Creating a WordPress site is just the beginning of the adventure. Once done, you have to work hard to bring as many visitors to your website as possible. The search engine optimization (SEO) challenge begins.
WordPress is an already SEO-ready CMS. The community works constantly to create a clean and fast code, with a standard endowment already attractive for Google, Bing, and partners.
But each website is made in its own way and requires a very personal optimization by hand. This guide, therefore, was created to give you some basic and medium-advanced tools for doing SEO on WordPress sites.
We have collected the best practices and tips to increase the organic traffic of your WordPress site, the foundation for any self-respecting online business.
- in this guide, we have not included esoteric SEO strategies, but only some best practices recommended by search engines, authoritative SEOs, and our experience;
- this guide is not the Bible: in every sector, website, and period, SEO precautions have more or less great impacts. Furthermore, if applied, they do not ensure the first position on Google;
- our guide is not complete: it would take entire books on SEO for WordPress. If you’re up for something like this, head over to the list of the best SEO books currently for sale;
- If you want to seriously learn how to optimize for websites, consider starting a certified and complete SEO course.
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the set of techniques used to optimize a website for search engines.
The goal is to improve the site’s position in search results and increase organic (unpaid) traffic to the site.
SEO can include several activities, such as:
- optimizing site content for relevant keywords;
- improvement of the site structure and its internal links;
- site speed optimization;
- the generation of quality external links.
Why is SEO important?
The ultimate goal of SEO is to increase the site’s visibility in the search results of Google and other search engines, to attract more traffic from visitors interested in the topic covered by the site.
Hence, SEO is a central part of digital marketing and can be used to help achieve business goals, such as increasing sales or generating leads.
A good SEO activity allows you to support an online business or increase the business of a local business, just like social media marketing can do on social networks.
SEO for WordPress – A good video tutorial
Watch this video on YouTube
Check out this short video tutorial by Ahrefs, a very powerful SEO Tool. Then continue reading our guide integrating the information.
SEO for WordPress: Basic settings
To start doing SEO on a WordPress site, let’s start with the basic rules that every blog, e-commerce, or company site created with this CMS should follow.
The basics concern:
- website visibility (for indexing by search engines);
- WordPress hosting (useful for speed and performance);
- SSL certificate;
- site theme (HTML, CSS, and PHP graphic layout);
- SEO-friendly permalinks;
- WordPress plugins for SEO.
Check your visibility settings
The “zero steps” is to check that the site is visible to search engines.
WordPress comes with a built-in option to hide your website from search engines by setting a meta robot “noindex” to block crawlers from passing through.
The purpose of this option is to allow you to work on your website before it’s ready to go public.
From your WP dashboard go to Settings > Reading and scroll down to the last Search Engine Visibility item.
- If you have just created your WordPress blog, activate this feature (deactivated by default). It will prevent the site from being indexed when it is not yet complete.
- If, on the other hand, you’re ready to improve your site’s SEO, remove the check on Discourage search engines from indexing this site.
Choose fast WordPress hosting
Choosing excellent hosting is an impactful element to improve the SEO of a WordPress site. A performing hosting, in fact, allows the site to load quickly, thus offering a better browsing experience to users or increasing the possibility that they remain on the site for a longer time.
Furthermore, speed is an increasingly serious ranking factor for Google and other search engines. So efficient hosting can help improve your WordPress site ranking in search results, thereby increasing your visibility and attracting more qualified traffic.
Choosing a reliable and performing hosting, therefore, is essential: take a look at our guide dedicated to the best WordPress hosting currently on the market.
Make sure you have an SSL certificate
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is a security protocol that is used to protect information transmitted over the internet. When a user visits a site protected by SSL, in the HTTPS version, the traffic between the user’s browser and the site’s server is encrypted, making it difficult for hackers to intercept and decipher the information.
Search engines, such as Google, tend to penalize websites without SSL (in HTTP), not to mention that a site in HTTPS can instill more security in the user and increase his trust in the site. Additionally, Google Chrome alerts visitors to non-SSL-secured sites that may be less secure.
All the best WordPress hosting offers free SSL certificates with Let’s Encrypt, so you don’t need to worry too much about this SEO factor.
Choose a professional WordPress theme
Another central aspect if you want to position your WordPress blog on Google is the choice of theme, i.e. the layout of pages, articles, homepages, and all that is the HTML and style (CSS) framework of your website.
WordPress is a fantastic CMS because it allows you to launch a website right away by installing a ready-made theme, and making only a few changes.
However, many free themes, available in the Appearance > Themes > Add New section of WP, can be poorly optimized for SEO. Unclean code, compatibility issues, heavy files, and so on.
Recommended: 10 Recommended AdSense WordPress Templates
On the other hand, a professional WordPress theme, designed with care and attention to detail, will not only provide a better browsing experience for users but will also be optimized for search engines.
