Rumors of Search Engine Optimization’s (SEO) demise have long been exaggerated. Despite what you may have heard, any company that cares about getting found online still needs SEO in 2024.

Still, with an abundance of factors to consider – many of which change as the nature of the web continues to evolve – it’s not always clear exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and not doing to boost your search visibility and generate more traffic.

In this guide, the team behind UnlimitedWP’s WordPress SEO service set the record straight.

Below, you’ll learn about the key changes impacting SEO in 2024, along with a detailed breakdown of how you can stay on top of them.

How Has SEO Changed in 2024?

Over the course of 2023, two major factors affected the way website owners need to approach Search Engine Optimization for WordPress throughout this year and into the future.

One you’ve undoubtedly heard of, one may have slipped under your radar. We’ll tackle the latter first since it’s more important.

1. Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google is the biggest search engine in the world, boasting a market share of more than 90% and generating 8.5+ billion searches every single day.

So, if you want to drive organic traffic to your website, the best way is to follow Google’s recommendations and guidelines. 

That’s especially true when it comes to Google’s insistence that websites have to deliver optimum user experiences.

The company already ensures fast, mobile-friendly websites perform better in search results than sites with poor page load speeds or a lack of mobile-responsive design.

In September 2023, Google further forced website owners to focus on their users first by introducing its new Helpful Content Update.

In a nutshell, the guidelines prompt site owners to provide valuable, helpful, and, above all, accurate content that strongly demonstrates the key principles of Google E-E-A-T:

E – Experience 

E – Expertise

A – Authority

T – Trust.

Throughout this guide, we’ll draw on the experience we’ve gained from running a successful WordPress SEO agency to outline how you can naturally incorporate all of these elements into your website. 

It’s worth paying attention to, not just because failing to deliver what Google calls “helpful, reliable, people-first content” can cause your search visibility and organic traffic to plummet, but also because providing that content will give your users a better experience. As we all know, better user experiences lead to increased trust, repeat visits, and higher conversions. 

2. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’re no doubt aware that we’re living at the Dawn of the Artificial Intelligence Revolution.

From generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Gemini to other types of AI used for automation and customer interactions, AI is here to stay for better or worse.

Despite what you may have heard, Google doesn’t automatically penalize websites for using AI-generated content. What it will penalize you for is low-quality content. As it happens, that’s precisely what a lot of AI’s written output happens to be.

The truth is that a blog post spewed out by ChatGPT will always be inferior to a well-thought-out post crafted by a human being unless there’s some serious human editing and fact-checking involved.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use these tools to help with planning and outlining your content. We’ve even found some top WordPress AI tools that can make building and managing your site easier.

This simply means that posting an AI article verbatim without input from you is unlikely to produce positive results.

SEO Optimization for WordPress: What You Need to Know in 2024

Now that we’ve discussed the changing nature of SEO, it’s time to look at what you need to do to stay ahead of the game and ensure your site is fully optimized for success.

To make things easier, we’ll break this down into the three major aspects of Search Engine Optimization.

1. Technical SEO

For the uninitiated, technical SEO refers to all of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of your website that affect the way that both search crawlers and end-users access and use your site. 

While some beginners may be put off by the word “technical,” overlooking this vitally important aspect can have a significantly detrimental impact on your site. 

After all, there’s little point in spending lots of time and resources to create an amazing content if visitors can’t view it properly or especially if search crawlers have difficulty indexing it in the first place. 

Technical SEO contains multiple components. When we provide our WordPress SEO service to our clients, we focus on ensuring the following four factors are fully optimized. 

A. Page Speed 

We can’t emphasize the importance of fast-loading pages enough. 

Google itself notes that the probability of a visitor bouncing increases by 32% as the page load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds, while further research shows that 53% of visitors abandon a mobile site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load

As you look to improve your SEO in 2024, your first task should be to test your current page speed before looking for ways to improve it.

You can use tools like Pingdom, GTmetrix, and the free Google PageSpeed Insights to examine your current page speeds. These tools not only provide a detailed breakdown of your page load speeds but also an overall score, which gives you some insight into how your load times compare to the industry average. 

Most page speed testing tools will also provide you with a list of recommendations for improving your score. 

This typically involves tasks such as: 

  • Enabling caching to serve static content faster
  • Optimizing images by reducing their file size and saving in the .WEBP format
  • Minifying your HTML, CSS, and Javascript code
  • Reducing HTTP requests – The more requests that are needed to load a page, the slower it loads
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to serve content quicker to users in different locations. 

You can find more detailed recommendations in our guide to speeding up your WordPress site.

B. Core Web Vitals 

Although some consider page speed and Core Web Vitals to be the same, that isn’t actually the case. While the former is a broad term that covers all aspects affecting the load time of your entire page, Core Web Vitals are a specific set of three metrics used to measure real-world user experience:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – The time it takes for the largest content element to load on the page.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – The time it takes for a user to interact with the website after it loads.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – How much the layout of the page shifts visually while loading.

These metrics were originally set by Google, which strongly recommends that website owners strive for strong vitals to improve both, SEO results and user experience. 

You can see how you’re currently performing in this area using Google Search Console. Go to Page Experience – Core Web Vitals, and you’ll find a chart depicting how many of your site’s URLs are good, how many are poor, and how many need improvement. 

Scroll down, and Search Console will even tell you why URLs are poor or need improvement, along with suggestions on how to fix them. 

To help you get started with those fixes, our WordPress SEO agency put together these seven tips for improving core web vitals.

C. Mobile-Friendliness

With  60.89% of all Internet traffic coming from mobile devices in Q1 of 2023, having a website that doesn’t work properly on different devices is no longer an option. 

That’s why most SEO services for WordPress focus first and foremost on ensuring websites have a mobile-friendly design. 

