It doesn’t matter how great your website is if customers can’t find it. That’s why SEO with WordPress is critical.
You wouldn’t open a restaurant or retail store without putting signs out front to let people know where the business is. But if you build a website without considering your SEO strategy, your customers won’t find your site. They’ll probably go to a competitor’s site with higher search results than yours.
In this post, we’ll share the top five elements for SEO with WordPress and provide an action plan for improving your site’s search rankings.
Top 5 Factors for SEO with WordPress
Search engine optimization can seem like magic. No one is exactly sure how the algorithms work, but they do. While Google and other search engines keep some of the inner workings of their algorithms secret, we know from their public-facing documentation what search engines consider when crawling and ranking sites.
Most search engine success factors fall into one of these five categories:
No one wants to go back to the days of dial-up internet. If your website loads like you just activated your AOL free trial CD, your chances of landing the top spot in search results are slim. The people searching for your business aren’t just your customers. They’re the search engines’ customers too. Search engines have a vested interest in delivering a good user experience by directing people to high-quality websites. Search algorithms consider site speed in rankings to ensure they don’t end up frustrating users by linking to slow-loading sites.
2. Mobile Friendliness
Mobile accounts for 60% or more of organic search traffic. Much like how search engines won’t direct traffic to slow sites, they won’t send traffic to sites that aren’t mobile friendly. From buttons that are too small to click with your thumb to illegible text, designing for desktop and not mobile can tank your search results.
Search engines also want to send their users to safe sites. Keeping your site updated and protected from malware will deliver the best experience for your customer and improve search rankings.
Up to this point, we’ve really only reviewed the table stakes of SEO. Having a secure, fast, and mobile-friendly site is the minimum you need to appear in search results. Where you can start to stand apart from the competition is with your content and technical SEO strategies.
Good content is vital for SEO. You need to clearly answer people’s questions and provide useful information in a natural-sounding way. Yes, you need to be smart with keywords, but poorly written keyword-stuffed content will do more harm than good for your search results.
The technical aspects of your SEO strategy ensure your site runs smoothly and that it’s easy for search engines to interpret the content on your site. Adding structured data and the right tags ensures that search engines can quickly index your site. Remember, the search engines are reading the code of a page, not the version of the page people see in a browser.
15 Ways to Improve SEO with WordPress
If you’re ready to boost your SEO with WordPress, use this action plan. Some of the tips might be new to you. Other tips you might already know about, but it’s worth double-checking your site to make sure you’ve implemented the strategies in the best way possible.
1. Pick a WordPress-Optimized Host
For both speed and security, the quality of your web host matters. Picking a host that’s optimized for WordPress gives you an advantage over generic web hosts. At Pressable, we only offer managed WordPress hosting. Our servers provide optimal WordPress performance. We consistently rank as top-tier in the Review Signal WordPress Hosting Benchmarks. We also offer top-of-the-line security to protect your site from malware.
2. Keep Your Site Updated
Running the latest version of WordPress ensures your site has the newest features and security enhancements. Updated sites perform better and faster. Pressable’s managed hosting service includes automatic updates. Within 24 hours of a new WordPress version’s release, your site will automatically update to that version.
3. Select an SEO-Friendly Theme
4. Ensure Your Site is Indexable
Did you know there’s a setting for search engine visibility in WordPress? Under Settings in the Reading section, there is a checkmark that says, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” By default, the box isn’t checked. But many times, developers will check the box while building the site.
If checked, when a search engine finds the site, it receives instructions that say you don’t want the site crawled. Not all search engines will honor the request, but for those that do, your site won’t show up in their results. Check your settings to make sure you haven’t turned this feature on by mistake.
5. Use the Right Permalinks Format
After you check the search engine visibility setting, click on the permalinks menu under the Settings section. You want to make sure you’re using a format that helps search engines understand more about the content on your site. The default for WordPress is the plain URL which references a post number. So you could write an amazing blog post on the Top 10 Best Kitchen products, but the blog URL will be website.com/?p=1244. There’s nothing in the URL with the slightest hint of what the post is about.
The post name option is a better choice for SEO. The URL would be website.com/top-10-best-kitchen-products. This format puts your title and, hopefully, keyword in the URL.
6. Install an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates enable secure encryption for the data on your website. This security is vital if you’re processing any customer data, such as personal information on a lead form or credit card transactions.
The SSL certificate enables your site to use the secure HTTPS protocol instead of plain HTTP. Search engines prefer sites with SSL certificates and use a secure protocol.
While other hosting companies may charge extra for an SSL certificate, all Pressable plans include a free SSL certificate. We even configure and install it for you automatically.
7. Use an SEO Plugin
One of the easiest ways to improve SEO with WordPress is to use an SEO plugin. The plugins help by adding necessary SEO features to your WordPress site, such as creating sitemaps or adding metadata to your posts and pages.
We compiled a list of our top 10 favorite WordPress SEO plugins and tools to help you out. You can’t go wrong with any of the tools on the list.
