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 gets listed correctly, and that the right information gets 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. At the bottom, there is a checkbox labeled 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 help improve user experience and website ranking. Check the two examples below (top – normal URL with parameters, bottom – friendly URL). Which one is easier to read?
In WordPress, it is easy to set up your URLs this way. In your WP Admin area, go to Settings > Permalinks and select the “Post Name” option. Don’t forget to save your 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 – your website domain – and verify it. That 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 on how to verify ownership of the domain in this article.
Once you verify your property, 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 a basic configuration, follow the wizard. The configuration settings depend on the type of website (business, blog, etc.). When done, go to SEO > General > Features tab and make sure the XML Sitemaps is turned on.
Next, enter a unique meta title and description with Yoast SEO for each page/post you want visible in the search results.
For advanced configuration check the Yoast SEO Tutorial.
Submit an XML Sitemap
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.
To find the location of the sitemap Yoast created automatically, go to your WordPress dashboard > Yoast SEO > General > Features, click on the question mark next to XML sitemaps, and there you’ll see the link that will take you to your sitemap. The location of the index sitemap should generally be on the following URL:
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.
Now, your sitemap should be submitted correctly, and Google has a map to navigate 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, optimize images, and more, we recommend you to check the following articles:
- 5 steps to optimize images for better page speed and SEO
- 10 On-site SEO Tips Every Blogger Should Follow
- Get Started with Google Search Console
Got any questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll help you out!