Working with business I see a lot of great designed websites (and bad ones) and one thing in common with a lot of them is there has been either little or no thought on SEO, the practices used are from 90′s – which used now will actually do more harm than good.
I’m not going to go on and on about what not to do, instead the objective of this SEO tutorial is to allow you to completely set up your site for optimal on-page SEO using WordPress.
Out of the box WordPress is great for search engine optimisation and you will have an advantage over most other publishing platforms such as Weebly, Blogger, Joomla ect.
However WordPress is far from perfect and needs some input and care on your part to make optimal for the search engines, namely Google. Now if your thinking oh god, here we go onto coding and detailed technical work around’s don’t stress because all this is very simple and can be set up in minutes.
For ease of use I will set this procedure out in 5 simple to follow steps.
Step 1: WordPress SEO Plugins
The great thing about WordPress is its ample range of plugins, though there are many SEO plugins it may be hard to decide. I have used many over the years and there is one that trumps them all – WordPress SEO by Yoast. I use this for almost every site, so go ahead and install this plugin first as I will go through how to best set up the Yoast SEO plugin.
The second plugin you will need is called Nofollow internal links and will no follow all of your unimportant links on your site. The purpose is to direct more link juice to your important pages. There is nothing to setup with this, simply install and it does its thing.
Step 2: WordPress Settings
2.1 General Settings
Site Title – Your site title should be something that stands out to your potienal customers, as this will show up through out your site and on the search engine results page. You could simply fill this out with your business name, for example Seer Marketing. A better solution is to use your business name (for brand awareness) and include a short description of what your business is about.
You can preview how Google users will see your site in the search results by using Google’s rich snippet preview tool.
The very first optimsation you will need to make is your URL structure. This helps not only with SEO, but also looks much better. The default WordPress structure looks something like this http://yoursite.com.au/?p105. We want the URL of the post to include the keyword and be descriptive. It will then look something like this: http://yoursite.com.au/wordpress-seo.
Change your WordPress permalink setting to “Post name” and save changes.
2.3 Page titles
Whenever you write a new post in WordPress, the permalink will be set using the title. Its important that you include your keyword in your post and page titles as well as your permalinks. The flaw here with WordPress is that it includes default terms in all your titles, for example your Blog will have “Blog” in front of every post, and your achieve will be title “Blog archive”.
There are 2 reasons to fix this problem.
1) Search engines like Google pay more attention to your first 50 words, including your title so having “blog” at the start of every post doesnt help. This can also be seen as duplicate content, which as most of us know Google isnt the biggest fan.
2) When your prospects are searching for your product or service they will first see “Blog” or “Blog archive” in the SERP’s (Search engine results page), where as a optimsed title will get their attention as it’s likely to be the keyword they are looking for.
We will fix the titles using Yoast SEO plugin and also will run through how to properly set up Yoast SEO’s plugin.
Step 3: Yoast WordPress SEO settings:
3,1 Yoast Dashboard:
Enter your Google webmaster META tag, if you are unsure what this is you can leave it or sign up for Google Webmaster tools here.
3.2 Yoast Titles and META:
a) Force rewrite titles: You may need to tick this box if your title settings do not work after we make the changes, most people will leave this box unchecked.
b) Sitewide META settings: Checked
c) Clean up the <HEAD>
Tick the first two boxes here, remove RSD links and hide WLW manifest links
3.3 Yoast Home Settings:
Set your Home title to %%sitename%% %%sitedesc%%.
Setting your META description here will allow you to control what Search engines will display on the SERP and what Facebook will use as your site’s description when people link to your home page.
The Author META data should be set if you have a Google+ profile. I highly recommend you set up your Google+ profile if you have not already. Using the Author REL=”author” will allow Google to show your profile picture in the SERP results.
How to setup Google+ Author
1) Log into Google+
Goto edit profile
Scroll down to contributor to and add your website URL
2) Log into your WordPress site, goto Users >> Admin >> then your profile.
Scroll down until you see Google+ profile ID and enter your Google+ full profile URL, which you can find by viewing your Google+ profile and copying the URL from the address bar.
3.4 Yoast Post Type Settings:
Below are the post settings I use for Yoast. There are many different variables you can use here, however keeping it simple is best for SEO,
This page is used to avoid Google bot accidently seeing any duplicate content. Make sure you check the “noindex, nofollow” box for Categories, Tags and Format.
3.6 Yoast Other Settings
Under this tab you should see Author and Date based archive settings. We want to set these to No Index and No Follow, this will avoid search engines seeing any duplicate content from these pages, and will give more link juice to the rest of your site. If you have multiple authors you may want to leave this check box unchecked – however if your site is a one author site and you do not “No index, No Follow” author archives Google bot will see this as duplicate content – which in turn will dilute your page rank for important pages.
3.7 Yoast Social Settings:
These setting will depend on if you have Twitter and Facebook accounts and will also depend on what plugins you have.
Yoast XML Sitemap
WordPress out of the box doesn’t come with XML sitemaps so you will need to ensure you have XML sitemaps enabled on this page. I recommend you ping Yahoo and Ask, it may help in having those search engines index your latest posts at a faster rate – espically true for new sites.
This concludes the setting up for Yoast SEO.
Step 4: Image Optimised Titles and ALT tags
When ever uploading images to your site you should be filling in image title, ALT tag and caption at a minimum. The ALT tag is vital for search engines, as this will describe to them what the image is about as Google bots cant see – but only can read. If possible try to use your target or related keyword when filling in these details – but as always do not force keywords.
A popular plugin that does this job for you is SEO Friendly images, I do use it for some sites but would recommend you manually set your tags.
Step 5: Website Speed
The time it takes for your site to load will not only effect how often Google bot crawls your site (and how many pages it crawls) but will effect how your readers navigate your site. I think everyone can relate to how important this is, just think how many times you have left a site because it was slow.
There are some simple and complex steps we can take to speed up our WordPress sites, for now I will cover only the simple steps.
Upload correct size images:
Although we can upload any image size we want and WordPress will resize it, the problem is the file size will always be the same. It’s ideal that you resize your images to the correct size before uploading them – you can do this with Photoshop or the free alternative GIMP.
If your site has a lot of images, I would recommend the use of the plugin WP.Smush it.
Install a Cache plugin
Caching your pages will give your readers faster access to your site once they have viewed one page. Without caching your browser will request and download each item from every page, however with caching setup a lot of items will be stored within the browser so they are recalled from your users computer rather than the internet – reducing page load times.
I recommend W3 Total cache plugin.
For most sites a shared hosting at around $10 per month will do the job perfectly fine. However if your site attracts thousands of visitors daily you will need a VPS or dedicated server – which will range anywhere from $50-$500+ per month. For those who have already upgraded to VPS or dedicated server – its highly recommended to also use Litespeed. WordPress and Litespeed go hand in hand.