Complete WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners
This WordPress SEO guide will walk you through the essential steps to ranking so you don't wander off and waste time.
Can you guess how many posts are published each day?
Every second 24, new WordPress posts are published, and there are already over 100 new posts online as you read these lines.
It tells us that ranking is not easy at all. However, if you want successful blogging, you will have to accept SEO as a task.
I know that for many beginners, it is difficult to understand SEO practices and terms because they can all be confusing.
It's no wonder when the word "SEO optimization" is searched more than two million times on Google every month.
After such a search, you may find guides that further complicate things for you because they explain from different angles how SEO works.
WordPress is somewhat SEO friendly because its code enables the best SEO practices.
But that in itself is not enough. You need to do some other things if you want successful SEO optimization.
After reading these SEO tips, you will optimize your blog better and attract more organic visitors from Google and other search engines.
So, if you're starting, take some time to learn and start with this guide.
To help you navigate through the WordPress SEO guide, I've presented an overview of the content:
What is SEO?
SEO is a strategy that represents a set of rules and guidelines to make your blog more visible to search engines and get more visitors.
For example, people search for something on Google that is related to the topic of one of your blog posts.
Optimized content for search engines appears higher in search results and brings more visitors to your blog.
- To make your site simple for search engines - in the sense that they can easily understand the content on it and add it to their index.
- The website must be simple and adapted to both users and search engines.
To simplify. The rules by which search engines (Google) rank sites give priority to websites that provide a better experience to users.
You are probably wondering now: how do search engines decide which pages will be displayed on the first page, if there are hundreds of sites competing for any given term?
It is where the SEO magic begins. To better understand how to be the first on Google, you need to know that all sites that work according to SEO rules will win that race.
What does that mean exactly? It implies that Google has guidelines for site owners both to follow and apply and guidelines to avoid.
In the SEO industry, the process of site optimization without breaking any rules is also known as "White hat SEO."
If you break the rule, either out of ignorance or on purpose, you may receive a "penalty from Google."
This can result in a drastic drop in your ranking or the removal of the site from the search results.
When optimization is approached purely for profit, often to extract money and mislead search engines, it is a set of techniques known as "Black hat SEO."
It is clear here that false signals are being given to Google for the site to rank high, while people are not taken into account at all.
Search engines have powerful algorithms to detect and monitor sites that use black hat techniques.
Often, this kind of practice ends with big fines and losing the opportunity to build anything in the future.
Always opt for the "white hat" route. It's the only way to build a long-term and sustainable online business.
Be focused on your audience, offer them the best content, and do everything to make it available according to SEO rules.
If you want to attract visitors quickly, there are Facebook advertising, GoogleAds ads, and other types of paid promotions.
Compared to that, SEO brings you success in the long run.
If you come across guides with quick results on the Internet, do not believe them.
To create good results, SEO requires a lot of work and time.
Why is SEO important?
By now, you understand how search engines work.
The main reason why SEO should be important to you is that it can get you better rankings that increase the number of visitors to your site.
The visits you get from search engines can also improve your conversion rate and are therefore classified as a valuable source of traffic.
When a user enters a keyword in the search engine, Google uses its algorithm to find the best possible relevant pages and display them in the results.
The algorithm relies on a large number of factors. Brian Dean made a big list with about 200 ranking factors.
Google's goal is for every user to be satisfied with their search and to come back again.
The largest organic traffic comes from the first page of Google, which captures over 70% of clicks.
More precisely, the first five positions get about 67% of clicks and are an additional argument for why SEO is so important.
Based on this, it can be concluded: that if you want visitors from Google, you need to rank on the first page or even better in the first five results.
Sometimes the Google standards are not as clear to me as I believe they are.
SEO changes often. Two people can apply different things and still be successful.
You don't have to understand everything, get confused, and accumulate SEO information. You learn gradually through the process.
The bottom line is that you optimize your content so that search engines (read: Google) can rank it.
When users search for information on the topics you write about, your content will appear in the search results and bring visitors to your blog.
The entire process of SEO optimization can be divided into three parts:
- On-Page SEO - refers to the ranking factors that Google applies in reading and understanding the content, structure, and titles on the blog and website.
- Technical SEO - refers to adjustments on the blog that can give visible improvements in the number of visitors.
