Search Engine Optimization for WordPress
- Search Engine Optimization for WordPress
- What is SEO for WordPress?
- Onsite Optimization
- Basic Optimization Markup
- Offsite Optimization
- 3 Link Building Strategies
- How to Find Sites and Build Links
- Outreach Link Building Methods
- Google Analytics and Console
- SEO for WordPress Conclusion
SEO for your WordPress website must be effectively deployed for your business to be successful online.
Search Engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, equate to “organic” or free traffic. Alternatively, and sometimes, in addition, sites can depend on “paid” traffic.
Search engine optimization (“SEO”) gets a bad rap as being confusing and complicated, but most SEO for WordPress essentials are easy enough for everyone to understand and implement.
SoloingOnline’s complete guide covers all areas of SEO for WordPress and is perfect for beginners. You’ll learn simple SEO tips and strategies for creating content, structuring your page and more. Just a few simple changes to your site can lead to a dramatic increase in brand awareness, new customers, and conversions.
Ready to learn more about SEO basics? Let’s get started!
What is SEO for WordPress?
Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t one action. Instead, it’s a whole host of different strategies, big and small, which all work together. The ultimate goal of all SEO is to make your WordPress site appealing to both search engines and people.
- develop your web presence in a certain technical way,
- create content for a targeted audience of likely customers,
- develop links to other sites,
- analyze the results.
You’ll refine your strategies over time based on collected data. SEO for WordPress is an on-going process which continually drives traffic, increases brand awareness and increases your site’s position in the search ranking.
An easy way to think of SEO is to divide it into two sections: Onsite and Offsite (or, on and off page.)
As you probably guessed, these are strategies used directly on your web page. Some techniques are designed for the actual human beings who land on your site while others are technical adjustments “seen” only by the search engines.
Onsite optimization tends to focus on the home page and other main site pages, but every page can be optimized in some way. Let’s take a look at some onsite strategies.
Google loves speed. They guide searchers towards sites which load quickly. Google experiments show that fast-loading sites aren’t just preferred by users, they’re also more cost-efficient for site owners.
There are all sorts of technical ways you can improve your page speed, but let’s keep it simple. Two areas you’ll want to look into are your hosting provider and your image use.
Do you have shared hosting? If so, you’re sharing server space with other sites, and that can slow down your site’s loading times. Dedicated hosting gives you sole access to a server. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is another hosting option. With a VPS, you have sole access to a partitioned server area. Both Dedicated and VPS are faster than Shared, they are usually more expensive but this really a situation of getting what you pay for.
Watch how you’re using images. Images account for about 61% of a webpage’s weight, which affects loading time. Running your images through tools like PictureFill and Adaptive Images or my favorite Imagify.
Some people will use a desktop computer to visit your site. Others will use a tablet or smartphone. You want your site to be easy to read no matter how it’s viewed.
Responsive web design automatically accommodates the user’s viewing preferences. Resolution, scripting and image size are adjusted based on the devices’ screen size, platform, and orientation. You don’t have to design your site for every possible type of device. Instead, you’ll design one site which reacts to every device’s needs.
Keywords are the terms people put into a search engine to find information. You want to identify the important keywords in your industry and then use those words strategically in your content. This helps search engine identify what your site is about, which in turn helps connect searchers to your site.
You want long-tail keywords, which are phrases of about four words. Long-tail keywords are pretty specific. Think “Nike Revolution 3,” which can take you directly to Zappos, instead of a search for “shoes,” which returns over a billion results. Long-tail search terms can help your marketing efforts make a bigger impact due to decreased competition.
Google has a Keyword Planner tool which is free, popular and easy to use. You input some general keywords related to your industry, adjust some targeting information and “Keyword Ideas” are generated.
In the Average Monthly Searches column, you’ll see keywords with high traffic. The Competition column shows you keywords with low competition. You’re looking for a bit of both: Long-tail Keywords with high competition and low traffic. Of course, the keywords also have to be highly relevant to your content.
Search engines consider a page with a lot of internal links to be relatively important. Internal links are just what they sound like; they’re links between pages within your WordPress website.
For instance, maybe you have one blog post where you briefly mention a topic detailed in a second post. You’ll link to that second post within the first.
Internal links should be simple sentence fragments whenever possible. You don’t want to link to your home page, contact page or any other pages which are already prominent in your navigation. Instead, link to content deeper in your site. Blogs are probably the most common example of deep linking to enhance your SEO for your WordPress site.
