I get a lot of enquiries about setting up SEO for WordPress.

The good news is WordPress follows SEO standards out of the box. It is given a big thumbs up from the Grand-daddy of Google Search, Matt Cutts.

Check out this video where Matt talks about where WordPress get’s SEO right and some good plugins:

But there is more you can do. We use WordPress Yoast SEO for all our sites.

It’s not mentioned in the above talk but it is an essential plugin.

Nobody bothers with SEO settings

Most sites have Yoast SEO plugin installed but never touch the default settings. Yoast mentioned this in his WordCamp Europe talk last year. It’s well worth watching his talk and his plans to improve the settings and interface.

Joost’s talk at WCEU

A little check can go a long way

There are a few basics that should be done for most sites.

Check Page Titles

Page titles appear in the browser tab and in the SERPs. They are really important but some themes do not add page title’s using the WordPress standard. This means by default Yoast cannot manipulate the page titles.

If you can’t see any of the custom page titles coming through then head to SEO > Titles & Metas where you will find an option to Force Page Titles.

Permalinks

Pretty Permalinks

This is very essential and most sites have this enabled. Rather than linking to the ID of your page with site.com/?p=123 head to a content right keyword slug like site.com/my-seo-article/.

It’s not a Yoast setting so head to Settings > Permalinks for options here.

Yoast Permalinks

Yoast gives you even more control. We tick the top for options. These are:

  • Strip the category base (usually /category/) from the category URL.
  • Enforce a trailing slash on all category and tag URL’s
  • Remove stop words from slugs.
  • Redirect attachment URL’s to parent post URL.

Custom Meta for your Home Page

Head to your home page while logged in. Click on Edit in the toolbar so you can edit this page.

Then head to the Yoast SEO box. Here you can amend the Title and Description for the page. Whilst you can do this for every page, it is essential to have done this for your home page which will have a large presence in the SERPs (Search engine results page).

This will be the Title and Description that are displayed on the SERPs.

Setup Google WebMaster tools and Sitemap

Google Webmaster Tools has lots of options to investigate your site’s visibility and search profile. Make sure you set this up and get your site verified.

If required a verification code from Webmaster tools can be added in SEO > Dashboard

Once you are setup head to Crawl > XML Sitemaps and add your sitemap. Your sitemap should be found at domain.com/sitemap_index.xml and you can confirm this by heading to your site admin and going to SEO > Sitemap where there is a button to load your sitemap.

You can also test the sitemap in Google Webmaster tools to confirm everything is working as expected

Twitter Cards Integration

It’s one of the items in Joost’s talk above. It’s not enabled by default as you will need to verify your site with Twitter.

So, first verify your site and then enable this to take advantage of this feature.

The importance of Content

After all the optimising it is important to stress that it will be the content and it’s quality that will be the main decider on how effective your SEO is. ECommerce sites often important standard copy from their supplier. The sites that really excel in the SERPs have invested in writing useful and unique content for each product.

Home Page Content

Unique content on the home page is ideal. Try adding content in your footer. If there is not enough space then you can use a simple hook to add some content under the main content area of the home page.

For example, the following can be added to your theme’s functions.php to add this functionality. Please note the hook in the example will be theme specific:

Categories as a landing page

They are sometimes neglected as an entry point to a site. Take advantage of them.

  • Head to SEO > Titles & Meta and make sure the category page does not have the no index button ticked. (Noindex means Google will ignore).
  • Add our Category Collapser plugin. We built this original for WooCommerce sites so they could add a chunky piece of content, say 500 words, but not have the page overwhelmed with text. This plugin will let you expand if you want to read more.
  • This also works for post categories (or any custom taxonomy). They are great landing pages if they have unique content.

Yoast WooCommerce Addon

Yoast also offer a great SEO plugin for WooCommerce which is a great addition to any site.

It would be great if they could take a look at some of the ideas found in a competitor called (originally) WooCommerce SEO. This plugin has some really nifty ways of using rich URLs for filters. Honestly this should be core. Hopefully Yoast will include this in their extension as we don’t recommend having both installed at the same time.