SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy used by website owners to get more traffic by ranking higher in search engines.
Search engine optimization isn’t about tricking Google or gaming the system. It’s simply about creating a website that has optimized code and formatting which makes it easy for search engines to find your website.
When people search the web for the topics you write about, your search-engine-optimized content will appear higher in the search results, and you’ll get more people clicking through to your website.
Why SEO is important
Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites. Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. But those algorithms aren’t perfect, they still need your help to understand what your content is about.
If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. When people search for the topics you write about, your website won’t appear in the search results, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic. It is really important for all business owners to make their website search engine friendly so that they can maximize their search traffic.
1. Choose Your Hosting Provider Carefully
The first step is to ensure your site loads fast because speed is a very important ranking factor for Google. If your site is presently not loading very fast (even heavy pages should load in under 1.5 seconds), you can contact your host and ask them why your website is performing slowly on their server, but if they fail to provide you a specific reason (such as your website hitting your allocated resource limits), you can be sure that their servers are slow in the first place.
2. Pick a Theme That’s Optimized for Search Engines
Your theme is one of the most important choices you’ll make for your WordPress site. It determines your site’s appearance and layout, can provide new functionality, and also plays a role in its SEO. For example, your theme can affect your site’s speed, which is vital. The way a theme was developed also matters since clean code gives your site the best chance in SERPs.
Therefore, when picking a theme you’ll want to opt for one built with SEO in mind. These themes are often referred to as ‘SEO-friendly’. You may also want to look for a theme that offers features specifically designed to improve your SEO, such as new heading tag options. Fortunately, there are plenty of themes available that fit the bill.
3. Add Your Site to Google Search Console
Google Search Console, also known as Webmaster Tools, is a set of tools offered by Google to give website owners a look at how their content is seen by the search engine.
It provides reports and data to help you understand how your pages appear in search results. You also get to see the actual search terms people are using to find your website, how each page appears in the search results, and how often your pages are clicked.
All this information helps you understand what’s working on your site and what’s not. You can then plan your content strategy accordingly.
Google Search Console also alerts you when there is something wrong with your website, like when search crawlers are unable to access it, find duplicate content or restricted resources.
4. Install a WordPress SEO Plugin
When it comes to choosing the best WordPress SEO plugin, you will most likely narrow your choices down to the two most popular solutions: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack.
5. Turn On Search Engine Visibility
There’s a built-in option within WordPress that will hide your site from the search engines. To see if this setting is on, navigate to Settings › Reading from within the WordPress dashboard. Scroll down and you’ll see a section called Search Engine Visibility. Make sure that you leave this box unchecked. Then click ‘Save Changes’.
6. Setup Friendly Permalinks
When you first install WordPress your site’s pages and posts will have a strange URL structure. This default structure isn’t good for your SEO.
The cleanest and most search engine friendly URL structure is the “post name” setting. By switching to this setting you’ll also be able to include your post or page title, and even a keyword in your URL. To change this setting navigate to Settings › Permalinks.
Under the ‘Common Settings’ section, select the option that says ‘Post name’.
If you’re making this change late in the game, then you may need to redirect any old URLs. You can do this with a plugin like Change Permalink Helper. Just input your older URLs and they’ll forward to your updated URLs.
7.Install an .xml sitemap plugin
Installing a .xml sitemap plugin is vital for WordPress blogs. Providing search engines like Google links to all the pages on your site in a sitemap, preferably in the .xml format, helps them index your site content faster, in an easier way.
A good plugin for WordPress to automatically create and update sitemaps is Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold.
8. Optimize Your Header Tags
Your header tags will give the crawler bots an idea of what your content is about. Using these tags throughout your content will make it more readable and well-optimized for the search engines.
In general, you should have one H1 tag per post and use a hierarchy of H2, H3, H4, etc., underneath that.
Your H1 tag will also be the title of your post, so you’ll definitely want to include your target keyword. For the rest of your header tags use a variation of your target keyword, if possible. However, don’t stuff your heading tags with keywords if it doesn’t make sense for your post.
Within the WordPress editor, you can easily add header tags via the drop-down menu.
9. Build Your Content around Keywords
Even though the way we optimize for keywords has changed, they still play an important role in SEO. Whenever you’re writing a post on your site you should have a focus keyword for that specific post.
Here are some best practices when optimizing for a chosen keyword:
Don’t overstuff the keyword into your post, only include when it’s natural.
Include your keyword in the first paragraph of your copy if possible.
Use your target keyword in your title and your subheadings.
Add your target keyword to your URL, and Meta description.
Yoast SEO makes implementing the above tips easy.
Whenever you’re writing a post input your target keyword into the tool. You’ll get an analysis of how well-optimized that post is for your chosen keyword. You’ll be given tips to improve your keyword optimization and increase your chances of ranking in the search engines.
10. Incorporate Useful Internal and External Links
Google and other search engines don’t consider your website in a vacuum. Instead, they look at how well it’s connected, both internally and to other sites. Using plenty of links throughout your posts and pages tells crawlers how they relate to similar content. It also encourages other people to link back to your site which in turn communicates to search engines that your content is valuable.
