If you have ever tried to build a website of your own you’ve probably heard of WordPress. If you haven’t already heard of it, WordPress is a highly versatile and powerful platform anyone can use to publish their own blog.
However, these days WordPress is not just any old run-of-the-mill blogging platform. It’s a complete Content Management System (CMS) that gives it’s users the ability to build virtually any kind of website imaginable using it’s various plugins and themes.
One drawback of the WordPress platform is that the raw system only provides you with basic search engine optimization for your blog. You need to configure your WordPress site manually to enhance it’s search engine visibilty, so that you get more organic visitors who find your site when they use search engines like Google to look for content related to the subject of your blog. Simply optimizing your WordPress blog correctly can boost the amount of free traffic your blog receives.
You are probably aware that I do not believe it is a good idea to try to build an online business with free traffic alone, as all traffic costs either time or money. It is however, an exceptionally good idea to get all the free traffic you possibly can and adjusting your WordPress site for good search engine ranking positions for your target keywords is an easy way to increase the free, targeted traffic you receive.
There are several plugins you can use to improve WordPress SEO. Many of them can be accessed for free right from your WordPress dashboard but none of them will handle 100% of the optimization for your site. They also work differently and have different functions, so choosing the right one can be difficult.
Before you address your search engine optimization strategy for your WordPress website, it is a good idea to get a basic understanding of the SEO principles that apply to all websites and that are more than likely going to apply for many years to come.
Having said that, search engine optimization has evolved over the years. In the early days of search engines, stuffing your webpage with your keyword, sometimes even in text which was the same color as the background, could enable your webpage to appear on the first page of pretty much any search engine.
However, the algorithms which determine SERPs (search engine ranking positions) have become much more sophisticated so that people can see more relevant results when they search for something.
Here are some of the fundamental concepts of SEO which you can use right now to improve your ranking positions.
1. Keyword Research – Keyword research will likely always be an important seo factor, even though search engines are advancing into incorporating semantics into their algorithms, or to put it another way, starting to identify ‘meaning’ in web content. If you want to rank for a given keyword, a great way to identify other keywords which Google labels as semantically similar, or close in meaning is by entering the keyword in Google’s own keyword research tool here. The keywords produced by the tool under your original keyword are listed in order of how related in meaning to your intital keyword Google labels them as being, with the highest results being labelled by Google as being closest in meaning to your initial keyword. If that doesn’t make sense, use the tool with a few keywords and all will (hopefully) become clear. Those keywords which are labelled as Google as being close in meaning to your target keyword are known as ‘latent semantic indexing keywords’.
2. Title Tags – The titles you give to your pages will probably always be important for SEO. Obviously, people are give their pages titles which are based on the content of their pages and this means that search engines will regard a page title as a crucial factor when they try to ‘figure out’ the topic of a page and how relevant it is to a particular keyword search result.
3. Headings – Heading tags (H1, H2, H3 etc.) are important because in essense they are short labels for your content, similar to page titles.
4. Page Text – The text on your page should contain your main keyword or key phrase once or twice. It is better to write naturally than trying to create content with a particular ‘keyword density’. High quality, well written content holds your visitor’s attention better and a high bounce rate can damage your rankings.
5. Backlinks – You’ve probably already heard about the significance of backlinks for search engine rankings but you may not be aware that you need to be very careful about how many you get, which sites are linking back to your site and how ‘natural’ the backlinks appear to the search engines. Marketers have been known to try to engineer good rankings by spamming backlinks to their from free backlink directories and search engines have taken steps to penalize attempts to ‘game’ them. Your best bet is to think about quality over quantity and get relevant backlinks from authority sites, especially those in your niche. It is also important to use relevant anchor text in your backlinks such as keywords and latent semantic indexing keywords.
6. Social Signals – Social signals, such as likes, shares, pins, tweets and so forth are an effective way to improve your rankings and get extra traffic from social sites. Those social links may not actually improve your ‘backlinking score’ because most social network links are nofollow and cannot be seen by search engines because of user privacy. Nonetheless many social links do count for SEO purposes.
7. Content Length – The length of your content now matters more than ever. Google believes longer content is more in-depth and will be more authoritative and useful to readers, so longer copy is key. The days of 250-300 words articles are long gone. These days, 750-1000 words is preferable, and anything longer is a bonus.
8. Site Loading Speed – How quickly your page loads is extremely important. Slow loading pages damage search engine rankings. It is important to ensure your images are optimized for fast loading and your web host 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.
SEO for WordPress Sites
In adition to the generic SEO principles outlined above, there are a few specific steps you can take to maximize the search engine visibility of your WordPress sites.
First you need to decide whether you want your site to be found at
Either is fine for seo purposes and, whilst WordPress automatically sets up your website at http://yourwebsite.com, you can alter it to the www version if you want. To do this you just go to settings > general > preferred domain from your dashboard.
Once you have decided which version to use, you’ll want to visit Google Webmaster Tools to make sure they use the same one.
You can determine whether your website URLs are listed with or without the ‘www.’ by going to Settings > Preferred domain.
One simple change you can make which will dramatically improve the search engine visibility of your WordPress site is adjusting the structure of your permalinks by going to Settings > Permalinks.
The default structure is ?p=postid which is terrible for SEO purposes. It doesn’t allow the use of keywords in the URL and doesn’t offer any useful information to search engines.
To change you structure, select either “Post name” or “Custom structure”. If you choose post name, your URLs will look like this:
You can also use a custom structure such as %category%/%postname%.
This would make your URLs look like this:
Either one is fine for SEO purposes, but using the category/title provides a good “Silo structure”, which basically means it helps the authority of your pages because everything is organized into specific categories instead of being lumped in together.
WordPress SEO Plugins
There’s loads of plugins available for free from your WordPress dashboard with all kinds of which do allkinds of things for your blogs. Many of them help you to enhance your WordPress site’s SEO in some way but there are 2 plugins which have become extremely popular with WordPress users.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
All-in-One SEO Pack
Both have very similar features, and they both work well for your SEO, so you might want to give both of them a spin to see which you prefer to use.
Both Yoast and All-in-One SEO Pack are used on over a million blogs due to their versatility and effectiveness in improving the search rankings of WordPress blogs.
I would also recommend installing plugins for adding social share and follow buttons to your sites because, as I said earlier, social signals like tweets and shares are great for free viral traffic and your ranking positions.