WordPress SEO: Everything You Need to Know (Including Plugin Setup)

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Setting up SEO on a WordPress website is a really simple process thanks to the range of useful plugins available for this purpose. If you have a WordPress site and you want to rank it on Google, this article will walk you through the fundamentals of the process.

First we’ll look at the factors that are important for getting a WordPress site to rank on Google (luckily, WordPress itself is fairly Google-friendly so there’s actually not much you need to do on this front). Then we’ll get into some of the plugins available that make it much easier for you to achieve this set-up.

The Essentials of WordPress SEO

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll assume you already know how to research and choose keywords (if you don’t, go read our keyword research tips). Once you know which keywords you want to optimise for, there are a few fundamentals you need in order to set your site up correctly and submit it to Google for indexing.

There are a few essentials you need when setting up a WordPress site for maximum SEO exposure. The most important are:

  1. Setting up optimised META tags (Title and Description) for each page on your site, quickly and easily.

  2. Setting up your website in Google Webmaster Tools.

  3. Generating a sitemap for your website that you can submit to Webmaster Tools (this helps Google find and index your website’s pages more quickly).

Note: your site will eventually get indexed even if you don’t set up Webmaster Tools, however submitting it will make the process much faster and will help make sure every page on your site gets indexed (important for large websites or blogs with a lot of content).

WordPress Plugins to Use for SEO

Two of the most important factors for SEO on your website are the Title and Description tags. Usually, these tags are written into the HTML of your website – but of course in WordPress, you can’t directly access this bit of code easily through the Page or Post creation elements. Luckily, there are a few handy plugins which allow you to easily set up

Platinum SEO

This is a good simple solutionj if you are fairly new to SEO and WordPress in general. It’s not as complicated as Yoast SEO but doesn’t have quite the same range of features. It does everything you need it to do in terms of setting up Titles and Descriptions, however I find All in One to be slightly more simple and user friendly.

Yoast SEO

Yoast is one of the most popular plugins for changing the optimisation settings of a WordPress site, and arguably offers the most flexibility. However, I would not recommend this if you don’t have some basic familiarity with web coding and how search engines work. It offers a lot of options, but because of this it can be confusing for someone who isn’t reasonably website-literate. If you set it up wrong, you may end up accidentally hampering your website’s performance in Google.

All in One SEO

This is my preferred choice because it’s the most simple and it’s pretty hard to make any mistakes in setting up All in One which will hurt rather than help your site. It simply allows you to set the META tags for each page at the bottom of the Post/Page creation screen. Otherwise you can go to the Posts or Pages overview screen and set the META tags for every post and page on your site all in one place.

Google Webmaster Tools Verification

After you’ve set up your website so that you can easily edit your META tags, you want to get it set up in Google Webmaster Tools. This lets you submit a sitemap for faster indexing, and get useful information on the health of your site and troubleshoot any problems with its performance in Google.

The simplest solution I’ve found is a plugin called ‘Google Sitemap’ from BWS plugins. Each time you add a new page or post to your site, just go to BWS Plugins → Google Sitemap and check the ‘I want to create a new sitemap file or update the existing one’ box, then hit Save Changes. This will generate a sitemap at http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. All you have to do is type ‘sitemap.xml’ into Webmaster Tools on the sitemap submission page, in the space after your URL, then hit submit – and voila, you have submitted all your pages to Google.

(Bear in mind, if you’re using Yoast SEO it has a built-in sitemap generation feature, but it’s a little more complicated than this so if you want to keep it simple, I recommend doing it this way).

Image Optimisation

One other little tip to maximise the effectiveness of your WordPress site in Google is optimising your images. Before you upload an image to your site, change the filename to reflect keywords you want to rank for on the page you’re adding the image to. Use the same or similar keywords for the ALT tag of the image (which you will see a space to set up when you upload the image to WordPress).

Setting Page/Post URLs

The other important thing is to edit your URLs to make sure they are SEO friendly. Depending on how your WordPress is configured, the URL will generally default to either a number ID or the headline of your post. Eg it will be something like:

http://yourwebsite.com/your-very-long-default-url/

or

http://yourwebsite.com/p=9/

You want to edit these so they are relatively short and tidy, and contain target keywords where possible. One important tip though – if you have keywords in your domain name, DON’T repeat them in the rest of the URL. So for example:

http://www.yourkeyword.com/your-keyword-tips/ – this is bad

http://www.yourkeyword.com/tips – this is good.

The second format still gives you the same SEO benefits from your URL, while avoiding any over-optimisation problems that can occur from doubling up on the same keyword in your URL.

Need help with optimising your WordPress site? Get in touch and find out how we can help.

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Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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