If there is one thing WordPress beginners suffer from, it’s information overload. There is so much information about WordPress SEO but most of that information isn’t clear on what should be done first and, in what order to proceed. In this article, I hope to settle it once and for all.
The following are the logical steps that you should follow to get your WordPress SEO right.
1. Choose an SEO ready theme
Everything starts here. The theme you choose must SEO friendly otherwise anything else you do after that may not matter or may only have minimal impact. But, and this is the biggie for newbies, how do you know a theme is SEO friendly? Well, it’s simple. Before you install a theme, read the description and look out for the following words:
- Mobile friendly
- Built-in support for schemas
- Developer friendly
- Loads fast
I’m sure you understand why the theme must be mobile friendly. Everyone is accessing the Internet on mobile devices these days so the theme must be up to the task. Built-in support for schemas simply means that a search engine like Google should be able to extract information snippets and display them directly in search engine result pages. This is going to be very important for SEO in future. A developer friendly theme means that a developer can quickly customize the underlying code. This is important because, more often than not, you may need to hire a developer to tweak your site in future. Finally, page speed is a ranking factor. Thus, your theme must be nimble and load super fast. If you aren’t sure about any of these or the theme description isn’t clear enough, you can always write to the developer and ask. Better still, get a premium theme from professional WordPress developers to be sure the theme is SEO friendly.
2. SEO Hosting
Few people ever think hosting has anything to with SEO. Well, it actually does. Shared hosting is a bad idea but unfortunately that’s what most beginners can afford. With shared hosting, several sites share the same server and IP address. The risk with this is that system resources are limited. Too many requests can crash a hosting server or cause it to slow down to a crawl. Some hosting companies also limit the number of times search engines can crawl a site. Others block bots and add crawling delays, all of which can have a devastating impact on a site’s SEO. The best type of hosting is dedicated hosting. The next best thing is Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. If you must use shared hosting due to limited financial resources, conduct some due diligence to ensure you aren’t getting a raw deal.
3. Secure your WordPress site
This is another thing that beginners have no idea can affect their WordPress SEO. Once your site is hacked and attackers install malware, your site quickly drops in the rankings. Keeping your site secure is easy. First and foremost, don’t use a silly password like 123456 or your birthday to log into your admin area. Simple things that hackers can find out about you through a bit of online research or social engineering should never be used as passwords. After a good strong password, implement two-step verification for your site. Thus, each time you log into the admin area, you have to enter a PIN that’s sent to your phone.
4. Technical SEO
Now, that we are done with the basics, let’s move on to the more technical aspects of WordPress SEO. This has to do with various configurations that allow search engines to crawl your site more easily. I have a checklist for you below.
- Is the site live?
- Do you have a sitemap and have you submitted it to Google?
- Do you have a 404 page?
- Have you used any redirects correctly?
- Have you set a preferred domain, that is, com or www.yourdomain.com in Google’s search console and in WordPress?
- Do you have broken links?
- Is Google Search Console reporting any errors on your site?
- Have you set your canonical URLs correctly?
- Is your site using a secure sockets layer (SSL)?
5. On-Page SEO
This is about getting your titles, headings, descriptions and, internal and outgoing linking right. The best way to do this right is to install and SEO plugin that will walk you through the process step-by-step.
6. Create good content
Creating good content is actually part of on-page SEO but it needs specific mention due to its importance for SEO. Your content must match the intent of the user. Conduct research to find out and publish content that fulfills your audience’s information needs. Don’t stuff keywords or write unnaturally. Focus on satisfying your human audience and the search engines will eventually take note.
7. Off-page SEO
Off page SEO is about what you do away from your website. Building backlinks is the main off-page SEO strategy. It all starts with having great content that people want to link to and share in social media. You should also look for guest posting opportunities that allow you to link back to your site. Don’t buy links or participate in reciprocal programs as these are frowned upon by search engines.
As a WordPress beginner, you must understand that there are many factors that play a role in ranking. Once you get the basics right, move on the technical aspects to ensure search engine spiders are able to crawl your site. Next, ensure your on-page SEO is on point by making use of an SEO plugin. Finally, post great content that people want to read and share, and build your backlinks naturally.