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wordpress seo tips

10 WordPress SEO Tips & Tricks to Boost Rankings

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By Matt Cayless - SEO Director

Posted on August, 13, 2019

Today, we’re going to show you 10 VERY effective tips to rank your WordPress higher in the search engines. 

In fact, at Bubblegum Search, we recently used these exact tips to increase a clients WordPress website visibility by 130%.

Let’s get this ball rolling…

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WordPress SEO Tips & Tricks

When you’re building a new website, it’s easy to get carried away with the look and feel. It’s also important to ensure that your website will perform well in the search engines. 

Luckily, WordPress is not only one of the most user-friendly platforms, but it’s excellent in terms of SEO, particularly for beginners or newer website owners. 

Out of the box, all the basics of SEO are covered and with a few simple SEO tips and tricks, you can take easily supercharge your WordPress SEO. 

These techniques, if used properly, can make a significant difference to the rank of your WordPress website on Google.

#1 Search Engine Optimised Themes

When you’re building a new WordPress website, it’s important to consider your theme choice. As in addition to being well-designed and user-friendly, it should also offer SEO benefits. 

In fact, we’d go as far as saying the latter is much more important. 

At Bubblegum Search, we always consider the following factors when selecting a WordPress theme:

1. Page Load Speed

Page load speed is a confirmed ranking factor. Before you choose or purchase a theme, run its demo site through performance checking tools like:

wordpress page load speed

Check how fast it is and whether there are any major performance issues. 

Some problems are a deal-breaker, while others (like large image files) can be easily fixed with tools like Smush, Shortpixel, or WP Rocket for caching and file minification.

2. Responsive Design

Mobile responsiveness is a ranking factor, so before you buy a theme, check whether it’s mobile-friendly using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

3. Easy Navigation

Consider these statistics: 

  • 60% of people relied on navigation rather than search when looking for something on a website (Kissmetrics)
  • 67% of people leave a website if they are frustrated with the navigation (Reusser Design).

Both people and the search engine crawlers need your website to be easily accessible. 

4. Clean Code

Messy code slows down your website load speed. It’s an issue for users, but it also affects the crawlers which are attempting to index your website. 

To confirm whether or not the code quality is up to scratch, use W3C Markup Validator to check for errors in the codebase. 

wordpress page load speed

#2 SEO Plugins

There are tons of plugins to help you SEO optimise your WordPress website. 

The most well-known (and most popular) is Yoast SEO, but there are others like All in One SEO Plugin and The SEO Framework.

We recommend installing Yoast. It’s been around for years and it’s constantly updated to meet changes to SEO rules and algorithm updates. 

Straight out of the box, it offers: 

    • Content optimisation: To optimise a page using Yoast, enter the SEO term you are targeting. Then complete the steps recommended by Yoast to optimise the page, for example, optimise your meta description, SEO title, URL, keyword density and so on. 
    • Sitemaps: Covered in more detail later in the post, but Yoast will automatically create a sitemap of all your posts, pages and images.
  • RSS feed: Yoast automatically adds a link to your RSS feed, so Google knows who created the content first. 

Enter the search term you are targeting for the page and review and complete the recommendations provided by Yoast.

wordpress seo plugins

#3 Submit Site to Search Engines

A sitemap is, quite simply, a map of your website. 

They help visitors when they get lost on your site, but they also help Google to know what pages are included on your website and to ensure new content is indexed quickly. 

With WordPress, it’s simple to use plugins like Yoast, Google XML Sitemaps or XML Sitemaps to create a sitemap. 

Once correctly set up, these plugins automatically create a sitemap and submit it to the search engines whenever your site structure is updated. 

The whole process is straightforward, but you do need to make sure that if you’ve blocked a page from being indexed in your robots.txt file, you’re not including it in your sitemap. 

