WordPress is SEO-optimized out of the box. No doubt, but you can improve the performance and SEO of your WordPress site even further.
Improving every aspect of your WordPress blog is one of the advantages of blogging with WordPress. There are endless possibilities to finetune its features, security, optimizations, and performance.
If you’ve been wondering how to SEO WordPress websites, this post provides step-by-step guidance on what to do and things to consider.
With the help of this guide, you will build a blog on a solid foundation that your subsequent optimization efforts will prosper.
Let’s get into it.
1. Choose The Right Web Host
Not surprisingly, the first step towards WordPress SEO best practices is to find a good web host.
SEO encompasses technical and on-page SEO signals of a website. It goes beyond keywords and link building; your website must perform optimally in every aspect of user experience.
A fast and optimized web hosting server will improve website loading time, time to first byte, CWV (Core Web Vitals), and overall search engine visibility.
On the other hand, poor hosting plans can negatively impact your website SEO, leading to slow website pages, poor user experience, regular connection timeouts, etc.
No matter what you do to improve SEO, nothing else matters if your web host delivers poor hosting services.
So, your first move is to ensure your WordPress site is hosted on a high-performance hosting infrastructure. This will ensure all subsequent SEO efforts and optimization tactics are as effective as possible.
While there are hundreds of web hosts, choose a web host with a fast and reliable hosting service. Consider evaluating their hosting features, server speed, optimization features, etc.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few web hosts to consider:
- Cloudways – Cloud hosting is suitable for blogs with decent traffic volume.
- NameCheap – Beginner-friendly and affordable.
- Hostinger – Fast, reliable, affordable, and beginner-friendly hosting.
There are several advantages to hosting with reputable web hosts, like the options above.
These web hosts offer free SSL certificates, which come with your hosting plan, are automatically installed and configured, and support HTTP/3. They also provide a built-in cache mechanism, making your website load quickly for its users.
You also enjoy affordable access to the Cloudflare Enterprise feature + 1-year free premium license to the Astra Pro theme when you host with Cloudways.
2. Pick a fast and mobile responsive Theme
Next, you need a fast, mobile-responsive, and SEO-optimized theme.
You see, a WordPress blog is like a building.
Every material needed for the building is critical to the quality and standard of the building. If one material is subpar, it affects the whole building and could lead to structural damage or total collapse.
When you look at your WordPress site as a building, you understand why every piece of elements required to build it must be of a high standard.
From experience, WordPress themes can help improve the SEO of your sites. This is because a poorly coded theme can introduce bloat and unexpected negative SEO and security issues to your site.
Your site can be hacked, vulnerable to security attacks, slow, and negatively impact the user experience. All these factors will contribute to low search engine visibility.
In contrast, an optimized, lightweight, fast, and optimally coded WordPress theme will support your SEO efforts. It will help your SEO efforts in the best possible ways.
Several WordPress themes like WPAstra, GeneratePress, and Kadence support AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Schema structure data, and host Google fonts locally.
If you need help picking the right WordPress themes, here are my favorites:
3. Install Cache Plugin
Even though WordPress core is out of the box SEO optimized.
You have a good hosting plan and a fast WordPress theme, but you need a cache mechanism to complement all SEO efforts.
Part of an SEO strategy is optimizing for fast-loading website pages. Improving the user experience and ensuring content and the entire website loads quickly is mobile responsive and performs equally well.
Installing a cache plugin will significantly improve page speed and user experience, reduce HTTP requests, and resolve many page speed insight recommendations like removing render-blocking resources, LCP, CLS, and TTFB.
At its core, cache stores website resources like CSS, video content, images, and files in temporary storage, making it readily available for retrieval for subsequent website requests.
Instead of WordPress processing every piece of information directly from your site database, which involves many steps and stops, cache eliminates many processes, leading to faster content delivery and improved website efficiency.
The result is a better website that Google finds useful and helps improve how people use your website.
Some web hosts like Cloudways have a built-in cache mechanism, making it easier to deploy on the server. Plus, you don’t need to spend extra on cache plugins.
However, if you need to optimize your website further, you can buy a premium cache plugin like WP Rocket. This plugin is a one-click website optimization setup.
I used WP Rocket on some of my blogs and can confidently recommend it.
When you use WP Rocket with a fast and optimized hosting server, you have a WordPress site built on a solid search engine optimization foundation.
4. Check Search Engine Visibility Settings
Now that you’ve built a WordPress site with an unshakable SEO foundation, it’s time to check for on-page SEO factors.
The next logical thing to do is to check if you did not block search engines from indexing your site by accident.
This might sound weird or impossible, but countless times, I have read people unknowingly blocking WordPress from being indexed by Google and other search engines.
To ensure your WordPress site is open to index, go to WordPress admin and navigate to Settings>Reading> Search Engine Visibility.
Confirm the box is not checked. If the box is checked, you must uncheck it to allow search engines to index your site.
Another scenario in which this box or any similar feature might be turned on is when you have a coming soon or under-construction page active. Many people forget to deactivate this feature after completing the site’s building.
It does not matter how much effort you put into optimizing your site; if it’s not open to index, you won’t rank as deserved.
Though it’s up to search engines to honor or disregard the no-index request, activating it will not help your SEO optimization efforts. So, before going forward, double check this feature is not turned on.
5. Setup Your Permalink
One of the basic or primary steps to SEO WordPress websites is choosing the right permalink structure.
You must choose a permalink structure that improves the user experience and is SEO-friendly. Your permalink should help people and search engines understand the page topic and help them confidently navigate your website.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to choosing the best permalink setting. It depends on your blog topic, niche, industry standard, and what your users find most helpful.
