How to SEO a WordPress Website
1 – Start Here
Note From The Author
I’ve run digital marketing strategy and tactics for multi-billion dollar companies like Salesforce.com and a small SAAS company called CrazyEgg.com.
I’ve built and managed digital strategies for dozens of B2B and B2C businesses – large and small.
I got my start in Digital Marketing in SEO and PPC marketing. SEO has changed a lot since the early days.
The tactics taught in this Execution Plan still work and will likely always work.
You’ll learn everything you need to know about on-page SEO for a WordPress site.
These methods are not only good for Search Engine Optimization but also for your human site visitors.
Forget Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird these SEO strategies will teach you the white hat way to search traffic.
Let’s get started!
Director of Editorial
Going “All In”.
Search is an important traffic channel.
Before someone does business with you they will likely “Google” you.
You’ll bring in leads and sales from people searching for products, services and information you have on your website.
Google is impossible to ignore. It’s true.
But don’t go “all in.”
SEO should be part of a larger digital marketing strategy.
Here’s 3 reasons why…
SEO is a slow burn – You won’t see results from SEO overnight. In fact, the changes you make today could take months to pay dividends. SEO is a long term strategy… but an important one.
SEO isn’t reliable – Google is always tweaking its algorithm and your search traffic will go up and down as competition ebbs and flows in your niche. Don’t put all your eggs in the SEO basket… or any basket for that matter.
Consider humans first – Don’t go SEO crazy and start creating content only a search spider could stomach. Always err on the side of user experience.
2 – 11 Point SEO Health Check
How to Use This Section
Before you do any keyword research, write content or look for backlinks — you need to make sure your website has a clean bill of health.
So many website owners set out to do SEO without checking these fundamental things.
That’s a mistake.
In fact, there are a few of these health checkpoints that, if not detected, will completely destroy your SEO.
Let’s get started with your check-up. Don’t worry… this won’t hurt a bit. 🙂
Check Webmaster Tools
Set up Google Webmaster Tools (Google Support)
Sucuri.net – Cleans up hacked websites
To use Google Webmaster Tools you will need to “verify” that you own the website. The easiest way to do this is using the WordPress SEO Plug-In by Yoast which we will discuss further later in this training.
After adding your domain to Google Webmaster Tools here, Google will ask you to “Verify Ownership” and will provide a number of methods.
Simply select ALTERNATIVE METHODS and then HTML TAG. Copy the meta tag (pictured in yellow highlighter below).
Then, Paste the meta tag into the GOOGLE WEBMASTER TOOLS field under SEO > DASHBOARD in the WordPress SEO plug-in and click SAVE CHANGES.
Now go back to Google Webmaster Tools and click VERIFY.
Check Google Analytics
How to Install Google Analytics for WordPress – This plug-in (with support video) will install Google Analytics on your WordPress site.
Check the Google Index
To use the site operator in Google, copy and paste the following (replacing domain.com with your own domain) into Google and click SEARCH:
Check Your Backlinks
OpenSiteExplorer – Free backlink checker
Disavow Link Tool – Request that Google discount bad links pointing at your website. Be careful with this tool!
How to Recover from Negative SEO – A Quicksprout article detailing negative SEO and what can be done about it.
Check Your robots.txt
RobotsTXT.org – A good resource for all thing robots.txt
Check Your SEO Plug-In
WordPress SEO by Yoast – The best SEO plug-in available for WordPress.
Check Two WordPress Settings
Check Your Permalinks
Check Your Social Sharing Plug-in
Digg Digg – A good social media sharing plug-in for WordPress.
Check Your Page Load Speed
Check Your Theme
Last but not least is your WordPress theme.
Not all WordPress themes are created equal.
While some only have great designs, others have also built in great SEO functionality by developing with search-friendly code and building in the fields you need to optimize your site for search. While you can go with any WordPress theme and optimize it for search using plugins, which we will discuss in the next step, there are certain themes that go the extra mile in considering search optimization during development.
Here are the top two SEO friendly WordPress frameworks and themes.
Genesis Framework by StudioPress
Themes built on the Genesis Framework by StudioPress are by far the best for SEO.
If I had to point out two reasons why off the bat, they would be the following. First, Matt Cutts of Google fame switched from Thesis to Genesis in 2013.
