WordPress SEO Best Practices for On-Page

Nov 08, 2023101 mins read

After setting up an SEO-friendly WordPress website, you should put effort into the site’s content. This step is called on-page SEO – the practice of optimizing website elements for search engines and visitors.

After setting up an SEO-friendly WordPress website, you should put effort into the site’s content. This step is called on-page SEO – the practice of optimizing website elements for search engines and visitors.

On-page SEO practices include creating high-quality content, designing a good user experience, and installing an SEO plugin to optimize the content. Let’s take a look at 17 WordPress on-page SEO tips.

1. Install a WordPress SEO Plugin

WordPress SEO plugins help you to optimize WordPress sites by providing tools to enhance different aspects of the website. These tools include on-page analysis, a sitemap generator, and schema markup.

Many WordPress SEO plugins are available, such as AIOSEO, Yoast SEO, and Rank Math SEO. Check out our best WordPress SEO plugins article to learn more about your options.

Here are some elements to consider before choosing an SEO plugin for your WordPress website:

  • Cost. Check the plugin’s pricing plans to see if they suit your budget.
  • Notable features. Look into each function to learn how it can help your site’s SEO.
  • User-friendliness. Check the plugin’s interface to determine its level of difficulty. Beginners should avoid plugins that require technical knowledge to operate.

We will use AIOSEO to demonstrate how an SEO plugin can help you optimize the website. AIOSEO is a freemium WordPress SEO plugin that you can install easily from the WordPress dashboard. Its premium version starts from $49.60/year for one website.

After installing and activating the WordPress plugin, use it to optimize pages and posts.

Select any post or page you want to optimize from the WordPress admin panel, then scroll down to AIOSEO Settings under the block editor interface.

In the General tab, you can customize your meta title and description using the available tag variables or manually insert your custom title and description. We will discuss this topic in-depth later in this article, or you can read our tutorial on writing a good meta title and description.

Scroll down further and find the page analysis and focus keyphrase fields. The page analysis section provides suggestions to improve content optimization, such as its length, internal and external linking, and readability.

Here are other helpful AIOSEO features:

  • Automatic SEO sitemaps generation. This feature provides XML and HTML sitemaps to submit to search engines.
  • Built-in schema markup support. This feature lets you create appealing rich snippets that appear on Google search results.
  • Competitor site analysis. It evaluates other websites’ optimization and provides you with suggestions to outrank them.
  • Site audit. It analyzes your website’s SEO efforts and provides actionable suggestions.
  • Link assistant. This feature helps manage internal and external links.

2. Conduct Extensive Keyword Research

In most cases, users find content online by entering search queries on search engines. That’s why proper keyword research is the first step to finding the right terms for your content.

From an SEO perspective, targeting the correct focus keyword will offer a higher chance to rank on SERPs.

There are two main types of keywords:

  • Short-tail keywords. With up to three words, such keywords gather high search volumes and significant organic traffic potential.
  • Long-tail keywords. Keywords longer than three words often attract less organic traffic. However, content with long-tail keywords has less competition and a higher chance of ranking on search results.

For new websites, long-tail keywords can help them rank faster. Meanwhile, short-tail keywords are more effective once a website has gained a considerable following.

The first step of conducting proper keyword research is to evaluate the search intent – what users want to achieve with their query. Understanding the search intent helps determine the best type of content for a keyword.

Here are the most common search intent categories:

  • Navigational. Users are looking for a specific site by entering the name of a person, business, or brand as a search engine query.
  • Informational. Users want to gain knowledge or find a solution by asking questions.
  • Commercial. Users are researching a specific product or service that they intend to purchase.
  • Transactional. Users already know what to buy and are looking for the best place to make the purchase.

Once you have established the search intent, the next step is to find the right keyword. Use a keyword research tool, like Ubersuggest and Ahrefs, to find the following information:

  • Search volumes. The number of searches with the relevant keyword.
  • Trends. The trend over time, interest by region, and related search queries.
  • Difficulty. The measure of how hard it is to rank with a particular keyword.

