How to improve WordPress SEO
It’s the world’s most popular way to build a website or blog – and WordPress offers a huge range of options for anyone developing an online presence. But when it comes to search engine optimisation, are you pushing WordPress to reach its full potential?
Among the myriad tools that can be used to customise WordPress into virtually anything, you’ll find a wide variety of ways to maximise SEO. From simple content tweaks to specialised SEO plugins like Yoast and All in One SEO Pack, the WordPress content management system lets you take SEO as far as you want it to go.
Is WordPress good for SEO?
WordPress didn’t win its place as the world’s favourite CMS by accident. Though much of its success owes to its accessibility, it doesn’t mean it skimps on important features like SEO compatibility.
Even compared to its more advanced competitors, WordPress remains one of the best content management systems for SEO. On top of its out-of-the-box optimisation, one of the best things about the WordPress CMS is the range of options it gives you for implementing and optimising SEO yourself.
WordPress SEO: it’s all about the content
First and foremost, high-quality content is vital for SEO. By ensuring your content is relevant, informative and up to date, you’ll build the foundations of a successful SEO strategy.
Engaged visitors stick around for longer and tell their friends, meaning increased traffic and more inbound links – and everything feeds back to Google to push your site up through the rankings.
But before web users can love your content, they need to find it. One of the primary ways to help search engines highlight your site is to ensure it features the keywords that users are searching for.
For content ideas, Google Trends can help with popular topics that people are searching for. For more in-depth SEO research, a free keyword tool such as keywordtool.io is very helpful for finding the most popular keywords for your chosen subject.
As long as you use relevant keywords – and don’t spam the reader by stuffing your content full of repetitive and obvious search terms – Google will reward your WordPress site in the rankings.
Stay on Google’s good side with WordPress plugins and tools
In addition to keywords, there are a wide range of SEO ranking factors that are simple to improve on WordPress thanks to the platform’s accessibility, and the massive selection of tools available.
Google likes XML sitemaps – they give the search engine a handy list of all the pages on your site, making it easier for them to be indexed. Helpfully, plugins that generate XML sitemaps are readily available, such as Google XML Sitemaps, so with WordPress, you won’t need to make your own from scratch.
While links are usually good for SEO, broken ones are definitely not. You can use the Broken Link Checker plugin to monitor all the links on your WordPress site and get instant notifications if any of them stop working. Linking between sites is a great way of increasing your authority on Google’s rankings, as it shows your content is being referred to on multiple posts. For that reason, linking to other pages of your site when they’re relevant can also help to boost your SEO.
And then there’s the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress: Yoast.
What is Yoast?
Yoast is the number one WordPress SEO plugin. Much of its success comes from its accessibility; it’s free, easy to install and relatively straightforward to use, even for SEO novices. And Yoast comes with a range of powerful SEO features including:
- Keyword analysis
- XML sitemap generation
- Automatic metadata creation
- Snippet previewing
- Duplicate content flagging
- Configuration of .htaccess file without FTP
There’s also a paid version of Yoast that adds premium features such as expanded keyword analysis and internal link suggestions.
Yoast vs All in One SEO Pack
Alongside Yoast, the other big SEO plugin for WordPress is All in One SEO Pack. Its feature set includes:
- XML sitemap generation
- Google Analytics integration
- SEO support for custom post types
- Advanced canonical URLs
- Automatic or manual metadata creation
- Free WooCommerce integration
While All in One SEO Pack offers much of the same functionality as Yoast, there are significant differences between the two. So which plugin should you choose for your WordPress SEO needs?
Yoast is easier to get started with, and offers advanced features if you need them. This means that for SEO beginners, Yoast is generally the recommended choice – but for anyone more confident with SEO, it really comes down to personal preference.
Some users simply prefer the interface of All in One SEO Pack. The free WooCommerce integration (usually only included with premium plugins) is also a major draw for businesses running online shops with the WooCommerce plugin – so if you plan to sell through your WordPress site, All in One SEO Pack is definitely a solid choice.
All in One SEO Pack is also seen as a more lightweight option, as some of the more advanced features are not included or enabled by default. This makes it easier if you’re looking for a simpler SEO solution, but it still gives the option of using more advanced tools if you choose to enable them.
SEO-friendly WordPress themes
The massive range of WordPress themes provides the platform with even more customisation options. But while a large selection of themes are available for free, the best WordPress themes for SEO often come with a premium price tag.
If you’re really serious about SEO, it’s worth considering a paid WordPress theme. With a premium theme, you can rely on a high standard of HTML and CSS coding, browser compatibility and mobile optimisation – all things that Google rewards in the rankings.
You can find premium SEO themes optimised by specialised developers, who will also provide ongoing support and regular updates to ensure your WordPress site remains at the forefront of SEO-friendly design.
Structure your site to be easily crawled
When choosing a theme, you should also be mindful of how a site’s structure can affect SEO. When indexing websites, Google prefers clearly structured content that makes use of taxonomy features like categories and tags.
Internal links are also appreciated by Google; it’s a good idea to link back to relevant older content whenever possible.
In addition, WordPress permalinks should be customised for SEO reasons. The permalinks of individual posts and pages are not optimised by default, but you can set up your own custom permalink structure in the WordPress dashboard under Settings > Permalinks. And of course, you should always aim to include relevant keywords in each URL.
Optimise performance for SEO benefits
Another key SEO ranking factor is website performance. Google will always favour fast-loading websites, so it’s important to ensure your site is fully optimised.
We also previously covered some of the best tools for speeding up WordPress. These include plugins that optimise image size such as Smush – enabling faster performance without compromising image quality.
WordPress caching works by serving users with static HTML files instead of PHP script, and can deliver major performance boosts. Caching plugins like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache offer a simple way to implement caching yourself.
Database optimisation plugins such as Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions are also well worth a look if you’re running a large database that needs regular clear-outs to ensure snappy performance.
And finally, website performance, and by extension SEO, is greatly influenced by your choice of hosting provider. At Fasthosts, our WordPress Hosting is built to run WordPress at its absolute best. Add plugins to your install before you start, so they’re ready to go straight away, and get started immediately.