SEO is an important part of building and growing your website, no matter which platform you ultimately decide to choose or what the goals of your website are. WordPress, in particular, is known for being a solid platform if ranking high in Google is one of your top concerns, but you still need to tackle a few WordPress SEO essentials if you really want your website to succeed.
After all, it is a huge misconception to think that SEO just “happens” once you set up your website. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that will continue during the entire span of time you own your website, that is unless you are okay with letting your Google rank slide into irrelevance.
Success online is intrinsically linked with SEO, the two concepts are now impossible to separate. Search engines like Google have fine-tuned their ranking algorithms to such a degree that only the best content delivered in the most streamlined and effective fashion has a chance to rank well for any given keyword. This means that unless you’re putting your all into your WordPress SEO, chances are your website is falling behind or may not even be ranking at all.
The good news is that any missteps and mistakes with SEO can be corrected, especially with a platform as powerful and versatile as WordPress. You always have the opportunity to tweak and correct issues on your website that will potentially lead to better rankings.
You can completely change how Google sees your website with just a few essential tactics, however, which we will cover in this guide. Even if you started off on the wrong foot with your website or currently are only seeing a trickle of traffic, you can turn it all around simply by implementing these SEO best practices.
Starting With a Strong Theme
Even if you have your heart set on a certain theme already, you may need to take a look at it and decide what’s more important: a certain design or your SEO. While the right theme won’t make or break a WordPress site, they can hold you back a little if they are unoptimized and clunky.
These days, given how fine-tuned Google wants your website to be, sticking with a slow or basic theme will not get you the results you are looking for. While it’s nice to think you can get away with a random free theme, it’s not going to offer you the right level of customization and functionality that a well-made premium theme would.
The main thing that separates a free or cheap WordPress theme from a premium option, outside of customization options, is the way that it is coded. A poorly coded theme will influence how everything else functions on your website, especially in the way blocks of content are rendered and how well plugins and site-builders interact with each other.
Poorly coded WordPress themes influence site speed, which is one of the most important Google ranking metrics. So not only are you losing out on functionality with a cheap theme, you will almost surely be affecting your SEO in a negative way.
It’s important to note here that not all free themes are bad, as there are some extremely lightweight WordPress themes designed specifically to be open-source and barebones. The drawback here is that they provide very little out-of-the-box functionality, and may require at least some custom development to get them looking professional enough to use for serious purposes.
Do yourself a favor and look into installing a solid theme for your website. A few excellent free examples are Moesia, Hueman, and eStore. Astra and GeneratePress are solid premium themes with basic functionality and lightweight design that are appropriate for a wide range of websites.
The Importance of SEO Plugins
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to install a high-quality SEO plugin for your WordPress website. It’s true that WordPress is naturally designed with SEO in mind, but a basic WordPress setup doesn’t help you with important issues like sitemaps, social media metadata, your appearance in search engines, and sharing data with important tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
Search engine optimization is a complex matter, with Google claiming there are roughly 200 ranking factors to consider when building your website and creating content for your users. Clearly, you need a high level of awareness and functionality just to begin to be able to tackle each of these 200 points in any kind of decent fashion.
That’s where an SEO plugin comes in and helps you do some of the deeper tasks that basic WordPress doesn’t account for. While there are plenty of aspects of SEO that only come into play when you are actually creating content for your users or customers, Plugins tend to address several background issues that act as a foundation for your SEO efforts.
There are two primary SEO plugins for WordPress, those being Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. Both accomplish most of the same tasks but go about it somewhat differently. Which one you choose is mostly preference, but currently, the industry standard is still Yoast.
Yoast, while offering a solid range of options for various SEO issues, is most known for its blog page features, which give you an ongoing system of feedback for the quality of your writing. Depending on the keywords you use, your spelling and grammar, and other aspects of your page, Yoast will give you a red, orange, or green light in order to indicate whether or not you should consider revisions.
In the SEO Analysis of each page, you can drill down to see all of the different parameters that Yoast has flagged as an issue, which lets you see exactly what you can change on your page in order to potentially get better rankings. While this system can seem clunky and obtrusive for anyone who is already familiar with SEO and knows what they are doing, for most people it is a well-received and useful feature that can help you put together a great blog post or product page.
