A Complete Guide to WordPress SEO: What You Need to Know in 2020

If you are serious about increasing your organic traffic then you need to pay attention to your WordPress SEO.

You might have heard everyone saying “WordPress is SEO friendly.”

Yes, they are right, but here is the catch…

If you are expecting WordPress to deliver fully SEO optimized performance right out of the box, then you are wrong...

There is a lot more you need to do to make your WordPress blog SEO friendly.

In this guide, I will share all the WordPress SEO tips and best SEO practices to help you optimize your WordPress website from start to finish.

To make it easy, I have divided this whole guide into different sections to help you easily navigate through our definite WordPress SEO guide.

Wordpress SEO tutorial

Introduction to SEO

I know the idea of optimizing your site for SEO can be intimidating, especially if you’re not a tech geek.

But don’t worry, I will try to keep this guide as simple as I can. Start here to learn what actually SEO is all about and then we will move forward to basics of WordPress SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of optimizing your website and content to be discovered in Search engine organic results.

In layman language, when your site is SEO optimized, people searching in Google for the topic you write about can see your site in the search result and eventually you will be able to drive more people to your site.

Why SEO is important?

There are billions of people coming on search engines every day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.

And it makes sense why Search engines are often the biggest traffic source for almost every website.

In Today’s time, Google, Bing, and all other popular search engines have become very smart, they use an advanced set of algorithms to understand and rank web pages appropriately in search results.

But those algorithms aren’t perfect yet – they still need your help to understand the content of your web page.

It is important for everyone to optimize their website in the best possible way to deliver better information to search engines. So that your website and contents can be properly indexed and displayed in search engines.

Get your basic WordPress SEO right

By putting the right basic settings in place, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon!

#1. Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings

WordPress has a built-in option to hide your website from search engines. This option is useful when your website is in the development process.

But once you have made your website public, you should make sure to uncheck this option otherwise if it is checked then it will discourage search engines from looking at your site.

Here’s how to find this option in your WordPress dashboard:

Log in to your WordPress dashboard and go to Settings » Reading page.

Search engine visibility settings

Scroll down to the bottom and make sure that the box next to ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is unchecked.

Read also – 25 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Blog


#2. Install an SEO-friendly theme

When you install WordPress for the first time, WordPress will automatically install a very basic theme.

But the good thing about WordPress is that there’s no shortage of better-looking WordPress themes.

At the same time, the downside is not all WordPress themes are SEO friendly and well-coded.

So what makes for an SEO-friendly theme?

To Make sure the theme you have chosen is mobile-friendly, run the theme demo through Google’s Mobile-friendly Test tool.

Mobile friendly test
  • Lightweight: Avoid themes using lots of third party plugins and bloated with unnecessary scripts that have no use. They will make your website slow. (Most of the free theme have this same issue)

However, there are many other factors like Plugin compatibility, Support, Features, Price is important while choosing a theme but the above two factors are very important from the SEO perspective.

SEO friendly WordPress themes :

I personally use the Generatepress Premium theme on almost all of my blogs. (This blog also use the same theme) It comes with responsive design, Validated HTML, built-in schema.org and have lightning-fast load time. Most importantly the support they provide is unimaginable, you can know more about this theme in my Generatepress review.


#3. Pick the SEO Friendly URL structure

An SEO friendly URL accurately describes the content of the page using keywords that are easy to read for both humans and search engines.

Example of SEO friendly URLs:

https://www.bloggingnova.com/Wordpress-seo/

https://www.bloggingnova.com/best-wordpress-hosting/

As you can notice these URLs are easily readable and anyone can guess what the whole content is going to be about by just seeing the URL of the page.

Example of NON-SEO friendly URLs:

https://www.bloggingnova.com/folder-X13756kps/

https://www.bloggingnova.com/?p=5690/

Now as you can see in the above example these URLs use numbers and signs that are unrelated to the content of the page and a user cannot guess what they will find by just looking at the URL.

Here is how you can check or change your existing permalink structure.

Open your WordPress dashboard and go to Settings » Permalinks page.

Select the structure labeled “Post name.”

