WordPress SEO: How to Optimize Your Blog in 2020

WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO is a very important factor for ranking a website in Google here I will discuss Important principles of SEO.

I focus on the three major search engine factor areas and by doing this I can focus my website optimization efforts.

WordPress SEO has 3 Major Search Engine Optimization Factor Areas:

On-Page SEO

On-site SEO

Off-Site SEO

We will be covering all three aspects here in this guide and by the end you will be able to publish content on your website knowing your WordPress website has been setup correctly and is highly optimized for google ranking. Your blog will be able to maximize it’s SEO Rankings in Google’s search results every time you publish new posts or pages.

We are going to go through WordPress SEO as if you haven’t even installed your site yet and take it step by step.  This will help you make sure you hit every SEO Milestone as you go for that.  

I don’t want you to miss anything please read everything carefully.

Let’s get started.

Selecting Your Domain Name

A few years ago, selecting a domain name was a critical part of SEO.  The keywords in the domain and whether or not it was a .com were hugely important factors.

Now, this is not something you need to worry about.  Now any domain will do. But I still think picking the right domain is important for brand recognition.  

You always want to pick a name that is easy to remember and easy to recognize.  Anything which is too long complicated will diminish the intrinsic value of the domain. So, pick the right one in the beginning and while having your site’s target keywords in the title might give it a slight boost.

The most asked question I get about domain names is if you should use “www” in front of your domain as I do here on my site (www.wpexperties.com).  The answer is no.  You do not have to use the “www” for SEO purposes.  There are some technical benefits to using it, but we won’t go over those here.  I do recommend using it, but it is not going to make or break your SEO.

Get Your Domain

Namecheap domain

 Web Hosting role in WordPress SEO

Yes, website hosting is an important part of your WordPress SEO. Since Google takes web speed into account when ranking sites, good hosting can help push you to the top of other sites on google. One of Google’s ranking factors is Site Speed (page load times).  They check this for both desktop and mobile versions of your site and each will affect your site’s rankings.

 I always get questions asking why hosting plays such an important role in WordPress website SEO.

Site speed and loading times are affected greatly by the web hosting you use for your site.  The more optimized the server you are using, the faster your site will be, and the faster it will load.

I would like to use two (2) seconds​ as my benchmark for page loading times.  Google says you have an average of 2 seconds to capture the attention of your site’s visitors.  If your pages don’t even load in 2-3 seconds, you might have a problem and it will affect google rankings.

There are other ways of improving user experience, site speed, and page load times; but it all begins with your web hosting.  We will go over more ways to improve this later in this Tutorial, so please keep reading.

There are a lot of hosting providers out there, but I have a few recommendations to help get you started.

Recommended Hosting Providers:

SiteGround– This is specialized WordPress Hosting starting at just $3.95/ Month with Free SSL, CDN, Daily backups, Free Email, and Supercacher). Click to claim this offer.

NameCheap Hosting– This is an optimized solution for beginners with a low budget and starting WordPress sites. You will get all important features like other web hosting + Free Domain, Free SSL, Free Whois Guard Privacy protection, and 30 Day-Money back guarantee. Click to claim this offer.

*If you haven’t started your blog yet, I highly recommend starting with my How to Start a Blog step-by-step guide.  Especially if you just installed your blog or are getting ready to.  It will help you to start there first before going through your WordPress SEO setup and optimization process. 

Once you have web hosting and have installed your blog, it is time to start digging into the individual settings and optimizations of your website.

 Pick a Theme That’s Optimized for Search Engines

Your theme is one of the most important choices you’ll make for your WordPress site. It determines your site’s appearance and layout, can provide new functionality, and also plays a role in your website SEO. For example, your theme can affect your site’s speed — which (we’ve already discussed) is vital. The way a theme was developed also matters since clean coding gives your site the best chance in SERPs.

These themes are often referred to as ‘SEO-friendly’. You may also want to look for a theme that offers features specifically designed to improve your SEO, such as new heading tag options. Fortunately, there are plenty of free and paid themes available that fit the bill.

Use Responsive Design on Your Site:

More people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the internet. This means your site needs to look and perform as good on any type of device (Mobile, Tablet, desktop) a visitor happens to be using. You can ensure this by following the strategy of responsive design, in other words, designing your website so it reacts and adapts to each user’s device.

Responsive design is so important that Google uses it as a ranking factor for WordPress SEO. If your website is responsive, its chances of appearing high on SERPs will be that much better. For WordPress users, the best way to get started with responsive design is to choose a WordPress theme that supports it (which many, if not most, now do). Just don’t forget to check out each theme’s other SEO features as well.

 Change Your ‘Permalink’ Structure

After you install WordPress the first thing you should do is set your Permalink settings. Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point to your website’s individual posts, pages, and other content. This will help you to create an SEO Friendly URL structure on your site.

