Improve Your WordPress Website’s SEO Immediately Using These 15 Tips
WordPress is the CMS of choice for a large number of websites around the world. In fact, WordPress powers 26% of the entire web and controls a 59.4% market share in the CMS category.
These stats show you just how popular it is, so there is a very good chance that you are running your online business with WordPress, so I wanted to put together a blog post full of tips that could be easily implemented and cost nothing more than your time and drastically improve your website.
With content marketing such an important part of online marketing, WordPress is a favorite because it’s so simple to publish content from your dashboard and WordPress is highly regarded as the most SEO-friendly CMS, especially for beginners and those that are less tech savvy.
As amazing as WordPress is out of the box, you will need to make some changes to fully optimize it for SEO. While some small businesses in niches with no competition might see some solid SEO results running WordPress out of the box, there are some things you really should change in order to give yourself the best chance of being found high up in the SERPs.
Here are my 15 tips to help skyrocket your wordpress websites SEO almost immediately. These technical tips won’t cost you any money; just your time.
1. Change your admin username and login URL
WordPress is the most popular website platform, so hackers tend to target it, hoping the owner is running it straight out of the box, using “admin” as the screen name and /wp-admin as the login URL. This makes it much easier for them to hack a website and install malware and Trojans.
My favorite security plugin is iThemes Security. Their free version provides plenty of features for most website owners. Change your login URL to something that isn’t easily discovered. This alone will help avoid potential hacks. You should also create a log-out rule, that blocks a user from logging in for a period of time after 3 to 5 failed login attempts. Also, never use “admin” as your WordPress administrator name.
2. Make sure your content is easily shareable
Social sharing helps put your content in front of new audiences, which can help you attract new followers, new website visitors, and hopefully new customers. Social signals also produce a significant SEO benefit, so you want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to share your content, especially on their mobile devices. SumoMe has a decent social share plugin that is very mobile friendly.
Find one that works well with your website layout and makes it very easy for people to share. It’s very easy to make slight tweaks such as button sizes, color, text, etc., so don’t be afraid to spend $20 to have a freelancer alter a plugin to better suit your website.
3. Install a caching plugin (and consider using a CDN)
A caching plugin will help your website load much faster, by serving up stored versions of your pages without having to contact the database. W3 Total Cache is the number one plugin for this and it’s updated often. You will sometimes experience plugin conflicts with other cache options, but most developers make sure their plugins work with W3 because of the sheer number of users that have it installed.
For those with huge websites and a lot of traffic, you might also want to consider running through a CDN (content delivery network) to help your speed, especially if you are an e-commerce website that experiences traffic spikes during holidays or certain product releases. It’s good insurance that your website will render ASAP for every user, regardless of their location.
4. Change your permalink structure
Out of the box, WordPress doesn’t have the most search engine friendly URL’s. They will contain question marks, post numbers, and other random text. When Google crawls that URL there is nothing to pull from. It gives Google zero indication about what the content is about.
It’s always a good idea to include your target keyword in your post title (if you can do it naturally), so set up your URL structure to include your post titles by making this change:
Settings > Permalinks > Post Name
That is all you have to do. It’s important to realize that this change will only effect your future posts, but that is fine. You don’t want to go back changing old pages because you might lose SEO value, especially if you have nice links built to older posts.
5. Automate your website backup process
Think of how much time and energy you have spent on your website up to this point. Imagine if it all vanished overnight. What would you do? How would you rebuild?
Avoid ever having to worry about that by ensuring that your website and database is backed up every day. You can install a plugin like this one and set it to push your backups to an external source, like Dropbox.
There are far too many possibilities that are out of your control. What if your host is hacked and their backups fail? What if a hacker gets into your website and deletes everything? Setting up a daily backup ensures that you will always have a recent version of your website ready to restore.
6. Generate a sitemap.xml
Using the same Yoast SEO plugin that I suggest in #12 below, you can create an xml sitemap with a single click of your mouse. This helps the search engines index all of your content, and your xml sitemap will be automatically updated every time you add a new page or publish a new blog post.
7. Moderate all comments
Akismet is a comment spam blocker plugin that comes pre-installed on every WordPress installation. While this plugin is amazing and will block most spam, there is still some that will slip through the cracks. For this reason, I always set my comments to require moderation. The last thing you want to do is have someone slip past Akismet and post a link to something illegal or sexual in your comments. It makes your website look unprofessional and could potentially cost you business.
The easiest approach is to login to your WordPress dashboard one or two times a day and moderate your comments. This is the only way to completely ensure that nothing spammy or questionable is posted for your visitors to see.
