A simple guide to WordPress SEO

If you have a website chances are you are interested in getting as much free traffic from Google as you can. That’s where WordPress SEO or Search Engine Optimisation comes in. It’s a complex topic, but like anything there are some major low hanging fruit ideas you can implement to put you ahead of most people.

How Google Ranks Websites

First of all it’s important that you understand how Google ranks websites. A lot of people thin it’s simple but gone are the days of stuffing a few keywords into an article to rank for popular keywords.

Google uses a complex algorithm to determine the ranking of websites in its search results. While the exact details of Google’s algorithm are not publicly disclosed, here is a general description of the factors that influence website rankings:

  • Relevance: Google assesses the relevance of a website to a user’s search query. It analyzes various on-page factors such as the presence of keywords in the content, title tags, headings, and meta descriptions.
  • Content Quality: Google values high-quality, informative, and well-written content. Websites with unique, original, and authoritative content tend to rank higher. Freshness of content and regular updates also play a role.
  • Backlinks: The number and quality of backlinks (links from other websites to yours) are crucial. Google considers backlinks as a vote of confidence and an indicator of the website’s credibility and authority. High-quality backlinks from reputable websites carry more weight.
  • User Experience: Google pays attention to user experience signals such as website load speed, mobile-friendliness, ease of navigation, and low bounce rates. Websites that offer a smooth and engaging user experience are more likely to rank higher.
  • Page Structure: Proper organisation of content using headings, subheadings, and formatting helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relevance of the information. Clear and logical page structure can positively impact rankings.
  • Technical Optimisation: Websites that are technically optimised for search engines are favoured. Factors such as crawlability (ensuring search engines can access and index your website), optimised URLs, proper use of meta tags, structured data, and sitemaps contribute to higher rankings.
  • Website Authority: Google considers the overall authority and reputation of a website. This includes factors like the age of the domain, trustworthiness, social signals, and mentions on reputable websites. Websites that have built a strong online presence over time tend to rank better.
  • User Engagement: Signals indicating user engagement, such as click-through rates (CTR) in search results, time spent on page, and low bounce rates, can influence rankings. If users find your content valuable and engage with it, Google may interpret that as a positive signal.
  • Local Relevance: For location-specific searches, Google takes into account the relevance of a website to the user’s geographical location. This is important for businesses targeting local customers.
  • Personalization: Google may personalize search results based on the user’s search history, location, and other factors. The rankings may vary for different users, as Google aims to provide personalized and relevant results.

It’s important to note that these factors are not exhaustive, and the importance of each factor may vary based on the specific search query and competition. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving, and it uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve its understanding of user intent and deliver the most relevant and useful results.

Simple ways to improve WordPress SEO

With all of that in mind, here are the main points to consider to improve your WordPress SEO.

Create Awesome Content

The absolute number 1 way to improve your search engine rankings is to make your content better. Google is in the business of providing the best information for the user. If you want your website to rank well in search engines, you need to write great content that is relevant to your target audience. Your content should be well-written, informative, and engaging.

Choose the Right Theme

The theme that you choose for your WordPress website can have a big impact on its SEO. When choosing a theme, make sure to choose one that is well-coded and that uses semantic markup. Semantic markup is important because it helps search engines understand the content of your website. Google is obsessed with speed, make sure your theme is fast!

Make your site faster

As mentioned, Google is obsessed with speed. Anything you can do to make your site faster will help your Google rankings. The following posts will help:

The 80:20 of Improving WordPress Speed

Things to look for in removing excess bloat on your WordPress site 

Install an SEO Plugin

There are a number of SEO plugins available for WordPress. These plugins can help you with tasks such as optimising your titles and meta descriptions, creating XML sitemaps, and submitting your website to search engines. I use Yoast SEO and have been using that plugin for years. It makes the process of managing titles excepts and meta data easy and it has a neat feature to easily stop search engines from crawling certain pages.

Use Relevant Keywords

When you are writing your content, make sure to use relevant keywords throughout. Keywords are the words and phrases that people use to search for information on the internet. By using relevant keywords, you can make it more likely that your website will be found by people who are searching for information that you have to offer. The Google Keyword Planner is a useful tool for finding keywords to go after. You can access it if you have an Adwords account. Just be careful not to spam your content too much with keywords – in the end the quality of the content is the most important thing, not the amount of times you mention a certain keyword.

Optimise Your Images

Images can be a great way to add visual interest to your website and to make your content more engaging. However, if you want your images to rank well in search engines, you need to optimize them properly. Plus if the images are too big, they will slow the site down and the site overall will be devalued. Check out this article for a few tips on optimising images.

Keep Your Website Up to Date

It is important to keep your WordPress website up to date. Google will hate you if your website is hacked, that’s the absolute worst thing that could happen. This includes updating the WordPress core files, your plugins, and your theme. Updates often include security patches and bug fixes that can help to protect your website from hackers and other threats. Check out How to Avoid WordPress Update Anxiety With an Updates Process for a solid process for managing this.

Get more sites linking to yours

This is obviously easier said than done and it’s a whole topic in itself, but if you do have opportunities to get people to link to you then take it. People take many many different approaches to this. My approach has always been to create content that is good enough to link to, take the opportunity to go on podcasts and get press for things I’m working on, and generally just do content consistently over a long period of time.


SEO is a complex topic but by following these simple steps, you can improve your WordPress website’s SEO and make it more likely to be found by people who are searching for information that you have to offer.

If you are an Australian business who wants help with WordPress check out our plans here. If you are interested in more content like this, check out the rest of the WP Master blog.

Dan Norris