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SEO For WordPress: A Beginner’s Guide

SEO For WordPress: A Beginner’s Guide


What does it take to do SEO for WordPress well? Can you do it  without becoming an SEO mystic? The answer to both these questions is yes.  This post is a comprehensive, step by step, beginners guide to getting started with SEO for WordPress. In order to optimize your blog effectively there are a few things that you need to understand:

  1. What is keyword research
  2. Effective keyword research
  3. How to do on-page optimization
  4. The way to use Yoast to optimize a page

Let’s get started.

Introduction to Keyword Research:

What Is Keyword Research? 

Keyword research is the process of discovering what words people are using to find solutions like yours through search engines.  The goal of keyword research is to find terms that you can rank for that will drive relevant traffic to your website. This is one of the most important things to understand when doing SEO for WordPress websites.  

What’s the Difference Between Long Tail Keywords and Short Tail Keywords? 

A lot of money and a lot of traffic.

Let me explain why that is a correct answer to the difference between these two types. A short tail keyword, also known as a “fat head” keyword, is one that is around one word long.  An example of a short tail keyword would be, “hotel.”

A long tail keyword is a string of words. An example of a long-tail keyword would be something like, “hotels near Idaho Falls.”

To people who are not familiar with SEO, it may appear that your goal should be to rank for short tail keywords. After all, the keyword “hotel” gets over 60,000 searches a month and if you could rank #1 one for that the traffic would be incredible. That being said, ranking for a short tail keyword  is often not the way to go. Let’s suppose that you are the owner of a tee shirt company In Wilmington, North Carolina. If you were to attempt to go for the keyword ‘t-shirt’ this is what your competition will look like:

Keyword Research for T-Shirts

The first website, Custom Ink, has 38,700 backlinks, 1.5 million visitors and they rank for 215 thousand keywords. The next result, CafePress, is similar. Look who else you have to face: Wikipedia, which is one of the largest websites in the world, and the New York Times. While it is possible to compete with these types of sites in the long-term, in the short-term you’re going to have a very difficult time getting onto the front page for the generic keyword t-shirt.

This is where long tail keywords come into play. They provide a way for the little guys to compete. Also, many big players choose to go for long tail keywords because they result in better-qualified traffic.  Just because short tail keywords get large shares of traffic doesn’t mean they get all or most of it, 70% of all the traffic online is in the form of long tail keywords, it’s just spread across more search phrases.


Keyword Research Process


Step 1: Create a List of Potential Keywords

The best way to discover the right keywords to use is to research your customer’s language, problems and buying habits. The goal of keyword research is to attempt to understand what people are actually searching for by using verified data and it is a key discipline of phenominal SEO for WordPress. If you are already familiar with your customers, put together a list of different words and phrases that they use and which they will probably be searching for.

A helpful framework to get a clear idea of what types of keywords to rank for is called “the buyer’s journey”

Buyer’s journey: The process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. – Hubspot.com

The buyer’s journey consists of three steps:

  1. Awareness – The prospect is expressing symptoms of the problem. They are trying to understand their problem more deeply and give a name to it.
  2. Consideration – Prospect has a clearly defined problem or an opportunity.
  3. Decision – The prospect has decided on a solution strategy.

If your customer is coming from the awareness stage, where they’re just trying to understand what the problem is and give a name to it, the content you will write and the keywords you try to rank for will be different than if they are in the decision stage.

If you would like to learn more about this I would highly recommend taking HubSpot’s free inbound marketing course. It is an excellent guide. Though, simply understanding that your content needs to take into account where your buyers are coming from will be very helpful in selecting relevant keywords.

Step 2: Check If the Keyword Is Worthwhile

Your keyword list is basically your hypothesis of what you think people will be searching for to find the topic that you have written about. It is a key asset in your seo for WordPress efforts because it shows you the possibilities. Luckily we don’t have to depend on our guesses. We can know if it’s going to be a good keyword or not.

In order to do this, you’ll want to take your list of keywords and plug them into tools that can show you how much traffic your keyword is getting. One of my favorite tools for this is SEMrush. While there is a paid version, the free version will work well enough to get you started with keyword research. If you find that you do not like SEMrush, there is another freemium platform you can try called SpyFu that has similar features.

To simplify this article, I will focus on how to use SEMrush to show you how this works.

On the SEMrush homepage, you’ll see a place to type in your keywords, I typed in the keyword “WordPress SEO.”

SEO for WordPress Keyword Research - Using SEMRush

Each search will provide you with results that you can use to determine if the potential keyword is a good keyword or not. In this example, you can see that the search volume is fairly high for this keyword, and the competition is at .44 out of 1.

One potential issue is the declining search volume but the fact that it is fairly steady makes it a fine keyword.

Keyword Research - ‘seo wordpress’

You can see in this picture under the phrase match keywords different options that you could also use to rank your blog post for.  Sometimes phrase match keywords are better than the ones that you came up with, you’ll want to experiment with different options.