Wordpress permalink structure

Helpful resource – The ultimate guide to an SEO Friendly URL structure

Note: If your website is old and have too many contents, then please don’t change your existing permalink structure. By changing your permalink structure, you will lose all of your existing social share counts and in some cases, you may also lose your existing search engine ranking.


4. Choose WWW or non-WWW

If you are just starting out then you have to decide whether you want to go with WWW (http://www.yourdomainname.com) or NON-WWW (http://yourdomainname.com)

Is this actually affect your WordPress SEO in 2020?

No, from SEO perspective there is no benefit of choosing one over another.

In fact, Google has also said that it all depends on your personal preference.

But what’s important here is that you should stay consistent with the URL format you choose once.

Just go to Settings > General page and add your preferred URL in both the ‘WordPress Address’ and ‘Site Address’ fields.

WordPress website URL

(Make sure both have the same format)

WordPress SEO plugin to Optimize your site

The best thing about WordPress is there is always a plugin for every task and SEO is not an exception.

Let’s find out how SEO plugins and tools can help you optimize your site to get the highest visibility in the search results.

#5. Install the best WordPress SEO Plugin on your site

A WordPress SEO plugin can help you improve different aspects of SEO on your site and increase the overall visibility of your website.

So, which WordPress SEO plugin is best?

Well, Rank Math and Yoast SEO are perhaps the most powerful SEO plugin currently available for any type of WordPress site.

Where Yoast is a very old and most popular SEO plugin with over 5 million downloads, Rank Math is relatively new in the SEO industry.

Both the plugins are created by the reputed developer in the WordPress industry and they are updated continuously to keep up with search engine changes.

I personally use Rank Math SEO plugin on Bloggingnova as it has significantly more features than other SEO plugins out there.

I have also created a step by step guide on properly setting up Rank Math Plugin.


#6. Enable breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs navigation is a way for users and search engines to follow around the site.

They look something like this:

Breadcrumbs

These little navigation aids not only help users understand where they are on a site, but It also helps search engines understand the hierarchy of links on a website.

Plus if you have enabled breadcrumbs on your site, then search engines like Google also display breadcrumbs below the title of your webpage in the search results.

Breadcrumbs in Google SERPs

Whether it has any direct SEO benefit or not is debatable. But since they look a bit nicer and provide more context, they may increase your click-through rate in the search result.

Whether you are using Yoast or Rank math, both the plugin makes very easy to enable breadcrumbs on your site.

If you are using Rank Math plugin then go to Rank Math >> General Settings >> Breadcrumbs and Enable breadcrumbs function.

Breadcrumbs in RankMath plugin

Use the following code in your theme template files to display breadcrumbs on your website:

<?php if (function_exists('rank_math_the_breadcrumbs')) rank_math_the_breadcrumbs(); ?>

Or paste this shortcode anywhere on your website, where you want to show breadcrumbs.

If you are a Yoast SEO user, follow this guide – How To Add Breadcrumbs with Yoast SEO?


#7. Create a sitemap for your website

Sitemaps are useful for search engines like Google to understand the hierarchy and structure of your WordPress site as well as it ensures better indexing and crawling. 

Are sitemaps really very necessary?

No, generally search engines will crawl your site even without having any sitemap, but adding an XML sitemap to your site is always considers a good WordPress SEO practice.

The good part is you don’t need to put additional effort to create your sitemap, since both Yoast and Rank math has a built-in option to enable Sitemap on your blog.

If you are using Rank Math then go to Rank Math > Sitemap settings and enable Sitemap Feature.

Once enabled your sitemap index can be found at: http://www.yourdomain/sitemap_index.xml

It will look something similar to this:

RankMath XML sitemap

For Yoast plugin user – Go to Yoast SEO > General > Features tab and Toggle the ‘XML Sitemaps’ switch.

You can find your sitemap at http://www.example.com/sitemap_index.xml

Yoast SEO sitemap
Yoast SEO sitemap (ShoutMeLoud)

#8. Add Your Site to Google Search Console

Google Search Console previously known as the Webmaster tool is a free platform made by Google for website owners to monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot their site’s presence in Google Search results.

