My expertise is in digital marketing mainly with an emphasis in SEO, social media, CRO, and online ads, but no matter what you do online, you run into WordPress (I am talking about the content management system you can build websites on, not wordpress.com). I have now been working with WordPress for 10 years (though not exclusively) and learned a lot in the process. I’ve worked on hundreds of WordPress sites for search engine optimization. I even have a few of my own, some with 10,000 visitors a month others with 100,000 visitors a month or more. Keep in mind those sites are not my full time job. My main focus is being President of Ignite Visibility. In this post, I reveal my WordPress SEO tips.
Categories or Tags
Oftentimes someone will publish both categories and tags on a WordPress site. If both of these URL structures are able to be indexed by Google, you can have a duplicate content issues. For this reason, unless you are going to use tags and categories that are different, or have vastly different templates and content, I recommend only using one or the other. For example, say you have both a tag and a category for SEO. That could look something like this.
Having these two methods to categorize content makes it a tough call for search engines. Which one do they rank?
Sitemaps are Critical
Most WordPress websites don’t enable all the sitemaps they should for search engine optimization. I recommend the following sitemaps on all sites.
- XML site map
- Video site map
- Image site map
- Google news sitemap (if you are a news site)
Installing these sitemaps is a piece of cake. You can use a variety of plugins. Once you have the sitemaps complete, make sure you submit them directly to Bing Webmaster Tools and the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
Search engines work by crawling content on the web through hyperlinks. Now, an XML sitemap makes it so that a search engine can find all of your pages without crawling the internal linking on the website. But it is still a good idea to create an internal linking structure that allows a search engine to crawl your site, easily find all your pages and understand how they related to each other. It is a good idea to create an HTML sitemap and place a link to that either on a prominent page or globally in the footer of your site. This will really help search engines find all your pages.
There are a lot of WordPress SEO plugins out there, but the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is usually chosen over the rest. Now, I have been in endless debates over WordPress plugins, especially WordPress SEO plugins, so I don’t want to get into that here. All I am saying is, I like Yoast and recommend it. If you are looking for a go-to option this is one.
Whether it’s product pages, category pages, or really any series of pages that live on the same template, WordPress allows you to do some level of what we call dynamic optimization. Let me give you an example.
Say you have five category pages. They are WordPress, Drupal, Wix, SquareSpace, and Magento. Now, you know that you want each of these pages to be optimized for the same set of keywords. Those are “SEO News and SEO Tips.” Using dynamic optimization, you can optimize the most important elements on a set of pages.
<category> SEO News and <category> SEO Tips
WordPress SEO News and WordPress SEO Tips
You can use this same dynamic optimization on your most important template elements for SEO. This usually includes things like:
- Image Title
This principal is very important in SEO. If you know what you are doing, you can optimize unlimited pages for the keywords you specify. WordPress allows you to do this as well.
SumoMe List Builder
In SEO and content marketing, you literally must also do email marketing to maximize your content reach. I really like to recommend SumoMe list builder to grow your list. It is fairly inexpensive and it allows you to create popup email captures. You can then integrate that with your email provider and it seamlessly syncs the new emails with the list you specify. You can then send manual emails or set up RSS driven automated emails that send content out when you specify. By doing this, you drive visitors to your site, stay in front of people, build a community, and get eyes on your content which can generate links and shares.
People greatly underestimated the power of the sidebar. You need to put careful attention into your sidebar content. That is one of the most important areas for getting some type of monetization and down line value from your blog. I generally like to see the following on the blog roll sidebar.
Text Box at theTop
When someone lands on your blog from a post that is ranking or a social share, they have no idea where they are on the vast internet. So tell them, your text box is your only shot an elevator pitch. Say something to get them to remember you and come back.
So one of the major goals of a blog is to build a community right? That is why right under your text box, you have to try to find a way to get them to commit to a micro conversion. That could be an email sign up, or getting them to join your community on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Have a call to action for all of the most important communities that you are focusing on building.
Top Content of All Time and Recent Content
So now you have them on your blog. Make sure you show them the best content you have ever created in your sidebar. This will encourage more page views and longer time on site. Also, make sure to show recent content. You might have some timely news that catches their eye.
In a lot of cases, people will also add social media widgets like the Facebook page plugin, Twitter updates, Flickr pictures, etc. I recommend choosing these based on what works best for your user experience.
There are a so many different ways to share buttons on your WordPress site it is almost a little nauseating. Here are a couple options (to each his own if you have a favorite I didn’t list). I like either selecting the ones you like the most and coding them into the template one by one or using Add to Any. Add to Any has a pretty good set of buttons and the UX is clean. There is also Add This and Share This, which are good options.
Simple 301 Redirects
With WordPress SEO, you will at some point need to do 301 redirects. Again, there are a lot of ways to do this. But for the person who wants to easily be able to redirect URLs one by one without contacting a developer, check out simple 301 redirects.
