WordPress SEO: The Ultimate Guide

wordpress seoEver since May 27 2003 when Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little released WordPress, it has grown to be the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, with millions of users world wide.

A lot of great things can be said about WordPress, but one of the huge benefits it provides users with, and which I’m going to get into more detail in this post, is WordPress’s out of the box SEO functionality.

So here is how I’m going to do this. To make this post easier for everyone to digest, I’ve decided to split the content into 2 main paragraphs: WordPress SEO basic and advanced tips.

1.WordPress SEO Basic Optimization Tips

These suggestions may be kinda obvious but that does not make them any less important when it comes to optimizing your blog for search engine traffic.

The Title Tag

The title tag is definitely the most important element of your website for SEO. It informs search engines what your site is about.

Your main keyword should be at the beginning of your home page title followed by your brand name:

  • Residual Income: The Gain Profit Income Blog (my main keyword that I’m trying to rank for is “residual income”)

By default WordPress will add your site’s title after each post and page title. A lot of people make the mistake of leaving this as it is.

You are already targeting your main keyword on your home page, so it makes no sense to have it in all of the titles on your blog. This will only reduce the keyword density in your blog posts title. Each title should be unique and target a different keyword. You can easily rewrite your titles using the All In One SEO plugin.

I recommend you leave your blog title only for your “about”, “contact” and “privacy-policy” pages, because they are not targeting any keywords, so having your blog title in there too is better.

The Meta Tags

The meta tags are the description tag and keywords tag. The text that appears under your links in the search engine results is the description tag.

meta description tag

Although the description tag and the keywords tag are not taken into consideration by the search engines when ranking your website, having a compelling description will raise your click-through in the search results.

Your target keyword should also be included in the description tag to make your post or page more relevant for that keyword.

HTML Heading Structure

Another important aspect of on-page SEO is your heading structure. The headings tell the search engines which parts of your content are important.

Each page on your site should only have one H1 tag. Having more than one H1 tag is considered by the search engines as being a spam tactic.

Home Page Heading Structure:
  • H1: Your blog’s name
  • H2: The title of your posts
  • H3: Popular posts or Recent posts widgets
  • H4: Other related content widgets in your sidebar
Single Page/Post Heading Structure:
  • H1: The title of your post
  • H2 and H3: Subheadings in your post’s content
  • H4: Related posts below the content of your post
  • H5: Sidebar widgets

It’s important that the theme you are using on your website follows these guidelines, unfortunately not all WordPress themes have this heading structure.

An easy way to check if your website is properly structured is to go into your Google Webmaster account in the “Optimization” tab and click “HTML Improvements”. Or you can use the SEO Quake Firefox plugin and click the “Diagnosis” button in your toolbar.

Here is how the heading structure looks on the home page of my blog:

html heading structure

That’s why I do not recommend using free WordPress themes, a mistake I made when I started my blog. A lot of them contain hidden code that can break your website, and they are poorly structured.

Not having a proper heading structure can also affect your rankings, because search engines take into consideration how your website is built when ranking it in the serps. This is something I noticed immediately after switching from the free theme I was using to the Genesis Framework(affiliate link), when I saw a noticeable increase in search traffic and a rise in the search engine results for most of my posts and pages.

The Permalink Structure

The permalink is the URL of your posts and pages. Your permalinks should look similar to the title of your posts.

For example: http://www.gainprofitincome.com/keyword-research-find-longtail-keywords/

This way people will know what a link is about before clicking on it and your keywords will also be highlighted in the search engine results if that link is relevant to the search query.

You can set WordPress to automatically create the permalinks this way by going to Settings>Permalinks.

wordpress permalink structure

Additionally you should manually edit the permalinks and remove words like “the”, “is”, before you publish a post. This is to make sure you have the highest keyword density possible in the URL of your post, and also to make the permalink short and sweet.

Using the Alt Tag for Images

image alt tagThe alt attribute is the only way of telling the search engines what an image is about.

Search engines consider this element very important when ranking your posts in the global search results as well as ranking your image in the images search results.

