Right after setting up a new website with WordPress, a very important step, in which the website should be optimized for search engines, should be accomplished.
This process of optimizing a website for search engines is known as SEO; short for “search engine optimization”.
SEO is a very important condition for a website to receive hits from visitors that use search engines such as Google and Bing to find some interesting content.
SEO is a very vast field: some parts of it are so ambiguous that some SEOs keep speculating all the time on how search engines work and what their websites need to appear on the first pages.
Luckily, if one concentrates on what’s clear about it; on top of a good marketing strategy, the website will more likely appear on the first page since search engines today are very sophisticated to a point that they can distinguish between quality and bad content.
In general, SEO depends on 3 clear conditions:
- Optimizing the website structure.
- Writing quality content / Optimizing content.
- Time, to see some real effects.
In this article, I’m going to focus on the first condition.
It may sound difficult to achieve, but in WordPress, most work can be done using ready-plugins and well-structured themes.
Because websites’ structures are different, SEO problems then vary from website to website, consequently, it is difficult to identify them all in a single post.
For this reason, the current guide will revolve around the basic steps all starting websites should check before going into further personalized tweaks.
Step 1: Create a Sitemap
A sitemap is a file that contains a bunch of links to all your websites’ content. Its function is not only to clarify search engines how your site is structured but also notifies them of new articles.
To create a sitemap in WordPress, you just need to find the right plugin which can do that for you.
All is needed is:
1. On WordPress Dashboard, hover your cursor over Plugins and click Add New.
2. In the search bar, type: “Sitemap”.
3. Pick any plugin you want. I suggest using Google XML Sitemaps as it is efficient and simple.
Step 2: Join Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
Webmaster tools help site owners to optimize their websites for search engines by increasing the website readability and minimizing errors.
You just need to create an account, add the different versions of your website (with www, without www and https:// if exists) then following the instructions which will be given by the search console.
Here’s a step by step instruction on how to do that:
1. Create an account on Google Webmaster Tools.
2. Click on Add Property and type your website’s URL then click Add.
3. Google will ask you to verify your website to see whether it is yours. You can choose whichever method you like. If you choose the HTML tag method which requires you to add an HTML tag to your website’s header, then one of the ways to do this is to find, install and activate a plugin such as Verify Ownership.
4. If you have installed Verify Ownership Plugin, copy the meta tag: < meta name=”google-site-verification”… etc. and past it into Google Verification ID inside Verify Ownership’s menu and click Save Changes.
5. In the search console click Verify. Your website will be immediately verified.
When you accomplish this, you will receive a message which will show you some instructions on how to optimize your website for Google search.
The following picture will show you the 6 recommendations to follow:
Step 3: Check your Website Structure
Another step is to check whether your theme has a good structure.
Checking whether a theme has a good structure is to see whether search engines understand your website’s structure: will they be able to identify the headlines, the content, the author, the date in which a post or a page was published, and all the necessary pieces of information?
For that purpose, you can use the Structured Data Testing Tool, as follow:
1. Open the Structured Data Testing Tool.
2. Type the URL of your site under Fetch Url.
3. Click on Run Test to see if there are errors.
Here you should test one URL of any post on your website.
If the tool identifies many errors, that means that the theme is not very well coded.
Also, if you notice that there’s no error, but there’s an empty page on the right side — when testing a post, not the Homepage — it means that the theme lacks schema markups that help search engines to detect the headline, content, author, etc.
You’d better change it.
Step 4: Check your Website Loading Speed
If the theme you are using is not optimized to load quickly, in less than 5 secs. it is strongly recommended to change it as well. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of time and money fixing it.
Step 5: Diagnosing your Website
The current step is to test the website to find SEO errors that need to be fixed.
Many tools on the web can provide you with detailed reports of your website for free.
I suggest that you use SEO SiteCheckup which will show you a list of suggestions that will help you fix your website’s SEO errors.
To get a better understanding of your website, it’s very important to try both the main URL of your website and one URL of any post on your website.
If you already have signed up for Bing Webmaster Tools, you can find and use their powerful SEO tool as well.
Step 6: Minimizing your Website SEO Errors
The good thing about WordPress is that to minimize the website SEO errors, most work can be done using Plugins.
To minimize your website SEO errors, the following plugins are very helpful:
- WP Super Cache: it will speed up your website by caching your pages.
- Jetpack: it will speed up your images load time by spreading your website’s images to their servers around the globe. Each time a user requests to see your website, the nearest server will respond to his request, resulting in better load time.
- Yoast SEO: a plugin that fixes most of your website’s basic SEO issues.
On top of these plugins, you can also use a CDN service which will increase your website presence around the globe and maximizes your website’s load speed.
Step 7: Test your Website & Fix Specific SEO Errors
Testing your website again using the tools I mentioned in step 3, 4 and 5 will help you find some specific errors that you can fix by searching for plugins that are made to fix those particular errors.
Until here, your website’s SEO overall may not be perfect, but fine.
If so, you can start concentrating on your content and your marketing strategies.
If that was not met, you’d better change the theme which could be badly coded.
Step 8: Submit a Sitemap to the Search Console
After correcting SEO issues related to the structure of your website, it is very important to add the Sitemap to the Search Console.
To submit your sitemap to Google webmaster tools:
1. On your WordPress Dashboard, hover your cursor over Settings and click XML-Sitemap.
2. On the top, you’ll see the URL of your sitemap, copy it.
3. Open the message you received from Google Webmaster Tools and then click on Submit a sitemap button. Alternatively, connect to your webmaster tools dashboard, click on Crawl, then Sitemaps.
4. On the top right side, click on the button Add/Test Sitemap, add your URL then click Submit.
If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to use the comment box below.