8. Move to AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
I know in the very beginning of this blog post I mentioned that these were all tips that you could do without spending any money. Well, this is the one case that I would HIGHLY suggest you do spend a few dollars. Accelerated Mobile Pages load faster, which Google loves.
There is a plugin that you can download and install for free, which can be found here. It will work on all future pages and posts but it won’t convert old content. If you are dead set on not spending a dime, then go this route, but if you want to make your entire site APM, hire a developer. It’s not a very complex process, so the cost will be very minimal.
9. Speed up your database
If left alone, your WordPress database will become clogged, as every version of your pages and posts are saved. This means every time you make a slight edit, another version is saved. Over time this can really slow down your website. Also, over time comments can clog up your database as well, so it’s best to have something in place to make sure your database is cleaned up on a regular basis.
Install this plugin and you won’t have to ever worry about optimizing your database again. Little tips like this go a long way to help your overall optimization. Little technical improvements like this is what separates the sites that rank high to the ones that can never seem to nudge up in the SERPs.
10. Optimize all of your images
Always take the time to include an image title and an alt-tag to every image you add to your pages and posts. It’s much easier to do for future posts, as it will just take a few extra seconds. While going back through old content to optimize your images might seem tedious and unnecessary, it can really help pull in extra traffic.
Make sure you don’t just jam your titles and descriptions with your keyword. Write good descriptions that explain what can be found on the particular page, and use your keyword(s) naturally.
11. Use a “related posts” plugin to lower bounce rate and increase engagement
Bounce rate and time spent on site are two major SEO factors, so it’s important that you take steps to keep your visitors on your website as long as possible, and visiting multiple pages. There are several plugins that will place “related posts” at the bottom of every blog post, giving your readers additional content suggestions based on topics. The thinking here is that if they enjoyed reading the current page, they might want to continue to read more content you wrote. There are many choices, but I like this one because it’s so easy to setup.
This won’t work if your content sucks. You have to publish content that gets your readers interested and craving more knowledge. Once you know how to craft your content for your specific audience you will be able to keep them very engaged on your website.
12. Optimize your page titles and descriptions
There are a few popular SEO plugins, but I prefer Yoast SEO. There is no such thing as a magic SEO plugin, so you still have to do the work. A plugin such as Yoast just allows you to change titles and descriptions without any coding know-how and it acts as a little reminder and checklist, showing you what on-site optimization should be done.
Your title is the first thing visitors see in the search results, so make it stand out. It helps if the keyword is used, as it will draw attention because the person just searched that term. The description plays no role in the actual ranking, but it does play a major role in click-through rate. You want to quickly get the interest of the person performing the search and get them to click your listing. With optimized descriptions it’s possible to experience a higher click-through rate than sites listed above you.
13. Install a rich snippets plugin
You have seen results in the SERPs that use rich snippets, such as star ratings next to the website. These draw extra attention and can help you pull in more traffic than websites ranking higher than you, just because the eyes are naturally drawn to them.
Rich snippets can be somewhat difficult to understand. There are several plugins that you can install, such as this one, but as you can see it hasn’t been updated in more than 7 months. If you are ok with spending a couple hundred dollars you can hire a developer to help you work rich snippets into your entire website’s code. It’s a much “cleaner” option and you will never have to worry about plugin updates.
14. Tell Google what to crawl and what not to crawl
A robots.txt file tells the search engines what pages to crawl and what pages not to crawl. Pages likes shopping carts, confirmation pages and other ‘thin’ pages that you don’t want to be discovered via a search should all be noted in the robots.txt file.
For a quick guide on how to create a robots.txt file check this out.
15. Guard your contact forms with CAPTCHA
Spam is never a good thing, and there are bots that crawl websites looking for contact forms to spam that aren’t protected by a CAPTCHA or security question. If your site is identified as one of these then you will be bombarded with thousands of daily spam visitors. Not only does this clog up your email with spam submissions, but it also increases your bounce rate because of the bot traffic.
While this type of traffic won’t necessarily crash your server, it gives Google the impression that people are landing on your website and leaving quickly, not engaging with any content. Refer back to tip #11 to see why it’s so important to keep visitors on your site as long as possible and exploring multiple pages of content.
While these technical SEO tips are easy to implement and crucial on-site optimization factors, they won’t get you to the top of the SERPs alone. You need to mix in a strong content marketing campaign designed to earn high quality links if you really want to experience high rankings.
Links will always be king when it comes to SEO, but these little technical aspects will help you create a solid foundation for your SEO efforts.
If you have any questions related to the above tips, drop them in the comments below and I will try to reply as quickly as possible. Also, if you have any information to add, leave it below as well.
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