As with keywords, this is a strategy you’ll want to use carefully. If you cram too many links into your content or use a lot of links that point to irrelevant pages or exist only to promote products, your search engine rankings will likely suffer.
Instead, look to incorporate links where they fit naturally, and to point readers towards high-quality websites that already rank highly in SERPs. Smart use of both internal links and external links is key to achieving the best SEO results possible.
11. Integrate Social Media sharing buttons in your posts
Most search engines including Google take help of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ etc. to determine what reactions a webpage is getting from real users. When you like a link on Facebook, or retweet your favorite blog post on Twitter, or give a post you liked a +1 that means you liked the post, right? Search engines these days give posts with good social reactions more priority in SERPs. A bonus would be increased traffic from those social networking sites for your content. You can implement social sharing buttons on your website and get those advantages.
12. Optimize Your Images and ensure all your images have alt text
Optimizing your images by compressing and resizing them may reduce the sizes of the images by a great extent, decreasing the page sizes and thus improving page loading performance on your blog. You may use online image resizing and compressing tools as well as their offline counterparts.
Make sure the images that you upload in WordPress are already optimized, but even if you don’t have already optimized images to upload, you can use a plugin like Smush.it to optimize and reduce the sizes of uploaded images automatically.
You can also add proper image tags to images in your posts to help them rank better in image searches. You can also include additional keywords through alt tags in your posts. Google uses alt text to determine the topic of a page, so it can even help your search rankings on non-image search.
To find all the images on your site lacking alt text, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog. The free version won’t show you all of them, but it will show you a good chunk.
13. Add and Update Your Posts Frequently
Google gives priority in its SERPs to blogs that feature frequently published posts. If you post five times in a week and don’t post anything at all the next week, it’s even worse than posting two posts a week consistently. Search engines love newly updated content relevant content.
14. Focus on Quality Content
Google has been deeply focusing on content quality for the last few years. Algorithm updates such as Google Panda and Google Penguin have hit low-quality content farms hard. People cannot use the “post crap, build links” strategy that they successfully used in back in 2004. The best way to impress Google is to produce unique, well thought out content that your readers will love. Think about search engine traffic only when you actually have great content on your site.
Google now uses a variety of techniques to determine if the users are loving the content on your site or not. These include social signals, on-site user-activity, the bounce rate of a page etc. So even if you manage to rank a not so useful page of your site high for a set of keywords, be certain that it won’t take search engines long time to know that people aren’t loving that content on your site and your rankings will get a blow as a result of negative user metrics.
15. Optimize your WordPress site for mobile
Mobile has long overtaken desktop in the number of users browsing online. And it’s only going to continue increasing as phones get better and voice search improves.
Google knows that. And they reward mobile-friendly sites with better rankings.
It makes sense Google’s goal is to provide the absolute best experience for the end user. Obviously, viewing a mobile site on a mobile device is going to provide the best experience.
16. Use a Caching Plugin
A caching plugin will generate static HTML files, instead of the PHP files normally required to run WordPress. This will minimize the number of requests between the server and your user’s browser, which will decrease your loading speeds.
Some of the most common WordPress caching plugins include W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
17. Optimize Meta Descriptions
Your Meta description is the bit of text that’s below the title in the search results. It gives searchers an idea of what that page is going to be about.
Your Meta description isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it will help to improve your search engine CTR. A well-written and enticing Meta description will drive the searcher to click on your post, instead of the other search results. The data is correlation based, but if you have a high CTR, Google will deem your page more relevant, which could improve your rankings.
To optimize your Meta description for clicks implement these tips:
Include your focus keyword in your description. Google will highlight this keyword in bold, so it’ll make your listing stand out even more.
Think of your Meta description like ad copy. You’re persuading your reader to click on your listing over others on the page.
18. No-Follow Any Affiliate Links
A lot of websites use affiliate links to generate revenue. These links are used to track commissions when you recommend a product, service, or course.
But, using too many of these links is frowned upon by Google. If you’re using affiliate links, then you can disguise them, while making sure they’re no-follow by using a plugin called Pretty Links.
Pretty Links is a very useful plugin that can help you give a unique, non-affiliate looking URL, to any links you’re using. As a benefit this tool also has tracking, so you can see how many people are actually clicking your links.
19. Force Google to Crawl Your Site
Usually, your site is crawled by the frequency you publish new content. But, there is a workaround that’ll get your content immediately indexed by Google.
Open up Google Search Console, navigate to Crawl, and click on Fetch as Google. Input the URL of the post you’ve just published or updated and click on ‘FETCH’.
Next, click on ‘Request Indexing’ and your new URL will be indexed by Google. Sometimes this won’t happen instantly, but it’ll be much faster than waiting for Google to crawl your site.
20. Fix broken links on your blog
Having a lot of broken links isn’t good for your readers or your rankings. Also, they make it harder for Google bots to crawl your site. The easiest way to check your site for broken links is to open up Google Search Console and click on ‘Crawl Errors’.
Then, open up each error and it’ll show you where the broken link is, so you can fix it.
Take some time, re-evaluate your WordPress site after you’ve implemented a few of these techniques. Check if things are better for your site or not. Ideally, you should see a significant rise in the organic traffic level of your site.