Search Engine Optimization is something that’s on the mind of every blogger out there, but truly understanding it, is a task that is far easier said than done.
With that being said, welcome to the ultimate resource for WordPress SEO tips this side of a Tibetan monk who understands the mind of Google (I’m fairly certain he doesn’t exist).
Of course, there are an abundance of other practices in your structure and content that will also lend to a more optimized website, but we’ll get to all of that in due time.
For now, as the salad said to the dinner: “lettuce begin!”
The Secrets to Successful WordPress SEO (You’re Welcome)
“Optimizing your WordPress site is the first step toward real blogging success” [click to tweet]
It’s hard to believe anyone would give this out for free, but I’m Matt Banner, and although most people know me through my brother Bruce, you know, the big green guy (the Hulk) I’m sporting a brain that’s equally powerful and like him I want to use my power for good.
If you’ve stumbled on this page prior to learning how to create a website, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered 🙂
Here’s what you’re going to learn by the end of this article:
- A massive list of the best SEO practices out there
- WordPress exclusive tips to maximize your blog’s potential
- A sneak peek at the future of SEO and how you can prepare today
- Step by step on How to Optimize WordPress with the Yoast Plugin
35 WordPress SEO Tips to Chew On
1) Pay attention how you structure your URL: as you create phenomenal posts, remember that WordPress allows you to tailor the structure of your permalinks (or URL) under the settings > Permalinks. You can utilize a custom structure (my recommendation) or pick something different.
Just know that the shorter, the better (i.e. onblastblog.com/get-more-traffic). You don’t need to fit every single word of your article title in the URL.
2) Install the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin: Of all the plugins out there, this is the one you need for your blog. This will help you keep track of your optimization and allow you to tailor other features of your blog without the need for multiple plugins. Yoast will keep your website clean and on track.
3) Add Internal Links: When you’re working on a new post, make sure you link to other relevant ones on your blog to increase the networking structure and keep the other posts in the limelight.
4) Optimize Images: This is relatively easy and comes included with WordPress. When you’re uploading and inserting an image on your blog, there are fields to provide an alternate text, caption, and description.
Use them all. These all add to the organic visibility of the image, so don’t forget to use them.
5) Content is for People First: Some bloggers get all caught up in throwing as many keywords into a post as possible, and while having your primary and LSI keywords present is certainly needed to help people understand what you’re talking about, ultimately the usefulness of your content will decide how well it performs in search engine results.
Make it well-written, unique, and above all else, useful for your readers.
6) Generate More Brand Mentions: Having your posts linked on other blogs is an important step in building a strong organically-focused blog.
Essentially, they are 3rd party recommendations that scream “What you’re doing is awesome”. That being said, you don’t need links from sites that aren’t in your niche or don’t relate to your topic.
Remember, your goal is ultimately about judging the usefulness of your site for users.
7) PageRank isn’t as Important as You Might Think: The way pages are viewed and ranked by search engines is part of a huge machine like algorithm. It’s been widely noted that using page rank as a ranking factor is no longer recognized.
8) Ensure your Title Tag Contains the Most Important Words: The title tag, which displays on Google and other search engines, shouldn’t just be the company name or the name of your blog. Each title tag should accurately describe what will be on that given page.
Practicing this will better improve your SEO and proudly display the content of the post.
9) Make Your Hyperlinks Keyword Phrases: This is a simple tip, but an important one. If you’re linking to an article about common mistakes bloggers make, don’t just say “click here”, use the phrase so readers know what they’re clicking on.
10) Long-Tail Keyword Phrases Beat Lonely Ones: You can pick and choose keywords like you’re the king or queen of the apple bobbing contest, but the real way to utilize these keywords is by placing them in phrases that are relevant to your topic.
If you’re talking about cooking dessert dishes, then expand on that like so: “Our detailed recipes will help you craft the finest dessert dishes.”
11) From the Beginning, Your Design Should be SEO Focused: Your blogs design, whether it’s done by you or by a web designer, needs to be focused on organic search traffic.
12) Get your Site Indexed: Using a tool like Google Search Console will help you establish a clear connection between your website’s content and the Google search engine.
13) Structure Your Site With Simplicity: A complicated and disorganized blog isn’t going to get a lot of readers or backlinks.
Don’t go crazy with folders and subfolders. Keep things organized and if people want to look at older posts, make sure that’s easy to do as well.
14) Always, Always Reciprocate: Not only is it common courtesy to link & reference other sites that have furthered the topic conversation you’re writing about, but doing so will help build your popularity and improve your authority (so long as they’re quality trusted sites that are applicable to the same topic) in your particular niche.
