WordPress SEO: Themes, Plugins, and Best Practices

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WordPress SEO: Themes, Plugins, and Best Practices

WordPress is a proven platform for building websites. WordPress itself is just a CMS, or Content Management System.

Some other Content Management Systems you may have heard of are Wix, SquareSpace, and Weebly.

Though all four of these , the playing field isn’t exactly equal in terms of and market proven. and When it comes to WordPress stands above the rest.

Is WordPress a Good Platform for Building Websites?

When I first got into client-facing Web Development, I was shocked when I was first asked [about WordPress]:

“Ugh, does it have to be WordPress? Can’t it be a real website? From scratch?”

First of all, no but also yes, for some very good reasons.

Even if we coded your website from scratch, we would most likely convert it to a WordPress template for ease-of-use, and so that there would be some aspects of the functionality that could be done by someone untrained in WordPress.

WordPress is quite user-friendly, all things considered. At the same time, fresh out of the box and sans-Themes, WordPress can only be so user-friendly.

Meaning being, there is a learning curve for anyone new to WordPress, even with an easy Theme installed.

Don’t get me wrong, we have nothing at all against WordPress, rather we adore it.

It’s just that there are so many aspects of functionality and moving parts in a CMS, and websites in general. Complex systems can only be so easy to adopt cold, without prior training or introduction.

WordPress requires, in and of itself, at least a few college courses worth of education to master. If you intend to also master a specific theme, you have another mini college course to undertake. The other route is learning to code – good luck, now you’re looking at an entire college degree worth of education.

Most WordPress beginners don’t actually know what they’re getting into, and expect to be able to drag and drop their way to a premium website in no time.

While it is easy to get started, there’s a little more familiarity required to make some real waves. We’re not all autodidacts.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open-source Content Management System, or CMS. WordPress simplifies the process of structuring, managing and publishing websites. Better, this is still potentially the case even if you don’t know HTML, CSS, Javascript, or PHP.

Additionally, WordPress’ open-source functionality makes it easy for developers to create content that is useful for WordPress users, such as plugins, extensions, and more.

Is WordPress for Blogs?

It has been some time since WordPress was “just a blogging platform.” Many blogs still reside there, which are what springs to mind when most people think of WordPress. However, WordPress powers over 32% of the internet.

WordPress & SEO: How compatible are they?

In fact, WordPress and SEO walk hand-in-hand. Ease-of optimization will vary depending on the specific theme used. Some popular SEO-friendly WordPress Themes

SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes

What Makes an SEO-friendly WordPress Theme?

SEO-friendly WordPress themes are

  • Responsive designs, meaning mobile-friendly. Mobile‐friendly content performs better mobile searchers.
  • Lightweight, meaning not bloated with third‐party plugins and scripts that slow sites down.

Check Theme descriptions to know whether they’re mobile-friendly. Just to check, paste the demo theme’s URL into Google’s Mobile‐friendly Test tool.

www.website.com Vs. website.com in WordPress

Confused? We’re talking

http://www.website.com

vs

http://website.com

The difference is in your WordPress settings.

Is Google Search Console finding a Redirect on your Home Page that you can’t figure out?

Is your Home Page redirecting to itself on Google Search Console?

Wondering why Chrome is saying “The Page isn’t Redirecting Properly” or something similar?

Read on for the fix.

Why does my website’s home page redirect to itself when I crawl it on Google Search Console?

Your page may be redirecting because of conflicting settings between your hosting provider and your WordPress back-end settings.

The Fix:

1. First, from the WordPress Dashboard, click Settings > General

Next, notice the third and fourth options are your WordPress Address, and your Site Address, respectively.

Your WordPress address is where WordPress is installed on your site.

The Site address is where your homepage resides, and it can be either www. or non-www. Changing it is as simple as taking out the “www.” or putting it in.

2. Make sure the hosting settings with your hosting provider are set equal to your Site Address in WordPress the wordpress back-end.

For example, our go-to for hosting is DreamHost.

DreamHost provides us a few options:

  • Both https://www.devbev.co and https://devbev.co will work
  • To have https://www.devbev.co redirect to https://devbev.co
  • To have https://devbev.co redirect to https://www.devbev.co

Confused? It looks like this:

This has caused some confusion for people trying to get their site indexed, as Google Search Console will show an error message saying that they encountered a redirect basically from the homepage to the homepage. They don’t like that one bit, as it looks like a redirect loop.

Important Step to Fix the issue:

3. Set EITHER the www. OR the non-www. as both the WordPress Address URL and Site Address URL in your WordPress settings.

If you choose Leave it Alone (dreamhost), you will end up with Google thinking your webpage has a duplicate out there, as it’ll read the www. and the non-www. as two totally distinct and duplicate URLs.

