If your goal is driving organic traffic to your business website — and who isn’t thinking about that today? — you have to implement good SEO practices. The better your SEO, the higher your site will rank on the search engine results page (SERP). And the closer you get to the top of page one, the more people will find your product, service, or blog.
Before I provide you with tips and tricks for improving SEO on your WordPress site, let’s start with a quick SEO overview.
What’s SEO and Why Should You Care?
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization.” Google uses a complex algorithm sequence to assess site content, page elements, tags, and site availability — among dozens of other elements — to decide which websites are most relevant to a searcher’s query. If you want people to find you, you have to make sure that the Googlebot crawling the web not only finds your site but likes what it see. When Google can’t find your WordPress business site, you won’t be indexed and will have zero chance of ending up on the first page. In this case, the only way for people to find your website is if they know the URL or business name.
Fortunately, WordPress comes with built-in functionality to satisfy those bots. The platform’s features literally guide the search engine through individual posts, pages, and categories, making it simple to collect information about your enterprise — and increase your SERPs. Key SEO tools help you give organic searchers and Google what they’re looking for.
Tips, Tricks, and Tools to Boost Your Ranking
See what Google sees with the feature-rich plugin Yoast. It provides instant analytic feedback on your content so you’ll quickly discover if keyword placement follows best practices, images are properly tagged, and your posts have a favorable readability rating. It also gives you a preview to see how you’ll show up in the SERPs and whether your focus keyword appears in the title, content, and meta description.
Optimize all your images with alt tags (you’ll see this field when you upload the image file). High-quality images on your business website not only enhance customer experience, but Google considers images when indexing. Since computers only read words, make sure Google can find your photos by using keyword-rich titles. You will rank higher if you name your image “womens-purple-sandel” than if you use standard file names like “IMG0002309.”
Avoid duplicate content. Check your site to make sure that every URL has unique content because you’ll be penalized if the same content is used more than once. For example, don’t use the same product description on the pages for “women’s shoes,” “women’s blue shoes,” or “women’s footwear.”
Use WordPress categories strategically. Like tags, categories help you organize related posts. They also provide clues for readers about article content and make it easy for site visitors to find relevant posts on similar topics. Tags are totally optional (although we don’t recommend you opt out), but categories are required in WordPress. Learn more about the difference between categories and tags on this WordPress page. In keeping with the shoe theme, categories might be “footwear” and “women’s shoes” and tags would be “blue” and “slip-on.”
Create effective permalinks. Research confirms that while numbers in a post title entice readers to click through to read an article, they don’t factor into the ranking algorithm for your business website. So keep your slugs short — preferably five words or less. If you’re posting content titled “10 Trending Shoe Styles for Summer,” shorten your permalink to “trending-shoe-styles-for-summer.” Remember to use hyphens and not underscore markings since Google considers an underscore as an extension of the word and this can confuse the bots and reduce pagerank.
Exploit relationships (but only in this context!). It’s important to build a beautiful, functional website, but you also have to manage your online relationships to stay ahead of the competition. Linking gives you that advantage. WordPress gives you out-of-the-box functionality, such as blogrolls and pingbacks, to help you establish connections. Pingbacks notify the author of an article or press release of theirs that you’ve linked to on your site. Trackbacks signal an author that you’ve mentioned her work, even if you didn’t include a direct link. It’s important to monitor theses mentions and links so you know which external content is influencing your rank. Google considers these relationships when considering how “popular” your business is on the web with searchers, industry associates, and competitors.
Choose your web hosting partner wisely. If your business website is down, Google can’t find you, and if it can’t find you, it can’t index your pages. Investing in a reliable hosting service is a critical part of encouraging organic search traffic. Bluehost offers service packages specially optimized for WordPress users.
Create a sitemap in XML. Make it easy for Bing, Google, Yahoo, and other search engines to crawl your business pages with a sitemap generator. Just drop your complete URL into the text box, select the best-fit answer to three questions, and wait while the generator creates your optimized sitemap.
Write effective titles and meta tags. If writing effective titles and meta tags is difficult for you, you’ll love the Platinum SEO Pack plugin, which helps you optimize pages and post content for SEO. And it automatically generates meta tags to ensure that your content gets indexed by the search engines.
Stop keyword stuffing. Rising to the top of the organic search result pages won’t happen if your keywords don’t fit naturally within the context of your website content. Resist the urge to include phone numbers, geographic information, and awkward keyword strings that don’t add value to your posts. There are many keyword generation tools out there that work well with WordPress — this article from LunaMetrics gives you an overview of a few of the most popular ones. You can also generate highly relevant keywords from your own data, and the article walks you through that process as well.
How do you improve your SEO?