WordPress’ primary mandate is to make website building easy without coding knowledge, while its major pull factor is how well its websites rank on Google. This is largely due to its plug-ins which automate many optimization processes.
Additionally, the platform automatically alerts Google each time a website is updated, so the search engine can crawl and index fresh pages and move them up SERPs.
In this WordPress SEO guide, we’ll explain exactly how the platform works and provide top WordPress SEO tips to ensure your WordPress SEO attracts organic traffic and drives sales.
Since launching in 2003 as a fledgling blogging platform, WordPress has taken flight and grown into an SEO-friendly open-source content management system powering 455 million websites, some of which you might visit daily like BBC America, Time, and TechCrunch.
A WordPress website is any website that uses WordPress as its content management system (CMS). WordPress powers both the backend of a website (the interface where a user logs in to make changes or add new content) and the frontend (the visible part of the website that your visitors see on the web).
A WordPress theme is a group of files (graphics, style sheets, and code) that dictates the overall appearance of your website. It’s not the same as a template that only affects the layout of single pages.
A theme provides the design framework of your website and includes a color scheme, page layouts (templates), widget locations, font styles, and additional aesthetic details. There are currently over 31,000 WordPress themes to choose from, including premium options.
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that “plugs into” your WordPress site and adds new functionality, features, or integrations. Plugins play a major role in building search-engine-friendly websites because they make it easy to add features without having any coding knowledge.
Currently, there are over 55,000 plugins written by third-party developers. Most eCommerce websites use plugins to optimize WordPress SEO, improve security and enhance user experience. Popular plugins include Yoast SEO, Jetpack, Akismet, WooCommerce, and All in One SEO, which we’ll get into in just a bit.
WordPress actually refers to two different things: a content management system (CMS) and a web hosting service, respectively known as WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.com is a service that helps you build a website using the WordPress software with managed hosting, while WordPress.org is the source where you can download the software to build and maintain a website on your own.
Therefore, WordPress.com offers a streamlined way to set up a website with hosting, and WordPresss.org does not include hosting but provides greater flexibility to website owners.
Broadly speaking, you should use WordPress.com if you want to set up a website quickly, are fine with less flexibility, and are willing to pay for additional support. However, if you aim to build a highly customized website and don’t mind shopping around for the best hosting then WordPress.org is the way to go.
WordPress.com prices range from $4—$45 per month and are billed annually, whereas WordPress.org is free. However, you can’t really build a WordPress.org website without paying for hosting, and other software integrations that make a website fully functional. This can add up to anything from $200 to $800, and more.
Because WordPress is a self-hosted website builder, you will need to find the right hosting for your business needs. The platform recommends using Bluehost because it’s an official WordPress partner; however, you’re not obligated to.
Plenty of business owners don’t know that hosting affects WordPress SEO. Generally, there are two types: self-managed hosting and fully managed hosting.
As the name suggests, self-managed hosting means you have to handle the ongoing maintenance of your WordPress website. Proficiency in web hosting administration tasks like installing and troubleshooting software and configuring server security falls under your purview. Website owners generally choose this option because it’s the cheapest, but it only really works if you have the time and knowledge to deal with the admin.
With fully managed hosting, the web-hosting provider is responsible for maintaining the physical server, network, infrastructure, and most of the software maintenance. The hosting provider also provides 24/7 support. Obviously, fully managed hosting comes with an expensive price tag, but it’s the most hands-off and perfect for website owners who don’t want to bother with server issues.
When it comes to building a website, it’s not so much about how WordPress affects SEO, but rather how easy the platform makes it to structure, manage, and publish content in an SEO-friendly way. Hence, why it’s considered the best CMS for search engine optimization.
The wide variety of WordPress plugins makes it easy for website owners to create attractive permalinks, manage metadata, optimize media, and integrate other SEO software management tools. And it’s not just for standard business websites.
WordPress has an eCommerce plugin called WooCommerce for creating and managing an online store. It comes with several vital features like inventory and tax management, secure payments, and shipping integration.
