With millions of websites online, search engine optimization (SEO) is more important than ever. In this article, we will focus mainly on how to optimize your website for the largest search engine in the world – Google. Since Google is the biggest traffic source for almost any website, it is crucial to get your website listed immediately. This article will help you with the basic setup so that your site will be listed correctly, and that the right information will be displayed in the search engine results.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization is a practice that helps improve the structure and content of your website in a way that is friendly to search engines, such as Google, Bing, etc. It helps your website get listed higher and display relevant information in the search results. As a result, it will drive more visitors to your website and help attract those that may be interested in the type of content you are displaying on it.
Before we even begin
The first but very important step is to check if your WordPress configuration is not preventing search engines from crawling your site. All search engines use smart, automated programs – Search Engine Bots – to crawl your web pages and determine what information to display in search results. Therefore, it is crucial not to block them and let them do their job!
In your WP Admin area go to Settings > Reading. Here you will find a checkbox that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. Make sure it’s unchecked. This way your website will be visible to search engines.
SEO Friendly URLs
SEO Friendly URLs contain keywords that suggest the content of the page, and they’re easy to read by both humans and search engines. They will improve the user experience and help your website rank higher. Check the two examples below (top – normal URL with parameters, bottom – friendly URL). Which one is easier to read?
In WordPress, it is very easy to set up your URLs this way. In your WP Admin area go to Settings > Permalinks and select the “Post Name” option. Make sure you save the changes.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a tool that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results. There are many things that you can do with it, but we will only cover the basics here.
First, you need to add a property (website domain) and verify it. This lets Google know you’re the actual owner of the domain. Google offers several ways of verification, select the one you feel most comfortable with. You can get more information about how to verify ownership of domain here.
Once your property has been added, you will get access to the console. Google will notify you and give you suggestions on how to improve your site.
Install and configure Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is an awesome plugin that will help you optimize your website. It’s by far the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress.
So how to get started with Yoast? First, you need to install it. In the WP Admin panel go to Plugins > Add New. Type in “Yoast” in the search bar, and then install and activate the plugin.
For basic configuration follow the wizard. The configuration depends on the type of your website (business, blog, etc.). Once configured, go to SEO > General > Features tab and make sure the XML Sitemaps is turned on.
Next, it’s very important to enter a unique meta title and description for each page/post you want visible in the search results.
For advanced configuration check the Yoast SEO Tutorial.
Submit XML Sitemap and configure robots.txt
By now, Yoast has created an XML sitemap for your site. A sitemap is a file that contains an index of all the pages on your website. It helps search engines understand the content on your website and when it was last updated.
In the Google Search Console, go to Index > Sitemaps. In this section, you can manage all your sitemaps. Enter the sitemap URL (see below) in the input at the top and click on submit.
Important note! By default, Yoast creates a sitemap on the following URL:
Now, your sitemap should be submitted correctly and Google has a map to navigate your site! There is only one thing remaining. We need to make sure that the robots.txt file is configured correctly.
Robots.txt is a file used by Google and other search engines to instruct their bots what content of your website is allowed for them to visit and publicly list. It is therefore crucial that Google bots have access to the parts of your website that you want visible in the search results.
Important note! At the time of this article, the robots.txt tester wasn’t available yet in the new console. To switch to the old one, click on the Go to the old version at the bottom of the menu.
Once in the old console, go to Crawl > robots.txt Tester. Add the following lines (see below) to the robots.txt and submit it. You have to download the new file first, upload it to your host server WordPress root directory and then you can test it to see if Google bots have access to different pages of your site.
How to continue from here?
Congratulations! Your site should now be visible on Google! However, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. For more in-depth SEO tutorials on how to write your content, keywords, off-site optimization and much more, we recommend you to check the MOZ SEO Blog.
Got any questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll help you out!