SEO Optimisation of WordPress
WordPress is already a pretty well optimised platform, far more so than some of the other content management systems out there, but there are still a number of things you can do to boost your website’s SEO and help it to rank in relevant searches.
Improve your WordPress website’s SEO to make it easier for users to find it online.
Why optimise your WordPress website for SEO?
Before we look at how to improve your WordPress site’s SEO, let’s first explain why optimising your WordPress website is so important.
The main reason why you need to optimise your WordPress website is to make sure that it is found, crawled and indexed by search engine spiders. Having your content indexed will enable you to rank on relevant search results pages. The higher your ranking, the more targeted traffic you will have directed to your website, giving you an increased chance of improving your conversion rates and profiting your business.
WordPress SEO Best Practices
There are a number of different techniques you can use to boost your WordPress website’s SEO, however some SEO techniques are better than others in that they provide long lasting results and help to ensure you stay on the right side of search engines. These are called white hat SEO techniques and are considered best practice. Below we have shared some of the white hat SEO techniques you can use to optimise your WordPress website.
Research the keywords and key phrases people are likely to use when looking for the content on your WordPress website.
Keywords and key phrases
In order to build an effective SEO strategy for your WordPress website, you will need to research keywords and key phrases that you want your site to rank for. These keywords and key phrases (long tail keywords) should relate to what you are offering on your WordPress website, whether it is products, services, content or information. You can use tools like the Google Keyword Tool to help you identify potentially valuable keywords and evaluate their competition.
The keywords and key phrases you choose to optimise should be used in your WordPress website content, page titles, meta descriptions, blog content and URLs, however it is important to optimise them naturally. Stuffing your website with keywords will make it look spammy and low quality to both search engines and users.
SEO friendly URLs
In order to create more SEO friendly URLs, we recommend changing your WordPress website’s permalink structure. Go to Settings > Permalinks. There you will find that the default permalink is ?p=<postid>. We recommend changing this to either Post name (so your URLs includes the keywords featured in your post titles) or Custom (so you can change the value to include both category and post names).
URLs featuring category and post names will tell people what a page is about before they have even clicked on it. The keywords featured in your URLs will also be highlighted in search engine results in relation to the query a user has searched for, helping your WordPress pages to stand out.
Did you know that your WordPress title tags are one of the most important factors for ranking in relevant search results? Yes your title tags play an important role in the SEO optimisation of WordPress and can make all the difference to your positions on SERPs.
For those who don’t know, your title tags are basically the words that appear in the title of a browser window or tab. They are also used at the top of each search engine results, followed by the URL and meta description.
In order to optimise your WordPress title tags you should ensure they feature keywords that are relevant to the content featured on the page. Featuring your keywords at the beginning of your title tags is usually more beneficial in terms of SEO. You will also find that people are more likely to click on your link if the keywords they are searching for are at the beginning of the page title.
Whilst your WordPress website’s meta descriptions do not directly affect search rankings, they are essential in gaining click throughs and increasing traffic to your website. You should always write unique meta descriptions for each of your WordPress pages and blog posts. The meta description should entice people to click on your link and feature keywords (which will be highlighted in bold if they are what the users searched for).
The better quality your website is in terms of structure, speed and navigation, the more likely it is to rank well on relevant search engine results pages. A great way to improve your WordPress website’s SEO is to ensure that your code is clean and organised. Although we recommend having a bespoke WordPress theme created for your website, if you are going to use a pre-made theme, make sure it has high quality code.
Improving site speed
You also need to make sure that your WordPress website pages load quickly, as this is a contributing factor to your search rankings. Optimise your template so that it has to do as few database calls as necessary and make sure you use a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache (particularly great if you are using a Content Delivery Network) to speed up your WordPress site. The web host you choose for your WordPress website is also likely to have an effect on it’s ability to load pages quickly.
WordPress widgets can slow down your site’s page loading times and have an effect on its SEO.
Another way you can improve site speed and in turn, your website’s SEO is by cleaning up the widgets featured on your site. Whilst some widgets are great for improving the functionality of your website for users, they can significantly slow down your page loading times. Only use WordPress widgets that are valuable and necessary to your site’s functionality. Get rid of any that you are no longer using.
The easier it is for site visitors and search engines to navigate through your WordPress website, the more likely you are to achieve a higher ranking on relevant search engine results pages. A great way to improve your site navigation is to use the Breadcrumbs plugin. This will make it easier for users to navigate your website and will also allow search engines to evaluate the structure of your site more easily. Your breadcrumbs links should always link to the homepage of your website and the category page that the post is featured in.