3. Create SEO-Friendly, High-Quality Content

High-quality, SEO-friendly content can improve a website’s authority and increase its rankings on Google search results. When creating blog posts or content pieces, ensure they are:

  • In-depth and well-researched. Every content piece should accurately answer a specific search intent and cover all essential points.
  • Original. Write content that offers a unique value to visitors.
  • Readable. Use simple language and implement short paragraphs for better content scannability.
  • Well-structured. Use headings to separate your content into sections.
  • Optimized length-wise. The length of a post depends on the content. Many content optimization tools provide a suggested word count based on the keyword and competing articles.
  • Published regularly. Provide new and updated content regularly. Visitors are more likely to return to websites that consistently offer new information.

On top of that, write the content pieces with a precise target focus keyword. This way, you would have a better direction to write the content and rank it for a specific keyword.

However, avoid keyword stuffing – a practice of adding too many keywords in the content, leading to a lower rank in SERPs.

If you need help writing SEO-friendly content, use a WordPress plugin like Semrush SEO Writing Assistant. It can evaluate your text based on its readability, keyword-friendliness, originality, and tone.

Use other tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to improve content quality. They can help you with editing and proofreading.

4. Avoid Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization happens when multiple pages rank for the same keyword. While it may be tempting to do so, it damages your overall SEO effort.

Essentially, the pages that share the same keyword will compete with each other. Therefore, they will split the click-through rate over multiple pages instead of one. Additionally, Google may also devalue the higher-converting page.

To identify keyword cannibalization, create a spreadsheet listing all your website URLs and focus keywords. If you find two or more URLs targeting the same focus keyword or search intent, consider merging them.

5. Optimize Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Search engines feature the page’s meta title and description on SERPs to give users an idea of the content.

The meta title is one of the most important ranking factors, while the meta description can improve your click-through rate. Optimizing these elements is essential to attract visitors and generate more traffic.

Making the Most Out of Meta Titles

Meta title or title tag optimization is necessary to increase your chances of ranking for the desired keyword. A well-written meta title will compel people to click on your page.

Here are ways to make the most out of your meta titles:

  • Keep it short. Search engines will cut off an overlong title tag. Keep it under 60 characters.
  • Include the focus keyword. This will improve your rankings by letting search engines know which SERPs your post or page fits best.
  • Make it unique. Every post or page should have its meta title. Even if it differs from the page title, the meta title should still be relevant to the content.
  • Avoid clickbait. Clickbait is a deceptive tactic to attract users to click on your page. This practice should be avoided because misleading meta titles frustrate users and leave a poor impression. Google may also remove pages with clickbait titles from the SERP.

If the search engine doesn’t find enough relevance between the meta title and the search query, it may generate alternative title tags. Therefore, optimizing your title tag will give you more control over your pages’ appearance on Google search results.

Optimizing Meta Descriptions

A meta description is an HTML element that drives organic traffic to your page by summarizing its content. Meta descriptions are visible on SERPs and certain social media platforms.

Even though it is not a ranking factor, a meta description can highly impact a page’s click-through rate.

Here are ways to optimize them:

  • Include the focus keyword. Search engines highlight keywords in meta descriptions when presenting them on SERPs. Although including keywords does not affect ranking, it helps drive more traffic.
  • Use the active voice and calls to action. Make your meta description sound direct by using active voice and call-to-action phrases. Also include the benefits of reading your post or page to inspire users to take the suggested steps.
  • Keep it short. Aim for 50-160 characters. Search engines may cut descriptions that are too long.
  • Avoid quotation marks. Search engines may automatically cut off a description after quotation marks. Use apostrophes instead.
  • Make it unique. Every post and page should have an original meta description that’s not copied from other websites.
  • Ensure its relevancy. Your meta descriptions should be relevant to your content. Failure to do so may result in search engines generating their own snippets.

Unfortunately, search engines often rewrite meta descriptions with excerpts they find within the post. Portent’s research shows that Google ignores customized snippets 68% of the time for desktop and 71% for mobile SERPs.

