WordPress SEO 101 (On-site)
There are several on-page and off-page SEO elements that you need to consider while optimizing your WordPress website. The on-page SEO or the on-site optimization process refers to modifications or optimization process within your website. This includes optimizing the content as well as the other web development elements such as the HTML codes. Once you begin with on-site optimization, your WordPress search rankings will improve over time and as a result, you will see an increase in the number of visitors on your website. More visitors on your WordPress allows you to generate more leads for your business. Therefore, to enhance your web traffic and acquire quality leads, here are some important on-page optimization elements that you need to focus on.
Allow Search Engines to Index Your Site
There’s a built-in option in WordPress where you can hide your website being indexed by search engines. This option is useful when you are still developing your website and need more time before you eventually launch it. Once your website is ready, make sure you check off the button and allow search engines to index your site. At times, the option may get clicked accidentally while making some other changes to WordPress. Therefore, just to be sure about it, check the built-in option and make the necessary change if required. In fact, if you notice your website does not feature in the search results, then this is the first thing you need to check. Although a newly launched website may not get featured in the search result list, you can always check whether your website is indexed by entering your company name or your URL in the search query.
Log in to WordPress with your admin access, click “Settings” and then click on “Reading” option from the drop-down option. You will find the “Search Engine Visibility” option at the bottom of the page as shown below. Simply uncheck the option to let search engines to index your site.
Once you have unchecked the option, do not forget to click on “Save Changes”.
Selecting WWW or Non-WWW
There are two ways to access a website. For example, if you want to visit xyz.com, then you may access this website at http://xyz.com or http://www.xyz.com. However, it’s recommended that you choose either one of these versions for your WordPress. This is because when search engines index your website, they will consider http://xyz.com and http://www.xyz.com to be two different websites. To select your desired version, go to “Settings” and then click on “General”, add your preferred URL address in both the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” as well. Ensure that both the fields contain the same URL.
Optimizing Your URL
Your URL or the permalink should be SEO and user-friendly as well. It should easily explain what the page is about and should be simple enough for visitors and search engines to understand. For example, a URL such as http://xyz.com/?=p23424 does not give any information about the page content. Visitors will only be able to see the numbers but not know what the page is about. Similarly, search engines cannot decipher the topic of a web page. Such URLs using numbers seem unrelated to the content and therefore, are not SEO-friendly.
The URLs for your WordPress should be similar to the ones shown below.
As you can see, these URLs can be simple to make the readers understand the content on the web page. The same is the case with the search engines. Such SEO-friendly URLs enable search engines to index your web pages. As a result, there is a good chance that your content gets featured in the search results.
To check your URL structure, go to the “Settings” and click on “Permalinks”. Select the “Post name” option and then add the appropriate texts as your URL address. Make sure that the URL text is relevant to the content for the particular web page. If it is a blog post, then you can add the topic of the post as your URL text after the domain name and the category name. For example, for this permalink http://xyz.com/blogs/on/site/SEO, the domain name is xyz.com, the category is the blogs section and the topic of the blog post is on-site SEO. Once you have added the permalink click on the “Save Changes” option.
However, if your WordPress website is live for quite some time, then you may not want to consider changing your URL structure unless your permalink contains only numbers. This is because changing your URL structure for important posts may result in losing social media counts and affect your search rankings. It will take some time to get back your search rankings for a modified permalink. Hence, it’s important that you add relevant and SEO-friendly permalink every time you add a new blog post to your website. But, in case you still need to change your permalink structure, then get in touch with a professional who will add the right redirects and not affect your social media share counts or SEO rankings as well.
Keep Your Website Secure
Google blacklists close to 20,000 websites for malware and 50,000 websites for phishing. This means that if your WordPress gets blacklisted, then it may not feature in any search results. Therefore, to avoid this situation, you need to ensure your WordPress website is secure. If not, then all your SEO efforts will get affected. To keep your website secure, ensure you have strong passwords and user permissions, keep your WordPress updated (especially the major updates), you have a good WordPress hosting provider such as BlueHost or Siteground, etc. You can check this ultimate WordPress security guide for more details on securing your WordPress.
Apart from securing your website, install a WordPress backup solution so that in case of any threat to your website, you are able to recover your data. For this purpose, there are free as well as paid WordPress backup plugins that regularly save full-site backups to a remote location.
