WordPress SEO Expert

If you want your WordPress website to consistently rank on Google for different search terms, you must become a WordPress SEO expert. With millions of active sites powered by WordPress, the competition for rankings is usually fierce, with the exception being for low-competition and low-difficulty keywords. Mastering SEO best practices is key to getting your WordPress site found.

This comprehensive guide covers essential techniques for optimizing your WordPress site for higher rankings and more visibility in search engines like Google. We’ll cover important SEO fundamentals then dive into specific ways to optimize the structure, content, and technical elements of your WordPress site for maximum search performance.

Follow along with the step-by-step instructions throughout this guide to:

  • Structure your permalinks, URLs, and internal linking for best SEO results
  • Optimize your titles, headlines, content, and media for target keywords
  • Configure your WordPress site for optimal crawlability and indexing
  • Add structured data markup to increase click-through-rate
  • Build high-quality backlinks and track your search engine visibility

Whether you’re new to SEO or looking to take your skills to the next level, this comprehensive WordPress SEO guide will teach you how to leverage search engine optimization to drive qualified organic traffic, leads, and sales for your business or site. Let’s dive in and cover the SEO fundamentals first!

SEO Fundamentals

WordPress SEO

Every WordPress SEO expert understands and implements SEO fundamentals, which apply to all websites. The fundamentals always precede and take precedence over more precise strategies.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to the process of improving a website’s organic visibility and rankings in search engines like Google.

The goal of SEO is to help online content get found more easily by targeted searchers. There are two main types of search visibility:

  • Organic search – Unpaid listings that appear in search results due to relevance and rankings. SEO focuses on improving organic search visibility.
  • Paid search – Paid ads that appear alongside organic results. Paid search relies on ad budgets rather than SEO efforts.
Organic SearchUnpaid listings that appear based on relevance and rankings
Paid SearchPaid ads that appear based on ad budgets

Higher SEO rankings lead to increased organic traffic, visibility, leads, and sales. So optimizing for key search terms is crucial for reaching the right audiences.

How Search Engines Work

To understand how to optimize for search, you need to know how search engines like Google work under the hood. Here’s a more detailed overview:

  1. Crawling – Web crawlers (aka spiders) continuously crawl the web and discover new and updated content to be indexed. They follow links between pages and sites to discover new content.
  2. Indexing – The content that gets crawled gets added to the search engine’s index. This is a massive database of web pages, content, titles, media, etc. that the engine can search through.
  3. Ranking – Algorithms analyze the indexed content and assign rankings based on over 200 relevance signals, including:
    • Page authority and TrustRank
    • Keyword usage and density
    • Quality inbound backlinks
    • Site speed and optimization
    • Mobile friendliness
    • Security protocols
    • Schema markup
    • and many more!
  4. Displaying Results – When a user searches, the engine scans its index and displays pages with the highest rankings for that query at the top of the results.
CrawlingSpiders discover new content to index
IndexingContent gets added to the search index
RankingAlgorithms analyze and rank content
Displaying ResultsHighest ranking results show for searches

The goal of SEO is to help your content rank higher so it appears before competitors in results.

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO

SEO factors that influence search rankings generally fall into two categories:

On-page SEO refers to optimizations made directly on a webpage, such as:

  • Page titles and meta descriptions
  • URL structure
  • Site speed
  • Headings and body content organization
  • Content value (how helpful it is) + originality
  • Image optimization + originality
  • Related, LSI, and NLP keywords
  • Etc.

Off-page SEO refers to factors external to your site that signal authority and relevance, such as:

  • Backlinks from other sites
  • Social media shares and links
  • Mentions and engagement
  • Aggregator and directory listings
  • Etc.
On-Page SEOTitles, URLs, content, media, site speed
Off-Page SEOBacklinks, social shares, mentions, listings

Effective SEO requires balancing on-page and off-page factors together to improve rankings, trust, and authority.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a critical first step in SEO. Choosing the right keywords to target can spell the difference between high rankings and low visibility.

How to Select the Best Keywords

Targeting keywords with high search volume but low competition gives you the best chance of ranking high and driving traffic.

