WordPress is extremely SEO-friendly from the outset. It only gets better when you install an SEO-friendly theme and start using the awesome suite of SEO plugins WordPress offers.
If you’re thinking about building a website (or redesigning an existing site), one thing you definitely want to do is get all those new pages appearing at the top of Google’s search results. Using WordPress as your site’s content management system (CMS) is one of the best ways to do that.
But does WordPress’ SEO-friendliness mean it’s the best CMS for SEO?
Why Is WordPress Good for SEO?
Google and the other search engines don’t actually care which CMS your website uses.
Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, says that Google’s algorithms don’t consider CMS as part of their ranking, but that WordPress is a great choice for SEO.
While Google may not care which CMS you choose to build and maintain your site, it will care about the outcome of all your SEO work. Or, more specifically, Google cares how accessible and useful the pages on your website are.
WordPress happens to be the CMS that facilitates the creation of accessible and useful webpages — better than any other. This is why our team at Pathfinder SEO (and most other SEO professionals, too) believe it’s the best CMS for SEO.
Before we tell you how WordPress helps you achieve great SEO outcomes, let’s define WordPress SEO so that we are on the same page. Once defined, we’ll tell you how each element of WordPress contributes to those outcomes.
What is WordPress SEO?
WordPress SEO is the set of collective actions you must take to get your WordPress website ranking higher in the search results of Google, Yahoo and Bing.
At Pathfinder SEO, we break WordPress SEO into four pillars. Each pillar consists of related SEO actions. The four pillars of SEO include:
Technical SEO — All the actions you take that make it easier for search engines to discover your site, index it, and show your pages in the search engine results.
Content & User Experience (UX) — All the actions you take to provide visitors with high-quality, easily accessible information.
On-site SEO — The actions you take to improve the elements on your site and give it a better chance of appearing in the search results.
Off-site SEO — The actions you take outside of your site that determine how frequently it shows up in the search results.
When your WordPress site is following best practices within each of the four pillars, you’ve created a solid, holistic SEO strategy and a site set up to perform well in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Why WordPress is the Best for SEO
You have a lot of choices when it comes to which CMS you use for your website. These choices include Wix, Squarespace, Joomla, Shopify, Weebly, and more. We’ve spent time with almost all of them and, at the end of the day, our favorite CMS for SEO is still WordPress.
There are three major elements contributing to the overall SEO-friendliness of WordPress
The WordPress CMS — The inherent functionality, low cost, and usability of the WordPress CMS.
SEO Friendly WordPress Themes — The high caliber and variety of SEO-friendly themes available for WordPress.
The Availability of SEO Plugins — The diversity and quality of SEO-focused WordPress plugins that extend the functionality of your website.
This unique combination of elements makes WordPress an SEO powerhouse. Other CMSs include a couple of these elements, but none have all three combined in the same strategic way WordPress does.
Here’s how each element of WordPress facilitates amazing SEO outcomes.
The WordPress Content Management System is Best for SEO
When you’re building a website, you can either code one from scratch or use a content management system (CMS) as the foundation. If you choose to use a CMS, its core features will make it intrinsically better — or worse — for SEO.
WordPress’ standard features make it the best CMS for SEO out-of-the-box, even before choosing a theme or adding any plugins.
Here are some of those features.
WordPress is Free (Technical SEO)
You can’t get found in search if you don’t have a website. And custom websites developed by professional agencies can be expensive.
But anyone with a computer, access to the internet can download WordPress and create a website relatively quickly. Sure, you will need a domain and hosting if you want to customize your site, but the fact that WordPress is free is the first reason it’s great for SEO.
From an SEO affordability standpoint, WordPress is hands-down the best CMS, even when domain and hosting fees are accounted for.
While you’d have to pay for some CMSs like Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix, there are other free options — take Drupal and Joomla, for example. With that said, no other free CMS is as easy to use (or as set up for SEO) as WordPress.
Easy to Use Without Knowing How to Code (Content & User UX)
You don’t have to be a web developer to create a WordPress site that looks great and functions incredibly well. Especially when there’s an abundance of both free and paid online resources to answer your WordPress questions and provide step-by-step instructions on how to build a site.
With a little bit of work ethic, some time and a handful of Google searches, just about anyone with modest computer literacy can figure out how to build an SEO-friendly WordPress site.
WordPress Support & Education Are Ubiquitous (Content & UX)
Over 35% of the websites on the internet are running on WordPress. That means there are plenty of people asking questions about WordPress SEO. And just as many people are answering those questions in the form of blogs, documentation, forums, and courses.
