“SEO is dead” is something that we’ve been hearing constantly for the last seven years. Whenever Google decides to make another update and come up with a new algorithm, some people in this world decide this is it: SEO is finally dead – which is a foolish thing to believe.
Traditional SEO may be dead, but WordPress SEO, in general, won’t ever die. We could say that it evolves.
As long as search engines exist, SEO remains important for any online business.
After all, you can’t ignore it when 79% of search engine users click on organic search results and not on paid ads. The only situation in which people click on ads rather than on organic search listings is, according to WordStream’s findings, when they are looking to buy a product or a service.
So if you run an eCommerce business, then you can definitely combine SEO and paid advertising for maximum results.
But you’re here to learn about WordPress SEO today, so let’s get started. Here are the best tips you need to apply to increase your traffic by 500%.
1. Set Your Preferred Domain (www or non-www)
Before you specify which version you’d like search engines to use as your domain, you need to verify the ownership of both versions.
Then, you can go ahead and set your preferred domain in Google Search Console. It’s important to do this because otherwise, Google will treat both versions as separate domains.
There’s no SEO benefit for either of the two options. If you prefer a shorter URL, then you go for the non-www one.
2. Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
WordPress is already an SEO-friendly platform but your website won’t mind a boost.
That’s why we recommend installing an SEO plugin, such as Squirrly SEO. We suggest trying this plugin because for the majority of the tips included in this article we’re going to use Squirrly SEO as an example.
Keep in mind, however, that this plugin (just like any other SEO plugin) won’t do SEO automatically for you. It will only provide the features you can use to optimize your site for humans and search engines.
3. Set up The Permalinks
The default permalink URL structure created by WordPress is not Google-friendly. This means that, if you leave it like that, Google will have trouble figuring out what your page is about.
To change the URL structure and make it Google-friendly, you need to go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Permalinks, select Post name, then click the ‘Save Changes’ button.
If you change the permalink structure after your posts go live, make sure that you redirect the old URLs to the new permalink. You can do this by either editing the .htaccess file or using a plugin such as Change Permalink Helper.
4. Optimize For the Main Keyword
After you have chosen your main keyword, the Squirrly Live Assistant, meaning the boxes on the right side of the WP editor, will tell you whether your post is properly optimized or not. And this happens as you’re typing your article.
The Live Assistant will make sure you don’t keyword-stuff your article and that you’re using it in all the right places, such as the title, the URL, the introduction of the article, in an H2, and in Alternative Text.
5. Customize The Meta Title
According to Brian Dean, the meta title is an integral part of a perfectly optimized page. He also says that you should use the keyword in the meta title as close to the beginning as possible because it will help you rank higher in search engine results.
It’s so easy to edit the meta title if you have the Squirrly SEO plugin. In the snippet section, below your post, you just need to click on Edit Snippet, enter your new meta title in the SEO Title field, then click Save.
A well-crafted meta title can definitely bring you more click-through rates (CTRs) which will increase the SEO value of your pages.
6. Customize The Meta Description
Customizing your meta description is just as important as editing your meta title. Even though they do not influence your rankings, they do impact your click-through rates.
The purpose of the meta description is to entice users to click on your page instead of the other ones that come up on the same search results page as you.
You can go ahead and customize it from the snippet section as well, by editing the META description field.
If it’s possible, try to include your main keyword because Google will bold it when that page appears in SERP so it will help you stand out even more.
7. Use Meta Keywords
Google, Bing, and Yahoo are no longer using meta keywords as part of their ranking factors. This was a way for site owners to tell search engines what their pages were about. However, many site owners abused this practice and ended up stuffing the HTML code with too many keywords.
This is one of the main reasons why search engines decided not to take into consideration meta keywords anymore.
However, if you still want to add them to your pages, we recommend keeping them at maximum five.
In Squirrly SEO, you can add the meta keywords from the snippet section, from the Meta tab, right where you edited your title and description, in the “Meta keywords” field.
8. Use Header Tags
Crawlers check the HTML code, more specifically the header tags (such as H1, H2, H3), to determine the topic that is on that page.
So we suggest including the keywords you used in the heading tags as well, not just as plain text.
Squirrly, for example, can help you with this because it will check whether you used the main keyword in an H2 tag.
9. Add Image Alternative Text
Search engines can’t read images, that’s why you need to add alternative text to every image you add to your posts. Usually, it should be the main keyword you used to optimize a page.
Squirrly’s Live Assistant will check if you used an image in your article and also if you used the keyword as the Alternative Text.