If you’re unsure of how this works, chat with a WordPress SEO expert, like Bubblegum Search

#4 Set Permalinks

The permalink (e.g. URL) structure in WordPress out-of-the-box isn’t perfect. However, fortunately, you can easily update it to be more SEO-friendly. 

Here’s how a URL will look before you’ve updated it:

> domain.com/?p=1237

But here’s what it can look like:

> domain.com/your-post-title

To make the change, follow these easy steps:

  1. Log into your WordPress dashboard
  2. Select Settings and click Permalink Settings
  3. Select Post name
  4. Save and exit

wordpress permalinks

This has updated the site-wide settings to ensure that each time a new post is created, your URL will use the post name. 

If you want to go one step further when you create new posts, modify the post slug to ensure that it includes your target keywords and is as short as possible.

An example of a great URL might be:

> domain.com/blog/shopify-seo

Notice, it’s short, includes the target keyword, and doesn’t include numbers or extra characters.

#5 Page Load Speeds

Your website load speed is a ranking factor. It’s also important for user experience and conversion rates. 

If you’re website loads too slowly, you’re likely to increase your bounce rate and decrease your conversion rates. 

As we’ve covered already, choosing the right WordPress theme is the foundation to having a fast load time. 

But, if you’re an existing website and it’s too late to choose a new theme, there are some ways to tackle a slow website. 

First, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights or the Pingdom tool to find out whether or not you have page load speed issues. 

wordpress load speed

Second, tackle the fixes it recommends, if any. 

Issues may include browser caching, image optimization and compression, which can easily be fixed using the plethora of WordPress plugins like:

#6 Install an SSL Certificate

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) ensures that any personal information provided by your website visitors is encrypted and protected.

Therefore, if your websites ask users to enter any form of personal details (even a contact form), you must have SSL. 

As well as being a small ranking factor, Google will now often show a security warning when people attempt to visit your website. As you can imagine, this is catastrophic. 

wordpress ssl

While it sounds quite technical, depending on your website host, an SSL certificate should be relatively painless to install. 

Most hosts offer them free and usually, if you ask nicely, they’ll help you install it.  

#7 Mobile-Friendly Website

Did you know that 40% of people prefer to checkout via their mobile and mobile searches have now exceeded desktop searches

To respond, Google switched to a mobile-first approach to ranking a website. 

Basically, to determine the ranking of a website in the search engines, Google now uses the mobile content of a web page.

In other words, if your website isn’t mobile optimised, you’re missing out on an opportunity to rank higher in the SERPs. 

wordpress mobile friendly

Image source

These are our best practices for ensuring your WordPress is mobile SEO optimised:

  • Page speed: Mobiles can be slower than desktops and have connectivity issues. Making sure your website load speed is as fast as possible goes some way to resolve these issues. 
  • CSS, JavaScript and images: It’s no longer necessary to block these elements as they are crucial to telling Google whether you have a responsive site or a different mobile solution.
  • Design: Make sure your website is designed for mobile screen sizes. Hint, this goes way beyond being responsive and means your website is simpler, easier to navigate, and mobile-first. 
  • No flash: It’s likely that Flash won’t be available on your customers mobile, use HTML5 instead.
  • Remove intrusive interstitials: Intrusive interstitials (or popups) may be penalised by Google. However, the important word here is intrusive. The size and purpose of the popup affect whether or not it will be penalised. Instead of removing all popups from your site, read this guide to learn more about which interstitials are likely to be punished.   

#8 Good Quality Backlinks

Link building is still important for SEO. But only when it’s done correctly. 

When you publish a piece of excellent content and you get a link from a website, link equity is shared with you. 

If the link is from an unrelated website or appears unnatural, it will be ignored at best or at worst lead to a penalty. 

However, if the link is from an authority website in your niche, this should help increase your position in the SERPs. 

The key takeaways should be:

It should go without saying but don’t waste your time and money buying links, instead, earn links naturally. Otherwise, you will be punished by the Google Gods.

