1. How to Start SEO for WordPress
This article explains, in fairly simple words, the basics of SEO for WordPress: I will point out all those simple actions that you need to do before anything else.
Let’s start. WordPress is a pretty well optimized content management system. A basic SEO setup can give your site, and therefore your work, a solid foundation, even without advanced and complicated interventions Matt Cutts former member of Google’s Web Spam team has a say in WordPress and some SEO techniques.
This is a video that deserves to be seen even with YouTube automatic translations.
There are some things you should do right away in your project, to increase your Google ranking chances, to refine your workflow, and to make sure your website is perfectly optimized.
Remember that on the web you exist if Google indexes you or if it puts you in its list of sites that you can consult.
SEO does this: It makes your content as popular as possible by Google. There are some actions to do before starting to think about SEO, this is to have a solid foundation on which to build your site!
1.1. Check out the overall health of WordPress
Let’s begin. Before making any changes to your site, it’s a good idea to see what state your site is in right now. The first tip is to host your site on a quality WordPress hosting provider, with modern hardware, up-to-date software and great performance. Right after that check the health of your WordPress site and ask yourself this:
- What type of WordPress hosting is my site hosted on?
- What is my hosting plan?
- Am I using a low-cost shared hosting provider or have I invested in a quality service that has tuned its servers for use with WordPress?
To get an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes on your site, you can install the Health Check plugin. This plugin gives you a lot of technical information and helps you get information that external parties can use to help you improve your site.
Health Check has been incredibly useful, so much so that the WordPress team has included plugin functions in the WordPress core since version 5.2. You can find the page dedicated to Health Check by going to the administration area of your site, then Tools >> Site Health.
Make sure you are using suitable WordPress hosting
According to the WordPress technical requirements page, the recommended requirements to run WordPress at its best must include a modern version of PHP, MySQL, or MariaDB and HTTPS support.
It is possible to work with old software on the servers, but it is not recommended for site security reasons and site navigation speed reasons (which is very welcome by Google).
If you visit the Health section of the site, you can see the technical details of your installation. Also, if you open your provider’s control panel, you should be able to see all the information regarding the WordPress hosting plan you have activated.
Remember: paying a little more for WordPress hosting has a lot more benefits than you can imagine.
One of the disadvantages that many users take into consideration when choosing a provider is the cost. They prefer to pay less money to invest more time behind their site, when in reality if you invest a little more on the hosting provider, we spend less time optimizing the site!
Upgrade to PHP 7.0 or later
Many WordPress sites still run on old versions of PHP. A look at the WordPress stats reveals that nearly half of the sites still run on a PHP version of the 5 series, while PHP 7.0 and later have been available for more than three years.
Backward compatibility is great, but it’s holding onto WordPress as a technology and preventing site owners from getting the most out of WordPress – would you always travel in second gear when you have a 5-speed gearbox? Furthermore, these older versions of PHP no longer receive security fixes and are therefore increasingly vulnerable to attack.
Fortunately, the WordPress team has dropped support for any older version of PHP 5.6. In December 2019, the minimum supported PHP version will be upgraded to PHP 7.0. Next, it will follow the PHP release schedule more closely.
So, one of the most important actions you can take to improve your site’s performance and security is to make sure your hosting environment is using an updated version of PHP (preferably PHP7 +).
Here are the benefits you will have if you choose to use PHP 7 or later:
- PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost for your site.
- Much more efficient operation, which means less stress on your server.
- It has a lot of modern development features.
- It is a much safer environment and therefore your site is safer.
- It will be supported and therefore will have assistance for much longer
If you are curious about the difference between an older and a more current PHP version, you can find more information in this Bcloud article, where they did some technical tests with the various versions of PHP and decreed that PHP 7.2 is the best. version to use for WordPress.
Below is a graph from that article. If you checked the current hosting setup in the previous section, you already have an idea of how your site works. If you find outdated software like PHP 5.5, it’s a good idea to upgrade to at least version 5.6 as soon as possible.
Then slowly try to upgrade until you get to use the version 7.2 of PHP.
However, be especially careful before updating your PHP version, ask for help if you are not sure what you are doing because your site can start generating errors or even stop working.
Here are some tips you can take to update the PHP version of your WordPress hosting:
- (Always!) Make a full backup of your website, you will use it to restore your site in case of unrepairable errors or to do the tests you need for PHP switching
- If you are a more experienced level, create a test environment on a PHP7 or later based subdomain.
- Install your site backup on the subdomain you created for testing.
- Test carefully to see if everything is working properly.