10. Add Image Title
Even though having a title for your images won’t help you with WordPress SEO, you can still use it as a CTA for when someone is reading your post.
When a user hovers their mouse over the image, they will see the text you added and it can act as a tooltip.
11. Use The Main Keyword In The Introduction
If possible, try to add the main keyword in the introduction of every post you write.
Google starts crawling your content starting at the top of the page and so, if it finds the main keyword in the beginning of the article, it will help them match your content to the topic of your choice much easier.
Squirrly SEO will tell you whether you’ve used the keyword in the introduction or not. And if you don’t know exactly where to place the keyword, then you can click on ‘introduction’ from the right panel and a portion of your post will be highlighted.
12. Publish Long-Form Content
Content will always be king. As years go by, it becomes more clear than ever that long content will always rank better, according to this study done recently by CanIRank.
That being said, instead of focusing on finding several keywords to stuff your article with, we recommend spending more time creating a long piece of high-quality content.
The advantage is that, over time, you will start ranking for other keywords as well, even if you haven’t necessarily optimized for them.
13. Use Short URLs
Google loves clean, short URLs that contain only the main keyword. Moreover, an interesting study ran by Marketing Sherpa found that shorter URLs can get you up to 250% more clicks.
WordPress will automatically create a URL for your posts but you can change it and make it as short as you like. You can do this by editing the permalink section below the title in edit mode.
14. Edit The Image Name
Before uploading your images to your site, you should always rename them using words that match the topic of your content.
For example, I can use ‘WordPress SEO’ as an image name for all the photos I uploaded to this post.
A good practice is to always use hyphens between the words. So the exact name of my image would be wordpress-seo.jpg. The reason why you should do this is that Google can’t read a name such as wordpressseo.jpg.
15. Use Dofollow and Nofollow Attributes
Links can have either a ‘dofollow’ or a ‘nofollow’ attribute. Here’s the difference between them.
A ‘dofollow’ link is a link that Google can crawl and pass link juice to, from another one. When you’re trying to increase your site authority, meaning the number of backlinks, you need ‘dofollow’ links from high authority sites. The more, the better.
‘Nofollow’ links mean that your page will be ignored by Google and no link juice will be passed to it.
You should pay attention to creating a good balance between the ‘dofollow’ and ‘nofollow’ attributes in your site.
16. Do Internal Linking
It’s very important to link your pages where it makes sense. You can refer to other articles you’ve written or to the landing pages you’ve created.
Here are the benefits of this practice:
- It will help your users navigate your site more easily.
- It will spread link juice across other links.
- It will help you create information hierarchy for the site.
With Squirrly SEO, it’s extremely easy to find pages you can link to in your posts.
On the right side of your WordPress editor, you have the Inspiration Box, the same one wherein you can add a keyword. By clicking on the quotation marks icon, you will receive a list with the most recent pages you’ve optimized based on the keyword you chose for your post.
Then, you can simply click on ‘insert it’ to add the link to your post.
17. Link to High Authority Sites
Linking to high authority domains can be a great conversation starter. You can add a couple of links that point to some useful resources and then contact the site owners to ask if they would like to share your post on social media.
If they agree, which is usually the case, you will get free traffic. This is a good idea you can try for all your posts.
18. Use Nofollow Affiliate Links
Google is not quite fond of affiliate links. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them in your pages.
You can, but to avoid getting penalized by Google, you should always set the ‘nofollow’ attribute for them.
19. Use A Sitemap
We recommend using a sitemap for your WordPress site because that way Google will be able to crawl your site more easily and understand its structure and hierarchy.
After you install Squirrly SEO, go to your WordPress dashboard > Squirrly > SEO Settings > Let Squirrly SEO optimize this blog (panel) and switch the option ‘adds the XML Sitemap for search engines’ to Yes.
Squirrly will take care of the rest because Google and Bing will be pinged whenever you publish new content.
20. Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
After you activate your sitemap, it’s important to submit your site to Google Search Console.
This tool will give additional information about your pages, such as how many have been submitted and how many have already been indexed.
To submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, follow these steps:
- Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and click on your site URL.
- In the left sidebar menu, click Crawl > Sitemaps.
- Then, click Add/Test Sitemap.
- Add the URL to your sitemap (e.g. http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml) and click Submit.
21. Submit Your Sitemap to Bing Webmaster
According to Smart Insights, when it comes to searches per day, Bing is in second place. In April 2017, this search engine registered 873,964,000 searches per day so you definitely can’t ignore it.
Follow the steps listed here to submit your sitemap to Bing as well.
