Nowadays WordPress provides easy ways to improve your site’s overall SEO. Some techniques can be automated by your WordPress settings, others by adding additional plugins and third party services. For a well-working website’s SEO, you need to manage it regularly and conduct tests for possible improvements.
Let’s start with one thing that every one of us clicks and often opens in websites. We are talking about links and their URL’s structure and presence. Does your WordPress site have friendly URLs? What URLs should show to website visitors?
Consider this tips when you are writing and setting the URLs:
- They need to be focused, avoid stop words like ‘a,’ ‘of,’ ‘the,’ etc.
- The length must be short, as much as possible use a logical structure.
- Note that meta titles and descriptions are limited to 512 pixels.
- Test their visibility on Google search results with SEO plugin or with web checker.
- Connect words with dashes, don’t use underscores.
There is no specific way to write SEO-friendly URLs. The structure depends on the type of your website. Here are a few templates of well-written URLs:
At WordPress go to Setting > Permalinks to set your preferences:
Headings can be found in site pages, posts, files, sidebars, header and footer sections, etc. Their structures and writings are very important for website visitors’ experience and SEO performance.
Consider these when writing headings:
- Headings should contain keywords;
- Heading helps a reader find parts that are interesting;
- The most important heading is the H1. Usually, there is only one in every page
- Subheadings should be formatted in H2.
A good practice is to use these dimensions for headings in your homepage:
- H1 for the site’s name;
- H2 for tagline;
- H3 for posts;
- H4 for content in the sidebar;
- H5 for all other headings in the footer or other sections.
Heading structure for single page/post should be:
- H1 size for the post/page title;
- H2s and H3s for the sub headings;
- H4 size for your blog’s name;
- H5 should be used for sidebars, etc.
Depending on what goals you aim, headings may vary in the homepage, blog post page, and landing pages.
3. Site structure
Site structure is a fundamental SEO thing to care about. If you want to attract more visitors to your website, your structure should be logical and should make sense for Google and users. Site structure is key to UX (User eXperience) and has an impact on website navigation.
The site structure should be created in process of thinking for business goals. A simple example modeled with blocks:
For large websites, the best practice is to create subcategories and custom taxonomies. Within the categories and subcategories, you will have a number of posts or product pages. Your website product pages or blog posts must be divided into categories. A good practice is to add your categories to your main navigation menu for a better user experience.
4. Image Optimization
Images are used for better explanations to the content. One diagram or illustration can replace hundreds of words. A good content insists at least one image. SEO reason is simple – images that are surrounded by related text, rank better for the keyword.
When you start adding images to the website think about the following:
- Image file name – Use keywords here. The file name shouldn’t be DSC_0082.JPG.
- Image scale – Test the best view and don’t add huge images.
- Image file size – Test the speed of loading. There are tools for compressing like WP Smush.
When your image is on the page/post, check these:
- Image caption – think about the visitors first. People scan images with captions in articles.
- Alt text and title text – Add the SEO keyword in the alt text. Browsers like Chrome show title texts when hovering on the image.
Be sure that the images are relevant to the pages and match your text. Keep in mind about captions for the images for easier scanning of the page. Reduce image file size for faster loading of the pages.
5. Meta descriptions
A meta description is an HTML tag which describes the page’s content. Optimizing the meta descriptions is very important for the SEO of the website. The text in description shows in search results and is the main purpose for the visitor to click on the link. The length of the text is around 160 characters.
In Google search results, the meta description is under the link:
In HTML code, the meta description looks like this:
Come up with this when you start writing meta descriptions:
- The length should be around 135 to 160 characters;
- Write it to be actionable; The description is like an invitation to the page.
- Try to add a CTA (call-to-action) like “Learn more,” “Get it now”.
- It needs to be relevant to the page’s content, don’t try to cheat Google and people!
- Add the focus keyword.
- The meta description should be unique.
- Note that auto-generating meta descriptions are bad practice for SEO.
6. XML sitemaps
An XML sitemap is a content roadmap of the website. A sitemap is a list of pages on your site. The Sitemap is a tool to prioritize the pages on your site so that search engines can arrange the information properly and avoid duplicate addresses.
