WordPress SEO – 30+ Tips to Increase Your WordPress Site Rankings in 2021

WordPress SEO – 30+ Tips to Increase Your WordPress Site Rankings in 2021

Optimizing your WordPress website for search engines is no easy task. More so, it may be difficult to figure out where to even start with the optimization process – should you begin by focusing on keyword research, page speed, or something else entirely?

That’s why we’ve come up with this comprehensive WordPress SEO guide to help you.

First, we’ll walk you through the foundational steps of website optimization. Then, we’ll discuss the basic tips to improve various aspects of your WordPress site – from URLs to images.

If you’re looking for a quick answer to a specific issue, use our handy Table of Contents to navigate to the topic you need help with. Alternatively, check out our video below for a visual tutorial.

What Is WordPress?

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) used to create, manage and publish a site. Used by over 40% of all websites on the internet, it powers a variety of platforms, such as personal blogs, online directories, eCommerce stores, etc.

Some well-known websites powered by WordPress include WIRED, Vogue, Martha Stewart’s blog, and the technology publication TechCrunch.

Screenshot of Wired homepage

So, what makes WordPress so popular? To start with, it requires little to no coding knowledge, making it especially beginner-friendly.

Through the use of themes and plugins, WordPress is extremely flexible, as well – it’s not difficult to make a website match your vision as all the tools are accessible right from the get-go.

If you’re not familiar with WordPress but are interested in using it, our WordPress Beginner Tutorial will help you get started.

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is a practice to make a web page visible and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Screenshot of Google's result page

To understand how exactly a web page appears on SERPs, you need to know how search engines like Google work. Their process can generally be summarized in three stages:

  • Crawling. The search engine launches bots to crawl the web and find fresh and updated content.
  • Indexing. The collected web pages are then saved and organized within the database.
  • Ranking. When a user enters a search query, the engine will pull up the pages it has indexed and determine their position on SERPs using over 200 ranking factors, such as backlinks, loading time, and site structure.

SEO aims to increase a website’s chances of ranking at the top positions by assisting search engines in accomplishing these tasks.

The key benefit of good SEO is that it drives organic traffic to your site.

Organic traffic refers to users who get to the target website through unpaid search engine queries. It is contrasted by inorganic traffic, which is generated by paid means, like online ads. According to reports, organic traffic makes up more than 53% of all site visitors and generates twice as much revenue as other channels.

Additionally, SEO can help with brand awareness. The more visible a website is on SERPs, the more familiar the target audience will be with the business. Plus, securing a high ranking may cement its credibility within the industry.

The good news is that WordPress is SEO-friendly by default. To rank high on SERPs, however, it’s important to implement a number of SEO best practices. We will explore them in the following sections.

First Things First: Optimize Your Hosting and Website

Before discussing basic WordPress SEO tips, we need to take a look at the optimization of your hosting and website. Doing so will ensure a solid foundation for the rest of the practices. Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider

Web hosting affects many various aspects of a site – its performance and security in particular. These elements are essential for SEO as search engines generally prefer web pages that offer the best user experience.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to invest in a web host that can handle your website’s needs. When choosing a hosting plan, consider the following factors:

  • Uptime guarantee. The industry standard is around 99.9%, meaning your site should only be offline less than 0.1% of the time.
  • Resources. The bandwidth, storage space, and memory offered should support your site and its growth.
  • Security features. Make sure your hosting provider is security-conscious and provides services such as regular backups, DDoS mitigation, and web application firewalls.
  • User-friendliness. The service should come with an easy-to-use control panel for hosting management.
  • Value for money. The hosting price should match your budget and make sense in terms of the benefits and features offered.

If you’re looking for a reliable WordPress hosting provider, consider Hostinger. Starting at $1.99/month, all of our plans include a 99.9% uptime guarantee and LiteSpeed Servers to ensure the best performance.

Additionally, our plans offer a 30-day money-back policy as well as a dedicated support team to help with any WordPress-related issues 24/7.

2. Always Use SSL With the Domain

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a security technology used to encrypt the connection between a website and a browser. It prevents unauthorized parties from accessing sensitive information, such as payment details.

When a domain is SSL-certified, the URL will start with https:// rather than http://. A padlock icon will also appear next to the address bar, like in the example below:

Screenshot of URL padlock

Google takes HTTPS into account when determining the page experience of a website. A good page experience score can be the deciding factor for ranking high on SERPs if the content of competing web pages is of similar value.

Moreover, if a website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, browsers like Safari and Google Chrome will declare it as not secure, advising visitors against entering any information. If you have a landing page or an online store, such a warning can drive away potential website traffic and hurt conversion rates.

Example of no SSL address bar

The good news is that many trustworthy providers offer SSL certificates for free, like Let’s Encrypt.

Those with Hostinger’s shared and cloud hosting plans can also install a Lifetime SSL certificate free of charge. It will be available on the SSL tab of the hPanel. Simply click Install SSL and select the domain that requires certification:

Installing SSL certificate on hPanel

3. Optimize the Site Speed

Site speed is another crucial factor that affects user experience.

Research shows that the ideal loading time of a website is under two seconds. If it takes any longer, visitors are more likely to leave the website without taking any action, which leads to poor conversion rates.

Google prioritizes two ranking metrics to evaluate website performance. The first is the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which marks the point when the main content of a page has likely been loaded. The ideal LCP is within 2.5 seconds from the page starting to load.

The second is First Input Delay (FID). It tracks the time between the first user interaction with a website, such as clicking on a link or tapping on a button, and the browser beginning to process the response to it. A good FID score is under 100 milliseconds.

Google PageSpeed Insights is an excellent tool to check the speed performance of your website. Enter the website’s URL, and it will analyze the loading time on both desktop and mobile platforms. It will also recommend practices to improve the results.

