Ten tips for better SEO in WordPress

In this guide, we will go over ten different things you can do for SEO on your WordPress site. If you have a suggestion let us know in the comments below or send an email to feedback@xenoncloud.org

Install a WordPress SEO Plugin

WordPress already has some pretty solid built-in SEO features. But, you can take your optimization to the next level by using an SEO plugin. The best SEO plugin on the market is Yoast SEO, in fact, it’s what we use here at Xenon Cloud.

With this plugin, you can perfectly optimize each page and post for your chosen keyword. It also has built-in analysis based on the latest algorithm updates. You can even generate an XML sitemap, and add schema markup to your site.

To setup Yoast navigate to your WordPress dashboard and select Plugins › Add New. In the search bar type in ‘Yoast SEO’ and click ‘Install Now’ on the plugin that looks like the one below.

Turn On Search Engine Visibility

There’s a built-in option within WordPress that will hide your site from the search engines.

You might find this option useful when first building out your site, but it can make ranking impossible. If you’ve been employing some of the tips on this list, but aren’t seeing your rankings improve, this could be the issue.

To see if this setting is on, navigate to Settings › Reading from within the WordPress dashboard. Scroll down and you’ll see a section called Search Engine Visibility.

Adjust Permalink Structure

When you first install WordPress your site’s pages and posts will have a strange URL structure. This default structure isn’t good for your SEO.

The cleanest and most search engine friendly URL structure is the “post name” setting. By switching to this setting you’ll also be able to include your post or page title, and even a keyword in your URL. To change this setting navigate to Settings › Permalinks.

Under the ‘Common Settings’ section, select the option that says ‘Post name’.

If you’re making this change late in the game, then you may need to redirect any old URLs. You can do this with a plugin like Change Permalink Helper. Just input your older URLs and they’ll forward to your updated URLs.

Add Your Site to Google Search Console

Using Google Search Console will show you how your site is currently performing in the search engines, and alert you to any sitewide errors.

To add your site to Google Search Console first navigate to this page and sign up with your Google account. Next, click on the ‘Add A Property’ button and enter your website’s URL.

Click ‘Add’, and you’ll be taken to a screen where you’ll need to verify the ownership of your site. There are multiple methods you can use to verify your site, but the easiest is selecting Alternate methods, then choosing HTML tag.

Copy this code, then navigate to your WordPress dashboard. To add this code to our header we’re going to utilize a plugin. Navigate to Plugins › Add New, then search for ‘Insert Headers and Footers‘.

Install and activate the plugin shown in the picture above. Next, open up the plugin by going to Settings › Insert Headers and Footers.

Now paste the code into the box that’s labeled Header, and click ‘Save’. Finally, navigate back to Google Webmaster Tools and click the Verify button.

Integrate Google Analytics

Another Google tool you’ll want to have in your arsenal is Google Analytics. This tool will show you how well your SEO strategy is working by giving you an in-depth breakdown of your site’s traffic.

To set up your account, navigate to the Google Analytics homepage and create an account. Next, you’ll want to locate your tracking code. It should be under Tracking Info › Tracking Code. Then, copy the code that looks similar to the example below:

Depending on your theme you might have an option to directly add the Google Analytics tracking code. If it’s not possible, then you can use the same Insert Headers and Footers plugin we used above.

Open up the plugin, navigate to the header section, and paste in your tracking code. That’s it! Now you can view your site’s statistics.

Submit a Sitemap to Google

Sitemaps are used by the search engines to better crawl your website. Your site will still get crawled without a sitemap, but creating one allows you to report the data that you want the search engines to crawl.

You can ensure certain pages that don’t contribute to your rankings aren’t crawled, as well as give precedence to your more valuable pages. If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, then you can easily create and submit a sitemap.

Navigate to SEO › General › Features. Then scroll down and enable ‘XML Sitemaps‘.

Click the link that says ‘See XML sitemap’ and this will open your sitemap to ensure it’s actually created.

Now we’ll submit that sitemap to Google. Go to your Google Search Console dashboard and click ‘Sitemaps’.

In the right-hand corner, you’ll see an option to Add/Test Sitemap. Click that selection, insert the URL of your sitemap, and click ‘Submit’. Now Google will crawl your sitemap on a regular basis, which can help for speedy post indexing.

Optimize Your Site for Mobile

Google just announced that they’re starting to test their mobile-first index. This means that they’ll start to use the performance and functionality of your mobile pages to determine your rankings. So, if you aren’t utilizing an unresponsive theme, this is the best time to fix it up.

But, beyond choosing a responsive theme you can check to see how your site currently performs across the mobile spectrum. To do this, open up Google’s mobile-friendliness test, and enter your site’s URL.

This will give you a breakdown of how the mobile version of your site performs and offer some tips on how to improve it.

Use a Caching Plugin

A caching plugin will generate static HTML files, instead of the PHP files normally required to run WordPress. This will minimize the number of requests between the server and your user’s browser, which will decrease your loading speeds.

Some of the most common WordPress caching plugins include W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

Have a Focus Keyword For Every Post

Even though the way we optimize for keywords has changed, they still play an important role in SEO. Whenever you’re writing a post on your site you should have a focus keyword for that specific post.

Here are some best practices when optimizing for a chosen keyword:

  • Don’t overstuff the keyword into your post, only include when it’s natural.
  • Include your keyword in the first paragraph of your copy if possible.
  • Use your target keyword in your title and your subheadings.
  • Add your target keyword to your URL, and meta description.

Yoast SEO makes implementing the above tips easy.

Whenever you’re writing a post input your target keyword into the tool. You’ll get an analysis of how well-optimized that post is for your chosen keyword.

You’ll be given tips to improve your keyword optimization and increase your chances of ranking in the search engines.

Create Longer Content

Longer content tends to rank better in the search engines. Recent studies from Buzzsumo and Moz found that longer content gets more social shares and backlinks overall, which means higher rankings.

Another study has found that most of the content that’s ranking on the first page of Google is over 2000 words long. This doesn’t mean every post on your site has to reach this content length, but it should be something you shoot for.

But, this doesn’t mean you should stuff your content with unnecessary words to hit your word count goals.

Instead, you should focus on the intent of the keyword. Meaning, what’s the reason the user is searching for that keyword in the first place. Then, answer the goal of that keyword in the most thorough and useful manner possible, which in some cases might mean writing fewer words.

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