10 WordPress Search Engine Optimisation Tips

Search engine optimisation tips for WordPress - conceptual image

Ten WordPress search engine optimisation tips (WP SEO) that are essential if you are to gain maximum traction from your website promotion efforts. What many people fail to understand is that the default installation of WordPress does not really include anything but the most basic SEO tools. My WordPress SEO Services deal with issues that the default WordPress installation does not.

The world of SEO has changed rapidly and dramatically in the past couple of years. SEO now encompasses several issues that many site owners have yet to come to grips with.

Fortunately, SEO for WordPress is facilitated by the concept of “plugins” or easily installed mini-applications which provide specific search engine optimisation functionality. They do so dynamically – in other words, once installed the applications automate the process of generating accurate outputs, with no manual efforts required by you. Here are ten suggestions that you should attend to that will make a significant difference in the qualified traffic your website delivers to you!

FAQ: How to optimise WordPress

1. Improve Core Web Vitals & Page Load Speeds

The importance of this is outlined in great detail in a related post about core web vitals & page load speed. Google long ago began assessing page load times as part of ranking signals. The average page size has grown to approximately 2.3Mb and that’s very hard on page speed… You need to focus on image optimisation;

Implement a good caching system to serve static HTML pages, not dynamically generated pages

  • Learn all about resizing and compressing images to reduce their sizes
  • Keep the total number of images per page to a sensible limit
  • Use a testing site that tells you the page size and load time in your target market area
  • Test your main “landing” pages

If your site targets NZ customers, there’s now nowhere to test page speeds in NZ, nearest location is Sydney…

In a recent benchmarking test, the top three caching plugins were;

  • WP Rocket – costs US$39 but is worth every penny in the time it saves and the results it delivers. I no longer use any other caching plugin.
  • WP Super Cache – I’ve used this a lot, but I could never get it to outperform W3 TC. It seems to me that performance actually degraded after its purchase by Automattic…
  • W3 Total Cache – I used to use this, but it can be troublesome, especially the Minify – some themes won’t tolerate concatenation and minification of CSS and/or JS files, I also had a weird experience on sites where the cached pages gave 403 Errors to Google bots.

But wait… there’s more! WordPress has a Site Health panel under Tools. If they don’t detect a persistent object cache, they recommend you install one and note if they detect existing but unused functionality (redis, memcached etc)

The most reliable option I’ve found is Docket Cache – this provides persistent object caching when nothing else works AND it provides granular control over OP Cache too. Not to mention the cron function…

In my extensive experience in boosting WordPress page speed, the combination of WP Rocket Cache, Docket Cache and Asset Cleanup delivers exceptional performance.

2. Ensure Your Site is Mobile Friendly

On the 21st of April 2015, Google introduced an algorithm dubbed “Mobilegeddon” – aimed at rewarding those sites whose design offers a good visitor experience for viewers using small-screen devices. Conversely, if your website sucks on a mobile phone or tablet, Google won’t be including your site in search results for mobile users!

Google has a testing page here: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Given that mobile users make up the fastest-growing sector of users, that’s not a good situation for you to be in! You need to get your website redesigned in a mobile-friendly format, and that is something we can help you with.

3. Use a Good SEO Plugin

On-page optimisation of pages and posts.

  1. All in One SEO Pack was simpler and easiest to use for anyone new to WP SEO. Its change of ownership brought about many new features – which made if more complicated…
  2. Yoast SEO does more, but the complexity of settings requires some effort to understand for novice users. I use it on all sites unless a site is already using RankMath or AIOSEO.

Both allow you to set trivial pages and sections to Noindex – and keeping the dross out of Google’s hair is important. If you struggle to figure out how to configure this, contact a WordPress tech support expert for help. For example, if you have no real idea what you are doing when creating tags and categories, you should;

  • Set both Tags to no index, and only use Categories
  • Author & Date Archives to noindex
  • Set media items to link to the attachment page
  • Set portfolio, slider and similar extraneous items to noindex

4. Optimising Titles on Pages & Post

Accurate titles are still a very important SEO element. Both the above plugins provide quick solutions. They can dynamically insert the Page and Post title into the Title tag, followed by the Site / Business Name. These days, that’s often referred to as the “branding” element of the title. This facilitates keyword-rich titles that are specific and unique to the page/post in question. It also identifies the site/brand in search engine results.

Keyword-relevant and accurate Titles can make a positive difference to your SE rankings. Each page/post title should include a relevant keyword/keyword phrase that encapsulates the content therein. Don’t overdo this, or over-optimisation penalties are likely.

