The Start-to-Finish Guide to Optimizing Your WordPress Blog Posts [Plus a Checklist]

By May 3, 2016 SEO

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world. There’s a good chance you’ll need to optimize or work on a website that uses WordPress, if you haven’t already! Whether you’re a business owner, designer, developer, PPC expert, SEO consultant, or writer — getting familiar with WordPress is a smart move.

When I started out in SEO, I worked with local businesses that hired smaller firms to design or develop their sites. Naturally, most people gravitated towards WordPress as their CMS of choice: it was easy to customize, even easier to maintain, simple to use, and did the job well.

It wasn’t until I started working with websites that were using Joomla or Drupal that I began to appreciate the simplicity and flexibility that WordPress offers. Don’t get me wrong, Joomla and Drupal are both great, but they require a lot more setup and learning beforehand (especially if your goal is to optimize the site for organic search).

What this post is about

This post is going to walk through the process of uploading and optimizing a blog post using WordPress and Yoast SEO. I’ll go into detail on both of these topics and provide you with a downloadable checklist that you can give to your team or use yourself.

Before we get started

Yoast SEO

While it’s true that there are a variety of SEO plugins available for WordPress, I prefer Yoast SEO and will be referencing it as an essential plugin for this post. If you don’t currently have Yoast installed, you can visit their website to download it or simply search for “Yoast SEO” in WordPress and install it directly.

Pages and posts

WordPress has two basic sections for uploading content. There are pages (which are defined as landing pages on your website), and there are posts (which are essentially blog posts). One could argue that this article could be used as a guide to uploading and optimizing landing pages on WordPress, but I believe there’s a different approach for that and therefore will keep the focus of this article around posts.

Uploading your blog post

Before you get to optimizing your blog posts for organic search, you need to get them live on your site. If you’re familiar with how posting a blog works on WordPress, feel free to skip ahead to the optimization section of this article.

1. After logging into your site, hover over “Posts” and then click on “Add New.”

2. Copy and paste the title of your post where it says “Enter title here,” then paste the body text of your post in the section below (don’t copy over images yet).

Pro Tip: I personally write all of my blog posts in a separate program (like Word or Ulysses) and then copy over the text into WordPress when I’m ready to post it. You can definitely write your blog within WordPress and save it as a draft if you aren’t ready to publish it, but if you like having a local copy of your writing I’d recommend simply writing it in a different program.

Pro Tip: You can alternate between the “visual” and “text” editor here. If you’re familiar with HTML, I’d recommend “text,” as you can spot any potential errors in the code and have more control. If not, the “visual” editor works perfectly fine.

Pro Tip: If you have links in your post (which you should), double check that they were added correctly. If not, you can add a link using the WYSIWYG editor. In general, try to at least have 3 relevant internal links in each of your posts. Don’t be afraid of adding external links, either! The important thing to remember is that if the reader will find it useful, it’s okay to add it.

3. If you have images, place your cursor where you want the image. Click on “Add Media” and select “Upload Files.” After choosing your preferred settings, click “insert into post” to add your image in your article.

Note: There are various settings and options for sizing and aligning images. Please see this write upfor a more detailed explanation of how images and featured images work in WordPress.

Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to compress your images before uploading them so they don’t cause long load times. Here’s a great guide to compressing your images.

4. Scroll down a bit and you should see the “Categories” section on the right side of your screen. You don’t have to categorize your post (unless your site is organized by categories), but you can add one if you wish. If you do, WordPress will create category pages that pull in posts within that category.Here’s a great write-up on how WordPress utilizes category pages and what you should consider from an SEO perspective.

5. Under the “Categories” section, you’ll see the tags section. Similar to categories, you don’t have to use tags. In fact, I would argue that you should always noindex tagged pages that are auto-generated by WordPress, as oftentimes it can cause duplication issues. Nonetheless, you can add tags to your post here.

6. If you scroll down further you’ll see an “Author” section, where you can choose the author of your blog post.

7. Scroll back up and find the section that’s called “Publish.” Here you can choose “Preview” to make sure everything looks right in your post before optimizing/uploading it. If something doesn’t look the way you want it to, just edit that section.

8. If you want a snippet of your post to appear on your blog homepage instead of the entire thing, simply place your cursor where you want the break to be and click on the “Insert Read More tag” button. Read this post that explains the “Read More” tag and its function in WordPress.

This should get you to a point where you’re ready to optimize your blog — let’s focus on this next.

