How To Increase The Search Ranking of Your WordPress Website

October 30th, 2018

I recently gave a little talk in Jávea, Spain to a group of digital nomads, and went over some of the best SEO practices for WordPress websites. I wanted to share some of what was discussed, and give people, especially WordPress beginners, a good overview of the bare minimum they should do with their WordPress website to help increase their search rankings when they produce new content.

Install a SEO Plugin

WordPress isn’t too bad out of the box in terms of SEO, at least for the main page. But beyond that, it doesn’t give a person very much control or ability to influence search rankings. For example, Google typically looks at some information buried in your website called the “title” and “description” meta tags. Google doesn’t have to use the information in them, but it often does. So it’s a good to make sure they reflect what your content actually represents.

In addition, social media is huge now, it’s important to have your website look optimal when shared on Facebook or Twitter. Ever see someone share a post on Twitter that has an image? Or if not, wonder why? Twitter doesn’t grab an image from your content automatically – your website needs to tell Twitter what image to use and how it needs to be displayed. If you don’t have that set up properly, you’ll never have an image associated with your content when shared.

You can get these types of important features with a combination of plugins, or you can simply use Elevate SEO, a plugin we wrote to help address all of these important issues. In addition, it performs a lot more than just those items, which will get to shortly.

But the very first thing you should do is install Elevate SEO for WordPress. It’s absolutely free, and available in the free WordPress.org repository under the name “Elevate SEO”. Simply follow the instructions for installing the Elevate SEO plugin for WordPress, and then continue on.

Configure Your Site’s Primary Title and Description Information

Once installed, you’ll be immediately presented with the configuration wizard. Simply go through each page one by one and answer the questions listed there. During this process, you’ll be able to configure the main search related title and description for your website, which is important for helping Google index your site properly. Elevate SEO will ask you for the name of your website, which is the primary branding for it. For example, if you had an automotive repair shop called “Joe’s Auto”, you would set that to “Joe’s Auto”. That information will be used on the next few pages, and will be automatically inserted into the search descriptions for the rest of your content.

On the next page, you’ll configure the primary search title for your site – this is important, as it’s likely what will show up in Google when people search for your site. Often you’ll want to set this to be as descriptive as possible. For example, if your customer base is primarily located around Vancouver, Canada, you might want to set this to “Joe’s Auto – quality automobile repair located near Vancouver, Canada”. If you only service BMW vehicles, you’d likely want to add BMW there too, which will help bring traffic from people who search for BMW in Google.

Configuring your site's primary search title

Configuring your site’s primary search title

Once that’s done, you’ll want to configure an informative description for search engines as well. The description represents what visitors can expect when they visit your site, and what the nature of your business is – what is your unique competitive advantage? Imagine your site being listed with all your competitors? What type of description would help drive someone to your site and not your competitors? This is the type of information you may want to convey to people who see your site in search results, and you can modify that by changing the content in this field.

Set Up Your Social Media Presence

There are two areas that you need to configure for social media during Elevate SEO’s installation process. First, you need to specify a default image that Elevate SEO will use whenever your content is shared on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. If you have some type of unique branding for your website, then this is a great place for it. If you don’t, check out some of the free images on Unsplash.com and find something catchy to use.

Choosing a site wide image to use for your website

Choosing a site wide image to use for your website

The second thing you need to do is specify the Twitter account associated with your business. This will make sure when someone shares some of your content on Twitter that it’s properly associated with your account – this will help drive traffic to your website, and also your Twitter account.

Setting up your Twitter account in the wizard

Setting up your Twitter account in the wizard

Set Up Google Search Console and Google Analytics

One of the best ways to obtain feedback about how your site is doing in Google is via their Search Console tool. Surprisingly, many of the client sites I’ve looked at over the years, even ones that have a SEO plugin installed, don’t have this set up properly. So head on over to Google Search Console and create an account if you don’t already have one.

The next thing you should do is head on over to Google Analytics and sign-up for an account there. While Google Search Console will give you information about who is searching or your website, Google analytics will give you information about who is actually visiting your website. It’s an important difference, and it’s good practice to start monitoring both going forward. So if you don’t have an account, sign-up for an account now on Google Analytics. There’s no need to configure your website on analytics at this stage – Elevate SEO will do that all automatically for you shortly, as you’ll soon see.