This will make your old default WordPress URLs go from looking like this:

https://wpexperties.com?p=2125

To looking great like this: https://wpexperties.com/ultimate-guide-on-how-to-make-a-website-in-2020-step-by-step-guide/

All you have to do is make the change in your Settings > Permalinks section from the default settings to the “Post name” setting and click Save.

Once you have done this you now have “SEO Friendly URLs”.  

This step will also automatically create the settings which actually make this work inside your .htaccess file in the root of your website directory.  The .htaccess file controls, special commands, redirects, and the URL Rewrite commands which make this new and SEO Friendly URL structure possible.

*NOTE:  If you do not have a .htaccess file, performing this action will automatically create it for you in the site directory. I have actually deleted my file accidentally in the past and all I had to do to fix my site was to Save my Permalinks Settings and this action created a new .htaccess file and fixed my site instantly.

  Install the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin

If you’re new to WordPress, you may not yet be familiar with WordPress plugins. These are small pieces of add-on you can install, which add new features and functionality to your website. There’s a plugin to help your site do just about anything including rank higher in search engines. In fact, there are many plugins designed specifically to improve your site’s SEO.
For better results, you can use SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, which will add a whole suite of optimization focused features to your site. It might sound simple, but installing an SEO plugin, no matter how many features it has, will NOT optimize your blog for SEO.  There are still a lot of steps you need to follow after installation until your blog is optimized.

You can do a search for the plugin from inside your WordPress installation admin menu by going to

> Plugin​ > Add New and typing “Yoast SEO” in the search box.

 You can then install it and activate the plugin right from inside the WordPress Admin dashboard.  If you want to do it manually, you can download the plugin from the WordPress Repository here.

The WordPress SEO plugin is a great free option for fulfilling the optimization tasks required for SEO on your website.  There is a Premium Version of plugin, but it isn’t something I would say that is required unless you are in a very competitive niche.

 Yoast SEO General Settings

The first thing we need to do after installation is to connect your site with the Google Search Console. We will do this in the General Settings section of the Yoast SEO plugin in the Webmaster Tools Verification tab.

Connect Google Search Console:

While Bing and Yandex are also great search engines in their own right, I recommend connecting Google ​Search Console first What this does is allow you to use the tools inside Search Console to get Google to crawl and index your site when you are ready among other things.

Here’s what you need to do.

  • Create your account at Google Search Console.​
  •  Now click on the Red “Add a Property” button.
  • Now choose the Meta Tag Verification option.

Copy the Meta Tag HTML and Paste it into the Google Search Console section of the Webmaster Verification section of Yoast SEO and click the Save button.

Now go back to Google Search Console and click on the “Verify” button.

That’s it! Now your blog should be connected to Search Console and Webmaster Tools.

Now that you are connected to Search Console you will be able to accomplish some other tasks which we will go over a little bit later.

Add Company or Business Information:

In the Yoast SEO plugin General settings section, you then need to add your blog, company, or business information.  This lets Google identify your site in search by its name or alternative name. Just follow the directions and input your own information.

Setting Up Titles and Post Meta Data:

The Yoast SEO WordPress plugin automatically creates Titles and post Meta Data so Google and other Search Engines can read them.  This comes with preset default templates tags which I recommend using.  You can make minor tweaks.

There are 2 parts of the Yoast SEO plugin which control Post and Page Meta Descriptions​ and Meta Titles. The main plugin settings and page/post specific settings.  I will show you how to set up each one to get the best WordPress SEO optimization possible.

Optimizing the Titles and Descriptions Template:

The main plugin settings section in the WP Admin controls the overall template which helps ensure that all the titles and descriptions are written for every post and page on your site.  Start by going to the Titles and Metas section in Yoast plugin.

SEO title and post

You can see the Yoast template tags I am using above for blog posts (Use the Yoast default settings for Pages too).  You can use these tags throughout the Yoast settings for titles and descriptions so every post and pages will be SEO ready no matter what you do.

Here are a few other template tags you can use in this portion:

Tags ,Categories and other taxonomies: %% title%% %%sep%% Archives %%page%% %%sitename%%

Search pages: You searched for %%searchphrase%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%

Author archives: %%name%% %%sep%% Author at %%sitename%%

404 pages: Page not found – Error 404 %%sep%% %%sitename%%

If you use Custom Post Types, I recommend using the same settings described for Posts and Pages above.

Optimizing for Individual Posts and Pages:

The second you can edit Titles and Descriptions is directly in the Post and Page edit pages.  This allows you to do custom SEO specific edits to really optimize each and every post and pages you create.

Yoast seo analysis

The WordPress SEO Yoast plugin will analyze your titles, meta, and even your post content and let you know if your current optimization are good or bad.It gives you a full analysis with insight into the parameters that will help you to write better titles and descriptions for SEO and make your site rank faster and better.