As an eCommerce platform, WordPress offers many integrations and customization options with diverse themes and plugins that make it a viable option for businesses both big and small.
Over the years, it’s developed advanced SEO optimizations making it fast, mobile-friendly, secure, and easy to use. WordPress is a top-ranking CMS that dominates Google’s SERPs with 2.28 billion results for the following reasons:
Custom websites built by agencies or freelancers cost between $12,000 to $150,000, whereas a WordPress website ranges from $500 to $3,000 to as high as $30,000, or more, which is still considerably cheaper.
When you build a WordPress website, you’re paying for hosting and additional plugins, but not the actual software needed to create your eCommerce store—it’s completely free. Those strapped for cash can set up a basic, functional website for a few hundred dollars.
UX design, front end, and back end development; these terms can befuddle those unfamiliar with website development. Yet, a WordPress website can be installed and up and running in a matter of minutes. All you need is a domain name and a web hosting account.
The intuitive WordPress dashboard has all the features required to create and publish web pages right away. Because of its plug-and-play process, if there is a functionality you require for your site, chances are a WordPress SEO plugin already exists that can do it.
Choosing a scalable platform gives eCommerce businesses the flexibility to adapt and expand as their company grows, both in terms of website architecture and coping with increased traffic. Right out the box, WordPress sites are capable of handling unexpected and sustained traffic spikes.
With plugins and custom coding, WordPress provides a simultaneously flexible and robust framework for enterprises to build a solid website architecture. It’s also beneficial for administrators because they have complete control over what gets added to the platform.
All search engines, including Google, can’t technically see website images. Instead, they rely on alt text to provide an accurate description. Alt text provides a semantic meaning and is an eCommerce SEO best practice because it gives search engines detailed information to accurately rank websites.
WordPress’s media library interface allows website administrators to add alt text to all images at once or those on a particular page. Similarly, WordPress SEO plugins, like Meta Tags Manager offer a simple, lightweight plugin that lets you effortlessly manage meta tags (the title tag and meta description) so your website stands out in search engine results pages.
According to Search Engine Land, more than 60% of global search engine queries occur on mobile. The ubiquitousness of smartphones requires your eCommerce website to be mobile-friendly. This ensures a positive user experience on all mobile devices.
For example, a pop-up that works on a desktop may become annoying screen clutter on a mobile screen. Thankfully, all themes in WordPress’s Theme Directory are mobile responsive. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about optimizing for mobile, so long as you leverage the platform’s SEO-friendly capabilities.
With WordPress, you can create clean URLs that perform better in search, appear more trustworthy to web crawlers, and are likelier to be shared by users. It’s commonly agreed the best permalink structures have the page title in the URL (with keywords when possible), which is easy to implement on WordPress.
Clean URLs are the building blocks of WordPress SEO, and, when optimized, can increase website traffic. To set up clean permalinks (URLs) on your WordPress site, simply go to Settings > Permalinks. There you will see numerous options to choose from, including your post’s name and custom optimization, which is handy for eCommerce stores with large inventories.
WordPress has many impressive plugins, including ones specifically designed to improve WordPress SEO. For example, MonsterInsights allows website owners to track analytics from their WordPress dashboard. Others like the Yoast SEO plugin enable the easy setup of meta descriptions, plus checking keyword relevance, for instance.
To date, there are over 55,000 plugins ranging from analytics to contact forms, social media share buttons, SEO tools, and eCommerce functionality. With WordPress, it’s possible to create your entire eCommerce store without prior coding knowledge. The available plugins allow you to create virtually any kind of website, from portfolios to directories to eCommerce stores.
WordPress’s websites have inherently simple frameworks that allow web crawlers to easily index and rank web pages. You can also use plugins to create structured schema markups, i.e., code utilized that helps search engines understand the context of your site’s content, so they can rank it accordingly.
With a plug-in like Yoast SEO, you can automatically apply structured data to your eCommerce website. Additional plugins like Schema Pro and All in One Schema Rich Snippets make it possible for eCommerce businesses to outperform their competitors in search engines.