Elevate SEO's Installation Wizard

Elevate SEO’s Installation Wizard

The next step is to add your site and verify it on Google Search Console and also configure it on Google Analytics. In other plugins, this is mostly a manual process. But with Elevate SEO, this will happen automatically via the installation wizard. Once you authorize Elevate SEO for WordPress to have access to your Google account, it will set up your website on Google Search Console, verify your site if necessary (which involves putting a special text file on your server so Google knows you actually own it), and also setting up and configuring Google Analytics.

As the installation wizard progresses, it will go around the various services such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics and make sure they are optimally configured. If your site isn’t verified on Search Console, Elevate SEO will do that for you during the process. If you don’t have a Google Analytics property for your site, Elevate SEO will create one for you. If you do have one, it will grab the proper Javascript fragment to use and insert on your website – no more messing around with cutting and pasting Javascript from Google to your website.

Elevate SEO auto configuration of services

Elevate SEO auto configuration of services

Sitemap Configuration

One of the primary features most SEO plugins for WordPress offer is the ability to automatically generate an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap includes a detailed list of all the content on your website, and can be used by search engines to obtain a very accurate layout of your website. Without a sitemap, Google has to try to figure out your website layout by visiting each page and following the links embedded there. But if you have some content that isn’t very well linked to, Google and other search engines may have a hard time finding it. So the XML sitemap ensures that search engines will find all the content on your website.

Normally a person would have to manually submit an XML sitemap to Google Search Console. But if you went through the Elevate SEO installation wizard, you can login to Google Search Console and see that it was already generated and and submitted.

Automatically submitted sitemap on Google Search Console

Automatically submitted sitemap on Google Search Console

Writing New Content

Now that you have all the technical stuff out of the way, the most important thing you can do is write great content. What that means is to write content that is genuine, targeted (i.e. often a single post should answer a single question, something that people might ultimately search for), and not sound like a robot wrote it (which unfortunately is the way other plugins seem to steer people towards).

We can’t help you write great content because every author needs to have a unique voice. But what Elevate SEO can do is help that post look great when shared, and also let you modify the information Google and other search engines will likely use when they index your content.

Modifying SEO Titles and Descriptions in WordPress

Modifying SEO Titles and Descriptions in WordPress

Once you have completed writing your new content, you can view the Elevate SEO section of the WordPress content editor. There you will see the title and description that will be populated for Google and other search engines to use.

Elevate SEO typically makes an intelligent guess at how to populate these based on your settings, but you can easily modify any field by simply clicking in each input field to start editing. Similarly to how you configured the main page in the configuration wizard, you can also modify the title and description to help drive traffic to your site. It’s good practice to make these fields sound natural, but also include words that people are likely to include when searching for this content.

If you think the site-wide social media image you set in the configuration wizard would be appropriate for your new content, then you can basically finish there. But if not, you should set a featured image within WordPress for the new content – this will ultimately cause Elevate SEO to use that image when being shared online. We personally try to vary these images for every new post we do so our content always looks unique, but depending on your content that may or may not be necessary for you.

When your content is already, you can use the Web Preview button to take a look at how your content will look around the web. If you’ve set a featured image for the content, you should see it take precedence here now.

Web Preview in Elevate SEO

Web Preview in Elevate SEO

It’s a good idea to use the built-in Web Preview prior to publishing any new post, since you can easily see how your content will look in Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn.

Final Thoughts

For the most part, installing Elevate SEO and following these simple steps for each post or page you create will help search engines better target your content, and also ensure your content always looks great when shared on social media.

For more information on Elevate SEO, or to grab a copy yourself, please visit the primary Elevate SEO plugin for WordPress page. Also, follow Elevate SEO on Twitter if you want to continue receiving great SEO tips for WordPress, and also be informed about exciting new features for Elevate SEO.

Elevate 1.1: Improved Performance & SEO Dashboard + WooCommerce Integration

October 8th, 2018

We’re pleased to finally present Elevate 1.1 for WordPress.  Elevate is a relatively new SEO (search engine optimization) and performance enhancement plugin for WordPress.  You can easily substitute it for your existing your SEO plugin in WordPress and immediately reap the benefits of its many new features.

Improved Performance + SEO Dashboard

One of the biggest changes with this version is the highly revamped dashboard. In the new dashboard, you can see your daily organic traffic results (from search console), current crawl errors, page speed history, as well as how many visitors and page views you’ve received over the past week.  This amalgamates data from multiple locations in one convenient location, simplifying the process of tracking these on a daily or weekly basis.

The dashboard will also show you in which direction each of the key metrics has moved, so you can easily see if your site is doing better or worse compared to the previous week.

