I’m sure, most of us love WordPress for the customization it provides, the control it gives us over the blog we maintain. If not already, you must be thinking of creating a WordPress blog and that’s exactly why you are here.
Sure, WordPress does justice by providing maximum control to the owner & hence giving maximum chances to make the most out of your blog. WordPress is a great blogging platform.
But, is WordPress SEO-friendly? Not completely. Is it a bad blogging platform? Absolutely not. For many, WordPress and SEO are synonyms. But that ain’t completely true.
Apart from making intuitive, informative & engaging content, it is important for all beginner bloggers to understand the basics of optimization that you will need to play within the long run.
In a nutshell, SEO is all about conversions. In other words, the end result or ultimate goal of optimizing your content for the search engine is converting visitors into subscribers/customers.
Therefore, making your WordPress blog SEO-friendly is of utmost importance. But you’d ask that WordPress is highly SEO friendly, then why this post? Or if you’ve hired an SEO, you mustn’t have heard from saying any of this.
Sure, WordPress is SEO friendly, but only in terms of structure, i.e. the speed (PHP is a very light programming language for the browsers to request read & load) & overall architecture of WordPress to database interaction.
But for the search engines, PHP doesn’t matter much. All search engines understand is HTML. Therefore if you are looking for ways to optimize your WordPress website, this guide is for you. Here you will find 20+ settings & changes that will better off your WordPress SEO.
Note: Before everything, your content is of utmost importance so as to glue the readers to your content. Everything else is simply icing on the cake. If your content isn’t epic, all your efforts will run out of power sooner or later. So, make your content epic.
Before you begin making your WordPress website SEO-friendly, make sure you have updated some of the most important settings after installing WordPress. With that said, let me share the main chunk of this post.
If you are an absolute beginner, it is important to understand SEO & why is it important for your blog and business on the whole. Therefore, let us have a brief look at it right away.
What is SEO & Why Is It Important For Your Blog?
You are into blogging with an idea in your mind. You want that idea to gain maximum visibility and to do that, SEO for your blog is one of the most effective ways. SEO is nothing but Search Engine Optimization and it is the tactics that marketers use to push their webpages to the masses. The bigger the reach, the lesser is the conversion percentage required to make a profit.
But reaching a bigger audience is as tough as building a brand. In other words, building a brand directly means reaching more people. The bigger the brand, the more people are reachable by the brand. Seeing this from the backdoor, SEO will help you reach more people and therefore help you build a bigger brand.
SEO isn’t the practice to fool the search engines and place your content over the others. Gone are the days when this was possible. If you want to reach your target audience, you can completely rely on SEO. That’s a different story that there are SEOs doing black-hat SEO(practices that are not approved by the search engine) to gain visibility. But sooner or later, these practices won’t win long.
Your search engine optimized content will rank depending on the degree of optimizations you’ve made. Better the optimizations, better the rankings.
Coming to the importance of SEO
Google, Bing, Baidu & many such search engines have their users in their vision. The tech giants want to serve the best results so that the users don’t move to other search engines for better results. Google is the most used search engine in the world, the company is very very possessive for the search results it serves its users.
Therefore, to help gain more visibility on search engines, it is very important to optimize the content in a way that is both informative for the end-users & optimized for search engines. The search engine has some of the most advanced algorithms in action to rank search results that are most relevant for the end-users. SEO helps you to convince the search engines that your content is the best result for the end-users. SEO helps your content qualify for the top ranks in SERPs.
Furthermore, SEO makes it easier for search engines to rank your content. The absence of SEO clearly means that your content is out of the league for ranking high.
What Are The Types of Optimizations To Make WordPress SEO Friendly
Now that you are aware of the importance of making your WordPress website SEO-friendly, let me share the types of optimization you need to focus on.
Furthermore, the tips & changes that are listed in the next section will circumference around these three types of optimizations.
With that said, let’s begin.