- Off-Page SEO - refers to factors that Google relies on, and they often do not depend only on you. It includes social media, other industry blogs, etc.
Now we will deal in more detail with the things that are important for you to know about the optimization process on the page (On Page SEO).
WordPress guide: On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO is a set of techniques that you use to optimize the pages on your blog so that they rank better in search results and increase the number of visitors.
How important is content to WordPress SEO?
You've probably heard the phrase "Content is King" a lot by now, and it's true.
The most important part of any blog is the content.
It means that your job in the SEO strategy should be to create quality content that provides readers with answers to their intentions, questions, and problems - and at the same time is easily accessible to search engines.
Google always strives to give the user the best experience by directing them to the best content.
If your site does not respond to the needs of users and searchers, no SEO technique will help you.
It's the same as with a bad product - even the best SEO in the world won't help you sell it.
It requires a lot of work to get results.
For the content to be excellent in the eyes of Google, here is what it should have:
To have a chance of ranking on Google, you need to publish high-quality content.
To create great content, you need to know the field you're writing about and be a good educator.
Think of new ideas or find them in content from other sites. Process them in your way, improve them, and expand them.
The content you create should be helpful and engage readers.
See Google guidelines, then base your content with these elements:
To make your content SEO friendly, in addition to keywords, you must also take into account the understanding of the user's intent.
It is challenging to rank higher if the content does not contain what the searcher is looking for when searching for a particular term on Google.
To understand user intent, Google uses Rank Brain (Rank Brain is part of their ranking algorithm) to make every user happy.
Instead of watching what users type, try to understand what they are searching. It is what is meant by "search intent."
So, how do you create such content?
- You will need to research which keywords are used the most when it comes to your niche.
- Then, for each keyword, you should look at the search results to be able to understand the user's intentions.
- Based on this information and conclusions, content should be created that is detailed, relevant, and corresponds to the user's intention.
Resources to learn more:
- 12 Tips How to Write SEO Content in Blogger - SEO Writing Guide
- Blog Post Structure: Write a Post That Is Easy to Read
- 7 Basic Steps to Write an SEO Blog Post
Keywords and WordPress SEO
When you plan your content, it should contain keywords. You must conduct keyword research to discover potential questions your readers may have.
Recognizing the role and meaning of keywords is crucial for SEO content optimization.
Keywords are words and phrases that people type into the search field.
Search engines use keywords to understand users' intentions and to offer them relevant results.
Since everything on the Internet starts with keywords, your content must contain keywords for Google to index it.
Of course, this does not mean that you should overuse keywords to rank and please search engines.
It is enough to use the keyword in the URL, post title, and meta description and focus more on the reader.
Know that only SEO-friendly content can rank you. Keyword research will help you in this.
If you are new to the keyword research process, you may want to read my guide first:
To help search engines understand your content, you should pay attention to
Page title optimization
Page titles are element number one, as users who seek information will first see them as well as searches when listing the content list.
How do you optimize the page titles?
- The title of each page in WordPress should be unique
- A title length should be up to 56 characters to display in the search results without a healing
- Titles describe what it is about in content and should help users quickly understand if the page is relevant to what they are looking for
Keywords in the title are another crucial factor for SEO titles.
The aim of using keywords in the title is to meet the needs of both users and bots of the search engine.
Before they go to the content, based on the keywords in the title, the searches reveal whether that page can fill the "user."
When users notice the keyword in the title, it will motivate them to click and read more on that page.
I recommend you read:
9 Strategies for Writing Powerful Headlines That Convert
What Does a Beginner Copywriter Need to Know?
For example, if you write a post whose main keyword is "WordPress Tutorial,"
then the title of your post should contain this key sentence.
Meta Page Description
Just like the title, the meta description of the pages is essential.
Each WordPress page should have a unique description that briefly introduces the page content and summarizes it.
A couple of tips for the description:
- The length of the meta description should be up to 150 characters
- With the meta description take care of why someone should reach your page use the key sentence but do not overdo it
- Page description can be changed and improved and after the page indexing
Formation of the content and tags of the subtitle
All of the subtitles you use help in structuring, and formatting, the content
and, more importantly, make it easier for visitors to understand and follow
instructions in the body of the page.