To make your post more relevant for a particular keyword, the file name, the title and the alt tag of your image should contain the targeted keyword.

Internal Linking

Inter-linking your posts makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl your website. It also allows you to pass link juice to other posts and pages on your site.

What you’re basically doing is linking from one post to another. For example I sometimes happen to mention that the key to growing a successful blog is by building trust with your readers and I’ll immediately link to my post on building trust online.

This is also a great way to keep people on your site for a longer period of time and reduce bounce rates, which are two additional factors that affect your search engine rankings.

Creating a Sitemap

A sitemap is basically an outline of the content you have on your website. It includes your posts, pages, archives, categories and media attachments.

You can use the Google XML Sitemap plugin to create a sitemap for your WordPress blog. This plugin will automatically update the sitemap every time you make changes to your website.

After creating a sitemap using this plugin, it should look like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml

Now all you have to do is submit your sitemap to Google Webmasters Tools and Bing Webmasters Tools.

2. WordPress SEO Advanced Tips

So far I’ve mentioned some of the basic WordPress optimization tips that can make your site more SEO friendly. But there are some additional improvements you can make to your website that are more advanced and which I’m going to share with you next.

WWW or Non WWW

Having the “www” in front of your domain or not having it doesn’t make any difference in getting your website ranked. However, the search engines consider www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com as 2 totally different websites, thus splitting the link juice from your backlinks to each of them.

That’s why it’s very important to redirect one to the other using a 301 permanent redirect.

This may sound a bit techy but it’s actually very easy to do. By default WordPress already handles this redirect for you, but problem is that it does this using a 302 temporary redirect.

To be able to create this redirect you will need to edit your .htaccess file which is found on your hosting server.

The easiest way to do this, is with the Robots Meta plugin, which allows you to easily edit your .htaccess file.

All you have to do is copy this code in your .htaccess file:

# Begin 301
RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.gainprofitincome\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.gainprofitincome.com/$1 [L,R=301]

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

This will redirect the non-WWW version of your website to the WWW one

If you want to redirect the WWW version to the non-WWW all you have to do is remove the “www” part from lines 3 and 4.

Also make sure you replace gainprofitincome.com with your domain name.

No Index, No Follow Archives, Tag Pages, Category Pages

Your archive pages, category pages and tag pages are all similar pages which link to your posts. That’s why there’s no point in having them all indexed by the search engines.

For example if you’re using categories on your blog you should add the “noindex” tag to your tag and archive pages.

The same thing goes for the “nofollow” tag.

I remember one time, when I was searching for my posts in Google and most of the times I had tag pages and category pages that outranked the actual posts. Applying the “noindex,nofollow” tag to archive, category and tag pages can be easily done with the All In One SEO plugin I mentioned earlier in this post.

This way you will direct most of the link juice to the actual post pages, which normally are the ones that are suppose to rank for their target keyword.

No Follow Certain Page Links

Adding the “nofollow” tag to certain links is a simple way you can use to divert link juice only to the pages you want to rank high in search engines, like your posts.

For example, if your displaying excerpts of your posts on your blog page, you have that “Continue Reading” link which takes you to the full post page. But the title of your post is also a link to the same page.

Adding the “nofollow” tag to the “Continue Reading” link will divert all the link juice to the post title link which is a keyword rich anchor text and is more relevant to the content of your post.

Also the post meta data which contains a link to the date archives, the category of the post, the author page. These are all links that don’t need to rank.

Or you could do what I did and completely remove those links from the post byline or meta data. As you can see I only have my name above the post title, and it’s not even a link.

post meta data

One other thing I want to mention is, if you have a Tag Cloud widget in your sidebar make sure the links to the tag pages are nofollow, I made this mistake and what happened is that the tag pages where higher in the search results than the actual posts, trust me you don’t want that.

In regards on how to find those links in the code of your theme, there are way to many examples, and on a lot of themes this is done differently. But if you’re blog is running on the Genesis Framework(affiliate link) like mine just send me an email and I’ll be happy to give you all the instructions you need to make these changes.

