WordPress Is Not An Automatic SEO Solution
First, let me reiterate the fact that WordPress is not an SEO silver bullet. The value of WordPress for SEO is that it is simple and intuitive. The platform doesn’t require a lot of coding or difficult customization. As such, it can be easy to get up and running with great search-optimized functionality.
Another benefit of WordPress is its technical beauty. Obviously, the technical wonders of WordPress are only as good as the theme you’re using. Generally speaking, however, most themes use sound technical structure, eliminate unnecessary code and are mobile-friendly.
That being said, WordPress doesn’t automatically do SEO for you. Here are a few examples:
Out of the box, WordPress has the potential to be slow. Load time is a significant search factor. Since WordPress does not automatically provide caching, users must install their own caching functionality. Plugins like WpSuper cache and W3 total cache allow for faster site loading.
WordPress’s default permalink settings are not optimized, either. You’ll want to adjust your permalink structure in order to make your site’s URLs search-friendly. The default permalink structure — http://example.com/?p=N — is not the way to go. Instead, go for something human-readable (and therefore more search-friendly).
Warning: If you manage an existing WordPress site, you should not simply change your permalinks. This will change all your existing URLs, thus resulting in 404 errors and (almost certainly) a significant loss of traffic and rankings. If you need to change your permalink structure on an existing WordPress site, make sure you take the time to set up proper 301 redirects first.
By default, WordPress creates external links by opening them in the same window. If a user opens a link on your page, they navigate off your page and onto the new page or website. In other words, you may have just lost a reader, user or customer.
Finally, WordPress does not automatically create XML sitemaps. Creating a sitemap is an integral part of optimizing for search.
To sum up, WordPress doesn’t make your SEO happen. So what does make your SEO happen? Your theme?
No. Read on.
Your Theme Is Not Automatically SEO-Friendly
One of the best things about WordPress is the huge variety of themes to choose from. Within minutes, you can make your website look stunning — all it takes is a theme. The best part? A lot of the themes are free.
But what about SEO? A lot of themes claim to be “search optimized.” This claim is borderline false. The only way to make a website fully search optimized is to create high-quality content for your target users.
Just because a theme says it’s search optimized does not mean it is. Here are several things that you should look for in a WordPress theme:
Speed. As mentioned above, speed is a critical factor for search success. Focus on finding a quick-loading theme.
Lightweight Code. One sign of an amateur theme is bloated code. Extraneous coding or coding mistakes can slow a site down and reduce its SEO capabilities. Find a trusted theme with streamlined code, even if you have to pay for such a theme.
HTML5. Most new themes are developed in HTML5, which is best for SEO. Some themes feature multiple H1 tags on a page, which I do not recommend.
Responsive. With Google’s mobile algorithm, it’s essential that your site be mobile-optimized. A good theme will have built-in responsive capabilities.
Schema Markup. Considering the growing importance of Schema.org data, it’s best to use a theme that supports schema input.
Many WordPress experts and SEO professionals prefer StudioPress’s Genesis Framework, because it features optimal SEO performance and functionality.