Strap yourselves in. This is going to be a long one.
Be warned that we aren’t going to be explaining terminology or discussing why you should be implementing certain items – that is what the rest of our SEO Glossary is for. Don’t worry though, where possible we have included links to further information.
This guide is focussed instead on helping WordPress users to implement crucial onsite optimisation and avoid mistakes that could be potentially damaging to their site’s visibility in the SERPs. It’s a WordPress SEO 101 guide.
Over half of websites being built nowadays use the WordPress Content Management system, with other CMS’s left fighting for the scraps. As such, hopefully therefore this should be applicable to quite a few people. We have looked to cover not only setting up the necessary analytics tools and sitemaps within WordPress but also implementing the SEO 101 style onsite optimisation items.
Cup of coffee at the ready? Let us begin.
Yoast and other Plugins
Whilst WordPress does have some automatic functions such as the creation of an XML sitemap, there is no quick fix to SEO. A common misconception is that installing an SEO plugin will magically ‘SEO’ your site. The plug ins will help you perform SEO tasks on your website but you still have to do a lot of the leg work!
Both have more than 1 million downloads, although we would side with Yoast SEO over the All in One SEO Pack. If you research the web you’ll find that a lot of SEO agencies prefer Yoast SEO and its popularity is somewhat backed up by the 17,418 reviews at the time of writing compared with the All in One SEO Pack’s 523 reviews.
Whatever your choice is, just remember that this just the start of the journey. It is also important to note that plugins such as Yoast SEO will provide suggestions throughout the site, sometimes with colour coded scales of how good that particular page’s SEO is. However, these should be taken with a pinch of salt. Use your own judgement and best practices to get the very best results.
Setting up Google Analytics and Search Console
There are ways by which you are able to link up your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts with your WordPress website, however we tend to use one of two ways:
Placing the .js tracking code.
Set up your Google Analytics, go to admin > tracking info > tracking code and select the code displayed under ‘Global Site Tag (gtag.js).
In your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance > Editor > Header.php and place the code between the <head> tags. Go back to Google Analytics and verify your website.
Setting up Search Console via the Yoast SEO Plugin
On the left hand side menu, go to the Yoast SEO option and select ‘Search Console’.
Add your Google Authorisation code in the field for Search Console. To get your authorisation code you will need to go to select the ‘Alternate Methods’ tab when setting up your verification and selecting the HTML tag option. Remember that you do not enter the whole tag that is displayed in the Search Console – just the code after ‘content=’ and leave out the ‘/>’ at the end.
You can also add Bing Webmaster Tools and Yandex Webmaster Tools via the Webmaster Tools option on the Yoast SEO Plugin.
Submitting A Sitemap to Search Console
All WordPress websites have an automatically generated XML sitemap under domain.com/sitemap_index.xml. Simply copy the URL and enter it into the relevant Search Console field under Crawl>Sitemaps>ADD/TEST SITEMAP.
Coding Errors and Load Speed
Both items are crucial in developing a website with awesome SEO. You can use plugins such as WP-Smush to help reduce the size of the images on your site but if you want to really improve your load speed and sort out all of your coding errors then you’re going to have to talk to your techies.
They are probably already fully aware of how important coding errors and load speed are to SEO but use tools such as W3C Markup Validation Service, GT Metrix, Pingdom and Google’s Page Speed Insights to give them prompts and provide metrics upon which you can measure the improvements.
Right so you’ve set up your WordPress website correctly, it loads quickly, there are no coding errors, GA and Search Console are now linked up with the site, an XML sitemap has been uploaded to Search Console and you have installed Yoast SEO (or All in One SEO Pack). You’re ready to get cracking with your onsite optimisation.
Using the Yoast SEO Plugin you can set a canonical URL for each page when creating/editing the page. You may also want to set your preferred main URL under Settings > General.
Editing URL Structures
If set up correctly, WordPress allows you to very easily choose the ‘parent’ for a page. In turn this allows you to dictate the hierarchy of page throughout your site through parent and child pages. For example, this page’s parent page is the SEO Glossary, in turn the SEO Glossary is a child of the main SEO page:
You should be able to find this under ‘Page Attributes’ on the right hand side as you are creating a page (you should also be able to select the type of template you are using at the same time!).