  1. Brainstorm a broad list of relevant keywords and phrases.
  2. Use Google’s Keyword Planner and other tools to analyze search volume and competition for each keyword.
  3. Refine your list based on metrics like monthly search volume, cost per click, and competition levels.
  4. Identify 3-5 primary “focus keywords” that meet ideal criteria.
MetricIdeal RangeSignificance
Search Volume500-100KHigher volume indicates more searches and potential traffic
Cost Per Click$0.50-$2Lower CPC indicates less competition and demand
CompetitionLow-MediumLess competition makes it easier to rank high
RelevanceHighly RelevantMore relevant keywords convert better

Select keywords that are highly relevant, have decent search volume, low CPC, and low-medium competition. These become the primary optimization focus.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner

Google’s free Keyword Planner tool lets you easily research and analyze keywords:

Signing Up

To use Keyword Planner, you need a Google Ads account.

  1. Go to ads.google.com
  2. Click the blue “Start Now” button located on the top right of the screen
  3. Follow the steps to create your account
  4. Once created, you can access Keyword Planner from your Ads dashboard

Using the Tool

Once in Keyword Planner, follow these steps:

  1. Enter a relevant seed keyword that fits your niche
  2. Select your language and location targets
  3. Click “Get Results”
  4. Filter and sort results by metrics like volume and CPC
  5. Save keywords into Ad Groups for export, or copy them into Google Sheets

Keyword Planner provides search volume, CPC, and competition data to help you select the right keywords to target.

Optimizing Your WordPress Site Structure

The first stage of your journey to becoming a WordPress SEO expert involves optimizing your WordPress site structure for good SEO. From permalinks to sitemaps, proper technical setup is the beginning.

Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point to individual pages and posts on your WordPress site.

By default, WordPress uses ugly permalink structures like example.com/?p=123. For SEO, you want clean permalinks with keywords in them.

Here’s how to change your permalink structure:

  1. Go to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Select a custom structure containing keywords, like /blog/%postname%/.
  3. Click Save Changes.

This will update all post URLs to use the chosen structure. For example:

Old URL: example.com/?p=123
New URL: example.com/blog/my-post-title/

The new SEO-optimized permalinks help search engines understand your content and keywords.


URLs themselves should also be optimized for keywords and clarity. Best practices include:

  • Use hyphens to separate words and phrases in URLs
  • Avoid excessive dynamic parameters like ?page=2
  • Shorten overly long URLs when possible
  • Handle duplicate content issues with canonical tags

For example, these URL forms are optimized:


Follow these guidelines to improve URL optimization across your WordPress site.


Sitemaps are XML files that list all the pages on your site to help search engines index them.

WordPress makes sitemap generation easy:

  1. Go to Settings > Reading in your dashboard.
  2. Check the box for “Enable XML sitemaps”.
  3. Save changes and your sitemap will be automatically created at www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

Submitting Your Sitemap in Search Console

To submit your WordPress sitemap in Google Search Console:

  1. Log into Google Search Console and select your site.
  2. Click on “Sitemaps” in the left menu.
  3. Click “Add a new sitemap” and enter the URL of your sitemap: www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml
  4. Click “Submit” to add the sitemap.

Google will now regularly crawl the sitemap to better index all the pages on your site. Make sure to re-submit your sitemap whenever you add significant new content.

Optimizing Your WordPress Content

on-page wordpress seo

Creating optimized content is crucial for ranking well in search engines. Follow these best practices for on-page SEO within your WordPress content.

Choosing Focus Keywords

Each piece of content should target one or more “focus keywords” – the primary keywords you want that page to rank for.

How to Select the Right Focus Keywords

Picking the right focus keywords takes research and planning. Follow these steps:

  • Brainstorm a list of possible keywords relevant to your content topic.
  • Use Google’s Keyword Planner to analyze monthly search volume and competition for each keyword.
  • Identify keywords with sufficient volume (>1k searches/month) and low-medium competition.
  • Choose 1-3 focus keywords that best summarize the core content topic.

Table Summary

Research relevanceBrainstorm keywords relevant to your content topic
Analyze volume and competitionUse Keyword Planner to analyze metrics for each keyword
Identify low-competition keywordsChoose keywords with sufficient volume but low-medium competition
Align with content focusPick 1-3 focus keywords that summarize the core content topic

For example, for a post titled “Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses”, potential focus keywords could be:

  • “social media marketing tips” (high volume, low competition)
  • “social media for small business” (medium volume, low competition)

Make your final selection based on aligning with the crux of your content.

Guidance on Focus Keyword Usage

Proper use of focus keywords helps search engines understand your content:

  • Include the focus keyword naturally in the title and H1 heading.
  • Use the keyword in a relevant H2 subheading.
  • Include variations long-tail versions in H3 and lower subheadings.
  • Focus on 1-3 core keywords – don’t overload.
  • Check that keyword placement reads naturally.