You’ll find both amazing documentation and a massive online community that is proactively supplying answers to people’s WordPress questions — many of which are SEO-related.
There is an equally large community of course creators and online instructors providing educational content to help people improve their sites and their SEO.
Whether you’re just getting started building your site, wanting to create amazing content for it, or trying to get it ranking in the search results, there are many options when it comes to finding exceptional guidance that will help you further your SEO goals.
While some other CMSs have great support, especially Squarespace, none have an active online community as large as WordPress.
WordPress Makes Creating Great Content Easy (Content & UX)
One of the cornerstones of a great SEO strategy is exceptional content. After all, it’s the content on your site that determines its usefulness to visitors. Some CMS platforms make creating great content kind of tricky.
WordPress recently did away with its Text Editor in favor of The Block Editor, a.k.a the Gutenberg Project. The new block editor allows you to compose and format amazing content with great flexibility. You just need to show up with your expertise and some writing skills.
WordPress Makes Structuring Your Pages Simple (On-Site SEO)
Heading tags (Heading 1 – Heading 6) allow you to structure your content in a way that makes it more understandable for Google and your users.
WordPress will automatically wrap your page title with a Heading 1 (H1) tag and allow you to easily manage which tags you apply to the rest of your headings. Using these tags to create hierarchy and content structure is an SEO best practice, made simple thanks to WordPress.
In some other CMS platforms, you’d need to know how to use HTML code to achieve the same outcomes.
Managing Alt Text is Simple in WordPress (On-Site SEO)
Neither Google nor other search engines can actually see images on your webpages to make sense of them. Instead, the search engines rely on image alt attributes, a.k.a. alt text in WordPress, to accurately describe the contents of an image.
WordPress makes the SEO best practice of including alt attributes on all images easy. You can add alt text to images on a particular page, or add it to all your images at once using the media library interface.
WordPress Automatically Generates a Robots.txt File (Technical SEO)
Robots.txt files tell the search engines which sections of your website are off-limits. Having a robots.txt file that search engines can understand is another SEO best practice.
By default, WordPress is going to generate one (example above) that both makes search engines happy and addresses security vulnerabilities at the same time.
Some other CMSs automatically provide this; others do not.
Many WordPress Themes Are SEO-Friendly
In order for a WordPress theme to be SEO-friendly, it has to be responsive, quick loading, user-friendly, be written with great code, and make implementing SEO easy.
WordPress Themes are Responsive / Mobile Friendly (Technical SEO)
A WordPress theme is a set of files that you can download and install on your site which defines the styling and user display. By default, in order for WordPress to include a theme in its Theme Directory, the theme must be responsive (mobile-friendly).
This makes sense. Given the pervasiveness of smartphones and mobile devices, every website should be responsive or able to adjust to the screen size of any device a visitor is using.
When Google is crawling websites, it acts like a user with a mobile device, because Google knows this is how most people will view the site. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will demote your site in the rankings.
Just because a theme is mobile-friendly doesn’t mean it’s SEO-friendly. An SEO-friendly site has additional requirements.
Many WordPress Themes Offer a Great User Experience (Content & UX)
It’s critical to have a theme that speaks to your audience, compliments your content, and makes it easy for people to navigate and engage with your site.
WordPress’ custom themes allow you to easily tailor your site’s appearance to your content, your business and your brand. After all, you wouldn’t want an e-commerce site looking like a news site.
While other CMSs provide beautiful themes and templates, no other CMS has the variety of high-quality and eye-catching selections that WordPress provides.
Developed for SEO With Tidy Code (Technical SEO)
Not all themes are created equal. Some are pieced together by developers lacking theme development experience and specific SEO knowledge. Others are created by teams of expert developers who write clean code and take into account the latest in SEO best practices.
Here’s a selection of some of the best WordPress themes available today:
WordPress Page Builders Allow You to Take Control (Content & UX)
If you can’t find a theme that meets your needs and you want to design your site your way, there are a handful of great WordPress page builders.
Page builders allow you to have more control over user experience and still benefit from WordPress tools when executing your SEO strategy.
Here’s a selection of some of the best WordPress page builders available today:
Once you have a great theme and/or page builder in place, plugins will allow you to further dial in your SEO.
WordPress Plugins Extend Your SEO Capabilities
If you aren’t familiar with WordPress plugins, they are small software packages that extend the functionality of your WordPress site. There are thousands of them, many of which are purpose-built to help you improve your SEO.
With a library of plugins at your disposal, you are able to accomplish a much more diverse set of (beginner to advanced) SEO tactics.
