The Definitive WordPress SEO Guide (2018 Update)

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WordPress has steadily gained popularity since it's launch in 2003. It's an open-source, customizable content management system that started out as a blogging platform (it still is) but has morphed into something much bigger — the world’s most popular website platform (BuiltWith).

WordPress is popular for numerous reasons. Here are just a few.

  • It’s free
  • It has a robust catalog of themes and plugins
  • It's powerful and fast compared to website builders like Squarespace (which strive for simplicity vs. advanced customization)

SEO Benefits of WordPress

With just a couple clicks you can install SEO plugins (Yoast or All in One) that assist your keyword ranking process and provide SEO tips for...

  1. Keywords
  2. Title tags
  3. Readability
  4. Breadcrumbs
  5. Duplicate content
  6. Technical SEO

It also means you can streamline other processes like web design to move forward with the all-important (and time consuming) task of content marketing.

There are many benefits to WordPress: the cost (free), the plugins, and customization, however, it’s not for everyone.

Folks looking for a simple website setup should instead turn to a WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) platform like Squarespace or Wix.

Technical SEO

Getting set up properly makes all the difference. Track baseline data, set up conversions, and track keyword rankings.

If at any point you get stuck during this process (you will), don't fret. Move on and come back to it when you're fresh.

Google Search Console

Verify your site with Google. This will prompt the search engine giant to index your site and list it in search results.

You’ll also gain access to valuable keyword ranking data.

Setting up Google Search Console
 

Bing Webmaster Tools

While less important than Google, we'd recommend setting it up Bing. Once you're set up, focus on Google but it's important to at least alert Bing of your website's existence. Right?? Right.

Setting up Bing Webmaster Tools

Google Analytics

Track website statistics to improve your SEO and content marketing tactics. I recommend setting up Analytics for everyone -- even if you won’t view the data, if you ever hire an SEO or digital marketer, they likely will.

Setting up Google Analytics

XML Sitemap Submission

Submit your sitemap to Google and Bing.

Your sitemap informs search engines the structure of your website. It contains URLs and pertinent information for Google and Bing.

Submitting Your Sitemap With Yoast

Conversion Tracking

Most websites have goals or actions they want their users to complete. Tracking conversions like sales, email subscribers, and completed forms helps attribute value to your marketing efforts.

Learn More About Conversions

The Best WordPress Plugins

We recommend Yoast SEO. It’s the highest rated and most reviewed WordPress SEO plugin.

There are a couple other options — All in One SEO Pack and The SEO Framework. Both are well-received with numerous reviews.

All three plugins are free but if you’re looking for a little more insight and support there are premium versions available.

If sitemaps, plugins, and data aren't for you, consider hiring an SEO company.

Learn More About WordPress Plugins vs. SEO Packages
 

Content Marketing + Keywords

Create unique, quality content to drive search engine traffic.

Make no mistake, this is a process. It takes time to do keyword research and write content but the rewards can be well worth the time.

Content, links, keyword rankings, website traffic, conversions and sales

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of determining which keywords to target with content.

Here's how to evaluate keywords...

  1. Search volume - how often is it searched?
  2. Competition - can you rank for it?
  3. Relevance - how likely will the searcher be interested in your products or services?
     

Free Tools

Here are several free tools to help with your keyword research.

KeywordTool.io - Enter a keyword to view related, frequently searched keywords.

SearchVolume.io - Enter keywords from KeywordTool into SearchVolume to view their monthly search volume.

MozBar - Examine a keyword's competition in search engine results by activating MozBar and looking at the Domain Authority for ranking domains.

Quality Content

Google’s job is to organize the most relevant web pages for a given search. Your job is to create the most relevant web pages.

Search Intent

A keyword’s search intent is the reason for the search. Someone who searches for “nike shoes” has a slightly different intention than someone searching “nike basketball shoes.”

To determine your keyword’s search intent, Google the keyword. What information is contained in the search engine results page?

