WordPress SEO: The Ultimate Guide

Imagine you own a delicious gluten-free cafe in Boston. If someone were to search “gluten-free cafe near [insert a neighborhood in Boston]” on Google, it’s safe to assume you’d want your WordPress website to come up at the top of the search results, right? This way, the people who are searching for gluten-free cafes in Boston are more likely to see your site, click on your information, and become customers (whether that’s online or in-store).

Having your website appear at the top of a search engines results page (SERP) is something you can achieve if you spend some time on your search engine optimization.

What is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of increasing your website’s free, organic traffic by improving your ranking and visibility on search engines such as Google. Your content is more likely to appear near the top of the SERP for specific inquiries you’ve optimized.

Now that you understand what SEO is, let’s talk more about why it’s so important.

Why is SEO Important?

When you optimize your WordPress website and content, you’re more likely to reach the people who are actively searching for information about services and products related to yours. This is done organically, meaning you are not paying Google or other search engines to place your content at the top of the results page.

Creating organic, ranking content is also beneficial because your website and information are more likely to seem more reliable and trustworthy for visitors (versus a paid advertisement located at the top of the SERP). Anyone with a business and website should look to improve their SEO as it is a simple and effective way to increase traffic and notability, as well as your number of leads, conversions, and more.

A Guide to WordPress SEO: 12 Ways to Improve

The following guide provides you with 12 ways you can drastically improve your WordPress website’s SEO, boost your organic traffic, and increase your authority on search engines so you can get more visitors and customers.

1. Check Your WordPress Visibility Settings

Check your visibility settings in WordPress. The software actually has a setting that allows you to hide your website from search engines. This can come in handy when building or rebuilding your site and don’t want visitors to see your work in progress.

The feature is found in your WordPress dashboard under “Settings” and “Reading”.

wordpress-visibility-settingsSource 

Double check that you haven’t accidentally turned on this feature, or left it on after completing your website. If it’s on, your SEO won’t work.

2. Change Your Permalinks

A permalink is a permanent URL or link to a specific post, page, or blog on your website. Permalinks clearly state what your post, page, or blog actually is (in the URL itself) so visitors know what they are clicking on. You should change your permalinks to not only improve user experience, but to also improve your SEO — search engines read permalinks to determine whether or not your website has answers to certain search queries. 

For example, in the case of your gluten-free cafe, if you had a page dedicated to shared gluten free recipes your permalink might look something like this: www.mysite.com/gluten-free-recipes.

To change your permalinks to include an accurate description of your content, head to your WordPress dashboard, click “Settings” and then “Permalinks”.

wordpress-permalink-settings

Source

Click “Save Changes” when you are done.

3. Use Tags and Categories

Tags and categories allow you separate your website’s pages and blog posts into specific and broad groups, respectively. This improves your SEO because it allows search engines to understand your website’s structure and the content your website actually contains. 

Added bonus: Tags and categories also improve user experience by allowing visitors to quickly find the content they’re searching for and make it easier for you to manage all of your website content..

Tags

Tags are like keywords that you can use to describe what a specific page or post is about. For example, if we think about your gluten-free cafe’s website, the tags on one of your pages may include “muffins”, “tea”, or “cookies”.

To add a new tag or view your current tags, go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Posts” and “Tags”.

wordpress-tags

Source 

You can view current tags or “Add New Tag” here. For more information on tags, check out this list of tips.

Categories

Categories are how to you broadly group your posts and pages. In the case of the gluten-free cafe, your categories may include “gluten-free”, “cafe”, and “allergy”. 

To create a category, go to your WordPress “Settings” and click “Writing”. Here you’ll see your current categories as well as an “Add New Category” button.

wordpress-categories

Source

For details on other ways to create categories, check out this page.

4. Choose an SEO Plugin

WordPress plugins enhance the functionality of your website by adding features that don’t come standard with the software. There are tens of thousands of plugins available, many of which can help you improve your SEO. If you are unaware of which plugin you want to implement on your site, you can search the WordPress plugin library for options that fit your needs.

