Did you just install WordPress? Do you want to improve it to attract more qualified traffic? SEO consultant specializing in the optimization of WordPress sites, I will explain what to do and especially how to do it. The goal? More visibility, more traffic and more conversion. Optimizing the SEO of your WordPress site for Google is quite complex, I will not lie to you, it is a lot of work for results that are generally not visible until several months later.
SEO on WordPress, what is it? How to optimize the SEO of your WordPress site?
Natural referencing or SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a set of free techniques that make it possible to bring a website into compliance by following Google’s rules.
SEO is not to be confused with Google Ads Paid Search (SEA) or SMO (Social Media Search). The goal here is to get as many web pages as possible to appear in the first positions of Google’s search results following a request from a user.
In fact, it’s very simple, Google tells us all what to do to optimize a web page, except that few people know. With the many WordPress plugins, it’s even easier!
How does Google work?
Before getting into SEO with WordPress, you need to understand how Google works as a search engine. There are mainly 3 stages:
- The crawl: this barbaric term simply means “analysis”. Google sends billions of robots to analyze web pages every day. Overall, bots will start from your home page and follow any links they find until they have crawled 100% of the pages.
- Indexing: the analysis of robots makes it possible to assess the quality of each page and its compliance with Google criteria and algorithms. Pages are indexed in Google, at this time they may appear in search results.
- The standings: the last stage is very close to the second, but I like to separate them so that it is clearer. Once indexed, Google classifies web pages according to hundreds of criteria and the requests of Internet users.
The SEO optimization criteria of a WordPress site: 4 main pillars
Google has twenty algorithms and hundreds of criteria to follow to optimize a web page. In order to simplify things, we usually classify these criteria into 4 main pillars:
- The technical side: Basically, what’s “under the hood” of your website. We will mainly talk about the code and the architecture of a web page. Luckily, with WordPress, there is plenty to do under the hood, we start in pole position.
- UX or user experience: this is a criterion that has become more and more important to Google over the years. Here, there are mainly 3 criteria to be met: charging time, mobile adaptability and ergonomics.
- Content: Google ranks websites according to Internet users’ requests, so you need to have as much content as possible on your website.
- Recommendations: This takes the form of links. Anytime another site links to yours, it’s a recommendation for Google. The more good recommendations you have, the more Google will appreciate your website.
Before getting to the heart of the matter, I would also like to point out that SEO optimization for your WordPress site is only made possible with a WordPress.org version.
Don’t panic, if you have a “.com” version, it is very easy to transfer your WordPress.com to a WordPress.org, which will be much less restricted because it will be hosted by yourself and not by WordPress.
Okay … STOP BLABLA: what to do in real life?
Let’s go to optimize your WordPress site!
We are going to organize ourselves in 3 steps:
On-site SEO: optimization of the site as a whole
On-page SEO: optimizing each page one by one
Off-site SEO: mainly recommendations
Improve your on-site referencing
Ergonomics and navigation
This is a very subjective WordPress SEO criterion, but it can be measured. Overall, the internet user needs to understand in less than 3 seconds what you are doing and what it is to stay on your website.
The site must be designed intuitively for the user to navigate easily.
Navigation must be fluid and simple, each page must be accessible in less than 3 clicks, the user rarely going beyond. It is therefore necessary to pay attention to the pagination: therefore prefer the pages that can be “scrolled” to infinity (that is to say the pages where you can go all the way down, without having to change page).
Each page must be quick to load, the risk being that the user will leave the site for lack of patience. You can measure a site’s loading speed through Google’s Page Speed Insight or tools like Dareboost or GtMetrix.
On WordPress, there are some tips to put in place to improve SEO:
- Add a cache plugin: I have a preference for Wp-rocket (30 €) but some free plugins exist: W3 total cache, Wp fastest cache …
- Add an image optimization plugin: I recommend Imagify or Wp Smush
Each image must be optimized to save loading time. You must reduce the weight and size before upload, aim for less than 1500 * 1500 px and less than 120kb.
To do this, reduce the size and reduce the weight with the Optimizilla tool. Rename the image to a relevant title and once uploaded copy the image title into the “alt text” field to make that image appear in the Google Image engine.
Google recently switched to a “mobile first index”, which means it is now based on the mobile version of your website rather than the desktop version.
You must therefore already have the same version on both media and the site must absolutely be adaptable on mobile. No problem with a premium WordPress template. Check your mobile version with a Google tool or in the Google Search Console – Mobile usability.
