WordPress SEO Tutorial (From Beginner To Advanced Guide)

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WordPress SEO

By improving your WordPress SEO you can quickly increase your website traffic and revenue.

The default installation of WordPress has better SEO than other counterparts, but there is a lot you need to do to improve the SEO of WordPress.

In this beginner’s friendly tutorial, I have shared everything you can do to optimizing your website for WordPress SEO.

How do I’m sure of that?

Well, ShoutMeLoud (this blog) runs on WordPress and we receive more than 1 million page views every month.

ShoutMeLoud pageviews

However, one thing that you should know, there are rumors that WordPress has the best possible SEO options. But this is not entirely true!

Let me elaborate.

WordPress is not SEO friendly.

At least, the default WordPress installation is not.

If you, like many others, believe that your stock installation of WordPress will get you excellent, or even good rankings on search engines, you are misinformed.

WordPress needs to be SEO optimized for search engine bots to understand your WordPress website and rank you appropriately. Luckily, making your WordPress blog SEO friendly is rather easy with the help of this guide and with combinations of WordPress SEO plugins.

Here, I will outline some of the default settings of WordPress which are not SEO friendly, and what you should do to make it SEO friendly.

Basics of WordPress SEO:

WordPress SEO can be categorized into 3 levels:

  • On Page WordPress SEO
  • On-Site WordPress SEO
  • Off-site WordPress SEO

On page SEO and On-site SEO, are something that you can easily take care of with the help of your content, plugins and a bit of discipline.

Off-Site WordPress SEO consists of generating backlinks to your website. This can be achieved by outreach, broken link building or by utilizing other techniques.

In this guide, we are more focused on On Page and On-Site aspect of SEO.

Let me explain these two with a simple example:

On Page SEO:

This technique will help you to optimize any post/page on WordPress for a target keyword. This helps search engine understand what your content is about and help you rank for the right keyword. If you like to learn more about this, read our guide on On page SEO.

On-Site SEO:

These are more technical SEO settings where you help search engine bots effectively crawl and index your website. Factors like page speed, Robots.txt, and others play a major role.

Again, if you understand the basics with the help of this WordPress SEO tutorial, you will have no problem optimizing your WordPress website.

Getting the basics right:

Before we move into a more actionable part of our WordPress SEO guide, let us make sure our basics are strong.

Check WordPress visibility settings:

Login to your WordPress admin panel, and head over to settings > Readings, and ensure that “Search Engine Visibility” setting is unchecked.

This is how it should look like:

A lot of times default WordPress installer keep this option checked, and this prevents search engine bots from crawling your website.

WWW Vs. non WWW:

Another important WordPress SEO question asked by a lot of users is, to use WWW (https://domain.com) or non-WWW (https://www.domain.com) at the time of WordPress installation.

Search engine treats WWW and non-WWW as two different websites, so you need to pick one and stick to it. This could be configured at the time of setting up WordPress, by going to Settings > General.

As of 2020, there is no SEO benefit of choosing either of them. However, I recommend using the non-www version, as the shorter version of URLs is better for sharing on social media or elsewhere..

WordPress SEO plugin:

There are many WordPress SEO plugins out there for various purpose. For example:

  • Overall SEO: Yoast SEO, RankMath, All in one SEO
  • Internal link SEO: Linkwhisper

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Yoast SEO plugin which constantly adds new SEO features, and is free, and reliable. Be it a usual content based website or an e-commerce based website, Yoast SEO helps you in optimizing your website for SEO.

16 Ways To Boost WordPress site SEO

1. Add your WordPress Website to Search console

Google search console is a free SEO tool by Google that you should use from day one. Even if you don’t know how to use it, you should add your website to Google search console.

This will help you to collect all important data and as you move forward with your WordPress SEO learnings, this data will help you in faster optimization of your WordPress website.

Here is a detailed tutorial on how to submit your website to Google search console.

