So, you have installed WordPress and are eagerly rubbing your hands together to get started on your new niche site or blog! Let The Phoenix congratulate you loud and clear: *screeches in excitement*
This is the perfect time to make sure that you set up your WordPress (WP) site in such a way that it yields positive results in the search engines. There are search engine optimization factors that you need to enable or set that will greatly benefit your website as a whole.
Let Thy Phoenix Show You Thy Way.
11 Settings in WordPress that Will Help Your SEO Greatly
If you set up your blog or site by optimizing the settings below, you will be miles ahead of the game. All of the settings discussed below will affect your search rankings directly or indirectly. Take the time to learn about each one.
1. Site Visibility/Indexing Setting
The first and most crucial step is to check if your site is setup to be indexed by the search engines. In layman’s terms, think of how books are indexed in a library. If a book isn’t to be a part of the library’s system, it simply won’t be indexed and housed at the library. The same concept applies to websites and search engines: if you don’t allow your website to be indexed, it won’t even be in the search engine’s “system” to be found.
If you enable “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”, this means that Google and other search engines won’t include it in their “library” to serve it to their users.
Here is how you find it: click on “Settings”, then “Reading” and look for this:
Make sure you do not have this enabled.
2. Permalink Structure
A quick introduction to permalinks: permalinks is short for “permanent links”.
If you create a page or a post on your website, you need to define a URL or slug. So, the end result will be https://yoursite.com/the-URL-of-the-page-or-post-you-created
See the domain name with a / after it? The first part is your domain name or the address to the site a visitor would type into their browser to view it: https://yoursite.com/
The part after the / is the specific URL of the page or post you create and you get to optimize it for every page or post you create: the-URL-of-the-page-or-post-you-created
If you want to view a specific page or post, you’d need to type or click on the whole URL: https://yoursite.com/the-URL-of-the-page-or-post-you-created
You get to define the structure of the URLs of the pages and posts you create, which is AWESOME for on-site SEO optimization, as URLs are a huge ranking factor in Google and other search engines!
To access permalink structure settings, click on “Settings”, then “Permalinks” and you will see this pop up:
The best URL structure for SEO purposes is the “post name” structure, as it doesn’t contain unnecessary numbers, categories, or tags in it. If you learn on-page (or on-site) SEO, you will learn that your page or post URL should contain your keyphrase in it.
The URL of your page or post is a big ranking factor in Google and other search engines; the post or page URL gives a signal to Google what the post or page is about.
“Post name” is the best permalink structure to choose, and you don’t want to make the mistake of choosing the wrong structure and trying to change it later.
3. Choose www or non www
If you haven’t done this check, it is important to go ahead and do so now.
If you type in www.yoursitename.com and then without the www part, yoursitename.com, and they both load your site with those URLs, you need to choose ONE version and make sure the other one redirects to it.
This is because if you allow both versions to load, Google will consider them as two different sites and you may end up with a duplicate content issue.
This involves a bit of know-how and may feel frustratingly foreign to non-coders and web developers.
If you have coding experience, you can edit your .htaccess file to setup a permanent redirect so that if someone is trying to access www.yoursitename.com it takes them to yoursitename.com. The .htaccess file allows you to make configuration changes for your site.
There are plenty of resources on what you need to do to the .htaccess file, but The Phoenix needs to caution you that if you are not a coder, just talk to your hosting company and see if they can help you with this issue. Otherwise, you will risk messing up your .htaccess file, which would lead to a greater mess.
For SEO purposes, neither has the edge over the other one. There are several redirect response codes and the one you should use, in this case, is a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells the search engines that this is a permanent redirect.
4. Make Your Website or Blog Secure with https://
If your site loads with http://, you have a serious security issue.
“https” stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.” Simply put, it is the secure version of “http.”
Here is a more direct and helpful definition by Cloudflare: “HTTPS is encrypted in order to increase security of data transfer.”
If you are new to this, all you need to know is that your site needs to have https. I have been able to contact my hosting service and asked for their help regarding this, and it’s typically honored.
5. Install a Solid SEO Plugin
A plugin, in itself, is a piece of software that you can add to your WordPress site. There are free and paid plugins. Some have a free version, and some have an upgraded pro version with additional benefits. Simply go under “Plugins” and “Add New”:
There are a set of plugins that The Phoenix recommends you use. However, you don’t need to use the particular ones recommended here. You can use alternatives that you are comfortable with. All the plugins I am including in this article have free versions that work very well.
An SEO Plugin will allow you to optimize each post and page you publish on your site, and other benefits, like creating sitemaps and handling “404 Page Not Found” errors.
Some popular ones are RankMath, SEOPress, All in One SEO, and Yoast.
You can select any you want.
Once installed, you will want to make sure that you fill in the “Home Page Title” and “Home Page Meta Description”.
6. Install a Cache Plugin
A cache plugin is another plugin that will help your site load faster, and here is why: cache is temporarily stored data that can be quickly accessed upon request.
Some popular cache plugins are WP Super Cache and LiteSpeed Cache.
7. Install an Image Compression Plugin
The bigger a file is, the more time it can take for your page to load. Page speed is a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. If you have a site that loads noticeably slower, users will grow impatient and exit your site.
Google only wants to serve websites that satisfy the user’s needs. Page speed is one of those needs.
If you are using a few images per post, that can add up and slow down your page. Go ahead and install an image compression plugin on your WordPress blog if your regular cache plugin doesn’t take care of image compression.
Once installed, these tools compress your images which, in turn, helps your page(s) load faster!
Some popular WP compression plugins are Smush, Imagify, and EWWW Image Optimizer.
8. NoIndex Archives, Pagination, Categories, and Tag Pages
You want to keep your site as clean as possible. For this reason, I personally “noindex” the archive, pagination (a sequence of pages that are connected), and tag pages at minimum. Indexing archives, pagination, and tag pages are generally considered low quality pages and may contribute to duplicate content. Lastly, they also waste crawl budget (crawl budget is how many times/how many pages of your site a search engine will crawl in a given timeframe; you want them to crawl your most important pages and not waste crawl budget on non-important pages).
You will find these under various tabs in All-in-One SEO like Taxonomies and Archives:
9. Setting Up Categories
You don’t need to do this right away, but it gives you a lot to think about. Your categories will help you on a couple of different levels:
- It will keep your site organized
- It will help from a SEO standpoint if you do it well
Let me explain. If you have a site on gardening, here are some categories you could have:
- How to Guides
…and more. If you take a look at these categories, they fit into a gardening site. They also create topical relevance on a sitewide level. These are the “entities” that Google recognizes should be on a gardening site.
Creating and organizing your site in this way is not only helpful for the visitors on your site, but also the search engine optimization part is a double win… or win-win!
10. Setup an XML Sitemap
A sitemap contains a list of all of your pages and posts in a list, which helps search engines find them and crawl (go through) them. Most “SEO plugins”, like the ones I suggested above, come with the ability to generate an XML sitemap for you. Under All in One SEO (on the left), click on “Sitemap”. You should see this:
Make sure that you have enabled the sitemap.
11. Optimize “Discussion” Settings
When you start a blog, you will need to decide if opening up your posts to comments is a good idea or not. With all the spam comments, some folks choose to turn them off altogether, or hold them in moderation so they can look at and approve them first.
To modify the comments settings, click on “Settings”, then “Discussions”. You can set up your comments section however you want. Here are a few options:
WordPress is an extremely robust content management system that, if setup properly, should take your rankings sky high! If you have any questions, feel free to ask below in the comments section.