Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step)

Improving your WordPress SEO is crucial for getting more traffic to your website. Sadly most WordPress SEO guides are too technical for new users to get started. If you are serious about increasing your website traffic, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress… Read More »

The post Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.

Improving your WordPress SEO is crucial for getting more traffic to your website. Sadly most WordPress SEO guides are too technical for new users to get started. If you are serious about increasing your website traffic, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress SEO best practices. In this guide, we will share the top WordPress SEO tips to help you improve your WordPress SEO and get more organic traffic.

WordPress SEO for Beginners

You might have heard experts saying that WordPress is SEO friendly. This is actually why a lot of people choose WordPress to start a blog or website.

While WordPress makes sure that the code it generates follows the SEO best practices, there is a lot more you need to do if you want to maximize your SEO efforts.

We have a number of actionable steps that you need to take to properly optimize your WordPress SEO.

To make it easy, we have created a table of content to help you easily navigate through our ultimate WordPress SEO guide.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Basics of WordPress SEO

The Best WordPress SEO Plugin

WordPress SEO Best Practices

Speed and Security for WordPress SEO

Finally, see more SEO tools and resources to take your WordPress SEO even farther.

Introduction

We know the idea of optimizing for WordPress SEO can be intimidating for beginners, especially if you’re not not a tech geek.

But don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start here to learn the basics, and then you can start applying them to your own website.

What is SEO?

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.

Search engine optimization isn’t about tricking Google or gaming the system. It’s simply about creating a website that has optimized code and formatting which makes it easy for search engines to find your website.

When people search the web for the topics you write about, your search-engine-optimized content will appear higher in the search results, and you’ll get more people clicking through to your website.

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Why SEO is important

Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites.

Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. But those algorithms aren’t perfect — they still need your help to understand what your content is about.

If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

It is really important for all business owners to make their website search engine friendly, so that they can maximize their search traffic.

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Basics of WordPress SEO

SEO can get technical, but it doesn’t have to be. Just learning a few basic SEO tips to optimize your site can give you a noticeable boost in your website traffic.

You don’t have to be a tech genius to use the techniques below. If you’re already using WordPress, then you’ve got what it takes!

Let’s get started optimizing your website.

Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings

WordPress comes with a built-in option to hide your website from search engines. The purpose of this option is to give you time to work on your website before it’s ready to go public.

However, sometimes this option can get checked accidentally and it makes your website unavailable to search engines.

If your website is not appearing in search results, then the first thing you need to do is to make sure that this option is unchecked.

Simply log in to the admin area of your WordPress site and visit Settings » Reading page.

Search engine visibility settings in WordPress

You need to scroll down to the ‘Search Engine Visibility’ section and make sure that the box next to ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is unchecked.

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your changes.

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SEO friendly URLs contain words that clearly explain the content of the page, and they’re easy to read by both humans and search engines.

Some examples of SEO friendly URLs are:

http://www.wpbeginner.com/how-to-install-wordpress/
http://www.wpbeginner.com/common-wordpress-errors-and-how-to-fix-them/

Notice that these URLs are readable and a user can guess what they will see on the page just by looking at the URL text.

So what does a non-SEO friendly URL look like?

http://www.wpbeginner.com/?p=10467
http://example.com/archives/123

Notice that these URLs use numbers unrelated to the content, and a user cannot guess what they will find on the page by looking at the URL.

Using SEO friendly permalink structure improves your chances of getting better positions in search results.

Here is how you can check and update your WordPress site’s permalink structure.

You need to visit the Settings » Permalinks page. Select the post name option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

SEO friendly URL structure in WordPress

For more detailed instructions take a look at our guide on what is a SEO friendly URL structure in WordPress.

Note: If your website has been running for more than 6 months, then please don’t change your permalink structure unless you’re using the numbers option. If you’re using Day and Name or Month and Name, continue using that.

By changing your permalink structure on an established site, you will lose all of your social media share count and run the risk of losing your existing SEO ranking.

If you must change your permalink structure, then hire a professional, so they can setup proper redirects. You’ll still lose your social share counts on the pages.

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WWW vs non-WWW

If you are just starting out with your website, then you need to choose whether you want to use www (http://www.example.com) or non-www (http://example.com) in your site’s URL.

Search engines consider these to be two different websites, so this means you need to choose one and stick to it.

You can set your preference by visiting the Settings » General page. Add your preferred URL in both the ‘WordPress Address’ and ‘Site Address’ fields.

Non-www or www in WordPress URLs

Despite what someone else might say, from a SEO standpoint there’s no advantage to using one or another.

For more detailed information on this topic, take a look at our guide on www vs non-www – which is better for WordPress SEO.

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The Best WordPress SEO plugin

One of the best part about WordPress is that there’s a plugin for everything, and SEO is no exception. There are thousands of WordPress SEO plugins which makes it harder for beginners to choose the best WordPress SEO plugin.