22. Submit Your Sitemap to Baidu
Baidu was actually in third place with 583,520,803 searches per day registered this year in April. If you didn’t know, Baidu holds more than 75% of the market share in China.
The only downside when it comes to submitting your sitemap to this search engine is that the Webmaster Tools is available only in Chinese.
If you’re targeting a global market, then we recommend submitting your sitemap to Baidu. In this article, you will find all the resources needed for this process.
23. Force Crawl
Usually, after you publish a post, it’s up to Google to decide when it’s going to index your page. It may take a few minutes, a few hours, or even days.
The good news is that you can speed up the process and force the crawling in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools as well.
Please note that Google does not guarantee it will index your page right away but it will definitely make the process faster.
24. Promote on Social Media
After search engines, social media platforms are the next best thing and it’s where you should focus your efforts if you want to bring a lot of traffic to your site and increase your rankings.
With the right piece of content, your page can skyrocket on social media and bring you lots of traffic.
Before deciding on what platform to use, do a little bit of research to see where your audience hangs out.
25. Do Keyword Research
Keywords will remain relevant for as long as search engines will exist. Our advice is to focus on optimizing for the main keyphrase and only then worry about adding secondary keywords to your pages.
With the Squirrly SEO plugin, you can easily research and find your best option when it comes to choosing a key phrase.
The keyword research feature is available right in your WordPress editor so you won’t even need to open a different tab to find the best keyword for your post.
Here’s everything it offers:
- Receive up to 50 longtail keyword suggestions.
- Do local research for up to 124 Google countries.
- Know which keywords are easy or hard to rank for.
- Find out whether people are discussing that topic on social media or if they are googling it.
- See if it’s a trending keyword or not.
If you’re not using the right keywords on your site, then you won’t drive traffic, which means you won’t get any leads and make sales.
26. Build Backlinks
Backlinks are still important nowadays and will probably remain like this for a long time. The only thing that’s changed in this department is that Google pays more attention to the quality of the link and not at the quantity.
So don’t focus on attracting backlinks from spammy sites. Instead, try to gain more links from high authority sites.
27. Move to HTTPS
Back in 2o14, Google started using HTTPS as a ranking signal. Since then, a lot of website owners and bloggers noticed that they started attracting way more organic traffic after making the switch from HTTP.
Whether you’re running an online store or you’re collecting personal information, HTTPS is going to help you build trust with your visitors so get your certificate as soon as possible.
28. Use Structured Data
Google’s major goal is to make sure users find all the answers to their search queries.
And to be able to do this, they need all the information they can get from you or your company.
By using the JSON-LD settings from Squirrly, you can easily provide details such as the name of your organization, the logo, contact information, a short description of your company, and social media profiles.
With this feature, you can enhance brand recognition, and pop up in search results.
29. Customize Social Media Images
You know how sometimes you want to share a page from your site on Twitter or Facebook and the preview image is not what it’s supposed to be?
Well, with Squirrly SEO you can control which image shows up when you share your pages on Facebook and Twitter.
In the snippet section, you can set the image of your choice so next time you’ll be sharing your posts, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.
30. Display Last Updated Date
Some people agree, some disagree on this one.
But think about this for a second.
You’re searching something on Google and on the first page you can see each result has a different publishing date.
Except for one that catches your eye because it says ‘4 days ago’. And you’re thinking: Why would I want to read a post that was written one year ago, and not read one that was published/updated a few days ago?
This is a good strategy you can use if you publish evergreen content. No one wants to read old content that has not even been updated.
31. Evergreen Content
Speaking of evergreen content, you should try to build your strategy around it because it will bring you constant organic traffic in the long-term.
Evergreen content is content that remains relevant whether you read it today or three years from now.
Occasionally, you’ll need to update it nonetheless because all industries change over time. But the advantage is that you won’t need to invest more time updating the content than what it would take you to write a new post from scratch.
32. Google Knowledge Graph
The Google Knowledge Graph is a way for Google to display interconnected search results that are as accurate and relevant as possible.
To make your content appear like this, you need to focus on creating high-quality content and increase your site’s authority. You also need to make sure your content and site are properly optimized for mobile users.
We recommend taking advantage of structured data so that Google understands what your site is about more easily.
There is no guarantee that Google will display your content in the knowledge graph, but it’s definitely worth investing in creating the best content there is.
33. Negative SEO
It can affect pretty much anyone and it’s a topic SEO specialists don’t discuss enough.
