Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Improving your WordPress On-page SEO is crucial for getting more traffic to your website. Sadly most WordPress SEO guides are too technical for new users to get started. If you are serious about increasing your website traffic, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress SEO best practices. In this guide, we will share the top WordPress SEO tips to help you improve your WordPress SEO and get more organic traffic.

You might have heard experts saying that WordPress is SEO friendly. This is actually why a lot of people choose WordPress to start a blog or website.

While WordPress makes sure that the code it generates follows the Learn SEO best practices, there is a lot more you need to do if you want to maximize your SEO efforts.

We have a number of actionable steps that you need to take to properly optimize your WordPress On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

To make it easy, we have created a table of content to help you easily navigate through our ultimate WordPress SEO guide.

See more SEO tools and Mobile SEO Guide to take your WordPress SEO even farther.

Introduction

We know the idea of optimizing for WordPress SEO can be intimidating for beginners, especially if you’re not not a tech geek.

But don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start here to learn the basics, and then you can start applying them to your own website.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.

Search engine optimization isn’t about tricking Google or gaming the system. It’s simply about creating a website that has optimized code and formatting which makes it easy for search engines to find your website.

When people search the web for the topics you write about, your search-engine-optimized content will appear higher in the search results, and you’ll get more people clicking through to your website.

Why SEO is important

Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites.

Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. But those algorithms aren’t perfect — they still need your help to understand what your content is about.

If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

It is really important for all business owners to make their website search engine friendly, so that they can maximize their search traffic.

Starting from the top:

1. WordPress on page SEO – Make sure your indexation settings are enabled

Our first and most important part of this on page search engine optimization checklist is making sure your site is Googlebot friendly! In short, Google will only index your site if WordPress allows them to do so. There's a small setting in the Settings > Reading section of the wp-admin. It's called Search Engine Visibility. Make sure that the box is deselected:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

If it's enabled, for let's say, development purposes, you'll need to make sure it's been switched off to enable your site to get indexed by search engines – otherwise, all the rest of your efforts will be for nothing.

Permalinks represent how WP goes about structuring every URL that's part of your site.

Unfortunately, the default settings aren't very on page SEO-friendly. A clean install of WP uses links like so:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

While you want them to be:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

You can set those in Settings > Permalinks. The idea is that in a setup like that, you can include keywords in your posts' URLs which is very important for WordPress on page search engine optimization.

3. Sign up for Google Search Console (GSC)

Google Search Console also known as Webmaster Tools, is a set of tools offered by Google to give website owners a look at how their content is seen by the search engine.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

It provides reports and data to help you understand how your pages appear in search results. You also get to see the actual search terms people are using to find your website, how each page appears in the search results, and how often your pages are clicked.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

All this information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not. You can then plan your content strategy accordingly.

Google Search Console also alerts you when there is something wrong with your website, like when search crawlers are unable to access it, find duplicate content, or restricted resources.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

 

Once you have added your website to Google Search Console, click on the Crawl menu and then select Sitemaps.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

After that you need to click on the Add Sitemap button.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Your main sitemap is sitemap_index.xml so go ahead and submit that.

Once you have successfully added your sitemap, it will appear as pending. It does take Google some time to crawl your website. After a few hours, you would be able to see some stats about your sitemap. It will show you the number of links it found in your sitemap, how many of them got indexed, a ratio of images and web pages, etc.

We recommend that you check your Search Console at least on a monthly basis for gathering insights and see your website’s SEO progress.

Recommended Reading: Google Search Console: The Ultimate Guide & Training in 2020

4. Sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT)

This is an alternative solution to GSC. But you can work with both, GSC and BWT at the same time if you want to.

After all, if you do so, you gain access to additional data and tools, this time, coming from team Bing. No downside.

Go here to find out more and get started

Recommended:  How To Fix Slow WordPress Hosting On GoDaddy

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

What's next on our on page search engine optimization checklist? Analysis of traffic, because you'll want to know exactly where your traffic is coming from.

Recommended:  Best Free SEO Tools 2020: Optimization On-page SEO & Off-page SEO

5. Use a traffic analytics tool

If you're going to do anything with your website, you need to monitor your traffic on a regular basis. How else are you going to know if your efforts are bringing any results or not?

