With every man and his dog able to launch their own website, optimising your site to ensure you are found is all that stands between your business and achieving crucial conversions. Our Top 10 SEO Tips for WordPress Websites will give you some of the tools and ideas you need to increase your visibility and accelerate organic traffic to your website.
Whatever the business or industry, whether you are a B2B or B2C organisation, search engines are the first port of call for a customer or client intent on finding a provider of the product or service they desire.
To secure the best ranking for your website, a new relationship with your website content must be forged.
Making Your Website Work for You
Content. Once a marketing buzz word that escaped the lab, it’s one now bounded around left, right and centre, with businesses everywhere grabbing content creation by the horns and throwing on a saddle.
Think about your current website.
You likely have a blog section, which we’d assume you’re filling with interesting content about your products, services, things going on in the business/industry, and thought leadership pieces to position the business appropriately.
Your site is also likely to feature pages dedicated to product and service details, company information, it may include case studies, examples of your work and is bound to feature the times at which you’re open, or contactable, to prospective customers/clients.
It’s all content!
But if this content isn’t effectively optimised for search, that lovely website might as well be offline. Presuming you’d like prospective customers to visit it that is. Websites not optimised for search are tantamount to opening an art gallery without any doors. It may be visually attractive, it may hold value within, but nobody can find the entrance.
With these Top 10 SEO Tips for WordPress Websites, you can tear open the doors and wave prospective customers/clients through.
Before we get down to it, it’s important to know that while the points in this list can be utilised on existing websites that are not optimised, to great effect in fact, with content so central to SEO, it’s best to create website content with SEO in mind.
First things first, head to your WordPress Dashboard, select Plugins on the left-hand side, and search for the Yoast plugin. For us at The Marketing Optimist, this is the ultimate SEO tool WordPress has to offer.
Once this plugin has been downloaded and activated, you’re ready to go ahead and optimise your website.
However, if you can afford the investment, sign up to Moz Pro. Beyond guiding you to effectively optimise your website pages, it can also help you track your ranking, position, competitors, and much more. For those serious about SEO success, these tools are essential.
As an authority in the world of SEO, Moz’s Page Optimisation tool is an amazing way to double check your SEO efforts against Yoast, even providing a page score.
This score acts as a trusted indicator of your success, while shining a light on your areas for improvement in a more detailed way than Yoast.
For those less experienced in the world of SEO, we suggest letting Yoast guide you, until you feel you’ve completed optimising the page, or until you run into a block. The detailed results Moz produces will then help point you to more specific areas for improvement, and of course, score your page in the progress.
As you’ll see in the list below, there are a great many elements at play, which must be aligned in order to optimise website content effectively and to secure your place in the highest search results.
Top 10 SEO Tips for WordPress Websites
1) Key Word Lists:
A Key Word List is at the heart of every business’s SEO drive and is so crucial to the process that it really deserves its own dedicated blog.
For those who’ve made the investment in Moz or another third-party SEO tool, these Key Word lists should be loaded into your chosen tool, in order for it to help guide or track your rankings. For those keeping it simple and sticking with just Yoast alone, these Key Word lists should be a saved document and available to those writing the content and managing SEO.
The words or terms on this list are going to be the basis of your content, the way in which prospective customers/clients find your website, and much more.
First of all, “Key Words” are almost always phrases. Silly name eh? The reason is, that a customer is unlikely to find a Leeds-based dental practise, for example, by typing “dentist” into Google. However, if you happen to be the owner or marketer of a dental practise in Leeds, your Key Word list may include a range of terms like:
- Dental practise Leeds
- Leeds dental practise
- Dentists in Leeds
- Leeds dentist
- Leeds dentists
- Dentist in Leeds
- Dentistry Leeds
- Dentistry in Leeds
Notice the use of locations. Prospective customers use this information in their searches to narrow the results down to those most applicable to them. By adopting the same tactic, you can ensure you are found in these searches. Also notice the inclusion of both singular and plural terms, as well as different variations of how a term could be typed into search engines. Think like a prospective customer!