Instead of installing separate plugins for individual SEO tasks, we will help you choose the best WordPress SEO plugin that does it all, and it’s 100% free.

Choosing the Best WordPress SEO Plugin

Choosing the best WordPress SEO plugin

When it comes to choosing the best WordPress SEO plugin, you will most likely narrow your choices down to the two most popular solutions: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack.

They are both effective solutions, and we’ve done a pros and cons comparison of Yoast SEO vs All in One SEO Pack.

At WPBeginner, we use Yoast SEO, so in this tutorial we’ll be using Yoast SEO for screenshots and examples.

Regardless, we have a step by step guide on properly setting up each of these plugins:

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Add XML Sitemaps in WordPress

xml sitemap

An XML Sitemap is a specially formatted file that lists every single page on your website. This makes it easy for search engines to find all of your content.

While adding an XML sitemap does not boost your site’s search rankings, it does help search engines find the pages quickly and start ranking them.

If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, then it will automatically create an XML sitemap for you. To find your sitemap, just go to this URL (don’t forget to replace example.com with your own domain name):

http://example.com/sitemap_index.xml

We will show you how to submit your XML sitemap to Google in the next step.

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Add Your Site to Google Search Console

Google Search Console

Google Search Console also known as Webmaster Tools is a set of tools offered by Google to give website owners a look at how their content is seen by the search engine.

It provides reports and data to help you understand how your pages appear in search results. You also get to see the actual search terms people are using to find your website, how each page appears in the search results, and how often your pages are clicked.

All this information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not. You can then plan your content strategy accordingly.

Google Search Console also alerts you when there is something wrong with your website, like when search crawlers are unable to access it, find duplicate content, or restricted resources.

We have a step by step guide on how to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console.

If you’re using Yoast SEO, then follow step 11 in our Yoast SEO setup guide.

If you’re not using Yoast SEO, then you can watch our video that shows an alternative way:

Once you have added your website to Google Search Console, click on the Crawl menu and then select Sitemaps.

Crawl section in Google Search Console

After that you need to click on the Add Sitemap button.

Adding your wordpress xml sitemap in Google webmaster tools

Your main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml so go ahead and submit that.

Once you have successfully added your sitemap, it will appear as pending. It does take Google some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you would be able to see some stats about your sitemap. It will show you the number of links it found in your sitemap, how many of them got indexed, a ratio of images and web pages, etc.

We recommend that you check your Search Console at least on a monthly basis for gathering insights and see your website’s SEO progress.

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Optimizing Your Blog Posts for SEO

Often beginners make the mistake of thinking that installing and activating a WordPress SEO plugin is all what’s needed. SEO is an ongoing process that you must keep up with if you want to see maximum results.

Yoast SEO allows you to add a title, description, and focus keyword to to every blog post and page. It also shows you a preview of what users will see when they Google your website.

We recommend that you optimize your title and description to get maximum clicks.

When writing your blog post, simply scroll down to the Yoast SEO section and take full advantage of it.

Yoast SEO meta box

If you’re wondering how to choose a focus keyword, what is a good title, or what is a good meta description, then we have covered it in details in our beginners guide to optimize your blog posts for SEO.

We highly recommend that you read it because on-page SEO is crucial for your success.

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WordPress SEO Best Practices

If you follow the basics of WordPress SEO and use the best WordPress SEO plugin, you will already be ahead of most websites.

However if you want even better results, then you need to follow the WordPress SEO best practices below.

These aren’t too technical and most won’t even require you to touch any code. But they will make a big difference if you follow them.

Properly Using Categories and Tags in WordPress

Category and tags

WordPress allows you to sort your blog posts into categories and tags. This makes it easy for you to manage your content by topics, and for your users to find the content they’re looking for.

Categories and tags also help search engines understand your website structure and content.

Often beginners get confused on how to best use categories and tags. After explaining this to thousands of readers, here’s how we approach categories and tags.

Categories are meant for broad grouping of your posts. If your blog was a book, then categories will be the table of content.

For example, on a personal blog you can have categories like music, food, travel, etc. Categories are hierarchical, so you can add child categories to them.

On the other hand, tags are more specific keywords that describe the contents of an individual post. For example, a blog post filed under food category can have tags like salad, breakfast, pancakes, etc. Think of these as indexes section in a text book.

For more on this topic, see our guide on categories vs tags and SEO best practices for sorting your content.

By using categories and tags properly, you make it easy for your users to browse your website. Since it’s easy for users, it also makes it easier for search engines to browse your website.

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Make Internal Linking a Habit

Internal linking in WordPress

Search engines assign each page on your website a score (page authority). The recipe of this score is kept secret so that people cannot game the results. However, the most common signals of authority are links.