Negative SEO occurs when you receive plenty of spammy backlinks to your site. That’s why it’s called negative. Instead of improving your ranking and your site’s authority, this will hurt your site.
You should always monitor your backlinks so you’ll know right away in case you are somehow affected by this.
If someone is sending bad links to your site, then you can stop them by disallowing certain domains. You can do this here.
34. Create Social Media Profiles
The minute you have established the name for your business, it’s important to go ahead and create social media profiles.
When someone googles your business, they’ll find all the links to your social media profiles, not just your site, which in return will bring you much more traffic.
35. Optimize for Local SEO
More and more people are searching local businesses nowadays, which means you need to register your site with Google Business so that you’ll show up in search results when people look for businesses in your area.
36. Make Use of Google Image Search
In the Squirrly sitemap settings, you can select if you want to add the images from your posts in the sitemap. You’ll be able to track how many images have been submitted and how many have been indexed.
Google image search can bring you a lot of traffic so it’s important to constantly verify if your images are being indexed.
37. Set Redirects for Image Attachments Pages
By default, WordPress will create a page for each attachment on your site, such as images, videos, documents.
Ideally, you wouldn’t want these pages to be indexed because when someone lands on your page, they will see only the image or the document, and not the content itself. Because of this, they will leave the page immediately and your bounce rate will increase.
You can use the Attachment Pages Redirect plugin to disable the attachment pages and redirect visitors to the parent post URL.
38. Translate Your Site
Neil Patel saw a 47% increase in traffic after he translated his site into 82 languages.
He definitely took it to another level and you don’t need to do the same thing. But it’s definitely worth exploring this idea especially if you have a lot of visitors from other countries. You can translate your site into a few languages at first to see if it makes a difference.
WPML is a popular plugin you can use to translate your pages if you don’t have the resources to hire a translator.
39. Optimize Site Speed
Page speed matters to Google and soon enough, it will matter not just for the desktop version of your site, but for the mobile one as well.
However, page speed is not important only for Google. Your visitors care about whether your site takes forever to load or not.
More than 50% of your visitors will abandon your site if it takes more than three seconds to load and this will directly impact your bounce rate as well.
You can use the ideas presented by Neil Patel here to optimize your site for speed.
40. Fix Broken Links
It’s important to check constantly for any broken links on your site because, aside from the fact that they look bad to your visitors’ eyes, Google doesn’t like them either.
You can use Google Search Console to find any broken links so you can remove them right away.
41. Run A Site Audit
You should perform a site audit at least once every few months to see if there are any areas that require attention.
If you install the Squirrly SEO plugin, you’ll get a site audit every week, or you can request one every hour if you have the PRO plan.
The Squirrly audit will analyze your site’s main areas, such as:
Based on the issues it finds, you also get tips on how to fix each issue, so that’s very useful.
42. Have A Mobile-Friendly Site
In May 2016, Google rolled out the mobile-friendly algorithm. Because it’s a page-by-page signal, Google said that the effects will not be visible instantly and those who already have mobile-friendly websites shouldn’t have to worry about this.
It’s best not to leave your site to chance, so start implementing a mobile-friendly version if you haven’t already.
43. Index Categories
If you have categories on your site, it’s best to index them because they can help with SEO.
To let Google index them, go to your WP Dashboard > Categories, select a category and then go to the Advanced tab in Squirrly, and set to Yes the ‘Let Google Index This Page’ and ‘Pass Link Juice to This Page’ options. If you want to add the categories to your sitemap, you can do that as well.
In the Squirrly snippet, you can also set a description for each category page.
44. Set Up Google Analytics
Setting up a Google Analytics is completely free and it’s definitely something you need to use if you want to keep track of how your content is performing.
This tutorial will show you how to set it up on your WordPress site.
45. Track Your Page Rankings
When you spend a lot of time creating high-quality content, you also need to track the progress you’re making and monitor the ranking of your posts.
Squirrly makes every marketer’s job extremely easy because for each post you optimize, you are able to see its Google position, how many social shares it has, and the number of backlinks.
Get Your WordPress Site Ready for The First Page of Google
The competition for the first page of Google is fierce which is why it now matters more than ever to provide the best experience possible to your visitors.
You need to keep them engaged after you’ve enticed them to click on your page. Publish high-quality content, pay attention to page speed, optimize your site for mobile, and make them come back for more of your awesome content.
So if you want to go from ‘never found to always found on the first page of Google’ – like Squirrly says – then apply this checklist with 45 WordPress SEO tips.
Do you have any other tips you’d like to add to the list? Leave them in the comment section if so.