WordPress is one of the most popular content management platforms available. Over 25% of all websites are powered by WordPress and it is used by more than 74 million sites. WordPress is a great platform to get a responsive website up and running online, in next to no time. You can even use the platform for your e-commerce solution as there are plugins available to convert a simple blogging website to a full e-commerce shopping cart system. Before we cover the 9 SEO tips for your WordPress site, here are the benefits of creating your site using WordPress:
- WordPress is search engine friendly. The most popular search engines actually prefer sites that are powered by WordPress because its framework is easy to crawl.
- WordPress is ready for the mobile web.
- WordPress is mature. WordPress is over ten years old. During the past decade WordPress has been refined, tested, and enhanced. In the process it has evolved into a world-class web publishing system.
- WordPress is open source. Unlike other website building tools WordPress is open source and free from commercial restrictions and limitations. That means you can use the software anyway you choose and host your website anywhere you choose. All without fear that changes in someone else’s business model will have an adverse impact one of your most important business assets.
- The flexibility of WordPress is another feature that can’t be topped. No matter what you’re using WordPress for – whether as a personal blog, a popular ecommerce site or complex CMS website, WordPress is versatile enough to meet any and all of your needs through its extensive features and extensions.
- Security patches are distributed regularly and as long as the Framework is setup correctly and follows best practises, WordPress is a secure platform.
Whilst all of the benefits above are true, using WordPress for the first time can be daunting and confusing. Like all websites your WordPress site will need to be setup and optimised, so the same search engine optimisation techniques you would apply to a non-WordPress driven website will also need to be applied. WordPress does not come optimised out of the box so if you are expecting to install the package, add your theme and voila your site will be highly ranked in the search engines, you need to rethink your strategy. The 9 tips below should get your website in tip top shape ready for your ongoing Inbound Marketing.
1) Nice URLs
Older versions of WordPress, by default, used to have URLs formatted as http://mydomain.com/?p=1354. This format is not very user friendly and does not contain any keywords for the search engines to index. The current WordPress install uses the following format: http://mydomain.com/2016/02/28/sample-post/. Whilst this format is a lot nicer and search engine friendly, you may want to consider dropping the date element. In order to adjust URL settings, go to Settings > Permalinks in your Admin panel.
2) Robots.txt file
Unlike other platforms, WordPress does not create a physical robots.txt file on the server. The platform generates the file on the fly when it is requested. Creating a file manually and uploading in the WordPress root directory will override the default settings. In most cases you will not want to modify the file, however there may be some files or directories you do not want the search engines to index. If you do not create a physical file there are two options to managing it.
robots.txt file example
The first is to edit the do_robots() function in /wp-includes/functions.php. I suggest instead of editing the file you install a plugin such as Multipart robots.txt editor. This plugin lets you include your custom records. Personally we prefer to install the Yoast SEO plugin, as this will allow you to edit the robots.txt and also has a lot of other SEO benefits which we will go into below.
Tip: WordPress is a very easy platform that will allow you to install a vast number of plugins, however keep it simple. Do not over install plugins as it will impact on your site’s performance and there will be more to maintain and keep secure.
3) Site Structure
When developing your website think of the logical structure it should take. Keep the main pages accessible on every page and wherever possible group page sections. Too many top level pages are confusing and not user-friendly. Too many pages leading off other pages will not get indexed by the search engines. As a good rule of thumb, do not structure your website with more than three levels of subpages.
4) XML Site Map
WordPress does not generate XML sitemaps out of the box so you will have to install a plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps. Another reliable plugin is Yoast SEO as this will also generate an XML sitemap for you and allow you to customise the content you wish to include or exclude.
5) Site Speed
Site speed has been an important technical ranking factor for Google for some time now. You should ensure you do not use too many images, and that all images are optimised in order to keep page load times at a minimum. There are also a few easy solutions to help you improve your WordPress website’s speed:
Keep your plugins to a minimum. Whilst plugins do extend the functionality of your website they also slow down the site too. Only install the plugins that are vital and provide real value. Make sure plugins that you install are frequently updated by their authors as this will help keep your website more secure.
In 2014 Google added HTTPS to their list of ranking factors. Whilst it is not among the most important ranking signals, installing an SSL certificate may give you a slight edge over your competitors.
In order to set up HTTPS on your WordPress site you will need to get a dedicated IP address for your website, obtain an SSL certificate, configure your web server to use the SSL certificate and then in your WordPress admin panel go to Settings > General. In the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields fill in your website home page URL with https in it.
As WordPress is an open source platform and plugins are created by many different developers, unsecured WordPress can be easy pickings for a hacker. Make sure that you keep your plugins and core WordPress installation up to date. Avoid using the many free themes available online and definitely avoid sites that offer paid themes for free as often free themes can contain obfuscated pieces of code which could harvest malware and undesirable code. Remember, you get what you pay for, so it is worth spending a few pounds and purchasing your theme through a reputable website such as Envato Marketplace or Template Monster. In order to secure the rest of your website and remove default values in order to make things more difficult for hackers to infiltrate your website we recommend installing the iThemes Security or Wordfence plugins. These are free plugins, although it is definitely worth paying the subscription for the enhanced protection. After all your site’s reputation is at stake. WordPress security is often forgotten and not always implemented correctly. There have been many high profile hacks due to outdated and unsecured WordPress website.
8) On Page Optimisation
There are various SEO plugins available but an easy plugin to use is Yoast SEO. We like using this plugin as it goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimisation. It also helps you write better optimised content as Yoast SEO allows you to choose a focus keyword when you are writing your articles. It then calculates your keyword density and keyword mentions in various headings and using a traffic light system will visually show if your page is optimised well, okay or badly. Yoast SEO also contains other features such as XML sitemap and the ability to modify your robots.txt file so this will save you from having to install two separate plugins.
Comments enable visitors to contribute to your blog and communicate with you and each other, however comments can also generate a lot of spam. Enable comments only if you are prepared to moderate them and follow up on them. Also only enable comments if relevant on the page as WordPress will allow you to select which pages will allow comments. If you do enable comments activate the Akismet plugin. Akismet is included in WordPress by default however you should visit their website and get the API key to use the plugin.
Implementing the tips above is just the start but at least it will put you on the right track to create a better WordPress based website.