WordPress is an excellent choice for those needing alittle more customization and flexibility than a template provider doesn’t offer, as well as its inherent SEO benefits.
As you may know, a website isn’t useful unless it’s introduced to your target audience and found in search engines. When it comes to meeting business objectives, targeted search engine traffic is some of the most valuable that you can get. Fortunately, there’s no fairy dust or magic when it comes to search engine optimization, a term that refers to the strategies and techniques that are used to improve your site’s ranking on Google, and its influence on ranking factors. If you want to get seen by your intended audience, high quality content that’s convenient to read and share is the central component to high SEO rankings.
In the interest of this article, I won’t go too far into creating useful content but I will delve into how to get your website’s fundamentals in place to aide in being found. Here are some tips below…
Choose the right domain name
I touched upon choosing a name for your business recently, and stress not ignoring branding concerns when it comes to choosing the right domain name. If you can fit a keyword in there, then great! But don’t let it be the central focus to your brand – Google doesn’t give the keywords in domains quite as much credit as before.
Still, there are some reasons a keyword-rich domain name might be useful (and helpful for branding: they are easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce.
At the end of the day, none of this really matters unless the website behind the domain provides useful content. Keyword rich domains can rank high, but it is usually because of the helpful content behind the name!
*Note: I registered my domain with Bluehost, which I recommend for their affordability and great tech phone support.
A huge component of SEO is actually being indexed by search engines.
You’d think this would be relatively simple, but this could be a stumbling point if you don’t know your way around WordPress.
WordPress has an option to block search engines from indexing your site while it’s still in development mode. This is so incomplete pages do not get indexed and associated with the domain. However, if you forgot to unblock the search engines after launch, your website won’t be indexed.
Settings – > Reading -> Make sure the ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ box is de-selected.
Now that you have that out of the way, you can actually check to make sure Google is indeed indexing every page on your site. First, sign in to Google Webmaster Tools - which monitors your site’s performance in Google searches:
“Webmaster Tools is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Webmaster Tools for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.”
If you have a Google account, you already have a Google Webmaster Tools account. Simply visit this link and verify your website.
Permalinks and URLs
The default option in WordPress’ permalink structure offers no SEO value so you’ll want to change it. Simply navigate to the “Permalinks” link under Settings in your dashboard and choose “Post Name.”
Having post-relevant keywords in the url will ensure you’re organically building an SEO-friendly site, which is what we’re after!
Titles and descriptions
The title tag describes your pages content and are arguably one of the most important on-page seo elements alongside page content (source). They’ll appear in browsers, search engine results pages, and external websites. Getting relevant keywords into your titles is important for SEO-friendliness.
Descriptions are also important in eliciting action from users once they see your result pop up. When crafting copy be sure to include a few keywords, as these are what users will be looking for before clicking onto a site. A combination of a relevant title and description that inspires your audience to click is key no matter how you rank in search engines.
A well-structured XML sitemap ensures your pages are indexed properly. WordPress offers a host of plugins that will do this for you, updating automatically whenever you publish a new post. The one I currently use and have had success with is Google XML Sitemaps.
After you install this plugin and enable it, you can access it from your WordPress Admin > Settings > XML-Sitemap.
Add Your Sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools
Again, providing Google with your sitemap allows the search engine to better navigate, index, and crawl your site.
From the main screen click on your domain to access the Site Dashboard. In the left-hand panel, click Crawl > Sitemaps. On the right-hand side of the screen click the red Add/Test Sitemap button. Now that you’ve setup the XML Sitemap plugin earlier, simply type in sitemap.xml to the box that appears (see above example).
The h1 heading tag is the most important heading so make sure every post title is wrapped in an <h1> tag. This alerts search engines of its importance on the page. All subsequent headings should then be in <h2> and <h3> tags.
Once WordPress themes that are properly coded, the H1 tag will be tied to the title of the post. This means that automatically, when a blog post is published, the H1 tag will be the title of the article.
This means that you should NEVER be using the tag called “Heading 1″ when editing a post in WordPress, since this would create a second H1 tag. You should immediately begin with the H2 tag.
Enable and encourage discussion
Comments have SEO value so you’ll want to encourage them as well. The reason being is the comments will center around the post, adding additional keyword frequency. The flow of comments will keep the page appearing fresh to search engines. It’s common people will share something they felt compelled to comment on as well, and social proof is great in that search engines can read content and links from social media platforms as well.
Here’s a very simple way to enable discussion in WordPress:
It goes without saying but a clean and crawlable website is essential in making sure you aren’t throwing the search engine bots for a loop (which happens often). Proper code isn’t a huge factor in search engine rankings, however it is important in order to improve page downloading speed and ensure your site is flawless across all mobile devices.
Site speed, security, and uptime
Speed is important – people are impatient! They’re browsing from their mobile phones now more than ever these days. According to Google, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
Fortunately, WordPress beats out alot of other template provider sites whose out-of-the-box options are SEO-optimized but at the cost of slow loading times on mobile devices. And unless you’re a developer there’s little you can do about it.
Check your site against Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
How to check your site speed:
To take a look at how your website’s speed is currently shaping up, visit Google’s Pagespeed Insights and enter your url into the input field. You’ll see what, if any, improvements can be made to your site to enhance both the desktop and mobile browsing experience.
Things you can do today to improve speed:
Remove inactive plugins, keep your wordpress version up-to-date, host video externally, etc. Your designer or developer will often know what’s best here!
Make sure your hosting is solid on both the performance and security side to ensure that these ranking factors come out in your favor. Bluehost is one the oldest hosting companies and is a WordPress recommended provider which I would recommend highly. They also have their useful ‘One-click WordPress install’ that saves you heaps of time in starting up a blog. I’ve covered this in my How to Setup a Professional Blog post if you’re interested in learning more.
I’d recommend exploring on your own to familiarize yourself with the tools mentioned in this post. Webmaster Tools Academy will give you an in-depth overview of Google Webmaster Tools beyond what I’ve mentioned here.
By taking each one of these factors into consideration you’re providing the best possible means for targeted visitors to find your content and continue to come back. Remember at the end of the day the visitor is interested in your content – so your website optimization efforts should focus foremost on why they are interested and develop ways to attract new visitors. Think of unique and creative ways to reach them when creating your blog content. If your audience finds it useful, then overtime your SEO will naturally boost due to this increase in traffic.
What improvements have you made to your website that have improved its SEO?