The XML sitemaps help your website rankings. The site can have several sitemaps like: /post-sitemap.xml, /page-sitemap.xml, /category-sitemap.xml, etc.
Example website sitemaps:
Your XML sitemap improves the crawlability of your website. You should create a sitemap for your WordPress site for better SEO performance.
You can create your sitemap with third-party tools which can generate your sitemap for you. Use Google Search Console to submit the sitemap. For WordPress users, the most used automated plugin is Google XML Sitemaps.
Breadcrumbs are a graphic element on the site which helps users know where exactly are they in the site structure. The breadcrumbs are a utility for SEO because they can easily show the structure of the domain. For example:
How do breadcrumbs help your website? Let’s see:
- They give Google a signal on how your site is structured. Also, Google can show it in search results sometimes.
- Breadcrumbs help for a better user experience on the site and reduce distractions.
- Breadcrumbs encourage the user to not bounce.
Breadcrumb NavXT is a popular plugin for WordPress CMS platforms. The plugin has 600+ thousand active installations.
WordPress define “taxonomy” as a grouping mechanism for posts, links or custom post types. WordPress has integrated four taxonomies in the CMS: Category, Tag, Link Category, Post Formats. These can be used by users to group things in their sites.
Create and arrange your website categories, subcategories, products or posts logically. Make it balance and focus on their distributions. After the update, your site structure must generate the new changes in XML sitemap and resubmit it in Google Search Console.
9. Linking to related posts
The related posts are connected by one big theme. They can be interpreted as a close around that theme and explains parts of it. Related posts are used for internal link building for the site. For a better understanding look at the shown example:
BBC Technology articles:
Related stories section at the end of the article:
Related posts engage your visitors. They are one of the many strategies you can try to keep your visitors reading. Have you installed a related posts plugin to let your visitors keep reading more and more about the topics that are relevant to them? Related Posts by AddThis is a plugin which shows more relevant related posts in many engaging ways.
10. Test your website for speed and other SEO improvements
When you’ve done something technical on your WordPress CMS like putting a new widget or installing a new plugin, you should do some tests after. Does this new stuff work well or does it affect your website’s loading speed?
Don’t forget to review how your website looks on the mobile phone too. These days, mobile versions of websites are also important and deliver more-and-more customers to your business.
You can conduct tests with these tools:
Based on the results from these tools, you can focus on the areas that need improvements. All visitors want fast loading websites with easy navigation, these two users’ preferences must be considered when you read the analyses. You should aim for a 5-second page loading speed or below.
Note: If you have an online store try not to do these 22 Technical Common Mistakes In Online Stores
11. Utilise the metadata
The metadata on your pages “tells” search engines how to “read” the information on it. Metadata are positioned in <head> sections on the website. These sections are not visible for your website visitors.
We have already talked about some meta tags in 5. Meta descriptions. Other fundamental page meta tag related with SEO is the title <title>. This is the title of your web page and directly has effects for your website’s ranking and readability.
Useful meta elements:
- If you want to prevent from being banned because of the duplicated content on your site, use meta element rel=canonical to point where the original content is.
- A Smart SEO trick is to add rel=author meta element. The meta element’s purpose is to show who is the author of the content. This provides more authority to your website and articles.
- Social metadata is used to present your content better on social networks. Facebook, for example, uses Open Graph standard. Usually if you are using SEO plugins for WordPress this feature is already included and automatically generates tag for your pages and content.
- The tag hreflang indicates what is the language used on the page. The tag in the code should look like this: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/de/” hreflang=”de” />
12. Set your comments
Before you start publishing content on your WordPress site, you should check how well the comments work. The most common mistake is not to activate a spam filter like Akismet. The plugin is pre-installed in WordPress, you just have to set and start using it.
The comments can decrease your site’s speed and SEO. If Akismet can’t handle spam well, try:
- Adding Captcha verification plugins in the comments.
- Turn off comments if your website doesn’t need them:
- Turn off comments for old content. Set it from here:
This essential SEO list is useful, but some points are hard to manage if you first start with WordPress CMS. You should read more SEO-related articles for you to explore the SEO ocean. Find what is working and which tools are best for your web project.