What is SEO
SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.
Search engine optimization isn’t about tricking Google or gaming the system. It’s simply about creating a website that has optimized code and formatting which makes it easy for search engines to find your website.
When people search the web for the topics you write about, your search-engine-optimized content will appear higher in the search results, and you’ll get more people clicking through to your website.
Why SEO is important
Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites.
Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. However, those algorithms aren’t perfect — they still need your help to understand what your content is about.
If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.
It is really important for all business owners to make their website search engine friendly, so that they can maximize their search traffic.
Basics of WordPress SEO
SEO can get technical, but it doesn’t have to be. Just learning a few basic SEO tips to optimize your site can give you a noticeable boost in your website traffic.
You don’t have to be a tech genius to use the techniques below. If you’re already using WordPress, then you’ve got what it takes!
Let’s get started optimizing your website.
Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings
WordPress comes with a built-in option to hide your website from search engines. The purpose of this option is to give you time to work on your website before it’s ready to go public.
However, sometimes this option can get checked accidentally and it makes your website unavailable to search engines.
If your website is not appearing in search results, then the first thing you need to do is to make sure that this option is unchecked.
Simply log in to the admin area of your WordPress site and visit Settings » Reading page.
You need to scroll down to the ‘Search Engine Visibility’ section and make sure that the box next to ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is unchecked.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your changes.
Using SEO Friendly URL Structures in WordPress
SEO friendly URLs contain words that clearly explain the content of the page, and they’re easy to read by both humans and search engines.
Some examples of SEO friendly URLs are:
Notice that these URLs are readable and a user can guess what they will see on the page just by looking at the URL text.
So what does a non-SEO friendly URL look like?
Notice that these URLs use numbers unrelated to the content, and a user cannot guess what they will find on the page by looking at the URL.
Using SEO friendly permalink structure improves your chances of getting better positions in search results.
Here is how you can check and update your WordPress site’s permalink structure.
You need to visit the Settings » Permalinks page. Select the post name option and then click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.
For more detailed instructions take a look at our guide on what is a SEO friendly URL structure in WordPress.
Note: If your website has been running for more than 6 months, then please don’t change your permalink structure unless you’re using the numbers option. If you’re using Day and Name or Month and Name, continue using that.
By changing your permalink structure on an established site, you will lose all of your social media share count and run the risk of losing your existing SEO ranking.
If you must change your permalink structure, then hire a professional, so they can setup proper redirects. You’ll still lose your social share counts on the pages.
WWW vs non-WWW
If you are just starting out with your website, then you need to choose whether you want to use www (http://www.example.com) or non-www (http://example.com) in your site’s URL.
Search engines consider these to be two different websites, so this means you need to choose one and stick to it.
You can set your preference by visiting the Settings » General page. Add your preferred URL in both the ‘WordPress Address’ and ‘Site Address’ fields.
Despite what someone else might say, from a SEO standpoint there’s no advantage to using one or another.
For more detailed information on this topic, take a look at our guide on www vs non-www – which is better for WordPress SEO.
The Best WordPress SEO plugin
One of the best parts about WordPress is that there’s a plugin for everything, and SEO is no exception. There are thousands of WordPress SEO plugins which makes it harder for beginners to choose the best WordPress SEO plugin.
Instead of installing separate plugins for individual SEO tasks, we will help you choose the best WordPress SEO plugin that does it all, and it’s 100% free.
Choosing the Best WordPress SEO Plugin
We’ve done a pros and cons comparison of AIOSEO vs Yoast SEO here.
In this tutorial we’ll be using AIOSEO for screenshots and examples.
If you’d like more details, we also have a step by step guide on properly setting up each of these plugins:
Add XML Sitemaps in WordPress
An XML Sitemap is a specially formatted file that lists every single page on your website. This makes it easy for search engines to find all of your content.
While adding an XML sitemap does not boost your site’s search rankings, it does help search engines find the pages quickly and start ranking them.
If you’re using the AIOSEO plugin, then it will automatically create an XML sitemap for you. To find your sitemap, just go to this URL (don’t forget to replace example.com with your own domain name):
We will show you how to submit your XML sitemap to Google in the next step.