This is why it’s important that you link to your own content from your other blog posts and pages.

You should make it a habit to interlink your own posts whenever possible. If you have multiple authors, then create a pre-publish blog post checklist that requires them to interlink at least 3 other blog posts.

This will help you boost your pageviews, increases the time users spend on your site, and ultimately will improve the SEO score of your individual blog posts and pages.

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Optimize WordPress Comments

Optimize WordPress comments

Comments can be a strong indication of user engagement on your website. Engaged users means more links back to your site, more traffic, and improved SEO.

But you need to make sure that your comments are real and not spam. Spammers submit comments with bad links which could affect and even ruin your search rankings.

This is why we recommend everyone to start using Akismet. It is one of the two plugins that come pre-installed with every WordPress site, and it helps you combat comment spam.

If Akismet alone is unable to handle comment spam, then see these tips and tools to combat comment spam in WordPress.

If your blog posts attract a lot of genuine, spam-free comments, then you should pat yourself on the shoulder for building such an engaging website!

However, too many comments on a post can make it load slower which also affects your search engine rankings. (Keep reading below to find out more about how speed affects SEO.)

To prepare your website so that it can handle the burden your comments put on your server and speed, you can split comments into multiple pages. See our tutorial on how to paginate comments in WordPress.

(If you’d like to get more comments on your site, check out these 11 ways to get more comments on your WordPress blog posts.)

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NoFollow External Links in WordPress

NoFollow external links

As mentioned above, links help search engines decide which pages are important. When you link to a website, you are passing some of your site’s SEO score to that link. This SEO score is called “link juice.”

For good search rankings you need to make sure that you are getting more link juice from other websites than you are giving away.

Adding the “nofollow” attribute to external links (links to websites that you don’t own) instructs search engines not to follow those links. This helps you save link juice.

A normal external link looks like this in HTML:

<a href="http://example.com">Example Website</a>

An external link with the nofollow attribute looks like this:

<a href="http://example.com" rel="nofollow">Example Website</a>

You can also add rel=”nofollow” checkbox to the insert link popup. This will allow you to easily add nofollow to external links.

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Full Posts vs Summaries or Excerpts

Full posts vs summary or excerpts

WordPress displays and links to your posts from a number of pages like home page, category archive, tags archive, date archive, author pages, etc.

By default, it shows the full article content on all these pages. This affects your site’s SEO, as search engines may find it to be duplicate content. Full articles also make your archive pages load slower.

Showing full articles everywhere also affects your page views. For example, users who subscribe to your RSS feed will be able to read the full article in their feed reader without ever visiting your website.

The easiest way to solve this is by showing summaries or excerpts instead of full articles.

You can do this by going to Settings » Reading and select summary.

For detailed instructions, see our guide on how to customize WordPress excerpts without coding.

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Speed and Security for WordPress SEO

Even if you follow all the WordPress SEO tips and best practices above, if your site is slow or gets taken down by a hacker, your search engine rankings will take a big hit.

Here’s how to prevent your site from losing search engine traffic due to slow performance or lax security.

Optimize Your Site’s Speed and Performance

Optimize your WordPress site's speed and performance

Research shows that in the internet age, the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish.

Web usability experts believe that users decide whether they want to stay or leave within few seconds of visiting a website.

That means that as a website owner, you only have a few seconds to present your content and engage users. You don’t want to waste this precious time making your visitor wait for your website to load. Search engines like Google admit that they rank faster websites higher than slow loading websites.

If you need to improve your site’s speed, check out this expert advice on 18 useful tricks to speed up WordPress and boost performance.

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Optimizing Images in WordPress for SEO

Images are more engaging than text but they also take more time to load. If you are not careful with image sizes and quality, then they can slow down your website.

You need to make sure that you use images that are optimized to load faster. See our guide on how to speed up WordPress by optimizing images for the web.

Another trick you can use to optimize your images for search engines is to use descriptive title and alt tags. These tags help search engines understand what your image is about. They also help users with visual impairment as their screen readers can read the alt and title tags to them.

WordPress allows you to add title and alt tags when you upload an image.

Add alt and title tags to your images in WordPress

If you are a photographer or add a lot of images to your WordPress site, then you need to use a gallery plugin.

We recommend using Envira Gallery. In our speed tests, we found it to be the fastest WordPress gallery plugin. It’s also fully responsive and SEO friendly out of the box.

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Security and Safety of Your WordPress Site

WordPress security

Each week, Google blacklists around 20,000 websites for malware and around 50,000 for phishing. When a site is blacklisted, it doesn’t show up in any search results at all.

This means that the security of your WordPress site is crucial for good rankings. You don’t want all your hard work on SEO to go to waste if your site is compromised by a hacker.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to keep your WordPress site safe — see the step by step instructions in our ultimate WordPress security guide.

