People always say “the first few X are the hardest.” The first few weeks of a habit…losing that first few pounds…the first few weeks of a new job. The same idea is true for blogging.
Getting your first WordPress website off the ground and running smoothly can seem like a difficult task at the start. You have no content, zero incoming traffic, and search engines don’t even realize you exist (yet). Unless you are paying a content creator or buying traffic to speed up your website creation and traction, starting a WordPress website is a lengthy and time consuming process.
Whether you are a novice or experienced WordPress content creator, blogger, or webmaster, optimizing your website with the latest plugins and practices can go a long way in helping to grow your traffic and online presence. If you are wondering how to get your blog noticed, or for a quick and easy WordPress tutorial for beginners, this guide will be your best friend.
What this WordPress Optimization Guide will Cover:
- The importance of content creation for SEO and generating web traffic.
- The best SEO-based WordPress plugins you must have.
- Indexing your WordPress website with search engines.
- Optimization/blogging practices you can skip out on at the very start.
What this WordPress Optimization Guide WON’T Cover:
- How to set-up your website (check out my post on how to start a successful blog or this excellent guide how to make a business website in 5 simple steps for this kind of info).
- Specific copy-writing SEO practices (guide coming later, but there are plenty of online resources already available).
In other words, this is a WordPress optimization guide for webmasters who already know how to create a website but are looking to get their website running and gaining traffic as soon as possible. It is not a guide that will cover WordPress installation or setup. I’ve covered WordPress hosting options in my SiteGround web hosting review, and I plan on writing later guides on specific SEO strategies that can be used in content creation. This guide will primarily focus on how you can get your blog or website noticed.
Let’s get started!
Why Content Creation is Your Lifeline:
Before we talk optimization or plugins, I want to touch on the importance of content creation and why content creation essentially becomes your part-time job for a few months after you first launch a website.
Google displays web pages based on their relevancy and authority, and overall quality is essentially the most critical ranking factor that you should care about when it comes to content creation. In other words, if you want your web pages to appear highly in search engine rankings, you need to work towards creating high quality content that is relevant to readers and is also authoritative.
Relevancy and content quality is what you, the content creator, can control at the start. Content relevancy is determined by several factors, such as keyword usage and density.
Web page authority is determined by the number of links that direct to your page, as well as how trustworthy/relevant these referring web pages are themselves. If dozens of other blogs reference your content as a valuable resource for their readers, that will help your overall authority with Google.
Considering both of these ranking factors, the importance of creating high quality content should be apparent. If you don’t have content, you can be relevant to readers, and other websites or bloggers won’t have anything to link to!
If you doubt the power of content creation, consider the following 2 success stories.
Buffer, a social media post scheduling tool, used guest posting during its infancy to grown from 0 to 100,000 customers. Leo Widrich, co-founder of the Buffer App, wrote over 150 guest posts in a 9 month period and used the power of blogging and relationship building through guest posting to propel traffic to the Buffer website.
Or check out this case study of a brand new website that generated more than 17,000 visitors in a single day, simply by taking existing topics/articles in their industry and expanding upon them with new content.
Long story short, content creation is king. Whether you plan on guest posting or blogging, you need to add meat to the bones of your website in order to truly see any progress in terms of traffic.
That being said, here are some tips for how you can approach content creation to get your WordPress blog noticed:
- Create a schedule that forces you to blog frequently: I wake up an hour before school/work each day and churn out at least 500-1,000 words. Accept that when starting a new website, you will have to put in the time to stimulate growth.
- Use the skyscraper technique: As mentioned in the growth hack case study from above, improving upon existing content in your industry can be an excellent way to provide quality content. Find what other successful blogs have done, and then be better. What are the gaps in their content? What stones have been left unturned? Provide additional value to readers to make your blog more relevant and worth reading.
- Blog/create with SEO in mind: Your knowledge of SEO, Google’s ranking algorithm, and the end-goal of creating relevant, high quality content should be in the back of your mind while you create and promote content.