Once you have come up with a keyword look at the section called organic search results these are blog posts that are  already ranking very high in Google for your keyword. Open up the top five of these results in your browser.

SEMRush - Organic Results for ‘seo wordpress'

Step 3: Determine the ideal keyword ratio

 The next step is coming up with a ratio of how many times the keyword shows up in a specific article. You’ll find that the top posts for any keyword will have a similar ratio of keywords, this will give you a golden amount of times you’ll need to mention a keyword in the article.

The first step to getting the ratio is to go to one of the articles and press control+f and putting in your keyword, in my case, this is  “SEO for WordPress”, but my initial search was simply, “WordPress SEO.” The keyword will be highlighted throughout the post, count the number of times that it is mentioned and plug it into this handy ratio tool I made for you here.

Keyword Research - Implementing with Yoast SEO

Then copy the WordPress article and paste the text from the blog post into a word counting tool, an easy place to count your words is “Charactercountonline.com.” After you find the total word count, your spreadsheet should look something like this:

Keyword Usage on Blog Pages

As you can see that the in the top five have a word count to keyword ratio between .0003 and .0041 with the majority sitting at between .0032 and .0041, that is where you want to be with your keyword ratio.

On Page Optimization

Step 1: Write Your Keyword Centered Headline 

The headline of your blog post is one of the most critical elements to get right in SEO for WordPress. This is because the headline is what Google looks at first and it is also what attracts people to clicking on your blog post. Due to this fact, we’re going to cover the SEO aspects of what makes a great title. If you’d like to understand how to create compelling titles I’d highly recommend you check out our article on “Advertising Headlines that Will Make You Rich”.

Principle 1- Front load your title with your keyword.

I learned about this idea from Brian Dean of Backlinko, he said that “Google puts more weight on words found in the beginning of your title tag” and went on to give an example that I’d like to share with you. If you had the choice between:

Headline #1: Weight Loss Tips: 10 Strategies for Shedding Pounds


Headline #2: How to Drop 10 Pounds With These Weight Loss Tips

Which one should you choose? The correct answer Is the first one because having weight loss tips at the front shows that this article is more about weight loss then the second headline. This is important to keep in mind as you think about your title make sure that you put the keyword in first.

Principle 2- Key your title under 70 characters

In Lindsay Kolowich’s article, “The Handy Character Count Guide for Blog Posts, Facebook Pages & More” she discusses the reasons to have a title under 70 characters. Her two reasons are,  #1) So the title doesn’t get cut off in search engine results. #2) If you want it to be shared on social media easily you have to stay within 140 for Twitter. By keeping it under 70 you are able to optimize it for both platforms.

Step 2: Write 300+ Words   

While there is no absolutely conclusive answer on how long your blog post should be, there are several guidelines that you will need to know. The first is that Google doesn’t even consider your  blog article as relevant content until it gets over 300 words.  The second rule of thumb is the ideal length of a blog is around 1600 words. This comes from a Data Lab study of the lengths of blog posts. They found that the most well-read posts  take about 7 minutes  to read which roughly translates into about 1600 words. Generally, Google looks at longer content as one of the many factors that show a post’s quality.

How Long People Spend Reading a Blog

Image source: Medium (Data Labs)

Step 3: Place Keywords Throughout the Article  

Placing your keyword naturally throughout the article helps Google to understand that your article is relevant. The most crucial location for a keyword besides the title is within the first paragraph. Then look for spots in the article where it makes sense to place it until you get your keyword ratio. Your website’s keyword placement is an important part of SEO for WordPress, put just enough to hit the ratio but not too much that it looks like spam.

Step 4: Add Keyword Optimized Images 

Images are an important part of your WordPress SEO strategy. Images, when used right, help Google crawlers to understand exactly what your page is talking about. Correctly labeled images allow you to show up in Google’s image search which is an easy way to gain traffic.

Google, advanced as it is, has not yet learned how to understand what an image contains. Because of this fact, it relies upon how you name your image to understand what is inside of it. The most important tag  for you to be concerned about is called the “Alt Attribute.”

In WordPress when you click on the “add media” button and upload an image the area looks like this:


Alt attribute editor for wordpress blog seo


An alt attribute is not meant to be cute, it’s to accurately describe what is in the picture. It is what comes up if the image doesn’t load. The more words you put in an alt attribute, the more it looks like spam. Keep it short (around 7 words) and describe exactly what is going on in the photo .

Step 5: Ensure the Quality of your post 

Above all else, take the time to make your blog post exceptionally useful for your readers. No amount of SEO for WordPress can replace a poorly written piece of content. Google exists to match what people search for with what they want. Metrics like bounce rates and page stickiness are very important to them. There is no way to get around creating amazing content.

Believe me, when it comes to content if people don’t care people don’t share.

Step 6: Go down this SEO Checklist

We’ve discussed a lot in this article. I’d suggest bookmarking this page to have it as an easy reference. I’ve compressed everything we’ve talked about into a downloadable checklist. You can get that here: 

Wordpress SEO Checklist

SEO For WordPress: A Beginner’s Guide

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