15) Content Needs to be Unique and of High Quality: You can write about the psychological profile of the common household cat all you want, but if the content isn’t of high quality (meaning no keyword stuffing, or a litany of grammar and punctuation issues) then you’re not going to see the results you want.
Creating content that does both of these things will be infinitely more noticeable to Google.
16) Choose a Single Main Keyword Phrase: Don’t try to create a single post that addresses multiple keyword phrases. Find one that most represents your content and use it sparingly in the post.
Branch off of that keyword with secondary keywords and relevant topics to further expand on the subject matter.
17) Your SEO Must Lead to a Strong CTA (Call to Action): Much like dousing logs in lighter fluid, it’s all for naught if you don’t light a match to ignite the flames. At the end of your posts, you should always leave the reader with something to do.
It could be a sign up for your newsletter, or an invitation to comment. It could also be an opportunity to purchase your products or services. Make sure this is present, and that it’s clear and concise.
18) Never Stop Researching: Anything involving SEO is only a present solution or tactic.
The landscape of this is always changing. With new updates to Google and Yahoo, the methods by which pages are displayed and ranked is always changing. Staying current on these trends and algorithms is the best way to stay ahead of the curve.
19) The Text Around Your Images Matters: As mentioned earlier, the caption, description and ALT-Text attached to your images helps them rank well in search engines.
What you’re saying when the image appears (the text around it) also matters. SEO is relying more on how things connect and less on specific keywords, so remember to make everything fit together.
20) Your Social Media Presence is Huge: Having your blog posts present on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites goes hand in hand SEO. Installing a social media plugin on your WordPress blog will also allow people to share your posts on their networks, further spreading the influence of your site.
21) Mix-Up the Types of Content on Your Blog: It’s not about text and pictures, you need to get more creative than that. Publish videos, record podcasts, and try new things with your posts. You never want to shatter the style or voice you’ve established, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stretch the types of content you deliver to other forms.
22) Use Clean and Simple Themes: Think minimal.
The more code that search engines have to search, the harder it’s going to be for your content to stand out.
Use simple themes that are light on coding and run fast. This way your content is found faster and easier by search engines and ultimately by your readers.
23) Create an XML Sitemap: This is essentially a map of your website that Google can use to properly understand what pages you have.
Creating one of these can be done using an SEO plugin, or with other sitemap specific plugins, but regardless of how you do it, this is an essential action that will make your site infinitely more readable for search engines like Google.
24) Don’t Index Every Single Page: All the pages of your blog don’t need to be indexed as some of them are just, well, there. The ones that provide value to readers, the ones with content are the ones that should be viewed by search engines. That being said, if you index your category pages on your blog, consider adding a paragraph or two about what’s in that category.
This adds value to the page, and being that’s a detailed description, it will only show up for that category, this is key because simply placing a post teaser or teasers on the page will still allow that content to appear in other searches.
25) Keep Your WordPress Up to Date: The updates for WordPress that come down the pipeline are important.
They ensure that your security is solid, but they also alter any possible errors or glitches in the coding that could be hurting your SEO ranking. You don’t want anything holding you back, but more than that you don’t want your site getting hacked.
26) Remove Defaults from Your Site: When you’re first developing your WordPress blog, you’re going to see defaults that can hurt your SEO. For example, in the beginning, the posts are categorized.
As mentioned above, you can create category pages with their own unique content and index them for an SEO boost.
In addition to things like that, consider changing default messages like “Hello World!” and others that are put there as placeholders. These look unprofessional on a live website and your readers will recognize them as they stand out from the rest of your blog’s style.
27) When Customizing your URL, Remember Keywords: I mentioned earlier changing the URL from the default setting, but there’s something to be said about customizing them yourself to include the title of your blog post that remains as small and simple as possible.
Focus on the keywords and remove things like “and” “a” and “is” from the permalink.
28) Avoid Duplicate Content by Creating a Static Homepage: Identical content is the bane of any blogger’s existence. When you setup your WordPress site, the default is posting your latest content on the homepage. The problem with this is that showing the content on the homepage and in the respective post creates that dreaded duplicate content.
To fix this, create a page for blog posts and go to the reading settings. Once you’ve done this, choose between latest posts or a static page for the front page displays.
Each article you post should be represented by an excerpt, then double check that the discourage search engines from indexing this site is not selected.
29) Track Your Progress with Google Analytics: Using an analytics tool such as Google Analytics will help you monitor your progress.
you should always be aware of how well you’re doing, and this is the way.
