Considered one of the best CMS platforms for search engine optimization, WordPress provides an efficient way to structure, manage, and publish websites, even for those who don’t know HTML. Though blogs tend to be one of the more common uses for the platform, it’s a favorite among many businesses, with themes and plugins that help to boost organic search traffic.
But what is WordPress, and how can your business leverage all nuts and bolts to boost your organic search rankings? In this article, we’ll go over that and more, offering a step-by-step guide on all the essentials you’ll need to know for your website.
In a nutshell, it is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) designed to simplify the process of creating a website or blog. In fact, this very website and blog were created using WordPress, and as a digital marketing agency, we leverage the simplicity of the platform every day to market ourselves to potential clients.
With 42% of the web built on WordPress, it’s no wonder that companies like ours chose to utilize the platform, as it provides an excellent, SEO-friendly way to stand out from the competition. But how do we accomplish this, and how can your business do the same? The key is to follow a few key steps.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the default WP theme is how ugly it is. There’s no other way to say it. The good news is that the platform provides a host of attractive and SEO-friendly alternatives. For this, you’ll want to focus on two things:
Responsive design: According to Google, mobile-friendly content is going to perform better for those already searching on their smartphones or tablets, which is a lot of us.
Lightweight: While some themes might have all the bells and whistles you’re looking for, the truth is some can have too many, leading to site slowdown. For this reason, you want to avoid themes that are overloaded with too many plugins and scripts.
Thankfully, most WordPress theme descriptions will inform you how responsive and mobile-friendly they are, and it helps that you can verify those descriptions with Google’s Mobile-friendly Test Tool.
Chances are that as you’ve surfed the web, you’ve come across a few websites that don’t begin with “www.” For example, if you search VELOX Media on Google, you’ll notice that our website lives at https://www.veloxmedia.com, while Search Engine Journal, a popular SEO hub, lives at https://searchengineland.com. In reality, there are plenty of other examples like this one, and Google views both URLs in the same fashion.
That being said, you can set your preferred domain version as the WP Address URL and Site Address URL in your WP backend. The platform will automatically default the other version to your preferred one.
Wondering if it makes a difference which one you choose? It comes down to personal preference for newer websites. That being said, if your website is older or accessible via both domain types, it’s a good idea to check and select the version that Google seems to prefer already. You can check the two via a quick Google search of your website and see how many results each domain returns.
Permalinks are important for multiple reasons. They’re great for usability, as they help people anticipate what your pages are going to be about. For instance, if you’re a fashion brand eager to increase your sales, part of your strategy might be to hire an agency with fashion digital marketing experience. Your search would lead you to a number of permalinks from agencies that specialize in that industry, and the agency with the best-optimized links would rank higher in your search. While multiple factors might decide whether or not you convert, this makes permalinks a valuable SEO tool, as they give search engines key information regarding pages before users even click them, working as enticers towards conversion.
Adding to this, each post or page on your website has its own unique permalink that visitors use to access it. This means that these links are the ones people type, paste, or share across email, social media, forums, etc. By default, WordPress comes with five options for your permalinks under Settings > Permalinks. They are as follows:
Plain: This is the default structure, consisting of the domain name followed by what’s known as a “query string.” The ‘?” mark acts as a separator, while the “p” stands for “post,” with a number following an equal sign that represents an ID number of post number in the WordPress database. Because this number doesn’t give us too much information regarding what the post or page might be about, other more explanatory domain structures are usually a better option.
Day and Name: This structure simply displays the name and publishing date for the post, so it’s a little bit more clear and practical.
Month and Name: Follows the same principle as the above.
Numeric: Contains the post number similar to the Plain permalink structure, but has the word “archive” after the root with no special characters.
Post Name: Often considered the best type of URL format, especially by SEO specialists, this type of structure includes long-tail keywords, separated by hyphens, describing the post in more detail.
Custom: This is another format preferred by SEO specialists, as it allows admins to arrange the content under categories or any way they see fit.
While there’s no hard-set rule on which format is best, you should always opt for the format that’s the most descriptive. Keep in mind that your goal is to give users and search engines a clear idea as to what your pages and posts are about, and that’s difficult to do with just numbers and characters. Placing keywords in your URLs is a common SEO-friendly tactic, and should always be considered whether you choose to do so via the Post Name or Custom domain structure.
Acting as guides and UX optimizers for your website, breadcrumbs are navigational links that users can take advantage of whenever they visit your post or page. They give users the higher level of categories that led them to the content they’re currently viewing, and they also allow for easy navigation back to previously-viewed pages. In other words, they create a “trail” that leads users back “home” should they desire to follow it.
Useful for guiding users between blogs, product pages, online stores, and category pages, breadcrumbs typically fall into three navigational link categories of their own:
While you don’t have to use breadcrumbs, the benefits of doing so speak for themselves. They help search engines to better understand the structure and hierarchy of your website. They help to create a solid internal linking structure, and they’re helpful to users as they navigate through your pages. Best of all, these breadcrumbs appear in Google Search, making them a valuable tool for overall visibility.