Elevate Performance and SEO Dashboard
Elevate Performance and SEO Dashboard

A lot of work went into this new dashboard, and we have short-term plans to add even more useful data here shortly. One of the benefits of processing the search console data locally is it allows you to start doing interesting things, like cross-referencing it with post information to come up with a ‘plan of attack’ for improvements and changes.

We’ve always had performance monitoring and enhancement as part of the Elevate plan, since website speed is now an important metric in SEO ranking. This will be even more true as Google migrates to its mobile-first index.  The speed of your website is beginning to become a key signal in Google’s search algorithms, so part of a good SEO strategy is also making sure your website is responsive (as in fast). So if you’ve been ignoring the speed of your website, now is the time to start monitoring and addressing it.  During the configuration wizard for Elevate, several speed issues are automatically corrected, so many people  should notice a speed increase immediately after completing the initial configuration.

WooCommerce

We made a few changes in the previous release related to WooCommerce, and so far the feedback has been great.  Based on that, we made a few small changes to this release, namely around setting SEO information for the primary store page in WooCommerce.

Updating

Elevate makes use of several Google APIs to access your site data.  If you installed it previously, you would have been asked to authenticate with Google to give Elevate access to your site data.  We purposefully kept the level of access small, essentially only what we required at the time.  

Since version 1.1 of Elevate now accesses additional Google APIs to gather more data, you will have to re-authenticate with Google.  You can do this by by visiting the ‘Search’ sidebar menu and then de-authenticating and re-authenticating.

The setting to remove authentication – once removed, this will be replaced by a button to re-authenticate

Once that’s done, all your data should work as before. If you ever want to refresh the dashboard statistics completely, you can use the top-level menu item in the admin bar to ‘Refresh Statistics’.

Roadmap

If you haven’t tried Elevate yet, we encourage you to downloading a copy of signing up below to receive instructions in your inbox to install it – it’s completely free, and also hosted in the free WordPress.org repository under the name “Elevate SEO”.  Right now, it can easily replace any of the popular search engine optimization plugins for WordPress, and we have an aggressive multi-month roadmap planning out of new features that take Elevate in directions that other plugins haven’t gone yet.

So enjoy the new updates in Elevate 1.1, and stay tuned for even more great features, coming shortly.  If you’re new to Elevate, you can receive instructions to install it via the main Elevate SEO for WordPress page, or add “Elevate SEO” from the WordPress admin.

Elevate SEO: Now with Breadcrumbs and WooCommerce Support

September 28th, 2018

We’re happy to announce version 1.0.7 for Elevate SEO. In terms of features, here is a list of the new ones.

First, we’ve added some structured data in a few places. Structured data is data that the average visitor can’t see, but Google and other search engines can see. We’ve added Breadcrumbs for WordPress Pages, which means Google will have a proper understanding of the layout of your site. For example, if you have a home page, and a user can get to a ‘Knowledge Base’ page, and from there ‘How to setup your site’, under the hood Google will now understand that the layout is ‘Home => Knowledge Base => How to setup your site’. While it’s not guaranteed, Google will often start showing the full Breadcrumb links, helping attract even more attention to your website.

Elevate now supports WooCommerce

Elevate now supports WooCommerce

We’ve also added support for WordPress taxonomy pages, which includes custom taxonomies like those in WooCommerce. While you could previously use Elevate to help configure WooCommerce product pages, you can now use it to configure Category pages as well. This will help WooCommerce site owners drive traffic towards particular groups of products that are references by the same category page.

If you are using Elevate with a content delivery network, Elevate now provides the ability to ‘cache bust’ those images. Normally images on a CDN are stored for a full month or longer, so if you change an image in your post without changing the file name, you won’t see the new image unless you forcibly login into your CDN and empty the cache. With version 1.0.7, Elevate will append a version to each file, i.e. my-file.com?v=1234. As long as your cache respects file versioning like that (most do, or can easily be configured to), you can choose quickly flush the entire cache in Elevate by using the menu option. Under the hood Elevate simply increments the version number, which causes the CDN to reload all the images.

Also, today we received a really great review from TidyRepo.com, which reviews higher-quality WordPress plugins:

“Elevate SEO is a WordPress SEO plugin that helps you follow the best practices of search engine optimization. It is a great search engine optimization tool you can use to manage your WordPress SEO and it can definitely fight against much more popular solutions like WordPress SEO by Yoast…. Elevate SEO is an amazing alternative to popular SEO plugins, and for those who want slick and simple SEO plugin.”