View pages that already rank for your target keyword, determine valuable topics they discuss and include those topics that answer the search intent in your own content.
 

Engagement

Keep people interested — engagement likely affects rankings.

Use short paragraphs, images, and headers to keep users scrolling and engaging.

Headers break up your content. Short paragraphs keep users moving down the page. Images offer a break from reading and add visual value.
 

Content Length

Content length (i.e. a web page's word count) affects its ability to rank.

Yes, short content can rank. No, long content doesn't guarantee ranking. It’s largely dependent on your target keyword and its competition.

Just know that in-depth content tends to do well, assuming it doesn’t sacrifice quality.

Meta Tags + Headers

Title Tags

Title tags are the simplest, most bang for your buck SEO element that exists.

They display in Google like so...

Get keywords in your title tag. They tell Google (and users) that your page is about that keyword.

Keywords towards the front of the tag are given more weight than keywords at the end.

The character limit on title tags (before they get cut off) is between 60 and 70.

See for yourself with Moz's title tag preview tool.

Headers

Headers help organize the structure of your page. Here's what they look like.

Header 1

Header 2

Header 3

Insert relevant keywords into your headers.

Don't keyword stuff by inserting 10 keywords into one header. Use them to help aid the user experience.

In general, use one Header 1 per page.

Header 2s help break up content and create page sections.

Header 3s also break up content and indicate sub-sections of their parent header 2s.
 

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions display in search engine results. They are typically cut off in Google around 150-160 characters.

They don’t factor directly into keyword rankings, however, an enticing meta description may encourage users to click on your result.
 

Image Alt Tags

Alt tags describe image contents to search engines.

Like other tags and headers, image alt tags benefit from inserting relevant keywords to your image.

Links that point to your website add value. Not only do they bring traffic, they carry weight in search engines.

When your site gains a link from an authoritative, trusted website, your website gains "link juice" which can improve keyword rankings.

Think of a link as a recommendation from one site to another. The more influential the website, the more “juice” it passes.

In general, there are two types of link building.

Manual link building involves outreach to folks working on other websites and asking them for a link.

It's a difficult pitch but if you can convince other webmasters to link to your site, you will be rewarded with referral traffic and rankings (if it's a good link).

I won't go into much detail here but if you're interested building links there is no shortage of resources.

Natural link building is the hands-off approach to gaining links. “Create the content and the links will come,” as they say.

This can attract links, but it’s obviously not as effective as the proactive version of manual link building.

So which process should you choose?

Find a process that works for you.

I do a a mix of both. When I can reach out to get a link, I will do so.

Remember, you need good content first. Quality content makes it easier to attract links.

Web Design + Structure

Proper navigation with valuable calls-to-action can help users browse your website.

Users are hurriedly looking for information — present information simply.

Main Navigation Bar

Your navigation bar (or navbar) is typically the same on every page on your website, so choose links carefully.

Point users to important pages that bring users down the sales funnel: services pages, products, about pages, and contact pages.

Footer

Your website footer helps users find relevant content / pages. It can also be used to provide contact information (name, address, and phone number).

And it's a great spot to insert a call to action.

Local SEO and Listings

For local businesses, it's helpful to get several things in order to improve local visibility. 

The first thing to do is to create a Google My Business page.

Google My Business

Google My Business listings show up in local packs, typically above organic search results.

The ease at which you can create a page and display at the top of Google for local, relevant keywords makes it a no-brainer.

Create a Google My Business Page
 

Other Listings

Add other local listings that rank for your target keywords. Google your keywords. See what you find.
 

Local Content

Create web pages targeting geographical regions, towns, cities, or states. This provides websites with the opportunity to rank for key phrases that contain their target region.

Wrapping Up

Find out what works for you. The key to SEO is to kick start a process that's repeatable, effective, and helps you learn. If you're new to SEO the most important things is to get started.

Start targeting keywords and creating content!