2. Implement WordPress Sitemap

Let’s start with Sitemap, which is an XML file containing an index of all important link (Posts, Pages, Tags, categories) of your WordPress website. This sitemap file will help search engine bots like Google bots to effectively find all the pages of your website.

There are many WordPress Sitemap plugins out there, but I prefer using Yoast SEO Sitemap feature which is one of the oldest and reliable ones out there. All you need to do is install and activate the plugin and go to plugin settings and generate a sitemap for your blog.

WordPress Sitemap

By default, your sitemap link will be http://domain.com/sitemap.xml (Ex. sitemap)

Now, go to Google search console and Bing Webmaster tool, submit and verify your site and submit a sitemap. This will help them to crawl and index all internal pages of your Blog.

  • Bonus tip: Also add a Sitemap link at the footer of your WordPress website and also in the Robots.txt of your Blog.

3. WordPress Permalink (Search friendly URL’s)

The WordPress default permalink is not SEO friendly, and you need to change that as well.

The SEO friendly URL is one which is easy to read. Example:

Whereas non-friendly URL’s uses the numbers and it’s hard for a normal user to understand the content.

Here is an example of non friendly URL’s:

https://domain.com/?p=XX

https://domain.com/archive/678

You should always use a search engine friendly URL structure.

If you have read my WordPress essential setup guide, you might avoid making this mistake. But if you are still doing this, it’s time to change your permalink structure to a more search engine friendly version.

Head over to Settings > Permalink and select /%postname%/ as your permalink structure.

I have already covered this in detail in my earlier guide:

Update: In the latest versions of WordPress, the permalink is search friendly. You may not need to make any changes.

4. Implement Breadcrumbs navigation

Breadcrumb is an important aspect of On-page SEO, and in 2020, Google shows breadcrumbs in SERP. I have seen significant traffic improvement, after implementing Breadcrumbs in WordPress.

All the major WordPress SEO plugins offer functionality to enable breadcrumbs.

Here is how you enable it in Yoast SEO:

 Breadcrumbs WordPress SEO

There are different kinds of breadcrumbs, and you should enable it according to the WordPress website you have.

For example, a WordPress based blog would like to show the category in the breadcrumbs’ path. A Woo-commerce based website could use Location-based Breadcrumbs.

Apart from SEO, Breadcrumbs also help in:

  • Reducing bounce rate
  • Improved user experience
  • Better search engine visibility

Now, moving on to the next WordPress SEO tip…

5. Optimize blog post and pages for target Keyword:

This is a critical aspect of WordPress SEO, and if you do it right, you will be able to drive a significant amount of traffic in no time.

In this, you first perform keyword research (See next point for this), and then optimize your homepage, posts or pages for the target keyword. This process is also popularly known as On page SEO.

Read my below guide to make most out of it:

6. Perform Keyword research for your WordPress Website

Keyword research is the process of finding profitable and strategic keywords for your WordPress website. SEO optimization of WordPress is useless without performing keyword research.

There are keyword research tools that literally take less < 30 minutes to help you find 100+ profitable keywords. SEMRush is one of the top tools that let you quickly find keywords that are profitable for your business.

Take 14 days free trial of SEMRush

7. Use Focus Keyword

Focus keyword is a feature offered by all the popular On-page SEO plugins of WordPress like Yoast SEO. This feature is an easy way to see, if your article is optimized for your target keyword or not.

To use this, simply add the focus keyword in your plugin setting in the post editor section. (See the screenshot below)

Once you have added the focus keyphrase, the plugin will automatically suggest if following:

  • Keyword density
  • Outbound Link
  • Internal Links
  • Keyphrase in Introduction
  • Keyphrase distribution

And a few more, are in the correct proportion or need attention. (See the below screenshot)

If anything is in Red or orange, it means, it needs your attention. You can mix this plugin (Yoast SEO) with SEO writing assistant to get the maximum value.

