WordPress was released in 2003 and it has grown to be the most popular open-source CMS (content management system). Whether you are using WordPress for a blog or a fully-fledged website, you should optimize for search engines for a high ranking which results in increased visibility.
There are several on-page SEO tactics that are practiced out there, but some are better than others and using the ones that have been tried and tested will give you better results quicker.
1. Ensure indexation settings are enabled
Enabling the indexation settings ensures your WordPress site or blog is Googlebot friendly. Google only indexes WordPress sites if WordPress allows it to do so.
To enable indexation, visit Settings > Reading section of the wp-admin (called Search Engine Visibility) and deselect the box. Note that the box is sometimes enabled for development purposes.
2. Optimize permalinks
By default, WordPress URLs (called permalinks) are not on-page SEO-friendly. Optimizing your URL by including keywords or keyword phrases is important for on-page SEO.
You can change the permalink to be search engine friendly by visiting Settings > Permalinks.
3. Use Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console (GSC), previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, gives you an overview of how optimized your site is for search engines, including the status of indexation and issues found (such as if you have been hacked). The alternate for Bing is the Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT). You have to sign up to get these free tools.
4. Use traffic analytics tools
Regular traffic monitoring is important for WordPress on-page SEO as this is the only way you will know if your SEO efforts are bearing fruits. Google Analytics, which integrates very well with GSC is a must-have. Another good option is Clicky.
5. Do responsive web design
By 2015 80% of internet users had a Smartphone. More and more people are using their phones to access the internet and you should take advantage of this and do responsive web design.
Responsive web design involves the design of a website that will adapt to any screen size where it is displayed, thereby making the design of separate sites for desktops and mobile devices unnecessary. Google has stated that a mobile-friendly site is one of their ranking factors.
6. Ensure the theme handles H1-H6 tags well
The content headers H1-H6 should be optimized for search engines since they are an important ranking factor. The H1 tag which is the top level heading should only be used once. H2 tag, which is the secondary heading, should state what a section of a page is about, and so on for the other H tags.
You can check if your theme is handling these tags well by pressing Ctrl+U on Windows or ⌘-Option-U on Mac in your web browser and pressing Ctrl+F on Windows or ⌘-F on Mac to find all H tag instances and to see if they make sense.
7. Improve the loading speed
Google uses loading speed to determine ranking. You should also improve loading speed because today’s internet users are very picky and they will leave your site if pages are taking too long to load.
You can achieve this by switching to a faster hosting platform, reducing the number of images and video on your site, and cleaning up the code.
8. Use an SEO plugin
Being open-source, it is not surprising that WordPress has several on-page SEO plugins, one of the most popular being Yoast SEO. This plugin will give you the basic settings needed as well as advanced stuff. Some of the things the tool allows you to do include:
- Change your homepage’s default title and Meta description by visiting SEO > Titles & Metas > Homepage. Use a long tail keyword in the homepage title and ensure it also has a shorter keyword in it.
- Optimize the Taxonomies and Post Types by visiting SEO > Titles & Metas.
- Generate an XML sitemap by visiting SEO > XML Sitemaps.
- Ensure there’s no duplicate content (which Google considers to be Grey Hat SEO) by ensuring you do not index the archive pages. You can do this by visiting SEO > Titles & Metas > Archives.
9. Use 2-fold headlines
Using 2-fold headlines improves keyword targeting. This involves optimizing your headings for both search engines and humans at the same time. Your heading should have an SEO part that is keyword-rich and a twist to entice readers.
10. Create SEO titles and descriptions manually
Don’t be lazy when it comes to SEO title and description creation. WordPress filles these fields for you, but the auto-generated texts are not keyword-optimized and are not reader friendly.
There are many blogs that describe the right length and tone for the titles and the descriptions. You can use an SEO Agency if you do not have the time for all the manual work.
11. Do keyword optimization
You should have your keyword in the first paragraph since this is the most important part of the post (from an SEO perspective).
The keyword density should be between 0.5 and 2.5%. Do not write promotional content as this is bad for SEO. Google expects your keywords to be related if they are to believe your post is on topic.
12. Interlink with your older posts
Link building remains one of the most important ranking factors. It also brings you out as a pro if your niche.
When writing a new post, insert at least 3 links to existing posts on the content. You should also adopt other link building tactics such as link exchanges, but ensure all the links are relevant.
13. Use image Alt tags
If you have images on your WordPress post, ensure they assist in your SEO efforts by including Alt tags. An example of this is: <img src=”https://testblog.wordpress.com/img.jpg” alt=”what the image is about” />.
Write a 2 to 5 word description of what the picture is about and ensure the keyword is in the description whenever possible.
14. Include social media icons on your site
Social media icons are important because they encourage sharing. Sharing, according to Moz annual Search Engine Ranking Factors report, is an important ranking factor.
Although you will not get immediate results, WordPress On-page SEO should only be White Hat because there is a risk of reduced ranking and even your site being banned with Black Hat SEO tactics, especially with the recent Google Penguin algorithm change which means quicker crawling and immediate penalties. Hire a professional for on-page optimization because this will free up your time to concentrate on running your business.