wordpress seo

WordPress SEO Best Practices | A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners

So you want to improve your website’s organic traffic, but don’t know where to start?

Don’t worry! it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start here to learn the basics, and then you can start applying them to your own website.

You might have heard experts saying that WordPress is SEO friendly. This is actually why a lot of people choose WordPress to start a blog or website.

While WordPress makes sure that its platform is built with SEO best practices, there is a lot more you need to do if you want to maximize your SEO efforts.

I know the idea of WordPress SEO can be overwhelming for beginners, especially if you’re not not a tech geek.

Hence, below are WordPress SEO best practices to help you improve your search engine rank and get more organic traffic.

Are you ready?

What Is SEO?

Before anything else, you must first understand what really is SEO.

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.

Why SEO Is Important?

Search engines like Google and Bing, are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites.

Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank web pages appropriately in search results.

SEO is the process of helping search engines understand what your content is about.

If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

WordPress SEO Best Practices

Here are the things you can do to increase your website traffic:

1. Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings

First you need to check if your website is visible from search engines.

WordPress comes with a built-in option to hide your website from search engines. The purpose of this option is to give you time to work on your website before it’s ready to go public.

Just log in to the admin area of your WordPress site and visit Settings » Reading page. Make sure this option is unchecked if you think your site is ready.

2. Install WordPress SEO Plugin

There are several SEO plugins you can use. But I recommend using Yoast SEO.

Unlike most other plugins, this plugin is way more than simple meta tag additions. Yoast SEO allows you to add a title, description, and focus keyword to to every blog post and page. It shows you a Google search result snippet preview, so you can see exactly how your content will look when someone search for it in Google.

It has also the ability to verify Google Search Console, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Yoast SEO is a comprehensive solution for all your SEO problems.

So go ahead and install this plugin.

3. Create XML Sitemaps For Your WordPress Site

After you finished installing the plugin, let’s now create a sitemap for your website.

An XML Sitemap is a specially formatted file that lists every single page on your website. This makes it easy for search engines to find all of your content.

However, adding an XML sitemap does not boost your site’s search rankings. But it does help search engines find your pages quickly and start ranking them.

If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, then it will automatically create an XML sitemap for you. To find your sitemap, just go to this URL:

https://example.com/sitemap_index.xml

don’t forget to replace example.com with your own domain name. You should see something like this:

xml sitemap wordpress

Yoast SEO plugin publishes multiple sitemaps for your WordPress site. The main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml which contains link to your other sitemaps. You can either submit sitemap_index.xml alone or submit all other sitemaps one by one. I recommend submitting sitemap_index.xml alone, Google will then automatically discover other sitemaps and crawl them.

I will show you how to submit your XML sitemap to Google in the next step.

4. Add Your XML Sitemap Google Search Console

Google Search Console, also known as Webmaster Tools, is a set of tools offered by Google to give website owners a look at how their content is seen by the search engine.

It provides reports and data to help you understand how your pages appear in search results. You also get to see the actual search terms people are using to find your website, how each page appears in the search results, and how often your pages are clicked.

All this information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not.

You will upload your sitemap in Google Search Console. But first you need to register and verify your site in it. Follow our guide here on how to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console.

Once you have added your website to Google Search Console, click on the the sitemaps option in the side menu.

adding sitemap

Your main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml so go ahead and submit that.

Once you have successfully added your sitemap, it will appear as pending. It does take Google some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you would be able to see some stats about your sitemap.

It will show you the number of links it found in your sitemap, how many of them got indexed, a ratio of images and web pages, etc.

5. Use SEO Friendly URL Structure In WordPress

Make sure that your URL can be read easily. It should not be too long, nor too short to the point that readers can’t understand. Ensure that your URLs contain words that clearly explain the content of the page, and they’re easy to read by both humans and search engines.

Examples of SEO-friendly URL are:

https://www.dgitalnomad.com/start-a-blog/
https://www.dgitalnomad.com/wordpress-seo-best-practices/

And examples of non-SEO-friendly URLs are:

https://www.dgitals.com/?p=1231
https://www.dgitals.com/d/13liLgSBW-g7eZM9OBsV0Z-Q4/view

Clearly, you cannot guess what’s the content is about by looking at a non-SEO-friendly URL.

WordPress automatically creates a URL for you when you create a post or a page. However, you can edit it all the time, and make it more SEO-friendly.

