Home page/CMS/How to customize and optimize WordPress for SEO?

There are different types of CMS: Shopify, Prestashop, WordPress, Drupal... Choose the one that best suits your needs.

Contents

What is WordPress?

WordPress is the most widely used Content Management System (CMS) in the world. About 30% of all websites and blogs are managed by WordPress. Some very large sites, such as the White House and Microsoft, use WordPress!

On a more technical level, WordPress is an open-source CMS, which means that anyone can use it and modify it freely. Its basic version allows you to manage the content of your site easily, without needing any coding knowledge. People with some knowledge of software development can even consider modifying the basic structure to adapt the CMS and their front-end to their business needs .

wordpress-seo

Who created WordPress?

WordPress was created as a standalone project in 2003. It grew out of an earlier project called b2/cafelog. Originally, WordPress was a collaboration between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, but since then, Matt Mullenweg has become the sole face of WordPress. He is also the founder of Automattic, which is the company behind the for-profit service WordPress.com.

What is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

WordPress.org, often referred to as self-hosted WordPress, is the free, open-source WordPress software that you can install on your own web host to create a website that is 100% yours. WordPress.com is a for-profit paid service that works with the WordPress.org software. It's simple to use, but you lose much of the flexibility of self-hosted WordPress.

What types of websites can be created on WordPress?

For a long time, WordPress was a tool for creating blogs. Little by little, the platform has been able to develop and perfect itself to be able to administer showcase sites and even e-commerce sites withh Woocommerce. WordPress is also particularly appreciated for putting portfolios, resumes and even forums online. Many plugins and themes are available today to meet the needs of any site creator.

Why use WordPress?

No matter what type of website you want to create, there are many reasons to use WordPress.

WordPress is free and Open Source

The biggest advantage of WordPress is without a doubt that it is free. Sure, you'll have to pay for your hosting every year, but you won't have to pay for WordPress, unlike other CMS like Squarespace. You can also find many free, open-source plugins and themes to change the look and feel of your website and add functionality.

WordPress is easy to modify and easy to install

Even if you don't have any development knowledge, you can easily customize your site with WordPress' huge ecosystem of themes and plugins. They allow you to create just about any type of website that will evolve with your needs and changing technologies.

WordPress has a great support community

WordPress owes its popularity to its huge support community. It's very easy to find help if you ever run into problems. Blogs, video tutorials, forums, Facebook groups...you can always find help for free.

How do you adjust your WordPress settings?

Once you have installed WordPress on your site, you will be presented with a page asking for your login URL and password. You can login to your WordPress site using the administrator username and password you entered earlier.

Next comes the step of choosing a design for your site.

Selecting a Theme

The appearance of your WordPress site is controlled by a theme. By default, every WordPress site comes with a basic theme, which is not the most attractive and, most importantly, does not match your identity or brand image. Fortunately, you can change your theme from the WordPress admin dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add New.

wordpress-seo-select-theme

This gives you access to the 4500 free themes available in the official WordPress.org directory. You can refine the results based on their popularity, new features, and functionality.

Once your theme is installed, you can customize it in Appearance > Theme > Customize. On this screen, you will be able to change your theme settings with a live preview of your website.

Managing Content Publishing

WordPress comes with two types of content: posts and pages. Posts appear in chronological order while pages are static content, such as legal pages, contact pages, etc. By default, WordPress displays posts on the home page. This system is not really SEO friendly and not always adapted to the advertiser’s or blogger’s needs. Fortunately, it is possible to change this by displaying a static page on your homepage, which you can decorate as you wish.

To set up a static homepage, go to the Settings > Reading page in your WordPress admin area. Under the "View Home Page" option, click on "Static Home Page" and then select the page you want to view.
WordPress will now use the page labeled 'Home' as your site's home page and the 'Blog' page to display posts in chronological order.

wordpress-seo-page-home

WordPress also comes with a system that allows your readers to leave comments. This is a great feature for SEO and for users, but it's also a target for spammers. You can prevent this by enabling moderation on your site in Settings > Discussions. Scroll down and check the box 'Comment must be approved manually'.

To avoid wasting too much time with the moderation of your comments, you can use the Akismet plugin. This is an anti-spam plugin that checks all comments and filters out spammy comments. The plugin provides a status history for each comment and allows you to quickly find suspicious (spam) links in comments.

Create navigation menus

Menus allow your users to navigate your site. In its basic version, WordPress comes with a very powerful menu generation and management system.

To add a menu, go to Appearances > Menu, then enter a name for your menu (for example, "top menu"). This one is now saved, but still empty.
You must select the pages you want to display in your menu, then click on the Add to menu button. You can change the organization of the pages in the menu by moving them directly in the tree structure. If you want a page to become the “daughter” of another one, you just have to nest it just below. Once your menu is completed, you must indicate its location. Basically, it will appear at the top, but you can decide to place it on the side.

wordpress-seo-menu

Enhancing WordPress with Plugins

Your menu and homepage are now up and running. Before you start publishing your content, it's a good idea to take stock of the plugins you'll need to optimize it.WordPress plugins are like applications for your WordPress site. They allow you to add functionalities to your site.