Three types of optimizations to focus on
On-site SEO comprises the optimization changes you make on the domain level. For example, creating sitemaps, robots.txt, permalink structure, etc. These changes reflect across all the web pages under the domain and are a one-time effort. These optimization changes are important & should be done soon after you install WordPress for your blog. If not already done, you can do it any time to make your WordPress SEO friendly.
On-page SEO is the changes that you do for particular webpages, be it blog posts & individual pages of your blog. I personally focus a lot on on-page SEO before and after publishing a blog post. Especially after it starts getting some traction from the search engine. Once the post starts ranking for some keywords, with the help of the Google search console you can find keywords for which your posts are getting impressions but not getting clicks. With this data, you can include those keywords in your blog posts to increase the chances of getting more clicks. Higher the clicks, the better the ranking.
Off-page SEO includes everything you do to bring more visitors to your blog/website. Be it social media, email marketing, guest blogging, content republishing, remarketing, and whatnot. Off-page SEO will only be fruitful if your off-page reach is wide enough. Else, you will need to broaden your reach with your content as the base. Create content so awesome that people feel proud to share with their network.
That being said, let me share 19 changes & settings for making WordPress blog SEO friendly.
Changes to make your WordPress SEO friendly
#1 Speed up your blog
Did you know that the attention span of a human being has gone down to 3 seconds from 12 seconds? If your webpage doesn’t load in under 3 seconds, the user will skip your webpage and hop on to other search results. If this keeps happening, the search algorithm will push your webpage lower in SERPs
Use tools like Pingdom & Google Pagespeed Insights to check the speed of your blog. The tool will share the results containing the necessary changes that you need to make. Furthermore, the changes that you make will directly affect the speed of your blog and hence the SEO.
As a basic practice, invest in a good hosting service. I would encourage you to opt for Bluehost. A monthly plan costs less than Starbucks coffee. If your pocket permits, go for managed web hosting services like Kinsta or WPEngine. Here, I would encourage you to opt for Kinsta. It is way better than WPEngine in so many ways.
Also, using CDNs will also speed up your blog to a large extent. CDNs are a content delivery network that delivers cache pages from the nearest server to the requester. This reduces the delivery time of the web pages and hence the end-user stays on your webpage. Speeding up your WordPress blog will simply increase the conversions and make the blog more usable.
If you cannot afford to spend on CDNs right now, use free tools like the W3 Cache plugin that will save cache files of your webpages on the visitor’s browser. So next time when they visit, the cached files will be loaded and hence it will load faster. Alternatively, you can use WP Super Cache too. It’s from Automattic Inc so you know it’s reliable for sure. If you don’t have a technical bone, I recommend the W3 Cache plugin for you.
Read Also: Best Hosting For Your WordPress Blog/Website
#2 Optimize the overall structure of your blog
Organizing your blog is as important as streamlining your content. In fact, the organizing part comes before the content. If your blog isn’t organized, the visitors will not be able to find what matters the most. By organizing, I mean having a fixed number of categories and having only relevant tags linked to each post & category.
Furthermore, having the most important category linked to the home page will increase the session time which will directly affect the SEO of your blog. Using canonicalization you will be able to bring more SEO link juice from the search engines.
#3 Optimize tags on your WordPress blog
If you look from WordPress’s point of view, a web page is simply an HTML page that contains certain information for the end-user. This HTML page contains certain tags that tell the search engines about the information embedded in the webpage. These tags are pointers for the search engines and brief them about the whole page. Based on these tags, the crawler updates the search engine index, and then the search engine will rank the web pages accordingly.
Your target keywords should blend with the blog post and within the tags of the webpage. Let’s look at the tags that you should focus on.
Title tag (for SEO title)
The title tag is the title of your webpage that’s displayed in the browser’s tab. The title tag determines the main topic of the post. Generally, you should limit the title to 70 characters. Create a title that not only delivers the message clearly but also provokes the user to click it. Don’t fall for the clickbait strategy, if the user doesn’t find what’s mentioned in the title, they’ll simply hit the back button.