Ideally, you’ll have conducted a thorough mobile responsiveness test during your website’s initial design and development. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing again. 

The easiest way is to simply load your site on as many different physical devices as you can. This includes smartphones, desktops, laptops, and tablets. On mobile devices, be sure to test in both landscape and portrait mode, and don’t forget to run your site on different browsers, as what may look perfectly fine on Chrome may throw up some usability problems when viewed on Safari. 

As you go through this test, ask the following questions: 

  • Does the overall layout adjust well to different screen sizes without overlapping or unusable elements?
  • Is the text large enough to be read comfortably without users needing to zoom in?
  • Do images adjust to different screen sizes and appear properly?
  • Are interactive elements such as buttons and links large enough and spaced far enough apart that they can easily be tapped on touchscreen devices?
  • Are navigation menus functional, accessible, and clearly labeled?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions, you’ve got some work ahead of you. 

D. Security 

Search engines prioritize user safety and experience, which means you should be doing likewise if you want your SEO efforts to pay off in 2024. 

Besides, an insecure website will hardly endear you to your customers, many of whom will leave if your website’s blatant lack of security features leaves them feeling as if they can no longer trust you. 

As you work on optimizing WordPress for SEO, be sure to check that: 

  • You have an SSL to ensure data sent between your site and your user’s browser is fully encrypted.
  • You have an effective WordPress security plugin installed to scan for malware.
  • Your themes and plugins are up-to-date. Older plugins that are no longer updated leave vulnerabilities that can eventually be exploited by malicious actors. 

2. On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is what most people typically think about when they first think of Search Engine Optimization. It’s a term that refers to the way your content (including text, images, videos, and other media) are presented to users. 

Your top priorities here include 

A. Keywords 

It used to be the case that simply picking a keyword and cramming it into a page as many times as possible was enough to earn you some prime real estate on Google’s search results. 

If you’re still deploying that strategy, stop immediately. 

This is known as keyword stuffing, and it is likely to result in Google taking manual action against your site, which can have a devastating impact on your search visibility. 

Instead, use tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to carefully select one or two highly relevant keywords, and incorporate them into your content in a way that flows naturally and reads well. 

As a general rule, our WordPress SEO specialists focus on using one primary keyword per article, added in the following key places: 

  • At the start of the page, the title and H1 tag
  • Within your meta description 
  • Within the first 100 words of the post
  • Within the first and last H2s
  • Within the first 100 words of the summary or conclusion. 

Beyond that, you’ll benefit from using secondary keywords and keyword variations related to your primary keyword. This strengthens your overall content without making it sound too repetitive. The two SEO tools listed above can help you pick the best-supporting keywords.

B. Page Structure 

Once you start creating your content, it’s important to adhere to best practices for structuring your content. 

This means separating your content into sections, with one key subject or talking point per section. Each main section should be labeled with an H2 tag, after which you can break down larger sections into smaller sub-sections using the H3 – H6 tags.

Structuring your content this way makes it easier to read and improves usability by allowing users to quickly find the precise piece of information they need from your site. 

C. Title and Metadata Optimization 

Page titles and meta descriptions help both users and search crawlers understand what your content is about. 

For search crawlers, this helps them rank your content appropriately for relevant search terms. For users, it proves invaluable for determining whether or not your content contains the information they’re looking for. 

As we’ve already seen, it’s important that these vital SEO elements naturally incorporate your target keyword. However, it’s just as important -if not more so- to ensure that they’re compelling and informative, accurately reflecting the subject while at the same time encouraging click-throughs. 

D. High-Quality Content 

Above all else, the main thing you need to remember is to create high-quality content that matches a user’s search intent and provides what they’re looking for. 

Doing this is about more than just providing accurate information; it’s about demonstrating When people can see that your content is accurate and unbiased, that any personal information they disclose remains confidential, and that they’re not going to leave your site with a device riddled with malware, you inspire in them a sense of confidence. They can trust you to provide them with what they’re looking for via a secure and user-friendly platform. 

Along with implementing the security measures we discussed earlier, you boost your website’s trustworthiness by reviewing content regularly to ensure it remains current and addresses any inaccuracies.

You’ll also benefit from disclosing any financial relationships with the brands or products featured in your content. For example, if you’re using affiliate marketing links in your content, be transparent about that right at the beginning. Being honest about this from the start shows that you’re committed to creating ethical content and lets readers make an informed decision about how to proceed on your page.

3. Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to all the WordPress SEO services that help you build authority and credibility in the eyes of search engines, ultimately boosting your rankings and overall visibility. 

This is mainly achieved by using various strategies to build a strong collection of backlinks to your site from other reputable, high-authority sources. 

Search engines see backlinks as a vote of confidence for your website, indicating that other valuable sources consider your content informative and trustworthy. The more high-quality backlinks you have from relevant websites, the higher your website’s authority and ranking potential. 

The most effective way to generate backlinks is to simply focus on your own content. 

When you post genuinely helpful and unique information, others come to view it as a reliable source of reference for their own content and include a link. 

Elsewhere, submitting your site to relevant directories, creating a Google My Business profile, and improving organic backlinking by sharing your content on social can all help bolster your off-page SEO efforts.

How Can a WordPress SEO Agency Help?

If implementing our Search Engine Optimization recommendations is more work than you can take on right now, we have some good news for you: 

You don’t have to. 

UnlimitedWP provides a comprehensive WordPress SEO service from just $97 per month, per site. 

This complete SEO plan offers a completely done-for-you solution and includes not only all of the essential technical and on-page SEO tasks we’ve listed above but also: 

  • Sitemap.xml and Robots.txt optimization
  • Broken link checking
  • Google Analytics and search console-setup 
  • Schema markup and more.

To find out more about how we can help you, book your free demo call today.