Use SSL or HTTPS
Using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypts the connection between a server and the user’s browser. It is basically an extra layer of security that you need to consider adding to your website. In fact, Google is more likely to allow your website to rank higher in the search results if you have a secure connection. Websites that have a secure connection represent a padlock sign before the URL address. Such websites are more trusted and are ideal especially in the case of online payment. To start with a secure connection, you need to purchase your SSL certificate through your web hosting company and then add the SSL and HTTPS in your WordPress. If you do not want to add the SSL or HTTPS for your entire website, then you can add them to some exclusive pages by adding the WordPress HTTPS plugin.
Use SEO Plugins
To boost your SEO efforts, use SEO plugins for your WordPress. Although there are several WordPress SEO plugins, Yoast SEO and All in One Pack SEO are the most popular ones. Yoast SEO and All in One Pack SEO allow you to optimize different SEO factors together. Therefore, instead of installing plugins for individual SEO elements, it’s better to use plugins that do it all. For WordPress Beginner, Yoast SEO and All in One Pack SEO will provide all the necessary assistance. Yoast also considers the keyword you want to rank for and provides you with an SEO grade. This grade depends on how you have followed the necessary SEO elements in your blog post. Moreover, it provides advanced assistance on how you can enhance your grade.
Add XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the web pages on a website. An XML sitemap can be in the form of a document that is used to design your website or it can be a web page that lists the entire structure of your website. When you add a sitemap in your WordPress, it allows search engines crawlers to easily access all the web pages available on your website. So, all your web pages are indexed by search engines. Plus, an XML sitemap provides additional information about each URL such as when was the web page last modified, the number of times it was modified, how a web page is related to other web pages on a website, etc. All this information enables search engines to crawl your website in a better manner. Therefore, an updated XML sitemap allows you to improve your overall website rank by making sure that all your web pages are indexed and ranked in the search results.
Now to add an XML sitemap, if you use the Yoast SEO plugin, then an XML sitemap will be created automatically provided you have enabled this feature. All you need to do is go to the “SEO” option on the left corner of your WordPress and click on the “XML Sitemaps” Option. Just enable the checkbox to enable XML sitemap functionality and the sitemap will be generated automatically.
To locate your sitemap, you need to type your domain name and add “sitemap_index.xml” in the URL address. For example, if your domain name is “searchengineonsite.com”, then you need to add http://searchengineonsite.com/sitemap_index.xml in the URL address. It will show you the number of sitemaps on your WordPress and the date when they were last modified. The next step is to submit your XML sitemap to search engines. Since Google is the most popular search engine globally, it is highly recommended to submit your XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools. The Webmaster Tools is a set of tools that provide data to website owners on how Google views their content. This data can be used to optimize your on-page SEO efforts and boost your website rank. Therefore, by submitting your XML sitemap, you get access to some valuable data that can be incorporated in your optimization process. Additionally, Google Webmaster Tools will notify you if there’s something wrong with your website such as security issues, duplicate content, etc. Check out this link to add your WordPress website to Google Webmaster Tools. To enhance your on-site SEO, ensure that you regularly check your website’s SEO results on the Webmaster Tools.
Optimize Your Website Speed
The search engines give a higher rank to websites that provide the best user experience. Your WordPress website’s speed is an important element of providing the best user experience. If your website takes more than 5-7 seconds to load, then you must consider optimizing your website speed. In fact, if a user uses his smartphone, then he would expect the site to load quicker than the desktop version. Visitors will definitely move out of your website if it does not load quickly. Your website may be ranked well in the search results and receive a good web traffic but the number of visitors moving out of the website will also be high. As a result, your website’s bounce rate will be high and when search engines notice this, they will lower your rankings. Hence, you cannot ignore to optimize your website speed.
There are several ways you can improve your WordPress website speed. The best way is to switch to a faster hosting platform. Other methods of enhancing a website speed include reducing the size and the number of resources on a website, using a lightweight WordPress theme, installing the right caching plugins and removing unwanted plugins, compressing data and files before they are delivered to the user’s browsers, optimizing the WordPress site’s database, optimizing images, etc.