Ranking high in search engine results is important, but what makes people click through is the content provided by rich snippets. These enhanced search results produce more details than average links and include images, ratings, authors, dates, locations, reviews, and more.
eCommerce, and most websites for that matter, act as information hubs. Due to social media, customers interact with brands on various platforms. When you add social media icons to your website, you make it part of a chain of shared connections and increase user engagement.
Not only does WordPress have customized on-site social media buttons that let readers share content, but WordPress plugins also leverage the power of social networks to drive traffic to your store.
Therefore, connecting your eCommerce website to your social media accounts ensures new website content is automatically published on your socials. A strong content marketing strategy will always direct traffic to your website, especially if you create SEO-friendly marketing assets.
Since plenty of developers use WordPress, and because it’s open-source, the platform has excellent community support. Website builders often have powerful capabilities but lack strong support systems, so websites seldom reach their full potential. Not so with WordPress.
WordPress’s community is an invaluable resource for troubleshooting your site and learning how to navigate the platform. Even if you’re not a professional developer, you’ll find answers to your questions on its forums, blog posts, videos, and other media.
What makes WordPress great is that its SEO-friendly themes (over 31,000) come with search engine optimization foundations, like meta and header tags, Schema, and mobile optimizations already in place.
Themes let you control something as vast as your site’s layout, or as minute as your internal linking colors. They add beauty and style to your website, allowing you to design special navigational menus and headers, along with overall niche designs.
Since 2010, Google has used site speed as one of its signals to rank pages, so naturally, WordPress priorities technical SEO best practices. Optimized pages should take no longer than two seconds to load—webpages exceeding this timeframe are prioritized lower.
The plugin WP Fastest Cache generates HTML copies of your web pages that are faster than default WordPress PHP scripts. So, while you’re not automatically guaranteed fast-loading webpages with WordPress, there are solutions to ensure your website is technically optimized.
Besides the ability to add alt-text to images, WordPress also automatically compresses images up to 90% of their original size to increase website performance and enhance your SEO efforts. Images consume more bytes than any other part of a website (as much as 40%). Therefore, their size and complexity heavily influence a site’s SEO performance.
When an image’s size is reduced without compromising quality, page load times improve as well as user experience. Luckily, WordPress takes care of this for you. Plugins like Imagify are also handy optimization tools should you require customization and want to stop WordPress from applying automatic image compression.
The former head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, has publicly said that websites built with WordPress can rank higher in SERPs because the platform takes care of 80-90% of Google’s crawling issues.
Aside from themes and basic WordPress features, there is a myriad of WordPress plugins available to enhance SEO performance. They enhance key features of the WordPress SEO algorithm, can help manage robots.txt files, create XML sitemaps, and much more.
Every day, thousands of eCommerce businesses choose WordPress to power their eCommerce websites. While WordPress is free, we’d recommend opting for the eCommerce plan, billed at $45 per month, as it has the functionality to fully support eCommerce stores.
You can set up a website by following these eight steps:
Obviously, each step is more detailed, but there’s no need to panic. WordPress’s Official Support offers concise and detailed resources to walk you through the entire process.
A plug-in pro-tip: Not all plug-ins are created equally. Having too many can lead to security breaches, site crashes, and dismal loading speeds. There’s no hard-and-fast rule capping the number of plug-ins you should have; however, as a guide, we recommend your selection is based on WordPress SEO best practices.
If you want to improve your website’s search appearance, you have to invest in search engine optimization, namely on-page, off-page, technical, and local SEO. A targeted SEO strategy builds long-term equity for your brand and ensures a favorable placement in Google search results.
On-page SEO refers to all the measures taken directly within your website to improve its search engine rank. Examples of this include optimizing content and improving meta descriptions and title tags.
Keyword research is the starting point for any digital marketing campaign. It entails discovering popular words and phrases (keywords) your audience types into search engines when searching online.
These keywords heavily impact how your WordPress site’s pages are organized and shaped (information architecture) and how you talk about your business online. Conducting keyword research helps you develop a detailed understanding of your potential customers, what they’re searching for, the problems they’re looking to solve, and how you—your products and services—can meet their needs.