We chose the www. method, and we have devbev.co redirect to www.devbev.co.

4. Make sure your www. settings MATCH between WordPress and Dreamhost, or your own hosting provider.

5. Try having Google crawl your site again, and see if you have the same issue.

If your page is loading instead of hitting a redirect loop, and Google loves your site again, you’re golden.

If you still need help, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

WordPress SEO Plugins

The good news is, WordPress has taken care of some SEO tasks right out of the box. The bad news is, you still have some work to do to get it to anything outstanding.

We have a few plugins to recommend for WordPress SEO Purposes.

Let’s say you’ve just installed WordPress.

If you don’t know how to get to your WordPress login, AKA dashboard, first type your domain name into the address bar. Don’t hit “go” just yet, add add /wp-admin to the end first.

For example, “Devbev.co/wp-admin” is what we use to log into our site’s backend.

Once you’ve logged in, you should see basic navigation in the form of a sidebar menu on the left side.

  1. Find “Plugins” near the bottom, hover, and hit “Add new.”
  2. Search for the plugins you want, click “Install now.”
  3. Once they’re all installed, hit “Activate” for each.

Next we’ll share our favorite SEO-friendly WordPress Plugins.

SEO-Friendly WordPress Plugins

First of all, we decided to give you a quick list of our go-to plugins for WordPress SEO. We install these before we install anything else so we start out clean.

Next, while our goal is to make it easy for you, you can also just view all WordPress SEO plugins if you so choose.

Dev Bev Co’s Recommended Plugins for WordPress SEO:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. W3 Total Cache
  3. Smush Image Compression and Optimisation

Yoast is the grandmaster of all SEO plugins for WordPress.

With over 22,000 5-Star reviews and over 5 million active installations, you could say it’s a popular choice.

Yoast SEO for WordPress

Yoast gives a user-friendly traffic light -esque approach (red light, orange light, green light) feedback system for writing your Meta Descriptions and SEO Title.

Yoast SEO screenshot showing SEO Title and Meta Descrip

The screenshot above shows what the Yoast SEO panel looks like on the bottom of each page on your WordPress site.

If you’ve already downloaded Yoast SEO, navigate to any page on your site and click on “Edit Snippet”.

The Meta Description is also referred to as a “Snippet” because it is what Google uses for the text below search results, as you’ll see in the above screenshot.

What is a Meta Description Tag?

A Meta description is a snippet (there’s that word again) of HTML code in a web page header that summarizes the content that is on the web page.

You can also edit the SEO Title, which is the other major part of a Google search result listing. Yoast offers the same Red Light, Green Light feedback for your SEO Title as well.

Two more great features of Yoast SEO are the Readability Analysis and Focus Keyphrase.

Yoast SEO Readability Analysis

The Readability Analysis’ little Red Light indicator even starts lighting up as you’re typing content.

This is helpful even initially because you can monitor what tips Yoast is giving you as you’re in the thick of it actually writing the page. Unfortunately, it also kind of tells you that your unfinished article is, shockingly, not super readable yet.

However, getting the red light initially just makes getting the Orange ‘Ok’ light and the Green light that much sweeter. You take the good with the bad, then.

Yoast SEO Focus Keyphrase

While Yoast’s Readability Analysis will begin taunting you as you type, the Focus Keyphrase feature doesn’t come into play until you actually add a Focus Keyphrase. Our Careers page didn’t have one set yet, as most of our other pages are much higher priority.

Our main issue is not having set a keyphrase. As you can see, other improvements which are already needed are Outbound Links, Image Alt attributes, and Text Length.

  • Outbound Links refer to links within your text to other sites – not just internal links to other pages on the same site.
  • Image Alt Attributes are substitution text for cases where the picture can’t be displayed. This can be for accessibility purposes for the blind.
  • Text Length criteria ensure you have the minimum amount of text on your page for Google to start liking you.

These were three very quick fixes, seeing as

  1. We don’t care about outbound links on this page, but we added a quote from one of our business’ mentors. We linked the text with his name to a video on his channel explaining the meaning behind the quote.
  2. We added Alt attributes for the few photos we have on the page
  3. We wrote just a bit more content on the page, enough to get the coveted Green light.

We posit that Double Green Lights are better than Double Rainbows. OK, maybe not quite as excited as Double Rainbow guy, but we’re sober and everyone’s always wondered if he was.

Now that we’ve got some on-Page SEO factors taken care of with Yoast, lets look at another helpful tool that Yoast doesn’t cover.

W3 Total Cache for WordPress

W3 Total cache does something powerful, which is caching the pages on your WordPress website.

Caching pages is useful for SEO because it allows pages to load faster.

Pages only reload so often, so Google keeps showing searchers the cached version in search results.