However, there is some consensus among SEOs and industry best practices on permalink settings you must keep in mind.
If you blog on evergreen topics. Blog topics that do not change or become outdated because of time, date, or the publication year, your permalink or URL structure can be just the %post-name%.
But if you’re in a time-sensitive niche like sports, politics, breaking news, and events, you may use time, date, and year in your permalink. This is not mandatory; it’s advice.
I have seen many news websites that do not use publication time and date in their URL, and I have seen many that do. In what you decide, make sure the publication date is visible on the title elements meta tags.
To update your permalink setting, go to WordPress admin, Settings>Permalinks> then choose the one that aligns with your niche. There are tags on the page to customize the URL structure.
Read my comprehensive guide to learn about Permalinks and its importance to WordPress SEO.
6. Check WordPress XML Sitemap
XML Sitemap is a file that contains the list of indexable URLs on your website and helps Google and search engines like Bing find these pages.
It is automatically updated whenever you create or update pages on your site. You don’t need to manually add URLs to your sitemap; WordPress or SEO checker plugins handle the task automatically.
WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast, Rank Math, and AIOSEO enable this feature. Alternatively, you can automatically enable the function to create and submit an XML sitemap in WordPress Jetpack. This way, you don’t need to enable the same function in your SEO plugin.
Navigate to WordPress admin, JetPack>Settings>Traffic, then scroll down to Sitemaps. Toggle the gear (Generate XML Sitemaps) to activate the function.
Once activated, WordPress automatically updates your site map whenever you update or publish a post.
This helps search engines discover new content and changes to old content as quickly as possible.
7. Set Your Preferred WWW Version
To a typical search engine, https://www.sitename.com and https://sitename.com are two different domains. Google and other search engines might be confused about which version to index and which to ignore.
You risk duplicate content issues if you don’t explicitly specify the preferred version to a search engine.
There is no right or wrong answer to which version you should stick to. It is all about preference.
However, for simplicity and user experience, the non-www version is preferred. Today’s online users don’t bother typing www before the domain name. So, to avoid any confusion, it makes sense to go with the non-www version protocol.
Please note that this advice is based on personal opinion. It’s not in any way an SEO advice. You can choose any version you deem fit; the most important thing is to pick one version and stick with it.
You can enter this setting in your WordPress site and let Google know your preferred version. In your WordPress admin, go to Settings>General>. Next, enter the version you want to use in the fields and remember to click save.
It is more appropriate and advisable to do this, even though Google can detect which version to index through several signals. You can point the search engines in the right direction.
This article from CognitiveSEO is a good read if you need more information on www or non-www.
8. Install a WordPress SEO Plugin
WordPress SEO plugins make it easier to implement and manage on-page SEO elements of your WordPress site and content.
From submitting XML sitemap to managing redirects, meta tags, titles, meta descriptions, Schema, internal linking, indexing issues, SEO status, etc. SEO plugins can help you with lots of on-site SEO tasks.
SEO plugins also scan through your content when writing and suggest ways for improving its search engine visibility. This can be helpful for beginners to learn how to write content that is engaging and SEO-optimized.
If you go to WordPress and search “SEO plugins,.” There are over 1,000 results, making it difficult to choose.
However, you don’t need to search through all 1,000 plugins to learn which is right. Yoast, Rank Math, SEOpress, and AIOSEO (All-in-one SEO) are the most popular and widely used.
Other options exist, but these plugins are well-supported, constantly updated, and add more features to meet the current SEO landscape.
9. Install Image Optimization Plugin
Images are one of the biggest culprits for a slow website. They take up more space on your server and are usually bigger. And if your site is too slow for users, Google might lower its search ranking for another faster page.
You must optimize every image on your site to improve its search engine rankings.
For beginners, installing an image optimization plugin like Imagify is the easiest way to optimize images. This plugin automatically resizes, compresses, and optimizes your images.
Imagify optimizes the most popular image types, PNG, JPEG, PDF, and GIFs. It automatically resizes image size on the fly. You can sign up for the free plan with a smaller website with few images. Otherwise, the paid plan is what you need.
The faster your website pages load for users, the better your chances of ranking higher in SERP.
Google loves faster-loading website pages, and so do your human visitors. The longer it takes for your website pages to load for users, especially on mobile, the more likely you’ll lose them.
So, ensure your website loads as quickly as possible for users, irrespective of location and device. A faster website is essential for improving WordPress SEO.
10. Add Image ALT
Aside from optimizing the image for fast loading, you need to describe its purpose to a search engine. This is where the image alt comes in.
The image alternate text helps describe the purpose of an image for a search engine to understand. Since search engines can’t read text, at least for now, they rely on the image’s alternate text to learn about its purpose on the page.
The good news is that including this information in an image is not difficult. WordPress has made the process painless and straightforward.
When you upload an image to WordPress, you can add the information via the upload interface.
Or you can do it via the WordPress Gutenberg editor page. Whichever option is good to go.
You don’t need to sleep on what the purpose of an image is or how to write the description. Moreover, you don’t need to stuff it with keywords because you want it to rank for relevant search phrases.
Aside from the SEO benefits, image alt helps people with visual disabilities to learn about the object on the page. So you should add image alt from a usability point of view rather than SEO.
You can describe an image with three or more words. There are no rules to how many words it should be. However, ensure the description makes sense to users and search engines.
Following the advice and tips in this guide on SEO WordPress websites, you have a website built on a good SEO foundation.
Optimizing WordPress sites for higher search engine rankings is not rocket science or some SEO guru secret.
Anyone can do it, regardless of experience in WordPress. The most important thing is following the advice from helpful content like this and implementing the suggestion to the Tee.
If you do this, your website authority and ranking will increase and drive more qualified traffic.