But basically to make a link “nofollow” here is what you need to do:

  • Normal link: <a href=”http://www.gainprofitincome.com”>The Gain Profit Income Blog</a>
  • Nofollow link: <a href=”http://www.gainprofitincome.com” rel=”nofollow”>The Gain Profit Income Blog</a>

Use Google Webmaster Tools

This is a service you must definitely sign-up for. As you know it’s free and it provides you with a lot of useful information about the keywords people use to find your site, the number of backlinks Google has indexed, etc.

Another thing that I like about Google Webmaster Tools is that it notifies you of any 404 errors or “page not found”. I remember one time when I modified the permalink to one of my posts after it was published, and lost a lot of traffic because of this.

I immediately received a notification from GWT and redirected the old link to the new one.

Google Authorship

There’s been a lot of talk that Google will add the Author Rank to their ranking algorithm so it’s very important that you claim your Google Authorship.

google authorship

The process of claiming your Google Authorship is very is to do.

First you will need to add this line of code in the <head> section of your website.

<link rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/100211679160877871318/posts“/>

Make sure you replace the link with your Google+ profile link.

Next step is to head over to your G+ profile and in the “About” tab look for the box that says  “Contributor to”. Add your website URL there and you’re all done.

google authorship claim

That’s all you need to do. You must know that it will take a bit of time before your picture will show-up next to your posts and pages in the search results. To test this just go to your Google Webmaster Tools account.

Building Backlinks

This WordPress SEO guide would not be complete without mentioning another important aspect of search engine traffic which is link building.

Although the best link building technique is to write high value content that others will naturally link to from their own websites, getting this type of links is kind of hard when you’re just starting and the visitors coming to your blog are just a handful.

There are a lot of ways to manually build backlinks to your website but for now I’m going to mention just a couple of them.

  • Guest Posting: Through guest posting instead of writing posts and publishing them on your own blog, you will publish them on other blogs in your niche. Those posts will have 1 or 2 links that will point back to your website.
  • Linking out: Every time you link out to other websites, the owner of those websites will be notified automatically by WordPress. So when they see that you’ve linked to one of their posts, they might link back to one of your posts in the future.

These are just 2 of the many link building options you have. I wanted this post to be mainly about on-site SEO, but if you want more backlinking tips Jon Cooper from PointBlankSEO.com has a huge list of  link building strategies.

Final Word on WordPress SEO

Google always says that they want to deliver people the most relevant results for what they’re searching.

This guide is all about making your website, your posts, as relevant as possible for your target keyword. If you would only apply 80% percent of the things I mentioned in this post you would still notice an increase in rankings and search engine traffic.

Feel free to play around with these instructions as you see fit, if you have any other suggestions I would love it if you would share them in your comments.


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  1. says

    mm… To be honest I expected something more from “the ultimate guide”. I think this article is OK for beginners rather than for SEO-savvy people.

  2. says

    Hi Tedel,

    Yes this post is meant for beginners. I’ve implemented everything I said in this post on all of my sites, and I always saw an increase in rankings and search engine traffic.
    I’m not saying I’m a SEO expert, but these are changes that everyone can make to their sites to get more traffic.

    Thanks for your oppinion on this, really appreciate it.

  3. says

    Hi Phillip,

    I found this guide really useful, I will be coming back to this. I think my site is all over the place with SEO, I understand and implement the basics, but the nofollow stuff, and links on the tags etc is all new to me. I will be following this through!

    Cheers for your help.

    • says

      Hi John, I’m really glad you’ve found my guide useful. Most of the tips I’ve shared in this post are very easy to implement, but if you need any help just send me an email and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can. Have a great day.

  4. says

    Am a blogger and new to wordpress. Really this post is an ultimate guide for bloggers. I have learned many basic things here! Thanks for writing!

  5. says

    Great article on WordPress SEO. Really this is a complete guide on WordPress SEO. HTML Heading Structure is one of the important factor for WordPress SEO. Thanks for sharing full details of Heading structure.


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