Optimizing WordPress for Search engines is not rocket science and very beginner friendly. In this beginners guide, I will be giving you an overview on what you should do to improve your on-page SEO and get your content noticed by search engines!

Setting up your WordPress Site

Should I use an SSL certificate or is it enough to continue without it?

The short answer is, yes you should adopt SSL on your website. Since 2014 Google has steadily increased the importance it gives to HTTPS websites. Not only does it make your website more secure for your visitors, but it also improves speed (taking advantage of modern web technologies) and several studies by the folks of MOZ, SEM Rush and Ahrefs have found a direct correlation between HTTPS and higher search rankings.

Should I use www or non-www?

Choose the one you prefer, there is no SEO advantage of one over the other. Once you have chosen your preferred version, stick to it! WordPress will automatically redirect your visitors to the version you have set under “Settings – General”.

WordPress Site Address

But what if you already have an existing website and suddenly change from one version to the other? In this case, please make sure that you 301 redirect the old URLs to the new ones. This will let search engines know which version you prefer. A great plugin that will help you with all your redirection needs is “Redirection“.

Permalink structure – Keep your URLs readable and short!

After creating a new WordPress site, the first thing to check are your permalinks, which are the URLs for your pages and posts. Go to “Settings – Permalinks” and make sure that the “Post name” is selected.

WordPress permalinks

By structuring your URLs this way, visitors can look at your URL and know immediately what your post or page is about and secondly Google tends to prefer short URLs over longer ones. According to former Google’s head of webspam team Matt Cutts, after 5 words in your URL: “[Google] algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.”

If you already have a WordPress site and want to change your permalink structure, remember to also redirect the old URLs to the new ones.

Preparing your content

A catchy Title and stay away from clickbait

The title should always tell your visitor what your blog post or page is about and also include your target keyword. Currently, I’m writing a guide about WordPress SEO techniques, my title is “WordPress SEO in 2019 – A Beginners Guide”, with “WordPress SEO” as my primary keyword. Also, think about the value proposition, what is it that my readers will get out of this blog post and if I were a reader, why would I click on the title? Writing good and catchy titles can be a bit of a pain, I recommend reading this excellent article from CoSchedule about this topic!

Revisting the Permalink

WordPress Permalink

By default, WordPress includes the whole post/page title into its permalink URL. Remember, we want to keep our URLs short. If possible, remove stopwords such as “a, the, and” and shorten the URL, it should still reflect what your article is about and include your primary keyword.

Optimize your Images

Image Plugins for WordPress

When preparing images for your blog post, always make sure that they are optimized for the web and have a small file size. Page speed plays a vital role in SEO. WordPress, offers a broad range of plugins to optimize your images, here is a list of our three favorite image optimization plugins! Alt tags should also always be included with your image, making it more accessible for screen readers and boosting its visibility on Google images.

Content Hierarchy

It is very important that we have our content well formatted. Use the h1 to h4 tag for headlines, ul, ol elements for unordered and ordered lists, blockquote for quotes and so on. Since h1 is already used automatically for your site title, use h2 for subtitles and h3 for list titles. This will not only improve the user experience, but also make it easier for web crawlers to index your content! Personally, I tend to avoid Sidebars on Blog posts, since widgets commonly use the h3 as a widget title and sidebar links that are used across the whole site, hardly have something to do with the specific content of my blog post.

Working with Yoast SEO

WordPress Plugin Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the WordPress standard plugin for search engine optimization. Before you start to publish your own content you should install and activate the plugin.

After activation, at the bottom of each page/post we can edit the site title as well as add a meta description. Regarding the site title, we will do the same thing we already did to our URL. We will edit the title in a way that it still conveys our message, but keep it short for search engines. The meta description is a great way to describe what our post is about and can further encourage a user to click on our link!

Optimizing WordPress with Yoast SEO

Conclusion

That concludes our guide for SEO WordPress for beginners. We have covered the very basic steps from setting up a WordPress site to structuring your content. In my next post, we will get into more advanced techniques for WordPress SEO, such as XML Sitemaps, duplicate content, caching and speeding up your website!