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A guide to optimizing a WordPress website for enhanced SEO performance

If you have a WordPress website then optimizing it for the search engines might not be as complicated as you may have thought. Find out how to do it through this guide.

Why is it important:

Optimizing your website for enhanced SEO is an essential part of staying ahead in today’s digital landscape. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps ensure that when people search for particular terms, the content on your website will be more likely to be found. SEO reformats website content such as titles, descriptions, and keywords so that it is organized in a way that search engines understand and prioritize. Enhancing your SEO also offers other benefits, such as improved user experience, better brand visibility and increased page visits, which can ultimately lead to higher sales conversions.

Steps to optimize a WordPress website for enhanced SEO performance:

1.Choose a good website hosting provider:

Your website hosting plays a critical role in your WordPress site’s overall performance, affecting your SEO rankings. A fast and reliable hosting provider ensures your website loads quickly, reducing bounce rates and providing a better user experience. When selecting a hosting provider, do thorough research and select one that offers excellent speed, uptime, and customer support. The best way to do that is to research the websites you know (or find out using any online Hosting Checker) that have been hosted by the same provider or search for reviews online about the service provider.

To check the performance of the website using GTMetrix, look for only the server response related fields in the results.

2. Choose an SEO-friendly theme:

The design and structure of your WordPress theme can have a significant impact on your site’s SEO. An SEO-friendly theme should have clean and well-organized code, be mobile-responsive, load quickly, and support schema markup. Make sure to select a theme that has been developed with search engines in mind. Research websites that have been developed on the same theme to understand how SEO-friendly they are.

3. Ensure the WordPress visibility setting for your site is on:

This may sound obvious, but by default, WordPress has a setting that can prevent search engines from indexing your site. To ensure your site is visible, go to Settings > Reading and uncheck the box that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”

WordPress settingsSearch visibility check

4. Install an SSL certificate:

An SSL certificate is essential for protecting your users’ data, and search engines like Google consider it as a signal to boost your search ranking. Many hosting providers offer free SSL certificates, such as Let’s Encrypt. Be sure to install an SSL certificate on your WordPress site to create a secure connection and gain the trust of search engines and users alike.

5. Install a good SEO plugin like Yoast SEO:

A quality SEO plugin can significantly simplify the process of optimizing your WordPress website. Yoast SEO is a popular choice, offering a comprehensive set of tools to help you create SEO-friendly content, optimize meta tags, and generate sitemaps. There are also alternative options like Rank Math and All in One SEO, which offer similar features. But the reason we recommend Yoast is that its free version itself is quite powerful, helpful and easy to use. And to add to that, there are 5+ million active installations of this plugin across WordPress websites, which definitely says a lot about its impact and reliability.

Yoast SEO plugin

Steps to install Yoast SEO for the first time on your WordPress website:

Step 1: Login to your WordPress website and on the portal hover over “Plugins” and then click on “Add New”.

Adding a new plugin

Step 2: On the next screen, type in Yoast in the search box and click on “Install Now” button next to the Yoast SEO plugin that comes up in the search results.

Installing the Yoast SEO plugin

Step 3: Once done, click on the “Activate” button to proceed.

Activating it

Step 4: On the next screen, click on “Start first-time configuration”.

First time configuration

Step 5: On the next setup screen, scroll to the first step and click on “Start SEO Optimization”. For the initial setup, it might take a few minutes to finish, depending on the size of your website (number of pages, images etc.).

SEO data optimization

Step 6: Once done, you will get a success message. Click on “Continue” to move to the next segment.

In this segment, you need to fill in a few details related to your website, like the organization name, website name, logo, etc.

Once filled correctly, click on “Save and Continue”.

Saving the details

Step 7: Provide your social profile details in the following screen and click on “Save and Continue”.

Social profile details

Step 8: On the next segment provide your email preferences and sign up for their newsletter (if required), and then click on “Save and Continue”.

Step 9: Click on Finish. Your Yoast SEO will now be all set.

1.Ensure good readability score for your page content (using Yoast SEO):

The readability of your page content is essential for improving user engagement and optimizing its chances of appearing in search results. It defines how easily a reader can understand your content. The less complex your content structure is, the better the chances of your page ranking higher in search results. Once installed, the Yoast SEO plugin can help you assess the readability of your content and suggest improvements if necessary, with the guidelines.

Steps to do so:

Edit a WordPress page in normal mode and scroll down to find the Yoast Plugin segment towards the bottom of the page, click on the Readability tab and check your current status and the steps for improving it under it.

Readability checks

2. Provide title and meta tags for each page (using Yoast SEO):

Title tags and meta descriptions are vital for giving search engines a better understanding of your page’s content. They also appear as snippets in search results, providing users with valuable information about your content. Ensure that every page on your WordPress website has unique title tags and meta descriptions optimized with relevant keywords.

Steps to do so:

Edit a WordPress page in normal mode and scroll down to find the Yoast Plugin segment towards the bottom of the page, click on the SEO tab, and set the title and meta description for the page there.

Try to provide a meaningful title and meta description which is aligned with the keyword theme of the page.

Make a note of the indicator at the bottom of each Title and Meta description text box; it denotes the best practice for the title and description length that should be followed.

If the indicator changes from green to red, then that content has exceeded the content length.

SEO checks

3. Ensure good coverage of focus keywords in the website content (using Yoast SEO):

The focus keyword feature in the Yoast SEO plugin allows you to optimize your content for a specific keyword or phrase. Ensure that you use the keyword as frequently and strategically as possible while still keeping it natural-sounding and easy to read. Doing so will help boost your page’s rankings for that keyword.