Many other CMSs have neither plugins nor plugin equivalents, leaving you stuck with the basic CMS and its available themes/templates.
Here are some critical SEO tactics that plugins can make easier.
Connect to Google Analytics & Search Console (Technical SEO)
In the words of Peter Drucker “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
If you are serious about getting more qualified visitors to your site and keeping them on it, you need to be using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. They are two necessary tools that measure how many people are visiting your site, which keywords led them to it, and what they do after they arrive.
In order to connect your WordPress site to either tool, you either need to know how to implement a snippet of code, or you need plugins that will do it for you.
Other plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack will help you easily verify your site with Google Search Console. Take special note of these two, because they’re the most powerful multifunction SEO plugins in the entire WordPress plugin library.
WordPress Plugins Can Tell You if You’re Using Keywords Properly (On-site SEO)
If your pages aren’t built out around the right topics and keywords, they won’t rank easily in the search engines. Figuring out the right topics and keywords is a totally separate article, but effectively using those keywords on your pages is relevant here.
There are many reasons we love the Yoast SEO plugin. One of them is because its content analysis tool helps ensure you’re using your target keywords properly. As far as we know, no other CMS has a tool that will do this for you.
WordPress Plugins Allow You to Manage Your Meta Tags (On-site)
Two of the most important meta tags used in SEO are your title tag and your meta description tag. These tags tell Google how to display your pages in the organic search results.
Plugins like All in One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO allow you to customize these tags, so that your pages stand out in the search results and get better click-through rates.
WordPress Plugins Speed Up Page Load Times (Content & UX)
Google heavily weights page speed when determining rankings. Pages that take forever to load create a poor user experience and Google tends to demote them in the search engine results. Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress plugins to help you speed things up.
These plugins create HTML copies of your web pages that load much faster than the default WordPress PHP scripts. All you have to do is install and then configure this plugin to improve your page load times.
Image Compression Plugins
Images are some of the “heaviest” elements on any web page. That is, the amount of data they contain slows down the speed at which browsers can pull a page off of a server.
Properly sizing and compressing images is key if you want your pages to load quickly so that your users have a quality experience when visiting your site. Two image optimization tools we love are Short Pixel and Smush. Both can improve your site speed.
WordPress Plugins Help You Create Great Structured Data/Schema Markup (Technical SEO)
Structured data, a.k.a. Schema markup, is code applied to a webpage in a standardized format to give search engines clear information about that page. Schema provides search engines with context so they can make better sense of the content on your site.
There are all sorts of different types of Schema markup tools to help your pages appear more consistently in the search results. Whether you want your site to appear with Google’s rich results or you just want your pages to rank better, structured data can help.
Yoast SEO automatically applies basic structured data to your site on install. This is another reason we love it. WordPress also has numerous additional plugins that create specific types of schema markup. Some of our favorite plugins in this category are Schema Pro and All In One Schema Rich Snippets.
WordPress Plugins Make it Easy to Connect With Social Channels (Off-Site SEO)
Lastly, we love that WordPress plugins provide better control over the formatting of shared content on social media channels. While social media doesn’t have a direct impact on page ranking, it does have an indirect effect. That’s because social media improves brand awareness and the frequency with which people interact with your site.
As far as WordPress plugins are concerned, Yoast SEO allows you to set meta tags for both Facebook and Twitter. These allow you to customize what displays when you or others share your content on social media. This customization helps boost click-through rates and improves your brand image as a whole.
How to Implement WordPress SEO
Now that you know what makes WordPress so incredibly SEO-friendly, you need to be aware that using WordPress alone won’t get your site ranking high in the search results.
You’ll need to create a site that provides users with the exact information they’re searching for and an exceptional experience. In order to accomplish that higher-order goal, you’ll need an SEO strategy.
Three Types of SEO Strategies
There are three main ways WordPress users typically approach SEO:
Hire an SEO Agency
You can hire an SEO agency to do your SEO for you. Although this is arguably the most effective way to accomplish your SEO goals, it’s going to cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) SEO
Do-it-yourself SEO is a great option for those with lots of time on their hands. That’s because it takes an often-overwhelming investment of hours. Hours invested in taking courses, reading articles, and figuring out how to extract and make use of mountains of data generated by complex SEO tools.
This third strategy offers a completely unique approach. It combines SEO coaching, custom tools, and a proven process for you to follow step by step. It is much more efficient than the DIY approach and is far more affordable than the agency approach.
If you want to take this guided approach to SEO, please reach out to the team at Pathfinder SEO and we’ll tell you more about your options.
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