When it comes to SEO, WordPress is pretty well optimized “out-of-the-box”. However, there are several things that are commonly overlooked or neglected completely that can help you rank your WordPress site better on search engines. So here are 7 little changes you can make that’ll help make a big difference.
1. Create a Blog for your website. Really…
If you have an e-commerce site and haven’t added any products recently, or if you have a business portfolio and haven’t added a new project lately, consider creating a Blog. If you have a WordPress website and you don’t have a Blog; you’re missing out! Blogging is one of the most efficient ways of increasing organic traffic to your website.
Major search engines regularly crawl your site to see what pages, if any, have been updated. Blogging is one of the easiest ways of adding new content to your site on a regular basis. And it’s important that search engines know that your site is still active and being maintained.
Creating a Blog for your website is actually very simple. All you need to do is create a new Page and tell WordPress that’s where you want your Blog posts to be displayed. Most premium WordPress themes today make it super simple by including necessary styles for all of the native WordPress widgets.
2. Put your images to work!
If you already have a Blog or have pages with many images relevant to your content, make sure they are optimized! Images and their metadata also get crawled by search engines and help determine a page’s relevancy to search terms.
When we say metadata, we’re talking about the image’s Title and Alt tags. These tags help search engines determine what the image is. Without them, it’s just another image.
WordPress’ media library makes it easy to set these tags for your images. And once set, they’ll be applied to the images wherever they may be used on your site.
3. Ensure page titles and descriptions are… yep, you guessed it–descriptive.
One of the most common mistakes of SEO is having poor or non-existent metadata. Metadata is what Google or other search engines show to potential visitors when they search for a key word or phrase. You can spend all the time in the world making your content great and you may be ranking well for a particular keyword or phrase; but if a potential visitor doesn’t like what they see when they’re searching, you are most likely going to lose their traffic to someone else.
There are many plugin solutions that make SEO for WordPress easier. But our favorite is Joost De Valk’s (Yoast SEO).
4. Avoid using “stopwords” in your permalinks (a, the, of, for).
In the newer versions of WordPress, stopwords are automatically stripped from permalinks of newly created posts. It’s difficult sometimes, especially for some perfectionists, to leave stopwords out of permalinks. But we prefer and recommend leaving these out, as Google does ignore them. And they usually just attribute to longer, uglier URLs.
5. Ensure your Home page helps guide visitors to what they’re looking for.
It’s tempting to want to show all of your products or posts on your Home page. But often times, this leaves your Home page cluttered and makes it harder to optimize for your specific key words or phrases. Your home page should focus on helping visitors and potential customers find what they’re looking for deeper within the pages of your site.
6. Ensure visitors know your site is safe.
Visitors like to know that they are safe browsing your website; not only from malware and phishing but from their personal information being stolen as well. There are several things you can do to help visitors know they are safe. And that potential customers know that their information is not going to be stolen or sold.
The first thing, which also has it’s SEO benefits, is using SSL (https://). SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypts the connection between the host (where your website is located) and the client (the visitor’s browser). Adding an SSL Certificate to your site can make a big difference in conversions if you’re selling products or collecting information from your visitors.
In my opinion, any site should have an SSL certificate. Especially since major search engines, like Google, reward sites that have them. Past that, it’s something that can be seen at first glance and shows the visitor just how important their privacy is to you.
If you’re wondering where to get an SSL certificate– the easiest way to go about this is usually to buy one from your domain name registrar or web hosting provider. If they don’t offer them, you can go to a certificate authority, like Comodo to get one.
7. Finally, keep your sidebar clean. Not all of those widgets are really necessary.
WordPress comes fully-loaded with an assortment of Widgets. These widgets make it easy to add content or tools to “widgetized” areas; like a sidebar or footer. Some themes and plugins also add widgets for you to use. However, one of the worst things you can do is have too much “stuff” on your sidebar.
We recommend prioritizing content or widgets added to sidebars according to the relevancy with your site’s content. For example; if your site is mostly for marketing a product or service, links to your product categories or services offerings should be one of the first, if not the first thing you show on your sidebar. Try to limit the number of widgets as well. It pains us to see more content on a sidebar than on the content area of a page.