WordPress SEO: A Definitive Guide to SEO Tips
As a guy who started the web journey as a web developer, I had my healthy share of time with different frameworks and content management systems. Out of which, WordPress always wins the race for me.
Here is the thing:
There is a reason why top brands like Techcrunch prefer WP over other platforms.
Not only it has easy to use functionality, but the SEO option it offers is second to none.
However, many people think that just having WordPress installed will make their website SEO optimized. This is absolutely wrong.
You need to hustle and implement big alterations to make your website work perfectly. And this is what we are going to discuss today.
This post is a step-by-step guide to WordPress SEO that will help you build a website that the Big G loves to see. If you want to be updated with the latest techniques I suggest a great article about the SEO Techniques that Work in 2017 on SingleGrain.
Setting up Yoast Plugin
Before diving into the advance mechanism, it’s required to get the basics right. And, Yoast is the plugin that keeps the basics of your SEO correct.
It’s a paid plugin, but it contains enough features in its free version. So, just a free version should be good enough for you.
Here is how you can install a Yoast Plugin
Just like any other plugin, installing Yoast is also a walk in the park. You need to simply go to:
Plugins tab > Click add new > Search for Yoast > Install and activate the plugin.
After the installation, you will see a new section called SEO added to the left sidebar. This is where everything starts.
Alternatives to Yoast
All in One SEO: There has always been a healthy debate on the best SEO plugin for WordPress. Although, I started with All in One and have nothing but love for this plugin, I feel Yoast has a slight edge over it in terms of usability and functionality. However, I still use this plugin for few of my projects, and find it pretty useful for a small plugin.
Project Supremacy: Many guys probably haven’t heard about project supremacy at all. This is a new horse in the race. The horse that is ready to win the search engine race. Well, that’s what testimonials suggest. It actually compiles of 3-4 plugins in one. It’s one of the most effective feature that caught my eye is the schema and map optimization. It makes so much easy to add schema as well geotag images and optimize maps accordingly.
Getting the Basics right
Installing Yoast is just one part of the deal. If you have heard that getting an SEO plugin makes your website out of the box SEO optimized site, then you are absolutely wrong. To get the basics right, you need to configure it properly.
Yoast General Settings
General setting of Yoast is as simple as it gets. You don’t need to be an expert to work through it. Its introduction tour in the general tab can help you optimize your website if you are just starting out.
In the info section, you will see something like this:
I keep the options blank as it pulls out schema data, which in my opinion is useless from Yoast. I take you through configuring schema in the advance section.
Before starting anything, you need to make sure that you have a right URL structure. You don’t want to end up with a URL that doesn’t make much sense to search engines as well as users.
You can change it from the settings page. From settings, go to the permalink tab, you will get something like this:
As you can see, I prefer the post name option rather than others. Also the custom structure you see in the above image is preferred choice among many SEOs. However, I don’t suggest you selecting plain or numeric option at all because they are not search friendly URLs.
Title tags carry vital importance in terms of defining what your web page is about. Also, it has its own weight on ranking algorithm of Google. So, you want to keep it right.
First, go to the SEO tab created by Yoast. And, select title and Meta. You will then see this:
Click on the post types tab. Here is where you define few things. The first thing you will see is post and Meta robots option. Don’t be intimidated by it. It’s really simple.
In the title template box, by default, you will have something like this: %%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%
Here two percentages are the separators between two phrases
I changed that to %%title%%
Why? Because I need a clean title.
With the default option, you will get something like this: WordPress SEO – Premium Coding (the name of your site)
And you don’t want that. You want to keep everything under 56 characters and optimized for the post itself.
Then there is the Meta robots option, you want to keep it to indexed. It simply means you are allowing search engine bots to crawl your site and index all your posts.
You can, however, define which individual posts to ignore through page level de-indexification.
Follow the similar process for the page template options and other remaining ones.
Taxonomy & Archives
Taxonomy section has the configuration for category pages and tags. I’m not a big fan of category and tags (snippet of post), so I normally no-index this tiny beast. Similarly, archives are the list of old contents that I don’t need Google to place in the database, so I de-index it as well.
The reason why I do this is because I don’t want to waste my crawl budget that Google assigns into pages that aren’t important. And pulling too many unnecessary thin pages in search index is never a healthy sign. This is what sean from proven did that helped him with more organic traffic.
This perhaps is most common SEO feature that many of you will understand. Optimizing Meta tags of a website are the first thing you are most likely to do.
As you can see, my focus keyword is long tail SEO. So what I do is I place my main keyword at the beginning of title as well as in the URL. This two are the most important part in terms of on page SEO. So, you want to optimize it accordingly. Although description doesn’t carry much value these days, I tend to put it in a way that it not only signals the focused keyword but also helps in click through rate.
One thing that I see most people neglect is images. First thing first, you should always optimize your images. Why? Because it not only adds value to ranking, a small sized image takes fewer loads to the server. And, that boosts website speed which is a definite ranking signal.
So, how do you optimize an image?
Here is how:
First, you need to compress your image before uploading it the server.
Go to https://compressor.io/
Choose the image you want to compress. And start compressing.
Now, you can upload it to your server. But wait!
Here is what you need to do:
Fill up Title and alt text boxes with right keywords according to the post. If you need to put caption you can also use that. Use of right keyword will help your image get ranked in Google images which can also get you a link if someone decides to use it.
You can also take image optimization to one step further by adding an open graph to it.
Here is how you do it:
Grab the URL of the image you want to use and fill out the details.
Taking to Advance Level
I have literally tried out every schema plugins available in WordPress, but nothing has come even close to what I need. So, instead, I use my own code to integrate schema to my WordPress websites.
Here is the code you can use for yourself.
“name”: “Nirmal Web Studio”,
“alternateName”: “Nirmal Web Design”,
“description”: “20+ years of experience on web design and development solutions in Sydney”,
“url” : “http://http://www.nirmal.com.au”,
“telephone”: ” (02) 9281 3250″,
“openingHours” : “Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr 8:30-17:30”,
“streetAddress”: “18/89 Jones Street”,
“addressRegion”: “New South Wales”,
What you need to do now is add the code to your </head> in header.php. And you are good to go. Don’t forget to change the elements from Nirmal to your own website. Lastly, you can test it using Google’s structured data testing tool..
This is what you will see if it’s correct.
Update the sitemap
Couple of years ago, sitemap for me was a big thing. Simply because just having a sitemap used to get my websites indexed quickly. But, with sandbox effect levied on the new website, sitemap doesn’t have much effect it used to have.
However, it’s still one of the best tools that tell search engines about your updated content. With Yoast or all in one SEO, you can use its built-in sitemap feature to update your URL in sitemap.
To update your sitemap, first, go to the Yoast SEO icon and click XML Sitemaps.
Now, enable it, and move to post types and excluded posts.
In post types, enable the only pages you want to include. For instance, if you don’t want media or any other folders to pop up, you can disable it. It’s that Easy!!!
Now, move to excluded posts. Here, you can paste an id of a page you want to exclude from your sitemap. Don’t know how to find page id – this post here will guide you through.
As far as user sitemaps and taxonomies are concerned, I disable them. And, you can do that too.
Advance Yoast Tool
This is one of my favorite features of Yoast for me. I’m a time conscious guy, and I want everything to be done within one interface in quick time. This is where this cool feature comes into action.
Go to the tool menu of Yoast. You will find these three options.
- Bulk Editor
- File Editor
- Import and Export
Here, we will be using the first two options.
Bulk Editor: It’s as simple as it sounds. This handy little feature helps you to edit your SEO meta data within one copy.
You can easily update your new SEO title and description within the same page without having to go to each individual page. Isn’t it a time saver?
File Editor: Moving on, file editor is another feature of Yoast that avoids the hassle of chasing server. If you don’t like updating the codes of robots.txt and htaccess on your server, this option is great for you.
There you go. Those little tricks can not only save your time but kills the hassle of altering the code that you don’t have any idea of.
5 Best SEO plugins you need to use
If you just do a simple Google search, you will find a ton of SEO tools. But to get optimum results, you need to combine the best plugins available. And here is where I give brief info on my 5 SEO plugins that I use. And, I think you should too if you are not.
Yoast Vs All in One Vs Project Supremacy
Perhaps, I don’t need to focus more on this plugin as it’s already been discussed previously. If you are just starting out, this is the first plugin you need to install. Just do it right away!
W3 Total Cache
Site speed is one of the ranking signals out of 200 factors used by Google.
Just like Yoast and all in one, total cache has always been in a debate circle with super cache. But the primary object of both the tools is optimizing the speed of your website. I use total cache because it gives me a lot of options to play around. It may be intimidating for many people but once you get hold of it, you will know how amazing it is. If you are having hard time figuring out how to use total cache, this guide should help you.
Backlinks play a prominent role in ranking a website. According to search engine land, links and content are two most influential factors in Google algorithm. This is the reason why you need to have control over your links. And, No-Follow plugin is one method to keep your website from transferring that unnecessary link juice to irrelevant websites.
It’s a simple plugin that adds a checkbox every time you click the link icon on WordPress. As you can see in the image, by ticking the rel=”nofollow” you are avoiding the flowing of juice from your site. Also, you can always make every link nofollow, but it’s not a legit practice.
One of the crucial parts of SEO is finding the broken links. Not only broken links have negative impact on user experience, you may also lose some SEO values. For example: If you had a page with URL – premiumcoding.com/WordPress-SEO. But you changed it later to premiumcoding.com/wp-seo.
You will see that your previous URL will be considered dead although you have the same content. But, during the process, your wordpress-seo URL had obtained few decent links.
And, this is where you lose your chance to get some link floating toward your new url.
Finding dead links (404 pages) is simple. Log in to your webmaster account.
Go to crawl errors. Click Not found. And you will get list of 404 pages that the Big G has found on your website.
Voila! Start implementing a 301 redirection to relevant links.
Ewww Image Optimizer
This is a standard image optimization plugin that will compress your image easily. I don’t really go with image optimization plugins because I don’t believe in having too many plugins. Rather I would do it myself using tools like compressor.
However, if you don’t like to optimize images yourself, this is the best option you have got.
I used to prefer smush it, but it’s free version is a total waste for me. However, Ewww Image optimizer works perfectly. You shouldn’t forget to read the warnings before optimizing any images since it can result in grainy images too.
If you are just starting with SEO on WordPress, this can be the guide that can help you through tough time. However, like everything in SEO world, some may have disagreement with few of my tips. Simply put what works for me may not work for you. Feel free to add your opinions. And as a smart guy I am, I will update the content from the information I receive from you guys.
Amin Ghale is Marketing consultant at Nirmal web studio. He loves shed knowledge about SEO and online marketing that he believes has given him so much.You can always follow his tweets at seonerdy