You can’t write effective web copy or develop content marketing campaigns without doing keyword research as it informs your entire digital marketing strategy.
Alt tags are metadata that offer descriptions of web images for search engines and visually impaired screen readers. Whenever you upload an image to your WordPress site, it should always be accompanied by alt text.
You can add alt text to any image on WordPress under “Image settings” on “blocks.” A plugin like Alt Text Tool also makes it easy to find images that need to be optimized. The prescribed way to write alt text is to sufficiently describe what an image is about without keyword stuffing.
If you close your eyes and have someone read the text to you, you should be able to imagine a reasonably accurate version of the image. The idea is to be descriptive and precise. For example:
In the improved version, you can tell the dog bed is green and that it’s a pillow and not a basinet-style bed.
You know when you upload an image taken on a camera, it usually has a file name like SCN00076.jpg? Well, a recent Backlinko study found these filenames have an effect on WordPress SEO.
To quote Google:
“The filename can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. Try to make your filename a good description of the subject matter of the image. For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG. Descriptive filenames can also be useful to users: If we’re unable to find suitable text in the page on which we found the image, we’ll use the filename as the image’s snippet in our search results.”
While this probably won’t happen if you follow WordPress SEO best practices and use alt tags, it’s smart to cover your bases and write detailed image descriptions. Like alt tags, keep file names descriptive and simple.
Headers are an essential part of your overall WordPress SEO strategy. Search engines use headers to quickly crawl through a page and determine how to rank your site’s content. They also help people read more efficiently by breaking up the content of your pages into subheadings.
The main heading of a web page is always the H1 tag. It is the most important in terms of contextualizing the content. As such, H1 should always give users an idea of what the page is about, and there should only be one per page.
It was once believed that placing keywords in headings improved SEO, however, Google’s John Mueller has stated this SEO belief has been over-emphasized and that placing headings in keywords will not necessarily make your web page rank higher.
Instead, headings are useful for communicating what your content is about to search engines. That’s not to say you shouldn’t place keywords in headings; you still can, so long as they make contextual sense.
An internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website. Internal linking plays an important part in your site’s SEO because it lets Google find, index, and understand all the pages on your WordPress site.
Using links strategically sends page authority to important pages. In SEO, page authority is the value a search engine assigns a web page. The higher the value, the more likely the search engine will return a web page early in organic search results.
Adding internal links along with descriptive anchor text allows you to create a website hierarchy, drive organic traffic through your entire website, as well as encourage visitors to linger on your pages.
There are four different types of internal links you can use:
Title tags are the title of the pages users see in search results. They create first impressions and can encourage or deter people from clicking on your web page.
A good title tag should include a primary keyword and compel search engine users to find out more. Yoast SEO, for example, sets the title tag for your page with your heading, but you can overwrite this to include keyword variations.
The title page and page title may the same, but not always. Creating unique title pages is important because it prevents traffic cannibalization.
This is when two pages with the same domain rank for the same keyword and steal organic traffic from each other. The more unique your titles are the less likely this will happen.
Then, when it comes to writing meta descriptions, it’s best to keep them under 150 characters. Meta descriptions are short summaries explaining what a page is about—almost like a pitch to convince readers to click on your website.
Even though meta-descriptions do not factor in directly ranking in search results, they do impact click-through rates Ultimately, the more clicks your webpage receives, the higher it ranks.
According to Google’s Search Quality Rater’s Guideline, the search engine’s E-A-T principle has become a focus for SEOs. The idea is that a page’s search engine rank is determined by expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Therefore, at the very least, your site should have the following pages:
Besides these pages, you’ll also want to add social proof. Website visitors like knowing that others advocate for your product and services. You can either showcase review ratings or testimonial quotes, depending on your business.
For instance, fashion retailers will often have star reviews on product pages, whereas law firms prefer sharing client testimonials as they reveal more about the firm’s work ethic and services.
Technical SEO refers to the process of making your website easier for search engines to crawl and index. The goal is to make your website faster and easier to navigate and understand by humans and especially search engine bots.
