By Deborah Kurfiss, Umbrella Content Marketing Director on Sep 23, 2022
No doubt many of your clients have WordPress sites. But are you doing what you can to optimize these WordPress sites for SEO? It’s a wildly popular content management system (CMS). All kinds of sites use WordPress such as Sony Music, TechCrunch, Wired and Microsoft News.
As of this writing, about 42.9% of websites are WordPress sites, and yes, that includes eCommerce sites. In 2017, WordPress was 27% of all sites, which means from 2017 to September 2022, WordPress sites have enjoyed about a 59% increase. Every year, WordPress gains a bigger share of the total number of websites.
Because WordPress is so ubiquitous, digital marketers must understand the primary SEO tips for WordPress, many of which are unique to the platform.
Now, fortunately, WordPress is extremely conducive to good SEO. But if you flip the wrong switch, search engines will completely overlook your client’s WordPress site. In other words, this article is well worth the four-minute read.
When choosing a WordPress theme or analyzing your client’s website, be aware that some WordPress themes are friendlier to SEO than others. So be careful which theme you choose even if you plan to customize it.
A lot of themes come with all sorts of plugins and scripts you don’t need or don’t want. Extra baggage can slow down performance. Run the theme’s demo through Google’s web dev tool to check on performance and issues that might affect SEO.
This tip is the simplest but probably the most important. During site development and in other limited instances, you may not want your client’s site to be visible to search engines. That’s why WordPress provides a visibility option that discourages search engines from indexing pages.
Sometimes, after the site is complete or a page is written, those public or visibility boxes never get clicked and the site remains invisible to search engines and navigation. Make sure your clients’ pages and posts are not set to private or password protected if you want search engines to find them. Check whether your site also has an additional block that must be checked to make the site visible with some kind of a description such as “Feature this post.”
One of the reasons WordPress is so beloved is the plethora of available plugins and widgets that simplify website development. These plugins include some that make optimizing for search engines easier and more consistent. Better yet, many of these plugins are free.
A lot of writers may work on your client’s blog as the years go on, and one way to be sure they are all following good SEO practices is to install and activate an SEO plugin such as Yoast. There’s a reason this is the most popular WordPress plugin. Its purpose is not to optimize your client’s site as a whole, but rather to help writers to create content that is easily searchable by search engines.
Ranking high among our other SEO tips for WordPress, installing an SEO plugin is easy to do and well worth it. See this article for a list of the 20 best WordPress SEO plugins in September 2022.
When you set up your site, you can go into settings and determine the structure of your URLs. For example, you could choose for permalinks to be generated based on the date published. However, the convention that is usually preferred is to automatically generate URLs based on the titles of posts.
For example, if you publish a blog post titled Holiday Promotions 2022: Time to Start Planning, your URL is going to look something like (in our case) https://umbrellalocal.com/holiday-promotions-2022-time-to-start-planning. Now SEO does not like overly long URLs, and neither do people who just want to know what a link is about. So, you will probably want to edit this to https://umbrellalocal.com/holiday-promotions-2022.
All headings and subheadings must be indicated when you compose a WordPress page or blog post. Headings help search engines to index the page and know what content is most important.
You put your title in a separate box at the top which will automatically give it the H1 designation. H1 is the primary heading.
Body text will be marked as “paragraph”.
The next heading down from H1 is the H2 heading, which will usually be set to a slightly smaller size font.
You can then use subheadings below that from H3 to H6. Normally, you won’t go beyond H3.
You will want to include your primary keyword in the title (H1 heading) and one or more of the H2 headings at least. But keep it natural. Don’t twist a heading into a pretzel in your efforts to include a keyword. You want your page or post to be easily readable first and foremost.
Your metadata is vastly important information that communicates with search engines, You will not see metadata when reading the article or page.
Don’t overlook these metadata SEO tips for WordPress!
Your title tag is metadata that is important to search engine ranking. It lets search engines know what your page or post is about. Your title tag appears as a link in Google search results even though you won’t see it in the article itself. Don’t confuse the title tag with the title you have given the page or post, the H1 heading.
If you are using Yoast, it will usually be set to automatically designate your title tag to be exactly the same as your H1 heading. You may want to shorten that or change it so include keywords that do not appear in your H1 heading. You could also include other helpful information. For example, you could include your city if your business is a local one.
But don’t make your title tag too long. About 50 to 70 characters are recommended, because it’s just going to get cut off after 70.
For more information, see this article about title tags from SEMrush.
Your page or post meta description enables you to give more information than your title tag, The meta description also does not appear when you look at the article, but it does appear in search results. That means, the more targeted and appealing you can make a meta description, the better your click-through rate is going to be.
Yoast indicates when you write a meta description that is too long or too short. Though WordPress does not impose a character limit, don’t go beyond 160 characters. To do so is counterproductive because it’s just going to get cut off.
You should be using image on your clients’ sites both for the sake of SEO and to attract reader interest. However, pages can become noticeably slower to load if you do not properly optimize those images.
The main thing is that you need to use images of the proper size rather than images that are larger than needed. You can downsize images completely manually in a photo editor or you can get help from a WordPress image optimization plugin to downsize and strip out unneeded data. See this article for the 10 most popular image optimization plugins for WordPress. The leader is Smush.
Images that use optimized metadata are important to SEO and click-through rates.
The file names for your images are important. Many marketers just upload images and do not change the file names. Don’t be one of them.
File names should indicate the relevant content of the image not just be a string of numbers or inconsequential descriptors. Anything you can do to give search engines more information, do it.
So, you don’t want an image name like image2346.jpg. Neither do you want an image name like woman-in-yellow-blouse-uses-computer.jpg. If you are using the image to depict a web designer working on a website, the image might be something like web-designer-optimizes-website.jpg.
Like the page itself, WordPress enables you to to write a metadata title and meta description for each image. Always do this or at least use a WordPress plugin that will do it for you automatically. This is another function that Yoast can perform.
Alt text is simply a description of what appears in the image. It is a more literal description than the image metadata description which will usually give a description of what you want the image to portray in relation to the article. Alt text should be unique, and the same alt text should not be used for multiple images on the page.
Alt text has three purposes.
You can easily add a visible caption that appears below the image in WordPress if you would like to provide even more context. However, if the caption does not add anything or interferes with the flow, it is not necessary.
It may not be an obvious factor to many, but the level of your client’s website security affects their search rankings. Many websites often collect sensitive data. Others are used for eCommerce. Yet others are used for online banking. You get the point. A website breach can have catastrophic implications. Remember the Equifax data breach that exposed the personal financial data of 147 million people?
Search engines want to provide their users with safe experiences, which is why security is a ranking factor. Google penalizes sites with shoddy security.
Website security measures are a big topic we will undertake in a future blog post. For now, we just want to flag its importance even for SEO.
These SEO tips for WordPress are just a starting point. There is plenty more to consider. If you would like your clients’ WordPress (or other) sites optimized and maintained for SEO, Umbrella white label SEO services can help. We even offer Pay Per Result SEO services!
Contact Umbrella for a free and in-depth consultation about how Umbrella can help you help your clients.
Book a call today to discuss how we can help your marketing agency grow.