For example, “21 reasons why you should build your own email list. 5th one will shock you” This title sounds appealing & provokes curiosity. When the user clicks on the link and doesn’t find the 5th reason shocking, the user is going to lose faith in your brand. Furthermore, there are high chances that the user will directly jump to the 5th reason, so if you make the title this way, make sure you do it right.
Header tags are simply the headings in the body of your blog post. You are free to use H1 to H6 tags across your blog post and based on your keyword research, I encourage you to spread those keywords across the headers. This will help you target more keywords and hence increase the chances of getting higher rankings.
This field contains the details that brief the end-user about the whole post. You have 154 characters limit to brief & convince the end-user that your post is the best they’ll find on the web. Again, your description shouldn’t be clickbait but an informative brief that’s appealing enough for the end-user.
Image attributes & alt tags
Image attributes & alt tags help the image search arm of the search engine to rank the images according to the search term. Furthermore, the alt tag also helps you bring traffic to your blog from the image search. Furthermore, image attributes like captions & image titles help the end-user to understand the image in depth. Image optimization plays an important role in achieving SEO goals for your business.
You can use Resmush.it an image optimizer to optimize the images of your blog posts. It optimizes without compromising the quality of the images you use in the blog post.
Note: Check out this amazing guide on alt text.
#4 Install WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin
Everyone isn’t an expert in SEO. Especially if you are into a non-technical niche. Even if you’re good at SEO, it’s always better to have an assistant that points to changes you need to make to be “better” at on-page SEO. One such assistant is a plugin that’s the best SEO plugin for WordPress and has over a million active downloads.
Yoast, one of the best WordPress SEO plugins you can have for your blog. Wouldn’t be wrong to say Yoast is the best WordPress SEO plugin for your blog. Sure, there are many alternatives to this plugin but nothing even close to Yoast.
You can easily install and set up the Yoast plugin and get started. This plugin will help you monitor your on-page SEO to a large extent. The plugin will show the WordPress SEO score for focus keyphrase and readability analysis. All greens aren’t important, but try to get green for both the scores.
#5 Design well for the best UX
User Experience, in my view, is the number one signal you should consider for your blog. Sure, there are backlinks and similar stuff but UX is all that matters. If you have a ton of backlinks and if fail to maintain the UX, your rank’s gonna fall drastically. All those backlinks will go out of value in no time.
Using SEO-optimized themes will help you achieve this goal. Furthermore, organizing the whole website/blog will help you in the long run.
#6 Permalink Structure
Permalinks stand for Permanent Links. By default, WordPress doesn’t have a friendly URL structure. Ideally, the URL should be self-explanatory. You can change the permalink structure from the wp dashboard. On the left of your WordPress dashboard, hover over settings. Click on Permalinks and change the default permalinks settings.
I would encourage you to choose Post name or Day and Name as the permalink structure. This makes the URL readable and adds to the user experience of the end-user. Guess what happens when the UX is highly good?
Yes, you guessed it right.
You need to change the permalink structure just once but every time you draft a new blog post. You need to create a URL that’s not too lengthy. Keep it short & simple. Avoid numbers as much as possible. If the number is a part of your keyword, it’s okay to have it in the URL.
#7 Replytocom & other URL parameters
Remember I mentioned in the beginning that WordPress isn’t SEO-friendly by default? Here’s come the proof. WordPress comments have a big problem that’s been there since its inception. But don’t worry, there are fixes available.
If your target audience is highly active via comments, this is a must-have change for your WordPress SEO strategy. If you notice the reply link of your WordPress comments, you’ll have
Since the web crawler crawls all the URLs under a domain, these replytocom links are also crawled and indexed by the search engine. This shouldn’t happen as it’s not in favor of the SEO strategy.
