Before you start implementing SEO for your WordPress website, it’s important to understand the basic SEO principles as they do apply to all websites and will apply for a long time to come.
Remember that SEO does evolve and change over time. Back in the day you could rely on simply stuffing your keywords over and over on a page (sometimes in text the same color as the background so visitors would not see it) could help you rank on the first page of pretty much any search engine.
But Search Engines have become much smarter and much more complex over the years. And this will continue to happen as time goes on. You need to prepare for that and keep evolving with the search engines.
Here are a few basic SEO guidelines you must use to improve your search rankings:
1. Keyword Research – Keyword research will always one of the most important exercises, even as search engines evolve into using semantics. Sure, you might rank for “top golf tips” if you pick the keyword “best golf tips” because they are semantically similar, but you still need to know what topics are most commonly searched for, to be sure you’re creating the content that could help you rank for those searches.
There are so many different tools around the web to help with your keyword research, including the Google Keyword Planner tool. I use this in combination with Market Samurai. Alternatively, try ‘Keyword Tool‘ or WordStream’s free keyword tool.
2. Title Tags – The title of your page will probably always hold significant weight. Obviously, people are going to title their page based on their page’s content, so search engines will look at that as one of the most important factors when figuring out what a page is about. Keywords in page titles can definitely help your pages rank higher in Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
3. Meta Description – While it’s important to have unique meta descriptions on every page on your site, it’s not a huge ranking factor. If you don’t choose to specify one, Google will extract a snippet from the page.
In writing a Meta description, include your keyword or keyphrase at the beginning preferrably, but only if your description is readable and user friendly. Meaning, write it for humans, not search engines. Also you should probably make sure it is actually part of your text.
4. Page Text – The text on your page should contain your main keyword phrase a few times, but do NOT try to achieve some specific keyword density. Nowadays, keyword relevance is more important than keyword density in SEO. Just write naturally. Semantics will take care of the rest.
All of the above, and more, can be achieved easily by using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO. This will greatly improve your WordPress SEO. You will write better content and have a fully optimized site using this plugin.
5. Backlinks – You’ve probably read about how important it is to get backlinks already, but did you know you need to be very careful about how many you get, where they come from, the text that is used to link to your page, and a lot of other factors? We’ll take a look at backlinks in another section, but yes, getting links to your site (and your individual pages/posts) is very important.
6. Social Signals – Social signals, such as likes, shares, pins, tweets, etc., are another linking factor. While those links may not actually count as far as backlink juice (because most social network links are nofollow or cannot be seen by search engines because of user privacy) many of them ARE counted for SEO purposes.
7. Images – Googlebots do not see images directly, they concentrate on the information provided in the “alt” attribute. Basically they read images not see them. So, be sure to use title and alt tags whenever posting images as this is a way for search engines to index and rank them accordingly.
Inlcude your keyword where you can but use descriptive text in your alt tags that helps visitors. Good optimized images can also generate a fair bit of traffic from any image-based search engines, like Google image search for example.
8. Load Speed – The speed at which your page loads is extremely important. If your page takes too long to load, it WILL affect your SEO rankings somewhat. More importantly, a fast site is good for user experience (UX). If a user leaves your page because of slow loading, this WILL have an impact in your rankings. Also, make sure your images are optimized sizewise for fast loading and your hosting company is fast.
9. Outbound Links – Backlinks used to be the big factor in rankings. These days, they’re important, but not the biggest ranking factor. But though a lot of people realize having links TO their site is important, few seem to know that linking OUT to other authority sites can boost your own rankings.
It’s a good idea to cite sources for your content with a link or recommend other good content that gives a different perspective than your own. Going overboard will harm your ranking, but a few links sprinkled into your articles to
sites with good authority will help.
10. Mobile Friendly – Your site should be optimized for mobile browsers, either resizing dynamically or redirecting mobile users to a different version of the site. For WordPress sites, this means choosing a mobile-friendly theme. These days the majority of themes out there are responsive themes, which means mobile friendly.
Try looking for a suitable theme over at StudioPress. They are, IMO, one of the best places to look for out of the box, SEO ready, responsive themes.
Google has made it known that mobile friendliness will be a search engine ranking factor in 2016. Check if your site is mobile friendly using the tool below.
This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of ranking factors. It would take a full-length book to describe all of them. But it’s a good, solid foundation on which to build your basic SEO plan.
I am no SEO expert. I know the basics and use them repeatedly, but I also implement advanced strategies by reading from all the experts out there. Here I am linking to a few great articles from some of these experts…
- SEO basics: 22 essentials you need for optimizing your site – Search Engine Watch
- SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization – Moz
- WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need – ViperChill
Feel free to list your SEO tips in the comments, or any great articles you have read.
Oh, and as always… Please share this if you liked it!