Dealing with duplicate content
If you have been reading up on SEO, you will know just how detrimental duplicate content can be to your site’s search rankings. One of the best ways to avoid duplicate content being indexed by Google is by using the rel= “canonical” tag. To make this easier, we recommend using a plugin like the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, which will automatically create canonical link elements for every page in WordPress.
Along with optimising your WordPress website content and blog posts for SEO, you should also be optimising any images you upload. Recently Google has been focusing on the alt attribute when it comes to ranking both images and posts highly in relevant searches.
WordPress creates alt attributes for your images automatically using the file names you have chosen. This means it is important to feature relevant keywords that you want to rank for in your image file names, rather than simply smashing the computer keyboard with random letters.
Your WordPress image alt tags will tell search engines what your images feature and will help to drive more traffic through to your website, whether users are doing an image search or a traditional search.
Building links to your WordPress website by creating excellent content will significantly improve your SEO rankings.
The more high quality links you have pointing to your WordPress website, the higher search engine rankings you will achieve. Notice we have underlined the words ‘high quality.’ This is due to the fact that only links from websites of relevance (same industry or target audience) and of high authority (high page rank) will work in your site’s favour when it comes to improving its SEO.
Creating unique, interesting and high quality content is the best way to generate natural backlinks to your WordPress website. Share your knowledge of a particular niche or offer a unique view on a specific subject related to your business and people are bound to want to link to your website from their website and share your pages on social media (creating social signals).
If lots of people are sharing your site on their websites and social media pages, Google and other search engines will see you as more of an industry expert, which is likely to increase your search result rankings.
You can also improve your WordPress website’s SEO by creating content for other people’s blogs and websites. This is called guest blogging. By publishing content on a blog with high authority and gaining a link back to your website, you will share their link juice and it will boost your site authority, leading to higher rankings.
We also highly recommend interlinking your WordPress pages and posts. Including links naturally in your website and blog content that link to other pages of your site is a great way to improve your site’s user experience and help search engine spiders to crawl and index your site. Of course, it is important to make sure that any interlinks you create are relevant and useful to users or they will simply looking spammy.
HHTP & SSL sites
This year (2014) Google announced that they would be giving a small ranking benefit to HTTPS and SSL sites as they are considered to be more secure for people to use than other websites. With this in mind, you may want to consider moving your WordPress website over to SSL. This is something the team here at Online Media Direct can help you with.
SEO Plugins and tools
One of the easiest ways to optimise your WordPress website for search engines is by using plugins. There are hundreds of SEO plugins available, but some of the best include:
WordPress SEO by Yoast
W3 Total Cache
Google XML Sitemaps
All in one SEO pack
These plugins make optimising your WordPress website easy. Some of them provide an all-in-one solution (WordPress SEO and All in one SEO pack) whereas others are more specified to certain aspects of SEO, such as caching your site to improve page loading times and creating a Google XML Sitemap to make sure Google only crawls and indexes specific pages.
Find out how one of our favourite WordPress SEO plugins, WordPress SEO Yoast works by watching the video below.
Use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to evaluate your WordPress site’s SEO.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
We also highly recommend signing up to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Google Analytics will give you an insight to some of the keywords people have used to get from a search engine to your website. Viewing this data will give you an idea of the keywords and key phrases you should be optimising. You may even decide that you need a whole WordPress page that answers one specific long tail keyword in order to increase traffic and conversions.
Google Analytics will also show you how users are interacting with your WordPress website and things like your bounce rate. A low bounce rate is good for your website’s SEO as it tells search engines that users are satisfied with the content they have found and are happy to spend time on your site. On the other hand, a high bounce rate suggests to search engines that users are unsatisfied with your website (may be it’s loads slow or is hard to navigate) and they cannot find the content they are looking for (suggesting you may be ranking for the wrong keywords).
Using Google Webmaster Tools will also be key in improving your WordPress website’s SEO. Using Google Webmaster Tools you will be able to see which keywords you are ranking for and what improvements need to be made to your WordPress website in order to improve it’s SEO. For example, Google Webmaster Tools will notify you if you have broken links, duplicate content or bugs and errors. It provides a great insight to your website’s SEO and will prove to be very useful during the optimisation process.
For more information about how to improve your WordPress website’s SEO, get in touch with Online Media Direct today. We specialise in creating bespoke SEO strategies for WordPress websites. Contact us for a no obligation quote.