WordPress: It's Kind Of A Big Deal

WordPress is the most commonly used CMS on the market with an estimate of powering 35% of all websites. A few simple optimization measures are all you need to get the most out of your content and make your site a must in Google rankings.

The time when WordPress was used only for blogging is long gone. Even the largest websites, businesses and online stores are now using this free content management system. This explains why it is more important than ever to be familiar with the concepts of optimization and the fundamental aspects of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This article aims to provide essential advice to guide you step by step in improving the ranking of your content within Google and other search engine results.

The basics, such as detailed keyword analysis, targeting with matching keywords, and creating high-quality content are theoretically similar for each content management system. Let's start by exploring the basic WordPress settings.

Search Engine Visibility Setting

Navigate to the Reading menu item under the Settings menu and make sure the Discourage search engines from indexing this site is not checked.

WordPress Visibility Setting
WordPress Visibility Setting

By default, this setting is unset. Oftentimes a developer will check this while developing a website to avoid search engines from indexing while the website is unfinished. This setting makes changes to the robot.txt file and suggests to search engines to index or not index this site.

Optimizing the URL Structure (Permalinks)

A descriptive URL is not only important for SEO, it is also crucial from a user perspective, as it is much easier to remember. Typically by default, a fresh install of WordPress will use the Plain permalink setting which will use the article ID as the URL.

WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Permalinks

Although the article ID will always be unique, which is its purpose, we recommend using the Post Name or a custom structure where your article keywords are in the URL.

A general rule for URLs as it applies to SEO is to keep them short, descriptive and full of targeted keywords that directly apply to the article. It is also recommended to use all lowercase letters, hyphenate between words and omit smaller words like “and, then, a, etc…”.

Proper use of Header Tags

Much like how “topic sentences” in English denote the most important part of a paragraph, HTML uses a series of header tags to help divide up sections of the article. These tags are denoted as <h1> through <h6> whereas the lower number is more important.

Typically <h1> tags are reserved for the title of an article and should only be used once on a page. Following that, <h2> tags should be used to divide up sub sections and any header tags below that should be used to further subdivide your article.

Header Tags
Header Tags

Search engines will most likely understand the header tags and rank accordingly.

Use of Categories and Labels for Referencing

The use of categories and labels represents great potential for SEO optimization, yet this potential is rarely exploited.

Each well-structured WordPress site is made up of different categories for better organization of its content. In addition, the articles can be provided with several labels in order to make them visible for each keyword. If the categories and labels are well used, you also get landing pages that provide diversified and current content: because of their relevance, such pages are often highly ranked in Google search results. Be sure to use these options wisely: the subject matter of the different categories should not overlap and articles should be contained in the categories they belong to.

Keyword Stuffing

Most people know that articles need to contain the keywords that they are targeting so that the search engines understand what the content is about. The more occurrences of a particular keyword generally mean that the article is more likely to be about that keyword.

The problem is how much is too much? Keyword Stuffing is a technique where there is an overuse of a keyword for a method to trick the search engine to believe that the article should be given a higher rank for that keyword. If Google believes you are trying to trick or mislead the outcome, you might get penalized with an even lower ranking.

Optimization of Rich Snippets

The rich snippets or snippets are a good way to bring out your Web page in search results: star rating, images, etc. In order for rich snippets to appear, the schema.org tool is required. Here, the all-in-one plug-in from schema.org rich snippets is very useful. Once the installation is complete, you will find the Rich Snippets configuration dialog on each article page. You just have to select the type of snippet you want and add additional information if necessary.

Rich Snippets
Rich Snippets

Image Optimization

Images add value to the content of your website. They can also help gain more users through Google image search. Since Google cannot interpret an entire image, it is recommended that you consider the following when optimizing your images:

  1. A descriptive file name should always be assigned to the images: this filename is found in the image URL and can, therefore, be read by Google.
  2. Alternative text (alt tag) when uploading each image: this helps Google understand the type of information presented by the image to the user.

