Initial WordPress Site Setup and Optimization
Welcome! After years of SEO experience and setting up hundreds (maybe even over 1,000 by now?!) of WordPress sites, I wanted to create a simple tutorial. One that would be a great guide for those setting up a site for the first time or as a resource for intermediates. After the initial draft of this post that included my full wordpress tutorial, I found a tutorial on WPBeginners that is both comprehensive and easy to understand. The team at WPBeginners actually created exactly what I set out to create for the first portion of this post. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I've included a link to their user friendly tutorial - check out their Guide To WordPress.
They cover WordPress really well and give you some great resources on hosting, but there are some other things to consider when getting started with your site.
While WPBeginners offers some great hosting options, it's important to remember that their site runs on affiliate links. This mean that they are paid a portion of every referral they bring. They offer great options like iPage for $1.99/mo, so it's really not a problem but I do want to add that there is a great tutorial on figuring out which kind of hosting service you need here with additional hosting provider options.
Getting Started With Content
For those that have never had their own site before, the WordPress admin screen can seem a little daunting. Now you're supposed to do keyword research, insert posts and pages, keep seo-friendly urls, create sitemap, upload images, find a theme and a host of other things just to make it look like a typical site. My advice is to display a coming soon page so you can familiarize yourself with WordPress. This is done by installing a plugin first. You can learn how to install plugins at WPBeginners and if you want an easy plugin to use that should work with any WordPress site then try this one. Once you have that activated, you can start writing and posting. You'll be able to preview what the site will look like and get comfortable.
Optimizing For Speed
Once you feel good about your site and you're ready to rock, you should test how quickly your site loads. To test this manually, open your site in an incognito or private window (so the cache isn't saved) and load your site. Open a couple of your competitors sites in separate tabs to see how long their sites take to load for a baseline. If you are faster than them, you should be ok. If slower, then it's time to optimize the speed of your site.
To make your site load faster, there are three quick fixes to get started and a more in depth manual at WPEngine.com. Before you start thinking about a new server, try first to delete any extra media files you aren't using, reduce the size of your images manually and download the plugin Smush to optimize further. The images are usually the biggest offenders, as most using wordpress host videos on youtube or vimeo. The key is to reduce image file sizes as much as you can, then use Smush to automatically reduce them a little further without losing quality.
Optimizing For Google
Once you have your site up and speed optimized, it's time to get serious about your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Everyone's SEO strategy is just a little different based on industry, goals, how the site will be used, keyword difficulty, and many other factors. In the beginning, it's good to have one keyword or keyword phrase that you want to rank for.
You can use the Google Keyword Planner to make sure your keyword gets some volume and isn't too competitive. If you're a mechanic in Akron, your initial keyword might be "auto repair akron" or if you're a blogging about cats it may be something like "best cat blogs." You don't want to go to broad like "mechanic" or "cats" because these are far too competitive, and you don't want to go too specific because keywords like "cat blog about black cats with white spots" don't have any traffic. Use the tool to find keywords related to your business that receive some monthly traffic and are "Low" in competition.
Next Level SEO
So, you're site is up and you want to start ranking for keywords. A great place to start is using my free audit tool to get a site score. You'll type in your url and the primary keyword you'd like to rank for. They you'll be emailed a detailed report with ideas on what to do next. Don't feel bad if you get a bad score, it's actually a good thing. It means that with some tweaks may have a large impact on your site. The off-site SEO and long term-SEO strategy is a topic for another day, but this should have you up and running!