These are just a few on-page SEO elements you need to take into account while optimizing your WordPress. It’s recommended that you start with the above-mentioned on-site SEO factors before moving forward with the other factors. In the second part of this article, I will talk about the other on-site SEO factors and more specifically focus on the ones that are related to the content on your website. So, make sure you do not miss out on part two of the WordPress on-site optimization.
In my previous part of this blog, I spoke about some WordPress on-site optimization factors that need to be considered to enhance your site’s ranking. In this second part, I will focus on the other on-site factors especially the ones that are related to the content on your WordPress. You may be aware that content is extremely necessary for your website to be featured in the search results. Without content, your SEO process is of no use. Users are always in search of content and if you do not have content on your WordPress, then search engines will not list your website in the search rankings organically. I use the word “organically” here is because you can still get your WordPress listed in the search results by paying for it with the help of search engine marketing (SEM). Although SEM will enable you to drive traffic to your website, you still need content for your visitors. If they do not find anything valuable, then eventually they will move out of your website resulting in a high bounce rate. So, basically, you do not acquire new leads and end up wasting money. However, it does not mean that SEM is of no use. In fact, it is extremely beneficial once you have worked on creating valuable and useful content and optimizing your WordPress at the same time.
Coming back to the on-site optimization for your WordPress, you need content and the same content must be optimized. In other words, you need to have SEO-friendly content. To create content that is SEO-friendly, it’s important to add the right keywords, add internal links and acquire external links, optimize images, etc. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
The first step for your on-site optimization is to focus on adding the right keywords in your content. It’s important to note that the keywords you include in the content should be relevant to the services or the products offered by you and your target audience is using the same keywords to search online. In order to identify the keywords, there are many tools available online. Some are free and some are not. Keyword Tool.io, Keyword Discovery, Word Tracker, etc. are some keyword tools that you can use. Google Keyword Planner is another tool which comes in handy when you begin with Google AdWords campaigns. Once you enter your website URL, it will suggest you with keywords relevant to your business. However, if you do not wish to start with an ad campaign, then you can identify the keywords that Google suggests when you enter a text in the search query. The auto-complete option lists down a few keywords that are commonly searched by users. Likewise, you can even see the related search queries listed at the end of the search results and choose the keywords that you want your WordPress to be ranked for.
Google Trends is another option that you can consider for determining keywords for your site. Enter a keyword in the explore topics option and you will see the number of times the keyword is used for each day based on the location, categories, and the type of web search (images, news, Google shopping, YouTube). This gives a better idea whether users are searching for the keywords that you want to focus on.
Keywords can be classified as short-tailed keywords and long-tailed keywords. Short-tailed keywords are generic in nature such as “plumbing services”, “web content”, “accountants”, etc. The number of searches for these keywords tend to be high and if you use these keywords in your WordPress, there is a possibility that you may get a high web traffic. However, it does not guarantee that your web traffic will improve by using these keywords. This is because there may be several websites who will focus on short-tailed keywords and you need to outrank most of them to get featured in the first few pages of the search results. Only when you are able to outrank these websites, you can expect your web traffic to improve. Therefore, it is a difficult and a time-consuming task to get your WordPress ranked for such short-tailed keywords.
In the case of long-tailed keywords, the keywords are more specific and the number of people searching for these terms is less compared to short-tailed keywords. Some examples of long-tailed keywords include “plumbing repair services during winter”, “web content for e-commerce websites”, “accounting services in Edmonton for small business”. Since these keywords are focused on the specific category of users such as “people living in Edmonton” or “firms that have e-commerce websites”, the volume of web traffic will be low but the people visiting your website are more likely to avail your services. Therefore, with long-tailed keywords, there’s a greater possibility of generating quality leads.
Whether you should choose short-tailed or long-tailed keywords depends on your objectives and the nature of the business. If you operate in a local area, then you may consider using long-tailed keywords. If your audience is scattered across the globe, then you may consider short-tailed keywords or a combination of both the types of keywords.
Once you have selected the keywords, you need to include them in your content. Add the keywords in the following areas.