A well-built website structure saves visitors time and speeds up searches. While WordPress themes take care of website structure relatively well, they still enable a fair amount of customization, which can affect information hierarchy.
Therefore, a clear and concise structure is not only vital for user experience but also WordPress SEO. It’s important to make your main navigation and subcategories clear and understandable. For instance, when a search spider lands on a category archive, it should understand all the content on the page belongs to the same topic as well as what that topic is.
Your website’s URL structure should also be organized according to your site hierarchy. Use real words (not symbols) and appropriate keyword coverage.
Furthermore, make sure the most important pages aren’t buried too deep within the site, i.e., whichever page you want to reach is no more than three clicks away from the homepage.
An XML sitemap is a file that features a text map of your website. It’s incredibly useful if your WordPress site is new because it probably won’t have any backlinks, which makes it harder for search engines to discover all its pages.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of free plugins available for this job. Just ensure they are set to update periodically, so your sitemap is always current as you add new posts and pages.
Even though WordPress generates a basic sitemap on its own, this includes everything you might have no-indexed, which can cause crawling errors on your site. There’s also no way to customize this default map unless you’re familiar with PHP code. For this reason, it’s best to use All in One SEO for this task.
WordPress defaults to using the URL of your website, which can end up being too long or truncated on search engines. However, if you use pretty permalinks, you’ll improve WordPress SEO and user experience.
Search engines find out what your posts and pages are about by “reading” their URLs. If the content of the permalink relates to the content of your post, it helps search engines legitimately understand what your post is about and sort of acts like a double verification.
For example, a URL like www.cakes.com/?p93 is really vague, whereas if it’s www.cakes.com/about-us, you can immediately tell it’s the about us page. You can also use a focus keyword in a URL if applicable.
If you remove pages on your website or implement changes that make content temporarily unavailable you should set up redirects to forward them to the appropriate URL. Broken links and 404 errors create an unpleasant user experience and make your website appear unprofessional.
And the thing is, while customers rarely land on them, bots index every single page unless you’ve told them not to; thus, they’ll discover all your broken links, which does not bode well for the overall rating of your website.
The WordPress SEO plugin All in One SEO offers a powerful redirection add-on that makes it easy to find broken links on your website and set up 301 redirections to fix them.
WordPress provides developers with a search engine visibility option. You can discourage search engines from indexing your website, especially if your website is being built, and you don’t want Google to index incomplete pages.
It’s quite common to forget about this block once a website is launched. To check your site’s visibility settings, go to Settings > Reading. You’ll find a checkbox at the bottom of the page that you should deactivate.
Structured data refers to the process of marking up the content on your pages to better explain it to search engine crawlers. Bots don’t see online information the same way humans do. Structured data adds context to your content and data.
It helps Google understand your data, making it more likely that you’ll not only rank higher in search results but also increase click-through rates. There are different types of Schema markup (ways to structure data) like star ratings, products, and local listings, etc., and you’ll have to decide what works best.
The main benefits of structured data are:
Users and search engines don’t like too many ads, especially when they take up too much space and distract from the page at hand. According to the Coalition for Better ads:
“Ad density is determined by summing the heights of all ads within the main content portion of a mobile page, then dividing by the total height of the main content portion of the page. For mobile devices, ad density cannot be higher than 30%. Meaning, ads that take up more than 30% of the vertical height of a page are intrusive.”
Ads that are 30% dense (or higher) make it hard for users to focus on the text they want to read, which can be extremely frustrating, leading to increased bounce rates and negative user experiences. In most cases, WordPress themes are designed with ad density in mind, and common sense prevails, but if you’re unsure, get a professional opinion.
Ads are only measured against your content, not the viewpoint, headers, footers, and navigation. If Google crawls your site and finds you fail their ad standard, they will sanction your website and give you a 30-day grace period to bring your website up to standard.
Part of what makes a WordPress website so appealing is its ease of use and the fact that plugins give you full control over how you want your website to run. While you don’t need plugins to create a WordPress site, you will require them for optimization purposes.