If you’re new to SEO, “siloing” isn’t a strategy you’re going to implement right away. It may be a little on the advanced side. But you’ll want to understand the general idea, so you can slowly develop your silos over time.
A silo structure is a way of organizing your website. It’s based around themes. Related pages are grouped into distinct sections with the site. Silos are best for improving relevancy rankings for long-tail keywords.
One way to implement a silo concept is to use the following permalink structure in your settings tab – /%category%/%postname%/. Most SEO consultants suggest at least to use the %postname% permanent link but adding category actually helps silo the site.
Basic Optimization Markup
Most of the strategies we’ve discussed so far are visible on your website. But search engines don’t just look there. They’ll also read through the HTML code underneath each page.
Within your HTML code are several “tags.” These are instructions for how the page is displayed. Here’s a list of common tags; you’ve probably seen some of them within HTML content. They’re the words in <brackets>.
First, let’s take a look at what some of these tags do. Then we’ll show you how to add these tags to your site.
How Tags Affect Search Results
Search results, for anything and everything, always contain three pieces of info: a Page Title, an URL, and a page description. Here’s the search result for Coca-Cola:
Search engines pull this info directly from two HTML tags on your site, the Title Tag, and the Meta Description Tag. Optimizing these tags gives you control over what’s displayed.
The title is arguably the most important signal your site sends. You want your title to appeal to both people and search engines. For instance, everybody knows what Coca-Cola is. But adding “Global: Soft Drinks and Beverage Products” helps emphasize this is the absolute main page for the multi-national brand.
You want to include your main keyword in your title. Put the most important keyword towards the front of the title. This is called front-loading.
Also, keep your titles to around 70 characters. This will help ensure your entire title is displayed. Note that 55 characters is more of a guideline than a rule, so you might have to adjust a bit if your title is getting cut off.
Example: <title>Coca-Cola Global: Soft Drinks and Beverage Products</title>
Google’s current algorithm means title tags don’t have the influence they once did. Include them anyway. They’re easy to implement and can help encourage people to click on your site.
Meta Description Tag
This is one of the oldest supported elements in HTML. The Meta Description is your suggestion for how you’d like your site described in the search results. Think of it as a quick summary.
“A global leader in the beverage industry, the Coca-Cola company…” Notice how this description doesn’t describe what Coke tastes like or where the product can be found. They take a big picture approach. Describe what your business does and where it operates. Include your brand name in the first few words.
Search engines don’t use this description as a ranking factor, and they haven’t for some time. Just like Title Tags, you want to include a Meta Description anyway. You’ll use this description to communicate directly to searchers – so be as persuasive as possible. Stick to between 150 and 160 characters, with the most important info up front.
Example: <meta name=”description” content=”A global leader in the beverage industry, the Coca-Cola company…” />
You’ll want to break your written content down into headings and subheadings. First, this increases readability by eliminating big blocks of text. Headings and subheadings also help search engines understand the topic of the page.
Headers are divided into H1, H2 and H3 tags. We’ve been using all three throughout this guide. The main title at the top is an H1 tag. The main subcategories (such as “Onsite Optimization”) are H2 tags. Finally, the smallest subcategory (for instance, “Header Tags”) is H3.
- <h1>SEO Basics</h1>
- <h2>Onsite Optimization</h2>
- <h3>Header Tags</h3>
Image Name and ALT Tags
A picture might be worth a thousand words but there are still a few words you’ll want include within each image on your site.
Alt tags include a description for an image which is displayed when the image fails to load. Search engines read the alt tag to help properly understand the image.
For example, suppose you sell pet supplies. On your site is a picture of a dachshund wearing the Pup Harness, a brand name for a type of leash.
You can use the alt tag to provide info for the search engines. We’ll want to identify the Pup Harness because that’s a very specific keyword people are likely searching for.
The alt tag looks like this:
<img src=”here you put the filename and path for the image” alt=”dachshund with Pup Harness” />
John Mu from Google detailed alt tags within a Google Group. He encouraged webmasters to be specific with their descriptions. Google can’t “see” the image, so the search engine relies on the alt tag to understand the image.
Also, your image names matter, too. Avoid anything too generic like image2.jpg or homepageimage.jpg. Instead, use dachshundpupharness.jpg or pupharness.jpg.
How to Insert Tags into Your Site
There are plenty of other tags, but the above are a great start. So, how do you implement these tags? You can either insert the tags into the HTML code yourself or use one of many free tools to help.