The subtitle helps the readers to understand the topic of the article.
Therefore, they should contain keywords and satisfy the hierarchical structure.
The main title of the post is H1. For subtitles H2, H3, H4, and H5.
For example, see the subtitle of this post. Since the content is long, I used H1 for the main title of fasting, H2 for the main sections, and H3 for subsections.
Regular publication of content
You've probably already heard that publishing content frequently can improve your ranking on Google.
In addition to publishing new content, you can also do a lot with old content. Try to refresh it with new information.
You don't have to post content every day. To achieve good results, you can publish it once a month.
What is crucial are detail, usefulness, and fundamentality.
SEO structure of a WordPress site
A good structure of your WordPress website will help Google to index your website faster. That way, you increase the chances of appearing in the search results.
I recommend you read: How to Get Google to Index Your Blogger Site Faster
A simple structure will make it easier for visitors to find content.
Do not exaggerate the number of categories. Your content is grouped by these categories.
Let the names of the categories be meaningful and related to the topic you deal with, your products, and your services.
Use categories to make your content relevant to your industry. They practically serve to group your posts.
Your site should have a hierarchical structure. Start adding categories from the home page.
Make sure the site design is as simple as possible.
For example, I have a blog on the topic of internet marketing. My categories are Blogger, WordPress, marketing, SEO optimization, business, and social networks.
The URL addresses you use on the site should be SEO-friendly. It means that they should be easy to understand, without unnecessary information, signs, and lines.
Use keywords in URLs, as these are also SEO points.
What does a mobile-friendly site mean for SEO?
If your site is not adapted to mobile devices, you will most likely lose 50% of your visitors.
Google adapted its algorithm to mobile devices and included mobility as a ranking factor.
More than 55% of users of social networks, such as Facebook, access their accounts via mobile phone.
There are many ways to make your site mobile-friendly, but before you do anything, check your current state using Google's test.
Google will give you suggestions for improvements that you can implement yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
Most WordPress themes are already mobile-friendly. Although you can always activate a plugin to improve the site's mobility.
For your site to be mobile-friendly, it should enable readers to behave and take actions in the same way as with a desktop computer.
It is essential that the content can be read without the need to zoom in.
Mobility is also affected by the loading speed of the site (it should last up to 3 seconds)
How does site speed affect SEO?
In addition to all other factors, site speed is one of the conditions for ranking.
Long load times can turn visitors away and kill conversions.
Numerous Google studies have confirmed that the chance of someone leaving your site increases by 113% if it takes seven seconds to load.
|Source: Think With Google|
One of my favorite speed testing tools is GTMetrix and PageSpeed Insight.
It will give you an overview of a large number of performances.
The speed optimization process is more of a technical issue and may require the involvement of a developer.
In any case, the investment is worth it because you will benefit a lot from the fast loading of the site.
Although there are plenty of techniques to improve loading speed, if your theme is not optimized and designed for speed, it will be difficult to achieve loading in under three seconds.
For starters, you can also improve your speed when:
- You choose the best WordPress hosting
- Delete unnecessary plugins
- Clear the database of post revisions
- You are optimizing images
- Reduce the number of post impressions per page
- You update WordPress regularly
- Use a caching plugin
- Use a CDN
Technical basics of WordPress SEO optimization
In this section, we will deal with technical settings. You don't need to have the technical knowledge to make these adjustments.
It is enough to have a blog and a site on WordPress.
Technical WordPress SEO tweaks aim to help search engine spiders efficiently crawl and index your site.
Before we start, check the visibility settings of your site.
In WordPress, there is an option with which you can hide your site from search engines.
It only makes sense when you're working on your site and don't want to show it publicly until you're done.
To check if this option is checked go to the WordPress dashboard and select Settings > Reading from the menu on the left.
Scroll down to the Search Engine Visibility option and check if the field in front is checked because then you would disable the indexing of the site:
Finally, click on Save Changes to save the changes.
Use an SEO-friendly URL structure in WordPress
I already mentioned that URLs on the site should be SEO-friendly. It means that they contain words that accurately indicate the content and are easy for search engines and people to read.
For example, here are a couple of SEO-friendly URLs:
With these URLs, you can guess what you will find on the pages based on their text.
What would URL addresses that are not SEO-friendly look like?