Google has made it clear that HTTPS sites will be favored over those that are not. You must therefore absolutely switch to HTTPS website. An SSL certificate is normally provided (free of charge or not) by your host. On WordPress, you can install the “Really simple SSL” extension to enable HTTPS.
Yoast SEO on WordPress
Yoast is THE SEO WordPress plugin to optimize a WordPress website. It is free and easy to configure. I wrote a tutorial on using Yoast SEO but overall there are two types of configuration to do:
- In the settings of the extension: you will mainly be able to decide which pages you will index or not. Tag and author pages are generally blocked, but this will mostly depend on the architecture of your website.
- In the text editor at the bottom of the page: you will be able to define an SEO title and a meta description. Yoast SEO will also help you write well for Google by giving you optimization recommendations.
WordPress SEO tweaks
The main settings to be made in WordPress will concern permalinks (URLs).
Try to reduce them as much as possible and include your good keywords in them.
The sitemap and the robots.txt file
A sitemap is a plan of the architecture of your website. For large sites, it facilitates the crawl of Google robots. The Sitemap is automatically generated by Yoast depending on the pages you have chosen to index or not. You have to send it to Google through Search Console.
On Yoast, the sitemap will always have this form: yourdomainname.fr/sitemap_index.xml
The robots.txt file is a simple notepad file that allows you to control Google’s crawl. Remember, the crawl or site analysis is Google’s first step. Yoast SEO allows you to control the second step: indexing.
You should know that Google’s robots have a limited time to visit your website, so there is no point in making it analyze pages that you do not want to index. These pages should be added to the robots.txt file. We will simply add the URI, that is to say everything that is after the domain name of his WordPress site.
For example, if I don’t want Google to index my legal notice page, I’ll add:
Disallow: / legal-mention
The robots.txt file must be sent via FTP to the root of the site and via Google Search Console. This part being a little more technical, I also wrote a tutorial on the robots.txt file.
Improve your on-page WordPress SEO
We move on to the optimization of each page. It should be noted that Google will give an average quality rating to each page, this average will give an overall average for the whole site.
To gain SEO, you need to optimize 100% of pages or remove pages that have a bad rating from Google’s index.
These are generally pages that receive little traffic (Google Analytics), pages that are too short, image pages or pages that are not relevant (legal notices …)
To remove a page from the Google index, add it to the robots.txt file and go to Google Search Console – Index – URL to remove.
The first step is always to identify the best keywords to use, a good keyword should be:
- Not very competitive
- A good persona study will allow you to do your keyword research well.
How to identify a good keyword? You can go through tools like Yooda Insigh or you can just type your keywords into Google:
If there is a lot of Google advertising, that’s not good
If there are a lot of website homepages, that’s not good
If there are a lot of big players in your market, that’s not good
A good keyword must correspond to the 3 criteria stated.
There are 3 types of keywords to identify:
- The main keywords: these are the most important, the ones you will use everywhere and the ones that will bring you the most traffic
- Semantic keywords: these keywords are generally very short and too broad to hope for positioning, however, they will be useful for defining the semantic field of your web page. This will help Google. For example, if you’re writing a page about Jaguars, you’ll need to use words like “car” or “body” to tell Google that you’re talking about the car and not the animal.
- Long tail keywords: These keywords are long, around 5 or 6 words. They are very specific so less searched, however, these keywords are very qualified. We will mainly use it for blog posts.
The title of the page is very important, it must contain one or more important keywords. Try to put the keyword at the beginning of the title.
Note that the page title may be different from the SEO title, the one that only appears in search results and that must be added in Yoast SEO at the bottom of the page.
Here there are two types of links, internal links and outgoing links. I always recommend:
- Each page must have at least 3 links to other pages of the site
- Each page must have at least 3 links from other pages of the site
- Each page must have at least 3 outgoing links
- It is necessary to vary the link anchors as much as possible (clickable text) so that it is natural. You have to anchor the link on keywords that you refer to the article in question.
- For example, I want to link to an article that talks about cooking training. I’m not going to put a link on “click here” but on “culinary training blog” for example.
Hn tags are the titles and subtitles of a web page, they help structure a web page and allow Google to better understand it.
These tags have some importance
The title of the page will always be an H1 (title 1) followed by these chapters H2 (title 2) and its sub-chapters (H3-H4-H5-H6). We will therefore never use the H1 which will automatically be the title of the page in WordPress, we will always start with an H2.
Hn tags should contain (if possible) the main keyword (s) of the article and should above all be followed in order.