You can also edit the URL’s base structure using permalinks. Using SEO friendly permalink structure improves your chances of getting better search result ranking.

To check and update your WordPress site’s permalink structure, you need to visit the Settings » Permalinks page. Select the ‘post name’ option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings. In my opinion, the ‘post name’ option is the most SEO-friendly.

Note: You may lose your backlinks in some of your posts because you’re changing the permalink. Be careful and keep that in mind.

6. Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO

Often beginners make the mistake of thinking that installing and activating a WordPress SEO plugin is all what’s needed. SEO is an ongoing process that you must keep up with if you want to see maximum results.

Yoast SEO allows you to add a title, description, and focus keyword to to every blog post and page. It also shows you a preview of what users will see when they Google your website.

I recommend that you optimize your title and description to get maximum clicks. Also, make high quality contents, but make sure that your readers will understand it.

When writing your blog post, simply scroll down to the Yoast SEO section and take full advantage of it. Yoast SEO gives you tips and recommendation for how you can make your site better.

yoast seo wordpress

7. Properly Use Categories And Tags In WordPress

WordPress allows you to sort your blog posts into categories and tags. This makes it easy for you to manage your content by topics, and for your users to find the content they’re looking for.

Categories and tags also help search engines understand your website structure and content.

8. Make Internal Linking A Habit

Search engines assign each page on your website a score (page authority). Links are the most common determining factor of your pages’ scores.

This is why it’s important that you link to your own content from your other blog posts and pages.

This will help you boost your page-views, increases the time users spend on your site, and ultimately will improve the SEO score of your individual blog posts and pages.

9. Utilize WordPress Comments

Comments can be a strong indication of user engagement on your website. Engaged users means more links back to your site, more traffic, and improved SEO.

But you need to make sure that your comments are real and not spam. Spammers submit comments with bad links which could affect and even ruin your search rankings.

This is why I recommend everyone to start using Akismet. It is one of the plugins that come pre-installed with every WordPress site, and it helps you combat comment spam.

10. Utilize Image Settings

Another trick you can use to optimize your images for search engines is to use descriptive title and alt tags. These tags help search engines understand what your image is about.

WordPress allows you to add title and alt tags when you upload an image.

11. Use A Better Hosting

Even if you follow all the WordPress SEO tips and best practices above, if your site is slow or gets taken down by a hacker, your search engine rankings will take a big hit.

Use a better hosting provider. Your hosting service plays an important role in your website’s performance. A good shared hosting provider like Bluehost or InMotion take the extra measures to optimize your website for performance.

However, on shared hosting you share the server resources with many other customers. This means that if your neighboring site gets a lot of traffic, then it can impact the entire server performance which in turn will slow down your website.

On the other hand, using a managed WordPress hosting service give you the most optimized server configurations to run WordPress. Managed WordPress hosting companies also offer more advanced security configurations to protect your website such as automatic backups.

12. Optimize Your Site’s Speed

Google and other search engines favor fast websites.

Test your website speed by utilizing tools like Pingdom and GTmetrix. They will give you recommendations on how you can improve your website’s speed.

Compress your images. TinyPNG is a free web app that uses smart lossy compression technique to reduce the size of your PNG files. All you have to do is go to their website, and upload your images. They will compress the image, and give you the download link.

If you’re not saving images optimized for web, then start doing so now. It can make a huge difference on your site speed.

Another way to improve your site’s speed is to use caching. There are a lot of caching plugins available for WordPress, but I recommend using the WP Super Cache plugin.

Note: If you’re using a managed WordPress hosting provider, then you don’t need a caching plugin because they take care of it for you.

More SEO Tools and Resources

I hope this article helped you learn how to properly optimize your WordPress site for SEO. Go ahead and implement these WordPress SEO tips, and you should see an increase in your traffic within a few months as the search engines process your changes.

Once you get the hang of WordPress SEO best practices, you’ll want to take your skills even further to get ahead of your competition. I have compiled a list of best WordPress SEO plugins and tools that you should use to boost your SEO.

You may also want to read and implement my ultimate seo checklist guide.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comment section below. If you liked this article, feel free to share it.

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10 thoughts to “WordPress SEO Best Practices | A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners”

  1. Amazing advice, it is so through and packed with useful information. I pinned this for future references because I need this!

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