After you install it, you should get a notification pop up on the Dashboard asking for your email. If you opt-in, you should get an email like this with helpful tips from Smush.

Minification with W3 Total Cache for WordPress

Beware that Minification of JavaScript and CSS can break sites, whether you’re using W3TC or another plugin.

If you think your site broke because of Minification, Contact us immediately – we can help.

Minification is a process of reducing file sizes to optimize user experience. Specifically, we’re referring to files like HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

However, we warn you to be careful, as it’s not as push-button easy as you’d think.

Minification won’t work for all features of all sites, because CSS and Javascript interact with and depend on one another in complex ways.
Themes and plugins are typically created by various developers and can be combined in millions of ways. W3 Total Cache can’t anticipate all these combinations of themes and plugins, as they’re all by different developers and function in different ways.

All that said, W3 lets you tune the degree of minification, leaving you to determine any side effects of the change.

Preview Mode for W3 Total Cache

Because things can be so trial and error, W3 has a useful Preview Mode for you to check changes in before flipping the switch on your whole site.

Once Preview Mode is active, you can choose to either Deploy or Disable it. Deploying will put changes into effect. Simply saving the settings while Preview Mode is on, will just save the settings in a separate file, independent of your actual site.

Full disclosure, setting up W3 Total Cache can be a little overwhelming. This becomes especially clear once they make you aware that they can’t hold your hand as much as they’d like to.

Here are a few more sections in the W3 settings, just to give you a taste:

  • Opcode cache
  • Database cache
  • Object Cache
  • Browser Cache
  • CDN
  • Reverse Proxy
  • Fragment Cache

Because of all this, we’re working on a full comprehensive guide to setting up the W3 Total Cache plugin for your WordPress site, but in the meantime, there’s a pretty solid guide by wpmudev.

Smush Image Compression and Optimisation

Smush makes quick work of a tedious but important task: Image compression and optimization.

Unless you’re brand new to SEO, you’re probably aware that page load times are important to users.

Shockingly, 47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds!

It certainly adds some pressure, doesn’t it? It might be time to ask yourself, “Is my website loading fast enough?”

If so, don’t bother typing in your URL and counting out two mississippi’s – use Google Page Speed Insights instead.

Images have a big part to play in load times, because they require a lot of resources to render. Their impact can be minimized by compressing the images – a certain amount of compression is possible without losing quality.

If you use stock photos, you’ll find that many are 3000 x 4000 pixels or more. A few of these and you will absolutely kill a well-loading webpage.

Smush can help.

Setup for the Smush Plugin for WordPress

Once you’ve downloaded and activated Smush, you can find it in Plugins, which are sorted alphabetically.

Find Smush, click “Settings”, and go through the Quick Setup dialog window.

You have the option to:

  • Automatically “smush” images on upload
  • Strip image metadata
  • Resize full size images
  • Show Smush stats in Gutenberg blocks (if you use Gutenberg)

If your site is already established and not brand new, you can benefit by Smush’s site crawl. Smush will find oversized images on your site to reduce their size and decrease load times.

You can set the max width and height you’d like to allow, and Smush will find oversized images based on those criteria.

Once you get through Quick Setup you can view your Smush Dashboard. First thing you get to see what Smush has already done for you.

After enabling Bulk Smush, this number will increase. See the before and after below to understand what we mean.

Before Bulk SmushAfter Bulk Smush (but before buying Pro)

You will run into a fairly enticing pay wall after you reach the 50 attachment limit for Bulk Smushing.

More Steps to SEO Optimized WordPress

  1. Set up Permalinks
  2. Enable Bread Crumbs
  3. Enable manual approval of comments
  4. Set custom URLs
  5. Use the WYSIWYG editor for post/page formatting
  6. Add Alt Text for your images
  7. Internally link to other posts/pages
  8. Set unique, “optimized” title tags and descriptions
    1. Yoast SEO makes this easy. See the section of this page called “Yoast SEO for WordPress”
    2. Cmd + F (mac) or Ctrl + F (windows) can help you search the page.
  9. Nest pages in subfolders (where appropriate)
  10. Enable content caching
  11. Compress and optimize your images
    1. The Smush Image and Compression Optimisation Plugin makes this easy. See the section of this page called “Smush Image”.
    2. Cmd + F (mac) or Ctrl + F (windows) can help you search the page.
  12. ‘Noindex’ low‐value content
  13. Fix duplicate content

Conclusion

This Guide to WordPress and WordPress SEO is a work in progress.

If its incomplete-ness is keeping you from learning more about WordPress or solving a problem, you’re in luck.

We’ll take ownership of the fact that we’re still working on this Comprehensive Guide, and reward you with a free question/answer session to help you figure out what you’re working on.

Contact Us for the free consultation!

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