Stepping up WordPress’ Search Engine Optimization Game

Discuss search engine optimization with most business owners and it’s usually pretty high on their list. (Independent of whether they actually need it or not.)

Generally speaking, SEO is the task of trying to get a high ranking on the search engines. Nowadays that really boils down to Google–and Bing to a lesser degree. Many small business websites use WordPress today. What, then, are a couple of little tweaks you can do in terms of SEO to get your clients’ or your own WordPress site at least one step above the masses?

seo+wp :: Search Engine Optimization and WordPress

On the whole, WordPress ships fairly optimized for addressing SEO right out of the box, but there are a few extra modifications you can do to give it a bit of an SEO turbo boast. I’d break these down into 2 main categories: (1) more precise keyword labelling, and (2) proper content composing. (The latter also being related to SMO–social media optimization).

Lets take a look at these briefly.

1. More precise keyword labelling

Every post or page you create already has areas you can add meaningful keywords into. Examples of these include custom categories and tags you can create and associate a post with, as well as global site keyword association such as changing the “Just Another WordPress Site” description field on the main “Settings” interface. What’s more, WordPress’ code is authored in a semantic way right out of the box to facilitate accessibility for humans and spiders (search engine robots). WordPress themes–like the one you’re reading off of right now–use meaningful, semantic HTML5 tags such as <header>, <aside>, and <h1> partly to help search engines prioritize which keywords are more relevant on any given post or page.

There are yet more SEO features that WordPress ships with out of the box, but I won’t get into those here. Instead, I want to point out a couple more steps you can do to tweak up WordPress’ SEO capabilities in regards to keywords.

Most of the quickest steps you can take, come in the form of a plugin. “All-In-One-SEO” and “Yoast” have traditionally been the leaders in this department. There is also “Ultimate SEO”, and some other similar plugins. “Yoast” recently suffered a security breach, and I’m just more used to “All-In-One-SEO” from my own personal usage over the years, so I’ll spotlight that one as an example.

When you plug in “All-In-One-SEO” you’ll find all kinds of features in its main “Settings” page. These include aspects such as how spiders should index your pages, what the main <meta> tag title and descriptions of the site should be, curating content by excluding specific pages from a search engine, as well as a lot of other options. (Way too many to list.)

I think the main strength of these types of plugins, however, is not necessarily those global settings (as useful as those are) but rather the extended feature that when you go over to each post and page, you now have some extra fields for adding in some keywords. It even previews how your Google search result will look by providing a visual! Pretty cool. Check out how I’ve used it in relation to this article:

All-in-Seo Plugin example for WordPress

The advantage here of course is that the keywords you add in these fields are content specific. That means that for every piece of content you create, you can have relevant <meta> tags related specifically to that topic. This is important because in the modern web, content is king. A post you put out there may prove to go viral, leading readers back to your site. Think of each post or page as an independent object from your wider site. The specific keywords you put on that specific post could help determine the success of its independent popularity. It doesn’t matter that it’s independent though. A successful post naturally leads visitors back to your site. It’s like that crazy daily special many restaurants often advertise. Its purpose is just to get the customers’ foot in the door first.  In the case of a website, more visitors equals a more discovered and exposed brand.

2. Proper content composing

This is arguably is the more direct route to SEO nowadays. Keywords still help, but they are a bit more of an “early 2000’s” SEO tactic–especially obsessing over them. With the growth of social media, the SEO game changed a little bit and SMO has now become a large consideration.

If you want to optimize your WordPress site, pay good attention to how you are composing your content pieces. This includes things like the wording you use, how you break down your articles, the post and page titles you compose, considering how a social media user might see that content come up in his/her newsfeed and how tempted s/he is to click on it based on teaser content.

Take this post for example. Here are some of the things I’ve considered for increased SEO:

  • Choosing a theme with clean, white space in the design. Less clutter => more accessibility => more time users stay on [i.e. read/use/click on] your post (Google likes this. It’s called a low bounce rate.)
  • Use of friendly, large fonts that are easy to read. Same benefits as above point
  • Mobile friendly. Google considers mobile friendly sites as more contemporary, relevant sites.
  • Article title. Choosing one that would seem clickable on a Facebook or Twitter newsfeed
  • Text/Image/Media accessibility. Content broken down with subtitles into manageable, accessible, readable chunks

There are other considerations I’ve made but these are some of the main ones. Remember too that there is such a thing as balance. You implement items such as the above, but within the parametres of maintaining good credibility as a writer or content producer. Don’t overly obsess and fall into the trap of producing articles that are pure click bate, only being composed of titles and links. We’ve all seen those “18 Celebrity Fails” type of posts on Facebook. You click on them and they’re laden with ads and “prev/next” links that bog down your computer to a snail’s pace. To add insult to injury, usually the first three pictures are sensational, and then the remaining images are completely lame.

Always provide real value to your readers.

The proverbial tip of the iceberg

There are many more ways to make WordPress more search engine friendly of course. They range from utilizing more of the plugins’ settings, increased keyword research, and customizing WordPress’ code yourself to make it suit your specific SEO needs.

Just remember however that, by virtue alone of using WordPress, you’re already working on an SEO friendly platform. By extending this capability with plugins, and taking care to compose well thought out, relevant content that you distribute on the appropriate social media channels, you’ll ensure that you’ve got the lion’s share of your WP +SEO bases covered.

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