To get high search engine rankings, it's important to optimize your Wordpress blog right from the start. Remember that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) relies on high quality, and engaging content. Therefore, we've created this article as a guide for beginners!
#1: Selecting Your Domain Name
Although you don't need to include keywords in your domain name, you should use a name that is easy to recognize and remember. Leave out “www” from the URL if you have a choice.
#2: Selecting Your Web Host
Although the web host is not the only factor in site speed and page load time, it is the most important and the best place to start. One of Google's ranking factors is site speed — that is, how fast a page loads. The more optimized your web host's server, the faster your site will be. Keep loading time under two seconds, as that is the average time Google estimates you have to capture your visitors' attention.
Two reliable hosting options are SiteGround, starting at $3.95/month with free SSL, CDN, and Superchacher, and Liquid Web WordPress Hosting, a highly optimized solution fully managed with free SSL Certificate.
An SSL Certificate helps keep your site secure and, because safety and security are part of the user experience, it also can boost your Google rankings. Your host should offer this and help you set it up. If not, use Let's Encrypt, a free, open source SSL service.
#3: Set Your Permalinks
Set Permalink settings as soon as you install WordPress. This optimizes the URL. For instance, you would want https://www.freelancer.com/support/general/ instead of https://www.freelancer.com/?p=315. By giving the links names that are recognizable, you make URLs “SEO Friendly.”
#4: Install the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Find the plugin inside your WordPress installation admin menu by going to Plugin > Add New and typing “Yoast SEO” in the search box. Install and activate it from within WordPress Admin. To do this manually, download the plugin here.
#5: Yoast SEO General Settings
First, you will connect your site to the Google Search Console to use its tools so Google will index and crawl to your site when you are ready.
To do this:
- Create your account at Google Search Console
- Click “Add a Property” button.
- Choose Meta Tag Verification option
- Copy Meta Tag html and paste into the Google Search Console section of the Webmaster Verification section of Yoast SEO, then click Save button.
- In Google Search Console, click the Verify button.
Next, add company, blog, or business information in the Yoast SEO General settings section so that Google can identify your site by its name.
#6: Setting Up Titles and Post Meta Data
Post meta Data and Titles are already created by Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. Use these default template tags — especially if you are a beginner.
Titles and Metas Section
Complete the Titles and Metas section in Yoast. Use the default Yoast template tags for this section and throughout the Yoast settings for titles and descriptions so that every post and page can be SEO ready.
Optimizing Individual Posts & Pages
Optimize individual posts and pages using the Post and Page edit pages. Use custom SEO edits to achieve this. The plugin will analyze what you've put in and let you know your optimization quality.
Allow categories to be indexed and set tags to noindex. Google will not automatically index them. Custom Taxonomies should be set to index, because they usually require special attention from Google.
Author Archive Settings
Don't enable author archives settings (in the Archives tab) unless you have a multi-author blog with a lot of contributers. Avoid duplicate content by disabling date-based archives.
Yoast Default Settings
Use the Yoast default settings in the Other section. Subpages of archives should be set to “noindex.” The Meta Keywords tag should not be used because Google no longer recognizes it.
#7: XML Sitemap Settings
Keep Yoast SEO default settings for XML Sitemaps (SEO > XML > SItemaps). For intermediate and advanced, enter each tab setting and select specific parts you want to include in your sitemap. If you are not sure what to do, it is better to leave this alone and go with the default.
Be sure you are ready for Google to visit your site before submitting your sitemap. Set up a base set of categories — that is, your main pages (About Us, etc) — and at least two posts before submitting so that Google will have at least something to index. Then, go to your Search Console account. Using the sidebar menu in the property management dashboard, go to Crawl > Sitemaps. Click the Test/Sitemap button and add your sitemap URL (“sitemap_index.xml”), then click Submit .
#8: Submitting Your Site to Google for Indexing
Still in Search Console, go to Crawl > Fetch. Submit your entire site or just certain pages for indexing. Submit your base domain URL. Click Fetch and Render, then when Google has processed the submission, click Request Indexing . Select the “crawl this url and its direct links” option, then click Go. Google will automatically update when you update your site, so you do not need to submit the link again. Click Status for a preview of the results.
#9: Yoast Social SEO Settings
Fill in the entire Social section of the Yoast SEO plug in from tab to tab. Set up at least each social media account that is listed (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest).
#10: Optimizing Your Robots.txt file
Stick to the Yoast SEO plugin default for this file. If you want to edit the file, go to the SEO > Tools section of the Yoast SEO plugin.
#11: Optimizing Images for SEO
Because Google only looks at alt text, just fill in the “alt text” form field when uploading new images to be sure they are optimized. Enter SEO keyword friendly descriptions of your images. The SEO Optimized Images plugin is helpful for uploading images in bulk.
#12: Site Speed Optimizations for WordPress
Finally, don't forget to optimize images for faster download speeds by resizing (cropping or changing the scale) or compressing the image.
Bonus: Off-site SEO
The steps above are basically on-page SEO optimization. But how can optimize for off-site factors? Put simply, other sites need to link to your site. Do this with interesting, memorable content that people will want to read. Get shares on social media. Email influencers in your industry about your site. Guest blog on sites related to yours and link back to your site. The bottom line? More links to your site will improve your Google rankings.
Do you have any questions about Wordpress SEO? Let us know in the comments below and we'll get back to you!