Follow these guidelines for effective focus keyword optimization.

Crafting SEO-Friendly Headings

seo friendly headings

Headings (H1, H2, H3 tags) help structure your content and signal topic relevance.

Here are some best practices to follow:

H1 Headings

  • Have one H1 containing your primary focus keyword near the top of your content.
  • Keep it under 65 characters long.
  • Format it using your target keyword so it reads naturally.

H2 Subheadings

  • Use H2s to break your content into logical sections under the H1.
  • Incorporate secondary focus keywords.
  • Each H2 should cover a distinct subtopic.
  • Use concise descriptive wording.

Lower Headings

  • Break sections down further with relevant H3, H4, and H5 subheadings.
  • Include variations of your focus keywords.
  • Each heading should fit logically within the content structure.
  • Avoid excessive keyword repetition.

Table Summary

Heading TypeOptimization Tips
H1Include primary keyword; keep under 65 characters
H2Break content into logical sections; add secondary keywords
Lower HeadingsInclude keyword variations; keep relevant to sections


H1: Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses  

H2: Researching Your Target Audience
H3: Finding Demographic Data
H4: Conducting Interviews for Qualitative Insights 

H2: Setting Up Your Social Media Profiles   
H3: Optimizing Your Account Usernames
H3: Writing Strong Profile Bios

Follow this semantic structure for natural, SEO-friendly headings.

Optimizing Body Content

The body content must also be optimized for your focus keywords while providing value to readers.

Some best practices:

Keyword Usage

  • Use keywords and variations naturally in sentences.
  • Include long-tail versions like “social media marketing strategy for startups”.
  • Aim for 1.5-2.5% keyword density. Too much looks spammy.
  • Vary sentence structure and placement.


  • Break content into scannable paragraphs around 5-8 sentences long.
  • Use formatting like bold text, bullet lists, images, and headers.
  • Provide useful information and engaging examples.
  • Link out to authoritative sources for credibility.

Media Optimization

  • Choose images relevant to your focus keywords.
  • Fill out the alt text field with a targeted phrase.
  • Include a keyword-focused caption for each image.

The goal is providing an exceptional user experience while incorporating keywords naturally. Follow these practices for effective optimization.

Table Summary

GoalHow to Accomplish
Keyword optimizationUse keywords naturally in sentences; vary placement; 1.5-2.5% density
ReadabilityBreak into scannable paragraphs; use formatting like bullet lists
Media optimizationAdd images with keyword alt text and captions

Technical WordPress SEO Optimization

technical wordpress seo

Properly optimizing the technical elements of your WordPress site is crucial for maximizing SEO performance.

Optimizing Site Speed

Site speed is an important ranking factor. Faster sites tend to outrank slower ones.

Slow site speed hurts user experience and leads to higher bounce rates. Optimizing speed should be a top priority.

Step-by-Step Guide to Improving Site Speed

Here is a detailed process for speeding up your WordPress site:

  1. Evaluate current speed – Use Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom to test your overall site speed and individual page load times. Look for F grades or scores below 70.
  2. Optimize images – Compress all images using tools like TinyPNG. Resize full-size images for web. Implement lazy loading for below-the-fold images.
  3. Enable caching – Install caching plugins like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache. Configure settings like cache lifetimes, exclusions, etc.
  4. Minify code – Minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML code to reduce file size. Many caching plugins include built-in minification.
  5. Upgrade web hosting – Switch to a faster, optimally configured web host. Use a content delivery network (CDN) to distribute assets globally.
  6. Limit redirects – Remove unnecessary 301 redirects. Avoid chaining redirects. Keep redirect chains under 3-4 hops maximum.
  7. Optimize databases – Clean up unused data and tables. Add indices to improve query performance.
  8. Deactivate unused plugins – Remove unnecessary plugins that slow down page loads.
  9. Improve server response time – Upgrading to a faster web host can significantly improve server response time.
  10. Continuously monitor – Re-test periodically and address any new issues immediately.
ObjectiveKey Steps
Evaluate current speedUse online tools to test overall site speed and individual pages
Optimize imagesCompress images, use appropriate sizing, lazy load offscreen images
Enable cachingInstall caching plugins, configure optimal settings
Minify codeMinify HTML, CSS and JS files to reduce size

Follow this comprehensive process to maximize WordPress site speed.

Mobile Optimization

With Google’s mobile-first indexing, having a fast, mobile-friendly site is essential.

