Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is the art and science of improving the position of your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When it comes to search engine optimization, the end goal is that your website will be search engine friendly, ranked highly within the most popular search engines, and found by more people.
This increased search engine visibility will ultimately attract more visitors to your website, who will then hopefully purchase more of your products, take advantage of your services, become a client, or simply enjoy more of your content.
Because quality traffic to a website via the search engines, as well as how those visitors interact with the website, can often result in an improved rank in the very same search engines, a successful SEO campaign can kickstart a continuous cycle of improved rankings and visitor numbers for your website.
Every website has a varying degree of SEO in place, whether it’s being actively pursued or not. However, optimizing your website for higher rankings is an ongoing process that requires constant attention. The more time you spend practising quality SEO methods, even if only in small doses, when compounded over time, can have a major impact on how your content ranks in the search engine results pages.
Therefore, you can hopefully see how important search engine optimization is for anyone who’s hoping to attract visitors to their website via the popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In this article we will be looking at how you can improve the search engine optimization of your WordPress website in order to increase its visibility in the search engines and drive more traffic to your content.
SEO Advice For WordPress Users
One of the best ways to ensure your website is search engine optimized, is to use the WordPress CMS platform for your site.
WordPress is constructed in a consistent way across all websites created using this software. Search engines like Google find this very convenient when it comes to indexing that content, as WordPress uses standards compliant high quality code. This also means that each individual piece of content you publish on your website will also be optimized for the search engines, and not only the core structure of your site.
There are many factors that are used to determine how optimized a website is at any given moment. Here we will take a look at some of the most effective ways to make your WordPress website SEO friendly.
On-Page SEO Using WordPress
On-page SEO is the method of optimizing your website’s content so that it becomes noticed by search engines and is ranked highly in their results pages for the subject or topic of your website. This technique includes the optimization of website content, title tags, meta tags, URL and permalink structures, images, and much more. The great thing about on-page SEO is that you control how it is deployed on your website.
Consistently publishing unique and high quality content that is related to your niche should result in Google being able to easily determine what your website is about and where it should be ranked in its results.
One of the SEO benefits of publishing content on a regular basis is that it can decrease the time it takes for your new content to be indexed in the search engines. As the search engines deploy crawlers to find the new content that is added to the internet, the more often they detect content being published on your site, the more often they will return to check for new material.
These daily visits from the crawlers can greatly decrease the time it takes for your new content to appear in the search engine results pages, therefore, making it available to search engine users much faster.
Another popular way to optimize your website content is to link it together. Following these internal links not only makes it easier for the search engine crawlers to discover all the pages on your site, but by linking related pages together, you can indicate to the search engines the relevancy of the different types of content on your website, helping to boost its ranking in the search engines for related search queries.
As well as using an internal linking structure that groups related posts and pages together, the link text or anchor text that is used for these internal links gives the search engines a big clue as to what the content is about, and therefore, where it should be ranked in their results.
Internal linking is not only useful to the search engines, but it’s also beneficial to your visitors too. Connecting your relevant pages together helps your visitors to find more of your related content. Therefore, it’s essential that thoughtful internal linking is part of your SEO and user experience strategies.
Keywords or search terms are what users type into the search engines in order to find what they are looking for. Therefore, it’s essential that you have a good grasp of how keywords work.
The goal to effective keyword planning and optimization is being able to anticipate what users might type in as search terms when looking for content that is similar to what you are publishing. The idea is to then include those keywords and search terms, as well as variations of them, in the content on your website.
These keywords can be used throughout your website and its content, including your post’s title, content, description, categories, URLs, and even image descriptions. Remember though to focus on your readers not on search engines. The goal is to gain readers through quality content that is aimed at them and their needs, not at what you think a search engine may want to see and index.
Be warned, over optimization, in the form of keyword stuffing, can have negative results on the ranking of your website, so do all you can to naturally include these keywords in your content.
Title tags describe the subject of your content. It is imperative your post and page titles include keywords that are relevant to the topic of the content.
Each page or post on your website should have a unique title tag so it can be indexed individually. Another tip is to not make your titles too long. If they are too lengthy, Google may only show a portion of the title in search results causing people to pass on your website in the search result list. If readers are unsure as to the actual subject of a website, they are more likely to pass on entering that website and will opt for a more clearly related website.