The results of a tracking program will help you find 404 pages, see how long people stay for, and how much traffic you’re getting from search engines.
All of this information will help you better understand what’s working, and what isn’t. When you finally find that ‘secret sauce’ based on all of your efforts and the results to prove it, then your analytics account should look something like this:
30) Make Sure You’ve Got the Date Right: New and fresh content is great for SEO, but WordPress uses a default UTC time zone when you set it up. If this time zone isn’t correct for your location, your new content may not be noticed by search engines.
When searching for new content, Google check the time set on your WordPress, not the time and date it actually went up.All you have to do to fix this, is head into the settings > General and you’ll see the time zone. If you need help figuring out which time zone is yours, Wikipedia has a handy chart.
Looking Into the Future: How SEO is Evolving (And How You Can Stay Ahead of The Curve)
As time goes on, the way that Google searches changes constantly. Each year, there are a number of google updates, some small, and some large.
With each of these updates the SEO landscape changes and we must in turn change with it. While the changes are beneficial and contribute to the overall whole, they are still radical in some aspects. Here are the updates issued in 2013:
Panda #24: First update of the year issued on January 22nd.
Panda #25: This was the last update before the Panda update was added into the core algorithm.
Hummingbird: This was a major update to the core algorithm, modifying semantic search among other SEO tactics in a big way.
Penguin 2.0./2.1: These were both minor updates that didn’t touch the main algorithm.
So, why did I show you a list of oddly named updates? Well, of the five updates, two of them were fairly major. This means that several times per year, the way we understand SEO changes. I know, that seems scary, but you needn’t be afraid.
When it comes down to it, Google is just trying to make their search results the best they can be for users. Speaking of users, don’t forget to use a handful of these WordPress plugins to improve your reader’s experience on the site.
Staying ahead of the curve isn’t about reading every last update note (that would help though if you can understand them) it’s about understanding what Google defines as a high-quality website. If you meet these standards, then the search engine is looking for you instead of you looking for it. That’s gotta be a nice confidence boost.
So, with that in mind, here are characteristics of a high-quality site in Google’s eyes:
- Original, Quality and Correct Content
- Trustworthy and Credible
- Nothing biased or one-sided (use perspective)
- Minimal to zero consumer complaints
- Content should be comprehensive and thorough
A low-quality or unoptimized website has paid links everywhere, way too many ads, and little to no content.
And you know what proves all of this? Your analytics account: The average amount of time a reader stays on your website, how many pages do they visit, etc.
What About the Future?
With time flying past us, we’ll be talking about 2015’s update logs before you know it, but we’ve already seen some big changes coming down the pipeline.
In order to keep you on top of how things are going, I’m going to give you some final tips that will help you stay at the forefront of these constantly changing times.
31) Promote Your Content
I know, you’re probably thinking that you’ve heard the word “content” enough times to make your ears bleed, but hear me out on this one.
Older SEO resources will tell you that proper structure, keywords, permalinks, site mapping, and so on will be enough, but they’re not anymore. Those things are still important, in fact, they keep you afloat. They don’t, however, elevate you to greatness.
The SEO tips I’ve provided will act as your life jacket in the ocean of the internet, but you’ve got to reach out and grab something to hold onto if you want to take off.
This is done through marketing. When you write your posts, make them unique, powerful, and irresistible. Give people the power to share it with social media plugins, and spread the word! This is one of the best ways you can promote your blog and increase traffic to it.
A post on Quicksprout from Neil Patel stated that 95% of your SEO is attributed to your link profile.
What’s that about?
Essentially it means that you must produce top notch content and market it to your targeted audience, as well as similar websites in your industry.
This will help contribute to building up a link profile that Google approves of, which in return will allow your site to rank higher in the search engine results pages.
32) SEO and Public Relations Are Merging
I know, it’s scary, but this is the way of the future. In a video posted by Matt Cutts of Google fame, he spoke about the importance of integrating PR tactics into your SEO:
“Over time, backlinks will become a little less important. If we could really be able to tell, you know, Danny Sullivan wrote this article…or Vanessa Fox wrote this article, something like that, that would help us understand — okay, this is something that we can tell, 1) it’s an expert, 2) it’s an expert in this particular field.”
In essence, people want to know who is writing these articles. When Google Authorship was still around, these profiles would rank incredibly high, along with Wikipedia pages, and expert news articles.
