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An In-Depth WordPress SEO Guide For Higher Rankings

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|2nd April 2018

WordPress is a powerful content management system (CMS).

Its ease of use and versatility has made it one of the most popular platforms, currently powering 26.4% of the top 10 million sites in the world. That number will only continue to grow given how simple and straightforward it is. In fact, you could have a fully functioning site for your business in a short period of time. And with an extensive selection of plugins, you could even add eCommerce capabilities and social features to your site.

But one crucial component is still missing: Traffic.

Even with a fully functioning site and a beautiful web design, traffic won’t suddenly flood your site. For that to happen your site needs to rank in the search results for keywords that are relevant to your products or services. So how do you increase rankings for target keywords?

It starts with search engine optimisation. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising various aspects of a site to rank higher in the search results. Why does this matter? Because higher rankings ultimately lead to more targeted traffic and sales for your business.

Here we put together a comprehensive WordPress SEO guide. Implementing each of these steps will give your site a major competitive advantage online and improve your website’s visibility on Google.

1. Change Default Permalink Settings

Optimising display URLs is beneficial from both a search engine and user perspective. Search engines have a better idea of what a page is about and users can preview a link (within their browsers) before clicking through to the site.

WordPress by default creates URLs that look like

A better URL might instead look like:

Luckily you can change your display URLs to be more search engine friendly. Hover over the Settings tab and click on Permalinks. Select Custom Structure and enter the naming convention below:

/%category%/%postname%/ Your new URLs will now appear like this:


Alternatively, you can also enter “/%postname%/” to display only the title of the page or post.

Making these changes won’t necessarily boost your rankings overnight. But they do contribute to better on-page optimisation of your site. Every bit helps and making these changes only takes little time.

2. Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Relevance is perhaps the most important ranking factor as Google tends to reward sites that are better optimised. WordPress SEO by Yoast is easily one of the most useful in terms of SEO. This plugin makes it effortless to write optimised content and it even provides an overall rating with suggestions for each post.

Login to your WordPress site, then hover over the Plugins tab on the left side and click Add New. Search for “WordPress SEO” and click the Install Now buttons for the Yoast plugin:


Then active the plugin on the next page.

Here is a basic overview of what the Yoast SEO plugin can do:

Page analysis (e.g. based on focus keywords)

Access to .htaccess and robots.txt file

Advanced XML sitemap functionality

Built-in breadcrumbs functionality

Ability to verify

Integration with social media networks

RSS enhancements

This plugin will come in handy in the next step when optimising on-page SEO aspects for individual posts. The Yoast SEO plugin is free to install but there is also a paid version that offers more premium features.

3. Optimise On-Page Factors For Individual Posts

Google looks at hundreds of different factors to determine rankings.

But on-page factors are easily one of the most important.

On-page factors refer to aspects on a page (e.g. titles, content, etc.) that you have control over. A page with comprehensive information will outrank another page that only briefly covers the topic. So it is certainly worth optimising each of your pages to increase their rankings.

According to a survey from Moz, on-page signals account for 20.3% of local search engine ranking factors.


Go through each post and optimise the following on-page factors:

Title tags:

Titles are arguably the most important on-page factor as they are the first thing that visitors see in the search results. Include your target keywords here and write an engaging title to increase click-through rates.

Meta descriptions: 

These are short snippets of information that appear in the search results below the titles. They give visitors a better idea of what the page is about. Include your target keywords here too and a call to action to encourage visitors to click through.


Headers are useful as they improve readability by breaking up blocks of text. Aim to include secondary keywords in your headers.

Image ALT text:

Be sure to add an ALT text to your images as doing so helps them show up in image search.


Aim to provide a comprehensive overview of your topic. Include your target keywords as well as related phrases several times throughout the content. If you have a local business, make sure that your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are clearly visible. Be careful not to over-optimise your content as the last thing you want is a ranking penalty.

In the previous step, you installed the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. The keyword analysis feature is easily one of the most useful. It looks at how optimised your content is for a target keyword and provides suggestions for making it even better.

Here is an example of what the Keyword tab looks like (accessible below each post):


Go through each post and follow the suggestions to better optimise your content. Optimising your posts will go a long way towards improving their rankings in the search results.

4. Link Internally

Internal links are anchors to other pages on your own site. An internal link is different from a backlink. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Doing link building for SEO is one of the most important ranking factors. However, if you have no internal links, the benefits (or “link juice”) of backlinks is not passed on to other pages.

Internal links are beneficial for the following reasons:

It helps establish site architecture:

Menus are a good example of this. Category pages typically link to subcategory pages and users are able to narrow down their results.

It helps Google crawl the site:

Internal links help the Googlebot’s crawl and index your content. This is why making all pages accessible within a few clicks is strongly recommended.

It provides visitors with more reading options:

If you maintain a regular blog, you can use new posts to link back and reference older posts you have published. This is a great way to get visitors to stay on your site.

It helps promote new products or services:

Linking to new products or services from popular posts is a great way to boost visibility. Any visitors that land on those pages can follow those links and potentially become a customer.

Internal linking is a highly effective tactic and is simple to do.

Highlight a keyword within one of your posts and click the Link icon at the top bar of the editor.


Then enter the URL you would like the keywords to link to and apply the new changes. Highlight keywords that are relevant to the pages to give them an SEO boost. In addition to linking to your own pages, link to other sites as well to lend credibility to any statements you make.

5. Submit a Sitemap

Sitemaps are like the table of contents in a book. They contain a list of all the pages in your site, and submitting them to search engines helps in the crawling process.The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin automatically creates an XML sitemap for your site. To find the link, hover over the SEO tab on the left side and click on XML Sitemaps. Then in the General tab, you will see the following:


Click on the XML Sitemap button to be automatically redirected to your sitemap. Then log in to your Google Search Console account. Create an account if you haven’t already as this is a valuable resource to get more insight about your site.

Click on Crawl and Sitemaps, then click the red Add/Test Sitemap button:


Enter in your sitemap URL here and Google will take care of the rest. Any new pages that you add to your site will be crawled and indexed more quickly.


WordPress is an incredibly powerful platform to build a business.

But you simply cannot expect to rank without first optimising your site. Even a site with an attractive and engaging design is not enough as the competition is stronger than ever. For best results, implement each of these SEO best practices with your new WordPress site. Using SEO Services will also help you gain a strong competitive advantage online.