I won’t cover specific SEO copy-writing strategies in this post, but I highly recommend reading this SEO copy-writing guide from Neil Patel for starters.
The Best SEO WordPress Plugins you Must Have:
If you’re churning out high quality content that is relative to your readers, it is time to start optimizing your posts and website. The following list of SEO-based WordPress plugins can assist you with copy-writing, analytics, and your overall search engine rankings.
Yoast SEO is the number 1 SEO-based WordPress plugin, and has more than 5+ million active installations. This popularity and widespread adoption of the plugin is not surprising considering just how powerful Yoast SEO is.
Yoast SEO has a host of useful features, my favorite being their page analysis tool. As you write content, Yoast can provide tips to improve your keyword density, titles, images, and article length.
The plugin also makes it easy to edit your article’s meta description, title, and slug. Tracking your usage of outbound and internal linking is also something that Yoast includes.
Other great features of SEO Yoast include:
- XML sitemap functionality: With Yoast, you can quickly have your WordPress website indexed on popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- Snippet preview: You can easily see how your article would appear in search results.
- Site structure organization: Set cornerstone content with Yoast and use the plugin’s internal linking features to map your content with ease.
If there is one plugin you decide to install after reading this guide, make sure it’s Yoast SEO.
Tracking your website traffic is great, but the data is only useful if you know how to interpret it. Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful analytics tool, and Google Analytics by MonsterInsights is the easiest way to implement Google Analytics with your WordPress website. There’s a reason this plugin has over 1 million active installations.
MonsterInsights makes it easy for webmasters to view their website traffic and critical stats that can be used for optimization. Some key features of MonsterInsights include:
- Real time traffic stats: Easily view traffic stats in the analytics dashboard.
- Link tracking: View how specific links perform and track outbound link clicks.
- File download tracking: Monitor how many times specific files have been downloaded (this is great for those selling e-books or other files).
- Referral tracking: Understand how visitors reach your website.
- Demographics and interest reports: Learn more about your audience and readership.
Knowledge is power, so be sure to download Google Analytics by MonsterInsights to enhance your WordPress optimization practices.
While images are sometimes left as an after thought when it comes to SEO, they truly shouldn’t be. Google Images, just like Google Search, can help drive traffic to your website.
According to Moz and Jumpshot, a third of all searches performed on Google are for images. This is frankly shocking, but also highlights the fact that Google Images are a potentially great source of traffic and shouldn’t be forgotten.
That’s where the SEO-Optimized Images plugin can come in handy.
This plugin makes it easy to insert alt and title attributes that are SEO friendly. This plugin might seem like a minor addition, but it can certainly enhance your image SEO game and help your blog gain traffic through Google Images.
The longer your WordPress blog is running, the more likely it is that you will encounter broken links on your website at some point. Outbound linking is great, but over time, some of your outbound links that once redirected users to useful, informative content might break.
Broken links are bad news for your both your users and SEO, which is why it is in your best interest to remove them in a timely manner.
If you have a small website, you can use the Chrome extension Check My Links to manually search for broken links. If you have more content, I’d suggest using the WordPress plugin Broken Link Checker.
Broken Link Checker’s main features include:
- Broken link monitoring: You can be notified of broken links via email or the broken link checker dashboard.
- Prohibit search engines from following broken links: Keep Google bots away!
- Manually edit broken links from the plugin page: Fix broken links quickly rather than searching post-by-post.
- Give broken links a different appearance: Make sure your readers know a link is broken to improve their experience.
WordPress Plugins that Improve Webpage Speed:
While the remaining plugins in this list are not directly SEO-based, page speed and SEO are certainly related concepts. If users are frustrated by slow page load times or a sluggish site, not only will they most likely not return to your website, but you may suffer in your search engine rankings.
Google is even planning a speed update to their algorithm this July, and will punish websites that deliver a slow experience for mobile users.