It’s impossible to run a successful WordPress website without them. Plugins automate what tasks that an SEO specialist or a website builder would traditionally undertake. They save time and make website optimization a tonne easier.
You can typically find themes and plugins for free. However, the premium versions provide better features and guaranteed support. It’s a good idea to do a bit of research and decide which plugins will deliver the best ROI and boost your visibility in organic rankings.
Let’s look more closely at the plugins we recommend, so you can leverage their full potential to best optimize your WordPress site.
Used by over 3 million website owners, All in one SEO is WordPress’s original SEO plugin used to improve SEO. Aside from onsite optimization options, AIOSEO offers advanced SEO suggestions to boost your rankings and traffic.
It takes everything you could possibly need for SEO and packs it into one application. AIOSEO’s Set-up Wizard automatically selects the best SEO settings for your WordPress site. In less than 10 minutes, you can have your website set up based on your business’s unique profile.
The Yoast SEO plugin is specifically designed to improve your website’s on-page SEO, i.e., keywords, meta descriptions, links, and images. Among its many impressive features, what makes Yoast SEO stand out is its built-in readability score analysis, which shows how easy it is for your users and search engines to understand your web content.
With Yoast SEO premium, you can even optimize your post with synonyms and related key phrases. It also comes with SEMRush integration that helps find related keywords with decent search volume and provides website owners with valuable search trend data.
ShortPixel is a great WordPress SEO plugin used to resize and compress images of all file formats, including JPG/JPEG, PNG, GIF, and PDF. This plugin uses minimal resources and works well with any shared cloud, VPS, or dedicated web hosting.
With ShortPixel, you can choose between Lossy, Glossy, and Lossless compression modes. If you’re unsure, you can use its testing links to help you decide. Upon uploading your compressed images, the plugin also reveals how much space you’ve saved.
Hummingbird is a WordPress caching plugin that deals specifically with speed optimization. It scans your website, identifies files that are slowing it down, and provides tips to ensure your WordPress site runs at top speed.
The biggest advantage of Hummingbird is that it’s easy to use and provides granular control of exactly which pages are cached. Although this comes with a longer setup process, it’s well worth the time, especially if you have a large eCommerce website.
MonsterInsights is the best Analytics plugin for WordPress because it allows you to connect to Google Analytics with the click of a button. With MonsterInsights, you can set up event tracking, outbound link tracking, form tracking, and more.
Essentially, it gives you access to the most significant metrics in your WordPress dashboard. Therefore, you monitor and optimize campaigns from within your WordPress dashboard without having to log into other accounts.
Google Search Console helps website owners monitor and troubleshoot issues related to how search engines crawl and index their websites. It’s a free platform that lets you view referring domains, mobile site performance, rich search results, and highest-traffic queries and pages.
While Analytics monitors user behavior, Google Search Console focuses on how search engines view and rank your websites. You can resolve server errors, site load issues, and security issues to ensure your website is technically sound.
WooCommerce is a free plugin that takes all of WordPress’ strength and stability and puts it to work for small to large-sized online merchants. It’s a flexible and dependable eCommerce platform that allows store owners to create responsive and high-performing online shops within budget.
Just like WordPress, it’s easy for beginners to use because you don’t need any coding knowledge. Case in point: WooCommerce powers 30% of all online stores!
WooCommerce streamlines the website building process, enabling you to turn your existing WordPress site into an online store in minutes. Its integrations also make configuring and running your store much easier.
While its default settings are pretty decent, you can customize your store to match your precise needs.
Intuitive, simple, and effective; there’s a lot to favor about WordPress, over and above its incredible eCommerce SEO abilities. If you’re a website owner interested in using this search engine-friendly CMS platform but have no idea how to optimize it, our experts can help.
Comrade is an eCommerce digital marketing agency offering effective WordPress SEO and WooCommerce development services. On average, our clients experience a 55% average increase in transactions when implementing our high-performance digital marketing and SEO strategies. Contact us to find out how can improve your site’s SEO.
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