10 SEO Tips for WordPress Beginners & New Site Owners

10 Seo tips for WP
Photo by Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

WordPress SEO is an important topic, but it’s often difficult for beginners to navigate. Most small business owners are passionate and excel at the services they provide. They’re not SEO experts, and they just don’t have the time to focus on a comprehensive SEO strategy.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 10 SEO tips & strategies for WordPress beginners. This article is perfect for:

Small business owners managing their website themselves
Anyone brand new to SEO
Entry-level marketers just starting out

These tips were extracted from a more comprehensive set of WordPress SEO tips, and rewritten for simplicity. But don’t mistake their simplicity for a lack of effectiveness. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to an effective, long-term SEO strategy.

Before we start, I want to make sure we’re on the same page…

 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. One of the top SEO companies out there, Moz, explains it like this:

“SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”

If you want to learn more, Moz has an excellent beginner’s guide you can check out. But for now, let’s jump into our 10 SEO tips for WordPress beginners.

 

SEO Tip 1: Choosing the right WordPress hosting provider

You might be thinking, “What does hosting have to do with SEO?” Technically, Google doesn’t care which company you choose to host your website with. But they do care about performance & security; which are things your hosting company has a great deal of influence on.

Here are 3 things your WordPress host should provide, and why they’ll help improve your SEO:

Performance: The faster your site loads, the better. At a minimum, your host should offer PHP 7+, HTTP/2 and some type of caching.
Security: If your site gets hacked, your rankings will drop. Look for a host that performs routine security checks, implements a firewall and has security built-in to their platform.
SSL Certificate: SSL certificates impact performance & security, not to mention your search engine rankings. Your host should provide a free SSL certificate, and help you load your entire site over https.

 

SEO Tip 2: Install an SEO plugin

WordPress is one of the most SEO-friendly content management systems (CMS). However, WordPress alone won’t land you on the first page of Google. You need the help of a plugin.

SEO Tips - Yoast

There are a handful of SEO plugins out there, but I recommend Yoast SEO. Some of the things you can do with Yoast SEO include:

Custom SEO titles & <meta> descriptions
Include Facebook Open Graph & Twitter Card data
Automatically generate an XML sitemap
Receive content analysis & feedback

 

SEO Tip 3: Setup custom permalinks

A permalink is just another term for a page’s URL. By default, WordPress permalinks are not the most SEO-friendly. Luckily, there’s a simple way to fix this.

Login to your WordPress admin area
Go to Settings > Permalinks
Change your setting to include the “Post name”
Click Save Changes

SEO Tips - Permalinks
Good & bad examples of WordPress permalinks

 

SEO Tip 4: Optimize your site’s content

Optimizing your content is arguably the most important part of a successful SEO strategy. Writing high-quality content is not easy. In fact, you might want to consider hiring a freelance writer to help you out. That way, you can focus on running your business, and doing what you love.

Here are a few characteristics of high-quality, SEO-friendly content:

Update your content when new information becomes available
Routinely publish new articles. Search engines like to see fresh content.
Link out to useful resources. This includes your own content, as well as other websites you follow.
Include multimedia content. Video, audio, infographics, charts & graphs make your content stand out.
Answer common questions. Find out what your audience needs help with… and help them.

 

SEO Tip 5: Keyword-rich SEO titles & meta descriptions

SEO titles & meta descriptions appear on search engine result pages (SERPs). Search engines use these words & phrases to match your page with a user’s search query. The more relevant your title & description, the more likely you’ll show up in the rankings for a similar search.

Here’s a quick illustration of how to edit your SEO titles & meta descriptions using the Yoast SEO plugin:

SEO Tips - Yoast Edit snippet
How to edit the SEO title & meta description in Yoast SEO

 

SEO Tip 6: Optimize & compress images

A study by Backlinko showed that content with at least one image ranks higher than content that lacks an image. Not only should you include images within your content, but there are several things you can do to maximize their benefit.

Rename image file names before uploading them. Use descriptive names that include your content’s keywords.
Add alt text & captions. Accurately describe what’s happening in the image.

SEO Tips - Add Media
Where to add captions & alt text in the WordPress media library

In addition, compressing your images will provide a performance boost. Keeping your images small & lightweight will speed up the loading of your site, and search engines love a fast-loading site. ShortPixel is my go-to image optimization plugin for WordPress. If you want to learn more, you can read our full ShortPixel review here.

 

SEO Tip 7: Install a caching plugin

If you remember back to tip #1, I mentioned that your hosting company should offer some type of caching. In some cases, your host’s caching will be all you need to optimize your site’s speed. However, if your host allows it, you should look into a caching plugin for additional performance benefits.

The two free caching plugins that I recommend are:

Cache Enabler – Super-simple, yet effective. Easy setup. Limited options.
WP Super Cache – Created by the makers of WordPress, and includes more options & features than Cache Enabler

If you have a few bucks to spend, check out WP Rocket. It’s a premium caching plugin, but loaded with features and totally worth the modest annual fee.

 

SEO Tip 8: Only install quality plugins

Poorly-developed plugins can hurt your site in a couple of ways. They are often the cause of performance issues, which will slow down your site. Even worse, they sometimes include vulnerabilities that allow hackers to gain access to your site.

Look for plugins that:

have at least a 4-star review
are used on a large number of other sites (active installs)
are compatible with your version of WordPress

 

SEO Tip 9: Submit a sitemap to Google Search Console

A sitemap is a file that tells Google which pages on your WordPress site it should include in its results. As I mentioned before, the Yoast SEO plugin automatically generates a sitemap for you. Your next step is to tell Google that your sitemap exists. You do this via Google Search Console.

I’ve created a video that walks you through setting up an account, and shows you how to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console.

 

SEO Tip 10: Share content on social media

No one has been able to confirm that the number of social media shares has a direct impact on your search engine rankings. However, social media sharing will certainly increase your content’s exposure. The more active you are on social media, the more traffic your site will receive. Some of the least-suspecting content can go viral within a matter of hours.

I recommend you focus your effort on the following social networks: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

BONUS TIP: Set up Google Analytics

I’m including this one at the end because, technically, it will not improve your WordPress SEO. However, if you aren’t monitoring your site’s traffic, you’ll have no way of knowing if any of the above tips are actually working.

Google Analytics is completely free, and provides an enormous amount of data about your site’s visitors, content, performance, and much, much more. There is almost no reason why you shouldn’t be using it on your site.

Here’s an in-depth video on how to set up Google Analytics and install it on your WordPress site.

Even if you only implement a few of these SEO tips, the most important thing is that you start somewhere. A solid SEO strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. Be consistent, and your efforts will pay off in the long run.

Article by Dave Warfel (WP Smackdown)

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