8. Regularly clean broken links:

Broken links are the dead end for search engine bots and add the negative score to your overall search engine optimization effort. Broken links can be easily taken care in WordPress using plugins like:

You should periodically scan your WordPress website for any broken links and fix it with new links. The above two plugins will help you do the same.

9. Improve Internal Linking in WordPress:

This is one under-utilized technique to improve WordPress SEO. Internal linking is the process of linking from one page of your website to another.

If you could combine this with anchor text technique to implement internal linking in WordPress, it could do wonder for improving your website ranking.

Internal linking helps in the following ways:

  • Adds On Page SEO benefits
  • Passes on link juice from one page to another
  • Helps search engine better crawl your website

If you are doing SEO of a new WordPress website, you could manually add internal-links.

For an existing WordPress website, you could use a plugin like LinkWhisper to improve the overall link structure.

Also, see:

10. Use Structured data markup:

Structured data helps the search engine understand more about the data of your content. For example, you can markup a blog post as an article, an event type as an event page and add data like event start date/end date, and this shows in SERPs.

Similarly, for review articles, you can show the star rating in the search engine.

IMHO structured data is the most underutilized WordPress SEO technique that you can use to outperform your competitors.

WordPress SEO Schema

In WordPress, you can add structured data using various methods.

For example, a content website could add FAQ type schema using Yoast SEO plugin. Watch the below video to understand how FAQ schema works in WordPress:

For a review based WordPress website, WP product review is the best review schema plugin out there.

Schema Pro is another advanced schema plugin for WordPress.

11. Use SSL and HTTPS:

Using an SSL certificate (free or paid) lets you use the HTTPS protocol. This ensures the data between your website and visitors’ browser are encrypted.

Google has already made it official that HTTPS is a ranking signal and something you should not miss using.

HTTPS as ranking signal

Most of the WordPress hosting companies now offer free SSL certificate which is idle for any information based or non-transactional WordPress website. If you are using WooCommerce or any other e-commerce platform on WordPress, you can consider using a paid SSL certificate.

12. Prevent duplicate content penalty:

Duplicate content is another major issue that affects the overall WordPress SEO score. The cause of the duplicate content issue is when more than one URL of your webpage shows the same content.

This usually happens when you set your archive pages (category, tags, dates) to index and instead of showing the excerpt, you should the complete content. This confuses the search engine and causes a duplicate content penalty.

Note: If you are structuring your WordPress website smartly, you don’t need to noindex category pages. At times, indexed category pages help the search engine understand the structure of your website, and reward you with better traffic.

Read: What is a duplicate content issue and how to avoid it in WordPress

13. Replytocom and URL Parameters

This is another big SEO issue with WordPress.

If you check out your comment box reply link, it will show something like:

I have faced this issue in the past, and this became one of my biggest issues when my site got penalized by Google Panda.

There are many fixes for this. You can use the WordPress SEO by Yoast permalink options to fix it, or you can use URL parameter settings in Google search console.

There are many other such URL parameters which are used by WordPress (usually because of new WordPress plugins and/or theme settings), and you should use the Webmaster tool’s URL parameter settings to make sure your blog never gets victimized because of this WordPress SEO issue.

14. Search intent optimization with SEO Title and Meta Description.

Search intent optimization will help you win the traffic that you discover. A lot of times, WordPress users complain that even after writing high-quality content, they are unable to drive traffic. This is usually due to the lack of search engine intent optimization.

The process is easier than you think:

  • First, analyze the search result for your target keyword
  • You will find Google is preferring results like Shopping, Listicles, How to’s for a particular query
  • Now, optimize your posts/pages meta title, and description using this new discovered information.

A few things to know about Title tags:

  • Keep your primary keyword at the beginning of the article
  • Make sure the title tag is not more than 65 characters

15. Image Alt text and Image Sitemap

I’m not sure how many of you are utilizing images to improve the presentation of your content, but if you are not doing it, you should start adding images in your Blog post.

If you are asking Why you should?