Here is a step-by-step guide to optimizing your WordPress site for mobile:

  1. Install a responsive theme – Use a mobile-friendly theme with fluid layouts and responsive breakpoints. Popular options include GeneratePress and Astra.
  2. Add a viewport meta tag – Add a viewport tag like <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"> to control page rendering on mobile.
  3. Simplify design – Streamline layouts with minimal columns. Increase tap target sizes. Use mobile-friendly fonts.
  4. Optimize images – Make sure images resize and scale properly on mobile. Leverage next-gen formats like WebP.
  5. Test speed – Check PageSpeed Insights scores for mobile and address any failures. Mobile-first indexing uses mobile page speed as a ranking factor.
  6. Simplify navigation – Use a mobile-friendly responsive menu. Check tap targets. Keep navigation simple and intuitive.
  7. Prioritize content – Make sure text and media display properly. Avoid small font sizes on mobile. Add spacing between paragraphs.
  8. Enable AMP – Use the AMP plugin to create accelerated mobile pages that load almost instantly.
GoalKey Optimization Tips
Responsive designInstall a fluid, mobile-friendly theme
Page speedCompress images, minify code, test on mobile
Legible contentSimplify layouts, increase tap targets, optimize text and media for small screens

Follow these tips for fast, mobile-friendly WordPress sites.

Adding Schema Markup

Schema markup provides structured data that helps search engines understand your content and display it prominently in search results.

Here is how to add schema markup to your WordPress site:

  1. Install a schema plugin – Use a dedicated SEO schema plugin like Schema Pro or All In One Schema.
  2. Identify schema opportunities – Determine pages that would benefit from specific schema types like FAQ, HowTo, Reviews, etc.
  3. Add schema code – Based on the plugin options, add the appropriate schema code to your page templates or content.
  4. Configure the plugin – Set up automatic schema generation, rich snippet preferences, and other settings.
  5. Test markup – Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your schema markup.
  6. Fix errors – If there are errors, adjust the schema code until it passes testing.
  7. Submit sitemap – Submit your XML sitemap in Google Search Console to index schema markup.
Install pluginChoose a schema-focused SEO plugin
Identify opportunitiesFind pages that need specific schema
Add schema codeInsert schema based on plugin options
Configure pluginAdjust settings for optimal functionality

Follow these steps to easily add schema markup to your WordPress site.

Submitting XML Sitemaps

It’s important to properly configure and submit your XML sitemaps in Google Search Console for better indexing.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Create sitemap – Enable the built-in WordPress sitemap feature in Settings > Reading. Your sitemap will be located at www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml
  2. Compress sitemap – Install a plugin like Simple Sitemap to generate a compressed sitemap for large sites.
  3. Add to robots.txt – Make sure your robots.txt file contains a line allowing the sitemap.
  4. Submit to Search Console – In Google Search Console, add your sitemap under Index > Sitemaps.
  5. Configure settings – Adjust sitemap settings like crawl rate, notification settings, sitemap limits.
  6. Update regularly – Re-submit your sitemap whenever you publish significant new content.
Generate sitemapEnable the WordPress sitemap feature
Compress sitemapInstall a sitemap compression plugin for large sites
Submit sitemapAdd sitemap in Google Search Console

Submitting a properly configured XML sitemap improves indexing of WordPress sites.

Tracking and Improving Your SEO Results

Once you’ve implemented key on-page and technical SEO optimizations, the next critical step is tracking your search engine visibility and rankings over time. Follow these best practices for monitoring and improving ongoing SEO results.

Monitor Your Site’s Performance in Google Search Console

google search console

Google Search Console provides invaluable data on how Google sees, indexes, and serves your site in results. Consistently reviewing key reports can help uncover issues and opportunities for improving SEO.

Some of the most important reports to monitor include:

Index Coverage

This report displays what percentage of your site Google has indexed. Goal is to get as close to 100% indexation as possible.

  • If index coverage drops, Google may be having issues crawling your site. Check for technical SEO errors.
  • Submit new content through the URL Inspection tool to improve indexing.
  • Advanced users can leverage coverage reports by site section and file type.

Click Through Rate

Click-through-rate (CTR) measures how frequently users click your listings in search results. Higher CTR signals greater relevance.

  • Analyze CTR by keyword to optimize pages and content targeting those terms.
  • Improve title tags and meta descriptions to make listings more attractive.
  • Identify specific pages with low CTRs and overhaul content and on-page factors.