How do you enable breadcrumbs for WP? The All In One SEO plugin makes the process simple. All you need to do is navigate to the Plugins menu on the left sidebar, select All In One SEO, choose Activate, then go to Search Appearance > Breadcrumbs > Enable Breadcrumbs. Voila. You’re done.
Most blog comments are harmless enough, with a majority being legitimate questions from readers or comments about what they did or didn’t like about your post. That being said, there are a few that are well…spammy.
If you weren’t already aware, comment spam is a pretty big thing, and it goes without saying that you don’t want that happening on your posts. Why is it a thing? It’s because spammers want to build backlinks to their website at scale, and they do so via automated comment spam software on blogs or posts throughout the internet. When someone submits a blog comment, WordPress asks for their name and website by default. Then, once the comment goes live, their name gets linked to their site. Though Google released a “nofollow” tag in previous years to combat this issue, spammy comments can still have an adverse effect on your website. This is because:
A. Low-quality content on certain parts of a website can impact that website’s overall ranking.
B. Spam will naturally distract and annoy your users, affecting user experience, and lowering the overall reputation of your website.
C. Google might remove or demote pages that are overrun with user-generated spam.
WP sets automatic comment approvals “On” by default, so you’ll want to fix this by going to Settings > Discussion, then clicking the “Comment must be manually approved” checkbox.
When it comes to formatting your text, some things are SEO 101. Your content should be organized to give users a clear understanding of where one topic ends and another begins, and that same content should be formatted with HTML. You can accomplish this via the following:
In other words, you don’t want to hit your users with huge walls of text. How do you accomplish this? You use the WYSIWYG editor within WordPress. Best of all, it’s actually pretty simple, especially if you’re already familiar with Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
However, you’ll want to make sure to only paste plain text copy into the editor. This can be accomplished via CTRL + SHIFT + V on Windows, or CMD + Shift + V on Mac. This helps to remove all the added formatting from your word processor, and forgetting this step will give you a bunch of very confusing and very messy-looking HTML. All that’s left is to re-add any wanted formatting via the WYSIWYG editor
Now that you’ve optimized the text content for your website, it’s time to get to work on doing the same for your images. This is typically done by compressing your images for better load speeds. However, you can go a step further by adding alt-text to your images.
Designed to make images more accessible to screen readers and those who are visually impaired, alt-text is an extremely valuable SEO tool, as it works to provide Google with greater context as to what your images represent, improving your website’s organic search rankings in the process.
Likewise, adding your alt-text is a breeze and can be done so via the visual editor. Simply navigate to Add Media > Upload Files. You’ll see an alt-text field for you to type in your image description.
Important Note: Keep your alt-text descriptions short and sweet. This isn’t the place to shoehorn your keywords, as you want your alt-text to be accurate above all else.
Before your content can rank, it needs some links. Google has an easier time finding your posts and pages when they’re linked to from somewhere on the internet. At the same time, users navigating your website have a much easier time doing so via internal links, as they serve to give your site structure an overall hierarchy.
When all’s said and done, you want your users to be able to find the information they need in 2-3 clicks. This makes Google’s page crawler particularly happy, as it tells Google your website has a firm structure in place. As with your HTML formatting, you can add internal links to your site via the WYSIWYG editor. Simply highlight the text forming the link, then click the “Insert/Edit Link” button. It’s that easy.
Let’s say you’re a digital marketing agency with a site built on WordPress, and you specialize in services related to Creative, Strategy, Search Marketing, Link Building, and CMS platforms. You decide to create a Services landing page where you talk a little about the five different services you provide.
Next, you create individual landing pages for each service, wherein you provide more detail on how you can help potential clients via these services. For each page, you provide a link back to the main Services page. By default, your site structure might look like this:
Not too bad, but it would make more sense to nest those individual services under the “/services/” subfolder. Now we have something like this:
Not only is this a tighter site structure, but it’s also easy to manage in WP. All you have to do is use the Parent dropdown on the page editor and choose the “Services” page.
While “content caching” might sound like a fancier term, it’s actually pretty basic. The process lets you create static versions of your pages, wherein browsers load them more quickly. Your website is faster, your users are happy, and Google takes notice.
Given that page speed is an important ranking factor on desktop and mobile, your pages rank higher in Google SERPs. Win-win. Thankfully, enabling content caching in WordPress is just as easy and can be done so via plugins like WP Rocket. Once you activate it, you can choose Performance > General Settings to get things going. From there, enable the “Page Cache,” “Minify,” and “Browser Cache” options.
So, there you have it, ten tips on how to get the most out of your CMS. Should you have any other questions regarding how to boost your organic search rankings, we’d love to help! Whether you run a blog, an eCommerce business, or host your portfolio online, turn to the WordPress professionals at VELOX Media. We’ll work with you to improve engagement, drive more traffic and revenue, and generate long-term results.
Contact VELOX Media today to learn more.