How to Optimize Your WordPress Site: 8 Points
With the changing Google search algorithms, it has become very important for every site to optimize it the correct way and stick to basic guidelines.
When we say optimizing your WordPress site, we are not only talking about optimizing it for the search engines but also for the visitors, because the user experience is the most important factor for any online business including the blogs.
How you present your content on your blog, the overall design of your blog and the loading time directly influences the success of your blog.
Both, user experience and search engine optimization go hand in hand. If your site does not offer a quality user experience; it will not do well in the search engine as well.
In this article, we will look at the basic parameters that influence users experience as well as the optimization process for search engines.
Search Engine Optimization
As per Wikipedia, the process of search engine optimization is defined as
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.
So, essentially it is the process to outrank your competitors in the search engine results by offering better quality content and applying the optimization process.
Again, when we talk about the optimization process, there are on-page as well as off-page optimization.
On-Page Optimization: The on-page optimization process will include the quality of your content, the way you format and present the content, the important tags such as the h1, h2, h3 tags with keywords, the images and other media on your page with alt text, etc.
It is a complete process that includes a lot of other aspects ; this article will guide you to understand the on-page SEO in detail.
Off-page Optimization: Once you are done with your content, and you publish it the process of off-page optimization starts. Getting the link back to your article from relevant sources, sharing it on the social media, etc.
These days user experience is way more important than the search engine optimization process. As it is popularly said, you need to write for humans, not the search engines.
If you publish top quality content that is helpful for users, Google will rank you ahead of other content. So, make sure that your content is useful and helpful for your audience.
If you can solve a problem through your content, sooner or later it is going to get ranked well.
We need to understand that parameters like user engagement, session time are some of the very critical factors for SEO and the quality of your content will directly influence these parameters.
The loading time of your site is another factor that influences user experience. Now, there are many things that you can do to improve the loading time of your WordPress site; we will discuss some of them in this article.
The overall performance of your site will influence your rankings in search engines. You can use Google PageSpeed Insight, Pingdom Tool to check the current loading time for your site and apply some of the optimization methods to improve it further.
Let’s look at some of the ideas to improve the performance of your WordPress site
1. Use a Fast WordPress Themes
Using a quick WordPress theme is very important for every site. Your theme can make or break your online business.
If you use a messy, no so well-coded WordPress theme it will not only increase the loading time of your site, but it will bring down the overall SEO score of your site.
Make sure that you use a theme from a reputed source with a good number of user base. Check if the loading time of the theme, you can test the loading time of the demo design using the tools I mentioned above.
Check if the theme is mobile friendly and the responsiveness feature is working perfectly. Make sure the overall layout is clean and minimal.
You can have a look at the top WordPress themes here.
2. Choose a Quality Hosting Provider
All your optimization efforts will be wasted if you don’t have a quality WordPress hosting provider. The hosting you select will play a very important role in speeding up your site.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars every month on hosting though. There are some shared hosting options that offer quick loading time with nice optimization features.
You can start with a shared hosting server, and as your site grows and start making money, the first thing you need to do is to upgrade the hosting for your site.
You will see a remarkable difference in loading time of your site as you upgrade to a VPS server or quality managed hosting server.
3. Use a Cache Plugin
Caching plugin can do a lot of difference to the loading time of your site. Before you select the best caching WordPress plugin, check with your hosting provider if they have a recommended plugin that works best with their hosting system.
There are some managed hosting provides who advice you not to use a caching plugin because they have a built-in caching system, so check with your hosting first and then install a plugin.
If your site is hosted on a shared server or a normal VPS server, you must use a cache plugin.
WordPress is a dynamic platform, and it needs to go through a process every time a user visits your site. So, when you use a cache plugin, it creates a copy during the first visit so that the pages load faster after that.
W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular cache plugins for WordPress sites. This plugin comes with comprehensive settings to optimize your site perfectly.
If you are a new WordPress user, you might have to spend some time around the plugin to understand the settings, but it is well worth the time.
