may want to use a Nofollow attribute.

The reason is this: linking to other websites causes search engines to associate your website with those outbound links. Using Nofollow external links will stop this process. This is useful when you don’t want search engines to think that you’ve endorsed, or approved, these links.

Nofollow links can be manually added to your website, but this is also something a good website developer should manage for you. Alternatively, there are many Nofollow plugins that you can use.

8. Ensure your title tags and meta descriptions are optimized

Title tags are what users use to find out what you’re all about. Though they’re not a ranking factor per se, they’re important for encouraging users to click on your page when they see it listed in their Google search results. 

Your title tag should clearly describe what the page is about. Language should be concise and informative.

Similarly, meta descriptions are simply a more expanded version of your title tags and ideally should run between 150 and 160 characters in length. Anything beyond 160 characters tends to get truncated and can actually stop visitors from clicking on your page. Again, keep it clear, concise and accurate, and include a call to action (CTA).

9. Implement an H1, H2, H3… structure

Page headings and subheadings are read differently by search crawlers. Your H1 should be your page title, and should ideally include some of your keyword terms. Subsequent headings help with structuring your text, which will improve both readability and SEO optimization. A page that is well-organized is a page that is more likely to rank higher on search engines. 

10. Create new, high quality content regularly

The older and more outdated your content, the faster it’s pushed down the SERP list. It’s as simple as that. 

By keeping your content both high quality and updated with a regular cadence, you can make sure your webpage is constantly hitting on the right keywords, is demonstrating your authority and trustworthiness, and helps to keep you more relevant to your audience.

11. Monitor your data

Last, but definitely not least, always stay on top of your data. Make a regular habit of checking your clickthrough rates (CTR), time spent on your website, what pages they’re looking at, what devices they are using, and all other SEO-related analytics.

Tools like Google Analytics are a great way to get all the data you need. 

See how this all fits together?

Monitoring your data however can be a task in itself. There are SEO experts who are skilled at monitoring, and compiling and analyzing data, so you can make informed decisions about your website.

Work with an SEO specialist

Working with a skilled SEO specialist can make sure your pages are SEO optimized and ready to go. 

To find out more about Sparked’s SEO services, contact us today.

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