It gives you tons of information that’s crucial for effective SEO planning. Things like what actual keyword people are using to find your website, how often people click on your page after typing in specific queries, and which other sites have linked to your site.

All these small and big information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not so that you can plan your content strategy accordingly.

The GSC tool also tells you about any issues with your site, things Like crawling error, page not mobile-friendly, duplicate content and manual actions.

All these things make it a very powerful and must-use tool for any website owners.

So, Here is how to connect your website with Google search console:

Step 1 – Head over to the Google search console homepage and log in using your Google account.

Search console

Step 2 – From the drop-down menu click on + add property and enter your website URL in the URL prefix section.

Google search console

Step 3 – Now you need to verify your domain ownership. Click the arrow next to ‘HTML tag’ to expand the option and Copy the meta code appearing in box.

Search console settings

Step 4 Now go to your WordPress dashboard > RankMath > General settings > webmaster tools and enter your meta code into Google Search Console box and save the settings.

Google search console verify

Step 5 Once you have entered your meta code into Rank Math, come back to Google search console page and click on the verify button to complete the verification process.

After connecting your site with GSC tool, you should also add your sitemap with GSC.

Adding your sitemap in the GSC tool is very easy, Just go to Sitemaps page from the left sidebar and simply paste your Sitemap URL into the box and hit submit button.

Google search console sitemap

Now Google will check your sitemap file and start crawling and indexing all the links listed in your sitemap.

This means from now whenever you publish a new post or page on your site, Google can easily find and index your page in search engine.

Helpful resource – The Definitive Guide to Google Search Console – SEMrush


#9. Utilize Social Signals

Do social signal really impact your WordPress SEO?

Well, the relationship between Social shares and SEO isn’t at all clear cut… 

Some SEO experts completely disagree that Social signals are ranking factors while some SEO experts agree with social signals such as likes and shares are related to webpage ranking.

A recent experiment done by Hootsuite also shows there is a positive correlation between social engagements and change in the ranking of a page.

Even if social shares has no direct impact on SEO, it can give your website a major boost in free traffic. So, it’s better to take advantage of social media as much as you can.

The best thing you can do to encourage your readers to share your content on social media is adding the Social share buttons to your site.

I personally use Social snap Plugin on my blog to add beautiful social sharing buttons on different places of my content.

Social snap is not like not just any normal social sharing plugin, it is packed with full of growth-centric features that can actually help you boost your social traffic.

To know more about this amazing social share plugin read my social snap Review.

social snap

#10. Optimizing Your Every Blog Posts for SEO

Remember we talked about the importance of installing SEO plugin in Step 5!

But just installing the plugin is not going you to give you results, you have to utilize this plugin in every post to get maximum results.

Whenever you are writing a new blog post, simply scroll down to your SEO plugin section (Rank Math or Yoast) and take full advantage of it.

Here are few of the most important things you should focus on while optimizing your blog post for SEO:


  • Title Tags: Having a good title for your blog post is extremely important not just for search engines but for users too. A good title motivates users to click on your article when they find it in the search results.

From SEO perspective make sure your blog post title length is between 50-55 letters and your main keywords appear in your title.

Rank Math SEO box

  • Meta Descriptions: In general, Meta description has no direct impact on your WordPress SEO. However, a good meta description can entice the user to click on your post and increase your CTR. And not to forget (CTR) plays an important role in SEO.
Rank Math meta description

  • Permalink: Permalinks are basically the URL of your blog post that users and search engines see when navigating through your site.

From the SEO point of view, it is always recommended to keep a short and descriptive URL that contains your main keyword.

Rank Math permalink

  • Focus Keyword: It is important to remember that Google is still a computer algorithm and that is why Keyword still matters even in 2020.

Even before writing your new blog post, You should do proper keyword research and find a few keywords related to your topic so that you can optimize your content around those keywords.

Once you’ve written the content, choose the right focus keywords. Rank Math lets you choose up to 5 focus keywords per post.

The first focus keyword that you add will be considered as the Primary Focus Keyword, and the rest will be considered secondary focus keywords. 

Focus keyword

Once you are done with optimizing your post with these basic things. Now, look at all the best WordPress SEO recommendation given by your SEO plugin to make sure your post is optimized properly for the highest ranking in the search results.