Steps to do so:

Edit a WordPress page in normal mode and scroll down to find the Yoast Plugin segment towards the bottom of the page, click on the SEO tab, and set a Focus Keyphrase in the area provided.

Once you scroll down below the Meta description area, you can view the current status of the keyword usage across the page in the segment mentioned as SEO analysis.

It will show you the keyword coverage and the tips and tricks to ensure an enhanced one.

SEO issues and checks

4. Generate a sitemap and add it to the Google Search Console:

A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the pages on your website, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your content.

Generating a sitemap can be easily done using plugins like Yoast SEO.

Steps to do so:

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress website.

Step 2: Hover over Yoast SEO on the left side menu panel, and from the list, click on Settings.

Sitemap segment

Step 3: On the next screen scroll down to the API segment and ensure that the “enable Feature” is turned on and click on the “View the XML sitemap” to get the list of sitemaps on your website. Yoast usually has a single sitemap that can be used as an index sitemap if your website has lot of pages and posts etc. You can just copy that name and use it in the next step.

Sitemap access

Step 4: Once generated, submit your sitemap to Google Search Console, which will help improve your site’s visibility in search results. To do so, follow our corresponding guide.

  1. Set up a Permalink structure:

Your WordPress site’s permalink structure is crucial for SEO purposes. A well-structured permalink ensures that search engines can understand the content of your pages better, leading to improved rankings.

Go to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard and select “Post name” for a clean and SEO-friendly URL structure.

Permalink check

Setting up the permalink

2. Use SEO-friendly URL structure:

An SEO-friendly URL structure should be both human-readable and keyword-optimized. Avoid using special characters, numbers, or uppercase letters in your URLs. Instead, stick to lowercase letters, hyphens, and relevant keywords that accurately describe your page’s content.

Example:

https://www.examplewebsite.com/blog/seo/ten-tips-on-how-to-optimize-your-website

3. Ensure to provide alt-text for images while uploading:

Image alt text is crucial for both SEO and accessibility. It offers a textual description of your images that search engines can read and index. When uploading images to your WordPress site, always include descriptive and keyword-optimized alt text.

ALT Text for images

4. Use image optimizer plugins:

Large, unoptimized images can negatively impact your site’s loading times and harm your SEO. Utilize image optimizer plugins such as WP Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer to compress and optimize your image files without compromising quality.

If you are using cache plugins like W3 Total Cache, then you might have to disable or completely avoid these image optimizers as they clash with the main cache plugin.

In such a case, the cache plugin itself will take care of the optimizations.

5. Use a free caching plugin like W3 Total Cache:

Page caching greatly enhances your WordPress site’s performance, resulting in faster load times and better user experiences. Installing a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP Fastest Cache can significantly improve your site’s speed and contribute positively to your SEO efforts.

Steps to install and activate W3 Total Cache plugin on your WordPress website:

Step 1: Login to your WordPress dashboard.

Step 2: Scroll down and hover on “Plugins” on the left menu panel of the dashboard. From the list click on “Add New”.

Adding a new plugin

Step 3: On the next screen type in W3 Total in the search box and from the search results click on “Install” button for the plugin named “W3 Total Cache”.

W3 total cache plugin

Step 4: Once installed the Activate button will show up next to the plugin. Click on it.

Activating the plugin

Step 5: Once activated, again scroll down on the left menu panel and hover over the new item “Performance”. From the list that pops up click on “Dashboard”.

Accessing the dashboard

Step 6: On the next screen click on “Accept” to continue.

Accepting the terms

Step 7: Once done, scroll down towards the bottom of the screen and click on “Next” button.

Moving on to the next step

Step 8: On the next screen click on “Test Page Cache”.

Testing the page cache

Once done, select the item “Disk: Enhanced” from the list of page caching options being displayed.

Disk enhanced option

Once done, press “Next” at the bottom of the page to continue.

Step 9: On the next segment, click on “Test Database Cache” to continue.

Testing database cache

From the options, ensure to keep the default selected, i.e. “None,” as database caching options in most cases, will not have much effect on your website performance/speed.

In case, you find some significant change in speed reflected next to the option “Disk” then you can select that accordingly. (But this is something which is not advisable).

Keeping the default cache option

Once done, press “Next” at the bottom of the page to continue.

Step 10: On the next segment, click on “Test Object Cache” to continue.

Testing the object cache

Once the list is displayed click on “Disk” from the options and click on “Next” to continue.

Disk cache option select

Step 11: On the next segment, click on “Test Browser Cache” to continue.

Testing the browser cache

On the next screen, select “enabled” for the Browser Cache option and then click on “Next”.

Step 12: On the next screen, you will be asked for an option of “Lazy Loading of Images”. This is a feature that lets you delay the image loading process of the website unless the user scrolls to that segment, which reduces the load on the server while loading the website on the first instance.

But this has a drawback, too, as users might face half-loaded images for the initial few seconds of their scroll through your website. So our recommendation is not to enable this unless you have quite heavy images on the homepage.

Click on “Next” to continue.

Step 13: Once done, all your selected options will be displayed, and your W3 Total Cache setup will be complete.

Completing the setup

Note: If your hosting provider has a powerful in-built optimizer (like Siteground Optimizer) then you need not install the W3 Total Cache plugin as it will clash with the existing tool.

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