Example of PageSpeed Insights panel

Below are some common methods to improve the site speed:

  • Make sure that the resources provided by your web hosting plan, such as the bandwidth, disk space, CPU power, and memory, can cater to your website’s size and needs.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up the content distribution to your visitors’ browsers.
  • Update your WordPress software and PHP version.
  • Check for plugins and themes that may be weighing your site down. Update them and uninstall ones you no longer use.
  • Enable GZip compression to make the site files smaller.
  • Minify your website’s code. In other words, reduce the number of whitespace and line breaks to make the file size smaller and faster to load.
  • Reduce DNS lookups, which is useful for content-heavy WordPress sites.

4. Activate Content Caching

Caching is another popular tactic to speed up a website. This method temporarily stores copies of site files in visitors’ browsers. The next time the user opens the page, the browser can pull up the cached files instead of beginning the loading process from scratch.

WordPress website owners can enable caching with a plugin, such as W3 Total Cache or WP Fastest Cache.

Hostinger’s WordPress hosting clients receive a pre-installed caching plugin called the LiteSpeed Cache. Coupled with LiteSpeed Servers, a site can then achieve the best possible performance.

Landing page of LiteSpeed

It is important that you regularly clear the cached files, especially after making changes to your website. This way, browsers can delete the old data they’ve stored and load the most up-to-date version of the web page.

5. Add Your Domain to Google Search Console

Google Search Console is free, web-based software that helps monitor how SEO-friendly a website is. It can reveal various insights into your search engine visibility, including:

  • The average position on SERPs.
  • The number of clicks generated from google searches.
  • Which searches in particular lead users to the web pages.
  • Core Web Vitals, which are a new set of ranking metrics introduced by Google to measure a site’s loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.

To add a website’s domain to Google Search Console, click Start now on the homepage. Then sign in with your Google account or create a new one.

Homepage of Google Search Console

You will be redirected to the page below. Select Domain or URL prefix depending on the property type you want to add.

Google Search Console menu

The Domain option will allow aggregating data from all the URLs on a website. You can verify this property type by copying a TXT record to the site’s DNS configuration.

Verifying domain ownership via DNS record

Hostinger clients can do this by using the DNS Zone Editor. It can be accessed by going to hPanel -> Hosting Account -> Advanced. Once there, select TXT in the Type field and paste the code into the TXT Value form. Then, press Add Record.

DNS zone editor in hPanel

When done, return to Google Search Console and click Verify. Keep in mind that the changes may take up to 24 hours to update – if verification fails at this point, try again later.

Choose the URL prefix option if you want to analyze specific addresses of a website. This is useful to obtain information on the mobile or regional version of your site, for example.

For this option, Google recommends verification by uploading the provided HTML file to your website. Other possible methods include using an HTML tag, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, or DNS configuration.

Verifying URL ownership on Google Search Console

After completing verification, press Done.

6. Submit an XML Sitemap to Google Search Console

Besides adding the site’s domain, submitting its XML sitemaps to Google Search Console is another good idea. XML sitemaps are files listing the URLs of all pages of a website so that search engines know where to locate them. Here’s an example:

Submitting XML Sitemap to Google Search Console

While XML sitemaps don’t directly affect rankings, they can help Google crawl a website faster. Furthermore, they let the search engine know which pages are most valuable and which ones shouldn’t be indexed.

WordPress 5.5 and up comes with integrated XML sitemap functionality. Users can access it by adding /wp-sitemap.xml to the end of their domain. Unfortunately, it is not easy to customize this file.

Instead, you can use a WordPress SEO plugin with a sitemap feature, such as Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, or XML Sitemaps.

Once you have a sitemap, open Google Search Console and click the Sitemaps tab located on the left sidebar. Insert the file URL and click Submit. A notification will appear saying Google will regularly crawl it and let you know of any errors.

Sitemaps menu in Google Search Console

7. Don’t Forget Bing and Yandex

While Google leads the search engine market, we recommend adding your domain to other search engines like Bing and Yandex, too.

Bing makes up 26.5% of all desktop searches in the US and is popular among professionals who use Microsoft products for work. Yandex, meanwhile, is the most popular search engine in Russia, making it essential to consider if your website targets an international audience.

To add a website to Bing, head over to Bing Webmaster Tools. Sign in or create a new account. Then, choose whether to import an existing site from Google Search Console or insert the domain manually.

Bing Webmaste Tools homepage

For the latter option, there are three verification methods – uploading an XML sitemap, inserting an HTML tag on the website, or adding a CNAME record to the DNS configuration. Hostinger users can use the last method on the DNS Zone Editor – the process is similar to inserting a TXT record. Instead of selecting TXT as the type, choose CNAME and copy the provided code to the Target form.

Verifying site on Bing Webmaster Tools

For Yandex, open the Webmaster site, then log in or create a new account. After signing in, click Add site.

Adding a site to Yandex Webmaster

Insert the domain and click Add. Then pick one of the available verification methods – insert an HTML file, add a meta tag, or configure the DNS with a TXT record. Follow the instructions and press the Check button to finish the process.

Verifying site rights on Yandex Webmaster

WordPress SEO Tips for URLs

This section will discuss WordPress SEO tips related to website URLs. The overall goal is to make the link to each page unique and readable by people. That way, both users and search engines alike can understand the contents of an article or post and locate them on a site easily.

1. Pick Between WWW and Non-WWW

One of the first things you should take care of as a new WordPress website owner is to choose between using www or non-www URLs for your domain.

Neither option has any SEO-related advantages over the other. However, it’s best to stick with one as Google considers them two separate URLs – this will prevent content duplication and help search engines figure out which version is the preferred one.

To specify your desired address, head to Settings -> General from the WordPress dashboard. In the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields, enter the www or non-www domain. Then, scroll down and click Save Changes.

General setting menu on WordPress

In addition to choosing between www and non-www addresses, make sure to pick the right permalink structure. Permalinks are URLs that will direct searchers to individual posts and pages on your WordPress site.

WordPress automatically uses the plain permalink structure with the page ID number as the slug, such as https://example.com/?p=123.

This type of URL contains no hints to potential visitors on what they may find on the page, making them less likely to check out the site.