Top Pages

This list reveals your site’s pages appearing most prominently in Google search.

  • These high-visibility pages are strong optimization candidates for more traffic.
  • Expand upon similar content and keywords targeted by your top pages.
  • Prioritize any technical issues or gaps in these pages.

Regularly connecting Search Console to evaluate reports will help you stay on top of SEO successes and shortcomings.

Leverage Google Analytics Data for Insights

google analytics

Google Analytics provides valuable insights into your organic search traffic and how visitors interact with your site.

Crucial reports for SEO analysis include:

Acquisition > Overview

Check that overall organic traffic and conversions are trending up week-over-week and month-over-month. Reverse any downward trends quickly.

Acquisition > Search Console

This report provides more granular keyword-level data on search performance.

  • Identify your top SEO traffic-driving keywords to guide further optimization efforts.
  • Target additional related keywords with growing traffic.
  • Optimize pages and content for any underperforming focus keywords.

Behavior > Site Content

Analyze landing pages, exit pages, and content drilldowns.

  • Identify strong landing pages to model after. Strengthen poor landing pages.
  • Improve exit pages by enhancing content, navigation, calls-to-action, etc.

Installing the Google Analytics plugin is invaluable for leveraging GA data to inform your WordPress SEO efforts.

Track Keyword Rankings Over Time

Monitoring your keyword rankings allows you to directly measure SEO progress and prioritize optimization efforts.

  • Use rank tracking tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to track your site’s rankings for target keywords in Google.
  • Look for consistent upward movement overtime for your core focus keywords.
  • If rankings decline, re-evaluate your targeting, on-page factors, and technical optimization.
  • Expand efforts for high-potential keywords moving up in rankings.

Regular rank tracking provides tangible visibility into what SEO strategies are working and which need adjustment.


Becoming a WordPress SEO expert is a journey. Expertise never comes easy. That being said, by following the best practices covered in this guide, you will help establish a strong foundation in WordPress SEO.

Some key takeaways:

  • Choose strategic focus keywords and optimize all content around them, including titles, headings, body text, and media.
  • Structure your permalinks, internal links, and navigation for maximum crawlability.
  • Prioritize speed and mobile optimization through image compression, caching, code minification and responsive design.
  • Add schema markup to increase click-through-rate and featured snippets potential.
  • Submit XML sitemaps to improve indexing and leverage Google Search Console and Analytics data to inform efforts.
  • Monitor rankings regularly and continuously improve on-page factors and content quality.

Focus on providing the best possible user experience on your site while also incorporating SEO fundamentals covered in this guide.

For further reading, some recommended resources include:

Keep sharpening your skills and optimizing your WordPress site for higher organic visibility, traffic, and conversions. Consistent SEO improvement over time can lead to significant growth.

WordPress SEO Cheat Sheet

Follow this SEO cheat sheet for the most important optimization tips and best practices.

On-Page Optimization

Optimize title tagsInclude focus keyword; keep under 60 chars; place keyword at beginning
Use headings properlyHave H1 tag with focus keyword; logical heading structure with keywords
Optimize contentFocus keyword density of 1.5-2.5%; natural keyword placement; lengthy, valuable content
Media optimizationDescriptive alt text and file names; compressed image sizes; relevant images
Internal linkingLink to related content with keywords in anchors; avoid over-optimization

Technical SEO

Improve site speedCompress images; minify code; use caching plugin; optimize databases
Enhance mobile optimizationUse responsive design; viewport tag; streamline navigation; AMP
Increase indexingXML sitemaps; no robots.txt blocking; fix crawl errors
Structured dataAdd schema markup; test with Google tool; submit sitemaps

Off-Page SEO

Link buildingCreate high-quality, relevant guest posts; outreach to topically relevant sites
Social mediaShare content on networks; optimize profiles; engage followers
Local SEOClaim and optimize Google My Business listing; get reviews; local link building

Keyword Optimization

Research keywordsUse Keyword Planner; analyze competition and search volume
Choose strategic focus keywordsHigh search volume; low competition; exact match domains
Optimize pages for focus keywordsTarget 1 primary keyword per page; incorporate into content

Rank Tracking & Improvement

Monitor positionsUse rank tracking tools (SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc); track weekly/monthly
Leverage Search ConsoleReview indexation, top queries, click-through-rate, manual actions
Analyze Google AnalyticsCheck organic traffic, keyword breakdowns, landing pages
Fix issuesEnhance page speed, user experience, on-page factors if rankings drop

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