You can read the full Elevate review here.

We’re still working on version 1.1, which will be a big change including lots of pretty graphs and a much better dashboard layout. Expect that out sometime next week. It’s a pretty involved changed, and I’m hoping at that point Elevate SEO is more easily differentiated from the current SEO offerings.

Choosing the Best Permalink Structure in WordPress for SEO

September 24th, 2018

The default permalink structure for WordPress is completely date-based. This means that every link to your posts has a combination of the month and year in the browser link.

If you look in the Permalink settings section of the WordPress settings, you will see it set similar to the following:

Default WordPress Permalink Structure

Default WordPress Permalink Structure

As you can see, it’s set up to use the year, month, and post slug for the permalink. If you were to write a post in this configuration, the resulting link would look similar to this:

http://wpelevate.io/2018/09/announcing-elevate-1-0-for-wordpress/

It certainly is functional, but it’s not very good from a SEO perspective as the date doesn’t really contain anything useful in terms of information, and it even serves as a reminder of how old your content is when visited in the future.

We typically recommend people switch their permalink structure to one that is category based, which removes the date information from the link and allows a site owner to insert additional keywords via the category. We usually set ours to a custom structure that is set to /%category%/%postname%/.

Setting a Custom Permalink Structure in WordPress

Setting a Custom Permalink Structure in WordPress

This will instruct WordPress to also include the primary category slug as part of the permalink, and let’s you have the ability to include more keywords in the permalinks by creatively assigning posts to categories.

Now, let’s say the exact same post was assigned to the category “Plugin Releases”, which has a category slug of “plugin-releases”. When WordPress constructs the permalink in this configuration, it will include all of the information from the category and the post. This results in the following permalink:

http://wpelevate.io/plugin-releases/announcing-elevate-1-0-for-wordpress/

Which now has “plugin-releases” as part of the link. So in terms of keywords, we’ve now introduced two more – one indicating it’s a plugin, and another that it’s a new release. These are subtle changes, but they do help with SEO and give site authors another creative way to influence how posts are ranked.

Once this is done, make sure you also install and use a WordPress SEO plugin such as Elevate for WordPress.

Announcing Elevate 1.0 for WordPress

September 14th, 2018

Approximately six months ago I was sitting in Morocco, working on a WordPress site for a client. One of the first issues I immediately encountered was that even though the website own had a popular SEO plugin installed, it wasn’t configured properly.

Sure, it was generating an XML Sitemap – but it wasn’t really being used anywhere. Google Search Console hadn’t been properly configured for the site, which meant the XML Sitemap hadn’t been submitted there. In addition, there was no visitor tracking script installed, so the website owner really had no sense about what their traffic was. The primary site title, the one that shows up in Google, wasn’t set to anything meaningful, which meant it was pretty unlikely that website would ever rank well.

It was then I started thinking – isn’t there a better way to do all of this? Why does performing SEO, or even setting up a website, have to be so complicated and error prone? I started making notes – what would it take for someone who didn’t know too much about how a search engine worked to be successful at optimizing their site for search?

At that time I started playing around with some ideas, and those ideas would eventually all coalesce into a plugin for WordPress. And that plugin, as of right now, is available to everyone for free.

So without further ago, I’d like to introduce you to Elevate for WordPress.

Elevate is at its core a plugin designed to help increase the search rankings for self-hosted WordPress websites. But it goes beyond that, and deeply integrates with several services (such as Google) to help automate the process and also understand, on an ongoing basis, just how your website is performing.

For example, since the speed of your website (how responsible it is for your visitors) is used by Google and other search engines to adjust your ranking, it’s important to understand at any point in time just how fast your website is. Elevate aggregates all of this information, along with important search metrics (such as how many clicks your website received from Google last week, etc.) right on the primary Elevate dashboard in the WordPress administration panel.

The Elevate Dashboard

The Elevate Dashboard

Once configured, you’ll always have the information you require as a site owner to understand how your site is performing, both from a speed perspective, as well as a search engine perspective.

One area where a lot of work was done with Elevate was in the area of auto configuration. It turns out a great deal can be done on a website to automatically configure it without much input from an end-user. For example, using Google’s OAuth mechanism, it’s possible to verify a site on Google Search Console and automatically submit the sitemap. So Elevate does that automatically for everyone during the installing process.

In addition, if it finds an analytics script is available via your Google account, it will grab the code for that and use it. If it doesn’t find one, it can create a brand new analytics property and utilize that on its own as well. So no more heading over to Google and then cutting and pasting your code into WordPress.

