When compiling this list of SEO strategies, we started with one assumption: you’re busy. So these techniques are ones that you can implement right now (long-term commitment not required). Obviously, there are plenty of other techniques, but this is a great place to start. And remember: you don’t have to use all of these (although you certainly can) — even a few should give your WordPress site a boost in the SERPs.
Also, we’ll be focusing on advice targeted at Google since it’s by far the most popular search engine and releases the most information about its algorithms. That said, many of these strategies should also help you on other sites, such as Yahoo Search or Bing.
1. Choose Your Hosting Provider Carefully
We’re not just saying this because we’re a hosting company. We’re saying it because it’s true: The hosting provider you pick is vital for SEO.
Since Google takes speed into account when ranking sites, a good host can help push you to the top of the SERPs. Your host also affects the amount of downtime your site experiences and the physical distance between servers and visitors — both of which are ranking factors. Last but not least, since Google gives HTTPS sites a small boost, you’ll want that too. At DreamHost, it’s free with all our plans.
If you haven’t created your website yet, you’ll want to choose a host that’s reliable and has a reputation for excellent performance. Even for an existing site, you may want to consider switching hosts if your current provider doesn’t meet these criteria.
A smart way to go is with a WordPress-specific hosting plan. Our fully-managed WordPress plans provide impressive speeds and little to no downtime.
2. Pick a Theme That’s Optimized for Search Engines
Your theme is one of the most important choices you’ll make for your WordPress site. It determines your site’s appearance and layout, can provide new functionality, and also plays a role in its SEO. For example, your theme can affect your site’s speed — which (as we’ve already discussed) is vital. The way a theme was developed also matters since clean code gives your site the best chance in SERPs.
Therefore, when picking a theme you’ll want to opt for one built with SEO in mind. These themes are often referred to as ‘SEO-friendly’. You may also want to look for a theme that offers features specifically designed to improve your SEO, such as new heading tag options. Fortunately, there are plenty of themes available that fit the bill.
3. Use a Dedicated SEO Plugin
If you’re new to WordPress, you may not yet be familiar with plugins. These are small pieces of add-on software you can install, which add new features and functionality to your site. There’s a plugin to help your site do just about anything — including rank higher in search engines. In fact, there are many plugins designed specifically to improve your site’s SEO.
These plugins can provide small, targeted features such as creating a sitemap (we’ll talk more about that in a moment). For even better results, you can also opt for a comprehensive SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, which will add a whole suite of optimization-focused features to your site.
4. Change Your ‘Permalink’ Structure
Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point to your site’s individual posts, pages, and other content. They’re what people will use to reference and link back to your site, and their appearance matters. Clear, descriptive links that describe their content are easier for search engines to make sense of and tend to get a ranking boost.
A few are based around numbers (such as the Plain and Numeric options), which isn’t ideal since they convey little useful information to search engines. Instead, you’re best off with the Post Name structure since it communicates clearly what the linked content is about. You can easily change your permalink structure (or create a custom one) by visiting your site’s back end and navigating to Settings > Permalink.
5. Create a ‘Sitemap’
A sitemap is a list of all the pages and other content on your website, usually organized into a hierarchy. It provides a quick way to see how your site is laid out and what it includes. While these sitemaps were once designed to help users navigate websites, their primary purpose now is to communicate information to search engine bots (also known as crawlers).
While adding a sitemap to your website doesn’t directly boost its search engine rankings, it’s still a valuable SEO tool. It enables crawlers to see all of the pages on your site and understand how they relate to one another. This makes it easier for search engines to index your site, and to present relevant content in user searches. Adding a sitemap to WordPress is simple — you can do so with a targeted plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps, or through a comprehensive SEO tool such as Yoast SEO.