As WordPress continues to capture enterprise marketshare, we continue to get many more requests from large businesses who have beautiful sites designed by amazing branding and graphic design companies – but lack the optimization needed to impact their organic search results. Before we even work on content strategies for our clients, we start with assisting them with optimization. There's not much of a use for investing in premium content if your site doesn't get found!
WP Shrug, a WordPress support services company, put together a fairly exhaustive list and published it in this easy-to-read infographic. We've assisted hundreds of companies with optimizing WordPress so I'm not 100% sold on their list (comments below), but I am confident that following this infographic will absolutely get you 99% of the way there!
You will need to establish your website on a good foundation. You can give yourself a head start by applying the top 10 WordPress launch tips for best SEO results.
How to Optimize a New WordPress Site
- Website hosting – one of the reasons why we migrated to and love Flywheel is the speed of their virtual instances and caching. Managed WordPress hosts are built specifically for WordPress performance and they won't lead you astray on support like generic hosts do.
- CDN – If your host doesn't offer a content delivery network, adding one should be a priority. CDNs will help your static website assets load incredibly quick and take advantage of browser technology and geographic networks to crank up your site speed.
- SEO Friendly Theme – Page structure and theme design are absolutely critical when it comes to presenting the search engines with a great page. HTML5 markup, page structure, navigation, and other elements all impact how well your theme prioritizes your content to search crawlers and takes advantage of algorithms.
- Caching – Again, most Managed WordPress Providers offer a robust caching mechanism. If you're not with one, you can sign up for a well-supported and simple caching plugin, WP Rocket.
- Categories – Ooh, I'm not a fan of no-indexing categories. I believe categories are integral in presenting your site's hierarchy to search engines and we have category pages that rank on broad terms that independent pages wouldn't stand a chance of. I do tend to noindex tag pages, though.
- Tags – We noindex tags and do not publish a meta tags element in our themes. BUT, we absolutely tag the crap out of every post that we publish! Why? Many of our visitors utilize our internal search to find articles – and tagging those articles effectively ensures that they're found.
- Permalinks – A properly optimized slug and permalink to an article can both ensure visibility for your posts and pages on search and capture the searcher's attention in a search engine results page. We try to keep permalinks as short as possible and the post slug within 1 to 5 words, stripping out any unnecessary terms.
- Spam Comments – While nofollow links are provided by WordPress, opening comments to being published without approval will turn your WordPress site into a SPAM factory. Not only that, they make the conversation on your site appear tacky… don't approve them!
- Titles and Meta Descriptions – We work hard on our titles and meta descriptions to optimize them for search. Remember, your title is the most critical element on the page and your meta description is the compelling argument on why someone searching should click your link in a search engine result. You should work as hard on your titles and meta descriptions as you do on your content!
- XML Sitemaps – Have you ever tried to find a new location without directions? Well, your XML Sitemap provides directions to search engines on where your content is located, how important it is, and when it was last updated. Every site must have an XML Sitemap! I'd also recommend identifying your sitemap in your robots.txt file.
If I were to modify the list, I'd probably remove the category and tag advice and add the following:
- Social Promotion – Sites rank based on popularity. In order to become found, you have to be linked to. In order to be linked to, you have to be promoted. Integrating social publishing and social sharing buttons is critical to ensure your content is shared and promoted effectively online.
- Webmasters – Launching any WordPress site without registering it in Webmasters and identifying your XML Sitemap means you're not ensuring your site is found and indexed. Webmasters will also identify problems with your site that are preventing you from ranking well. Fix those issues and you'll rank well!
- Mobile Responsiveness – Half of all search traffic is now mobile and Google loves responsive web design. Without being optimized for mobile, you're not optimized for search!
Disclaimer: I'm using affiliate links in this article.