When Google replaces the meta description and adds its own snippets, it can reduce the click-through rate. This is because the snippet is usually taken directly from the content, making it less compelling than a dedicated meta description.

That being said, we still recommend customizing your meta descriptions to offer search engines the best possible option.

Numerous WordPress SEO plugins have tools to optimize meta titles and descriptions.

For example, AIOSEO lets you configure each page and post’s meta title and description and the recommended character count. It also provides a Google preview, so you’ll know what the title and description will look like on the search results.

AIOSEO settings panel, showing the meta title and description section

6. Use the Proper Heading Tags

Heading tags create a clear and accessible content structure. With headings, screen readers can achieve better in-page navigation for users with visual impairment. Search engines also use heading tags to understand the content better.

Heading tags start from H1 to H6. The best practice is to use one H1 tag per content piece. Since the H1 is often the title, it should include the focus keyword to rank better on search results.

The rest of the article can use the H2 and H3 tags to separate sections. Even though H4 to H6 heading tags can be helpful, they usually contribute to a poor reading experience. We recommend using regular, bold text instead.

Add headings by editing a page or post with the block editor. Select the Heading block and choose the appropriate tag on the toolbar.

WordPress heading block, highlighting the heading tag settings

Here are some of the best practices to consider when adding headings:

  • Follow the numerical order. Use the tags in descending numerical order. For example, H2 tags should come after H1 and H3 after H2.
  • Make it concise. Write headings and titles that are 50-70 characters long.
  • Use a question sentence. This format will increase your chances of getting a position in the search engine Featured snippet and People also ask sections.
  • Include keywords. To improve rankings, include the main and secondary keywords in headings.

Google’s search results may feature heading tags under the meta description. Therefore, the right phrasing can encourage users to visit your page.

7. Create an Internal Linking Strategy

Internal links are hyperlinks that direct website visitors to pages or posts on the same site. There are two main types of internal links – navigational and contextual.

Navigational internal links typically contain the website’s main structure. They help users find the page they’re looking for. Navigational internal links include the ones on the navigation bar, the sidebar, and the footer.

Meanwhile, contextual internal links are embedded in the content pieces. For example, on a product page, the description has internal links to pages that explain the features in detail.

Another internal linking practice is adding internal links in blog posts, directing users to related topics.

Both navigational and contextual internal links contribute to a site’s SEO. They help build an information hierarchy and establish authority. Contextual links also signal to Google that your website has high-value content.

Internal links are very important in SEO as they bring the following benefits:

Search engines understand the site better. Internal links help search engine crawlers discover related URLs and understand the relationship between your pages and posts.

Builds authority. If a page has authoritative inbound links, the authority can be passed to another page on the website using internal links. This is called link juice – the value given from one page to another.

Easier navigation. Internal links encourage visitors to stay on the website. These links may lead to other interesting content or pages where visitors can perform specific tasks, like adding products to their wishlist or shopping cart.

Although creating internal links may seem simple, it’s crucial to do it correctly. Here are some SEO tips for an internal linking strategy:

Identify the hub pages and create topic clusters. Hub pages aim for broad keywords with high search volume and will become central for topic clusters. Start by creating supporting pages or posts that link back to each hub page.

Identify the website’s authority pages. Use an SEO tool to find pages with quality backlinks and high authority. Then, pass the authority using internal links to other pages on your website.

Use natural language for internal link anchor texts. Anchor texts should contain keywords that represent the page content, but they don’t have to be an exact match.

Using a WordPress SEO plugin also helps your internal linking strategy.

For example, AIOSEO has a link assistant feature that provides internal linking opportunities. It can find orphan pages or pages with no internal links to optimize your SEO effort.

8. Include Reliable External Links

Besides linking to your own content, external links to other websites also benefit the readers and search engines. External links allow readers to explore a topic further, especially if your site doesn’t already have a content piece that covers it.