Now, there are two popular solutions that I like:

  • Google Analytics – the most popular traffic tracking tool out there. It also integrates neatly with GSC

The WordPress integration is simple. Both tools give you a piece of embed code to place in your site's footer.

You know how most of your users come to your site? Via their google searches on their smartphone. That's why our onpage optimization checklist continues with having a responsive site.

Recommended Reading: Best WordPress Analytics Plugins in 2020 and How to Use Monsterinsights in WordPress

6.  Make sure your site is responsive and mobile-friendly

Let me say it this way, in 2015 80% of internet users own a smartphone. And what's even more interesting, mobile tends to be the preferred way of accessing the web for many of them.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Therefore, if your site is still not mobile-friendly, you're leaving a lot of opportunities on the table and alienating the bigger part of your audience.

Not only that, but Google has actually announced that they're now favoring mobile-optimized sites over those that are not. Not only that, but the Google bots are actually crawling the mobile version of your site, rather than the desktop version. So if there is stuff on your desktop version, which does not appear on the mobile-version, Google will not even know about it!

So what to do?

Mobile SEO Guide: Introduction & Optimization

Recommended Reading: Mobile SEO Guide: Introduction & Optimization

Future read:

7.  On-page optimization using headings: Check how your theme handles H1, H2 tags

We are now actually getting to the optimization checklist of actual items on your page, post or article.

Very important as part of your onpage seo techniques are you content headers. H1-H6 tags are a critical part of your on-page search engine optimization structure. For years now, those headings have been used to notify the reader (and also the search engines) what the hierarchy of the information on the page is, and what's more and less important.

The idea is simple:

  • H1 – main, top-level heading – it's what the page is about. It's somewhat of a standard to only use one H1 tag on a single page. Google also recommended that in the past so don't put multiple H1 tags
  • H2 – secondary heading – it's what a section on the page is about.
  • H3 – third level heading … and so on.

Check how your theme handles those headings. To do so:

Go to SEO Checker

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Click Search Engine Spider Simulator an “Enter a Url”

find all instances of H1 and H2 tags. See if they make sense and present a good structure of the document:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

8. Improve your site speed

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Pagespeed

When performing your on-page seo checklist, do make sure you've checked how fast your website loads.

Site speed is yet another element that Google pointed out as one of the ranking factors. And it's not only words, it's actually been proven experimentally that site speed strongly correlates with search engine position.

What this means in plain English is that you should do whatever it takes to make your site load as fast as possible. Even setting search engine rankings aside, good site speed will improve the overall experience that your audience has with the site. There are a lot of on-page benefits for WordPress sites that can get their load time to less than 2 seconds.

How to make your site faster? I'm afraid there's no one-sentence explanation to this. Below is a 21 step-by-step case study that talks about all the how's and lists a number of optimizations you can perform.

If you want one plugin which can do a significant amount of difference to your website's speed though – do have a look at W3 total cache. It's our recommended plugin of choice to make your website faster incredibly quickly. It's not free – but it's well worth the investment!

Recommended Reading: Speed Up WordPress 2020 : Mobile SEO Speed Optimization and How to Install and Setup W3 Total Cache (Best Guide)

What I am going to say, though, is that the best way to make your site faster is to simply switch to a faster hosting platform. Sometimes you just can't make up for the shortcomings of your web host by doing WordPress on page SEO tweaks. That's why changing your hosting provider is often the quickest and also the best solution.

If you're looking for a great fast hosting service, we absolutely love Godaddy and Hostgator hosting – we do strongly suggest you visit our review HostGator vs GoDaddy.

9. WordPress On Page SEO Plugins to have

Let's move to the plugins department. As I said at the beginning, working on your WordPress on-page SEO without plugins can only take you so far. The thing is that WP isn't that SEO-friendly right out the gate, which leaves a lot of room for plugins to come in and fill the gaps.

Recommended:  Learn SEO 2020: Complete SEO Guide For Beginners

Rank Math

The most popular WordPress on-page SEO plugin of them all, with more than 1 million active installs. It gives you all the basic settings you'd need, and also lets you in on some of the advanced stuff, should you want to experiment.

Also read: Yoast SEO vs Rank Math SEO Comparison 2020: Which SEO Plugin is the Best?

10. WPtouch Mobile Plugin

If your site isn't mobile-friendly, this plugin will fix this. It simply switches between your standard design and a mobile-optimized version based on the device that the visitor is using to access the site.

