Yes there are several very good SEO plugins out there for WordPress, but there is a lot you can and should do with your ‘out of the box’ install and set up to give those plugins a good foundation to go on. If you are brand new to the site and have no idea what SEO is or need a refresher, please watch this video before continuing with the article.
Remember that in general the best practices will make your site more useful and easy to navigate for humans as well as Google bots, and it will take some work.
You probably didn’t want to hear this, but there isn’t really a ‘magic button’ you can push to get your site to rank well if you haven’t put in the time and effort to create good content that will be relevant to what users are searching for. There is a saying that ‘content is king’ and it’s absolutely true. The most basic foundation of a well ranking site needs to be good content. If you are a small business, for example, it shouldn’t be too hard. What service or product do you offer? What kind of questions do you find you get asked over and over again? What are your customers typically looking for when they come to you? What sets you apart from other businesses that offer the same service or product? Write down the answers to those questions, there is your site content. Google is always changing their algorithm in terms of the value of incoming back links, URL structure, etc. but good quality content is always valued highly. Aim to have at least 300 words in an article or page, but don’t pad things out just to meet a minimum word count. Read up on the term Evergreen Content to learn more about creating lasting and powerful content.
By default your WordPress install will have your links set up using a combination of symbols and numbers. Functional, but not very search engine friendly. If you go into the ‘Settings’ menu on the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard, select ‘Permalink’, and then check the radio button for ‘Post name’ your links will default to the title of the article or page. Much better! You can edit the permalink through the article or page edit screen, if you’d like to shorten or change it.
This section might not be immediately visible on your post or page edit screen, look up to the top right for the button that says ‘Screen Options’. Select that to open the menu, and then check off the box for ‘Excerpt’, it should be 4th from the left. WordPress will automatically create excerpts from the first 150 characters of your post, but it’s better to add your own. Keep it under 150 characters, and make sure your keywords are in the beginning. It should still be a readable sentence though, not a list of keywords.
When you add images to your article (and you really should), make sure that you give them a descriptive name instead of some long generated series of numbers and letters. Fill in the Title, Alt Text, and Description boxes when you upload them to the media manager.
Categories & Tags
Make sure to make use of these two features, it makes it much easier for people to search your website. The Category should be something very broad, and then you can add as many detailed tags as you like. Do not use keywords that are not actually relevant to your content, you can be penalised for that.