At WPBeginner, we use Sucuri to protect our website against attacks. To see why we recommend this service, check out our case study of how Sucuri helped us block 450,000 WordPress attacks in 3 months.

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Start Using SSL/HTTPS

A site secured by SSL and HTTPS

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technology that encrypts the connection between a user’s browser and the server they are connecting to. This adds an additional security layer to your WordPress site.

Websites secured with SSL are indicated by a padlock sign in the browser’s address bar. This makes your website more trustworthy, and it is required if you are running an online store with WordPress and processing sensitive payment information.

If you are using Bluehost, then you can purchase a SSL certificate. If you’re going to purchase your SSL certificate through your web hosting company, see our guide on how to add SSL and HTTPS in WordPress.

You can also get free SSL with Let’s Encrypt. Several WordPress hosting companies like Siteground, Dreamhost, and WPEngine have already started offering easy Let’s Encrypt integrations.

For step by step instructions, see our guide on how to add free SSL in WordPress with Let’s Encrypt.

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More SEO Tools and Resources

Once you get the hang of WordPress SEO best practices, you’ll want to take your skills even further to get ahead of your competition.

We have compiled a list of best WordPress SEO plugins and tools that you should use to boost your SEO. If you’re ready to try some more advanced techniques, you can also check out our archive of WordPress SEO articles.

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We hope this article helped you learn how to properly optimize your WordPress site for SEO. Go ahead and implement a few of these WordPress SEO tips, and you should see an increase in your traffic within a few months as the search engines process your changes.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.

Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step)

Improving your WordPress SEO is crucial for getting more traffic to your website. Sadly most WordPress SEO guides are too technical for new users to get started. If you are serious about increasing your website traffic, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress… Read More »

The post Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.

Improving your WordPress SEO is crucial for getting more traffic to your website. Sadly most WordPress SEO guides are too technical for new users to get started. If you are serious about increasing your website traffic, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress SEO best practices. In this guide, we will share the top WordPress SEO tips to help you improve your WordPress SEO and get more organic traffic.

WordPress SEO for Beginners

You might have heard experts saying that WordPress is SEO friendly. This is actually why a lot of people choose WordPress to start a blog or website.

While WordPress makes sure that the code it generates follows the SEO best practices, there is a lot more you need to do if you want to maximize your SEO efforts.

We have a number of actionable steps that you need to take to properly optimize your WordPress SEO.

To make it easy, we have created a table of content to help you easily navigate through our ultimate WordPress SEO guide.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Basics of WordPress SEO

The Best WordPress SEO Plugin

WordPress SEO Best Practices

Speed and Security for WordPress SEO

Finally, see more SEO tools and resources to take your WordPress SEO even farther.

Introduction

We know the idea of optimizing for WordPress SEO can be intimidating for beginners, especially if you’re not not a tech geek.

But don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start here to learn the basics, and then you can start applying them to your own website.

What is SEO?

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.

Search engine optimization isn’t about tricking Google or gaming the system. It’s simply about creating a website that has optimized code and formatting which makes it easy for search engines to find your website.

When people search the web for the topics you write about, your search-engine-optimized content will appear higher in the search results, and you’ll get more people clicking through to your website.

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Why SEO is important

Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites.

Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. But those algorithms aren’t perfect — they still need your help to understand what your content is about.

If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

It is really important for all business owners to make their website search engine friendly, so that they can maximize their search traffic.

[Back to top ↑]

Basics of WordPress SEO

SEO can get technical, but it doesn’t have to be. Just learning a few basic SEO tips to optimize your site can give you a noticeable boost in your website traffic.

You don’t have to be a tech genius to use the techniques below. If you’re already using WordPress, then you’ve got what it takes!

Let’s get started optimizing your website.

Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings

WordPress comes with a built-in option to hide your website from search engines. The purpose of this option is to give you time to work on your website before it’s ready to go public.

However, sometimes this option can get checked accidentally and it makes your website unavailable to search engines.

If your website is not appearing in search results, then the first thing you need to do is to make sure that this option is unchecked.

Simply log in to the admin area of your WordPress site and visit Settings » Reading page.

Search engine visibility settings in WordPress

You need to scroll down to the ‘Search Engine Visibility’ section and make sure that the box next to ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is unchecked.

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your changes.

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SEO friendly URLs contain words that clearly explain the content of the page, and they’re easy to read by both humans and search engines.

Some examples of SEO friendly URLs are:

http://www.wpbeginner.com/how-to-install-wordpress/
http://www.wpbeginner.com/common-wordpress-errors-and-how-to-fix-them/

Notice that these URLs are readable and a user can guess what they will see on the page just by looking at the URL text.