Rank math seo

In the end, your SEO plugin will give you the final SEO score out of 100 which shows how well you have optimized your content for SEO.

Always aim to get the highest SEO score. At the time I am writing this post I have got 94 out of 100 which is not at all bad.

Rank Math SEO score

WordPress SEO Best Practices For better results

If you are using the best WordPress SEO plugin and following the basics of WordPress SEO, you are already ahead of most websites.

However to get the maximum SEO benefits for your site you can follow these best WordPress SEO practices.

11. Make use of Category and Tags in the right Way

Category and Tags help you organize the content of your blog into specific and broad groups respectively.

It improves your Website SEO as it helps the search engine to understand the structure of your site.

On the other hand, it also helps your site users to find the content they’re looking for.

However, I have personally seen that beginners often get confused about how to best use categories and tags.

The general idea with categories and tags is to:

  • use categories to divide your content into major topics discussed on your site.
  • use tags for the topics discussed in an individual blog post.

For example on a recipe blog, you can have categories like Healthy food recipe, Breakfast recipe, Luch recipe, Dinner recipes, etc.

Categories are hierarchical, so you can add subcategories to them – Like for Healthy recipes categories you can add “Gluten-free” “Sugar-free” and “Vegan” as your subcategories.

On the other hand, as mentioned earlier tags are used to describe your post in more detail. For example, a blog post under the breakfast category can have tags like pancakes, muffins, salad, etc.

I hope you have got a clear idea of categories and tags from the above example. To follow the best SEO practices with Categories and tags I will recommend you to learn more about Silo Structure from here.


#12. Internally link to other posts/pages

Internal links help the search engines find, index and understand all the posts and pages of your blog.

It is a great way to interconnect the different content on your website.

Plus if you use them strategically, internal links can also pass relevant link juice to linked pages.

Internal linking for SEO

So, it is always recommended to add at least 4-5 internal links on each blog post you publish.

Here is how to add internal link on your page:

Highlight the text that you want to link and then hit the link button. Paste the URL of your another blog post and hit enter.

Internal link wordpress

Recommended Reading: Top 10 WordPress Hosting in 2020 Revealed


#13. Use Nofollow tag in External link

There are basically two types of Link when it comes to WordPress SEO.

DoFollow and Nofollow.

Dofollow links: By default, each link you add on your post is Dofollow which usually passes link juice between the post and the site they are linked to.

In general, this helps build authority in the search engine’s eye and affects your ranking in the search result.

That’s why you have heard every expert saying you need more do-follow links from high authority sites to rank higher in Google.

Nofollow links: These links generally tell search engines to not pass any link juice and it does not have any direct impact on ranking.

So, why it is recommended to use the Nofollow tag in the external link?

See linking to some external sites wherever necessary is always considered good practice to enhance your blog user experience. But from SEO perspective it is not good to give link juice to each site you link on your post.

This is where “Nofollow tag” comes in use, you can simply use No follow tag in your link and stop the search engine from passing link juice.

To add nofollow tag in your link, simply click on the Link Settings dropdown and enable No Follow option.

Nofollow link

That’s it.

Note: It’s not mandatory to No-follow all external links..


#14. Optimize WordPress Comments

Comments are strong indication of good user engagement. And good user engagement means more traffic and improved SEO performance.

But unfortunately, the number of spam comments you will get will be 50x more from the real user comments.

Yes, I am not kidding. Even if your blog is new you will probably receive 10-20 comments every day but almost all comments will be received from spammers.

This is what it looks like:

Spam comments wordpress

Spammers use automated software to post the same comments to thousands of blogs. They usually do this to build backlinks to their website at scale. (now please you don’t start trying this strategy, it do not work at all 😀)

Even if all the links in the WordPress comment section are nofollow by default, still according to Google, spam comments can have an adverse effect on your site SEO.

Spam comments

To follow the best SEO practices with comments, the first thing you should do is enable manual approval of comments on your blog.

To do this, log in to your WordPress dashboard and go to Settings > Discussion. check the box appearing before “Comment must be manually approved”.