What’s the fix?
You can use WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin & you can also add URL parameters to the Google search console. Furthermore, if you install new plugins or make some theme changes, there are chances that the URL parameters would change. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use the Google webmaster tool’s URL parameter settings.
#8 Visibility setting for WordPress SEO
Many beginners focus on outer optimization but forget to check the basic setting that might keep your WordPress SEO pointless. By default, WordPress keeps your blog hidden from the search engines. This is to give you some time before your work gets public. You should change this soon after you think your work is ready to serve the masses.
Navigate to the settings section of your dashboard and find check if your blog/website is not hidden to the search engines under reading settings.
#9 www vs non-www domains
At the time of setting up your WordPress blog for the first time, you must have noticed that you’ve to choose between a www and non-www domain of your website/blog. The search engine treats these two URLs differently.
From a UX standpoint, I would recommend using a www URL setting. That’s my say. It’s all on you to have either of the two. There’s no SEO disadvantage of using either of two. If you’re curious about the two, see this detailed guide.
#10 Security & safety of your WordPress blog
Did you know that Google blacklists thousands of websites since they’re malicious? Once Google blacklists it, it no more appears on SERPs. What if someone hacks your website/blog and adds malicious code and without your knowledge, Google blacklists it?
The security of your blog is important, isn’t it?
I recommend you consider the security of your blog seriously. Especially if you’re into a sensitive niche or your blog is too valuable. Security plugins like Sucuri are the best choice for the security of your blog. Here’s a case study on how Sucuri blocked 450,000 attacks in 3 months.
#11 Setup webmaster tools for your WordPress SEO
The main reason why I prefer webmaster tools is that I get the impression of the data that my blog posts are getting. I can simply include those keywords and widen the spread of my blog posts in SERPs.
For the sake of this post, let us consider the Google search console as an example. Simply headover to the platform and click on create the property and the verification code in the theme header of your theme. Give a week’s time and you’ll the data flowing in which you can use to spread the grip of your blog posts.
Apart from this, there are a ton of helpful reports that will help you understand what’s working for your blog and what isn’t. Furthermore, the tool will alert you when there is some technical error in the backend.
Here’s a video guide to set up a Google search console for your blog.
#12 Create sitemaps & add them to the webmaster tools
Once you set up webmaster tools for your blog, it’s time to submit sitemaps to the tool. Sitemaps are XML files for the search engines that each and every URL under your domain. Submitting it to the webmaster tools of the respective search engines will trigger the crawlers to crawls all the URLs mentioned in the XML file.
Again, WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will keep updating the sitemaps as and when you create new web pages. The plugin automatically creates sitemaps for your website/blog. All you gotta do is copy that sitemap and submit it in the webmaster tools of the search engines(Google search console & Bing webmaster tools etc)
You can find the sitemaps by loading the following URL in your browser. Simply replace your domain with your actual domain.
#13 Linking is always fruitful
Also, add a link to your sitemaps in the footer of your blog. This will ensure the crawler doesn’t miss reading it.
Guess what’s the easiest way to increase the on-page time or the session time? Undoubtedly, it’s Interlinking. Higher the on-page time higher is the chances of getting a higher ranking for the target search term. Depending on the length of the blog post, I have at least 3–4 interlinks in the post. Furthermore, the web crawlers will crawl all the links in the blog post if not already crawled.
To be on the safer side, link only the relevant blog posts because if it’s irrelevant the end-user may not click it, and to make it worse, that might even prove to be a bad experience for the end-user.
The same goes for external links too. Linking out to authoritative web pages tells the search engine that your content is authoritative too. Furthermore, the pingback feature of WordPress will inform the owner of those web pages about this linking. And if they find your content informative, there are chances that they might share in their network. Or even better, link back.
Note: Make sure you check the “open link in new tab” checkbox. This will not end the session and keep the on-page time high.