To change the default permalink structure, click on the Settings -> Permalinks tab on the WordPress dashboard and pick one of the options. Most WordPress SEO experts recommend Post name since it tells people what a page or post is about.

Setting a custom URL on WordPress dashboard

That said, Post name may not make the most sense in some cases, such as news publication websites, as they deal with timely content. Additionally, content-heavy sites may want to consider using the Custom structure and include the %category% variable for organization purposes.

Keep in mind that if your WordPress site has already been up for more than a few months, changing the permalink structure now can introduce the risk of losing the referral links you’ve built.

If you still want to make the switch, familiarize yourself with setting up redirects so that visitors will land on the right pages. For those using the Yoast SEO plugin, consider upgrading to the premium version, which includes the URL redirection feature.

3. Use Custom URLs for Posts and Pages

Configuring the permalink structure is only one step towards optimized links. When editing a blog post or article, make sure that its URL slug follows the best SEO practices.

To edit individual permalinks, navigate to the post or page whose URL you want to modify and open the WordPress Editor.

If you’re using the Block Editor, open the Settings panel. Then, select Permalink and change the slug.

Customizing permalink in Block Editor on WordPress

Classic Editor users can click Edit next to the URL, which is located below the page or post name. Once it looks good, press OK.

Editing a permalink in Classic Editor on WordPress

Here are a few tips for optimizing the URL slug:

  • Include the focus keyword. For example, if you’re writing a blog post that aims to rank for the term “what is web hosting,” the permalink should be https://example.com/what-is-web-hosting.
  • Keep the slug short and simple. Google warns against using long and complicated URLs with multiple parameters as they take far more time and resources to be crawled.
  • Replace blank spaces with hyphens. While it’s okay to use underscores, Google prefers hyphens.
  • Use lowercase letters only. URL slugs are case-sensitive, which means Google considers https://example.com/url-slug and https://example.com/URL-slug to be two separate URLs. Using different letter cases can unintentionally create duplicate content.
  • Decide whether to use a trailing slash. As with the previous point, search engines treat https://example.com/url-slug and https://example.com/url-slug/ as different addresses.
  • Avoid numbers and special characters. Symbols tend to make links less readable. Plus, some signs don’t belong in URLs.

Basic WordPress SEO Tips

Now that you have taken care of your hosting and website optimization, here are some basic WordPress SEO practices to get started with:

1. Use an SEO-Friendly Theme

An SEO-friendly theme isn’t one that just looks good – it also offers a pleasant user experience and helps search engines navigate the site content.

To find an SEO-friendly WordPress theme, look for one that is:

  • Responsive. As Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites on their SERPs, this point should be a priority. Responsiveness means that the theme adjusts to desktop, tablet, and smartphone screens.
  • Speedy and lightweight. The theme should only include the most important features and have no boilerplate code to ensure a fast loading time.
  • WordPress-compliant. It follows the latest WordPress coding standards to prevent errors, maintain code readability, and abide by the web accessibility guidelines.
  • Regularly updated. Ideally, the theme’s developers should check on it from time to time to patch any performance or security issues.

Before installing a WordPress theme, consider using SEO and speed checker tools to vet any potential issues. Besides PageSpeed Insights, we recommend web.dev and SEO Site Checkup to do this.

SEO Site Checkup dashboard

2. Install an SEO Plugin (Yoast SEO vs All In One SEO)

The core WordPress software doesn’t have the features to customize a website’s SEO settings. To get access to them, you need to install a WordPress SEO plugin.

Yoast SEO and All in One SEO are two of the most popular WordPress SEO plugins. Both are freemium – you can download them for free and upgrade to their paid versions for additional advanced features.

The free Yoast SEO plugin comes with a title tag and meta description editor for posts and pages, an XML sitemap, page breadcrumbs, basic schema markup support, and integration with search engine webmaster tools.

The highlight of this plugin, however, is its content analysis, which can provide suggestions for making texts more SEO-friendly and readable.

Yoast SEO homepage

Upgrading to the premium version of the plugin will grant access to related keyphrase suggestions, an advanced schema markup, and internal linking recommendations. It costs $89/year for one site with paid add-ons also available.

All in One SEO offers similar benefits. The free version has an XML sitemap generator, meta tag editor, integration with search engine webmaster tools, and analytics to determine how SEO-friendly the content is.

The free plugin, however, has no basic schema markup support. You need the premium version to access it, which costs $49.50/year for one site.

AIO SEO homepage

We recommend trying the free version of each plugin to see which one suits your needs best. Note that for the rest of this article, we will be using Yoast SEO for illustration purposes.

3. Enable WordPress Breadcrumbs

The next thing to consider is breadcrumb implementation on blog posts or web pages. Breadcrumbs are links that show visitors their location on a website. For example, here’s what they look like on one of Encyclopedia Britannica’s pages:

Example of breadcrumbs in Encyclopedia Britannica

Breadcrumbs are helpful for navigation, especially on content-heavy sites like online stores or news publications. They can point users to where to go next if they want to find more related content.

Furthermore, breadcrumb trailing is an excellent internal linking tactic, helping search engines understand the relationship between web pages.

On SERPs, breadcrumbs may show up near a page or post title like so:

Example of breadcrumbs displayed on SERPs

If you want to enable breadcrumbs, the Yoast SEO plugin has a built-in feature for it.

WordPress Block Editor users can search for and select the Yoast Breadcrumbs block, then drag and drop the element to the content area.

Yoast breadcrumbs block in Block Editor WordPress

Alternatively, Classic Editor users can insert the shortcode Home » WordPress SEO – 30+ Tips to Increase Your WordPress Site Rankings in 2021 in Text mode.

wpseo-breadcrumb in Text Mode WordPress

To apply breadcrumbs on all pages of your site, you will need to edit the WordPress theme files. If you’ve never done this before, make sure to check the theme’s documentation or contact its developer to prevent any issues. We also recommend using a child theme.

On the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance -> Theme Editor. Depending on the theme, you will have to modify either the header.php file or the single.php and page.php files.