Google has been somewhat unclear to the specific elements of page speed that impact search ranking, but in the grand scheme of things, it is safe to assume that page speed has an influence on your page ranking.
Even if page speed had nothing to do with your ranking, you should still aim to have a fast, smooth website in any case simply for the sake of user experience.
Now, onto the plugins!
WP Super Cache is perhaps my favorite WordPress plugin, which is saying quite a lot. Essentially, WP Super Cache creates static html files from your WordPress blog, and your webserver serves this file to users rather than processing more intensive WordPress PHP scripts. Users who have not left a comment, who are not logged in, or who have not viewed password protected files will be served this html file.
The result is that about 99% of your traffic ends up being served these more efficient html files.
Considering just how easy it is to install this plugin, you can truly improve the user experience for almost your entire readership without much work. Not bad!
WP Smush (or other Image Optimization Plugins):
The main purpose of WP Smush or other image optimization plugins is to reduce the file size of uploaded images and increase overall page load speed. Most of these plugins are fairly straight forward and easy to install, and I personally use WP Smush.
WP smush automatically reduces the file size of any image you upload to your WordPress site. It also has a bulk smush feature that compresses up to 50 older uploaded images at a time.
Another popular image compression plugin for WordPress is Imsanity. Unlike WP Smush, Imsanity allows users to set a maximum size for images which can be useful if you typically upload large, high-res files that can have an impact on your page load speed.
Ultimately, most of these plugins are fairly similar and user preference should guide your decision.
SEO Practices you Should Skip at the Start:
While optimizing your content and website can be a critical component of growing traffic to your WordPress website, it can also be incredibly easy to get carried away or make mistakes along the way.
Remember, creating high quality, relevant content is what matters most at the end of the day. You can spend hours agonizing over page load speed or SEO WordPress plugins, but if you aren’t providing value to readers you aren’t accomplishing anything.
Additionally, you should also think of your WordPress website like a business. You only have so many hours in a day, and the time you put into your website is an investment. Spend your time doing the things that matter most, and leave the rest.
That being said, here are some quick WordPress practices that you should skip at the start:
Spending all of your time promoting on social media: Unless you already have an established social media presence, growing a following on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram takes time and effort to do correctly. If you don’t have valuable content or a particular service to offer, don’t waste all your time promoting a barren website. Create content first, and then promote it.
Adding Google Adsense or other ad programs at the wrong time (or the wrong way): Remember how page load speed and user experience are important? If you decide fill every available inch of your webpages with advertisements, don’t be surprised if you lose conversions and overall readership. This article from smartblogger covers 13 reasons why blog ads suck for monitizing your website quite nicely. Ads can be great sources of income for your blog, but make sure you understand the risks and how to implement ads correctly.
Aggressively trying to backlink before you are ready: A backlink, or inbound link, is a link that points to another website. Backlinks are important for SEO as they can help establish the authority of a website, thus benefiting that website`s search rankings. You can guest post to do this quite nicely, promote your content on other platforms you run, and so forth. However, if you aggressively establish backlinks before your website has a decent amount of high quality content, you`re neglecting the importance of content creation and jumping the gun.
Conducting keyword or niche research until the cows come home: I know that keyword research is an important aspect of writing SEO friendly content, but it isn`t everything. If keyword and niche research takes so long that you never actually sit down and write content, you have a problem.
When you first start a website, growing traffic or even getting noticed might seem like a daunting task. However, the first few weeks or months of doing anything new and challenging are the hardest, and blogging does get easier with time.
If you are looking to get your blog noticed and grow an online presence, stick to the fundamentals. Create high quality, relevant content, and use some of the best WordPress SEO plugins available to make sure your WordPress site is user friendly and firing on all cylinders.
If you stick to what works, traffic will come. Just be patient and enjoy the process of optimizing your WordPress website!
Tom is a 23 year old recent college graduate from Canada with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and marketing. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
If you’re interested in freelance writing services or want to partner with This Online World, please visit Tom Blake Digital to get in touch!