How to Do On-Page SEO in WordPress

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August 07,2014 by
Russ Henneberry

Ok ya’ll… this is going to be fun.
I’m going to SEO this blog post in WordPress as I write it for you.  How meta is that?

There are 5 on-page SEO factors you need to consider while creating blog posts or pages on your website.  While I will be walking you through the process in WordPress you can SEO these elements in any Content Management System (CMS) or shopping cart solution that is worth a darn.

In fact, if you can’t alter even one of these 5 elements in your CMS or shopping cart — start planning a move to something else (like WordPress).

First, let’s make sure you have the right tools for this job…

Which SEO Plug-in for WordPress?

The clear decision here is the Yoast SEO plug-in for WordPress.  Anything less is uncivilized.  :)

This plug-in will not only allow you to edit the 5 on-page SEO factors we’ll discuss later in this post but it will also give you the ability to…

  • Create a sitemap
  • Verify Google Webmaster Tools
  • Create breadcrumb navigation
  • Edit your robots.txt file
  • NO-INDEX pages
  • and a ton more

Here’s a look at all the options available in the Yoast WordPress plug-in…

Yoast SEO Plug-In

If you’re stuck with some other plug-in like All-In-One SEO or Headspace II you can port your information over easily using the SEO Data Transporter function in the IMPORT/EXPORT section of Yoast SEO…

SEO Data Transporter

Ok, now that you have the right tool… let’s do some on-page SEO.

5 On-Page SEO Factors in WordPress

Ok… let’s get busy applying SEO to your WordPress post or page.

The keyword I’m optimizing this post for is ‘on page seo’.  I told you this was going to be meta.  Why don’t you believe me?

1) Optimize the Slug

The first thing I do when I create my new post is alter the file name or, as WordPress calls it, the slug.  Applying the keyword to the slug has surprising SEO impact.

Here’s where you’ll find your slug…

On-Page SEO - The Slug

DANGER:  This is the one on-page SEO factor that you should be very careful with.  DO NOT make changes to the slugs of existing pages or posts on your website without doing a 301 redirect from the old page to the new page.  Google, and your users, do not like finding 404 Error pages where pages used to exist.  The 301 redirect will permanently redirect anyone visiting a URL to a new URL.  You can use a plug-in like Simple 301 Redirects to make things easy.

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2) Optimize the Body Text

Wherever it is natural include the target keyword in the body copy of the page or post.

Don’t force it.  And, thanks to the Google Hummingbird algorithm update, feel free to use variations of the keyword by incorporating synonyms and changing the order in which the keyword exists.

Whatever you do don’t be this guy…


Always err on the side of user experience and not SEO.  It’s just not worth it in the end to rank well for a keyword only to have your users flee your website in horror when they read your copy.

Instead, work the keywords in there where they naturally fit.

Optimize the Body Copy

And, if you can’t easily work the keyword into the copy — you might want to reconsider the keyword you’ve chosen.

3) Optimize the Images

The biggie here is the ALT attribute in the image metadata.  You want to ensure that you put a description of the image in the ALT attribute and do so for each image on the page.

Use the target keyword in the featured or primary image on the page.

But the ALT attribute is another place where people go SEO overboard.  Don’t stuff keywords into your images.  Use the ALT attribute to accurately describe what the image is about.  In the evolving “semantic search” (Google’s algorithm attempts to understand the meanings of words and phrases through the context that surrounds them) this will become more important.

Also, name the file with an accurate description of the image as well…

On Page SEO - The Image

Ok… now it’s time for the grand daddy of all on-page SEO elements…

4) Optimize the Title Tag

The title tag is not only an important SEO element but is also an important User Experience (UX) element.

The title tag is the most prominently displayed text on the Google search results page.

Title Tag in Google Search Results

As a result, the title tag will be more effective if it reads properly to a user.

As a rule, the earlier the target keyword appears in the title tag the more impact it will have on your SEO. But don’t stress about it — just be sure to include the keyword in the title tag.  If you can include it early in the tag, do it.

You’ll edit your title tag in the Yoast SEO plug-in.  And, as a bonus, the Yoast SEO plug-in allows you to view how your title tag will appear in the Google search results from within the EDIT POST screen using something called a “Snippet Preview.”

On Page SEO - Title Tag

Ok, on to the last on-page element in WordPress…

5) Optimize the Meta Description

Ok, so the meta description is not actually an SEO element.  Optimizing it will not improve your rankings but it’s still important for a number of user experience and conversion reasons.

First, the meta description often appears prominently in the Google search results page…

Meta Description in Google Search Results

This meta description WILL BE READ by most of the people that are choosing which search result to click on.  So… it’s an SEO element.

On top of that, the meta description is often “pulled” by social sharing plug-ins as the descriptive text placed on sites like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  You’ll get more clicks from social media if you’re meta description is optimized.

Here’s how a blog post we published appears on Facebook…

Meta Description on Facebook

Once again, you’ll optimize the meta description using the Yoast SEO plug-in in the EDIT POST screen.  And, as with the title tag, you’ll see what the meta description will look like in the “Snippet Preview”…

On Page SEO - The Meta Description

That’s it — easy peasy.

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Digital Marketer Lab Member Extra

Access your ‘How to SEO a WordPress Website’ Execution Plan in Digital Marketer Lab.  Take the 11-Point SEO Health Check, make an SEO plan and implement it on your WordPress website.

Click here to access your Execution Plan

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About Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

View all Posts by Russ Henneberry