After opening the right files, copy and paste the code below. In some cases, you may need to omit the beginning <?php and ending ?> tags.

<?php

if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {

yoast_breadcrumb( '<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>' );

}

?>

When done, go to Yoast SEO -> Search Appearance -> Breadcrumbs from the WordPress dashboard. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Enabled.

Enabling breadcrumbs on WordPress

Then, scroll up to configure the breadcrumb settings. You can customize the homepage’s anchor text, change the breadcrumb separator, and select which taxonomy type to feature. Click Save changes once finished.

Search appearance setting in Yoast SEO

4. Optimize the Title Tags

Title tags help search engines generate the clickable page or post name that appears on SERPs. Optimizing them is essential to increase the chances of ranking for the desired keyword. Plus, well-crafted copy can entice users to click on the result.

Example of Title tags on SERPs

Note that search engines may at times change the title tags you’ve specified. This usually happens when they think the title doesn’t show enough relevance to the search query. Search engines then use other sources from the content to generate an alternative title.

Here are some tips for improving title tags:

  • Keep it concise. Make sure the title describes the page or post content in a few words. While there is no exact limit, the best practice is to stick with less than 70 characters – that’s the maximum title length that SERPs can show on both mobile and desktop.
  • Make it unique. All pages should have different title tags to avoid confusing visitors and search engines.
  • Include the focus keyword. The search engine will know which SERPs the page or post should appear in.

To customize title tags, you will need to use a WordPress SEO plugin.

If you’re using Yoast SEO, there should be a meta box below the Classic or Block Editor for a post or page. Navigate to the Google preview section and enter the desired title in the SEO title field.

Chaning Title Tags in Yoast SEO

If the color bar turns green, it means the title tag has an optimal length. The SEO analysis section below will also let you know if the focus keyword is in the right place already.

Yoast SEO Analysis results

To have all posts and pages use the same title tag structure, go to Yoast SEO -> Search Appearance from the WordPress dashboard. Then click on the Content Types tab and configure the SEO title section for pages and posts. Feel free to rearrange or insert new title variables.

Setting SEO Title on Yoast SEO

5. Optimize the Meta Descriptions

On SERPs, search engine users will find the meta description right below the title tag. Make sure to get it right – it can be the deciding factor whether a reader will click on your page.

A good meta description is unique, concise, and lets people know what information they’ll find after landing on the page.

To boost the click-through rate, use the active voice and include a call-to-action phrase. Doing this makes the meta description sound direct, which may inspire users to take the suggested steps.

In the example below, the description begins with a question that addresses the site’s target audience – travel enthusiasts. It then uses action verbs to illustrate how the website can help them with their next trip:

Example of meta description on SERPs

That being said, search engines often rewrite meta descriptions with excerpts they find within the post. In fact, Portent’s research shows that Google ignores customized snippets 68% of the time for desktop and 71% for mobile SERPs.

Nonetheless, the report concludes that writing unique meta descriptions remains important, especially to rank for high-volume keywords.

Meta descriptions also show up on social networks when someone shares a web page or post with their followers. Thus, optimizing these snippets can help increase the click-through rates on social media.

Example of meta description shown in a social media post

If you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll be able to edit meta descriptions in the Google preview section of the meta box. The SEO analysis will also tell you if the snippet has the optimal character count – between 120 and 156.

Improvement suggestions on Yoast SEO

6. Use WordPress Categories and Tags

Our next WordPress SEO tip is to use categories and tags. Doing so will make the content and site structure much easier to navigate – both for readers and search engines.

The main difference between categories and tags is that the former has a hierarchical nature. This means you can create subcategories under a parent category. For instance, the lifestyle blog Brit + Co has the Home category with multiple related subtopics nested within it:

Homepage of Brit + Co

Tags, meanwhile, are keywords that explain the content of a post, much like entries in a book index. As an example, the food blog owner Cookie + Kate uses tags to group recipes with the same ingredients:

Homepage of Cookie + Kate

The settings to add and edit categories and tags are accessible on the Posts -> Categories and Posts -> Tags tabs on the WordPress dashboard. You can customize the name, URL slug, and description of each entry there.

Adding new category on WordPress dashboard

It is important to optimize the design of the category and tag pages, as well – especially if they have a chance of ranking for certain keywords. For example, if you have an online sporting goods store, it may have a product category page for tennis shoes. Naturally, this page is likely to rank for search queries related to the item.

Therefore, it’s essential to ensure the design of the category pages looks user-friendly. That way, visitors who land on them will feel compelled to explore the site further.

Product page of Nike

Besides online stores, this tip is also applicable to sites like job directories or food blogs – they often deal with broad terms like “web developer jobs” or “pasta recipes.”

7. Prevent Spam Comments on Blog Posts

Spam comments are a manipulative SEO tactic. They usually include links that lead to other websites in hopes of generating backlinks from a higher-authority blog.

Spam can be harmful to a WordPress site because:

  • It can cause Google to lower the site’s overall ranking to ensure the quality of its search results.
  • It may lead site visitors to a malicious website, affecting their data security and page experience.
  • It can destroy the site’s reputation.

One method to prevent spam comments is to enable manual approval. That way, it’s possible to vet each entry before it appears on the site.

To do this from the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings -> Discussions and check the Comment must be manually approved box. Then, scroll down to Save Changes.

Chaning comment settings on WordPress dashboard

There are several elements to look out for when screening for spam comments:

  • Website URL. By default, WordPress includes an optional field for the commenter to insert their site link. Avoid comments with domain names that look sketchy or have no relevance to your niche.
  • Username. When a comment appears under an article, the name becomes the anchor text for the URL of the user’s site. If the username contains words that don’t look like a real name, it’s best to disapprove the comment.
  • Message. Spam comments usually sound vague, irrelevant, or broad enough to be appropriate for any topic.

Here’s an example of comments to avoid:

Example of a bad comment

Another method to combat spam is by using plugins. Akismet, which comes with each WordPress installation, is excellent for filtering malicious comments. Additionally, consider using this QuantumCloud plugin to remove the site URL field from the comment form.

