Search engine optimization, or SEO, has played a critical role in website visibility since the first search engine debuted decades ago (and, no, it wasn’t Google). Best SEO practice can be hard to find sometimes.
Over time, SEO tactics have evolved and changed, and today, many of them hinge on the website platform that you use.
Keeping up on what is best SEO practices can seem hard, but there are some basic steps you really should follow.
Keep on reading for some of the best things to do for your website, SEO wise 🙂
WordPress websites require that you take some specific steps in order to be a search engine friendly as possible, although your site is search engine friendly out of the box.
Best SEO Practices
What SEO best practices should you follow to ensure that you’re as visible as possible in the SERPs? Understanding what Google wants you to do and what they definitely do not want you to do on your website is critical for getting positive results from your SEO work.
Want to know a bit more on how your position online is determined? Check out our article How Google Ranks Websites Explained.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we consider to be the most vital steps you should take for your website.
If you need a refresher on how to best approach search engine optimization for your WordPress site – check out our introduction to WordPress SEO.
Recommended reading – Most Important Elements to Consider When Creating a Website.
A permalink is a URL that defines pages and posts within your WordPress website.
By default, WordPress permalinks are preconfigured poorly for search engine optimization and for human use.
Here’s an example of a default permalink – https://www.yoursitename.com/?p=44585.
That’s not particularly discernable, is it? No, and search engine spiders have an equally hard time crawling that type of infrastructure.
Instead, change your permalinks to post names (/%postname%/). This would make your post URLs look like this – https://www.yoursite.name.com/newest-post-here.
Make Your Site Visible
WordPress websites are pretty search engine friendly out of the box, but you could be sabotaging your efforts without even knowing it in some cases.
Your site has an option to hide it from search engines. Most website owners turn this on when they’re building the site to prevent it from being indexed before it is complete.
However, it’s pretty common to forget about that setting and leave it off.
If you’re not getting any organic traffic, this could be the reason for it. You’ll find the toggle in the admin area of your site, under Settings -> Reading.
Update Your PHP Version
While WordPress excels in many ways, some developers have been more than a little lax when it comes to ensuring that their sites run on the most recent version of PHP.
In fact, some run on very outdated versions, going all the way back to the early 5.x versions.
As a hint, the most current version of PHP is 7. Beginning at the end of 2019, WordPress will require you to have at least version 7.0. installed.
Upgrading ahead of time can offer some important benefits, though, including a much-needed speed boost, which can have a significant impact on your SEO.
SSL Considerations – Use HTTPS
In the past, SSL was optional because many websites really didn’t need the additional protection. However, that’s no longer the case. Today, it’s mandatory.
If you do not have a security certificate or your certificate is outdated, it’s possible that Google will penalize your website. Make sure that your SSL certificate is up to date.
Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords and phrases are at the heart of most SEO best practices. From content optimization to image alt-tags, you need to use the right phrasing. That hinges on you doing your research.
You’ll find a wide range of keyword research tools out there to help you delve into consumer trends and identify primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords and phrases that your audience is using to find content like what you offer.
You should also check into how competitive keywords are and target less-used and more affordable options with your PPC campaigns.
Doing your due diligence here will ensure that you have the keywords necessary to optimize your website, as well as for off-page SEO activities.
Pay Attention to Theme Optimization
Your WordPress theme is about more than just aesthetics. It also affects your search engine optimization. SEO best practices for WordPress include vetting potential themes based on their optimization – well-written code that is easily crawled by search engine spiders.
How do you determine whether a theme is SEO friendly or not?
Make sure that any theme you choose offers the correct use of canonical URL meta tabs, allows appropriate use of meta title tags and headings, offers open graph meta tag incorporation for social media sharing, and employs proper HTML throughout its structure.
Leverage All Optimization Options
When many people think about SEO best practices, they imagine optimized page content, titles, headings, and the like. That’s the foundation, sure, but there’s so much more that can be done to help you rank better in the SERPs.
For instance, every single image on your site can become a powerful SEO asset if you simply incorporate (applicable and accurate) keywords into the image title, description, alt text, and caption.
Similarly, all pages should have keyword-enhanced meta descriptions and titles.
Failing to use all of your optimization options can leave you lagging in the middle of the SERPs, or even pages behind your competitors.
Focus on Content Quality
While Google once focused primarily on keywords as the main metric for website authority and placement, that hasn’t been true for many years.
Today, content quality and applicability are the main considerations.
These even trump the use of keywords, as Google has gotten much better at figuring out what a website is about without overusing keywords.
Content quality and length are vital for ranking in the SERPs. It’s all about delivering value to human readers. Google takes that seriously, so if you’re writing content for search engines rather than human beings, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
High-quality content is unique, definitive, applicable to your audience, sharable with others, informative, and helpful.
When everything is said and done, improving your WordPress website’s visibility is simpler than you might think.
Simply following a few basic SEO best practices can elevate your page rank and ensure that your audience can easily find you through organic search.
Once you have gone through these steps, you should also check out our checklist for WordPress optimization, leaving your website as fast as possible.