So what does a non-SEO friendly URL look like?

http://www.wpbeginner.com/?p=10467
http://example.com/archives/123

Notice that these URLs use numbers unrelated to the content, and a user cannot guess what they will find on the page by looking at the URL.

Using SEO friendly permalink structure improves your chances of getting better positions in search results.

Here is how you can check and update your WordPress site’s permalink structure.

You need to visit the Settings » Permalinks page. Select the post name option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

SEO friendly URL structure in WordPress

For more detailed instructions take a look at our guide on what is a SEO friendly URL structure in WordPress.

Note: If your website has been running for more than 6 months, then please don’t change your permalink structure unless you’re using the numbers option. If you’re using Day and Name or Month and Name, continue using that.

By changing your permalink structure on an established site, you will lose all of your social media share count and run the risk of losing your existing SEO ranking.

If you must change your permalink structure, then hire a professional, so they can setup proper redirects. You’ll still lose your social share counts on the pages.

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WWW vs non-WWW

If you are just starting out with your website, then you need to choose whether you want to use www (http://www.example.com) or non-www (http://example.com) in your site’s URL.

Search engines consider these to be two different websites, so this means you need to choose one and stick to it.

You can set your preference by visiting the Settings » General page. Add your preferred URL in both the ‘WordPress Address’ and ‘Site Address’ fields.

Non-www or www in WordPress URLs

Despite what someone else might say, from a SEO standpoint there’s no advantage to using one or another.

For more detailed information on this topic, take a look at our guide on www vs non-www – which is better for WordPress SEO.

[Back to top ↑]

The Best WordPress SEO plugin

One of the best part about WordPress is that there’s a plugin for everything, and SEO is no exception. There are thousands of WordPress SEO plugins which makes it harder for beginners to choose the best WordPress SEO plugin.

Instead of installing separate plugins for individual SEO tasks, we will help you choose the best WordPress SEO plugin that does it all, and it’s 100% free.

Choosing the Best WordPress SEO Plugin

Choosing the best WordPress SEO plugin

When it comes to choosing the best WordPress SEO plugin, you will most likely narrow your choices down to the two most popular solutions: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack.

They are both effective solutions, and we’ve done a pros and cons comparison of Yoast SEO vs All in One SEO Pack.

At WPBeginner, we use Yoast SEO, so in this tutorial we’ll be using Yoast SEO for screenshots and examples.

Regardless, we have a step by step guide on properly setting up each of these plugins:

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Add XML Sitemaps in WordPress

xml sitemap

An XML Sitemap is a specially formatted file that lists every single page on your website. This makes it easy for search engines to find all of your content.

While adding an XML sitemap does not boost your site’s search rankings, it does help search engines find the pages quickly and start ranking them.

If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, then it will automatically create an XML sitemap for you. To find your sitemap, just go to this URL (don’t forget to replace example.com with your own domain name):

http://example.com/sitemap_index.xml

We will show you how to submit your XML sitemap to Google in the next step.

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Add Your Site to Google Search Console

Google Search Console

Google Search Console also known as Webmaster Tools is a set of tools offered by Google to give website owners a look at how their content is seen by the search engine.

It provides reports and data to help you understand how your pages appear in search results. You also get to see the actual search terms people are using to find your website, how each page appears in the search results, and how often your pages are clicked.

All this information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not. You can then plan your content strategy accordingly.

Google Search Console also alerts you when there is something wrong with your website, like when search crawlers are unable to access it, find duplicate content, or restricted resources.

We have a step by step guide on how to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console.

If you’re using Yoast SEO, then follow step 11 in our Yoast SEO setup guide.

If you’re not using Yoast SEO, then you can watch our video that shows an alternative way:

Once you have added your website to Google Search Console, click on the Crawl menu and then select Sitemaps.

Crawl section in Google Search Console

After that you need to click on the Add Sitemap button.

Adding your wordpress xml sitemap in Google webmaster tools

Your main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml so go ahead and submit that.

Once you have successfully added your sitemap, it will appear as pending. It does take Google some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you would be able to see some stats about your sitemap. It will show you the number of links it found in your sitemap, how many of them got indexed, a ratio of images and web pages, etc.

We recommend that you check your Search Console at least on a monthly basis for gathering insights and see your website’s SEO progress.

[Back to top ↑]

Optimizing Your Blog Posts for SEO

Often beginners make the mistake of thinking that installing and activating a WordPress SEO plugin is all what’s needed. SEO is an ongoing process that you must keep up with if you want to see maximum results.

Yoast SEO allows you to add a title, description, and focus keyword to to every blog post and page. It also shows you a preview of what users will see when they Google your website.

We recommend that you optimize your title and description to get maximum clicks.

When writing your blog post, simply scroll down to the Yoast SEO section and take full advantage of it.

Yoast SEO meta box

If you’re wondering how to choose a focus keyword, what is a good title, or what is a good meta description, then we have covered it in details in our beginners guide to optimize your blog posts for SEO.