Furthermore, professional themes are updated regularly, to fix any bugs or compatibility issues, thus ensuring the stable and reliable running of the WordPress site.
Choose yours carefully, without being afraid of making a small investment (which will come back to you in terms of better positioning): read the guide we have dedicated to the best WordPress themes of the moment.
Setting SEO-friendly permalinks (URL or web address of a page) can help improve the ranking of your WordPress site.
An SEO-friendly permalink is easy to read for both users and search engines and includes keywords relevant to the page content. For example, such a permalink could be
Conversely, a poorly SEO-optimized permalink could be something like:
This URL does not provide any clues about the subject matter of the page.
Choosing SEO-friendly permalinks can therefore help increase traffic to your site, as it will be easier for users and search engines to understand the content of your pages.
WordPress has a very simple solution for optimizing permalinks for SEO. Just go to Settings > Permalinks and choose the optimal combination (Date and Name, Post Name, etc.).
You can choose to include the post name only, or include the post category in the permalink to better reveal the website tree. If you have a huge number of articles (e.g. a newspaper) it might be useful to include the day, month, or year in the permalink and not create identical URLs.
Also Check: How to Fix Permalinks in WordPress
Install an SEO Plugin
Installing an SEO plugin on a WordPress site is perhaps the most common and widespread action to improve visibility among search results.
These plugins offer various features, such as the ability to create and manage meta tags (e.g. the meta title), generate site SEO reports, and monitor keywords.
Using these plugins can help ensure that a site, blog, or e-commerce site meets search engine optimization criteria. But be careful not to confuse the signals of these add-ons as “law”: for example, be careful not to become dependent on the green lights of Yoast SEO, even at the cost of scrambling articles and pages.
Recommended: What is a plugin? How they work in WordPress
Connect the WordPress site to Google Search Console
Is your WordPress site ready to be indexed? Then it’s time to notify the search engine of its existence.
Using the Google Search Console is essential for a webmaster, because it allows you, for example, to:
- monitor and manage your site’s appearance in search results;
- know which keywords are driving traffic to your site;
- find out what index errors are preventing Google from indexing your site properly.
In short, a lot of things are used to do search engine optimization.
To connect your WordPress site to Google Search Console, you need to create an account and follow these steps:
- Select the “Add property” button from the GSC dashboard;
- Choose whether to check at the domain level or at the URL prefix ( what’s the difference? );
- Enter the URL and press the “Continue” button.
- Select your preferred verification method: HTML code to add to your site via FTP or cPanel, DNS, Analytics ownership verification, and so on.
- Once verification is complete, your site will have been added to Google Search Console.
Here is a Tutorial that will teach you How To Add Your Website to Google Search Console
SEO for WordPress: on page
The next step of an SEO strategy on a WordPress site is to focus on content and on-page SEO in general.
Taking care of the meta tags, working on the copy of articles and pages, and doing accurate keyword research: are all steps that will improve the ranking of your website pages.
Let’s see how to proceed.
Keyword research for SEO
Careful keyword research is the first step to correctly set up the architecture, the editorial plan, and all the copy of an SEO-optimized WordPress site.
With this step, you can make an initial selection of the terms used by your potential users when they search. Then it will be necessary to integrate these keywords strategically into the site’s contents (articles, pages, meta tags, etc.), improving the site’s visibility in search results.
Additionally, keyword research can also help identify new content opportunities and create a more effective web marketing strategy.
To conduct good keyword research you need to use a keyword research tool. There are many, free and paid: SEMRush is undoubtedly the best on the market, but there are many other SEO tools that you can consider.
Optimize the meta title
Google, Bing, and co give a lot of weight to the meta tag title of a web page, i.e. the preview title that is shown in search queries.
Creating streamlined, clear, and engaging headlines requires expertise. You need the right mix to generate an SEO, readable, and high click-rate title.
To optimize this important parameter for SEO, for example by entering searched keywords or summarizing the page content, you will need to use a WordPress SEO plugin.
Note: While meta description content is not a ranking factor evaluated by Google, a good description could increase the chances that a user will click on your page in the SERPs. And this is a relevant SEO factor ( clickthrough rate – CTR).
How long should an SEO title be?
The best titles are those that are displayed in full. Users do not like reading a truncated title, even if for Google it is not a penalizing factor (cf. Search Engine Journal ).
For this reason, webmasters and copywriters wonder about the ideal length of a meta title tag.
There is no real fixed answer. In fact, the length of the visible SEO Titles varies according to the search engine, the device (mobile, desktop), the query, and more.
Typically, Google truncates titles longer than 580 pixels. You can check the length of a title with SEO tools like this one.
Tag Heading corrected and optimized
In addition to the title, there are many other heading tags that can be used within content. WordPress makes it very easy to choose tags (H2, H3, H4, etc.), thanks to the appropriate Gutenberg block.