Automatically setting up Google services

Automatically setting up Google services

I went out my way during the installation wizard to try and address every single concrete stumbling block that would limit the ability for a site to be successful. For example, one of the last items I added was one I felt was important, so much so that I circled around to add it even though I was at the point where I wanted to launch – the ability to set a site wide featured image for the entire site. Most people nowadays set an image on a per-post basis, and that image often shows up on Facebook and Twitter when one of your visitors shares your post.

But what happens when they share content without an explicit photo? This is actually a pretty plausible situation, for example when someone shares a category page on WordPress, or even the main page of your website. Having the user explicitly declare a fallback image for their entire site during the install process solves this issue, and makes sure the site’s branding will always have a default state, even if a featured post isn’t added.

Adding a site-wide featured image

Adding a site-wide featured image

Another area I worked quite hard at was in the actual options available while editing post content. On the majority of sites that I have worked with for clients, it was pretty rare for them to actually explicitly adjust their search information for each posting. Knowing that, I set out to create intelligent defaults for the search information. For example, Elevate will intelligently scan the post content and dynamically populate the title and description fields. These are visible and easily editable if a site owner wants to make adjustments.

Adjusting the search information on a per-post basis; intelligent defaults are represented by the placeholder text.

Adjusting the search information on a per-post basis; intelligent defaults are represented by the placeholder text.

This content effectively shows what will happen if the site owner publishes without doing nothing for SEO, which like it or not, is often the case. So hopefully with the intelligent defaults and policies that can be set in the administration panel, these search parameters become more useful for site owners.

For many of the posts I experimented with during development and the beta cycle, often the default content was completely sufficient. But going forward it’s great to know you can easily adjust any of the search information on a per-post basis.

Web Preview

Another area I fleshed out was the ability to preview how your content will look all around the internet. One of the primary goals of all content writers is to have their content read and shared, so it’s important for website owners to understand how this content will look when it is shared.

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

An example of the web preview widget, showing what the content will look like on Twitter

Previewing how this looks is done using the ‘Web Preview’ widget, and will show you, in real-time, how your content will look when it’s shared on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.

To make this work instantaneously, in various states (draft vs published posts), with support for both the Classic and Gutenberg editors, it was actually quite tricky. But the end result speaks for itself – with a simple click you can quickly preview how your content will look anywhere on the internet and make adjustments on the fly.

Speaking of Gutenberg, Elevate will work out of the box with it. We have some great ideas on how to integrate better with Gutenberg going forward, but rest assured that it work just fine today and can be used for previewing and generating search related content.

Special Thanks

Creating Elevate took about six months of part-time effort, mostly dabbling here and there on my weekends on evenings. I’m really proud of the end result, and have a few more months of features planned to make it even more useful and appealing.

For now though I’d like to thank the following people.

First, the beta testers: a special thanks go out to Paul Jarvis, Curtis Mchale, Rebecca Coleman, Tony Dehnke, Tris Hussey, and Sylvain Marcotte for their feedback during the beta phase.

Second, to the various people who helped with some of the translations: Monica Sprung and Sascia Mayer.

And lastly, to the various people I met during my month long stays in both Morocco and Spain, many of which gave me inspiration and guidance as to new tools to use, or things to ponder late at night while sipping wine by a fire: Sam Thomson, Carrie Chilton, Jon Hormaetxe Castells, Sienna Brown, Anita Oliete, Mili Caviezel,
Clément Roméas, and many more.

I hope you enjoy using Elevate as much as I enjoyed creating it. If you have any issues, please reach out to me and let me know what they are. As it’s new software, and the beta was only limited to about 10 people, I suspect there are still a few bugs that will crop up in the next week or two. But rest assured I’ll address them in a timely matter, and also start pumping out some great new features in the next few weeks.

For more information on Elevate, please visit the main Elevate for WordPress page.

Cheers,
Duane Storey

Get Elevate for WordPress today
and start taking your website to all new heights.

Available for free.

Learn More Get It Now

Get Elevate

Elevate is hosted on the free WordPress.org software repository.

Enter your email address below and we will send you detailed instructions how to download, install, and optimally configure Elevate for your WordPress website. You'll also automatically receive information about when new versions of Elevate become available, and our latest and greatest tips and tricks for how to use it to help increase your search rankings.

We care about your privacy, and will never give your information to other people. You can unsubscribe at any point in time simply by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of any email.