Last, if you’d like to link to a website but don’t want to share the link juice, you can use rel=”nofollow” attribute in your links.

For example: 

wordpress backlinks

#9 Internal Links and Anchor Text

Linking to relevant content on your own website helps to pass link equity throughout your whole website. 

It should also reduce bounce rates, increase page views, and time on site — which in turn act as ranking factors. 

When you’re interlinking between pages, make sure it’s relevant and useful (otherwise it’s spammy) and make sure to consider the wording of the hyperlink. 

For instance, when linking from page A to page B, you could choose to link in either way: 

Click here to learn about our amazing product. 

Learn more about our amazing product.

By hyperlinking the keyword (e.g. amazing product), you give the search engines a much clearer idea of what the page is about.  

#10 Content is (Still) King

You’ve likely heard it a thousand times, but it still holds true. Content is king. 

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Your website must include a blog with a well-defined content strategy targeting relevant long-tail keywords and the content must be valuable, unique and relevant. 

Let’s break that down. 

First, the content on your website must be valuable (a content audit may help you discern how valuable it is). It should not be generic filler for the sake of putting words on a page. 

Valuable content is not written to please the Google bots. It is useful content that helps real people by answering their search query. 

Oh, and, it must do so in a better way than any other piece of content on the web. 

To do that, you need to speak directly to your target audience and you must understand the intent behind the search. 

Second, it should not be duplicate content. It needs to be fresh and it most definitely can’t be plagiarised.

While this sounds straightforward (don’t copy and paste from other people’s websites!), there’s one often overlooked complication. 

Google sees the www and non-www version of your website as two separate entities. So if you’re not careful, all Google sees is two websites with the exact same content.

Luckily, with WordPress, the solution is easy. Add the following code to your .htaccess file (replacing domain.com with your real domain):

wordpress content

(Changes to the .htaccess file should always be done by a web developer as incorrect implementations here can cause a lot of issues. )

Third, your content needs to be relevant, meaning it’s tied to your target keywords, naturally. 

When you’re including keywords, it’s highly important to do so without forcing keywords or stuffing them in to make them fit.  

Here are our quick tips to optimise your page or post for keywords:

  • Add SEO-friendly tags and categorize the posts accordingly
  • Add your keyword to the post or page title
  • Use Yoast SEO to add a meta description, SEO title, and focus keyword to your post
  • Add meta titles, keywords and descriptions to all pages, not just posts. 
  • Ensure keywords are naturally included at least a few times throughout. 

Finally, as well as making sure your content is unique, valuable and relevant, don’t forget to include optimised videos and images.

Not only will this improve user experience and engagement (which are both SEO signals), but it will also generate you traffic. 

Images can generate traffic from Google images, while videos will get views, likes, comments, etc from sites like YouTube and Tumblr. 

How to optimise images:

  • Make sure your images are optimised to load quickly by uploading the correct image size and compress them using tools like Tiny PNG before uploading
  • Make sure your images are relevant to and enhance your content
  • Include the target keyword in the file name, as long as it’s appropriate
  • Include the target keywords in the alt tag name, as long as it’s appropriate

In WordPress, follow these simple steps to optimise your images: 

  1. Click “Add Media” in your post editor
  2. Select the image on the screen that appears
  3. On the right side, enter the title, caption, alt and description

Conclusion

There you have it.

Our 10 WordPress SEO tips & tricks to boost rankings.

Now we’d like to hear from you…

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Which tactics from today’s post are you ready to try first?

Are you going to find an SEO optimised WordPress theme?

Or maybe you want to generate high-quality backlinks?

Either way, let us know by leaving a comment below right now.

Matt Cayless is the Director of SEO at Bubblegum Search. He is an expert in Search Engine Optimisation having worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands and has a passion for helping businesses grow online. When he’s not chasing the Google algorithm he can be found training for his next marathon. Follow him on Twitter

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