In WordPress the heading 1 (H1) tag is the title of the web page by default.
It is important to divide a blog article, but also the copy of pages, archives, homepages, etc., into various paragraphs and sub-paragraphs, carefully studying the structure of the content.
In this way, not only can search engines read the topics and contents of the page better but also users can better understand the text.
Images are an integral part of many pages and articles on a website. Much visual content appeals to the user but can slow down the loading speed and negatively impact SEO.
This is why it is important to optimize the images you upload to a WordPress website, not just on the performance side. Here are some common best practices to follow:
1. Reduce the size of the images
images that are too large can slow down page loading. Before uploading them, consider what is the maximum size you need (e.g. 1280px wide) and keep your files smaller than that size (e.g. it doesn’t make sense to upload 4000px images)
2. Use descriptive filenames
Instead of leaving random numbers or default filenames, such as “image1.jpg”, rename the image properly (eg, “cat-sitting-sofa.jpg”). Search engines can read the name of the image to figure out what it’s about, and a consistent name can have SEO benefits.
3. Use the “alt” tag for images
The “alt” tag is an attribute of the <img> tag which is used to describe the content of the image. Search engines use this information to understand what the image is about and to provide more relevant search results.
Make sure you use relevant keywords in the alt tag of your images.
4. Optimize images
It’s important to make sure you’re using quality images, but also keep file sizes to a minimum to ensure your site loads quickly and is easy to navigate.
WordPress offers plugins like Smush to optimize images, a free tool that allows you to automatically optimize the images uploaded to your site.
Full-bodied (and unique) content
Search engines tend to give more weight to longer content because it is believed to be more comprehensive and in-depth. According to the data, on average very full-bodied content tends to position itself better in the SERPs than other smaller ones.
This happens because a 2,000-2,500 word article or page is more likely to satisfy users’ needs, as well as keep the reader on the site for longer periods.
Also, according to other data, rich content tends to generate more backlinks, which can help improve the SEO of your WordPress site.
If you have a WordPress blog, therefore, take care of the content you publish with extreme passion. Work SEO copywriting as if you were creating a work of art.
It has always struck me that Backlinko’s Brian Dean also takes a couple of months to publish a piece of content on his blog.
And do you know why?
Because it has to be PERFECT.
Keywords in the first paragraphs
Ok, today Google has evolved a lot and immediately understands the content of the article even without blurting out the keyword in the foreground. But this concept is still important.
When writing content with an eye to SEO, make sure your attack contains the key keywords. It is essential that the reader, but also the search engine, immediately understand what you are talking about.
Do not force your hand, absolutely, but make sure that the reader and Google spider find what they are looking for among the first 100 words (reference number).
Internal links are links that point from one page on your site to another page on your site.
Taking care of this aspect helps the search engine to find the various pages of your site. Also, internal linking helps Google and its partners understand which pages on your site are more important and which are less important, based on the amount of internal linking they receive.
And that’s not all. Internal links can help improve the user experience on your site by providing the ability to easily navigate between different pages to learn more. This also keeps visitors longer and reduces the bounce rate (another relevant SEO factor).
Finally, search engines give more weight to sites with a well-organized and logical internal link structure, as this indicates that the site is well-structured and easy to navigate.
Work well on the interlink of your WordPress site: you can help yourself with the default WP function that shows you the linkable contents depending on the words you type, or with ad hoc plugins.
Advanced WordPress SEO
Anyone can do SEO on a WordPress site by following the basic rules. Anyone can rank for valuable keywords by working on content. But only those who go further can achieve truly effective search engine optimization results.
Here are some more advanced SEO tips that will make a difference in the ranking of your WordPress blog.
It is a fact that search engines reward web pages that receive quality inbound links from other authoritative sites. Google attaches value to content with many backlinks, improving its positioning.
Anyone who does SEO knows that link building (backlink generation campaign) and link earning (a slightly more passive and natural link acquisition process) is essential.
How can your WordPress site get authoritative backlinks to boost its SEO ranking? It’s not easy, but there are many ways to try:
- work on quality content;
- offer unique and high-level services;
- gain a major trust in your industry.
To know to get backlinks for your site checks out this post.
Another point often ignored by SEO beginners concerns the rel=”nofollow” attribute on some outbound links.
This HTML attribute can be used to indicate to search engines that the link should not be followed or taken into consideration for ranking the target site.
The main reason for using external rel=”nofollow” links for SEO is to prevent link equity, or link juice, from passing through.
Link juice is the amount of “value” a link conveys to the target site. When a site links to another site, it may transmit some of its link juice to that site. If a site has a lot of nofollow external links, it will not broadcast its link equity to these sites, which can be useful to prevent link juice from being diluted too much.