There are over 49,000 free plugins available in the WordPress library today. There are also paid plugins designed by independent developers. You may be wondering how to find your way through dozens of plugins. Don't worry, we'll tell you about the most interesting and useful plugins that are suitable for many types of sites.

The basic plugins

  • WPForms Lite to add a contact form.
  • Envira Gallery Lite: allows beautiful image galleries. Images are nowadays very important for organic search. However they are not always well optimized. Make sure that your images imported in the gallery are sufficiently compressed and have their ALT attribute which allows Google to "read" the image.
  • MonsterInsights : allows you to connect your website to Google Analytics to analyze the traffic and the different traffic sources. It is an indispensable tool to help you make decisions based on concrete data:
    • The audience report gives you a detailed overview of where your visitors are coming from, what they are most interested in, what device they are using, their age etc.
    • The behavior report shows you exactly how people find your website, what keywords they searched for, who the top referral sites are.
    • The content report shows you the exact statistics on which content is getting the most visits.
    • The e-commerce report gives you an accurate view of the number of conversions, the conversion rate, the average order value etc.

The Search Console report shows you the top ranked pages and associated keywords.
Custom dimensions show you useful statistics such as your most popular posts, most popular categories etc.

Website optimization

Yoast SEO: an essential plugin to improve your SEO

The Yoast team takes a holistic view of SEO. For this reason, their plugin is very comprehensive and offers a multitude of customization options. If you have a project to create a site or implement an SEO strategy, then you need your site to be fully optimized. Yoast SEO is an excellent plugin that will help you achieve this in the shortest possible time (and with the least amount of technical knowledge).

Among its most important features:

  • Ability to generate an XML sitemap
  • Access to your .htaccess and robots.txt files
  • Import parameters and data from other SEO plugins
  • Modification of title and metadata parameters according to the content and the page
  • Preview of Google search display
  • Ability to index or not index certain categories of the site
  • Checking and linking to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Assistance with keyword optimization

These features are available in the free version. The Premium version offers even more features. For example, it allows you to get advice from a dedicated support team or to access an integrated redirection manager.

WP Super Cache: improve the speed of your website by serving cached pages

Performance is nowadays an important ranking criterion, so you need to make sure that your pages load quickly.

To enable caching, download the plugin and then go to Settings WP Super Cache ". Enable caching and click on the Update button. After enabling the cache, click on the "Test" button to check if it works.

There is also an advanced configuration that can further improve your performance. To configure WP Super Cache with advanced options, go to Settings " WP Super Cache" and click on the "Advanced" tab.

First check the box that indicates that the cache accesses this website for fast access. By default, WP Super Cache uses PHP to serve the cache files. But this system may require a lot of resources, especially if you don't have dedicated hosting. It is recommended to try using mod_rewrite to serve the cache files.

Since the advanced configuration of WP Super Cache is rather complex, we invite you to consult this complete guide.

Security

UpdraftPlus to create automatic scheduled backups of your website

All websites on the Internet are vulnerable to hackers and data loss. As a website owner, here are some common scenarios where you may lose your data:

  • Hacking / spamming
  • Loss of your data by the hosting company. Even though this is a rarer case (as long as you pay well!), you should keep in mind that your hosting company reserves the right to terminate your account and delete all your data. So it's better not to put all your eggs in the same basket.

The best way to protect yourself against these threats is to make regular backups of your site. WordPress does not provide a backup solution, so you should use a plugin like UpdraftPlus, which will back up and help you restore your data in case of a problem.

You can find more information about installing and configuring UpdraftPlus here.

Sucuri - Website security audit and malware analysis

Sucuri Inc. is globally recognized for all matters related to website security, with a specialization in WordPress security. This plugin is free for all WordPress users. It will complement your existing security setup:

  • Audit of security activities
  • File integrity monitoring
  • Remote malware scanning
  • Blacklist monitoring
  • Effective security tightening
  • Post-hack security measures
  • Security notifications
  • Website firewall (premium)

Conclusion

WordPress is a powerful and very flexible platform that allows you to put almost any type of site, big or small online. It is attractive thanks to its intuitive and customizable interface. If its basic open-source version has some flaws in terms of security and content management, the huge choice of plugins makes it possible to remedy them easily and often for free.

The widespread use of WordPress has created a huge user base in which there is an abundance of specialized WordPress developers eager to showcase their talents by creating all sorts of different themes and plugins. In addition, the WordPress community is quite welcoming and very active, in 50 different languages. This is a reflection of the interest in this ubiquitous CMS on the web.

   Article written by Louis Chevant