WordPress publishing checklist for SEO

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specify how to optimize websites to best be crawled by search engines. Webmaster Guidelines were updated in early 2016.

Here is breakdown of the most important points, written for WordPress website publishers with Yoast SEO installed.

Google Webmaster Guidelines 2018

A summary of best SEO content and technical practices using Worpress and Yoast SEO, as per Google’s official Webmaster guidelines.

Part 1: Meta Data

Screenshot of meta data bast practices on a WordPress page using Yoast SEO

Address these three key pieces of essential meta data for good SEO

  • H1 Title tags: proper use of headings tags lets search engines know what your webpage is about. In WordPress, the H1 is the article title. In the body, use H2, H3, etc. if you need to do so.
  • Page Title tags: Beneath the text editor of every page and post is a Yaost-powered meta data box. The page title is what shows in browser toolbars and s titles in search engine results. Write a unique title tag for every page and post, maximum length 60 characters. A common tactic is to append your brand at the end of the tag to increase brand awareness.
  • Meta Descriptions: these have no relevance to search engine bots, but good descriptions generate more clicks. Description should be maximum 155 characters (including spaces). Sprinkle in some keywords and make it enticing so that viewers will click through from the search engine results page to your content. Protip: short calls to action like ‘read more’ often helps.

Part 2: Content

Google’s 2013 rollout of the Hummingbird Algorithm combined several previous releases into one: Panda, Penguin and Payday are designed to fight spam; Pigeon is designed to improve local results; Mobile Friendly is designed to reward mobile-friendly pages and Pirate is designed to fight copyright infringement. Rankbrain is designed to server user search queries even if they don’t make sense.

In the Rankbrain era, structured content that expands on a theme via multiple articles is ideal. This is a very basic form of an Information Architecture (IA) content plan:

A simple silo content structure

A simple silo structure breaks a topic down across several dimensions

Think of silos as a topic, and the silo pages as different dimensions of that topic. Combined, they form a whole picture of a topic across all dimensions.

Example silo webpage structure bubble chart

‘Digital marketing’ is the topic. The added sub-topics offer comprehensive coverage of a topic across different dimensions – this builds authority.

Part 3: Images

Image Compression: images should be optimized for fast loading. Try for a tight crop, a maximum width of 1200 pixels wide and a maximum file size of 150kb. Avoid using css to scale down large images into smaller thumbnails.

'Save for Web' settings in photoshop for fast loading websites

Save images at the smallest file sizes possible for faster page loads

Image Alt Tags: these became an official Google Webmaster guideline on 2016. Alt tags describe the image for search engine crawlers and the visually impaired. If you have an image of a cartoon monk dancing in front of a Google logo, you should write a description like ‘cartoon monk dancing in front of a Google logo’.

Write images alt tags that are descriptive, specific, and accurate

Priority task: write alt tags that are descriptive, specific, and accurate

Part 4: Links

Wordpress permalink setting options

Choose an appropriate permalink structure before optimizing site links

  • Permalinks: when setting up your site, choose one of the two most common permanlink settings for best SEO.
  • Internal Links: ensure that all pages can be reached by a link from another easily accessible page.
  • External Authority Links: use external do-follow links when referencing another piece of content on the web, and be sure to use relevant anchor text when linking out.
  • No-Follow Advertiser Links: an important Google guideline is that ads on your site do not influence search engine rankings. When linking to advertiser homepages, use the rel=”nofollow” tag to prevent the links from being followed by crawlers.
  • Fix Broken Links: ensure that all links go to live web pages. 301 redirect dead pages to relevant replacement pages.

Part 5: Other

  • Page Speeds: ensure that images are properly sized and rendered; use gzip compression and script minification; ensure sufficient use of expires headers. Use GTmetrix to check your speeds.
  • Enable HTTPS: encrypting interactions between the user and your website is now considered by Google as a requisite best practice.
  • No-Follow Advertiser Links: an important Google guideline is that ads on your site do not influence search engine rankings. When linking to advertiser homepages, use the rel=”nofollow” tag to prevent the links from being followed by crawlers.

About the Author Anil