We highly recommend that you read it because on-page SEO is crucial for your success.

[Back to top ↑]

WordPress SEO Best Practices

If you follow the basics of WordPress SEO and use the best WordPress SEO plugin, you will already be ahead of most websites.

However if you want even better results, then you need to follow the WordPress SEO best practices below.

These aren’t too technical and most won’t even require you to touch any code. But they will make a big difference if you follow them.

Properly Using Categories and Tags in WordPress

Category and tags

WordPress allows you to sort your blog posts into categories and tags. This makes it easy for you to manage your content by topics, and for your users to find the content they’re looking for.

Categories and tags also help search engines understand your website structure and content.

Often beginners get confused on how to best use categories and tags. After explaining this to thousands of readers, here’s how we approach categories and tags.

Categories are meant for broad grouping of your posts. If your blog was a book, then categories will be the table of content.

For example, on a personal blog you can have categories like music, food, travel, etc. Categories are hierarchical, so you can add child categories to them.

On the other hand, tags are more specific keywords that describe the contents of an individual post. For example, a blog post filed under food category can have tags like salad, breakfast, pancakes, etc. Think of these as indexes section in a text book.

For more on this topic, see our guide on categories vs tags and SEO best practices for sorting your content.

By using categories and tags properly, you make it easy for your users to browse your website. Since it’s easy for users, it also makes it easier for search engines to browse your website.

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Make Internal Linking a Habit

Internal linking in WordPress

Search engines assign each page on your website a score (page authority). The recipe of this score is kept secret so that people cannot game the results. However, the most common signals of authority are links.

This is why it’s important that you link to your own content from your other blog posts and pages.

You should make it a habit to interlink your own posts whenever possible. If you have multiple authors, then create a pre-publish blog post checklist that requires them to interlink at least 3 other blog posts.

This will help you boost your pageviews, increases the time users spend on your site, and ultimately will improve the SEO score of your individual blog posts and pages.

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Optimize WordPress Comments

Optimize WordPress comments

Comments can be a strong indication of user engagement on your website. Engaged users means more links back to your site, more traffic, and improved SEO.

But you need to make sure that your comments are real and not spam. Spammers submit comments with bad links which could affect and even ruin your search rankings.

This is why we recommend everyone to start using Akismet. It is one of the two plugins that come pre-installed with every WordPress site, and it helps you combat comment spam.

If Akismet alone is unable to handle comment spam, then see these tips and tools to combat comment spam in WordPress.

If your blog posts attract a lot of genuine, spam-free comments, then you should pat yourself on the shoulder for building such an engaging website!

However, too many comments on a post can make it load slower which also affects your search engine rankings. (Keep reading below to find out more about how speed affects SEO.)

To prepare your website so that it can handle the burden your comments put on your server and speed, you can split comments into multiple pages. See our tutorial on how to paginate comments in WordPress.

(If you’d like to get more comments on your site, check out these 11 ways to get more comments on your WordPress blog posts.)

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NoFollow External Links in WordPress

NoFollow external links

As mentioned above, links help search engines decide which pages are important. When you link to a website, you are passing some of your site’s SEO score to that link. This SEO score is called “link juice.”

For good search rankings you need to make sure that you are getting more link juice from other websites than you are giving away.

Adding the “nofollow” attribute to external links (links to websites that you don’t own) instructs search engines not to follow those links. This helps you save link juice.

A normal external link looks like this in HTML:

<a href="http://example.com">Example Website</a>

An external link with the nofollow attribute looks like this:

<a href="http://example.com" rel="nofollow">Example Website</a>

You can also add rel=”nofollow” checkbox to the insert link popup. This will allow you to easily add nofollow to external links.

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Full Posts vs Summaries or Excerpts

Full posts vs summary or excerpts

WordPress displays and links to your posts from a number of pages like home page, category archive, tags archive, date archive, author pages, etc.

By default, it shows the full article content on all these pages. This affects your site’s SEO, as search engines may find it to be duplicate content. Full articles also make your archive pages load slower.

Showing full articles everywhere also affects your page views. For example, users who subscribe to your RSS feed will be able to read the full article in their feed reader without ever visiting your website.

The easiest way to solve this is by showing summaries or excerpts instead of full articles.

You can do this by going to Settings » Reading and select summary.

For detailed instructions, see our guide on how to customize WordPress excerpts without coding.

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Speed and Security for WordPress SEO

Even if you follow all the WordPress SEO tips and best practices above, if your site is slow or gets taken down by a hacker, your search engine rankings will take a big hit.

Here’s how to prevent your site from losing search engine traffic due to slow performance or lax security.

Optimize Your Site’s Speed and Performance

Optimize your WordPress site's speed and performance

Research shows that in the internet age, the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish.