SEO plugins, such as Yoast SEO, All In One SEO Pack, and The SEO Framework offer features to help you build XML sitemaps, implement tags and categories, optimize your titles and content with the use of key phrases and keywords, control your site’s breadcrumbs, and take advantage of Google Analytics support. 

wordpress-seo-plugins

Source

You can then simply download and install your WordPress plugin of choice to begin improving your SEO immediately.

5. Use XML Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a file of code on your web server that includes each page of your website. XML sitemaps are used to help search engines find, evaluate, and rank the content on your site.

Unless you’re someone with extensive coding knowledge and want to manually create your XML sitemap, the easiest option is to install an SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO, or one dedicated to creating sitemaps, such as Google XML Sitemaps, that creates your sitemaps for you automatically.

xml-sitemap-wordpress-plugins

Source

For more details on why WordPress recommends using a sitemap, check out this page.

6. Internally Link Your Site

To improve your SEO, you’ll need to increase your website’s authority. One of the main ways search engines determine your site authority is by the amount you internally link to your pages, posts, blogs, and other content.

To link to other content, you can highlight the words on your page where you want to insert the link, click the link button in the WordPress toolbar, and copy and paste the URL you want to link to. Once you do this, you’ll notice your linked words turn blue and contain the URL you want to redirect your visitors to.

internally-link-wordpress-website

Source

For other ways to internally link your WordPress website, check out this page.

7. Optimize Your Images

You can optimize pretty much everything on your WordPress website, including your images. To optimize images, use Image-Alt-Text. Search engines read Image-Alt-Text, which are descriptions of your images, to rank your site and determine whether or not your images have the information being searched for by users.

The easiest way to add Image-Alt-Text to your images is through an SEO plugin, such as SEO Optimized Images. You can also always read through the list of your current plugins’ features to ensure they allow you to add Image-Alt-Text.

No matter which plugin you install, the area in which you enter your Image-Alt-Text will look something like this:

insert-image-alt-text

Source

You should enter your description in the “Alt text” section. When you are adding Image-Alt-Text and you have a description that is multiple words long, use dashes to separate the words. This tells the search engines that you’re writing multiple different words.

For example, if you’re describing a picture of HubSpot’s WordPress Contact Form Builder plugin, your Image-Alt-Text should look something like this: “WordPress-Contact-Form-Builder”, not “WordPressContactFormBuilder” or “WordPress_Contact_Form_Builder”. If you do this, WordPress will read your description as one word.

8. Use SSL

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a standard security technology that manages an encrypted link between a server and browser. SSL is how information shared between your website and visitors remains secure.

For example, if someone completes your order form and lists all of their credit card information, SSL is how businesses ensure that information is not intercepted by a hacker along the way. 

SSL improves SEO because search engines, such as Google, look for “secure and encrypted” connections when determining a website’s ranking. So, if there were two identical sites but one had SSL and one did not, Google would be more likely to rank the site with SSL.

These days, WordPress.com automatically adds SSL to your site so you won’t need to manually do anything. If you have a different type of account, such as a WordPress.org site that requires you to take care of all of your website’s security individually you can install an SSL plugin such as Real Simple SSL.

ssl-wordpress-pluginsSource 

Check out this page for more details on WordPress SSL.

9. Use Nofollow External Links

When you internally link to the pages on your site, you are giving yourself authority. When you externally link to your sources or other pieces of content you believe your visitors should read or experience, you are also helping them gain authority, or giving those websites “link juice”. So you could say externally linking is a good thing for your own SEO, but it also improves the SEO of those pages you are mentioning on your website. 

Enter: Nofollow external links. 

These links not only prevent content spam on your WordPress website, but they also prevent search engines from being able to follow those URLs to the sites you are linking to on your website so you are only improving your own site’s ranking and authority.

You can manually add a Nofollow link to your WordPress site, or you can simply add “nofollow” in the “Link Relationship” form field when you add a hyperlink to your keywords or phrases.

nofollow-wordpress-links

Source

There are also a number of Nofollow plugins available for your WordPress site in the plugin library.

10. Manage Your Security

As mentioned in our discussion about SSL certificates, search engines love secure websites — meaning your website’s authority and ranking will improve if your site is secure.