In WordPress, an alternative text, or alt text can be entered directly when uploading an image or in the multimedia library by clicking on the corresponding image. In addition to other text, you can also add a title for the image. This is displayed when a visitor places the mouse over the image. The URL and file name can also be used to integrate the corresponding keyword.

Use of the Yoast SEO plug-in

There are several plug-ins for WordPress that can significantly simplify your SEO work. One of the most popular SEO all-in-one plug-ins is Yoast SEO. The basic version is available for free and combines many parameters which are the key to quality on-page referencing.

Yoast
Yoast

Once installed, the plug-in is displayed in the WordPress sidebar with the title "SEO". This plug-in is easy to use and contains a lot of options for optimizing each article for SEO. Spend some time reading through all the options; it is worth the time.

Website Speed Optimizations

In 2010, the loading time of a site was retained as an official ranking factor. Google justified this decision with the argument that fast sites automatically lead to satisfied visitors, and in turn better search results.

The loading time of a website can be estimated using Google PageSpeed. This tool rates your web page with a score from 0 to 100. It also displays tips on how you can improve this value, and therefore make your site load faster.

We have listed below some of the most important factors regarding WordPress and shorter loading time, aspects that should always be respected:

  1. Reduce CSS and JavaScript: CSS and JavaScript files are made up of many code fragments and lots of spaces, comments, and other lesser characters. The methods called "minify" (from minification ) are very useful to remove any unnecessary content of these files and minimize its size. For example, the Better WordPress Minify plugin reliably reduces the size of your website's CSS and JavaScript code.
  2. Optimize images: Image optimization is initially performed before the images are even added in WordPress. First use a graphics tool to optimize your images before uploading them to WordPress. This is possible with Photoshop or a free version of Gimp. The most important thing for image optimization is to make sure that you select the correct image format and save it in the correct dimensions. In addition, the file size should be kept as small as possible.
  3. The selected image format must be JPEG or PNG. The advantage of JPEG is that files can be compressed. This can reduce the file size, but it also reduces the image quality. PNG does not compromise image quality, but is much larger than JPEG. The biggest advantage of PNG is its transparency, which is not supported by JPEG.
  4. Basically, always upload images to WordPress in the required dimensions. If you do not, the browser will then have to readjust the images manually. This takes lots of time. In addition, an 800x400px image is significantly larger than a 400x200px image.
  5. Photoshop has a "Save for web" function where you can save an optimized version of the image. This makes it possible to reduce the size of the image, with a reduction in quality of only 80%. We rarely notice differences in quality, but the difference in size is obvious.

Mobile optimization

Google’s Mobile-Friendly update was released on April 21, 2015. This update applies to Google mobile search. Since then, web pages that have a mobile version are ranked higher in mobile search results compared to web pages that do not. In this way, Google clearly focuses on the mobile sector and leads website operators to imperatively maintain a mobile version, or if necessary to risk lower rankings in mobile search.

Caching

WordPress sites are a massive collection of operations where browsers connect to servers, servers connect to databases and eventually results are returned to the visitor hundreds of times per request. Caching things like images, CSS, JavaScript and HTML greatly speeds up website load times.

Two very popular caching plugins for WordPress are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache which are highly recommended by us. If you have a cloud hosting account with GoferHost, an even faster plugin is LiteSpeed Cache. LiteSpeed Cache is a server side caching plugin that is only available at top quality hosting companies.

LiteSpeed Cache
LiteSpeed Cache

This is another plugin that has a lot of options and is worth spending the time to get familiar with it. But right out of the box, it comes with settings that just work for incredibly fast loading websites.

Conclusion

The optimization measures presented in this article can really help you optimize your content in WordPress and gain more users and readers. These aspects are not just SEO measures, but they also help you to make your site more user-friendly and pleasant to use, for example, thanks to shorter loading times or a simpler structure. This approach should be taken up in each SEO measure, which targets both users and search engines.