You can see from these examples that it is hard to understand the content of these pages.
When the link structure is adapted to SEO, it can bring you better ranking in search results.
To set the URL structure select the Settings option in the WordPress dashboard, then Permalinks. Check the Post name option, then click on Save changes.
If you already have a blog and a site, you can change the URL structure only if you use the option with numbers.
Otherwise, the change may affect your SEO ranking.
Do you use www in the site URL or not?
Every new site must decide whether to use www or not in the URL address.
From the browser's point of view, a website with www and without www are two different sites.
You can make these settings in Settings > General. Then type the desired URL in the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) options.
If you are wondering which option is better, the answer would be that from an SEO point of view, neither option has an advantage.
Add an XML Sitemap to WordPress
XML Sitemap is a specially created file that contains a list of all pages on your site.
It has an essential role because it allows search engines to easily and quickly find pages on the site to index and rank them.
The easiest way to create a sitemap for your site is with the Yoast SEO plugin.
This plugin will automatically create a sitemap. The sitemap URL usually looks like this:
A better way to inform searchers about the pages on your site is to create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google.
In the next step, I will show you how to send the XML sitemap to Google.
Add your WordPress site to Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a platform, also known as Webmaster Tools, which offers tools to website owners to monitor the site's performance on Google.
There you will find all the essential information regarding the visibility of the site keywords, etc.
All this information will help you see how the pages of your site look in the search results.
If an error occurs on the site, you will receive a notification via email, so you can immediately work on solving it.
How to register a site in Google Search Console?
First, log in to the platform. Using a Gmail account, click on Start Now.
After registration, you will be asked to enter the URL of your site.
You can verify the site using a domain or URL (this is a more flexible option):
the next step, you will be asked to verify your site.
In my opinion, the HTML method for website verification is the simplest.
Click on the HTML option and copy the code that you will add to your WordPress site.
To enter the verification code, install and activate the plugin Insert headers and footers.
After activation, select the Settings option in the add-on. Copy the HTML code into the given field, then click on Save.
Now you can go back to the Google Console and click on the Verify button, which confirms that you are the website owner.
You will receive a message that the process is successful, which confirms the addition of the site in the Google Console.
How to add XML sitemap in Google Console
Now you need to log in or click on the Go to property link in the previous step to get to the Google Search Console dashboard.
In the menu on the left, select the Sitemaps option.
The next step is to add the last part of the URL address: sitemap_index.xml, to the input field - Add a new sitemap:
Click on the Submit button, and you will receive a message about the successful addition of the sitemap.
Further, Google will use the sitemap for better indexing of your site.
Connect internal links in WordPress
When you use internal links, it means that you are connecting a page on your blog to other pages.
It forms the basis of SEO and has two main goals:
- Directs readers to other pages on the blog to read more on a particular topic and helps them navigate through the blog.
- They help searchers to better view and understand the content of your pages.
Internal links can be added without restrictions, but do not overdo it.
Links are added meaningfully, not for the sake of order.
For internal links, use linked text (anchor text) with keywords because you will not be penalized for that.
I recommend you read: What are internal and external links, and why are they important?
For SEO optimization, the links you use in the content are more important than those in the sidebar and footer of the site.
Adding internal links is very easy in WordPress:
- Select the text you want to turn into a link.
- Click on the Insert/edit Link icon in the editor.
- When the window opens, enter the URL, and click on the circle
- in the new window, check the Open link in a new tab.
- Click the Add Link button, and that's it.
The same is the case with the Gutenberg
Nofollow links in WordPress
I've already mentioned that links are essential to your content because they help search engines better understand and decide how important a page is to rank.
Whenever you use a link to direct visitors to another page, link juice is also transmitted at the same time, which affects the overall SEO effect.
When you get more "link juice" than you send, your chances of ranking are higher.
However, there are links through which you send readers to your affiliate sites. You should not share "link juice" on such links, but save it.
You achieve this by adding the "nofollow" attribute directly to the link and thus letting search engines know that they should not follow that link.
The HTML of an external link looks like this:
The HTML link with the "nofollow" attribute looks like this:
<a href="http://yourblog.com" rel="nofollow">text</a>
I give this example because WordPress does not have a function that allows certain links to be untracked.