..H1 WordPress & SEO
… .H2 WordPress
…… H3 The plugins
…… H3 Templates
… .H2 SEO
…… H3 Internal referencing
…… H3 External referencing
Note that the SEO title must be between 50 and 70 characters.
The meta description
It only appears in search results, it is a single snippet of the page up to 170 characters. You have to go through Yoast SEO to write it.
It must contain the chosen keyword as well as synonymous keywords to facilitate understanding of Google. This should also make Internet users want to click.
I always recommend adding at least 800 words to a web page, as pages with less than 300 words are not rated as qualitative by Google.
800 words is the minimum, but it will also depend on your competition. Try to have more words in your pages than them and most importantly, try to have more pages indexed than them.
It is also important to add important words and phrases in bold, this catches the eye of the user, but also of Google robots.
Google recommends creating long content.
However, be sure to keep sentences short and paragraphs short so as not to bore your readers. Also work on your introduction. This is what will keep the visitor on your site.
In fact, Google gives particular importance to the first 150 words of your page in its ranking algorithm. I recommend that you be clear from the start of your article.
Keywords should be placed in each of the elements listed below:
- SEO title and title
- the links
- the meta description
- Hn tags
- in bold
- in the text :
- in the first paragraph
- at the beginning of the sentence
- at the beginning of the paragraph
Improve your off-site referencing
Once you’ve written a page, you’ve only done 50% of the job. Now we need to promote the page externally mainly on social media and other websites.
This is the 4th pillar of SEO: recommendations.
The more websites you have that talk about yours, the better your SEO will be. This is the theory.
15 years ago, it was the wild west, you just had to add tons of keywords on a website and have as many links as possible from nowhere to be well referenced. Those days are over, Google is police now and is much more vigilant.
Today, it has become very difficult to find links, those famous “backlinks” that come from other websites. These links must now meet certain criteria, and must:
- Come from a quality site
- Come from a site with the same theme or be consistent
- Be natural
It’s this last point that is important to Google, every link should be natural, in other words, your page is so well written that all other websites will be talking about you. Yes, but it doesn’t often happen like that.
There are tons of techniques for finding backlinks, here are just a few:
- Write guest articles on other websites
- Partner with influencers
- Comment on blog posts
- Be active on forums
But how do you find a quality site? You can use the indicator of Majestic SEO: the Trust Flow which gives a score out of 100 to the links on a website. Try to aim for a Trust Flow of more than 20/100.
Google takes a very negative look at sites that buy links! On the other hand, you can use these links to monetize a WordPress site, for example by promoting a brand’s products as part of a cohesive partnership. This is called affiliate marketing jargon.
In conclusion, what should be done to optimize your SEO on WordPress?
I simply recommend that you base your SEO strategy on high quality blog posts. Follow my recommendations and write content on queries that interest your audience and are relevant to your SEO on WordPress.
But remember, you talk to humans first and foremost. And not just to Google!
How to monitor your SEO performance on your WordPress site?
There are 3 main indicators to look at to monitor its performance:
In Google Analytics, you can see your acquisition channels and compare month to month. So you can track your organic traffic. You can also track SEO for each web page. It is important to know which pages are working and especially which ones are not bringing any SEO traffic.
You are working on keywords in your pages and blog posts, it is normal to know if it worked or not. You need to aim for the top podium to get maximum organic traffic.
Don’t try to type your keywords into Google to see where your pages are ranking. This is distorted by your history and your geolocation. This information is available in Search Console.
Analyze these keywords based on the 3 important criteria: relevance, popularity and competition.
You can use the Answer The Public tool to find keyword ideas.
If you have an SEO strategy in place, it is above all to sell your products or services. This is what you should analyze as a priority: what is the share of your turnover linked to natural referencing?
Conclusion on the SEO of a WordPress site
We will all understand, natural referencing is a bit complicated but it must be remembered that it is also big results in the long term. WordPress understands this and makes your life much easier, especially with the Yoast SEO plugin.
If you were to take just one thing from this article, it would be:
Content, content and more qualitative content that pleases Google and meets the intentions of Internet users.
Base your SEO strategy on writing high quality blog posts. The more articles you have, the better your overall SEO will be. Try to aim for more than 150 indexed pages per year.
This article is an introduction to the advanced WordPress training for entrepreneurs and freelancers from Mkson world.
Do not hesitate to ask me all your questions regarding the SEO of your WordPress site! I will be happy to help you with the comments.