WordPress SEO Tips for Website Content

This section covers the best WordPress SEO practices for web content. The tips range from conducting keyword research to writing high-quality articles and using internal links correctly.

1. Conduct Proper Keyword Research

The purpose of keyword research is to find search terms that your site can rank for. They should be queries that your target audience is using and are relevant to your project or business.

A keyword research tool is necessary to get started with this. Ubersuggest is a popular free option you can check out. Alternatively, invest in paid software like Ahrefs or SurferSEO. All three of these tools show the specified term’s traffic potential, ranking difficulty, and content suggestions.

Ubersuggest dashboard

When it comes to targeting certain keyphrases, there are different opinions on whether to prioritize short-tail or long-tail terms.

Short-tail keywords are up to three words long. They generally garner a high search volume, and thus have a larger organic traffic potential. Some examples include “Instagram marketing” or “TikTok advertising” – perfect keyphrases for a social media agency.

That said, the competition is very stiff – sites with higher domain authority and big-name brands tend to dominate short-tail keyword SERPs.

Long-tail keywords contain more than three words and typically bring in less organic traffic. An example of a long-tail keyphrase is “how much Instagram marketing costs.” They have lower competition and there’s a higher chance of ranking on SERPs. What’s more, users who search for long-tail terms are 2.5 times more likely to convert.

For new WordPress site owners, it’s best to focus on long-tail key phrases due to them being easier to rank for. Once you’ve established some traffic and backlinks, start creating high-quality content for the short-tail keywords.

In all cases, it’s essential to evaluate a keyword’s search intent – the goal that users want to accomplish by conducting their query.

Doing so can help figure out what type of content to target the keyword with. The best practice is to follow the same format as the high-ranking results, as they’re a good indication of searchers’ expectations.

Generally, search intent can fall under one of the following categories:

  • Navigational. The user is looking for a specific site by inputting the person, business, or brand name into the search engine.
  • Informational. They’re seeking information to gain knowledge or find a solution. Example queries include “how to sell online” and “what is content delivery network.” The search results usually come in the form of articles or blog posts.
  • Commercial. The user wants to research a product or service they intend to buy. They may enter terms like “best ergonomic chairs” or “dell vs hp for gaming.” Buying guides and reviews are common results for this type of query.
  • Transactional. The person already knows what to purchase and is looking for the best place to buy the product or service from. Some keyword examples are “buy Skullcandy earbuds” or “hire a web designer.” Such queries usually bring up product or service pages.
Example of Google's search results

Make sure to target the most appropriate keywords for the type of website and business you’re running. For instance, online stores or service businesses may benefit more from optimizing their product or service pages for transactional keywords. If blogging is a part of your content marketing strategy, it makes sense to produce blog articles for informational queries.

2. Write SEO-Friendly Content

Before writing content that contains your target keyphrases, it’s necessary to understand what makes a page or blog article SEO-friendly in the first place.

Here are some qualities that describe good SEO content:

  • In-depth. The piece of writing covers the most essential points and tackles the most commonly asked questions by the target audience. Therefore, users don’t have to resort to a competitor to fulfill their intent.
  • Original. It offers unique value, whether it’s new information that the competitors haven’t discussed or an angle different from the rest of the market.
  • Easy to follow. The language is simple and understandable to the target audience. It uses uncomplicated sentence structures and common words as opposed to industry-specific jargon.
  • Readable. To make the content legible, the paragraphs are short – between three to five sentences each. The writing may also use bullet points or ordered lists to accommodate scannability.
  • Keyword-friendly. The focus keyword appears throughout the content in a natural, SEO-friendly manner.
  • Well-structured. There are multiple headings to make the web page or blog post easy to navigate.
  • Visual. It features images, infographics, or videos to make the information delivery more engaging.

If you’re not a writer, creating SEO-friendly copy or articles can be challenging.

Thankfully, many tools can help you, like the SEMRush SEO Writing Assistant. This WordPress SEO plugin will evaluate text based on its readability, keyword-friendliness, originality, and tone.

We also recommend using Grammarly and Hemingway Editor for help with editing, proofreading, and general content quality.

3. Include the Focus Keyword Throughout the Content

A focus keyword is the search term that you’re optimizing a blog article or web page for. Incorporating it repeatedly throughout the content will tell search engines all they need to know about its relevance to the targeted query.

However, that doesn’t mean you can simply throw it around excessively in your WordPress site. Google frowns upon keyword stuffing and has been known to penalize websites that do it.

Remember to write content for people, not search engines. You need to make sure that every time the keyword appears, it does so in a natural, grammatically correct way throughout the whole page or blog article.

When it comes to keyword density, the general rule is that the term should make up 0.5% of the entire word count. The Yoast SEO plugin can help determine how many times a keyword should appear in a piece of content.

After you’ve finished writing on the WordPress Editor, scroll down to the SEO analysis section in the meta box. It should reveal whether the term has shown up frequently enough based on the text length.

Keyword density metric in Yoast SEO

Other than that, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Include the focus keyword in the introduction. That way, search engines can understand what the content is about immediately.
  • Avoid keyword cannibalization. In other words, make each page or blog article rank for a different focus keyword. Otherwise, you will end up competing with yourself, and Google will not be able to decide which content to prioritize.
  • Use synonyms to prevent repetitiveness. With neural matching, Google can now recognize phrases with similar meanings in their algorithm. Make sure to incorporate them naturally and always prioritize the main keyword.
  • Include LSI keywords. These are terms that have semantic relation to the focus keyphrase. For instance, an LSI word for the term “eCommerce” can be “online shopping.” They allow search engines to understand the content at a deep level.

As previously mentioned, remember to include the keyword in title tags and meta descriptions.

4. Use the Correct Heading Tags

When appropriately utilized, headings provide a logical structure to your content, making the information flow more naturally. Search engines also use them to understand the topic’s main points.

Additionally, heading tags are great for accessibility. Screen reader technology uses them to offer in-page navigation for visitors with visual impairment.

