Website SEO Basics - How to Optimize your Content
It seems like SEO is an elusive, ever-changing mystery, which is partly true since the algorithms that search engines use are constantly changing. But the basic rules of search engine optimization remain the same, and we're going to use them to go through each step of creating and optimizing content for your site.
Write authentic content
There’s a reason we listed this first. Writing authentic, unique, information-rich articles and posts is what search engines like (Google’s artificial learning algorithms favor useful, natural content written for the user). Why? Because that’s what your audience will respond to, so it’s what search engines want to promote. A lot of the content on the Internet these days is just a rehash of existing content, which is not very useful. Just be/write yourself.
Create clear page, post, and article titles/headlines
The most important thing with these is to tell people what they’re about to read (enticing them to read more is a bonus). Think about keywords, but only as they sound natural and help describe your content.
Example: Let’s say you have a website that’s all about dogs (dog training, adoption, diet, etc.). You’re writing an article about teaching a dog to drop whatever they have in their mouth. While a title like “OMG drops that deer leg right now!” creates a fun connection with your audience, “Train your dog to drop it” will be more effective because it contains words and phrases that the audience is likely to search. (Good luck to anyone out there searching “what to do if my dog won’t drop a deer leg.”) Push the fun, relatable content into the body of your article, and lead with a straightforward and searchable headline.
Use headings that tell the story
Headings are section headlines, like the bolded ones throughout this article. They help your audience skim a longer article and help search engines detect major themes on your website. After you write an article, go back and just read the headline and headings. Do they help drive and highlight the story?
Example: Within the “drop it” dog-training article, your headings could follow the main training steps (give them a toy / wait / treat when they drop it, etc.), and the content under each heading could explain that action in depth. That way, your readers can follow the article easily the first time quickly review the main points when they refer to it during training.
Get specific with image titles, captions, and alt text
The main purpose of these is to help your visitors understand what the image is if it doesn’t load or if they use a site reader. Search engines will also use alt text to understand what the image is (so they can display them in image search results). Use keywords only if they really help explain, and keep descriptions short, natural, and accurate.
Example: Use “A dog sits, waiting for a training treat” to describe an image instead of just using keywords “dog training.”
Organize content with clear categories and tags
In WordPress, both tags and categories are used to sort content for your audience. Both of these help your readers easily browse through the topics they are interested in. Categories create broad groupings of your posts, while tags describe specific details within those posts.
Example: For your dog website, categories might be “training, food, exercise,” while tags within training might be “sit, come, stay.” Since search engines reward valuable, easy-to-navigate content, if you organize your categories and tags to help readers find information easily, they will automatically be optimized for SEO.
Use the words people are using to talk about your topic—the ones that sound right for your business, your audience, and your writing style. If you aren’t sure what words people are using, look on forums or use online tools to find and compare trending words (Google Trends, Rank Tracker, Google Keyword Planner, WKFinder, and Free Keyword Tool).
Warning: avoid the temptation to keyword stuff. If your words sound unnatural, they will turn off your readers. Search engines won’t love it either.
Example: For your dog website, you want to use the term “dog training” because it sounds natural, but would“dog obedience” be better for search? A quick look at Google Trends shows that “dog training” is more popular:
Be descriptive with website names and taglines.
Everything, down to your website name and tagline, is searchable. Adding keywords here can help, especially if your domain name doesn’t include any keywords.
Use customized permalinks
WordPress offers a few options when it comes to how your permalinks get generated. Go under Settings > Permalinks and set how you want URLs to include details like your post name. Customizing the URLs in this way (using your post name) makes your URLs more searchable. If you want to customize them completely, you can choose that option as well. Warning: if you have existing pages that are already getting traffic, changing those URLs now can affect your SEO ranking.
Create strategic internal linking
Internal links take people from page to page within your website (it’s like the secret passage from the lounge to the conservatory). You can add internal links within a post or article or on the bottom or side. Putting a link within an article is a common practice but, because they interrupt your reading, only use internal links that are intentional and relevant. Make sure links are in anchor text (visible, clickable text, usually in blue).
Example: You’re writing an article about teaching a dog to roll over. The first step you write is “Ask your dog to lie down,” and, in case people haven’t taught their dog to do that, you could link straight from those words to an article on your website that you wrote about teaching a dog to lie down. Then, at the bottom of your “lie down” article, you could encourage people to try teaching their dog to roll over next.
Start building credible external linking
External links can be inbound (links from other websites to your site) or outbound (links from your site to other websites). And it’s good to have both as long as you are linking to and being linked from good, relevant websites.
- Inbound links: These are really good to have, as long as the websites that are linking to you have good quality content. If you want to grow your inbound links, think about where your content would be a valuable asset and reach out to those specific websites, bloggers, and brands. Reach out with a personal, well-thought-out message, not a form letter.
- Outbound links: Use these to provide your readers with more information and references about your content. Avoid undisclosed paid ad links or any link that doesn’t help your readers.
Use a responsive theme.
A responsive theme reorganizes your website for different screen sizes so visitors who are looking at your website on their phone or tablet will automatically see your full content in an easily readable format. It also means that your visitors will recognize your content and know where to find things, whether they’re on a laptop or phone.
If it’s hard for visitors to navigate through your website on their phone, they’ll quickly leave and bounce right back to their search results. And since search engines want to promote helpful websites, if visitors bounce quickly from your website back to their search, the search engine will make a note of that, and it can hurt your website’s ranking.
Under Settings > Reading, there is a line that says “Search Engine Visibility.” Make sure that box is not checked. We know the wording around this is confusing, but checking that box actually checks “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” and stops search engines from indexing your site.
Use SEO plugins
SEO plugins can help you easily optimize your website content. There are quite a few WordPress SEO plugins out there. The two most popular are Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. (Yes, you have to choose one–don’t use multiple SEO plugins at the same time.) Both of these plugins cover what you need for optimization. One difference is that Yoast SEO does content analysis and provides suggestions on how you can improve your SEO within a post. Another difference is that the Yoast SEO license is cheaper if you only need it for one site, while a single license of All in One SEO can be used on multiple sites.
We have SEO packages and tools that can help. The best way to figure out what might work for you is to ask.
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You may also refer to our Knowledge Base articles to help answer common questions and guide you through various setup, configuration, and troubleshooting steps.