Categories and Tags Settings:

When it comes to Categories and Tags, the general rule is to allow Categories to be indexed and set your Tags for no-index.  The main reason for this is because people tend to add a lot of Tags to their site.  Google will still follow the Tags, but it won’t index Tags, minimizing issues with duplicate content.

*If you do not plan on using a lot of Tags, then you can set them to index.  In the end we are looking for the best SEO benefit. Google will still follow the links either way and this is what we care about the most in this instance*.

If you use Custom Taxonomies​, I recommend setting these to  index since in most cases they are specialized and would require additional attention by Google search engine.

categories and tags

Author and Date-Based Archive Settings:

For your Author Archive settings (in Archives Tab), I recommend not enabling these unless you have a multi-author blog with many contributors.​ You can see my recommended settings below.  Don’t allow the Date-based archives to be enabled as they simply create a lot of duplicate content on your site and this is definitely not good for your SEO.

Author archives yoast

XML Sitemap Settings:

I recommend sticking to the default settings for the XML Sitemaps (SEO > General>XML Sitemaps) in the Yoast SEO tool. Enable it to get your sitemap.

WordPres xml

Submit Your XML Sitemap to Google Search Console:

Once your XML sitemap has been created, your first instinct may be to submit it to Google search console.  I recommend setting up at least a base set of Categories, your main pages (About Us, Contact, Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions etc.), and create at least 2 posts before submitting.  This way you are adding something to Google Search Console worth indexing.  If you are not ready for Google to visit your site, then hold off until you are ready.

Once you are ready to submit, you have to do is go back to the Search Console account you created previously. In Google Search Console  Using the sidebar menu inside your site property management dashboard, go to

> Sitemaps

Next, click on the Sitemap button and add your sitemap URL.  All you should need to add is “sitemap_index.xml” URL to the form and then click the Submit Button.

SEO wordpress website

Once your sitemap has been submitted (you may have to wait a few times), you can refresh the page.  You should then see the “sitemap_index.xml” file shown.  Over time, you can come back to this page and see how many pages and images Google has indexed from your website. This sitemap should be checked by Google and auto-updated.  I still always come back and resubmit mine about every 30 days, just to make sure Google is getting the updates to my site.

Yoast Social SEO Settings:

Next, go to the Yoast SEO > Social section of the Yoast SEO Plugin and fill in the entire section, going from Tab to Tab.  If you do not have one of the accounts listed, that is OK, but I recommend that you go set each social media account that is listed in the Tabbed sections at a minimum.  Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Pinterest will help you with Social SEO quite a bit.​

 website SEO

Optimizing Your Robots.txt file:

This optimization is very easy.  The Yoast SEO plugin takes care of your Robots.txt file for you.  You shouldn’t have to do anything yourself to the file at all. Google can “Render” and see everything and when you block them from seeing something, they don’t like it.  Yes, this includes the WordPress website /wp-includes file.  

Don’t get me wrong, there are Advanced cases where you do want to block Google, bots, or other search engines.  Things like Special Memberships, private content, images, and others, etc.  But for most sites, you want Google to see and crawl everything on your site.  You don’t want to block any links which are providing you SEO value.

The Robots.txt file you should be using should have 2 lines in it:

# This space intentionally left blank
User-Agent: *

This will take care of everything and the Yoast SEO plugin does it for you.  If you are saying,  I didn’t know what the Robots.txt file was anyway.  Then you don’t have to worry about it.  

If you do want to edit this file, all you have to do is go to the Yoast SEO > Tools section of the Yoast SEO​ Plugin and click on the File Editor link.  There you will be able to make any required changes to the “Robots.txt” file.

This is where we are pretty much done with the Yoast SEO.  From here we  will continue on with other WordPress SEO Optimizations.​

 Optimizing Images for WordPress SEO

When it comes to optimizing your images in WordPress site it couldn’t get much easier. Google only looks at the “Alternative Text” or “Alt Text” for images when it comes to Image SEO.  In WordPress, all you have to do is fill in the Alt Text form field when you upload new images as shown below.

wordpress website

You can also do this in the Image Editing section of your existing images too.  

All you have to do is enter SEO Keyword friendly descriptions of all your images in the Alt Text box and that is good.  For example, when I added the image above, I created the following Alt Text for it: “Editing Image Alt Tags”.

Remember, visitors can see the Alt Text when they hover over images on your website and when people browse without images in different RSS Readers, the only see your Alt Text, so make sure it is descriptive.

If you use a lot of images in site or do a lot of bulk uploading of images, you may want to use a plugin to optimize the Alt Text.  I recommend using the SEO Optimized Images plugin.  It does everything that you need. 