Second, Joost de Valk, well known for creating Yoast SEO, one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress to date, began creating his own WordPress themes.
They are all child themes built upon the Genesis Framework.
If you are a developer, one thing you will really appreciate about the Genesis Framework / StudioPress themes is the developer package. Unlike most developer packages, if you purchase a StudioPress Pro Plus Package (currently $399 for the Genesis Framework, 43 child themes, plus future themes and lifetime support), you can use their themes (and future ones) on all of your websites and your clients without paying additional licensing fees.
Other perks to going with themes built on the Genesis Framework include…
- Being able to pick from 43 well-designed child themes that look great straight out of the box (plus additional child themes by third party designers).
- Having a go to list of great developers to choose from for additional customization.
- Using a framework praised by WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg.
- Being in the company of other great users such as Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, Jay Baer, and other industry experts.
Pricing for the Genesis Framework is $59.95. Individual child themes + the Genesis Framework are priced from $79.95 to $99.95.
You can also choose the Pro Plus Package at $399 for the framework plus all current and future child themes developed by StudioPress. To learn more about StudioPress, visit their Get Started page.
Thesis Framework by DIYthemes
Another favorite of SEO professionals and those who like to stay search optimized is the Thesis Framework by DIYthemes.
Formerly used by Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, this framework has become more user friendly in its latest incarnation, moving from the dependence of users to build their own theme designs to offering skins, boxes, and drag and drop functionality.
Other perks to going with themes built on the Thesis Framework include…
Built-in Twitter Card and Facebook Open Graph functionality for better results when shared on social networks (Professional plan only).
- Being in the company of other great users such as Missy Ward, Derek Halpern, Shoemoney, and Pat Flynn.
Pricing for the Thesis Framework is $87. The Basic Plus plan at $164 includes 3 skins and email opt-in boxes for MailChimp & Aweber.
The Professional Plan at $197 works for unlimited domains (that you own only), lifetime support and products updates, and all extra functionality including a developer tools box.
Developers will need to spend an additional $32 – $40 per client site.
Choosing Other Themes
There are an endless number of WordPress themes out there, both free and paid themes. If you decide to go with other themes, be sure to check the following with the theme’s demo version.
- Load time – Google ranks sites that it believes will give searchers the information they want and a great user experience. Slow loading websites do not offer a great experience. If the theme demo takes a while to load, it may not be the one to choose.
- Responsive design – Frameworks and themes that offer responsive design (designs that work on desktops, tablets, and smartphones) are best for both user experiences. Plus, Google may not show your website in mobile search results if your website is not mobile-friendly.
- Footer links – Some free themes (and even paid ones) will insert links into the footer. While having a link to the theme developer you are using isn’t a bad thing, having a theme that puts other irrelevant links in the footer is. Some won’t show these links in the demo version – if you download a theme for free, check it once it’s on your website to ensure you haven’t gained any unwelcomed links.
You can also visit this guide by Yoast to check the theme you are considering for more WordPress SEO do’s and don’ts
3 – Make Your SEO Plan
How to Use This Section
Build Your Current Silo
Silo Template – An Excel file containing the template to build your SEO silo.
Understand Content Hubs
Do Phase 1 Keyword Research
Google AdWords Keyword Planner – A free tool for doing keyword research.
The ideal length of the title tag is roughly 55 characters… but don’t stress too much. Just keep your title tags in this ballpark and you’ll be ok.
Do Phase 2 Keyword Research
Bonus – [Tool Demo] Add SEM Rush to Your Arsenal
4 – Implement SEO on Your WordPress Site
How to Use this Section
Ok, it’s time to dig into WordPress and start putting your plan into action.
You’ve come a long way and have done the bulk of the work by putting your plan in place.
Optimize the Home Page
The optimal length of the meta description tag is roughly 150 characters but don’t stress… just keep your meta descriptions in this ballpark.
Learn the 5 On-Page SEO Factors
Create Optimized Archive Pages
Cross Link Pages and Posts
A Final Note
You’ve come a long way!
You’ve checked the SEO health of your website, made a plan and implemented it!
And hopefully you’ve learned a bit about how SEO works along the way.
Remember that SEO is not just about ranking in search engines… when it’s done properly it creates a better experience for your site visitors.
Congratulations on completing this Execution Plan!
What will you do next?
See you online,
Director of Editorial