Recommended:  Mobile SEO Guide: Introduction & Optimization in 2020

The plugin works on autopilot and it's completely free. The mobile design it delivers is clear and good-looking. In short, a great free solution if you don't want to rebuild your whole theme.

Download: Wptouch Mobile Plugin

11. Use two-fold headlines for improved keyword targeting

I can't recall where I first saw those things, but the concept is really clever. Basically, the idea is to make your headlines optimized for the search engines and for humans both at the same time.

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Construct your headline from two parts:

1) the keyword-rich search engine optimized part, and

2) a twist.

Examples:

  • How to Create a Killer “Hire Me” Page, Instead of a “Meh” One

  • 10 Blog Post Ideas so Great They'll Make You Wanna Slap Your Mama!

This sets the right tone, both for users and for search engines. The great thing is that you can use your primary and secondary keywords in the headlines.

This is a really important step of your on-page seo checklist.

12. Always set titles and descriptions manually

This is a must-do for every new post. Don't be lazy about this. While WordPress will fill out the meta title and description fields for you, those auto-generated texts aren't always the best, both from a keyword optimization perspective and copywriting perspective.

If you have Rank Math installed, you get a nice box under the main editing screen to take care of this:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Use your main keyword for the post, and also some related keywords in the description.

13. Include a keyword in the first paragraph

The first paragraph is the most important part of the post's content from an search engine optimization point of view. You simply need to let Google and your visitors know what your post is about.

This may require some brainstorming to make things sound right, but you should always make an effort to include your main keyword in the very first paragraph.

Exhibit a): scroll to the top of this post.

14. Keyword density still matters

It's simple, if you want to rank for a certain keyword, you need to mention that keyword some number of times in the body of the post.

The team behind Yoast recommends anything from 0.5-2.5% density. The Rank Math SEO plugin has an on page seo checker which also lets you know about your current keyword density score

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

As part of your on-page search engine optimization, try not to over optimize or use keywords such that they do not make for good reading. Which brings us to the next point on our on-page checklist.

Note: Use our Keyword Density Checker, this will help you

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Related keywords can be just as important as your main keyword for the post. Basically, Google wants to see some range of words and phrases alongside your main keyword if you expect them to be convinced that your post is indeed on topic.

Find related keywords through Google suggestions on the standard search engine results pages:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Note: Use our Keywords Suggestion Tool, this will help you

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

Keywords Suggestion Tool

# Suggest Queries
1 WordPress Seo
2 WordPress Seo Plugins
3 WordPress Seo Tips
4 WordPress Seo Optimization
5 WordPress Seo By Yoast
6 WordPress Seo Tutorial
7 WordPress Seo Coalition
8 WordPress Seo Manager Role
9 WordPress Seo Without Plugin
10 WordPress Seo Plugins 2020

 

16. Interlink with older posts

If I'm not mistaken, Rand Fishkin (the guy behind Moz) said in one of his Whiteboard Fridays that he hasn't yet come across a site whose optimization for search engine couldn't be improved by working on the internal link structure alone. It's simply something we tend to overlook.

So do this:

For every new post you're working on, find at least 3 existing related posts on your blog, and then link to them from within the body of that new post. You should have noted we've linked to multiple supplementary posts on this page

Most importantly, see which of your posts get the most organic traffic, and link to other sites you want to rank, from those posts. This is because this has the most link juice which they can pass on to the other pages. This is a really great on-page seo trick.

Some people call this, link sculpting.

17. Use alt text for images

Yes, you should use images in your blog content. Posts with images get more clicks.

But the thing with images is that Google has no idea what's on them until you find a way to tell them directly. Hence, alt text.

<img src="//cdn.collectiveray.com/img.jpg" alt="what the image is about" />

In WordPress, you can set alt text very easily for every image you have on the blog:

Ultimate WordPress On-page SEO Guide for Beginners (2020)

A good practice is to use a short 2-5 word description of what's in the picture, plus include a keyword whenever it makes sense. On to our final step in the on-page seo checklist…

18. Jumpstart your social shares

The number of social shares your content receives is believed to be an important ranking factor. As I mentioned above, Moz continues to point it out for the last couple of years in their annual Search Engine Ranking Factors report.

Stack these odds in your favor by sharing your content to your own social profiles right after publication. Every share counts. You shouldn't feel weird about promoting your own stuff.

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