To add tags yourself, first open any simple text editing program, such as Notepad. Then you’ll log into your web hosting account. You’ll open the web page with the text editor. Inserting the tags is as simple as typing the right words in the right places. Here’s an example of proper meta tag placement starting at the top of the page:
<title> Insert your title here </title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Here’s where you’ll type your description.”>
When you’re done adding tags, you’ll save the file. Finally, you’ll upload the new web page to the server.
If that seems too complicated, don’t worry. There are plenty of free programs you can use which have a more user-friendly approach.
We’ll discuss tools and plugins of all types a bit later on. For now, let’s leave Onsite Optimizations and check out Offsite Optimization.
Offsite Optimization is also known as link building. The big idea here is to get other websites to link to your site. Incoming links from other websites are called backlinks.
Of course, you don’t want backlinks from just any websites. Here’s what you want:
Industry relevance is a big factor. If you sell table saws, an endorsement from a bakery doesn’t do you a whole lot of good. But Home Depot featuring your saw as a Tool of the Month can dramatically increase a search engine’s perception of your industry authority.
You want links from big brands, industry influencers, and other trustworthy, legitimate sites.
How links are displayed is another important factor. When a site links to you, you want that link to appear within the main content on the page. Links in a sidebar or footer aren’t considered as important.
Let’s pause a moment and learn about anchor text. Anchor text is the blue, underlined, clickable text found throughout the content. There are a few different types of anchor text:
Let’s say our website, Cookie’s Desserts has a blog post we want to rank for the phrase “chocolate cake recipe.” Here’s how other websites can link to us. (Since Cookie’s Desserts is a fictional company, we’re just using a recipe from the Food Network for example purposes):
Exact Match. Nothing beyond the specific keywords is linked. “We’ve fallen in love with this chocolate cake recipe.”
Partial Match. Includes the keywords and a little bit more. “This simple chocolate cake recipe is a great choice for those learning how to bake.”
Branded. The anchor text contains our brand name. “This chocolate cake recipe from Cookie’s Desserts is great for amateur bakers!”
Naked URLs. The anchor text is how it would look in a browser. “This chocolate cake recipe (https://CookiesCakes.com/cakerecipe) is great for amateur bakers!”
Generic. The anchor text just isn’t very clear. “This chocolate cake recipe is great for amateur bakers. Click here to go to their site.”
Synonyms, author name, and title are other common anchors.
Moz conducted an experiment on the effectiveness of anchor types. Partial matches are the best; generic anchor text is the least effective.
AHrefs blog editor David McSweeney agrees. After conducting his own experiments, he’s almost positive anchor text is a bigger ranking factor than even what Google says it is. He recommends an exact match of 2% and partial match around 30%.
3 Link Building Strategies
Okay, so you should have a pretty solid understanding of what types of links you want for your site. There are a few ways to go about getting those links.
Before we get into specific strategies, let’s step back and take a big-picture view. There are three categories of links:
These are links you don’t ask for. A site just like what you have to offer and links to you. Ideally, you want links from high authority sites such as big brand names, major news outlets and similar. But any organic link from a reputable website is a plus.
There are links you pursue using honest, reputable means. You’re targeting sites with high authority in your industry. We’ll show you how to approach other sites and ask for links effectively.
This is the wrong way to build links. Black hat techniques violate search engine rules and can result in a ban.
One common, often tempting, Blackhat techniques is buying links. Exchanging money for links which pass PageRank is expressly prohibited by Google. You’ll likely get identified and run the risk of an IP ban, which will effectively shut down your business.
Also, don’t over-optimize anchor text. Search engines find it suspicious if you have consistent exact matches throughout your site. Content that is written for people generally doesn’t look like that. Google prefers Close Variant Keyword matching.
How to Find Sites and Build Links
In a perfect world, your site would be organically linked by high authority sites throughout your industry. But that only happens with large, established brands. Most likely you’ll need to proactively pursue quality links.
Building links involve a lot of good, old-fashioned networking. This wasn’t always the case, but in 2017 developing a personal connection should be your #1 strategy. You’ll identify other popular, high ranking sites in your industry. Then you’ll approach those sites with your link building ideas.
Here’s the good news: Link building can be mutually beneficial for both websites. All top performing sites are constantly in need of fresh, engaging content. If you can create the right content, and approach other sites in a professional way, you might be surprised how often you’ll hear “yes.”
So, how do we find which sites to approach? You’re looking for sites related to your industry but who aren’t direct competitors to your business.
Buzzsumo is a great tool here. You can search hot topics in your industry and see where they’re published. You’ll also want to connect with trade journals and other industry-specific publications.