Web usability experts believe that users decide whether they want to stay or leave within few seconds of visiting a website.

That means that as a website owner, you only have a few seconds to present your content and engage users. You don’t want to waste this precious time making your visitor wait for your website to load. Search engines like Google admit that they rank faster websites higher than slow loading websites.

If you need to improve your site’s speed, check out this expert advice on 18 useful tricks to speed up WordPress and boost performance.

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Optimizing Images in WordPress for SEO

Images are more engaging than text but they also take more time to load. If you are not careful with image sizes and quality, then they can slow down your website.

You need to make sure that you use images that are optimized to load faster. See our guide on how to speed up WordPress by optimizing images for the web.

Another trick you can use to optimize your images for search engines is to use descriptive title and alt tags. These tags help search engines understand what your image is about. They also help users with visual impairment as their screen readers can read the alt and title tags to them.

WordPress allows you to add title and alt tags when you upload an image.

Add alt and title tags to your images in WordPress

If you are a photographer or add a lot of images to your WordPress site, then you need to use a gallery plugin.

We recommend using Envira Gallery. In our speed tests, we found it to be the fastest WordPress gallery plugin. It’s also fully responsive and SEO friendly out of the box.

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Security and Safety of Your WordPress Site

WordPress security

Each week, Google blacklists around 20,000 websites for malware and around 50,000 for phishing. When a site is blacklisted, it doesn’t show up in any search results at all.

This means that the security of your WordPress site is crucial for good rankings. You don’t want all your hard work on SEO to go to waste if your site is compromised by a hacker.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to keep your WordPress site safe — see the step by step instructions in our ultimate WordPress security guide.

At WPBeginner, we use Sucuri to protect our website against attacks. To see why we recommend this service, check out our case study of how Sucuri helped us block 450,000 WordPress attacks in 3 months.

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Start Using SSL/HTTPS

A site secured by SSL and HTTPS

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technology that encrypts the connection between a user’s browser and the server they are connecting to. This adds an additional security layer to your WordPress site.

Websites secured with SSL are indicated by a padlock sign in the browser’s address bar. This makes your website more trustworthy, and it is required if you are running an online store with WordPress and processing sensitive payment information.

If you are using Bluehost, then you can purchase a SSL certificate. If you’re going to purchase your SSL certificate through your web hosting company, see our guide on how to add SSL and HTTPS in WordPress.

You can also get free SSL with Let’s Encrypt. Several WordPress hosting companies like Siteground, Dreamhost, and WPEngine have already started offering easy Let’s Encrypt integrations.

For step by step instructions, see our guide on how to add free SSL in WordPress with Let’s Encrypt.

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More SEO Tools and Resources

Once you get the hang of WordPress SEO best practices, you’ll want to take your skills even further to get ahead of your competition.

We have compiled a list of best WordPress SEO plugins and tools that you should use to boost your SEO. If you’re ready to try some more advanced techniques, you can also check out our archive of WordPress SEO articles.

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We hope this article helped you learn how to properly optimize your WordPress site for SEO. Go ahead and implement a few of these WordPress SEO tips, and you should see an increase in your traffic within a few months as the search engines process your changes.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.

9 Best WordPress SEO Plugins and Tools That You Should Use

Search engines are a major source of traffic for most websites. That’s why our users often ask us for SEO tips and plugins that can help improve SEO of their WordPress sites. In this article, we will share 9 best WordPress SEO plugins and tools… Read More »

To leave a comment please visit 9 Best WordPress SEO Plugins and Tools That You Should Use on WPBeginner.

Search engines are a major source of traffic for most websites. That’s why our users often ask us for SEO tips and plugins that can help improve SEO of their WordPress sites. In this article, we will share 9 best WordPress SEO plugins and tools that will improve SEO of your website.

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO plugin

It is one of the most downloaded WordPress plugin of all times. Yoast’s WordPress SEO is a comprehensive solution for all your on-site SEO needs.

It allows you to add SEO title, meta description, and meta keywords to each post and page of your site.

You can also write custom title for your main site, archives, category and tag pages. It also adds Open Graph meta data, Twitter Cards, Sitemaps and ping search engines whenever you update your site.

The list of features for WordPress SEO is extremely long. Check out why we use WordPress SEO on WPBeginner and all our websites. After that, head over to learn how to install and setup WordPress SEO plugin.

Once you do that, then look at our tips for optimizing your blog posts.

2. SEMrush

SEMrush

SEMRush is a tool that Pros use to gather analytics and insights from their competitor’s to help improve their own SEO.

You can learn about organic keywords to rank for, places where you can get backlinks from, insights into your competitor’s advertising strategies, and so much more.

SEMrush is a paid subscription and is used by thousands of SEO professionals all over the world. It can provide you an enormous wealth of data.

3. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner

No one on the planet has more insights into what people are searching for than the search giant Google.

Did you know that you can get your own keyword ideas from Google itself by using the Google Keyword Planner tool.

This free tool is offered to Google’s advertisers for free and anyone can use it. It’s main purpose is to show advertisers the keywords they can bid on for their advertising campaigns. It also helps advertisers choose right keywords by showing them an estimate of search volume, number of results, and difficulty level.

As a content marketer or blogger, you can use this data to find keywords with high search volume, high advertiser interest, and more importantly keywords where you can easily outrank all other sites.

4. KeywordTool.io

KeywordTool.io

Keyword Tool is one of the best free keyword research tool available right now. It allows you to simply generate keyword ideas by typing in a keyword. These keyword suggestions are gathered from Google’s auto suggest feature.

These keyword suggestions are a treasure of information. Google autocomplete suggest keywords based on how often a keyword is used for the search. This means that the top most results are the most frequently searched terms on Google for that particular keyword.

Keyword Tool is amazingly fast, and most importantly it is completely free for anyone to use. You can use it to optimize content on your WordPress site. It also allows you to get keyword suggestions from YouTube, Bing, and App Store as well.

5. Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer

Developed by Moz, this free tool allows you to check data for any domain name. You can see who is linking to that domain and what anchor texts they are using. Apart from that, Open Site Explorer offers a wealth of information like top pages, linking domains, which pages are linked on your site, etc.

This tool is free, but has daily search limits for each person.

To unlock the full power, you would need a Moz Pro Subscription which also gets you access to their other tools as well.

6. LinkPatrol

LinkPatrol

LinkPatrol is a premium WordPress plugin which allows you to control all the links on your website.

You can monitor all the outgoing links on your site, find out which links are giving away link juice, and more.

LinkPatrol is less resource intensive than other free plugins that do the same job. It provides a quicker and efficient way to clean up all your anchor text, spammy links, and link juice problems with a very intuitive and super fast user interface.

See our tutorial on how to analyze your links in WordPress with LinkPatrol.

7. Broken Link Checker

Broken links can not only create bad experience for your users, but they can also affect your site’s SEO. If you have been running a blog for sometime, then you should check your site from time to time for broken links and fix them.

Broken Link Checker is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to find broken links on your WordPress site. You can then fix those links without even editing your posts. See our tutorial on how to fix broken links in WordPress with Broken Link Checker.

It is a highly useful plugin, and its totally free. The only downside is that it can become resource intensive and may slow down your server. Some hosting providers like WPEngine has already blocked this plugin on their servers.

8. Rel NoFollow Checkbox

NoFollow Checkbox

When you link to an external site, you are giving away some of your site’s authority to that link. If you don’t want do that, then you can add a nofollow attribute to that link.

In fact, you can even make all external links nofollow in WordPress. But this might not be a great idea. Sometime you may want to give a dofollow link to truly helpful sites.

Rel NoFollow Checkbox is a simple WordPress plugin which adds a checkbox in the insert link popup of WordPress post editor. This popup already has a check box which allows you to open links in new tab. Now whenever you are adding an external link you can easily make it nofollow by simply checking a box.

See our tutorial how to add a nofollow checkbox to insert link section in WordPress for detailed instructions.

9. SEOquake

SEOquake

SEOquake is a SEO tool available as browser addon for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari web browsers. It provides SEO related information for any website. These information parameters include page rank, age, last updated, alexa rank, and many other parameters. It is one of the most downloaded browser addon by SEO professionals.

Apart from that, SEOquake toolbar can show you all these parameters for all the search results. This information can be extremely useful if you are gauging competition for different keywords. You can even download search results in CSV format and prepare your own excel sheets of search data.

Bonus SEO Tips for WordPress Site Owners

Site speed is one of the many important factors in search rankings. Fast loading sites can easily outrank slower websites. While you are spending a lot of time improving your content strategy, give some of that time to improve your site speed.

Make sure your WordPress site loads fast. You can check your site speed on tools like Google Page Speed and Pingdom.

Always install and setup a caching plugin on your WordPress site. We recommend using W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache. To give your site speed even more boost, you can set up a CDN service to work with your caching plugin. At WPBeginner and on all our websites, we use MaxCDN. It greatly improves our page load times.

You should also upload optimized images only. Images can affect your site’s speed and by optimizing them you can significantly improve your sites performance.

Lastly, if none of these tips are improving your page speed, then its most likely your web host’s fault. You need to move to a better WordPress hosting provider. We recommend using Siteground because they have fully optimized servers to run WordPress sites. If you want managed WordPress hosting, then we recommend either Pagely or WPEngine.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Google+.

To leave a comment please visit 9 Best WordPress SEO Plugins and Tools That You Should Use on WPBeginner.