In WordPress, if you want to send a link outbound without passing your link juice, you can enable the “Search engines should ignore this link (mark as nofollow)” feature.
Another purpose of the rel=”nofollow” is to avoid spam links: search engines penalize sites that publish poor quality or irrelevant links. By setting external links to nofollow, you can avoid being penalized by search engines for this type of practice.
On a WordPress site, this can often happen in comments. Fortunately, by default, the CMS makes links in comments nofollow, and UGC (User Generated Content).
Create an XML sitemap
The XML sitemap is a file that lists all the pages, images, and other files on your site so that search engines can easily discover and index this content.
Creating an XML sitemap is important for SEO because it helps search engines discover and index all the pages on your site, even those that might not be easily reachable through the normal crawling process.
Additionally, the XML sitemap can provide additional information about your site’s content, such as the refresh rate and relative priority of the pages. All clues allow Google, Bing, and Yahoo to better understand your WordPress site and provide more accurate search results.
To create an XML sitemap in WordPress, there are several plugins that can be used. One of the most popular plugins is “ XML Sitemap & Google News “.
If you don’t want to install an additional plugin, all major WordPress SEO plugins generate a sitemap for you.
AIO SEO, in particular, offers many more possibilities than Yoast SEO:
- you can paginate very long XML sitemaps, improving crawling by search engines;
- you can add/exclude categories, products, attachments (images, pdf, ..),
Try All In One Seo
The Best WordPress SEO Plugin and Toolkit
Join 3,000,000+ Professionals who use AIOSEO to Improve Their Website Search Rankings.
Browsing on Google, you may have already seen search results in certain SERPs “enriched” by reviews and other precious details.
If some search results appear more complete than others, it’s because of the schema markup. It is a set of HTML tags that can be added to provide structured information to Google & co. on the contents of the site.
It is a very SEO-friendly intervention, especially if your WordPress site contains product pages, reviews, events, and so on.
How do you integrate schema markup in WP? It’s not an easy step if you want to do it right. You may want to consider getting help from an SEO expert for this implementation.
Remember that helping search engines better understand the content on your site helps Google deliver more accurate and relevant results to users. So, in certain cases, it can also increase the visibility of your site.
In addition, showing more details in SERPs (reviews, FAQs, etc.) certainly increases the CTR of users, another very important SEO factor.
The cache is a temporary copy of site data that is saved on a user’s computer or device when it is visited for the first time.
Optimizing the caching system of a WordPress site can give good SEO satisfaction because it significantly speeds up page loading.
To do this you can use WordPress caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, but only if you know how to set up these components correctly.
Keep an eye out for 404 errors through Google Search Console, as they can negatively impact the SEO of your WordPress site.
Check that the site is responsive
Most of the most used WordPress themes have long offered attractive and responsive layouts (adaptable to the size of the devices).
However, by making CSS customizations or installing external plugins, it may happen that some components lose this property.
Always check that your WordPress site offers a good mobile browsing experience because Google is mobile-first and rewards those websites that offer speed and impeccable mobile UI.
Update your content
Updating your content on a regular basis helps maintain proper search engine rankings.
The purpose of Google, Bing, and associates is to offer the best to their users, and in certain queries always providing updated articles and pages is essential.
Keep your content fresh by stripping out what’s old and adding in what’s new. The quality that users are looking for (and that Google rewards) can also be seen from this.
Insert an index at the top of the page
The index at the beginning of very large articles or pages helps the search engine and readers to better organize and digest the content. This can positively influence the reading and understanding of crawlers and users, and therefore the positioning on Google.
WordPress comments need to be checked and optimized. Search engines say they don’t consider comments a ranking factor, even though experts have noted that it’s still text that gets indexed.
Furthermore, advocates of comments claim that they can create more user engagement, thus more time on the page, potentially more backlinks, and more resources for readers (with SEO benefits).
Don’t want to receive comments on your WordPress site? No problem. You can turn them off by going to Settings > Discussion and unchecking “Allow posting comments for new posts”.
Update WordPress and Plugins
Always keeping WordPress plugins, themes, and core code up to date improves overall site security and lets you not miss out on all those improvements and optimizations that developers add over time.
While it doesn’t have a direct impact on SEO, updates can help a site stay performing. Always back up your site before proceeding with any WordPress update.
Also Read: How to Hide WordPress Blog Post Titles
Eliminate unnecessary plugins
Choosing carefully the plugins you download is essential for maintaining a fast and SEO-friendly WordPress site. Only use WordPress plugins you trust and avoid having multiple add-ons to do the same thing.
For example, don’t fill yourself with SEO, caching, or image optimization plugins. Use components that already allow you to do many things together.
What about the ones you don’t use? Delete them from your WordPress site: you can download them again if necessary.
Here are the tips you need to follow for your website to rank on google, if you have any questions use the comment box, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.