How to SEO a WordPress Blog

How can I SEO my WordPress blog? How can I make it easy to find on-line?

Those are questions I see quite often in the forums.

The fact is, your WordPress blog is already pretty search engine friendly.

But, although SEO is in some respects a lot simpler now that it was 10 years ago, because the search engines have become a lot smarter, you will still get benefits from following a few straight-forward steps.

The algorithms that the search engines use are highly complex and they change on a regular basis – Google makes up to 500 algorithm changes a year.

So attempting to understand the algorithms and structure your pages accordingly is a complete waste of time. You’ll never keep up!

So follow a few basic SEO principles and then make sure you’re writing for people.

I set out some principles of a search-engine-effective page here.

In addition to the on-page stuff I’ve covered there, the off-page factors that the search engines use include a range of things:

  1. The credibility of your domain – things like the age of the domain, how long it’s registered for
  2. The number of inbound links your blog has
  3. The number of shares your blog articles get on social media
  4. The number and quality of reviews your site has
  5. The number of citations your site has

All of which means that even if you follow all the things I’ve set out below it’s still going to take a while before you’re on the first page, especially if you have a new site.

So, again, don’t get too hung up on ‘SEO’ – produce good content that helps people, and follow the basic principles I’ve outlined below.

So here’s how to SEO a WordPress blog:

Although the WordPress platform is naturally search engine friendly, there are some things you can do to give it an extra boost:

Install an SEO plugin.

SEO plugins don’t do SEO for you. What they do is make it easy for you to add the essential tags that will improve the SEO of each of your posts and pages.

Yoast is currently the most well-known SEO plugin, and it’s been around for a while. But there are others – doing a search for ‘SEO plugins for WordPress’ will bring up a whole boat load of results.

These plugins will make it easy for you to set META Title, META description and META keyword tags for your blog’s home page, and for each individual post and page.

They do it by adding fields for these tags to your post edit screen. All you need to do is fill in the information.

They also enable you to Noindex your page or pages, if that’s what you need to do. For example, you may want to ‘noindex’ the page from which site visitors can download freebies after they’ve opted in to your email list.

This would prevent anyone from downloading your freebie without first having joined your list, because the page would not appear in the search results and so no one would find it.

Setting these META tags on a post-by-post basis gives you more granular control and definitely helps in the search results.

Remember – your blog’s home page will not necessarily be the first page people land on, so optimising each post is important.

So install and configure one of the WordPress SEO plugins

Set your permalinks to the most search-engine friendly option

In your WordPress settings you have the option to define how your page URLs, called permalinks in WordPress, are structured.

Unfortunately the default setting is not search-engine friendly!

So go to your Settings > Permalinks screen. Under ‘Common settings’, the default setting is ‘Plain’, which is not SEO-friendly, so select the ‘Post name’ option and then ‘Save Changes’:

WordPress permalink settings screen

This is a much more SEO-friendly permalink (URL) structure!

Make good, efficient use of your tags and categories.

I’ve written quite frequently about these, but to summarise: tags and categories are WordPress’ filing system.

Like any filing system, using them properly enables people (and, therefore, the search engines) to find relevant content quickly and easily.

Here’s an example: I have a category on this site called WordPress, into which all articles on WordPress go. But I write articles on several different aspects of WordPress – for example WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.

So articles on WordPress plugins go into the WordPress category and are tagged as plugins, and articles on WordPress themes also go into the WordPress category but they’re tagged as themes.

Using categories and tags this way groups related posts together – like using drawers and folders in a filing cabinet.

If your blog is focused on a particular niche there’s no need to have lots of tags or categories. I have 8 categories and 86 tags on this site, and it’s been going for nearly 13 years.

I review my tags frequently and, if a tag is in the list without any posts attached to it, I delete it. This keeps things focused and organised – which helps both people and the search engines.

Your tags and categories are a great SEO tool – so be sure to use them properly!

Cross reference and interlink your posts.

Wherever you can, cross link to relevant posts and pages within your site. Good internal linking helps to tie related articles together, but do make sure you’re inter-linking relevant articles.

There are plugins that help with this – again, a search for internal linking plugins will turn up lots of results and you can then more easily review and cross-link posts that are relevant to each other.

Cross linking to relevant content elsewhere on your site is helpful to both people and the search engines.

Titles and Content.

At the end of the day, content is what will make your site figure well in the search results. So write good articles and lots of them.

And write for people, not the search engines.

Your titles, though, need to take the search engines into account.

If you’re using one of the SEO plugins they give you the option of defining META titles which are different from your post titles. You can make your META (or SEO) titles more search engine friendly.

I do this, although the difference is not that great.

My keywords are in both, but I make the post title more reader friendly and the META page title more search engine friendly.

This is usually just a case of making sure my keywords appear as early as possible in the META title.

So, for example, the post title for this article is ‘How to SEO a WordPress Blog’. The META title is ‘SEO for WordPress Blogs’.

It’s not a big difference but the post is about SEO for WordPress so in the META title I’ve put those keywords first, in order to make it easier for the search engines.

So to summarise:

  1. Install an SEO plugin, configure and use it properly.
  2. Change your permalink setting to the ‘Post name’ option
  3. Make good, efficient use of your categories and tags
  4. Cross and interlink your posts and pages
  5. Write good articles for your readers and good titles for both your readers and the search engines.

Using a keyword research tool will enable you to find good, profitable keywords – keywords for which there are lots of searches but as few competing sites as possible. Here’s one that is worth a look: SEO keyword research tool.


Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.