However, it’s also vital to ensure your post titles are human friendly, rather than just a string of the keywords you hope to rank for.
Meta Description Tags
The meta description tag is used to provide a snippet of information describing the contents of your page to the reader. They are mainly only visible in the search engine results pages and should include your designated keywords for that particular content. They usually appear underneath the title tag and URL for the website.
Again, it’s essential to keep this description as human-friendly as possible, while still including the keyword or search terms that are relevant to your content.
Content URLs and Permalinks
It’s a good idea to optimize your website’s URLs (also known as permalinks) for easy reading. Search engines and readers like “friendlier” looking URLs so they do not intimidate, confuse, or steer away potential readers. They also provide another opportunity to give Google and other search engines a clear sense of what the post is about and therefore make it easier to index at a more appropriate level. URLs are shown below a document’s title in a search result.
Changing your website’s permalinks in WordPress is simple. To do so, go to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard. Set your permalink structure to “Post name” rather than “Default” so your permalinks will resemble your page titles.
For example, a post called “My Awesome Blog” would have the URL “yoursite.com/my-awesome-blog/.” This is something search engines can understand and it is another great place to put your keywords.
Image Titles and Descriptions
WordPress makes it very easy to give the images you use in your content titles and descriptions. Depending on your theme of choice, this meta information might not immediately be visible to your visitors, but the search engines and their crawlers will make use of these image tags to get a better idea of what topic your content is on.
By giving your images descriptive and meaningful descriptions, titles, and alt text, you can help improve the overall SEO factor of your content, in order to improve your rankings for the keywords you are targeting. Its well worth taking a few seconds to add this data as it will help improve both your overall SEO and UX ratings.
Off-page SEO is defined as what you do away from your website, in order to boost your search engine rankings.
The most well known form of off-page SEO is link building. As search engines like Google use the number of links pointing to a website to determine how popular it is, the aim of link building is to see a link back to your content published on another website. However, search engines don’t just look at the number of links pointing back to your website, but also the quality and relevance of the sites that those links are coming from.
One link from a respected website on the same topic as your content can easily outweigh hundreds of links from low quality websites that have nothing in common with your site. Now more than ever, link building is all about quality not quantity, with penalties being handed out to those trying to game the system by acquiring easy to obtain and irrelevant back links.
When it comes to improving the off-site SEO of your website, the best approach is to focus on outreach and bringing your content to the attention to those in your field; and then sitting back and waiting for them to link back to your content. This approach certainly takes time, but it’s a low risk strategy that can deliver some great results if your content really is worthy of links from your peers and the leaders in your niche.
More Search Engine Ranking Factors
The Google search engine ranking algorithms are a mystery to everyone, and are used to measure the importance of all websites listed in their index. No one is completely sure how it all works or what will guarantee higher rankings (since Google isn’t sharing their secrets), but people have some pretty good ideas on how to achieve high rankings nonetheless.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important ranking factors affecting search engine visibility:
- Unique content (also freshness of website content)
- Keyword use anywhere in the title tag (also important – including a keyword as the first word of title tag)
- Keyword focused anchor text from external links, the quantity and quality of external links, and links from a variety of domain names.
- Historical click through rate from search to exact page/URL and from search to pages on the domain.
- Keyword use in WordPress headers H1, H2, and H3.
Although the above is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to improving the SEO of your website, they are the main areas you should focus on.
SEO recommendations are intended to shed some light on the complex and mysterious world of increasing the rank and visibility of of your WordPress website and its content. As you now know, there are many ways to improve the chances of your website getting noticed and ranked highly by the search engines. Often it is only a matter of paying attention to the small details as you continue to publish quality content on your website.
Just remember though, the most important feature of almost any website is content. Without good content to keep readers engaged, sharing your content, or purchasing your products, it will not matter what SEO methods you employ. Having visitors is what counts in the end and ironically that is what will increase your search engine visibility.
What SEO techniques have you tried on your website? Are there any other tips or tricks involving SEO you would like to share? Please let us know in the comments below!