Traffic to your website doesn’t come easy. You have to make your site as search-friendly as possible to attract users, promote your brand, and sell your product or service. While WordPress makes publishing content simple, managing SEO is trickier, requiring more time, effort, specialized knowledge, and SEO tools.
First, Here’s Why You Need SEO Tools
In today’s highly competitive world – first impressions are everything. Regardless of whether you’re a startup, small business owner, blogger, freelance developer, sysadmin, agency or full-blown enterprise. Your online presence needs to resonate with your target audience, so they remain engaged with your website, and ultimately – your brand.
If your website runs on WordPress, you’re in good company because it powers 33.4% of the top 10 million sites. From SMBs to large enterprises, it’s got 60% of the market. Reason being it’s simple and offers a plugin for virtually every need – no developers needed.
However, for your business to succeed, building a great website is not enough. Your audience needs to find you and choose you above a million others. This is where good search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
Understanding the SEO Basics
SEO is about tracking, monitoring and improving your website’s position in search engine results. Ideally you want to rank as high as possible, since a good ranking means more traffic to your site. More specifically – traffic to your website that you don’t have to pay for via advertising.
Being found on Google means ranking at the top of page one for a certain keyword. Check out these numbers: Position one receives about 31% of the traffic, position two is at around 15%, whereas position ten draws a meager 1.1 % to your website. Needless to say, website links found on page two or later are hardly visible at all and attract below 6% of all website clicks.
How to Get Google to Rank You Highly
Google strives to give the best, most relevant and most complete answer to the user and the search they placed.
Google makes this decision by evaluating over 200 factors from your website. Considering everything from credibility to content relevancy for the user, technical aspects, content quality, user experience, and more. Sounds daunting? Don’t panic! You can start getting your SEO right by simply focusing on these top three critical factors.
1. Creating relevant content for your website.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Content is king!”. Mainly because it’s the most crucial part of SEO. Search engines honor sites that serve relevant content, giving visitors the best possible answer to their search intent. To create optimal content, you need to understand your visitor’s needs, choose the right keywords, and use the correct format.
2. Optimizing your website using on-page SEO
3. Promoting your content with off-page SEO
After optimizing on-page SEO, you can think about off-page SEO by building links and engaging in social media marketing. This is important as how many other websites and social media posts link back to the website has a big impact on the website’s search ranking. Moreover, websites that link to other websites based on similar topics usually rank higher.
Don’t Rely on WordPress Alone
“I am running my site on WordPress.
Why should I then have to take care of search engine optimization?”
Now that we know how important SEO is, let’s check out how search engine friendly WordPress is. WordPress claims to be ‘search engine friendly’ out of the box. But while WordPress allows you to publish content and have it crawled by search engines – the support for SEO success stops here. WordPress code, however, does follow SEO best practices.
“I made my WordPress site really fast, and I make sure I have no 404 errors.
This should be enough to ensure perfect search engine results.”
While these are two really important factors that have an impact on your rankings, Google uses over 200 different factors to calculate search result rankings. So we know we have a long list of other aspects to work on and improve.
“I installed the Yoast SEO plugin and checked the boxes. I am good to go.”
This is a great first step to help you improve your SEO, as Yoast SEO will help you with a lot of important SEO tasks. But please keep in mind, no tool will do what is your foremost job – create brilliant content. What Yoast SEO does do is help you optimize your content from a technical standpoint.
So while WordPress takes care of some of the basic SEO best practices out of the box, it still leaves room for improvement.
Quick SEO Tips for WordPress
Make sure all the critical aspects of your WordPress site are configured correctly from the get-go. For this, you’ll need to tweak some WordPress settings.
1. Check visibility settings
First check the search engine visibility box isn’t marked, as this can hide your site from search engines. You can check it in Settings > Reading.
2. Use a search engine friendly URL structure
Search engines consider yoursite.com and www.yoursite.com to be two different websites. So you need to decide which one you’ll use when you set up your WordPress website. You can set your preferred URL under Settings > General for both WordPress Address and Site Address.
Make sure your website’s URL is human-readable and contains the keywords of your content. You can change the selection under Settings > Permalinks. Add /%category%/%postname%/ in Custom Structure. You also need to leave the Category base field empty, so that the title of your post or page is included in your URL automatically.
3. Exclude pages from search engines
Search engines honor a clean information structure. To ensure crawlers exclude irrelevant pages (eg. login pages), simply add a robots meta tag with a noindex and/or nofollow attribute to the HTML code of a page.
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"/>
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t make this easy. So you’ll either have to edit code or use a plugin.
4. Add schema.org for rich snippets
Google can add additional information, like review stars or images, to your page summary in the search result to make it more eye-catching. But you have to provide this information in a standardized schema.org format first.
Some WordPress themes or specialized plugins provide the necessary markup you need to create a rich snippet. If not, you’ll need to edit the code yourself.
Assessing content quality and relevance
Once you configure the technical foundations correctly, you’re ready to create and publish content. Remember: Google honors content that answers a user’s question in the most relevant and complete way first. So,
- Choose a keyword that’s relevant to your users, matches your content, and has enough search traffic. You can find lots of techniques and tools to support your research.
- Create a good title and use it as a headline following best practices.
- Create a readable text – paying attention to critical SEO signals: length, internal linking, use of headlines, use of keywords in headlines, and overall readability.
- Use keywords in image captions, as well as title tags and alt tags for images.
You should also regularly assess the quality of your existing content. You can do this by updating content on a particular page, improving internal linking, or adding external backlinks.
Add XML Sitemaps
Google recommends you provide an XML sitemap for your website, containing links to all of the pages you want indexed. WordPress doesn’t come with XML sitemap support. So you’ll have to use a plugin, or create and update it manually. Don’t forget to submit it to Google via the Google Search Console.
Auditing the site
Because things can break or go wrong with your site, you should regularly check for common SEO issues, like:
- Crawlability: Can the search engine spiders crawl every page you want to be indexed, or are they getting rejected?
- Orphaned pages: Is every page linked to correctly, and do you provide enough links?
- 404 errors: Are there any broken links in your site causing a ‘page not found’ error, or code 404?
Every site owner should register their website in the Google Search Console, as it checks everything from indexing and broken links to mobile problems. It also gives you visibility into the traffic you receive from the search engine.
To track how your site is doing in terms of attracting traffic and converting users:
- Keep an eye on your website’s ranking for all important keywords and pages.
- Follow trends for critical KPIs (key performance indicators): eg. ranking in search engines, ranking for keywords, etc.
- Compare your site’s performance with selected competitors, and see where your rankings for keywords are doing well.
By continuously analyzing meaningful indicators, you’ll get actionable insight into necessary site optimizations. You’ll also notice immediately if any trends develop on- or off-page. So you can act before something affects the success of your website.
SEO Tools and Best Practices
You need SEO. Period. Although it can be tedious, you don’t actually need to be an expert to master SEO. If you configure your WordPress website correctly, craft your content well, and use essential SEO tools like Yoast and Plesk SEO Toolkit. Then you’re well equipped to manage SEO successfully for your website.