WordPress is the most widely used CMS on the planet (more than 25% of the entire web runs WordPress), and with good reason! But regardless of how good WordPress is out of the box, it still needs some SEO tweaks to get the most out of it. The energy you put in to creating actual quality content + decent on-page SEO will determine how high you’ll rank in the search engines. That’s why as a webmaster, you need to strategically write content, work on website performance (eg. site speed), and keep up to date with the latest SEO trends. In this article, we’re going to cover 5 easy (but very important) steps to optimise your WordPress website.
Image by: John Fischer (via Flickr)
Step 1: Install and Configure Yoast SEO
Yoast is a plugin that massively improves your default WordPress SEO capabilities. Aside from doing a lot of stuff in the back-end, it also analyses your pages and posts, and can actually help you write better content by following best SEO practices.
Here are some of the main features:
- Search results preview snippets
- Page analysis and suggestions
- Meta descriptions and titles for pretty much everything on your website
- XML sitemaps
- and muuuuuuuuuuuch more
Overall, having Yoast is really a must if you’re running WordPress. You can install the SEO plugin for free, but there’s also a premium version for extended functionality like a redirect manager, and super speedy customer support.
Although Yoast settings are pretty straightforward, if this is your first time using the plugin, make sure to watch some tutorials first before you start making changes.
Step 2: Write Quality Content with SEO in Mind
One of the most important things when you’re running a website, is to have decent content that’s properly optimised. Offer actual value to your viewers while using a few keywords throughout the content, and search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo will reward you for it (definitely add a blog if you have the time, it pays off massively in the long run).
Here are 2 useful tools to help you analyse your content:
- Headline Analyzer – a great free tool that helps you write more engaging headlines.
- Hemingway Editor – free web app where you can scan your content and get tips on how to make it better.
Step 3: Boost Website Performance with W3 Total Cache
SEO and quality content are not the only things you need to worry about. Website performance is a whole different field that requires a lot of effort. It covers things like page load times, server response time, minified scripts and files, optimized images, caching, etc. And the truth is, it is a rather technical subject that requires for instance, modifying server files like Apache’s .htaccess.
Luckily for you, WordPress has some really good plugins for these tasks that will allow you to improve your website’s performance by simply check a few checkboxes. W3 Total Cache is a free, easy-to-use plugin that lets you do all those things mentioned above with a few simple mouse clicks!
Your goal here, is to improve the overall speed of your website by optimizing your scripts, files and visual content like images. But in order to know what you’ll need to work on, you need to inspect your website. Google Page Speed Insights is a free service that will thoroughly analyze every aspect of your website, and return a score with details about which “rules” you pass, and which you don’t. That being said, you could also go with decent WordPress hosting and let them take care of it for you (if you go with actual managed WordPress hosting that is).
PS: Another great plugin for this is WP Super Cache
Step 4: Use Custom Permalinks
By default, WordPress uses a permalink structure that isn’t as SEO and user friendly as it should be. But you can easily change that. On a fresh WP installation, if you open your Hello World or Sample Post, the link in your browser’s navigation bar will probably look like this: www.yourwebsite.com/?p=1.
By going to Settings -> Permalinks, you can change how your urls look. Here’s how the same post will look once you select the “Post name” permalink setting: www.yourwebsite.com/hello-world. Much better don’t you think?
Step 5: Pick a Responsive Theme
Having a responsive theme is a must. With mobile search taking over searches from desktops, there’s no excuse not to have a responsive site. Your website needs to be perfectly scalable and optimised for different resolutions and platforms in order to provide a decent user experience.
WordPress doesn’t have a problem with responsiveness though. Nearly every free and paid theme that you’re going to find should be fully responsive out of the box.
And that’s it, it’s super easy stuff but can have a massive impact on your rankings!