How to Make Your WordPress Website SEO Friendly

Search engine optimization never had a clear definition. Page speed, for example, once considered to be a matter of usability, found its way into the SEO domain. Same goes for design, readability and accessibility as they’re main conversion rate factors now.

You might say: “But my SEO person never had any say in these matters.” It’s not anybody’s fault. Everything’s evolving and so is the definition of an SEO.

Making your WordPress SEO friendly means it’s optimized for conversions. The things all websites revolve around are:

  1. having targeted audience come to your website
  2. retaining people long enough, so they read what you have to say
  3. evoking desired reaction in people after they read your content

Before we start making your WordPress website SEO friendly, know this – The quality of your content is paramount. Everything else is just making it more appealing, easier for people and search engines to access it and putting it to function of what you want your visitors to do once they read it.

For SEO to work, your content should be informative, educative and/or entertaining.

Making your WordPress SEO friendly means it’s accessible and optimized for conversions.

1. Speed up your WordPress

Before doing anything with your website, you should first create a child theme. You might ask – Why is this so important that you had to put it first?

You’ve got a nifty little plugin that does this in one click, which you can download here. You’ll thank me later for it.

After you do this try to make your website fast as it can be. You can do this by following performance best practices, adding a couple of .htaccess speed hacks and subscribing for a CDN.

WordPress speed is what makes your website more usable, so your visitors tend stay longer, which can increase conversion rate.

2. Optimize Site Architecture

Site Architecture or Information Architecture is something you’ll have to think through before you start creating your first content. Think which categories you want to have and try to stay below 10.

On ThematoSoup, we have 4 categories: reviews, products, news, tips. For every post, we assign 3-4 tags. This post, for example, has the following tags: best practices, CRO, design, SEO. The category is “tips”. The goal of optimized information architecture is to have nicely categorized and symmetrical pyramid, so content is evenly distributed across your website.

Every page should be, ideally, accessible through only one URL. WordPress uses archives and taxonomies which will make this task hard for you. Fortunately, using WordPress SEO plugin you will be able to define canonical pages and also those you don’t want search engines to index at all (categories, tags or other archives, thus avoiding duplicate content). There’s a video tutorial on how to set this up, below.

3. Optimize Tags

Tags and meta tags are used to further label websites. Search engines use them to determine what your WordPress website is about. They present good pointers for search engines and people, likewise. Your keywords should always be present in the title tag, meta description tag and alt tags.

Title tags

Beside keywords, try to include branding and put it at the end of each title tag. Ideally, your title tags should be no more than 70 characters long, but don’t follow this blindly. You can go well over 70 characters if that’s what it takes to explain what the page is about.

An example of a title tag is: “How to Make Your WordPress Website SEO Friendly | ThematoSoup“. It’s 61 characters long and contains the main topic of this post.

Header tags

Header tags (H1…H6) are not as important to search engines as they once were. Nevertheless, they are a very important part of making your content hierarchically and semantically correct. Header tags help people read and remember your content much easier.

Meta Description

Meta description is used by search engines for crafting result pages. It’s also a great way for you to leave a nice first impression. It’s good practice to make your meta description relevant to your title and content. If you can, stay below 154-character limit so they look nice.

Image attributes

Your website will contain images and photos for easier understanding your content and for spicing up dull paragraphs of text.

Search engines learn about images through:

  • alt tags
  • image filenames

People learn by reading:

  • captions
  • image titles

My image titles are often the same as my alt tags and similar to captions and image filenames. When uploading your photos, do take a minute to populate these fields.

Url structure – Permalinks

Permalinks should be “pretty”. By this, I mean that the URL slug should be descriptive, like this – http://example.com/2012/post-name/ and not something like – http://example.com/?p=123.

We use a permalink structure that uses both category and post name.

Permalink Structure Example

You can read more on permalinks here.

4. Link to Related Posts

Relationships matter in everyday lives and they matter on the internet, too. Links are your website relationships. It’s important that your WordPress site is well linked internally as well as externally, so people may continue reading a topic of their interest.

Using plugins

There are a lot of WordPress plugins which will do this job for you. Here are some best rated:

Link within posts

You can see how I’ve linked to other content in the post you’re reading. I do it so you can follow those links in case you want further knowledge on the matter. Interlinked website is so much easier for search engines to follow and index, too.

5. Use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin

Your pages and posts will carry the most of your content and it’s important to have them optimized. WordPress SEO plugin will take care of your:

  • Page analysis
  • Technical SEO
  • Meta & Link Elements
  • Sitemaps
  • RSS optimization
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Social integration (Facebook Opengraph and Twitter Cards)

For a guide on how to install and configure the plugin, take a look at this video by Steve Wiideman:

And if you’re really into technical SEO stuff, check this definitive SEO guide by Yoast.