You might also add specific services that you provide in your Key Word list, for example:
- Dental clean Leeds
- Teeth cleaning Leeds
- Teeth cleaning in Leeds
- Dental check-ups in Leeds
- Leeds dentist check-up
- Teeth straightening Leeds
- Cosmetic dentistry in Leeds
- Cosmetic dentistry Leeds
Go to town on this list! Ensure it’s rich with terms you think could be used by prospective customers seeking a provider of the products and services you offer.
While there’s lots of conflicting information about this online, our advice is to input all key words into tools like Moz, both in all lowercase and using the “correct case”.
- cosmetic dentistry in leeds
- Cosmetic dentistry in Leeds
2) Focus Key Phrase & Content:
Now you have your Key Word list, you’re ready to begin optimising your website!
Select a page to begin with, and from your Key Word list, select the most appropriate for the corresponding page content. Add this chosen Key Word to the Focus Key Phrase area in Yoast, and if this Key Word is not used in the content, begin to pepper it into the copy.
Consistency is crucial here. When optimising your first page, decide if you’re going to state the Focus Key Phrases in lower case or “correct case”, as in the example in the previous section, and follow this process throughout the entire site.
Now you’ve assigned the page a Focus Key Phrase, you can begin to work this term into the copy.
DO NOT STUFF! There is nothing worse than reading a piece of copy that was clearly “written for robots”. Remember, write for people. If you have enough content and enough detail, you can include your Key Word in the copy multiple times without what we call “key word stuffing”. Search engines penalise sites they deem guilty of this SEO crime.
Yoast sets a Key Word Density maximum figure of 13. The aim is not to use your Key Word 13 times, simply allow the red, amber and green Yoast lights to guide you, and remember to avoid key word stuffing!
We advise that you optimise your website pages first, and then move onto blogs where you can deviate from the terms/phrases on your current Key Word list, as it would stand if you were following along with this blog.
“Longer tail” Key Words are a useful addition to your website and are also used by prospective customers in search. Questions can make great longer tail Key Words, and blogs are a great way to rank for these terms.
Using the example of our Leeds-based dental practise again, let’s imagine they already have some blogs on their website which haven’t been optimised. One of these blogs is about wisdom teeth and how a patient can identify the need for dental treatment.
Some great long-tail Key Phrases for this blog might be:
- How do I know if I need to have a wisdom tooth removed?
- Do you need to have your wisdom tooth removed?
While “Wisdom teeth removal” and even “Wisdom tooth pain” would also be fine, long tail Key Words might be used instead because:
- It’s likely that short-tail Key Words like those above will be used for service pages already.
- These longer tail Key Words are likely far less competitive, meaning used by less of your competitors, so when somebody searches for that rather reasonable question, you’ll be there.
- Search engines favour websites that utilise a mix of short tail and long tail Key Words.
Remember, and this is key, when you’ve optimised a blog or page for a Key Word not in the original list compiled, it must be added to it and to your Moz Pro or other SEO tool for tracking.
3) Keep a Log:
Due to the number of moving parts in the search for effective page optimisation, it’s important to keep a log of the changes you make throughout.
As you get to grips with SEO, you’ll undoubtedly find your own way to log your process, however, the system below will keep you on the straight and narrow for now.
In your log, detail:
- The current page title
- The current page URL
- Current Key Phrase
- Current Page Score (for those who invested in a third-party SEO tool, like Moz Pro)
Then, below that, note what they have been changed to. It’s also a good idea to list the elements amended to generate optimisation.
- Image Alt Tags, Inbound and Outbound Links, Adapted the copy to include Focus Key Phrase, Adapted headers, etc.
The importance of these logs is made apparent when revising your SEO, and regularly monitoring your rankings. Visit the final “Further Management” section of this blog for more information on why revision your SEO is key to success.
4) Snippet/Page Description:
One common indicator that a website has not been optimised, or has been done so poorly, is the absence of Page Descriptions, or Snippets as WordPress refers to them.