- Update your live site to the PHP version you used in the test.
WordPress.org has an English post on the benefits of updating your PHP version and what to consider when doing so.
Make sure you are using SSL and HTTPS
In the past, adopting an SSL certificate (getting a secure URL starting with HTTPS is a green lock icon in the browser’s address bar) was an optional possibility. Many sites probably didn’t need the extra level of security provided by an SSL certificate.
However, it has become mandatory to have a valid SSL certificate – search engines start penalizing sites without security certificates and valid SSL settings (and / or display warnings next to search results). In general, it is good practice to enable SSL on your site to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.
To take benefit of new, faster web technologies like HTTP / 2, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox require the site to have a valid SSL certificate. If you want to install and configure an SSL certificate and make sure your site is properly published with HTTPS, here’s a handy guide with tips and tricks for switching to HTTPS.
1.2. Check your WordPress settings
It is worth taking some time to click through all the sections of the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options available can affect the SEO of your WordPress site.
In particular, it’s worth double-checking the visibility settings in Settings → Reading to make sure you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your site. This would definitely damage your visibility! You should also make sure that your write and read settings are all set correctly, these control the default categories and what should be displayed on your home page. Tip: Don’t forget to give your site a strong motto in Settings → General the motto hits the attention of your readers or customers a lot!
1.3. Choose the right permalink structure in WordPress
Your permalink settings define the URL format of your page or post, which can have a big impact on SEO. So, if you are creating a new site with WordPress, one of the first attentions you should have is to change the permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.
If you do not change the settings from the default, all pages and articles will have similar URLs example.com/?p=123. While that’s perfectly fine, it’s not particularly pleasant and could affect how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.
Changing the permalink structure alters the components, order and structure of your website’s URLs. It is important to select the correct structure when initially setting up your site, as changing it later can cause problems for your SEO.
I usually recommend that customers use a structure that creates URLs that look like example.com/ article-name/ or example.it/categoria/nome- article/, depending on the importance they plan to place in categorizing their content.
For most WordPress sites, choosing one of these options will be the right solution. To adopt the first option, you can simply change the permalink setting /% postname% /, like so:
In the field of category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value in /% category% /% postname% /. If you previously had? P = <postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of any redirects necessary for you.
This will also happen if you change from /% postname% / to /% category% /% postname% /. Special effort must be taken when changing the permalink structure of a started site. The process is complicated enough for someone novice.
Choose WWW or not WWW in WordPress
You decide about that what you want your site to show as www.example.com, or simply example.com. Make sure that in the general WordPress settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show is correctly reflected:
Some configurations may present some minor headaches if they omit the “www” component, but these are always rarer. While the information found in this article is not particularly new to some of you, it remains basic and necessary considerations to remember.
They are used to make it clear what to do before starting to think about investing time and money in optimizing the SEO of a website even for beginners.
2. The basics of optimizing your blog content
Now let’s move on to making the content of your blog readable for your readers and very well structured for Google, this is the primary source from which new readers come.
2.1. Search your customers’ wishes and find out what they need
Before you start writing the content, you have to do a thorough research job or you have to start thinking about what terms your readers enter in their searches. Then you will extrapolate the keywords (keywords) that are the basis of the searches you have found.
These keywords or “keywords” you want to rank for. Each page or article, therefore, needs to be optimized for a specific keyword. But how do you determine which keyword to use?
To find out, you need to do some keyword research simulations. In this process, you should ask yourself questions such as:
- Whats kind of keywords I want to rank for?
- How realistic is the ability to rank for these keywords?
Example: Imagine you have a cooking blog, you are passionate about recipes and you want to share your favorites, describing the cooking techniques you use. Optimizing an article for a keyword as “best” isn’t such a realistic goal [best cake recipe], because it’s a very general term.
There is a lot of competition for common keywords like this. Instead, it will help if you are thinking about finding your niche.
This niche could be [healthy low-sugar cakes] or [French pastry you can make at home]. Within a niche, you can become a true expert. Your experience lets you create content for your niche that outperforms competing articles. You can go huge than others and shed light on different points of the same subject.
By that time, you will have caught your reader’s attention! For this purpose, I recommend that you focus on long-tail keywords – a long tail can be the keyword [like making a low-calorie vegan blueberry pie].
A keyword like this is more specific and, therefore, much easier to rank. It is also essential to think about what the audience wants to achieve by searching for a particular term.
This is called search intent. For example, it might look for the answer to a specific question that you can answer fully. Or they may want to purchase a particular product that you can offer them.