6. Design

Now that you’ve got SEO basics covered, it’s time to improve things that matter to people most. Naturally, you want people to enjoy browsing your website and actually read the content.

Nice design certainly helps in creating a pleasant ambient for your visitors. Here’s an overview of the upcoming web design trends. One thing to remember is that you cannot go wrong with clean, unobtrusive and simple. Add “using best practices” to this WordPress mix and your foundation is rock-solid.

Since typography is 90% of design, it’s important you pay special attention to choosing the right font and making it easy to read.

The more readable your posts and pages are, the more usable and likable your website becomes.

Both, legibility and readability will increase the chances of people reading what you wrote, liking it and ultimately doing what you want and ask them to do. For example, I want all those who read this post to subscribe to our monthly newsletter. When you optimize your content think font size, line height, contrast, paragraphs and white space.

Here are the two best posts on readability and legibility I could find:

Social Sharing

Search engines take into account every up vote and share your website gets. Make easy for people to share your stuff. There’s a number of plugins that will allow you to add social buttons to your posts.

Here’s a couple:


Making your WordPress website SEO friendly has become so much more than doing basic, technical SEO stuff. Search Engine Optimization is everything you do in order for your website to perform better with search engines, but also with people and that’s why SEO means so much more than what the acronym stands for.

A big part of SEO is Conversion Rate Optimization and CRO is what you should be focusing on, because, although search engines bring traffic, they don’t really care for what you have to say and they certainly can’t purchase anything.

How do you make your WordPress websites more usable, accessible and SEO friendly? Please, share it with me using the comments section below.

Dragan Nikolic
I am the SEO & social media guy here at ThematoSoup, sharing tips on how to simplify your online business and make it more manageable.
Dragan Nikolic

@NikolicDragan

Co-founder & project manager at @ThematoSoup, interested in #minimalism and #WordPress. In love with nature.
The End of the Day Philosophy http://t.co/6w6PMuQpCh - 2 weeks ago
Dragan Nikolic
Dragan Nikolic

17 thoughts on “How to Make Your WordPress Website SEO Friendly

  1. Thanks Dragan, this is very helpful. Your links to third-party references make the post even more useful.

    FYI, for $30, Yoast just announced a set of video lessons that are installed as a plugin. I don’t know how good they are, but I am looking forward to watching them over the weekend.

      1. Well, the promised December “weekend” was today! Unfortunately, it was a disappointing day. The video course is made up of a series of short clips of screen shots and reading out loud what was already explained in the text. What would have made these videos useful would have been descriptions of “why” rather than “how”. But that’s just my opinion. On the bright side, the plugin description text is enough to make it work.

  2. For me “Optimize Site Architecture” is content modeling. SEO for me is Google development and making non-standardized websites.

    Invalid markup can be used for SEO, while web development is concerned about the markup. Valid HTML markup is good for every site, but not necessarily good for SEO.

    SEO is more about specific microdata information and microformats, so Google can find content modeling more useful for machines and humans.

    SEO is quantity, Web standards are quality.

  3. This is interesting post I saw few weeks ago http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/11/27/a-google-manual-reveals-a-team-of-contracted-home-workers-who-help-make-its-search-engine-more-relevant/ and says that Google uses real people for checking some of the search results.
    I’m not personally SEO savvy guy and every time I read about SEO optimization, every time I get more and more confused. The last time we checked with Stefan about SEO, everything was about how important is the title tag and the header tags, the advice was that we don’t have to lose that much time with the keywords and the description meta tags. My question is are there any developer friendly resources about SEO, because as I said this is quite a black box for me.

    1. Dimitar,

      Thanks for the post.

      I wrote this article, so people who are not SEO savvy can easily understand it. I suppose the thing that confuses most people is that everything evolves, including search algorithms, the way people use web and also SEO.

      What do you mean by developer friendly resources?

      1. Well, I as a developer have different mindset and thought process in my head, so I thought maybe I’ll need different SEO resources to learn from. There are so many good but also bad tutorials about SEO, and a busy person as me doesn’t have the time to filter them out.

        1. Dimitar,

          I guess I’m as much an SEO person as you are. My approach is that if your content is something real people would enjoy and/or find useful, search engines will treat it that way too.

          Perhaps in the past it was more about tweaking your website so you could fool search engines, but now it’s mostly about making it good for people and tiny bit about not screwing up your pages’ HTML code.

    1. Apon,

      There really is no definite answer to that question, other than “as many as needed to describe what the post covers”. If a post covers 50 different topics, well, then it has bigger problems than high tag count.

      As a general rule, when I write, I tend to use one category and 2-3 tags per post, but, again, number of tags is closely related to how focused the post is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>