Depending on your WordPress plan, you may or may not have security taken care of for you. No matter what, you can always install plugins, such as Wordfence Security or iThemes Security, to enhance your site’s protection.

11. Optimize Your Comments

Comments on posts are a great way to boost engagement on your website. Engagement typically means more traffic, link sharing, and interaction, and therefore, improved SEO. However, spam in your comments could ruin your SEO and ranking. That’s why you need to ensure you are only receiving real comments from real people.

WordPress plugins such as All In One WordPress Security & Firewall and Spam Protection, Anti Spam, Firewall by CleanTalk will block comments containing spam and stop other forms of spam such as faulty form submissions, subscriptions, orders, and more. Many of these plugins also have features that completely block the known spammers so they can’t return to your site again. 

comment-spam-wordpress-plugins

Source

12. Choose WWW or non-WWW

There are two main ways to access websites by URL — you can either search with the ”www” (so your search would look like this: www.mysite.com) or without the “www” (so your search would look like this: mysite.com).

Search engines see these two different URLs, or official domain names, as completely different websites … which is why you need to pick one. There’s no good or bad option and your decision will not impact your SEO — it’s just a preference.

Once you do pick an option, you’ll want to stick with it so you can then begin improving your site’s SEO. You can do this by linking to your official domain name internally as well as externally on social media and email. When you are consistent with your domain and link to it often, search engines are likely to give you more authority and therefore a higher chance at ranking. Not to mention this makes things a lot simpler for your visitors. 

To pick an option, head to your WordPress dashboard, click “Settings” and under “General Settings” you’ll see the form fields for your URL.

wordpress-general-settings

Source

Back To You

Anyone can improve their WordPress website’s SEO. By implementing some or all of the simple tips from this guide, you will increase your website’s authority and ranking on all search engines — and when you achieve this, you’ll experience an increase in website visitors, leads, and conversions.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: What’s the Difference?

Year after year, WordPress ranks as one of the top website building tools available. This easy-to-use CMS (content management system) software is beginner-friendly, offers a variety of plans, and allows you to quickly create and manage a unique and functional website for your visitors.

If you’re looking to build a site on WordPress, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is, “What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?”

 

WordPress.org is a self-hosted, free platform in which you purchase and manage all aspects of your website including your domain name, add-ons, security, and code. WordPress.com hosts your website for you, offers multiple payment plans, gives you access to a domain name, and a variety of default features.

Below is a useful table that compares the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

Feature WordPress.org WordPress.com
Cost Free. Free, $4 per month, $8 per month, or $25 per month.

Hosting Provider and

Additional Features

Need to purchase hosting provider, create a custom domain name, purchase plugins, themes, and all other add-ons. Must manage your entire website, code, and security. WordPress offers a hosting service, domain name, security, and backups. You can upgrade your account and create a custom domain name and choose a third-party hosting provider as well.
Customization Must purchase and install your own themes to customize your website. Customize your website with any WordPress-compatible theme of your choice. If you upgrade your account, you can also use premium themes, third-party themes, or custom themes.

Integration with Social

Networks

Must install plugins to enable all social media sharing on your website. Your website can integrate with social media networks. If you upgrade your account, sharing functionality with social media accounts is included.
Plugins Find and install plugins to enhance your website’s functionality. Features such as sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. You can also add plugins to your website for other features.
Support WordPress.org support forums.   WordPress.com support forums and personal support are available. With an upgraded account, you have access to live chat and email support.
Link to Download Get started here. Get started here.

Let’s dive into each of these features and review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in more depth.

Cost of WordPress

There are a number of different WordPress plans to choose from that range in price. No matter your budget, you can find an option that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Cost of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is always free. However, because it’s only a publishing platform, you’ll have to purchase every other element of your website including your third-party hosting provider, domain name, as well as your themes and templates, plugins, and add-ons. You’ll also have to find a way to manage your website’s security and maintain and edit your site’s code.

Cost of WordPress.com

WordPress.com has four different plans that range in price.

wordpress-payment-plans

Source

There is a basic plan that is always free, a plan ideal for personal use that costs $4 per month, a premium plan that costs $8 per month, and a business plan that costs $25 per month. As you work your way up through the more expensive plans, the more features and levels of customization you will be able to take advantage of on your website.