Site Speed Optimizations

When it comes to optimizing your WordPress site for speed, there are a lot of optimizations you can do.  The best optimizations often happen at the Server level and this is why Web Hosting was one of the first things I talked about in this tutorial above.  Your Hosting will dictate what optimization you can do in many cases with different types of server-level caching tools, etc.

For WordPress, I always recommend using a caching plugin and a CDN. at a minimum.  Some WordPress Hosting services provide both and make it easy to set up for beginners.

Caching Plugin:

The reason for using a caching plugin is so when you have the same content on your site and it doesn’t change, you can have those pages “cached” and ready to load when someone visits your website.  This becomes even faster when a visitor visits more than once.  They get served the cached version of the page and it makes the pages load very fast.  This is what both plugins listed above do.  In fact, they also do Database caching, browser caching, CSS, HTML, and Javascript minification, and much more.

All of this boosts the speed and load times of your posts and pages.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)​

When I am recommending the services like Cloudflare and MaxCDN, it is because these services can help take the load off your server by hosting your images and even your static Theme files, Javascript and CSS for you and the cost is either Free (Cloudflare which is the slower option) or for pennies per Gigabyte (MaxCDN which is much faster).

For Beginners – The Easy Way to Optimize:

  • Get SiteGround Hosting.
  • Use the SiteGround Hosting Super-cacher tool via their SG Optimizer plugin.
  • Use the One-Click Automatic Cloudflare integration in SiteGround (with advanced features you won’t get for free from the normal Cloudflare setup outside of SiteGround hosting.)

For Intermediate to Advanced Users – The Best Way to Optimize:

*Don’t forget to optimize your images for faster download speeds.

Use Heading Tags Throughout Your Content

While a sitemap is useful for helping search engine crawlers see how your site is organized or not, it doesn’t help them make sense of the individual content. For that, you’ll need to use heading tags. These are formatting options you can apply to section headings within posts and pages.

You can see these settings in your WordPress post editor, listed as Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on.

WordPress Headings

Using these headings in your structure your content accomplishes two things. It provides a visual benefit, by breaking up your text and making it easier for the readers to read. Also, crawlers pay a lot of attention to headings,  to understand how your content is organized. So when creating posts and pages, don’t forget to use WordPress’ heading options often and consistently in your content.

Build Your Content Around Keywords

You may have encountered the concept of keywords before. These are short phrases that describe your content’s topic. For example, you might choose the keyword “easy way to earn” for a blog post that shares simple earning options for beginners. By doing this, you’re predicting that a lot of people will type the keyword into a search engine when looking for this type of post.

Choosing a keyword for each post or page and using it in various places — such as the title, the headings, and the content itself — is a common way to communicate your topic to search engine crawlers and increase the chances of showing your post content in relevant searches.

Of course, you want to be smart about the way you use this tool. For example, it’s best to avoid ‘keyword stuffing’, or forcing your keyword into too many places so that it appears unnatural or spammy and Google doesn’t like this.

Write Long-Form Content When Possible

Moz is an excellent example of a wesite that creates quality long-form content.

When Google’s algorithms are deciding how to rank content, they pay special attention to the length of content. That doesn’t mean shorter content never ranks highly. However, longer content has an advantage, because search engines consider it more likely to be useful for users. Plus, the more comprehensive your content is, the better it can communicate its topic to crawlers via headings, keywords, and so on.

Longer content is also valuable to readers, can increase your perceived credibility, and encourages visitors to spend more time on your website. So when creating content, try to make it Detailed as possible. There are many ways to do this, but the ‘skyscraper technique’ improving on existing content by making yours better and more comprehensive, is one method worth checking out.

Add and Update Your Posts Frequently

Google’s algorithms consider the frequency of content when deciding how to rank your pages. Older, high-quality content will do well, of course, but a boost is given to newer and ‘fresh’ content that’s more likely to be relevant to searchers.

Therefore, if you want your site to do well in SERPs over time, you’ll want to add new content regularly. Try creating a posting schedule to keep yourself on track and varying up the types of content you create to keep yourself and your visitors interested in it. Also, don’t neglect older posts and pages, Updating your existing content prompts crawlers to re-evaluate it and to give it higher prominence.

Focus on Quality Content

Wordpress Site SEO

When Google and other search engines create complex algorithms for ranking sites, their goal is to help the most relevant and useful sites score highly. The specific ranking factors and their effects change all over time, but this underlying theme remains consistent. If you want to see success with your WordPress SEO efforts, you need to focus on creating quality content rather than trying to cheat or Spam the system.

We’ve already discussed long-form content, which is a solid way to increase the quality of your content. However, there are plenty of other ways to achieve this goal. For example, consider what your target users/visitors want or need most, and focus on providing those things with your content. Also, remember to carefully fact-check and proofread everything you add to your site — details matter!

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