To add the "nofollow attribute" to the HTML link (Gutenberg editor) first, select the link, then click on the three dots in the menu.
A drop-down menu will open where you need to click on the Edit as HTML option.
When the HTML code of the link is shown to you, then you add the nofollow attribute by making one space in front of noreferrer, as in the picture:
Use a WordPress SEO plugin
When it comes to posts, a good way to optimize is by using the Yoast SEO plugin.
It includes many functions that save you time, is the most popular on the market, and is updated very often.
It helps you to create titles and descriptions, XML sitemap, integration with Google Console, to add special descriptions and images for Facebook and Twitter.
Two essential functions of the Yoast SEO plugin are readability and keyword analysis:
In addition to the Yoast SEO plugin, the All in One SEO pack is a good choice.
Optimize images in WordPress for SEO
Images, unlike text, take longer to load.
When you don't optimize images, they can slow down your blog a lot.
So that the images do not reduce the loading time of the site, the solution is to compress them without losing quality.
There are many plugins at your disposal that automatically compress images on a WordPress site upon upload.
One example is ShortPixel. You can compress all already uploaded as well as new images.
Just adding images to posts is not enough. You need to make it easier for search engines to understand what the images are about.
In this way, you also make it easier for visually impaired users because their readers can read the Alt text.
So when you upload an image, WordPress allows you to add a Title and Alt text.
Use keywords when adding Title and Alt text to your images.
You can use some SEO plugins - to automatically create alt text.
It is important that before you upload the image to WordPress, use a title like, for example, complete-wordpress-seo-guide-for-beginners.jpg instead of img012.jpg.
Remove broken links from time to time
Incorrect links do not lead readers anywhere and can harm the overall SEO because they make the search engine's job more difficult.
You should periodically scan the site, and when you find incorrect links, replace them with new ones, delete them or redirect them.
You can use the WordPress plugin Broken Link Checker for this purpose.
Use SSL/HTTPS protocol
Using an SSL certificate (paid or free) allows you to use the SSL protocol.
It means that all information exchanged between the browser and your site will be protected and encrypted. An SSL certificate adds a layer of security to your WordPress.
It is something you shouldn't miss, as Google has included the use of HTTPS as a ranking factor.
Also, Google warns people when they visit sites that are not secure.
Sites with an SSL certificate have a padlock icon in front of the URL of the site in the web address entry bar.
Most hosting companies offer a free SSL certificate today.
The use of SSL/HTTPS is especially necessary for sites dealing with online trade.
Use Breadcrumbs in WordPress
Breadcrumb is a kind of navigation system that shows site visitors where they are on the site to the home page.
See an example breadcrumbs path above the title of this post that you are reading now.
Google has been showing breadcrumbs in search results since 2020, so it has become an SEO factor.
In addition to influencing better visibility, breadcrumbs help reduce the bounce rate and improve the user experience.
Most WordPress SEO plugins offer an option to enable breadcrumbs.
Here's how to enable the breadcrumbs to function in the Yoast SEO plugin.
Prevent duplicate content
Duplicate content is an important thing that affects the overall WordPress SEO score.
It practically means that you have multiple URLs with the same content on your site.
Usually, this happens when you enable pages with categories and tags to be indexed. It confuses search engines.
Another example is when you additionally publish your post on a prestigious site, such as Medium, for example. What happens then?
Google indexes first a post located on a more authoritative domain. It means that it will mark the post on your blog as duplicate content.
WordPress Off Page SEO
In addition to On Page, the complete SEO strategy also includes Off Page SEO.
So we've talked about all the tweaks you can apply to your site to improve your search ranking and user experience.
Off Page, SEO refers more to the authority, promotion, and visibility of your site on the Internet.
Essentially off-page SEO includes factors that let searchers know that your site is reliable, relevant, and authentic compared to other sites.
It includes everything that happens outside your site and contributes to your ranking: social media marketing, guest blogging, and link building.
You know that Google has to decide which site to rank when multiple sites are targeting the same keyword.
The number one off-page technique is external links or the SEO term that refers to it "link building."
In the eyes of Google, sites with external links (backlinks) from other websites have a higher chance of being ranked better than sites without any external links.
However, accumulating incoming links here means nothing for the Google algorithm. Their quality is more important.