Comments setting wordPress

Further, you can install a free plugin like Akismet to automatically block all the spam comments, so that you don’t have to manually delete them every time.

Speed and Security for SEO

No matter how well you have optimized your WordPress site for SEO, if your website is loading very slow or having security issues then it will have a negative impact on your search engine ranking.

Here is how you can prevent your site from losing search engine ranking from slow loading speed and security issues.

#15. Optimize Your Site’s Speed and Performance

When it comes to WordPress SEO, the loading time of your website (speed) matters a lot.

Google announced way back in 2010, they will use speed as a ranking factor.

Google site speed ranking factor

And in 2018, they ramped up the importance of page speed with the “Speed” update.

Page speed ranking factor of google

In short, your website loading speed is important than ever in 2020, and if you have a very slow website then it will definitely hurt your ranking in the search results.

You can use a free tool like GT Metrix to test your website speed.

GT metrix

And if your website loading time is more than 3 seconds then my friend you need to work on your site speed.

I will recommend you to check out these 25 actionable tricks to speed up WordPress website.


#16. Enable content caching

Caching, sounds very fancy na?

Actually, it is a very complex technology but it does one simple thing very well – Make your website load fast.

And as I already mentioned – your website speed is very crucial for your SEO success.

A caching plugin basically helps you create static versions of your posts and pages so that the browser can load them fast and it eventually makes your site faster.

If you want to understand caching in detail then refer to this guide.

Which caching Plugin is best?

Well if you are someone who is looking for a free option then use W3 Total Cache. (it is a very well known caching plugin but make sure to set it up properly to get the best result)

I have used almost every popular caching plugin in the last few years and WP Rocket (Premium) is by far the best I have ever come across. It is pretty simple to configure and give the best result among all the other caching plugin available.

Cache plugin
Visit WP rocket plugin

Want to know more about WPRocket Plugin? Check out my WP Rocket review.


#17. ‘Noindex’ low-value content

Low-quality pages or thin content pages aren’t useful not just for the user but search engines too.

You can have different kinds of the low-quality page on your site. Like page holding little information, duplicate content, pages having the same information as on other pages and so on.

And if these pages are indexed in the search engine then it will definitely hurt your Overall Site SEO.

You can also watch this video from Google where they discussed what is thin content and how to fix it.

Recently a website increased their organic traffic by 22% after removing duplicate web pages from their sites.

In fact, Moz also reported a 13.7% increase in organic search traffic after removing low-value pages from their site.

How to find low-value pages on your site?

Well, there might be few posts and pages you already know that does not give any value to the users, first no-index them.

Then you can use SEMrush’s Organic Traffic Insights and Content Analyzer features to find all the low-quality pages on your site

The organic traffic insights reports show you all the pages that send organic traffic to your site, from there you can find out pages that have a very high bounce rate.

organic-traffic-report-semrush

The content analyzer reports give you all the necessary details about the pages including the published date, number of visits, the number of words, etc.

From these data, you can find which page has very fewer words or which page is not getting any traffic.

content-analyzer-semrush

If you want to go deeper then do a complete audit of your site with the help of the SEMRush tool and find out all the low-value pages.

Once you found all the thin pages, you can manually no-index them one by one from your SEO plugin customization box.

Rank math no index

#18. Optimizing Images in WordPress for SEO

Optimizing images of your WordPress site properly is a great way to get an SEO edge.

Here is how you can help Google find your images and index them for the right keyword.

  • Make sure your image file name is readable and short.
  • Give a good title to your image that actually describes your image.
  • Add Alt text to the image, It helps search engines understand the context of the image. (Very Important)
  • You can also give more information about the image in the Description section.

Now as you also know images take up a lot of disk space on your server and thus also take a lot of time to load on your reader’s browser.

So, it’s important to optimize your image size to load it faster on your reader’s browser.

I personally use Tiny PNG from a long time to optimize all my images. It is a free tool where you just need to drag and drop your images and it will automatically optimize your images.

Tinypng

But what if you want to optimize your existing images in WordPress?

Well in that case, you need to use an image optimizer plugin like Smush. Once you have installed this plugin go to Media > Wp Sumsh and hit “Bulk smush now.”

