WordPress is a powerful, incredible platform that lets people ease into the world of making websites and with that comes the opportunity to learn SEO. Every website needs good SEO (well, there must be some exceptions) but by and large a website that is beautiful, engaging, has brilliant UX, and world-class stock images and written content could all be a waste of time if… the SEO is so poor no-one ever finds it. Below I will take you through some basic things to get right so that Google highly rates your website – namely, because your SEO is done well.
[Side note: Search Engine Optimisation. I hope you know what that is by now. Google is the main player (a Search Engine) and then you get Bing, Yahoo, and all the others no-one can remember because those three dwarf them. At least, in the English-speaking world. If you want your WordPress site to zing with SEO brownie points I would suggest you take a look at these tools/websites/articles I list below. They have helped me so let’s hope they help you.]
Yoast SEO. Using a traffic-light code of red-amber-green indicating how decent your on-page SEO is for both pages and posts (which really are the same thing anyway) these guys are the place to start when you get going with your WordPress site. Visit their handy website, or just follow the various links from their plugin after you have installed, and activated it. Make sure you learn how to submit sitemaps to your Google Search Console – Yoast makes it a piece of cake. This plugin is the easiest place to start when learning about SEO within WordPress.
Images. For good performance on your site you want decently sized (or optimised) images. Huge ones make your page loading speed too long which hurts your rankings – though likely only a bit. It’s often the biggest reason your site is slow though, so be careful to export them (in Photoshop, or whatever you choose) for web, or use a plugin that can compress them for you. Lastly, make sure you “alt-tag” your images so Google can know what they refer to. Otherwise, an image of a cow to them could be anything they fancy. Until they can read minds, that is.
Moz. The Moz Bar was incredibly helpful early on with their DA metric. It’s something they made up but it really is a helpful benchmark to gauge sites by. I now use their expensive (a hefty monthly fee, but well worth it) paid option but you can get quite a bit of insight from them initially on the free tier.
Writing. Content is King. You will hear this across all SEO articles, videos, lessons etc – it pays to get your content right, right from the start. First, generate a lot of it. Secondly, make sure your title tags, H1 (and other header) tags are set up well. Thirdly, add images, infographics, embed videos, and other useful content. Fourthly, choose useful url’s (eg. training-on-seo-in-london) will help Google understand and rank your content. Fifthly, work out how you want to categorise your posts and pages. Yoast can help you with this, but think long-term if you want category tags, author tags, and a host of other ways of doing the same thing in a different way – you will regret it down the line if you want to change things en masse; it is usually a big mission. Do your research, and them implement by writing loads of useful content people will engage with.
Performance. WordPress can be sluggish, it can also be fast. Learn how to make it blazingly fast and ensure you tick all the right boxes. GTMetrix and YSlow can be helpful indicators of what to do. As can Pingdom, and other tools like Google’s own Pagespeed Insights or their built-into-Chrome Lighthouse. They will all give you clues as to how you can improve your site’s performance, which is a definite ranking factor for Google, among others.
UX. One way Google rates your website is how people behave when on it. Good UX (User Experience) will mean people want to stay on it, for whatever reason/s. This communicates to the giant-aka-Google that your site is amazing. The simplest way to check how your site is doing in UX is look at these three metrics on your Google Analytics dashboard.
1) Bounce Rate – Have people “bounced”? that is, have they come and left immediately?
2) Time Spent on Site – Like the above, do people arrive and spend time on the site?
3) Pages viewed – Do they navigate around your site? If they do it’s likely because they want to know more, which is a good thing.
Backlinks. This is the hardest thing to advise on because there are so many sneaky, dodgy folk out there who spam tonnes of websites, and employ a variety of tactics to get backlinks to their sites, or ones they are working on for clients. Although almost none of it is illegal (I have no idea country by country what is and isn’t allowed, if anything) it isn’t ridiculous to say that what is a no-no in Google’s eyes can actually be more important than in your country’s metaphorical eyes. Reason I say this is that a) Your country probably doesn’t have capacity to monitor millions of websites and punish those with spam links b) If Google de-indexes your site no-one will find you, which translates into no traffic = no sales = no money = end of your business = you are on the streets next winter. [For the uninformed, Google essentially has an index of websites from which it provides search results from, much like a Yellow Pages directory book (that thing made of paper, remember) of yesteryear had company phone numbers. If you aren’t there, you can’t be found.]
So, that is a brief entrée to the WordPress SEO world but one nonetheless; I will elaborate on each of these sections in upcoming posts but I hope that the above at least sends you in the right directions to begin with. Good luck if you are just beginning your SEO/Wordpress journey 🙂