Linking to high-authority websites also passes the link juice to your website, helping you gain authority and improve rankings. Check the external website’s domain authority (DA) to determine its trustworthiness.

Use Moz’s Free Domain SEO Analysis tool to check a site’s DA score. If the score is between 70 to 100, it is a great source to link externally. This tool also shows the number of backlinks a website has and how many keywords it ranks for.

Here are some WordPress SEO tips on adding external links:

  • Avoid paywalled links. Readers should be able to immediately access the content you’re linking to without subscribing or signing up.
  • Open the links in a new tab. Therefore, readers can navigate between your site and the external link.
  • Reach out to the website owner. Inform them that you have included links to their content and ask whether they’d like to link to yours.
  • Check the published or last modified date. Avoid referring to content older than two years, as the information will likely be outdated.
  • Prioritize internal links. Check your content first, and only link to information visitors cannot find on your website.

If you use an external link to a website you do not want to be associated with, include the nofollow rel attribute. It will prevent search engines from crawling the link, saving your link juice. You can add nofollow external links with an SEO plugin or manually.

Use the code editor to add the nofollow attribute:

  • Open the menu by clicking on the three dots icon on the top-right corner of the editor and select Code editor.
  • Find the link that you want to attach the nofollow attribute to.
  • Add the nofollow rel attribute to the URL as follows:

<a href=”https://example.com rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text here</a>

If you add affiliate links or user-generated content, use the rel sponsored and rel ugc attributes, respectively.

9. Maintain the Performance of Your Website

Website performance is an essential ranking factor, as Google uses it as an indicator of user experience. Users are also more likely to leave a website if it takes a long time to load, increasing its bounce rate.

Google analyzes the website performance based on the following core web vital metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). The render time of the main content in the visible area of a page. The main content can be the largest image or a text block.

First Input Delay (FID). The website’s response time to a user’s input.

Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS). The time it takes for the website to have a stable visual appearance without any unexpected on-page layout shift.

Use tools like GTMetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights to perform website speed tests, check your core web vitals, and learn which areas to improve.

Here are some of the best SEO tips to speed up your WordPress site:

  • Choose the right web hosting. Your hosting provider’s web server should be fast and reliable to maintain your site’s uptime and performance. Additionally, choose the nearest server location to your audience for minimal latency.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is a network of global remote servers that stores copies of your website content, which increases loading speed.
  • Use a fast WordPress theme. A lightweight and optimally-coded WordPress theme helps speed up your site’s loading time. It’s also worth choosing a theme that supports Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for mobile optimization.
  • Update the site’s WordPress core software, plugins, and themes. Get the latest performance and security improvements to ensure your website performs optimally.
  • Uninstall unused WordPress plugins and themes. They can take up resources and slow down your website.

10. Keep UX In Mind

UX or user experience is what users feel and perceive when interacting with the website. The overall experience comprises many factors, such as visual aspects, navigation, and website performance.

Google specifies the page experience measurement in their developer documentation. Here are several of its essential factors:

  • Core web vitals. This relates to the website’s performance. We’ve discussed this and how to optimize it in the previous section.
  • Mobile-friendliness. Your website should provide a great experience even on mobile devices. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check if your website is up to standard.
  • HTTPS. Google prefers pages served over HTTPS since they secure their visitors’ data better.
  • No intrusive content. Avoid adding pop-ups or ads that distract users from the main content and ruin the user experience.

Additionally, several website UX aspects are also crucial for SEO. For example, a hard-to-navigate website may frustrate and repel users.

Here are some tips to improve a website’s user experience:

  • Use a responsive WordPress theme. This ensures your website will work and look great on mobile devices.
  • Enable AMP. Use the AMP for WordPress plugin to enable AMP on your website. This will boost the loading speed of the mobile version of your website.
  • Simplify the website navigation. Ensure your website’s navigation is clear, so visitors won’t get confused. Add submenus if you have many pages to navigate.
  • Create quality content. Ideally, your content should quickly answer the search intent without requiring visitors to scroll too far down the page. If visitors can’t find the information they’re looking for immediately, they may leave your site.
  • Reduce the number of pop-ups. Too many pop-ups – subscription form banners or advertisements – can create a bad user experience.