#14 No-follow external linking
As mentioned above, linking tells the search engine which pages are important. Linking also passes the link juice to your blog which boosts the page rank. Speaking of link juice, it is important to pass more link juice than you are getting.
Each crawler has a certain amount of crawl budget and the link juice is nothing but every time a crawler visits a webpage by spending some crawl budget. So the search engine will think that if the crawler has spent the crawl budget to visit a page, then it must be important.
As a best practice, you should no-follow certain(or less relevant) external links. This will tell the search engine not to follow that link and hence not consuming the link juice or crawl budget. This will increase the importance of your own webpage and hence the rank.
Note: Use Title and No Follow for Links plugin to easily manage external links.
#15 Optimize comments for better user engagement
The internet era has led to a lot of robots that do nothing but spam. To avoid these robots in your comment section, I recommend using Akismet plugin for your WordPress blog. Spammers might push spammy links or even unwanted content which can escalate quickly.
Comments are a great indication to the search engines that your web pages are engaging enough. This further improves your WordPress SEO in the long run. If this doesn’t suffice, use these tips & tricks to battle spam comments.
#16 Full post or Excerpts?
If you don’t explicitly opt, WordPress displays the full content of your blog posts. This affects your WordPress SEO in a really bad way. First, it reduces the on-page session time. Second, the search engine might find the full article as duplicate content of the individual blog posts. Third, the users who read your blog posts via RSS feeds will see full posts without even hoping for your website.
Therefore, you should be showing only the excerpts to the end-user and let them come to the individual pages. This will solve all the problems I’ve mentioned above. To change this setting, navigate to Settings » Reading.
#17 Setup robots.txt file
Setting up the robots.txt file is important to inform the search engine crawler to determine which links to index and which ones to exclude. Pages like author profiles, tags, categories, and comment paginations are not necessarily be indexed. Robots.txt file will instruct the crawler about pages to include and pages to exclude from indexing.
Imagine this, you have a page that’s shown only to your subscribers. Imagine that page getting indexed and an offer that was exclusive for the subscribers gets public. Not fruitful right?
Instruct the crawler to not index that URL in the robots.txt file. Here’s a detailed guide to setup and robots.txt file.
#18 Ping list for WordPress SEO
WordPress Ping list alerts the major search engines whenever you publish a new post or update the existing one. This way, the search engine sends the crawlers to crawl your blog for new content. Technically, WordPress pings all the search engines about the new content. WordPress by default has only 2 pings in the list. So it is important to have an updated pin list on your WordPress.
To add or update the ping list, navigate to Settings » Writing & find Update Services section. Next, add the list of pings present in this WordPress doc in the Update Service field.
#19 Social shares
Social media cannot be ignored. People spend hours together on social media, therefore, it is important to enabling tools so that the readers can share them across their social network. I use the social rocket for this blog.
Social sharing will not directly impact the SEO of your WordPress blog. However, social sharing will take your content to your target audience and their engagement with your post will help you in WordPress SEO.
All social platforms are now optimized to find the right users for your content. Even when you’re just starting out, first engage with your ideal audience so that they engage back with your content. Once they start doing that, the algorithm will slowly start showing your content to users with similar interests.
Building a social following is about training the algorithm at first and then letting it do what it does the best.
Final thoughts on WordPress SEO
WordPress is a great platform, in fact, the best blogging platform. I’m sure this post hasn’t made you think otherwise. But like everything, WordPress needs fine-tuning as per the user. Doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a pro, WordPress is not going to let you down. With the help of powerful paid & free plugins, your success with WordPress is definite.
Lastly, if you’ve made it this far, thank you. This is a 4000+ word guide and you’ve been with me this far. I really appreciate this. As a token of respect, here are some helpful guides on WordPress.
Do you know someone who’s looking for this information? Share this with them and share them in your social network too. I’ll be grateful to you for this, it keeps me encouraged to create such content more often.