What is a quality link that can increase the authority of your site?
- It is a link that the owner of a site added naturally, counting that it will add value to its content and give readers more information on a specific topic.
- It comes from a site that Google believes is of good quality.
So what is a low-quality site? It is a site that is full of external links, with little original content for users.
- The link should come from a site dealing with a similar topic. For example, I have a blog about internet marketing, and naturally, my links point to sites dealing with SEO optimization.
- It is a link that is not the result of link exchange or payment for such a service.
A site that has a lot of poor links can be - punished by losing trust and ranking by Google.
How to naturally get quality links for your site?
To attract links naturally, you will need great content, the best, and a good promotional plan to make that content visible and reach the right people.
More valuable links are usually not easily obtained. It is not an ordinary "link exchange."
No site to which you send a link is under any obligation to reciprocate.
Of course, it happens that you also get a return link from sites that regularly check their statistics and appreciate your action.
The sites you get backlinks from should have a better reputation than yours.
I say this because most people only count the total number of links. Google can ignore many links if it judges them to be of poor quality.
I recommend you read: Backlink Strategy for SEO to Boost Your Domain Authority in 2022
Off-site SEO naturally involves trust. Transparency is essential to increase trust.
It will provide you with content that your audience can benefit from.
Two indicators that tell how search engines see your site are:
- domain authority (DA)
- page authority (PA)
One of the ways to build trust is through the experiences of your users and customers, which you get through comments on the blog, or on the Facebook page.
It should be clear to your users that you are a person, who answers their questions and treats them with respect and appreciation.
Guest blogging and SEO
One of the best ways to attract a targeted audience to your site is to publish your post on relevant blogs in your industry.
Guest posting can drive organic traffic to your site and help you build quality backlinks.
It also helps you build a personal brand by helping others within your niche.
Email marketing as an SEO technique
Email marketing is another off-page SEO technique and a great way to increase the number of visitors to the site.
It allows you to communicate directly with your audience through relevant, and personalized messages.
To use email marketing, you need to collect the email addresses of your users through an email campaign (build an email list by creating an opt-in form and sending a newsletter.
I recommend you read: What is Lead Generation in Internet Marketing?
WordPress SEO and Social Media
Off-page SEO also relies on social factors. Participation in social networks does not have a direct impact on the ranking but it will help you get more visitors, shares, and likes.
An essential social metric is people's engagement, especially viral marketing as a dream of every user.
The only thing that brings success is quality content. Whenever, you share relevant, interesting, fresh information with your users, you get fans, subscribers, and potential clients.
When will I see the effects of SEO optimization on my WordPress blog?
You cannot get a precise answer to this question because you will not see the effects of the SEO strategy overnight.
From six months to a year is the minimum period for your SEO work to see the light of day.
The reason for this is that Google needs time to read and evaluate everything you have changed on the website before taking it into account for the ranking.
Everything you add to the site, every piece of content, and every link, must go through Google's evaluation process before receiving a favorable ranking signal.
You must keep up your good practices and arm yourself with patience.
Otherwise, you will quickly become demotivated and give up before any results.
Search engine algorithms are constantly changing, which will directly or indirectly affect SEO.
SEO is not a quick fix. The valuable user experience that underlies your work will be rewarded by search engines - if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
Conclusion and what next?
In this WordPress SEO guide for beginner bloggers, I tried to include the most important parts of SEO optimization, which should give you a complete picture of what you need to do to rank better on Google.
SEO is not a task in a few days and requires a lot of work.
All the people who want to rank want the same thing as you, so it is clear to you that you are competing with thousands. As a winner, you need to do a better job.
Be consistent if you want to get more visitors and customers for your blog. It will save you the need for paid advertising.
Maybe you were already taking some SEO steps that weren't the best. That is OK.
Make a promise to yourself today that you will start with the basic steps, because it will take months to see results.
If you asked me to explain SEO in one sentence:
It is a process through which, through your content and easy-to-use site, you provide users with the best experience and satisfy their "intentions."
I hope that at the end of this guide you have a clearer picture of how to optimize your blog and site for SEO.
Keep applying these WordPress SEO tips and you'll see more traffic in just a few months.
Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this article! Like and share it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Write a comment, ask a question, and I'll answer as best I can.