To create headings and subheadings on the WordPress Block Editor, choose the heading block.

Heading block in Block Editor WordPress

If you use the Classic Editor, you should change the text style from Paragraph to one of the heading tags.

Choosing heading in Classic Editor WordPress

The best practice is to use one H1 heading that includes the focus keyword per page or blog post. This tag signifies the content’s title and the term you want to rank for to search engines.

When you add a title on the WordPress Editor, it will use the H1 tag by default. However, some themes may override this feature, so make sure to check that.

The rest of the article can use H2 and H3 heading tags. H4 through H6 headings may be necessary in some cases, although using them may complicate the content organization and create a poor reading experience.

Here are other tips for using heading tags:

  • Use the tags in numerical order. H2 tags should be nested within H1s, and H3s should go after H2s, etc.
  • Include the focus keyphrase or its variation when appropriate. Doing this can signal the content’s relevance to the term you want to rank for.
  • Make it concise. While there is no exact rule for length, it’s good to treat headings the same as title tags – stick with 50 to 70 characters.
  • Use a question sentence. For instance, instead of using “The Definition of Cryptocurrency,” write “What is Cryptocurrency?” and then provide the answer below. This format increases the chances of getting a position in the Featured snippet or People also ask section, like here:
Example of People Also Ask on Google search results

The next WordPress SEO tip is to insert internal links to other blog posts or pages from your website within the content.

Internal linking is beneficial for three reasons:

  • Interconnectivity. Internal links can show search engines the relation between one page and another, which is good for crawling.
  • Passing authority. They can delegate link equity to your most important content, making it thematically dominant on the website. As a result, search engines will consider these pages to have higher value.
  • Efficient navigation. Such links can expose readers to other content related to their interests, having them spend more time on the website.

Before including internal links, make sure they are contextually relevant to the page or post.

For instance, our article on installing WordPress plugins contains internal links to posts about plugin recommendations. This way, readers can find out about different extensions to install after learning the installation process itself.

Generally, there is no golden rule of how many internal links to add. That said, avoid having so many links that they intrude on content readability.

Consider creating a priority list of pages and posts that should get the most internal links. These are the pieces you want Google to see as the most essential. This should include content that represents your brand as an industry leader, targets keywords you most want to rank for, or generates high levels of organic traffic.

An equally important aspect to keep in mind is the anchor text – the clickable word or phrase for the hyperlink. Ideally, it should provide some idea of what the visitor will find once they open it. Read Alexa’s blog post on the best anchor text practices for more information.

Adding links on the WordPress Block Editor is simple – highlight the anchor text and click on the link symbol. Then insert the URL and select Open in new tab if desired. Press the Enter key.

Link settings in Block Editor WordPress

For Classic Editor users, mark the anchor text and select the link symbol on the toolbar. Enter the address or search for the page in the field, then click Apply.

Linking in Classic Editor WordPress

Yoast SEO Premium users can also utilize the internal linking suggestion tool when using the WordPress Editor. It will recommend related content for you to feature as you’re writing.

Internal linking suggestions in Yoast SEO

External linking is an excellent way to recommend additional resources on the site and provide more value to readers. What’s more, they can clue search engines in on the article’s topical relevance to the term you want to rank for.

Like internal links, external linking has certain practices to follow. These links pass authority to the referred site, so it’s essential to be mindful of what pages or posts you’re featuring.

In particular, the cited websites should be credible and considered trustworthy within the industry. Thus, you need to make sure the content is original, well-written, and relevant to readers’ interests. Also, make sure to check the author’s profile and see if they’re an expert.

Another way to evaluate a website’s reputation is to check its domain authority (DA). Developed by Moz, DA is a score that predicts how likely a site is to rank on SERPs.

SEO experts also use DA to determine how trustworthy a given brand or business is within a niche. If the score is between 70 and 100, they’re an excellent resource to link to externally.

To check a site’s DA, use Moz’s Free Domain SEO Analysis tool. In addition to showing the score, it can also let you know how many backlinks the website has and how many keywords it ranks for.

Homepage of Moz

The next thing to consider is the date the page or post you’re linking to was published or last modified. Avoid referring your readers to content that is older than two years – the information is likely to be outdated.

When adding external links, implement the following tips:

  • Avoid paywalled or gated content. The site can’t offer any value to the user if they can’t immediately read what’s inside.
  • Have the links open in a new tab. That way, the reader can navigate back and forth between your site and the external page.
  • Reach out to the webmasters whose links you feature. They may agree to promote your content on their platforms and even include links from their site to yours.

In some cases, you may need to use an external link to a website that you don’t want to be associated with. In such scenarios, make sure to use the nofollow rel attribute, which will tell search engines not to crawl the referred site.

If you use Yoast SEO with the Block Editor, the plugin allows doing this when creating a new link:

Adding a nofollow tag in Yoast SEO

Classic Editor users can add the attribute with HTML in Text mode. Here is the code template for the link:

<a href="https://example.com rel="nofollow">Anchor text here</a>
Adding a nofollow tag in HTML

For affiliate links or user-generated content, Google asks webmasters to use the rel sponsored and rel ugc attributes, respectively.

7. Leverage Video Content

Video content has become all the more instrumental in drawing web visitors. A Cisco report expects videos to make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2022 – leveraging this medium today is a good idea.

Videos are excellent for engaging an audience. According to Wyzowl, 69% of users prefer videos over text when learning about a product or service. This medium has also helped 82% of marketers increase the average time readers spend on-page.

When using videos for SEO, one aspect to consider is where to host the files.

Many opt for YouTube since it’s the most popular video-sharing platform. It also has the second most-used search engine after Google, making it easy to expand your audience reach.

The chances of ranking on Google SERPs will be much higher, too. A recent study by Moz showed that 94% of all high-ranking videos come from YouTube.

Other than that, optimizing videos for Google will be much easier – YouTube comes with built-in features for that, such as timestamps.

