At the time of writing this post, WordPress powers more than 74 million websites worldwide. That’s an impressive statistic. How many of these website do you think are properly optimised for search? That’s something we will never know but certainly something worth considering, particularly if your website is one of the many millions powered by WordPress.
Today we’re going to look at some simple steps you can take to ensure your WordPress website is properly optimised for search.
Step 1 — Set your preferred domain
Within your WordPress ‘General settings’ set your preferred domain, this will be either a www or non-www version of your URL. The preferred domain is the one that you would liked search engines to index. Links may point to your site using both the www and non-www versions of the URL and there is no real right or wrong here. For the most part it is personal preference and both will work.
Step 2 — Configure your permalinks
By default, WordPress assigns a unique ID to every page within your website. This URL ID structure is not very user friendly nor does it help your SEO. Setting your permalink structure to a more user friendly, human ready, configuration makes it easier for users to both understand and navigate your website. You can either choose to omit the category element completely or leave it like I have done.
Step 3 — Install and setup a SEO plugin
There are a few SEO plugins available for WordPress and most of them do pretty much the same thing. However if you’re serious about your SEO and want to leverage all available options you can’t go past Yoast WordPress SEO.
Once installed, you will want to ensure it is properly configured for your website. I am not going to go into all the options here however you can learn more about them on the Yoast SEO blog article. It should only take you about 10 minutes to setup and configure. Once done you will want to become more familiar with the on-page SEO options and check your page and post optimisation.
Step 4 — Optimise your pages and posts
Once you have installed and configured your SEO plugin (we will assume you chose Yoast WordPress SEO), you should then optimise each page and post using the Yoast SEO settings and page analysis options as a guide.
In this example you will notice we have used ‘Meta Keywords’. Though Google has acknowledged it does not give any weight to meta keywords, I suggest it is still a good idea to use them.
Be sure to check the ‘Page Analysis’ results and adjust the page or post accordingly until you have obtained the best SEO result for the page or posts content.
Step 5 — Optimise your images
Ensuring your images have proper tags and descriptions set is a key step in setting up your SEO. There are plugins available that can take care of this for you, SEO Friendly Images is a handy one, however you can do this manually for each image you add to a page or post.
Be sure to set the image title and ALT text for each image. When naming files and images, it is good practice to stick to a particular naming convention. Doing so will help you better manage your image library. A suggested practice is to use the blog posts keyword in the file name along with the name of your blog or website.
Step 6 — Setup caching
Caching your website enables faster page load speeds and reduces the load on your server. Caching simply creates static files for each page and post of your website and serves these up to visitors instead of creating the page for every page view.
Two popular caching plugins are:
My personal preference is WP Super Cache though I would suggest finding one that suits your website and its configuration best.
Once configured, be sure to test and benchmark your websites performance and confirm the cache is actually improving your websites performance and load times. For this you might want to use GTmetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom Website Speed Test. These tools will provide some quality information about your page load times and any latencies you should address, however be sure to take into consideration where the majority of your audience is located as these online tools will often be testing from an offshore location.
Step 7 — Optimise your WordPress installation
Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer regarding the impact of inactive plugins on your websites performance. There is a valid argument that if a plugin is not activated it is not impacting your website performance. This may very well be true however I would personally suggest keeping your installation clean of any unused plugins to avoid any legacy code that may be left behind by previously used plugins.
Also take a good look at the plugins you are actually using and ask yourself if they are absolutely necessary or could you achieve the same result by coding the functionality into the theme. A good way to obtain an overview of the impact of plugins on your websites performance is to install and run the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). This will provide a detailed snapshot of the plugins that are resource intensive and having the largest impact on your websites load time.
These seven actionable steps should put your WordPress website in a good position to benefit from organic search. They really only begin to scrape the surface of a healthy website though. Over the coming weeks I will take a look at some other housekeeping items such as redirects and linking to related content to improve your websites overall SEO. Until then, be sure to comment if there is something you would like to discuss.