WordPress is one of the world’s most commonly used content management systems (CMS). It powers millions of websites all over the world, including many famous websites such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Reuters, and Variety.
The basic installation of WordPress is simple. It comes with a few default themes and a couple of plugins. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to help much with SEO. In order to fully optimize WordPress for SEO, you need to install plugins and tweak their settings.
1. SEO Plugins
The first thing you want to do is choose the right plugins. There are many plugins which provide SEO optimization, but two stand out from the rest: Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. Both do an excellent job at optimizing WordPress and both have powerful free versions.
Yoast SEO is more user-friendly than the All in One SEO Pack and comes with a few more options. Both do the job well, so take a look at them and choose the one which works best for you.
2. Duplicate Content
Unfortunately, WordPress is littered with pages where it duplicates the same content across all of them. These pages include author page, category pages, tag pages, calendar pages, pagination pages, and the homepage. As you publish a blog post, these pages are automatically updated with links to your posts. As a result, the same link, with the same summary, is posted to all these pages. This means you have five pages with the same content, which could easily lead to a duplicate-content penalty. Therefore, you want to use your SEO plugin to set all of these pages, except for the homepage, to not allow search engines to index the page.
Most themes also take a few words of a blog post to use as the summary, and this also could lead to a duplicate-content penalty. Some themes use the excerpt as the summary, meaning you can write a unique summary for the homepage. If your theme doesn’t have this functionality, you will need to edit the code in the theme to change it.
Images can also be easily optimized for SEO within WordPress. An optimized image should use the keywords for the filename, ALT tags, and caption. Moreover, you need to get the file size as small as possible. You can do this by making the image as small as possible and compressing the files.
A handy plugin called WP Smush will automatically compress your images as you upload them. This means they will load faster, which will decrease the time it takes to load your page. As page-load speed is a ranking factor for Google, this can help to increase your rankings. Moreover, by using your keywords in the appropriate places, these images appear in Google’s image search and thus bring traffic to your website.
4. Keyword Stuffing
WordPress stuffs keywords all over your page, and you’ll need to remove them because they soon add up. For example, if you were writing a 500-word article and aiming for a 2-percent keyword density, you can only use your keyword 10 times on any given page. WordPress will put your keywords in tags, tag clouds, categories, recent posts, popular posts, recent comments, and breadcrumbs (if your theme uses breadcrumbs).
Therefore, you now have your keyword being used seven times before you type anything. If you now use your keyword in your <h1> tag and in the first paragraph of your writing, you’re now up to nine keywords on a page, meaning you can only put it in the article one more time.
The answer to this problem is to not use tags, and remove widgets with recent posts, popular posts, recent comments, and tag clouds. You can also disable breadcrumbs to remove the keyword from there. Now you can write your articles more naturally and get your keywords in more important positions, such as heading tags and in your writing.
When choosing a theme for your website, don’t only think about the design. You should also think about how good the theme is from an SEO perspective. A good theme needs to be well-written and quick to load, and contain a clear navigation system.
Ensure that themes are not loaded with unnecessary features or code. They should be clean and load quickly. Again, page speed is a ranking factor, so your website needs to be as fast as possible. The same applies for navigation. It should be simple and clear on how to move around your site, both for your visitors and the crawling bots that visit your website.
6. Google XML Sitemap
WordPress doesn’t come with a sitemap, so you’ll either need to create one yourself or install a plugin. Fortunately, if you have Yoast SEO installed, then it will create the sitemap for you. You should tweak the sitemap settings to tell search engines how often your pages are updated. If they are updated regularly, crawling bots will visit regularly. Finally, you should make sure that Google’s Webmaster Tools always has the most recent sitemap. Upload it manually to ensure that search engines can easily and quickly see all your pages.
7. Meta Tags
You also need to optimize the meta tags in your HTML to change how your website appears in search engines. Both Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack allow you to change the meta title and the meta description directly within the post or page editor. When you are editing posts and pages, you’ll see the plugin settings as you scroll down the page. Make sure you write accurate titles and compelling descriptions to encourage visitors to click your link.
Permalinks show the URL structure for your posts. The default setting is plain and the URL should look something like this:
If the URL contains the post or page title, then you are not only telling your visitors what this URL is about, but you are also putting in your keywords. The best settings to use are either “Post Name” or a custom structure wherein you use the category followed by the post name. For example:
9. World Wide Web?
The next thing you should consider is whether you want your website to display with the www prefix or not. For example:
You need to choose one, because if both are accessible, they both could be indexed by search engines as separate websites. This can lead to a variety of problems including a duplicate-content penalty. To fix this problem, you need to choose one option and stick with it. There are no advantages or disadvantages for choosing www or not.
WordPress doesn’t deal with this problem because the setting only uses a 302 redirect to either your website with www or the one without. A 302 direct is a temporary redirect and isn’t a suitable solution.
To fix this problem, you’ll need to access your website files either using an FTP client or through your cPanel, and then find and edit your .htaccess file.
To do this, you can add the following code:
#www to non-www:
RewriteCond %HTTP_HOST ^example.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]