After uploading your videos to YouTube, you can embed them on your WordPress site. That way, visitors who prefer visuals can watch the video to understand the information.

8. Update the Content Regularly and Show the “Last Updated” Dates

Freshness is one aspect that contributes to content’s relevance to a search term. If a blog post or page contains outdated information, it is likely to lose rankings on SERPs.

As such, revisiting, evaluating, and revising pages and posts regularly is important.

Here’s a checklist of practices to employ when updating your pages and posts:

  • Check the search intent. Does the article come in the format that the searchers expect? Does it answer their key question about the query?
  • Check the facts. You need to make sure the information is accurate and reflects the latest changes in the industry.
  • Make the information more in-depth. Doing so will improve its quality, making it more likely to engage readers and attract backlinks. Provide actionable tips, include case studies, or cite credible sources.
  • Consider changing the headline. Make it more enticing than the titles of the previous versions and your competitors’ articles.
  • Check for broken links. Visitors may get annoyed if they click on a link that doesn’t work.
  • Add or update the images. Make sure they reflect the current appearance of what is displayed. Also, consider creating custom illustrations or infographics to help visualize the content.

Finally, it’s a good idea to display the last updated or modified date on the page to show the freshness of the content. Use a plugin like WP Last Modified Info, which allows customizing the date format.

WordPress SEO Tips for Website Images

This section will look into image-specific WordPress SEO practices. We’ll discuss ways to make them easier to load and more readable to both users and search engines.

1. Optimize Your Images

Pictures, photographs, and graphics can make a page or article much more visually appealing. However, they often bring in significant weight that can slow down your WordPress website. Therefore, it’s a good idea to optimize your images beforehand.

A common tip for image optimization is to compress the file – this will remove some of its data and thereby reduce its size.

There are many online tools for this. We recommend using the Smush plugin, which can compress images in bulk from the WordPress dashboard. It can also enable the lazy load feature to delay loading the picture until the user has scrolled down to it.

Homepage of wpmudev

Furthermore, make sure to pick a suitable compression method for the images. There are two to choose from – lossy vs lossless.

With lossy, the file size will be significantly smaller, though the quality will be affected as well. The process is also irreversible – you can’t change the picture back to its original version. This method is best for .JPEG images that don’t show many details.

The lossless method, on the other hand, can reduce the file size slightly without compromising on quality. It is more appropriate for .PNG images that contain tons of graphic or text features.

Another tip is to scale the images or adjust their size according to the dimensions specified on your site. As a result, the user’s browser doesn’t have to download and rescale the picture before loading it on the screen.

2. Use Alt Text for the Images

Alt text is a description of what images look like to search engines so they know their relevance to the rest of the page. Screen readers also use them to help visually-impaired users understand image content.

Alt text is usually displayed when the mouse cursor hovers over an image. Alternatively, using the browser’s inspect feature on the picture will reveal what the text looks like in the code.

Inspecting image on reedsy blog

On WordPress, you can add alt text to images by going to Media -> Library from the dashboard. Select a picture and fill in the Alternative Text field.

Adding Alt Text to image on WordPress

It’s also possible to insert alt text right from the editor. Gutenberg Editor users can add an image block to the content area. Select that and open the Settings panel. Enter the description into the Alt text (alternative text) field.

Adding Alt Text to image in Block Editor WordPress

If you’re using the Classic Editor, click Add media at the top of the content area. Upload the file or select an image from the library. Insert the alt text in the appropriate field.

Adding Media in Classic Editor WordPress

Here are some SEO best practices for writing alt text for images:

  • Describe the image accurately. Make sure a visually-impaired user can understand the content accurately from the description.
  • Keep it concise. The ideal alt text length is between 80 and 125 characters.
  • Include keywords when necessary. The Yoast SEO analysis will usually ask you to insert the term you’re ranking for in the alt text. Avoid keyword stuffing.

If you’re not sure what alt text looks like, check out the example below:

Adding Alt text in WordPress

3. Use Readable File Names for Images

Like alt text, file names can also help search engines read images. Thus, be descriptive instead of using an ID-based label like IMG_0001.jpg.

File names don’t have to be as accurate or lengthy as alt text, but make sure to include a keyword when possible. Additionally, Google advises to write file names in lowercase and replace blank spaces with hyphens. That way, the file URL will look orderly and readable.

Advanced WordPress SEO Tips

By implementing the WordPress SEO tactics we’ve mentioned so far, you’ll be well on your way to increasing the rankings of your site. To take it to the next level, consider employing the extra practices below.

1. Add Schema.org Structured Data

Some search results on Google come with extra enhancements, which makes them look much more engaging. Take a look at the first page for the “new iMac 2021” query, featuring articles in a carousel format at the top position:

Example of schema search engine results

These are called rich results and typically appear on top of regular blue organic results.

According to Search Engine Journal, the average click-through rate for rich results is 58%, outdoing their regular counterparts. Thus, optimizing your posts or pages for these results can boost exposure and chances of driving organic traffic.

For this, you need to add structured data with the schema.org markup to the content. It’s a standardized format that makes certain information qualify for rich results on SERPs.

This process usually requires some coding knowledge. However, many WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast SEO now come with structured data functionality.

In order to add structured data, navigate to the Schema tab located in the meta box below the post or page editor. Then, select the appropriate Page type and Article type.

Schema in Yoast SEO

You can also optimize your company or brand’s details for rich results through Yoast SEO -> Search Appearance from the WordPress dashboard. In the General tab, scroll down to the Knowledge Graph & Schema.org section and configure the fields to your liking:

Setting Schema.org through WordPress dashboard

To rank for more types of rich results, we recommend installing the Schema plugin. It supports other structured data for recipes, reviews, and job postings, which aren’t available on Yoast SEO yet.

2. Add Canonical Tags for Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can occur when multiple pages contain similar content or when different web addresses point to the same page. We’ve discussed how this can happen in various scenarios, such as when a website is accessible through both www and non-www domains.

That said, duplicate content can still unintentionally come up in other cases – such as when using separate URLs for the mobile and desktop sites.