Brevity is required – currently, Google will display between 56 and 60 characters of a Title in a search engine results page. Anything longer is truncated, meaning a reader does not see it. Keep it short, sharp and to the point.

5. Description Meta-tag – a Sales Pitch

These are not going to give you any SEO traction per se – so stuffing them full of keywords is pointless and very risky. Instead, write them as a “sales pitch” that extols the virtues of the page they belong to.

You are limited to between 156 – 160 characters including spaces, so use it wisely. Don’t waste space repeating the “brand” element!

Alternatively, pay particular attention to the opening sentence of your page. Where you don’t handwrite a Description, your SEO plugin will take the first 160 characters and use that by default.

NB: don’t use the Keyword meta-tag. No search engine actually pays heed to it in a positive way, and stuffing the results of a keyword brainstorming session into it is more likely to result in an over-optimisation penalty!

6. Use Keyword Anchors to Optimize Content

Google pays close attention to the words used in links from one page to another. Those links should convey some indication as to what the page linked to is about. Doing this carefully and sparingly across the site can make a demonstrable difference in rankings for the keywords that have been used.

This can be automated to some degree by using a “related posts” plugin such as Inline Related Posts – this will add a nicely formatted link to relevant content  “inline” within the post content. Yoast SEO Premium has a “Related Posts Block” that inserts suggested text links, but be very careful with this as Google’s new spam algorithms might well regard this with disdain.

Inline Related Posts has a small “footprint” too, compared to other plugins I’ve tested. Competitors such as YARPP are notorious for hogging server resources and slowing page load times. IRP barely registers…

While you’re tackling on-page SEO in your pages and posts, it’s crucial that you address E-E-A-T concepts and Helpful Content algorithm optimisation.

Reduce the “common content” percentage – items that occur in a consistent location on all pages/ posts. Text links are more likely to be interpreted as “editorial links” within the main content column. Use siteliner.com to identify both “duplicate content” and “common content” and lower the ratio to the median range.

7. Sitemaps in HTML & XML

A sitemap is a key SEO tool to ensure all pages and posts have the best possible chance of being found and indexed by search engine spiders. Firstly, you should have an XML site map, as this is the format adopted by all major search engines. You can either;

  • use a separate plugin to create a Google-compliant XML Sitemap of your WordPress site
  • use the tools in Yoast SEO to generate an XML sitemap, which saves the overhead of a separate plugin

A good sitemap includes including homepage, posts, static pages, categories and archives and notifies Google and a couple of other SEs whenever the sitemap gets regenerated. That happens automatically every time a new post is made!

8. Optimising Categories & Tags

Use Categories wisely! Take care to use accurate Category names because these will be used in URLs.

  • Take particular care to ensure that a Category name does not match a Page name
  • Categories work best if they are few and broadly based
  • If you don’t have or foresee at least half a dozen posts for a Category, don’t create one

Tags are dangerous in unskilled hands. I recently worked on a site that has 1,257 Tags used over the 200 pages and posts the site contained. What most people fail to realise is that EVERY tag generates an individual Tag PAGE!!! In this particular instance, 1257 tags generated 1275 pages, each containing the FULL version of one page or post!

My advice on Tags is therefore;

  • Don’t use them unless you fully and totally understand the principles of cross-indexing content
  • If you do use them, set them to noindex if the above applies

9. Optimisation of Image Alt Texts & File Names

If you write brief and accurate Image Alt texts to explain the content of your images, Google will consider those as part of the ranking analysis. Brevity and accuracy are the goals. When engaged in WordPress search engine optimisation efforts, don’t go stuffing keywords everywhere or the effect will be the opposite to that which you desire.

With images in general, I try to name them accurately, use the Image Alt text wisely, and use both image titles and expanded captions.

10. Read Google's Starter Guide to SEO

Whenever Google provides publicly available commentary on anything related to SEO, one does well to read it intently. That said, hardly anyone actually does so… After all of the anguish in the wake of Panda and Penguin, Google produced a pretty decent Starter Guide to SEO – this provides a great deal of common-sense information for any webmaster wondering how to credence in it.

WordPress search engine optimisation is not rocket science…

If you implement these 10 simple WordPress search engine optimisation tips into your website, I am confident you will achieve a demonstrable improvement in your rankings and traffic flows! If you need expert WordPress SEO Services, it’s part of what we do…

Page last updated on Wednesday, October 11, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp