SEO Basics For Your New WordPress Website

WordPress is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and is SEO-friendly from the start, with its setup making it easy for Google and other search engines to quickly and easily index pages and posts.

That said, there are numerous things your company can do to get even more SEO benefits out of your WordPress site. Here are seven of them. Note: Some of them only apply if you’re starting a new site, while others can be beneficial no matter how long it has been in existence.

Choosing an SEO-Friendly Domain Name

This is true no matter which platform you use but, think about it—by including a relevant keyword in your domain name, it automatically becomes part of every single page and post on your site. And, although Google has claimed that having a keyword in your domain name only gives your site a small benefit, a study demonstrated that 63% of top ranking sites use keywords in their domains. And, these results were found to be true across multiple industries.

Additional tips when choosing your SEO-friendly domain name include:

  • Don’t be spammy. Just pick a relevant keyword and use it in a memorable way.
  • If you’re regional or local, adding your location to your domain name makes sense.
  • Stick with .com, if possible. People typically add this domain extension automatically when searching because that’s what they’re most familiar with.
  • If you can’t get your preferred domain with a .com extension, then:
    • choose .net for a company
    • choose .org for an organization or non-profit
  • Avoid hyphen use. That’s harder to remember and can look amateurish.
  • Keep the domain name as short as possible to make it easier to remember.
  • Once you’ve chosen your domain name, register it for multiple years. Numerous Google patents suggest domain registration length may be a ranking factor.

Choose WordPress Experts for Your Website Hosting

It’s also crucial to have your WordPress site hosted by a company that provides quality customer service and support. Ideally, this company will already be experienced with this platform.

How, you might be wondering, does the website host play a role in SEO? Indirectly, it has a huge impact, because using the best SEO strategies, techniques and tactics in the world do you no good unless your website is up and running.

Obtain a Secure Certificate

Effective in July 2018, sites that don’t have a secure certificate will be shown as not secure in the search engine results pages, which will likely keep a significant percentage of potential customers away from your site, heading instead to your competitors that do have a secure certificate.

Plus, the status of a site’s HTTPS security is a ranking factor in Google, with secure sites being favored. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get a secure certificate by purchasing one from your website’s host. Learn more about SSL in this guide.

Install Google Analytics and Use Intelligence Gleaned

This free tool provides rich intelligence about your site, including what pages site visitors use to arrive, what pages they visit, how long they stay, and much more. This allows you to determine whether your optimization campaign is attracting the desired traffic to the right pages. As time goes by, you can gather together enough information about the keywords people are using to find your site to review and refresh your keyword strategy, as needed. You can segment site visitors into new and returning, by referral source, and much more.

Using this data, you can revamp pages that aren’t receiving the results you need, tweak other pages to further boost successes and more.

Be Smart About Plugin Choices

There are numerous free and/or free with premium upgrade choices in the WordPress plugin library. Ones we recommend that add SEO-friendly features and functionality include:

  • Yoast SEO: This easy-to-use plugin allows for on-site optimization (title tags and meta description tags), either page by page or by using the advanced bulk edit feature to all pages and posts in one fell swoop. You can also use this plugin to create your XML sitemap.
  • W3 Total Cache: Caching is crucial because it allows your site to load more quickly in an era when speed truly matters. In fact, speed can even impact your rankings in Google. Caching allows your site’s pages to statically be waiting to load, reducing server resources, and allowing for much faster load times.
  • Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms: Since the whole point of SEO is to attract prospects to your website and facilitate conversion, having contact forms can be a huge plus. The first of these two options is free, with basic, easy to drop forms; the latter one is a good plugin that requires purchasing a license.
  • Backup Buddy: If you choose a host that doesn’t offer regular backups (WP Engine does offer these), then you’ll want to use a backup plugin.

If you have administrator rights to your website, you can install plugins, and you won’t need to know how to code. In the WordPress dashboard, you’ll see a Plugins section where you can add new ones.

Don’t Discourage Search Engines from Indexing Your Site!

WordPress has a setting that allows you to ask that your site not be crawled and indexed by Google and other search engines. Check, and then double-check and then triple-check in your WordPress dashboard to ensure that this option does not have a checkmark in the box. If so, uncheck it immediately. You can find this box by going into Settings → Reading and then scrolling down to Search Engine Visibility.

If this box is checked from your go-live time, then you are telling search engines that you don’t want your site to appear in search engine results pages when people search on relevant keywords. If you already have rankings and then this box accidentally gets checked, you can seriously damage the rankings you do have because you’re de-indexing your site—and it can be quite challenging to get rankings back.

Properly Use 301 Redirects if Your URL’s Change

If you’ve had a website and are now switching to WordPress with new URLs, it’s crucial to properly set up 301 redirects to make sure that, on your refreshed site on the WordPress platform, internal and external links appropriately point to the right pages and posts. If not done or done incorrectly, you can lose the online visibility you’ve built up. This isn’t a 101 technique so, if you’re not familiar with specifics, consult with an experienced SEO agency.

Are these all of the elements of a rock-solid SEO campaign? No, and each campaign will likely have elements unique to them—but this does provide a good foundation for your SEO when building your WordPress site.

Chris Gregory is the founder and a managing partner of DAGMAR Marketing, a local SEO company based in Jacksonville, Florida. The agency’s work was recently recognized in Search Engine Land’s international search marketing competition, garnering the Best Local SEO Initiative award.

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