Optimizing your blog post

Getting down the foundational elements of uploading a blog post on WordPress is crucial, but we are marketers, aren’t we? This section breaks down what you (or your team) should be doing to optimize a post on WordPress as best as possible. My goal with creating the checklist at the bottom of this article is so that you and your team can reference it when uploading posts. Pretty soon it’ll become second nature!

1. Assuming you’re still on the “Edit Post” page, scroll down until you see a section titled “Yoast SEO.”

Pro Tip: If you don’t see this section, make sure you have the correct plugin installed. If you do andstill don’t see this section, scroll up to the very top right of the screen and click on “Screen Options.” From here, make sure that “Wordpress SEO by Yoast” is checked.

2. Click on “Edit Snippet” in the Yoast SEO section. The “SEO title” box will be where you input your title tag.

Pro Tip: In general, you want to include your main keyword first followed by your brand name or website name. Also, make sure that you stay within 40–65 characters here.

3. You guessed it — the “Meta description” box is where you’ll input your meta description.

Pro Tip: Although not necessary, including your main keyword in the meta description can be a great idea if it flows well with your content. Google has explicitly mentioned that meta descriptions aren’t important to search engine rankings, but that doesn’t mean using a keyword won’t help users click on your post. Because of this, try to make your meta description as enticing as possible to a potential user. Why should they click on your blog post instead of the other options available in the SERP? Also, as a general rule, stay within 70–156 characters here.

4. A new addition to Yoast SEO (although not WordPress), the “Slug” section allows you to edit the URL of your post. By default, WordPress will add the title of your post to the URL (which isn’t a bad way to go), but if you want to alter it this is where you can.

Pro Tip: There are “standard practice” tips for URL optimization that don’t necessarily affect your rankings, but solidify what your post is about to users and search engines. These standard practice tips include keeping your URL short, including a keyword if possible, and having the URL make obvious what the post is about. Here is a great write up from Rand on URL optimization.

5. If you click on the gear icon tab within the Yoast SEO section, you’ll notice options for things like meta robots and the canonical URL. In most cases, these settings will already be set on a global scale; however, you can override your global settings for specific posts here.

6. If you click on the “Share” icon, you can override the default metadata (titles, images, etc.) that Facebook and Twitter will pull for your post. In general, you can leave these blank. However, if you have a good reason to override them (testing different images, optimizing for various target audiences, etc.) this is where you can.

7. We’ve covered a lot of important on-page elements so far, but one we haven’t covered is the <h1> tag. This tag is crucial for telling search engines what your page is about. In most cases, your title will automatically be an <h1> tag.

Pro Tip: I see a lot of sites who have multiple <h1> tags on a page, as well as many sites who have duplicate <h1> tags across the site. Often times, the logo or phone number can be wrapped in an <h1> tag. Make sure to double check that you have one <h1> tag for every page, and make sure that these tags are all unique.

8.A dding alt tags to images is fairly simple with WordPress. There are various ways to do this, but it all comes down to whether you’re using the visual editor or the text editor.

Visual: Click on the image you want to add alt text to, and click on the “Edit” icon. Add your alt text in the “Alternative Text” field. Make sure to click on “Update” after.

Text: Simply add the alt=“” snippet of code inside the image tag. It should look something like this:

<img src="" alt="keyword goes here">

In general, alt tags should describe the photo. So, if I was writing a blog post about central vacuum systems and I had an image of a man using a central vacuum system, the ideal alt tag would be “Man Using Central Vacuum System” or “Man Cleaning With Central Vacuum System.”

9. It’s important to take a look at your internal links within your post. Are they topically relevant? Try to include at least 3–4 links that point to your internal pages and don’t be scared to throw in good external links as well.

10. Does your post have a clear CTA? Oftentimes this can be a “Read more posts like this” callout or a “Sign up for our newsletter” button; however, it could also look like a “buy now” CTA for sites that write about products.

11. After following the above steps, take a second glance at everything before hitting “publish.” If you publish your post and realize that something doesn’t look right later on, just head back to the editor, make your changes, and click “update.”


Optimization checklist

As promised, please download and distribute this checklist as you please. My hope is that after going through it multiple times, posting and optimizing your blog posts on WordPress will come as second nature to you (or your team).

I want the checklist!

3 more essential WordPress plugins for marketers

  1. Broken Link Checker – Essential plugin that monitors all of your internal links and regularly reports on where they are. Easily one of the most simple yet helpful plugins out there.
  2. W3 Total Cache – This plugin helps increase the speed of your site by leveraging caching, and minifying code. Highly recommended!
  3. Gravity Forms – While there are some decent options for contact form plugins on WordPress, Gravity Forms beats them all because of the customization options, continued plugin support, and add-ons..

Source: MOZ

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