Whilst you are on the subject of URL structures, you can also edit the URL of the particular page under the title field. Find the permalink field for the page, edit and then click update.
Finally, if you so please, you are able to set custom URL structures for your posts and archives. You can find these options under Settings > Permalinks:
To help your users navigate the site and to further demonstrate the hierarchy of your site, you can enable breadcrumbs. Go to the Yoast SEO option and under ‘Advanced’ you can enable breadcrumbs:
When creating a page in WordPress, the default setting for your heading tags will be that the title of the page is labelled your H1, no real need to change anything here.
However, a lot of people tend to just use bold typography for subsequent headings rather than the more preferred H2, H3 and so on for SEO. Click on the Paragraph drop down to select a Heading type or alternatively switch to the ‘text’ editor and input your code manually:
Images are incredibly easy to insert into pages on WordPress and editing the titles and alternative text for said images is just as easy!
Simply click on the edit icon (or the image itself) to be displayed with the options to change the title and alternative text. You can do this either through the text editor, the featured image on the page or through the media library.
Internal & External Links
Adding links to your text really couldn’t be easier. Use the visual text editor, and click on the link icon. Here you will have the choice to add the URL of the page that you would link to. For internal links (linking to a page on your own website), WordPress does allow you to search for existing page and simply select it, rather than having to paste the URL.
When inserting a link to a post or page, you will notice that there is the option within the pop up to designate the anchor text used by the link. If you are displayed with only a small pop up to enter the URL you can click on the gear icon to go to the link settings. Alternatively, you are also able to highlight the text within your article or page prior to clicking the link button, this will automatically select this text as the desired anchor text.
Note that WordPress does not refer to anchor text as such, instead they call it ‘Link text’.
You don’t need to be a developer working via your .htaccess file in order to implement 301 redirects on your WordPress site. That’s the great thing about WordPress, there’s usually a plug in for it. Sure, you don’t want to have a whole swathe of plug ins clogging up your CMS but should you want to implement some 301 redirects on your site you can use a plug in such as ‘Simple 301 Redirects’.
Yoast SEO also offer their own ‘Redirects Manager’ within their Premium package for those that are willing to pay $79 per site, which is one of the reasons why many prefer the Yoast SEO plug in to the All in One SEO Pack.
If you do decide to use the Simple 301 Redirects option, just activate it and select it from your Settings option on the left hand side:
Proceed to enter the URL (without your domain name) of the page in the left handside column, with the full new URL to which you would like to 301 redirect your old page to in the column on the right side.
Don’t forget to click the save button!
Regardless of whether ‘link juice hoarding’ can be viewed as somewhat of an archaic practice, we understand that there are times when you may well want to use rel=”no follow” on a link.
You guessed it, there are plug ins available that provide a ‘No Follow’ tick box when creating a link. You are also able to add rel=”No Follow” via the standard WordPress HTML text editor.
There are multiple reasons why you might want to no index either a single page or indeed a whole site if you want to keep a development site away from the prying eyes of Google’s bots (just remember to remove the no index when you send your changes live!).
WordPress (and Yoast SEO) provide a number of different options for your Meta Robots:
No Index the Entire Site
WordPress offers a single tick box which will prevent every page on your site from being indexed by robots. The tick box can be found via Settings > Reading and will be labelled “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”
Setting Site Wide No Index Rules with Yoast SEO
In the Yoast SEO plug in settings you are able to define meta robots rules for your site, including no index. For example, if you did not want any of your blog archives to be indexed or indeed any of your posts to be indexed.
Go to the Yoast SEO plug in option on the left hand side bar menu, which simply has SEO with the Yoast SEO logo in front of it, then select ‘titles & metas’:
Using the tabs at the top of the page you will find the option to ‘noindex’ the meta robots for various post types (including posts and media), pages, archives, tags and taxonomies:
No indexing individual pages and posts
If you have enabled the Yoast SEO meta box then you will have the ability to set individual pages or posts as ‘no index’. When editing the page/post you will need to open the Yoast SEO meta box and select the gear icon for the advanced settings. Under the Meta robots index title there should be a drop down which will give you the option to select noindex. Remember to update the page in order to send the changes live!