If you choose the free option, you will be offered WordPress hosting, a domain name, and minimal access to WordPress support. If you choose one of the three paid options, you’ll be able to add a hosting provider of your choosing and a custom domain name. You will also be offered extensive support and customization options.

WordPress Hosting Providers

A hosting provider gives your website a place to “live” on the internet. Choosing the right hosting provider for WordPress is crucial because it will impact your site’s functionality, speed, reliability, security, and more. Let’s review the differences between website hosting with WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com.

Hosting for WordPress.org

If you choose WordPress.org you’ll have to self-host your website, meaning you’ll have to purchase a third-party provider, such as WP Engine or InMotion Hosting. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, so we’ve created a guide to 19 of the best WordPress hosting providers of 2018 for you to review.

Hosting for WordPress.com

WordPress.com offers different hosting packages for you to use. If you pick a paid version of WordPress.com, you can decide whether or not you want to use WordPress’ hosting service or if you want to use a third-party provider — as you would with a WordPress.org plan — you already feel strongly about or have prior experience using.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosting

There are plenty of benefits that come from self-hosting your WordPress website, as you would with a WordPress.org site. However, there are also a lot of challenges to be aware of that often make WordPress.com plans preferable.

The pros of self-hosting include having complete control over everything that goes into the creation of your website, and the ability to manage your website’s security and edit your website’s code. You also have the opportunity to find, buy, and install a third-party hosting provider of your choosing, create a custom domain name, and find different themes, plugins, and add-ons that work for your site and needs. If you choose the self-hosting route, you use the WordPress platform for free.

The cons to self-hosting include having to actually spend the time to find, purchase, and install an ideal third-party hosting provider for your site, learn how to create a domain name, and identify the themes, plugins, and add-ons that make the most sense for your website. You also need to have some type of knowledge in web development as you’ll be the one managing your website’s code and updates.

WordPress Customization

WordPress is a completely customizable CMS. With the help of the hundreds WordPress themes and templates available today, you can achieve virtually any look imaginable by customizing every element of your website.

WordPress.org Customization

With WordPress.org, you are required to find and install your desired third-party themes, such as StudioPress, Pixelgrade, and Stylemix Themes, on your own. WordPress does not offer you access to their free themes the way WordPress.com does, so the level of customization you want to achieve is dependent on your own theme research and the options you decide to implement on your website.

WordPress.com Customization

The free version of WordPress.com comes with dozens of free themes that you can choose from and implement on your website. The free plan does not let you add any third-party or premium themes to your website.

However, with a paid plan, you can use premium, third-party themes as you would with a WordPress.org website. If you choose this route, WordPress.com allows you to easily install your third-party or premium theme so you can get started customizing your website in just minutes.

WordPress Website and Social Media Integration

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become a powerful tactic to promote brands, products, and websites today. Integrating your WordPress website with your social media channels is an easy way to manage all of your interactions in one place, broaden your impact, and increase conversions. It’s also a great way to simply ensure your website visitors know about your social media channels and vice versa.

WordPress.org Social Media Integration

WordPress.org does not come with any social media channel integration. You’ll need to install plugins on your website to enable social media sharing and integration. There are a number of social media plugins available in the plugin library, such as Social Media Widget by Acurax and Jetpack, to help you with tasks such as social media posting from your website and creating beautiful sidebars with links to all of your social accounts for your site.

WordPress.com Social Media Integration

With a free WordPress.com account, you can integrate your own website with social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. This will just require a bit of work on your end. By publicizing your website, or connecting it to your multiple different social accounts, you can integrate your accounts and access them from your WordPress dashboard.

If you have a paid WordPress account, all social media integration comes included and ready-to-use so you can access all of your social accounts from WordPress with the click of a button.

WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to add to the array of features you have on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install plugins. Plugins are how you enhance your website’s functionality by adding capabilities that don’t come standard with the software. Since there are over 56,000 options available, we created a list of 25 of the best WordPress plugins to help get you started.