All in One SEO, on the other hand, is far less intrusive and has no “hand-holding” features for creating your content. Instead, it focuses on simple and intuitive layouts for its blog options and far more settings that can be set to fine-tune your SEO better than you can with Yoast. If you already have a solid handle on using keywords and creating content that the search engines like, you don’t need Yoast. However, I would definitely recommend it if you are just starting out with SEO.
Using Proper Permalink Structure
Not everything revolves around complicated plugins and optimized themes. There’s one simple action you can take immediately that will almost certainly improve your SEO immediately if you haven’t already done it. If you hover over the “Settings” option in the WordPress sidebar, you will see an all-too-important option called Permalinks. It’s in this area that we will make our critical change to how WordPress displays your URLs.
What exactly is a “permalink” though? Without getting unnecessarily deep into the subject, a permalink is essentially the visible URL of a given page in WordPress. Because WordPress pages are dynamically generated, the permalink structure needs to be set by the owner of the website. The true “id” of every page on your WordPress website is a dynamically generated string of numbers, and if you don’t set a good permalink structure, it will use these numbers as the URL, along with question marks and other nonsensical characters.
This is an SEO disaster that you want to avoid at all costs. Your URL is actually a very important contextual ranking factor that you don’t want to ignore. Your URL should include a keyword that matches the keyword used in your page title for best results, but all of this goes out the window if you don’t have a proper permalink structure set.
In the Permalinks options in WordPress, you have an array of choices that you can make for how WordPress displays your URLs. In most cases, you want to pick the option that says “custom,” which means you will decide how each page’s URL is displayed and there will never be generic dynamic content included in the URL path.
This one simple change can have a dramatic effect on your SEO. You will be able to assign specific URLs to each page of your website without WordPress interfering with and inventing URLs of its own. If you notice one thing about the way in which all major websites function, especially their blogs, it’s that they control the structure of their permalinks. You need to also keep in mind that when displaying your website in search results, Google will show your URL. Even if somehow you get a piece of content to rank when using generic dynamically generated URLs, that string of nonsense will display in the search results, creating a highly unprofessional look. It’s simply something that you want to avoid if you are serious about SEO.
Lastly, the most important aspect of taking control of your WordPress SEO is in the actual content that you are generating for it. This can mean anything from your blog posts to your product pages, and even your “about us” page or “contact” page. Anywhere that you are creating content that you want to share with visitors to your website, SEO needs to be taken into account.
When crafting the pages on your website, you want to ensure above all else that your content is being created for the user’s benefit and not yours. It doesn’t matter what the end goal of your website is, even if you are trying to sell a product or service. Your content should address the needs and questions of your audience.
For Google, this means a descriptive and direct page title, high readability (large plain font, no hard to read colors, proper line spacing), proper linking to sources and interlinking between other pages of your website, an easy to follow page structure (using bullet points, title tags), and high-resolution photographs and video.
Your content is what will draw users to your site and grow your following and brand. Without addressing the needs of your audience, your website has no value, because it won’t generate enough traffic to be sustainable.
This same philosophy can be used to optimize your product pages. You want each product page on your website to be just as readable and aesthetically pleasing as a well-made blog post, if not more so. The benefits and quality of your product need to be communicated through the screen, otherwise not only will the visitors to your website not convert into buyers, but Google will not recognize your product page as worthy enough to rank. Page title, description, use of keywords, proper alt tags for images, and contextual linking with other products all need to be taken into consideration.
Ensuring Your WordPress SEO is Handled Right
For optimal traffic and conversions, you may want to consider professional WordPress SEO services rather than attempting to tackle everything on your own. While these essential points will get you started, you will soon realize that SEO is becoming increasingly complex and takes years of research and implementation to master.
If you follow through with these SEO steps, you will, however, give your website a better foundation from which to grow. For Google, following the proper search engine optimization techniques is mandatory if you intend to rank. This is the reality of building and maintaining websites today, and it’s only going to get more difficult as Google further refines the algorithm to increase focus on user experience above everything else.
This means that there are no shortcuts with SEO. You have to put in the work no matter what platform you are on. If you want to make sure your SEO is handled properly, an experienced agency is what you will need to come out on top. If you are interested in optimizing your website’s SEO and increasing your traffic, take a look at the WordPress SEO services that we offer.
We understand the complexities of search engine optimization and want to help your business succeed. Genius eCommerce knows SEO and will put together a strategy that will generate the results you’re looking for. Get in touch with us today and find out what we can do for your WordPress site.