Step by Step Guide to WordPress SEO

An SEO guide both to clear some misunderstandings and let WordPress users better understand what they need to work on.

WordPress is one of the best content management system specially when it comes to SEO. With that being said, it doesn’t mean spending time over WordPress SEO seems to be a waste of time. Here is a complete guide with “Step by Step” for WordPress SEO.

To start with lets understand a bit about SEO. SEO does matters of different elements and tricks combined, they all fall under two main areas: On-page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

On-page SEO vs Off-page SEO

wordpress guide on page seo off page seo
As the name suggest:

1. On-page SEO refers to all the elements which affect ranking. You as a user have the control to manage them all, for example: Title of the blog, blog post, pages and meta description.

2. Off-page SEO covers all elements which affect ranking, and these are the parameters which you as user don’t have a directly control, like inbound links, social sharing, domain authority etc.

Since off-page SEO hasn’t to do all a lot with WordPress SEO, we will skip it for now, and will focus on all the elements you have under your control.

So the question now will be “How do you actually improve your WordPress SEO?”. Time to get started:

Step by Step Guide to WordPress SEO:

1. Checking the Site Visibility:

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.

wordpress setup

You need to login to your wordpress admin, go to Settings » Readings and scroll down to the ‘Search Engine Visibility’ section and make sure that the box next to ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is unchecked.

Make sure you hit the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your changes.

2. Having SEO friendly URLs:

SEO friendly URLs contain words that can explain what your content of the page is about, and it makes it easy for both humans and search engines to read.

Some examples of SEO friendly URLs are:
http://example.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-wordpress-seo/

You can notice in the above example that these URLs are readable and a user can guess what they will see on the page just by looking at the URL text.

So what does a non-SEO friendly URL look like?

http://makersbyte.com/?p=1023

As can be seen that these URLs use numbered and are unrelated to the content, and a user cannot guess what they will find on the page by looking at the URL.

Here is how to set your WordPress site SEO friendly URLs.

wordpress friendly urls

You need to login to your wordpress admin, then go to Settings » Permalinks page. Select the post name option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

3. Setting WWW vs non-WWW

If you are just starting your WordPress Website, then you need to choose between www or non www (http://www.example.com) or non-www (http://example.com).

Search engines consider both of them as very different, so this means you need to choose one and stick to it.

seo guide

You can set your preference by visiting the Settings » General page. Add your preferred URL in both the ‘WordPress Address’ and ‘Site Address’ fields.

Note: Do not touch them later once your site is active. It be best if you refer a professional for changing these during your site is running.

4. Adding XML Sitemaps to your WordPress

If you are not aware of XML sitemaps, in simple language they are the standard file format to let search engines know about your website. They contain information such as listing of all the urls of your site, when they get updated etc.

Adding an XML sitemap does not boost your WordPress site search rankings, but it helps search engines find the pages quickly and start ranking them.

wordpress seo guide sitemap

To generate your WordPress sitemap, all you need to do is either use the plugin: “Yoast SEO plugin or if you are specifically looking for google sitemap then Google Sitemap by BestWebSoft is a preferred plugin.

5. Setting up Google search console

Google Search Console better well know as Google Webmaster Tool. They are the set of tools offered by Google to give admins a look at how their content is seen by the search engine. It contains reports and data which can help you understand how your pages appear in search results.

To add your site, simply go to: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home and then add your site to it. When you add, it will ask you to verify your site which you can easily do it with placing a snippet of code they provide at your header file.

You may refer this video as it can help you understand the complete flow on how to set it up google console for your website:

Once you have this setup, you need to now submit your site sitemap url to google.

If you are using Yoast, then you main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml so go ahead and submit that.

It is highly recommended to check your Search Console at least once a month for knowing insights and see your website’s SEO progress.

6.  Setting up Website name and tagline

You need to first think of your website name and then go to Settings » General  in your dashboard and fill up the “Site Title” field with your website’s name.

wordpress step by step guide

A website name of a business site could be the company name, like in Makersbyte case we placed Makersbyte as the title of the site.

Then add the tagline of your website, which is more of a brief description of your website.

wordpress seo guide
You can normally see them appearing at the google search page result. The title appears first while the tagline appears next to it. So make sure you have both of them setup properly.

7. Optimizing Your posts for SEO

Now since most of the site based controlled SEO is setup, we need to now look into what sorts of parameters we need to take care while writing a post.

It is often the beginner’s misconception that installing and activating a WordPress SEO plugin will do all what is needed.

It’s unfortunately not the reality.

SEO plugins like Yoast, do help you set things up quickly, but it doesn’t mean they do it all for you. SEO is a definitely a process for which you need to keep adding the value. Here are few checklist which you should definitely take care off while writing a blog post:

a. Optimize your title and description to get maximum clicks.

b. Have a compelling, and informative meta description

c. Your article shouldn’t be just an article, it should have good content. A Good content must supply a demand and must be linkable.

d. The higher the amount of words the more the chances of getting ranked up high. As per research an article with greater than 2000 words ranks for the first positions on page results. Why? This can easily be said: there’s more content to index, thus more words to be ranked for.

seo site settings
Also you can take advantage of Yoast plugin to set these all parameters which include title, meta description, keywords, social sharing etc.

A Good content must supply a demand and must be linkable. Click To Tweet

8. Start Internal Linking Posts a Habit

Search engines assign each page at your site a score called as page authority. The recipe of this score is kept secret so that people cannot game the results. However, the most common signals of authority are links. So it is important that you link to your own content from your other blog posts and pages.

wordpress seo linking
You should make it a habit link your old posts whenever possible.

9. NoFollow External Links

Links help search engines decide which pages are important. When you link an external website, you are providing them some of your SEO score to them or those links. This SEO score is called “link juice.”

“For good search rankings you need to make sure that you are getting more link juice from other websites than you are giving away.”

Adding the “nofollow” attribute to external links that instructs search engines not to follow those links. This helps you save link juice.

A normal external link looks like this in HTML:
Example Website

An external link with the nofollow attribute looks like this:
Example Website

You can also add rel=”nofollow” checkbox to the insert link popup. This will allow you to easily add nofollow to external links.

10. Optimizing your post images for WordPress SEO

We all know this that we love to see things visual rather than just reading through, they are far more engaging than text.

From SEO point of view, You need to make sure that you use images that are optimized to load faster and make sure that each of your image has alt tags. These tags help search engines understand what your image is about.

Wrapping things up

If you really want to get better results with WordPress SEO just don’t think too much about search engines, think about how you can make your site more informative. There are no rules in SEO, just guidelines that work for an undefined time span.