Add the keywords in your main content. This includes content for your blogs or service pages. Keep a note that when you add these keywords they are placed naturally. There is no standard place to fit the keywords in your content. Nevertheless, never make the mistake of adding too many keywords in your content. A blog post of 1000-1500 words should ideally have the same focused keyword, not more than 6-8 times. Adding too many keywords can result in Google penalizing your website. Therefore, it’s best that you add the keyword in the content only when you feel it makes sense to add there. Also, it’s recommended that you add only one keyword instead of multiple keywords. If you have similar keywords, then consider writing separate blogs for each of them. Apart from creating additional content, you will be able to target all users using different keywords to search for content.
The title of your blog post should include your keywords. This allows search engines to know what the page is about and it becomes easier for them to index your post. With the help of some SEO plugins, you can even consider setting a different title for search engines instead of the actual title of your blog post. Also, add the keyword in one of your heading tag especially the one which is closer to the top of your blog.
The meta description is a small snippet that appears in the search results right below a website URL as shown below.
Users generally tend to read the meta description before deciding to click on the website link. Therefore, it is useful if you include the search term that they are searching for in your meta description. From the search engine point of view, meta description provides additional information about your web page to the search engines. Although it’s still not certain whether the meta description has any impact in the search rankings, you should still add keywords in the meta description tag keeping in mind your target audience.
There is a limit of 156 characters that you can include in the meta description tag. Therefore, you can consider using this space to provide a brief detail of what your post is about and add the keyword at least once.
In the first part of the on-site SEO for WordPress, I mentioned that a URL that contains numbers will not be able to explain what the post is about to both users and the search engines. Therefore, you need to have a URL address that gives a proper understanding of what your post is about. Additionally, adding the keyword phrase in your URL improves your SEO efforts and allow your page to be indexed by search engines which in turn enhance your rankings in the search results.
The search engines cannot identify what the image is about unless you add a description in the “Alt text” section. Therefore, when you insert an image or a GIF in your blog post, WordPress will ask you to enter the title, caption, the alt tag, and description for the same. Make sure you fill all the fields and add your focused keyword in the “Alt text” option.
If you use the Yoast SEO, then to add the alt text, click on the “Add Media” option which appears when you add a new post or edit an older one. Click on the “Upload Files” and then select the file from your folder. You may even decide to use one of the images which are already added to your WordPress Media Library.
Once the image is uploaded, you will see the following option at the right-hand corner of your screen. Fill in all the details including the keywords in the “Alt text” field and click on the “Insert into post” option.
Optimize all the images in your WordPress library by adding relevant keywords in the “Alt text” section. Make sure you add the same focused keyword that you have included in your blog posts.
Adding internal links allows you to pass on the link equity from one blog to the others. For example, if one of your blogs ranks well in the search results, then it has a higher link equity compared to other blogs published on your WordPress. Now in order to enhance the ranking of the other blog posts, add an internal link from your best-performing blog. This way the link equity gets passed on to the other blogs. As a result, the search engines will index these other internally linked blogs which previously were not being indexed. However, when you add internal links, do not add too many links. Internal links should be added to assist readers. When readers read your blog posts, you can add an internal link that provides more information about the similar topics that the current blog post is about. For example, if your blog post is about “how to prevent a toothache” and you have another similar article about “what causes a toothache”, then you can add an internal link between the two blogs. This way a person reading about “what causes a toothache” may be interested in knowing how he can prevent it as well. Thus, it makes sense to add an internal link.
While adding internal links, ensure that the anchor text contains the same words in the linked URL. For example, if you want to add an internal link to “what causes a toothache”, then your anchor text should include the words “causes” and “toothache”. Also, as mentioned before, do not add too many internal links. This affects the user experience and the readers may move out of your website if he finds that there are too many internal links in your blog. Too many internal links become a problem especially when a person uses his/her smartphone to read posts. For instance, if a person should scroll up and down, there is always a possibility that he may click on one of the internal links accidentally. Therefore, it makes sense to have a few but relevant internal links.
Another reason why you need to add internal links is that when a user clicks on the links, he will stay on your website for a longer time. The longer time a person spends on your WordPress website, it gives an indication to the search engines that your website provides useful and valuable content to users. Hence, there is always a possibility that your website ranking may be enhanced. Once you start adding internal links get at least 2-3 related posts on your blog. Also, when you have a new blog, then edit your older blog with a link to your latest post.