Smush plugin

This will optimize all your existing images in batch of 50. That means once 50 images are done you have to again click on the smush button to optimize the next 50 and so on.

For more detailed information on Image optimization refer to the Complete Guide to SEO for Images by Wpmudev


#19. Make sure you’re using SSL and HTTPS

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security technology that encrypts the connection between a user’s browser and the web server they are connecting to.

Websites secured with SSL are indicated by a green padlock icon in the browser address bar. 

This security sign not only makes your site trustworthy but Google has also officially said that HTTPS is a ranking factor

HTTPS

Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques also require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup.

In short, it is very important to install SSL/HTTPS on your WordPress site in 2020.

You can manually install SSL for free with lets Encrypt.

Or if you are hosting your site on Siteground or WPEngine then you can enable SSL and HTTPS on your site in just one click for FREE.

Siteground SSL
Siteground Free SSL installation

#20. Secure your site with a Security Plugin

No matter how much effort you have put on improving the SEO of your site, your all effort will go in vain if your site is compromised by a hacker.

The good news is there are many security plugins available for WordPress which makes it easy to keep your WordPress site safe and secure.

I personally use iThemes Security Pro on my blog to keep it secure and safe from any vulnerability and attacks.

Helpful resource – 23 Simple WordPress Security Tricks to Keep Your Website Safe in 2020


#21. Fix Broken Links

Broken links not only makes bad user experiences but also devalue your SEO efforts.

To avoid both these pitfalls, you should periodically (Weekly or monthly) check for broken links on your entire website.

To check broken links present on your site, you can use a cloud based tool like W3C Link Checker

Link checker

You can also check all the 404 page of your site from your search console account.

Google search console 404 pages

Frequently Asked Question About WordPress SEO

👉 Is WordPress good for SEO?

Yes, WordPress is indeed a great choice for SEO. The way it has been developed and its open-source nature have helped this CMS to grow as an SEO-friendly website builder in the last 10 years.

👉 Which WordPress seo plugin is best

Yoast and RankMath are two of the most reliable SEO plugin out there. You can use any of them, I personally use Rank Math on Bloggingnova.

👉 Is Yoast SEO enough for WordPress SEO?

Yoast SEO plugin is great for on-site SEO. Which means it will help you keep an eye on things like Meta title, description, keywords and so on that are important factors to signal the search engines where to focus when crawling the page.

But still it is just a part of bigger picture, there are lot more things which are crucial for good SEO.

👉 How do I improve my WordPress SEO?

Well, there are lots of tactics you can use on your blog to improve your SEO. Like setting up Sitemap, Verifying your site with the webmaster, Adding breadcrumbs, removing 404 pages, SEO audit and many other tactics which I have discussed in this article.


Final Thought on SEO for WordPress Website

As you can see there are plenty of SEO factors to consider when it comes to running a good WordPress site.

I hope this article has helped you learn lots of WordPress SEO Tips & Techniques to improve your organic web performance.

Did I missed any important tips or perhaps you have questions? Do let me know in the comments.

What’s Next?

1. Join our free Facebook group for bloggers to connect with professional bloggers.

2. Check out 51+ Smart Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic in 2020

Hi, I am Shivam Choudhary founder of Bloggingnova - A blog that helps online entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their blog.  Whether you are looking for the right advice to get your blog off the ground or proven strategies to accelerate your blog’s growth - I am here to help you. You can also join our Facebook Community to stay connected with other like-minded bloggers.

Follow Shivam on Twitter

2 comments

  1. Thanks Shivam for the massive post.
    I really liked your point no. 17. i.e.
    ‘Noindex’ low-value content. I have analyzed my search console and GA and found a few low qualuty Post.

    I think I’m going to deindex them

    Thanks again,

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Blog post ideas cheatsheet

BLOGGINGNOVA INSIDER FREEBIES

Download the Blog Post Ideas Cheat sheet

Coming up with the best blog post ideas that’ll (actually) drive traffic to your blog doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are 125 blog post ideas to blast off your blog.

Email icon BN

Grab your Free Cheat Sheet

I’ll send the Blog post ideas Cheat Sheet straight into your email.

Share
Tweet
Pin