Here are some signs you’ve found an outreach target worth approaching:
- The site has a Domain Authority of at least 40
- They publish new content on a regular basis
- Their comments sections are active
- Their content is often shared on social media
- They have a history of linking to other sites
When you find the right site, send an email. You’ll want to be polite and brief. Explain who you are, what type of content you can offer and how that content might be interesting to that site’s readers.
Outreach Link Building Methods
There are three strategies we recommend you start with:
This is when you write a blog post for publication on someone else’s site. The blog topic and writing style will be geared specifically for the audience of that site. If the audience enjoys your post, they might seek out more information about your brand.
You don’t want to do a lot of heavy promotion in your blog. A simple link to your site in your biography is usually all you’ll want to include.
Although it’s a bit of work, you might want to write the blog post before you approach the site you want it published on. A finished piece is often easier for a webmaster to accept than a pitch.
The Skyscraper Technique
With the Skyscraper techniques, you identify and then improve upon your older content, or the older content of someone else. First, find a popular piece of content you or others have created which has since collected a lot of links.
Then re-do the content. Add updated information and more recent examples. Address common questions and just generally improve the content as significantly as you can.
Finally, reach out to everyone who linked to the original piece of content. Explain that the content is now new, updated and improved. Offer them the opportunity to link to the new content.
The Skyscraper Technique was created by Backlinko’s Brian Dean.
As a side note, if you’re going to get advice for one person on off-site optimization – Brian Dean is the best resource you can possibly use.
Broken Link Building
Large, authoritative sites sometimes link to dead pages; a process often called Link Rot. The idea here is to identify these dead pages, redo and improve what content is supposed to be there, and then reach out to the site. If you have a better page ready to go, they might link to your site instead of developing the page on their own.
When optimizing your site, there’s a lot you can do manually. But most people benefit from tools. If you’re new to all of this, the right tools make optimization considerably easier – and there are plenty of high-quality, free tools to choose from.
You’ll likely see the word “plugin” used quite a bit. A plugin is any small piece of software which adds at least one new feature to an existing computer program. Plugins are an easy way to solve specific issues using a computer program you’re already familiar with.
Many beginners prefer WordPress to get their sites online. So, perhaps obviously, WordPress has a lot of plugins available. There are almost 50,000 WP plugins which can help you accomplish all sorts of SEO goals.
SEO for WordPress is most effectively implemented with WordPress plugins such as Yoast, SEOPressor and All In One SEO. Yoast and All in One have free and paid versions, while SEOPressor charges a monthly fee. All are very competent and essentially spoon feed what needs to be added to optimize your WordPress pages and posts. There are many reviews of these plugins and certainly using any one plugin will raise your web’s profile.
Beyond WordPress, there are a variety of other internet marketing tools which will help you find keywords and gather a variety of data. Here are three options to get you started:
Long Tail Pro – A popular keyword research tool with a free seven-day trial
Ahrefs – A comprehensive site with keyword research tools, rank tracking and other tools for competitive analysis
Semrush – A suite of SEO research tools
These sites are all very friendly towards new users. You’ll get a general idea of how these tools work. Don’t commit to any major purchases right away. Just visit these sites and start exploring. Additionally, most have a free test period to review their application.
Google Analytics and Console
Finally, you’ll want to know about Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is Google’s tool you can use to gather a wealth of data related to your site, such as who is visiting and what actions they’re taking. Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics service online. There’s a free version as well as two paid versions with additional features (for enterprise and mobile data tracking).
In May 2016, Google Analytics took a major leap forward with Search Console integration. GA accounts are now super-charged with SEO data including keyword ranking, search position, search impression and more. This data flows right into your account and can really enhance SEO optimization.
Beyond this, it’s critical that your site is set up with Google Search Console – check out Kissmetrics Guide, and Bing’s Webmaster Tools. By the way, Yahoo is powered by Bing – so essentially they’re one and the same.
SEO for WordPress Conclusion
SEO optimization can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out. But here’s something important to remember: Doing SOMETHING is always better than doing nothing.
Use Onsite strategies to create a fast-loading site with finely-tuned HTML code. Then fill that site with content your target audience will find interesting and engaging.
Use Offsite Optimization strategies to find other sites and encourage them to link to your content.
Think of optimizing your site as a learning process. You’ll never truly go wrong if you focus on providing a great user experience. Just a few simple strategies can dramatically expand brand awareness, leads, and sales.
Check back with us for even more SEO info which can help you succeed!