Optimizing your WordPress is a continuous process and you need to constantly keep an eye on the latest updates in the search engine algorithms. Also, you need to constantly come up with new content in order to ensure that your WordPress website continues to rank on top of the search results. If you fail to come up with new content often, your website’s ranking will decrease eventually. This is because the search engines are likely to give emphasis to content that is new or updated. Therefore, while working on the on-site optimization for your website, keep in mind that you need to publish original, unique and fresh content from time to time. Following these steps will certainly enhance your WordPress website rank and increase your web traffic too.
WordPress Offsite SEO (Work performed outside your website)
Just to reiterate something I’ve mentioned in my previous post – you can have a website on the internet, but there is no point if it’s not search engine optimized. SEO allows the relevant audience to find your website. This creates brand awareness and eventually leads to sales. In my two previous posts, I’ve spoken about on-site SEO. Off-site is a completely different tangent. It requires you to move away from your website to the vast sea of the internet. Why should you bother with it, especially if you have already done on-site SEO? There is no silver bullet to search engine optimization. You have to execute all the SEO tactics available to get your website featured on search engines – this includes off-site SEO.
What is off-site SEO?
As you can guess, off-site SEO is any search engine activities done outside your website. The aim of off-site SEO is to improve your website connectivity and interactivity with the outside web. One of the things search engines check, to ensure website credibility, is its connection to the rest of the web. Why? By analyzing websites that feature your website’s URL (or brand name), it assess the credibility of your brand name on the web. Depending on the credibility level of your website, your website will achieve a higher or lower SEO rank.
So, what are the various off-site SEO tactics you can execute for your WordPress-based website?
As a business, your brand should have a social media presence. And, in turn, it will help your off-site SEO. What action should you take?
- Create your social media profile
- Ensure all the relevant details such as your website link, address and such are inserted
- Have frequent posts and be active on the social media platform
There are plenty of social media platforms you can be on. However, you do not have to be on all of them. Instead, just pick three. Ask yourself – Which social media platforms will my audience be on? For example, if you operate a B2B business, then consider having a presence on LinkedIn and Twitter. These two platforms are dominated by the business crowd. Similarly, if you operate a plumbing website, your brand should be on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Additionally, you don’t want to create a stagnant social media page. Ensure that you post regularly and interact with your followers. The greater your presence on social media, the better your off-site optimization.
There are many directory listing available online. Online directories want businesses to register themselves on it. This is an excellent way to spread your website across the internet. Which are the directory listings you can list your business on?
- Alberta Chamber of Commerce
- Alberta SouthWest
- Edmonton Chamber of Commerce
- BBB Accredited Business
Content can be a very powerful force in the online world. To put things into context, content can include blog posts, infographics, reports, whitepapers and so on. By frequently creating unique content that’s not available on the web, you attract more traffic to your website. How does content impact off-site SEO?
As a marketer, I constantly write posts that link to the Moz website. These are links which provide additional information on my post. From an SEO perspective, my posts do not get any SEO benefit. However – it does benefit Moz. And, I am not the only one who links to Moz. There are many other marketing websites that also link to Moz. The question you might have is – Why? Why do other websites willing link to Moz?
Because Moz offers unique ideas, thoughts and information, which other marketing websites do not. So much so, that I like sharing or referencing some of these ideas in my post.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. You want to create content that makes think – “I didn’t know that?” Plus, this is content your brand can share via email and social media.
When you create unique content, don’t be surprised to find that other websites link to it.
Read or watched something interesting online? Make sure you comment on it using your business profile. This has two advantages.
- Relationship Building:
By commenting, you show interest in another brand’s content. The more you interact with another blog, the better your relationship.
- Takes notice of your brand:
Your brand gets noticed. Not only will the writer and his audience learn about your brand, but he could also ask you to do a guest blog.
As you create more content and establish your brand, various platforms may approach you to conduct guest blogging. This is a unique off-site opportunity. And, if you aren’t approached by anyone – ask around in your network (social and online network) and find out if you can write a guest post on their website.
The key to guest blogging is ensuring that you are writing on a relevant platform. For example, if you are a business consultant, Inc. would be the appropriate platform to post a guest blog. Guest blogging is a good way to get your website brand’s URL on other sites, however, the challenge lies in convincing others that you have something unique to offer.