Suddenly it became about more than the content, it was about who wrote it and what their presence is on the internet. While it may seem hard to grasp, it’s important that going forward, your content is optimized, marketed, and that the author of the post has an equal presence and profile.
33) Google’s Algorithm is Smarter Than You
You may be a certified genius, but it means nothing when compared to the might of Google.
In May of 2014 they celebrated 16 years and in those years, numerous changes and modifications to the search algorithm have resulted in one singular truth: you can’t trick Google.
Back in the early days, there were tricks and workarounds that you may still see online, but check the date on those articles, because those things don’t work anymore.
A great example is co-occurrence which is one of the recent developments. This concept allows the search engine to predict how one phrase will spark other ones.
If those phrases are present, the page ranks higher for relevancy. So if I were to say “Mickey Mouse” then other phrases like “Disney World” “Magic Kingdom” and “Minnie Mouse” will relate to that original term.
Here’s a great resource on some factors that Google’s algorithm takes into account.
34) Social Profiles Matter More Now Than Ever
When looking at sheer numbers of search inquires, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have upwards of two billion searches per day.
With all of these incoming searches, SEO is now becoming more social than ever. We always want to market our content, but now we need to market ourselves.
Just like the rise of PR in SEO, people are going to look for your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
Your persona and your reputation online through these sites will greatly affect the success of your blog.
Obviously you don’t want to be fake, but just like an embarrassing picture can sabotage a job interview, the same principle now applies to your readers. Put your best face online.
35) Future Concept: Entity Salience
A Google Research paper recently mentioned the concept of entity salience. This is some future level stuff but you can prepare for it now and it will pay off in the long run.
Beyond using keywords to determine relevance, this technique uses “entities” on the page, examining the known relationships between them to better understand the content.
Anything that is distinct or well-defined is an “entity.” If the relationship between entities is strong, it adds more relevance to the overall page.
For example, if we’re writing about HBO, we could go into shows that the channel broadcasts like Game of Thrones, but we could go even further and establish entity salience by mentioning specific characters like Jon Snow or Arya Stark, or Ned Stark, thereby strengthening the relationships between these entities.
Setting Up Your WordPress for Success
Like me, if you’ve ever tried to fully optimize your WordPress blog for success then you would know first hand that you’ve driven yourself crazy trying to figure it out.
“What chu talkin about Matt?”
What I’m talking about is the irritating plugins, themes etc. that get in the way of our optimized WordPress blog.
Here’s a quick step by step tutorial on how to optimize it specifically using Yoast:
Step 1: Descriptions & Titles
WordPress SEO by Yoast features very useful settings that give you ultimate control over title & descriptions. This applies to all post & page types.
Step 2: Indexation
Under “post types” ensure that posts and pages are both left unchecked so they are indexed. There’s no need to keep media indexed, however.
Categories do not HAVE to be indexed. Deciding whether or not to index your category pages depends on whether you anticipate those pages to rank on search engines.
In addition to that, a category page (like any indexed page) HAS to have unique and valuable content that can’t be found elsewhere.
Step 3: XML Sitemaps
Please make sure you’re not using any other plugins that handle XML Sitemaps – this can cause confusion for your WordPress.
When you’re excluding post types and taxonomies, only check mark the types of pages you DO NOT want indexed. Performing this step the right way will help you with an optimized XML Sitemap.
Step 4: Permalinks
I would strongly advise you to strip the /category/ off of category URLs. The shorter and more succinct your URLs are, the better.
I would also enforce a trailing slash on all category and tag URLs as well as removing stop words from slugs. Slug is another word for URL.
After configuring the permalinks, your Yoast plugin is all set and optimized for success! Now, on to the meat of this article, my very own WordPress tips for you to keep in your back pocket.
Some Final Thoughts
SEO is always a subject that constantly changes. Just about every tactic sticks around in one form or another, but they always evolve.
Constant changes on a yearly basis can be seen, and things that worked six months ago won’t work now. It’s not something to be afraid of, but it is something to be aware of.
We can prepare for the future by staying abreast of changing elements in SEO and always focusing our content on being unique and high-quality for our readers. If you’re writing for them, you’ll never fail.
Keep these tips in mind, but never let them leave yours. Now that we know how PR is affecting SEO, we can also seek to improve our social media presence as we market our content.
These are all great WordPress SEO tips, so make sure you’re using them all as your make your mark.
It’s a lot to take in, especially the concepts of Entity Salience, but I promise, you’ve got this. Keep this blog bookmarked as we continue exploring the best ways to blog, and as always don’t forget to tell me about your opinions and your SEO tips in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!