This plugin can take care of most of the optimization related tasks such as minifying files, gzip compression, cache for different file types to fine tune the performance.
It can perform the functions like:
- Browser Cache
- Page Cache
- Minification of posts and pages and feeds
- Object Cache
- Database Cache
- Grouping of scripts
- CDN Settings
4. Use CDN
CDN or Content Delivery Network is a must for every WordPress site. If you are not using a CDN service already, make sure to use it as soon as possible.
The CDN network spreads your site across the world and serves through the nearest server location to make it quicker.
If you don’t want to spend extra money on CDN, Cloudflare has a free plan that is good enough for the new blogs.
5. Monitor Your Plugins
Try to minimize the number of plugins you use as far as possible because every plugin adds up to the loading time. Also, it is important to check the quality of the plugin before you install it. A badly coded plugin can have a severe impact on the overall performance of your site.
If you are installing a plugin from the free WordPress plugin directory, check the rating of the plugin, the total number of active installation as well as the user feedback.
And make sure that you are updating the plugins immediately if there is an update from the developer’s end. You will get the intimation in the plugin section of your WordPress blog.
6. Use Important Widgets Only
WordPress gives you the option to add widgets to the sidebar and other widegtized section of your site. Make sure to use only the important widgets.
Keep it minimal as far as possible.
7. Use Latest Version of Theme, Plugin & WordPress
Make sure to use the latest version of WordPress, the theme you are using and the plugins. This will keep your site well-optimized and secure.
The themes and plugins are updated to fix bugs or to make it compatible with the latest version of WordPress, so if you don’t update them on time, your site becomes vulnerable.
8. Compress The Images
Whenever you check the performance of your site in testing tools like GTmetrix one of the main components that affect the loading speed are the images on your site.
So, make sure to use perfectly optimized images for your blog posts. First of all, you need to understand the image’s sizes used by the theme, you are using and try to use properly scaled images.
You can use the services like TinyPNG.com to reduce the size of your images before you upload them to your site.
Also, there are some amazing WordPress plugins that will help you optimize the images on your site such as the EWWW Image Optimizer.
Common SEO Mistakes & Fixes
The newbie WordPress users make some common SEO related mistakes that minimize the possibility of ranking well in the search engine results.
Make sure to double check the following points.
1. Allow Search Engine to Index Your Site
There is an option to block search engine from indexing your site, while creating the site many developer tick this option to block search engines to make sure that the demo content are not indexed.
So, when you are ready with your site and start producing content, have a look at this to make sure that your site is open for search engines.
To check this option go to your WordPress admin dashboard > Settings > Reading and untick this option.
2. Check The Permalink Structure
The permalink structure of your post is another very important thing to double check before you start publishing content.
WordPress gives you a number of different options to choose from. There are options with date of the post and few other parameters.
But make sure to select the option with post name only. So, your post URL will be www.yourdomain.com/post-name.
3. Domain Preference
Another important aspect to look at before you go ahead and start publishing content is your domain preference.
By domain preference here I mean the www or non www version of your site. If you wish to use the www before your domain name, you have to set it up in the settings.
First you make your mind, both the options are find and it doesn’t make much of a difference as far as SEO is concerned. It is more of a personal choice.
Now, if you wish to use the www before the domain, go to WordPress admin Setting > General Settings.
You will see two options there
WordPress Address (URL) & Site Address (URL), make sure to add www before the domain at both the places.
Once you are done with this step, go to permalink page and save the permalink.
Also, for this setting one of the step involves Google Search Console as well. Your have to set your preferred domain in the search console so that Google doesn’t consider the other version of the site as duplicate.
So, login to your search console account and click on the site you have already verified. When it opens your site data, click on this icon and go to site settings.
Select the option Display your URL as www.yourdomain.com.
If you follow all the points mentioned in this article the basic SEO will be taken care of. However, SEO is a vast topic and it is changing continuously. So, you have to keep yourself updated with the latest SEO updates and keep producing high quality content.
Here is a list of top SEO WordPress plugins that will sure help you to optimize your site perfectly.