WordPress.org Plugins

You’ll need to find and install plugins yourself with a WordPress.org website. Since WordPress.org is simply a platform and there aren’t any features that come standard with the plan, you’ll want to install some plugins on your own. You can search for specific topics or things you need in the WordPress plugin library to narrow down the thousands of search results and find an option suited to your specific needs.

WordPress.com Plugins

With WordPress.com plans, some social media, customer interaction, and analytics-related features (that do not come standard with a WordPress.org plan) such as sharing, statistics, comments, and polls, are automatically included. To add to these default features, you can install WordPress-compatible plugins of your choosing. If you pay for the most expensive WordPress.com plan, you can also install custom plugins.

WordPress Support

While building your website, you may run into a roadblock here or there, or have a question about how to complete a task. WordPress has varying levels of support based on the plan you choose.

WordPress.org Support

With WordPress.org, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to customer support as this plan does not provide any access to one-on-one assistance. Instead, you can access the WordPress.org support page which contains a number of forums that you can use to problem solve. Other than that, you can always try searching for answers to your questions on the internet.

wordpress.org-support-page

Source

WordPress.com Support

Free WordPress.com plan users can take advantage of community support and forums available, which are similar to the support pages that WordPress.org users have access to. This is a very basic level of support that leaves you to do most of your own problem-solving.

If you are a paid WordPress.com user, you will have 24/7 access to live chat and email support with WordPress experts in addition to the community support and forums. 

Back To You

Understanding the key differences between WordPress.org and the various WordPress.com plans is key to determining which type of website best fits your needs. WordPress.org is a great option if you’re looking for complete control over every aspect of your site. WordPress.com is preferable if you need some assistance building your website and want more automation. 

Once you’ve reviewed and considered all of the plan options, you can get started by downloading your WordPress.org or WordPress.com account and utilizing the variety of features you have access to design a website perfect for your specific needs.

How to Set Up Google Analytics for WordPress

Have you ever wondered what people actually do when they enter your WordPress website?

Have you thought about which website pages they tend to stay on longest, what campaigns bring them there, and which of your website pages covert the best?

Google Analytics can help you understand all of this information and so much more. By simply installing a Google Analytics plugin on your WordPress website, you can start collecting this data immediately. As is most things with WordPress, installing Google Analytics is a painless process.

In just five easy steps, you can uncover insights about your website visitors and what is and isn’t working for them so you can improve user experience, increase conversions, and learn about the people who are interested in your business.

How to Set Up Google Analytics for WordPress

Depending on the Google Analytics plugin you choose, set up may differ slightly. The WordPress plugin library has several options, such as Google Analytics Dashboard for WP, MonsterInsights, WooCommerce for Google Analytics, and Analytics Cat.

For the sake of this example, we’re going to review how to set up Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics. No matter which plugin option you end up picking for your own WordPress website, the process will look fairly similar.

1. Sign Up For Google Analytics

The first thing you’re going to need to do is sign up for Google Analytics. If you already have a Google account, you’re off to a great start because that’s the only way you can actually use Google Analytics.

Either sign up for or sign into your Gmail account.

google-account-sign-in

Source

Then, head to the Google Analytics sign up page and click “Sign Up”.

google-analytics-sign-up

Source

You’ll be given the option to choose between using Google Analytics for your “Website” or “Mobile app”. We’re going to stick with “Website” for this example.

Complete the necessary information — Your “Account Name” will be the Google Analytics profile name for your website. You can choose whatever name you like, but best practice is to use your domain name.

sign-up-for-google-analytics

Source

Once you have completed the form fields, click “Get Tracking ID”. Your tracking ID and website tracking code will appear on the next page.Your tracking ID is included in your tracking code — this is what tells Google Analytics which account and property to send the data that is collected to. Depending on the plugin you chose, you may need add this information to the plugin, so it’s a good idea to keep this tab open.

google-analytics-tracking-id

2. Install Your Plugin

Next, you’ll need to actually install your plugin. If you are unsure how to install a WordPress plugin, check out the “Install Your Plugins” section in this WordPress guide.

google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp

Source 

Once your plugin is installed, click “Settings” and then “Insights” to gain access to your new Google Analytics plugin.

insights-tab-wordpress

Now that you have installed your plugin, you’ll need to authenticate your Google account through WordPress so Google Analytics can access WordPress.