Site Speed and Mobile Ready
Site speed is a ranking factor so make sure your WordPress site is as fast as possible. You can check that here. You will also want your site to be mobile ready. You can verify that here. Make sure you have a mobile version of your website that is properly optimized. These are both important elements to SEO.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is a plugin that can make your site really fast. But if you don’t know what you are doing, it can also result in a fatal error causing your website to do down. I have broken sites with it and been pretty frustrated trying to fix the site. I would recommend you stay away from this plugin unless you work with someone who specializes in it. And if you’re on WP Engine, W3 Total Cache is on the list of disallowed plugins, because like most caching plugins it doesn’t cooperate with WP Engine’s custom caching environment. However, WP Engine has you covered, because it does the caching for you.
It is always a good idea to backup your website incase it crashes. Install the wrong plugin and your site can go down any time. WP Engine takes multiple, nightly backups of your site and the data is kept securely outside of your WordPress install. And the backups are available for your to roll back to whenever you want, or need to.
Start with HTTPS
The entire web is putting emphasis on moving websites to secure versions or https. This provides users and the websites a more secure online experience. Firefox and Chrome are pushing users in this direction and Google is providing a ranking benefit for SEO. Google has also gone on record saying they will increase the ranking benefit of https and SEO in the future. I recommend you make your site https and if it is a new site, you should launch that way.
Optimize Every Page
With the Google Panda Update and general search engine valuations determined by overall site quality and depth it is a great idea to optimize every page on your website. Make sure the SEO elements are unique and each page stands alone with its own purpose. By doing this, it allows your website to rank better. Watch out for thin content, duplicate content, pages that are off theme, rouge URLs that create canonicalization issues, etc.
Set up Hubs
One of the most important elements of search engine optimization is building out hub structures. Let me give you an example. Say I want our website Ignite Visibility to rank for the term, “SEO company.” Here is what I will do:
Determine by Top Term: SEO Company
Determine supporting terms such as:
- Best SEO Company
- Enterprise SEO Company
- SEO Company for Retail
I will then look for ways to create that supporting content and link all of that content to my main page.
- 45 Killer Tips for Finding the Best SEO Company for your Business
- Why an Enterprise SEO Company Might be What you Need
- The Ultimate Guide to Finding a SEO Company for Retail
Good Internal Linking
Within your web pages and blog posts, you need to create an internal linking structure that is well defined in your templates but also present in your text. On any given page, link to the most important page above that page, all the supporting pages below, and a couple pages on the same level as far as the site structure is concerned.
600- to 2,000-Word Posts Weekly or More
I recommend you blog as much as possible! But make sure you are pushing out quality content. The Internet is so over saturated with inbound marketing that you really need to take the time to create a great post. You can use this post as an example of the quality of content you should be creating. Also, if it is really short most of the time it doesn’t rank well.
Link out to Quality Content
There is nothing wrong with external linking. I recommend linking to websites you want to be associated with. And when you link out to them, tell them! It can lead to new relationships and new links.
RSS Feeds when Appropriate
One of the coolest things about WordPress is that it comes with a built in RSS feed. You can use this to automatically update social profiles through third party tools like OnlyWire, Hootsuite, or Twitter Feed. Careful with this though, you don’t want to get spammy with too many automated updated. Communities hate that.
Zemanta is an Option
Zemanta is a cool service that does content promotion for you. Basically what it does is recommend your content to others in the backend of WordPress. It works two ways. You can either have content recommended to you or you can pay to have your content recommended to others. It results in links being built to your site, because people can click a button and add images from your site or links to your site content. I have had an OK experience with it. Some clients have liked it and others didn’t.
Local SEO WordPress Tips
I could do a whole blog on this, so I will keep it short and sweet. Make sure to look at adding a local landing page, local schema, a places map embed, and some good old local copy. WordPress is awesome for local SEO. We have many clients who we do local SEO for on WordPress. We can optimize all the pages perfectly and get them ranked well. Here are some tips on local.
A Post is Forever, Make Sure to Update It
Every page on your website counts. When you write a post or page targeting a keyword, think to yourself, “What is the exact term I am going after in this post?” From here on out, that is your page for that term and no other. Make sure you are updating that page over time and building it out as a resource. Don’t just let it fade away or simply write other content that is similar which will confuse Google and diminish its authority.
Keep a Content Map in Google Sheets
I recommend crawling your website with Screaming Frog and then taking the entire export and turning it into a Google sheet. You can then use this as your website map and update it over time. This will make sure you don’t forget about your older content.
Pick Good Hosting
My last WordPress SEO tip is to pick a good hosting provider. I was with a terrible provider before I switched to WP Engine. My site would crash all the time, it was slow and I was on the phone with the company once every other month asking them to move me to a new server (I will not name them here). Right now I use WP Engine and they have been great. By the way, they didn’t ask me to say this. I just think they have a good platform, and finding good hosting is really hard. So I hope they keep up the good work.
I know not everything in this post was 100 percent unique to WordPress. But SEO is not exclusive to WordPress and I didn’t want to hold back. I hope you enjoyed this blog. Please comment and share.
John E Lincoln is President of Ignite Visibility, a Digital Marketing Teacher at UC San Diego and an avid blogger. Through his career, Lincoln has worked on over 400 digital marketing campaigns, ranging from startups to household names, and has generated millions of dollars in online business for his clients.