In summary: “Think about the needs of your visitors and address them by creating content that provides answers”.
2.2. Write good content for your users
After you’ve done your keyword research and know the topics you want to write about, you need to start thinking about actual writing. Most of the time it’s easier said than done.
2.3. Optimize all your individual content (articles, pages, products, etc)
When you edit or write your article, there are many number of elements you need to pay particular attention to to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include the title, subtitles, and meta description.
All of these elements must reflect the topic of the article.
Don’t forget: SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean it’s easy for a search engine to spot a page’s topic, but more importantly, it means your visitors can get the gist of your page at a glance.
The description and title are deciding factors in the visitor’s decision to click in the search results right on your page. And once they’ve clicked and landed on your page, things like subtitles or bold words can be crucial for visitors: it helps them decide if they want to stay on your page by identifying useful topics right away.
Set your main keywords
An important rule is not to use a keyword on more than one page, otherwise you could end up cannibalizing yourself. (here an in-depth article).
Most of the time, you don’t have to place multiple pages on the same keyword, because it means you’re competing for yourself. It is important to include the keyword in crucial elements of your article, such as the title, introduction, subtitles, and description.
All of these elements are fundamental signals as far as your content is concerned. Since the keyword is, in fact, the main topic of the page, it is very important to make sure that this topic is reflected in all of these elements.
The same logic applies to your text: you need to make sure you don’t stray from the topic; if you stay in the discussion, it should be natural that you use your keyword multiple times in the text. But absolutely avoid filling your text with the keyword just for the fun of it because it won’t do you any benefit.
If you find it difficult to include the keyword in your text enough times, it could be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic. To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that have exactly the same meaning or more or less the same meaning as your keyword.
You can use related keywords to optimize a single page (this topic deserves its own specific article). This is used to give context to your keyword.
Let’s take an example: if your keyword is [pumpkin soup] your related keyword could be [dinners during the winter week]. These second term [winter dinner] provide more information on your basic topic.
Remember to link pages similar to your pillar article with consistent links.
Optimize permalinks of your pages and articles
In most cases, the URL * of your post should contain your keyword, so it’s obvious what your page is about just by reading the link: URL or permalink. * URL is the string of words that you read at the top of the browser, it is the www.miosito.it that is written at the top of Chrome or Edge or other program to browse.
That said, you should always try to keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean – don’t put in unnecessary words for the sake of it! Before publishing new posts or pages, you may also want to consider removing “stopwords” from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and” and “the”. If done carefully, this could make your website permalinks more readable and easier to use or link to.
Posts with particularly long titles can benefit from this approach. For posts that have already been published, I recommend that you be careful when changing permalinks.
If people are already linking to your pages, changing the URLs could create problems. While WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (Yoast SEO Premium’s redirect manager handles this automatically and more reliably), changing URLs can impact performance.
Optimize the title of your pages
The title of each page – the content of the HTML <title> tag – is one of the most important factors in ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the browser tab or window, but it’s also the first line people see in their search results.
It describes what you talk about on your page and acts as an ad that encourages users to click. On many sites, the default structure for posts and pages doesn’t have the optimal SEO approach.
A title like “My Blog» Cooking »The Carbonara Recipe” is not as compelling or effective as “My Delicious Carbonara Recipe in 20 Minutes | My blog “. It is vital to think about the structure of the titles and the content of the title on each individual page. Generally, it is worth considering that:
- Search engines could give more weight to the first few words, so trying to put keywords near the beginning of the title could make it more likely that you rank for that keyword.
- People who browse pages in Google results are drawn to the first few words of the title. If the keywords are at the top of your ad, your page is more likely to be clicked.
Did you know that? For structure your titles You can use Yoast SEO ! You can check the default structure of web page titles and information in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are 2 parts of the plugin that control them.
First task is you install and activate the plugin, you get an “SEO” section in your WordPress dashboard. Go to SEO → Search Appearance and you will see a bunch of tabs for various types of pages on your website.
For every post type and taxonomy, you can set up a title template – as well as description templates. For posts on my site it looks like this:
Use the headings correctly
Headings are ideal for structuring content and helping readers process information in small chunks. WordPress transforms the headers you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and so on).
Optimize your descriptions – meta description
The description is mainly used by search engines to show a short summary, a short presentation of your page in the search engine results and they are usually under the title of the page.
Customizing and writing a meta description effectively can encourage users to click on the results in the search engine, even if we are not positioned in the first position. It’s an advertisement and it’s your opportunity to impress the reader.