A crucial part of the website optimisation puzzle, search engines pull through these page descriptions in their results, and they appear on social media when a link in shared in posts.
No description? No SEO juice.
You’ll be pleased to hear that Page Descriptions/Snippets are nice and easy.
Note the Focus Key Phrase you’ve selected for the page or blog, and include it in a description of what visitors can expect from the page.
Be sure to keep these Snippets below 320 characters long and containing the Key Phrase and its synonyms. We advise that you use the Key Phrase at the start of the description for the best results, and let Yoast’s indicator lights guide you from there.
Remember to avoid key word stuffing. Your descriptions should read in a natural manner.
5) Inbound & Outbound Links:
To optimise page content successfully, a mix of inbound and outbound links are required.
While there is no rule regarding the maximum number of links that should be used on a page/blog, the links you add should be useful to the user.
In the imaginary case of our Leeds-based dental practise, their “Dental Cleaning” page may reference that this service is often recommended with a check-up. By linking the word “check-up” to their “Check-Up Service” page, a strong internal link would be formed.
Alternatively, their “Dental Cleaning” page may refer to smoking, which might be linked to a “The Dental Dangers of Smoking” blog post. Another strong internal link.
Regarding outbound links, our example business may link to an NHS website page dedicated to the kind of dental work the page or blog explores.
Outbound links are links to any website outside of your own, including social media profiles, and are essential in order to fully optimise your page.
There are two kinds of outbound link! “Follow” and “Nofollow”.
Nofollow links are links with a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag applied to them by the author of the page.
These links do not pass SEO juice, and the Nofollow tag instructs search engines to ignore the link. These links aren’t helpful to you in the quest for optimisation, however if it’s a link that is useful to the user, it should still be used.
Should you add a Nofollow Link to your page, Yoast’s indicator lights will not turn green. Only Follow Outbound Links will be effective in helping to optimise your page.
It’s also important to note that outbound links should be set to “open in a new tab”, whereas inbound links should open in the same tab.
When you link out to another website, what is considered an outbound or external link to you, is a “Backlink” for the website you’re linking to.
Backlinks really help a page rise in search rankings! While other websites might link to your website, should they find it, you might need to set out on a backlinks drive, actively writing to journalists or bloggers in order to obtain the Link Juice these kinds of links provide.
However, backlinks can also be Nofollow links, which pass on no Link Juice, and will not affect your SEO. If reaching out to third parties in the search to obtain Backlinks, you should specify that you are looking for Follow Backlinks.
6) Images – Alt Tag and Resizing:
All pages and blog posts should contain images. You don’t have to cram the page full of them, but having at least one is essential. We advise having at least two.
To achieve page optimisation, your images require the appropriate Alt Tags, which should be whatever the Focus Key Word of the page is. A handy tip is to title the image with the same Focus Key Word.
Please note that if you want to use an image in multiple places across your website, you’ll need to re-upload the image each time it should appear.
Each image requires a unique Alt Tag, so be conscious of this across the entire process. Should you accidentally use the same version of an image already used on another page and change the Alt Tag by mistake, you’ll hurt the SEO of the page you’ve previously successfully optimised.
Resizing your images is essential! Large images make your website load slowly, something which is penalised by search engines, so be sure to resize your images before uploading them to WordPress.
There are an array of free online tools to help you do this. The trick is to ensure images are large enough to fill the size of “containers” used across your website, but no larger.
If you’d like to check you speed of your website pages, GTmetrix is a great free online tool.
7) URL and Slug:
Another crucial part of page optimisation is the URL of the page.
The URL or Permalink should include your Focus Key Phrase after the final slash and can be changed by editing the Permalink under the Page Title.
The unique page information after the final slash in the URL or Permalink is also referred to as a Slug on WordPress Websites.
The Slug should change when you change the Permalink, and vice versa, but it’s good practise to ensure that this is the case, as both must be aligned and use the exact same Focus Key Phrase. Slug options can be found by clicking to edit the Page Description/Snippet.