These are some of the advantages which I listed and now lets stick to the main topic and that is: Optimizing your WordPress images for the search engine. Unlike text content, Search engine bots use Alt text to understand what an image is all about.

You can use SEO friendly images plugin to create auto ALT text for all your images but make sure your images name are meaningful. Before uploading images in WordPress, Use simple naming conventions like WordPress-SEO.jpeg instead of  DSC001.jpeg.

You can always manually optimize image Alt text by selecting the image in post editor section, and add alt text as shown:

WordPress SEO for adding images

Also, if your blog has lots of images, you can consider creating a sitemap of WordPress images and submit them to Google search console for deep indexing.

I have tried this method, and this not only helped me to rank fairly high for some competitive Keywords but also helped me to drive targeted traffic.

16. Optimize WordPress Loading Speed

The loading time of your pages is one of the factors in search engine ranking, and WordPress is one of the most memory-hogging platforms out there.

Well, not exactly.

The stock version is okay, but when you keep adding new plugins and themes, your database grows over time. When this happens, your site slows down.

There are a few things you could do from day one to improve the loading speed of your WordPress site. Here are a few things that could help:

Use a cache plugin:

WP Rocket

WP Super Cache and WP-Rocket are two of the best plugins out there for optimizing your WordPress blog for SEO (regarding speed).

Currently, I use the WP Rocket plugin for caching and improving the performance of my WordPress blog. I highly recommend you try it too.

Especially if you are embedding videos from YouTube on your posts/pages, your load time will be really high.

I used Google analytics Site speed feature to find out that some of the popular pages of ShoutMeLoud have very slow loading time, as there are embedded videos from YouTube. (See analytics screenshot below)

Google analytics Site speed

By utilizing the lazy load videos feature of WP-Rocket, I was able to improve the loading time of these pages significantly.

Here is the setting that I used to achieve lazy load videos in WordPress:

WP Rocket Media Settings

Take your time to configure the cache plugin properly and this will drastically improve the loading time of your WordPress website, which in turn will improve WordPress SEO significantly.

Use an Image Compression plugin:

This is another underutilized technique that is highly recommended for every WordPress users.

Images are important but they decrease load time. The solution is to compress your images which degrading the quality. Thanks to the advancement of technology, now there are plugins that automatically compresses the images on your WordPress website.

ShortPixels is one such plugin that I use here at ShoutMeLoud which works out of the box.

ShortPixels

You can use this plugin for compressing all existing images on your WordPress website and new images as well.

We have an extensive tutorial and review of Shortpixel plugin here.

Here is a ShortPixel video guide, if you like learning by watching videos:

Also, work on limiting your plugins to make your blog load faster.

From time to time, keep deleting your post revisions, and Optimize your database for any redundant tables.

These are just a few features that make standard WordPress SEO friendly.

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding WordPress SEO. Before posting your query, kindly go through them:

How to do off page SEO in WordPress?

By utilizing popular link building techniques like broken link building, linkless mention, or via guest posting, you can start with off page SEO in WordPress.

Are WordPress tags important for SEO?

WordPress tags are mostly used for users’ navigation, and for creating a better structure for admins. It is recommended to keep tags as no indexed.

Does WordPress theme affect SEO?

Yes, a poorly coded or slow WordPress theme could impact your WordPress website SEO. Make sure you pick a SEO friendly WordPress theme such as Genesis.

How much time does It take to see the impact of SEO?

It could take any time from a few weeks to months. It mostly depends upon how often you are adding new pages, publishing new content, and other websites are linking to it. At times, at major search engine algorithm changes, we see a major impact of our SEO changes.

There are many other things that every WordPress user should do to make his/her blog optimized for search engines.

For example:

Here are a few more WordPress SEO articles, which will help you in making your WordPress blog more search engine friendly:

Do let me know what other practices you follow to make your non-SEO friendly WordPress blog SEO friendly.

Share your tips in the comments below!

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