Without proper configuration, each duplicate may compete with the original for rankings on the corresponding SERPs, which confuses the search engine algorithm.

Therefore, it’s important to check for duplicate content regularly. SEO software and plugins usually come with this functionality. Alternatively, you can do this with online tools like Siteliner.

Homepage of Siteliner

Once you’ve located a duplicate article or post, decide which variation search engines should prioritize. Specify this preference by using canonical URL tags, which tell the bots that the page or post is the original version.

The Yoast SEO plugin makes it possible to add canonical tags right from the WordPress Editor.

To do this, open the page or post that you don’t want Google to index. In the Yoast meta box, navigate to the Advanced section and insert the canonical URL of the original content in the appropriate field:

Setting up Canonical URL in Yoast SEO

3. Use Noindex for Low-Value Content

If a certain article or post doesn’t offer valuable or relevant information to searchers immediately, it’s best if it doesn’t appear on SERPs.

For this type of content, Google recommends implementing the noindex meta tag. As a result, these pages don’t get listed in the search engine’s database.

Archive pages are an example of low-value content you should use noindex for. They often only show a list of pages based on a specific date or author instead of giving searchers a direct answer to their query.

You can mark author and date-based archive pages as noindex through Yoast SEO -> Search Appearance from the dashboard. It’s also possible to disable them altogether if they’re not required.

noindex tag on Yoast SEO

Depending on your website and preferences, feel free to apply similar settings to other pages like categories, tags, and media or attachment URLs.

4. Leverage Your Social Media Presence

Our next WordPress SEO tip is to boost your social media signals. While they may not be a direct ranking factor, they can let search engines know that a website is trustworthy.

For example, Bing’s ranking algorithm considers a brand’s presence in external platforms, including social networks, to determine how influential and credible a site is. It takes into account engagement factors such as shares, follows, and likes.

Google, on the other hand, has stated that social media doesn’t directly impact SEO. However, the search engine does consider linkless positive brand mentions when evaluating page rankings.

For these reasons, we recommend paying attention to your social media strategy. Consider these tips to get started:

  • Optimize your profile. Include as many helpful details as possible for visitors to understand what your personal or business brand is about. Feature some industry-relevant keywords to increase the page’s chances of ranking.
  • Share your site content regularly through social media posts. Besides sharing the link, insert a picture and write a compelling caption to entice users to visit the page.
NASA's social media post
  • Install a WordPress social media plugin. It allows readers to share your posts on their profiles in a few clicks. Some plugins can also display the share count on the page as social proof.
  • Engage your followers. Encourage interaction with polls, surveys, question-and-answer sessions, or custom hashtags to generate buzz.
Screenshot of hubSpot's tweet
  • Use analytics. Business accounts on social media usually come with this feature. Take advantage of it to learn what your audience likes and how your content performs on the platform.

Our final tip is to keep yourself informed about the latest SEO best practices and news. Search engines often make changes to their algorithms, so make sure not to miss any crucial information that can affect site rankings.

Check the Google Search Central blog from time to time. You can also subscribe to its YouTube channel as it uploads news updates regularly and hosts question-and-answer sessions for webmasters.

Homepage of Google Search Central

Additionally, follow top SEO publications and influencers on social media to get expert opinions. Sign up for their email newsletters, so you never miss an update.

If possible, consider attending SEO-related events to network with SEO experts and gain insights on improving site rankings. Some popular conventions include brightonSEO, Ad World, and MozCon.

Landing page of BrightonSEO

Conclusion

Out of all marketing strategies, SEO is among the most effective. Ranking high on SERPs will drive more website traffic your way, establish your authority in the industry, and improve your site’s user-friendliness.

This WordPress website SEO guide has 30+ tips to help you get started. We’ve covered everything from hosting to site speed, and from keyword research to structured data.

For new WordPress site owners, we recommend this workflow to optimize your site:

  1. First – focus on your hosting. As we’ve mentioned, Google prioritizes pages with excellent web experience. It is much easier to attain if your hosting has excellent uptime, performance, security features, and resources.
  2. Optimize the website performance and security. Activate caching to speed up loading time and install an SSL certificate to protect your and your users’ information. Use speed checkers to measure how long the visual elements take to start appearing.
  3. Submit the website to search engine webmaster tools. This ensures that your site is crawled regularly. You can also check its ranking performance with analytics features.
  4. Configure the website’s URLs. Do this before publishing the website to avoid redirecting URLs and broken links once the site has gained traction. Choose a suitable permalink structure and pick between non-www and www domains.
  5. Install a WordPress SEO plugin. This extension helps optimize the site’s on-page SEO ranking factors, such as keyword-friendliness and meta tags. Our go-to picks are Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO.
  6. Install an SEO-friendly theme. Find one that’s responsive, lightweight, updated regularly, and compliant with WordPress coding standards.
  7. Research potential target keywords. This step will help you decide what queries to rank for and what to write about in your copy. Newer sites should aim for long-tail keywords as they have lower competition and higher chances of ranking.
  8. Publish high-quality content. Write user-friendly and informative articles for your audience. Make sure to include target keywords, add internal and external links, use proper headings, insert alt text to images, and audit the content regularly.
  9. Optimize the meta titles and descriptions. These elements determine what the page looks like on SERPs. The text should be enticing to searchers and help search engines decide how relevant the page is to the target keyword.
  10. Apply our advanced WordPress SEO tips. Add structured data to rank for rich results, use canonical tags to avoid duplicate content, and use noindex for low-value pages. Also, boost your social signals to increase brand credibility.

Finally, keep up with the latest SEO best practices and news. Make sure to be prepared for when Google and other search engines implement algorithm changes.

If there are any other WordPress SEO tricks you’ve tried that we haven’t listed in the article, let us know in the comments below.

Author
The author

Maisha Rachmat

Maisha is a web hosting expert and content writer at Hostinger. A believer in the power of the internet and technology, she aims to help others navigate their way through the world of tech. She spends her free time reading and cooking.