3. Authenticate Your Google Account

To authenticate your Google account, head to “Insights”, Click “Authenticate with your Google account”.

authenticate-with-your-google-account

Source

This will take you to the Google login page again where you can complete your information and click “Next”.

google-sign-in

Google will ask if you want to allow the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin — or whatever plugin you chose — to access your information. Click “Allow”.

Note: When your plugin is installed and authorized, and a default domain is selected, the Google Analytics tracking code is automatically inserted on all web pages.

Some plugins may require you to insert the tracking code yourself if they don’t come with the same level of automation.

For example, Insert Header sand Footers is a Google Analytics plugin that does not install the tracking code for you. Instead, you’ll need to head to “Settings,” then “Insert Headers and Footers,” copy your tracking ID code and paste it into the “Scripts in Header” box.

insert-headers-and-footers

Click “Save” to store your tracking ID.

4. Select the Profile You Want to Track

Once you’ve allowed your plugin to access your Google Analytics information, you need to select the profile you want to track. Select your website and click “Continue”.

pick-a-google-analytics-profile

Source

You’ll then be redirected back to your WordPress website.

5. Start Tracking

Now, Google Analytics will start tracking data your website data.

You can view your Google Analytics data by heading to your Google Analytics dashboard through your Google account and clicking “Reporting”.

google-analytics-dashboard

Source

There is also a menu on the left side of your dashboard that includes different tabs with reports on your audience, acquisition, visitor behavior, and conversions.

Depending on your plugin of choice, you can also view your Google Analytics data in WordPress. In your WordPress menu, click “Dashboard” and your analytics should be visible.

wordpress-dashboard-for-google-analytics

Google Analytics for WordPress: What Can You Track?

Whether you’re looking for details about who is visiting your site, what they’re doing while on your site, or how long they’re staying on specific pages, Google Analytics will provide you with the report you need. The tool allows you to track many interactions between your website and visitors.

Let’s review some more of the specific types of reporting Google Analytics provides.

Audience

The audience tab will help you understand who your visitors are, their demographics, and other characteristics such as their interests, preferred language, and how they navigate to and from different pages on your website.

Acquisition

The acquisition tab will help you understand where your visitors are coming from.This information is helpful when setting up your marketing campaigns because it can show you exactly what’s working best for your acquired visitors.

Conversion

The conversion tab will help you understand your conversion rates. You can compare them to your goal and understand what is and isn’t working. You’ll learn more about which CTAs and landing pages on your site are successful and what is keeping your visitors most engaged.

Behavior

The behavior tab will help you understand what your visitors do when they arrive on your website. It dives into information about how they choose to get around your website, where they end up going on your site, and how they tend to interact with the different aspects of your site.

Analytics Specific to Your Plugin

In addition to the plethora of information that you receive from Google Analytics, your chosen plugin will also provide you with unique insights. For example, let’s review what Google Analytics Dashboard for WP provides. Some of these insights and features come standard with other analytics plugins in the WordPress library as well.

In-Depth Performance Reports. These reports provide you with in-depth performance details, such as bounce rates, referrals, page views, organic searches, and more, for each post and page on your website so you can segment your analytical data in a way that makes sense for your website and business.

Real-Time Stats. With Google Analytics Dashboard for WP, you’ll be able to review real-time statistics any time you open the plugin. Some of these stats include the current number of visitors on your website, your acquisition channels, and the source of your current traffic.

Custom Dimension Tracking. You can create custom dimensions to get specific data that matters to you and your business. For example, you can create custom dimension tracking about certain events and types of user engagement that are important to you.

Set Permissions Based On User Roles. If you have a large team, or team of people with different qualifications and needs when it comes to your analytics, you can set permissions based on user roles. This way you can ensure only the right people can make changes.

Back To You

Google Analytics provides you with insights and data that can help you drastically improve the state of your website. You can learn more about what is and isn’t working for your visitors as well as discover more about who they are so you can continue to tailor your content to their needs. With WordPress, installing Google Analytics on your website is quick and easy. In just minutes, you can start collecting the information that you need to enhance user experience and increase conversions on your WordPress website.