Note that the individual words of your slug or permalink should be separated with hyphens or dashes (-) rather than spaces, however, this should happen automatically on WordPress sites.
But that’s not all! Changing a URL or Slug in WordPress means that another process is paramount. Read about redirection below.
When amending URL’s in order to optimise your website pages, you generate optimisation while at the same time breaking a link.
If a visitor to your website clicks to visit a page that has had its URL changed, without redirection, a 404 Error would be generated, and an error page loaded for that visitor.
Across your digital marketing, it’s likely that links to your website are out there. Redirects also ensure that users across social media, scrolling through your feed, or those you’ve caught the eye of with some great content, don’t find finding themselves clicking through to your website to be faced with a 404 Error page.
Send links to suppliers and third parties by Email? Same principle, same answer. Redirects.
Thankfully the process is simple. Go to your WordPress Dashboard, select Plugins on the left and search for the “Redirection” plugin.
If you’ve taken the advice in this list so far, you’ll have logged what the original URL was and what it was changed to in order to optimise the page. This is key for redirection. In fact, this information is all these simple tools require to save your website from a 404 Error nightmare!
9) Page Titles & SEO Titles:
At this point, you’re likely thinking, “there’s MORE?”. Well, yes, however, this part doesn’t take too much thinking about.
I’m sure you’ve identified that many of the elements involved in page optimisation revolve around the page’s Key Word/ Focus Key Phrase. When it comes to the SEO Title, this is still the case.
The SEO title can be found down at the bottom of the page, via clicking to edit the Description/Snippet. You should include your Focus Key Phrase at the beginning of your SEO title.
Note the structure of the SEO page title as it stands. We advise you structure your SEO titles like so:
Your Focus Key Phrase – (Separator) Site Title (usually the business name).
The recommended SEO Title length is between 65-70 characters, but Yoast’s indicator lights will help guide you. The trick is to utilise the space you have, without having a title so long it is cut off in search engine results.
Page Titles are a different story. While you can choose to include the page’s Key Words/Focus Key Phrases in the page title, it is not essential.
This means you can continue to give your pages and blog posts interesting and engaging titles without being bound too closely to your Key Phrase.
Search engines even take into account the formatting of your page. To effectively optimise a page or blog, you must utilise a mix of headers and in the correct manner.
Again, just one simple rule will set you straight here.
Excluding your page title, the formatting details of which will be already set in the back-end of your website, a “main title” (this is not a technical term) in your page copy should be formatted as a H1.
There should be only a single H1 title on any page or blog. Using more will result in lower page scores and negatively affect your optimisation.
Every website page or blog should utilise subheadings, not only because search engines encourage it, but because if your content is to be enjoyed and engaged with, it must be easy to access and digest.
Format all higher level subheadings as H2.
Should you require other headings beneath a H2 subheading, utilise H3, H4, H5 & H6 headings. Whichever work for the style and formatting of your existing page or blog.
To effectively optimise your page or blog, use your Focus Key Phrase in a H1 heading, or up to two H2 subheadings.
Another great feature of Moz, or SEO tools like it, is its ability to track your rankings, enabling you to see how many places each page has moved up or down in search results. It even sends weekly reports direct to your email!
A reporting dream, right? Yes, but it’s also an important, yet somewhat bitter reminder, that the world of SEO is always changing.
That’s right, this isn’t a onetime thing, and revisions are crucial!
Let’s use an example:
You have optimised your website using the list above, and your pages are now ranking well for a series of Keywords. Hurray! However, your Moz (or other SEO tool) report has dropped into your inbox, and your ranking is dropping. Ouch! Your competitors have revised their own SEO, added lots of detailed content to their website pages, which are also ranking for the same Keywords as you, and have raised up in the search rankings. You have some work to do.
But that’s OK! By improving your content and returning to our Top 10 SEO Tips for WordPress Websites, you’ll help your website shout above the noise of a competitive and crowded marketplace.