Yoast is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. If you’re interested in using Yoast, you’ll want to download our e-book on Getting the Most from Yoast as well as read this post with pro tips for using Yoast for WordPress.
8. Create and Submit Your Site Maps
Site maps are XML files that list all the content on your website. You can submit your site maps to search engines so the search engines know which content to index for your site. A website could have hundreds to thousands of pages. Most of the time, there isn’t one page on your site with links to every page or post. The sitemap is that list.
If you’re using Yoast as your SEO plugin, we’ve provided step-by-step instructions for how to configure your site map. Or follow these site map submission instructions from Google to submit it manually through the Google search console. Some plugins may automatically submit a sitemap for you. Check your plugin’s documentation to find out.
9. Conduct Keyword Research
Keyword research is a vital part of your SEO strategy. You need to know what people are searching for and what keywords work well for your site and your competitors. An SEO research tool will also help you identify the search volume, which is how many people are searching for that term, and the keyword difficulty, which is how challenging it will be to rank for that keyword.
Depending on your type of content, the keyword difficulty could pose a big roadblock. If it’s a broad keyword, larger, more established sites probably rank for it already. To crack into the first page of results, you’ll likely need to focus on some secondary or long tail keywords (think: phrases) that don’t have as high of a difficulty score.
10. Create Killer Content
Once you know what keywords to target, you must create compelling content. SEO content is about writing that delights readers while also taking advantage of search algorithms. Strike the right balance by following these tips.
Tips for creating strong SEO content:
- Be Authoritative. Pick subjects you’re passionate about and are an expert on. Both readers and search engines are looking for knowledgeable and trustworthy sources. If your content is inaccurate or only surface-level deep, it won’t perform well.
- Sound Natural. Writers often make the mistake of trying to be too formal in their writing. Conversational writing makes your content easier to understand. It also helps with search engine optimization. The reason is simple. People type information into search bars the way they talk. No one starts a good search like they’re writing an opening paragraph to an essay for an English composition class. You’ll sound more authoritative and approachable if you use a more conversational tone.
- Make Content Digestible. Headers and bulleted lists are your friends when writing SEO content. They break up long articles and make it easier for readers to understand the concepts. Headers and lists also provide structure to an article for search engines to process and understand.
- Write to the Right Intent. Understand your audience and why they’re searching for that topic. Search intent should guide the framing and format of your content. For example, if their intent is educational and they want to learn something, then a how-to article is a great choice.
11. Provide Alt Text for Images
Alt text is a short description of what the image shows. Assistive technologies rely on alt text to describe images to visually impaired people. Alt text also helps search engines understand what’s in the image so your images can appear in image searches. The alt text also is another great place to use a keyword, if it fits naturally in the description. Every image in WordPress has a box to add alt tags in the block’s settings on the right.
12. Use Categories to Your Advantage
If you post blogs on your site, you must develop a strategy for using categories. WordPress allows unlimited categories, but if you want to take advantage of this feature, you’re better off limiting yourself to 5 to 10 main categories. These are the primary buckets of content you’ll create. They’ll probably also be some of your main keywords.
Your WordPress template probably includes a category page that displays all the posts for one category (often called an “archive” page). This page is the one you want to optimize for that category keyword. Be sure your template includes a short description of the category.
Organizing your posts into categories is another way you can use your website structure to reinforce your core keywords for both audiences and search engines. Be sure your categories are prominently displayed in your site’s navigation or sidebar so that readers and search engines can easily access them.
13. Don’t Compete With Yourself
It’s better to have one solid piece of content for a keyword than 12 smaller pieces. When you create multiple pieces of content for the same keyword, those posts cannibalize one another. The search engine doesn’t know which one to link to, so it ends up giving low rankings to all the posts. You’re better off picking one focus keyword for each post or page and using variations of the keyword when you’re creating new content.
14. Utilize Internal Linking
Internal linking is a great way to help readers go deeper into your site. It also helps search engines understand the full breadth of your content and expertise on a subject.
Internal linking can also help with the challenge of not creating competing pages for a keyword. For example, you could use a category page for one of your main keywords. Then link back to that page when you use that word in other posts. It helps direct search engines to the category page as the main page for that keyword.
15. Implement Schema
Schema is a great way to supercharge your SEO. Schema is a form of microdata that gives additional context and information to search engines about what’s on your website.
For example, you can implement a product schema to give details such as price, brand, and availability for an item on an eCommerce website.
Schema boosts search optimization because Google uses the schema information to create rich search results like the product boxes that appear at the top of results pages:
Read our post on the benefits of using schema for WordPress for details on the types of schemas and the ways to implement them in WordPress.
SEO with WordPress and Pressable
A lot goes into SEO to help potential customers find your website. At Pressable, we want your site to be a success. We know that starts with having a secure and fast website. Our hosting platform is perfect for building an awesome website and implementing the best SEO with WordPress. Choose a WordPress hosting plan today, and let’s get started getting your site noticed.
Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and spends her days focused on creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She's been using WordPress since 2008 and has been serving in WordPress-focused roles since 2010. When she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.