11. Optimize WordPress Images

Images help capture the audience’s attention and reinforce the ideas you want to convey. However, they may take up a lot of resources and slow down your site.

Optimizing images can improve your site’s loading times and accessibility, which may improve rankings on SERPs.

Let’s discuss three ways to perform image optimization.

Compress Your Images

Image compression will reduce your image’s file size and keep your site lightweight.

You’ll have to choose between lossy and lossless image compression. The best choice will depend on the type of images you feature on your site.

For JPEG files without too many details, use lossy compression. Meanwhile, lossless is more appropriate for PNG images with a lot of text.

Add Alt Text for Images

Alt tags or alt text (alternative text) make your images more accessible. They describe what images look like to search engines. Screen readers use alt text to help visually-impaired users understand what images convey.

WordPress has built-in features to add alt text to images. Users can assign it via the media library and the block editor.

We recommend adding alt text directly via the media library so that it will be attached to the image whenever you want to reuse it. To do so, head to the Media Library and enter the Alt Text under ATTACHMENT DETAILS.

Here are some WordPress SEO best practices for alt text:

  • Describe the image accurately. Write a description that could help the visually impaired understand its content.
  • Keep it concise. The ideal alt text is between 80-125 characters long.
  • Include keywords when necessary. However, avoid keyword stuffing. Ensure that the keyword is relevant to the image.
  • Maintain sentence structure. Write alt text with proper grammar, spelling, and structure.
  • Use Readable File Names for Images

File names can also help search engines understand visual content. In fact, search engines are more likely to recommend images with readable file names. Therefore, use readable file names instead of ID-based labels like IMG_0001.jpg.

Consider these factors when writing readable image file names:

  • Short and descriptive. Keep your image names under five words. The file URL should look orderly and readable.
  • Structure. Google recommends writing file names in lowercase and replacing spaces with hyphens. Avoid using numbers and special characters.
  • Include keywords. Use keywords in image names if they accurately describe the file.

12. Utilize Google Tools

There are various WordPress SEO tools and plugins available. Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to help your website perform better on SERPs. These tools provide you with real-time performance and audience data, which are essential for SEO.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers real-time website performance and audience data, including acquisition, engagement, and retention rates.

Here are some ways Google Analytics can improve WordPress SEO:

  • Provide audience insights. Learn your audience’s interests and demographics to help create new content and audit existing ones.
  • Improve marketing strategies. Measure the performance of your marketing efforts to identify areas of improvement and achieve better conversion rates.
  • Analyze the most active time of day. Identify the website’s busiest time and publish posts accordingly.
  • Highlight the most popular content. Find out what types of content attracts the most visitors.

The free version of Google Analytics offers enough information for most websites. However, enterprises with a lot of traffic can benefit from Analytics 360, the premium version that provides advanced analytics, support, and data freshness.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console monitors a website’s performance on the Google search engine. This free tool shares insights on a page’s search engine visibility, average SERP position, and core web vitals score.

Here are some benefits of using a Google Search Console account to help your WordPress SEO efforts:

  • Easier keyword research. Quickly learn which keywords bring the most traffic.
  • Improve link building. Find out the websites that link to your pages and ensure their trustworthiness.
  • Submit XML sitemaps. Use Google Search Console to enter your website’s XML sitemaps.
  • Get SEO suggestions. Highlight areas to focus on when optimizing your website performance.

13. Noindex Low-Value Content

Low-value content consists of pages and posts that search engines and visitors do not consider valuable. Preventing search engines from indexing irrelevant content will help maintain your authority.

Content is low-value when it does not provide a direct answer to a query. The following posts and pages are some common examples of low-value content:

  • Archive pages
  • Category pages
  • Low-quality content
  • Marketing content
  • User-generated content

You can perform an audit using tools like Ahrefs to find low-value content on your site. If you find pages targeting low-priority keywords with poor rankings and traffic, add the noindex tag.

Adding a noindex meta tag prevents specific WordPress posts and pages from showing up on SERPs. Users won’t be able to find the page with a search query. Therefore, visitors can still access the page, but it will not negatively impact your site authority.

Remember to add noindex tags to low-value content only. Adding a noindex tag to canonical or duplicate pages may confuse WordPress and search engines.

Most WordPress SEO plugins include features to noindex low-value content. Here’s how to do it with AIOSEO:

  • Open the page or post and scroll down to the AIOSEO settings.
  • Open the Advanced tab and disable the Use Default Settings option for the Robots Setting.
  • The robots meta options will appear, and you can leave the No Index option unchecked.

AIOSEO settings panel, showing the robots settings section

Another method to prevent post or page indexing involves editing the site’s robots.txt file, which requires more technical knowledge.

14. Configure Canonical Tags for Duplicate Content

When multiple URLs lead to the same content, search engines choose one as the canonical version and crawl the duplicates less often.

Duplicate content occurs when multiple pages point to the same page, including its www and non-www versions. Content is also duplicated when there are separate URLs for mobile and desktop.

The same page in a different language may also be deemed as a duplicate. Be sure to check for duplicates if you have a translation feature on your website that doesn’t apply to all content.

Use online tools like Siteliner to help identify duplicate content. Then, set up canonical tags to ensure the correct page is crawled rather than the duplicates.

To indicate a preference for a specific page, add the rel=”canonical” attribute after the link. Alternatively, WordPress SEO plugins usually have features to set canonical URLs.

15. Include Video Content

Video content is an effective marketing tool to engage your audience. In 2022, 82% of consumer internet traffic is online videos. The trend has been rising in recent years, establishing video content as one of internet users’ primary sources of information.

You can post video content on video hosting platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, social media, or even your WordPress site.

Having video content for your business can increase conversion rates. A study suggests that landing pages that have video content can boost the conversion rate by 80%.

Here are some tips for creating successful video content:

  • Create the video version of the written content. Whether it’s a blog post or a landing page, chances are some people want to consume it in a video format.
  • Include the video on the corresponding page. Upload the video to YouTube and embed it into the WordPress site to improve its visibility and avoid excessive server resource usage.
  • Publish search engine-friendly videos. Optimized videos can appear on the Videos tab of Google search results. Offer more video details, such as the title, description, and thumbnail, using the VideoObject schema markup.

16. Include an RSS Feed Subscription Box

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a web feed that lets subscribers receive updates from your website in an easy-to-read format.

Although RSS feed doesn’t directly impact SEO, it helps increase organic traffic and session time on your website, which can help you rank better.

RSS is enabled on WordPress sites by default. You can access it through yourdomain.com/feed. With most RSS feed reader apps, users will use this link to add the website to their feed.

To let users know that you have an RSS feed on your website, embed an RSS social icon and link it to the RSS feed URL.

If you use a WordPress block theme, add the Social Icons block and insert one for RSS Feed. Enter your RSS feed URL and save the changes.

RSS Feed social icon block on WordPress block editor

Now, the RSS icon will appear on your site. If users click on it, they will load the RSS feed URL, which they can use to add your site to their RSS feed.

17. Local SEO

Local SEO improves your site’s visibility in local business searches.

For example, people may search for restaurants near me. The search engine will use businesses’ IP addresses to detect their locations and provide search results in that area.

Local business results on a Google search result

Creating a Google Business Profile is one way to improve your local SEO. This way, you can appear on the map shown in a Google local search result.

To optimize for local SEO, create a Google Business Profile account and add your business data. This includes your business name, address, location, and phone number.

This data is a ranking factor in local searches. Google also measures the distance and relevance of your business to the search query.

Another local SEO method is doing local keyword research and optimizing your pages.

For example, your page may rank well for vegan restaurants. You can optimize it for local searches by adding keyword modifiers like London vegan restaurants. Research the volume and difficulty of such keywords using tools like Ahrefs.


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