Get started with WordPress SEO now! If you have just started a new blog or are thinking about starting one, Stop! Stop, what you’re doing and take some time to get acquainted with SEO — search engine optimization. Taking a little time now to think about SEO can save you a lot in the future.
So, what exactly is SEO? Well, it’s nothing more the actions you can take to make your site more easily discoverable, accessible and indexed by search engines — think Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
As illustrated below there four broad SEO categories:
SEO for Your Site Design
Design optimization is all about creating a friendly and useful user experience. One of the primary features of great user experience is a responsive, mobile-friendly design. In fact, Google rewards sites with higher search rankings if they are responsive and mobile-friendly.
What does that mean? Simply put it means that your site maintains a consistent appearance and user experience across all desktop and mobile devices.
We’ve all seen those sites where the type is too small, the links are even smaller, the images distorted and you had to scroll sideways to see the full-width of the site. You want to avoid all of that.
A responsive site automatically adjusts a theme’s layout to fit the screen of any particular desktop or mobile device. It helps ensure a useful viewing experience.
Don’t know if your site is mobile-friendly? Head to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, enter your URL, and within a few seconds, you’ll have your results.
If you don’t ‘pass’ the test you need to look for a new WordPress theme. Be sure to focus on themes that specifically feature ‘responsive’ and ‘mobile-friendly’ design. My favorites are Studiopress themes, but there are many other sources on the market for quality WordPress themes that fit the bill.
Some design characteristics of a high-quality, responsive, mobile-friendly site include:
- A clean, uncluttered layout featuring a good use of ‘white space’.
- A limited color palette.
- Use of no more than two to three font styles.
Another critical feature of a great user experience is simple, intuitive navigation. Make it as easy as possible for a user to discover and access all of the content on your site. Ideally, take the time to ensure that it doesn’t take more than 2 or 3 clicks to access any piece of content. A well-thought out site structure not only aids visitors in discovering and accessing your content but also makes it easier for search engines to index your site.
Page loading speed is another vital factor in your design SEO. Google’s standard for an ideal page load time is one-second. That sounds fast, and it is, but with a little work you can get very close to the mark. Start by checking your page load times here:
How did you do? If you aren’t satisfied and want to improve your times here are a couple of recommendations:
- First, make sure WordPress up-to-date. The same goes for plugins.
- Second, install a plugin to optimize your images — this alone can lead to significant reductions. Take a look at this WordPress plugin for one possible solution: EWWW Image Optimizer. For a local solution try Image Optimizer for Mac.
- Third, install a good caching plugin. W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache are very popular, excellent plugins. But, they can be difficult to configure. For an easier to implement, more complete solution see this article.
SEO for Your Content
To optimize your content focus your pages and posts on a specific keyword or keyword phrase (commonly known as ‘long-tail keywords’). What are keywords? They are simply the words people use in Google searches to find the content they need.
Keyword research is an art itself and I provide some resources at the end of this article to jumpstart your learning.
Once you identify a keyword phrase for your page or post, try to incorporate it into each element of the page or post. These include the title, meta-description, URLs, headers, body content, image tags and other descriptors. This practice is commonly referred to as ‘on-page optimization’.
Two of the most recommended and trusted plugins for WordPress SEO and ‘on-page’ optimization are:
Each of these plugins has over one million active users. Both will serve you well, and both excel in on-page optimization. I prefer WordPress SEO by Yoast. The configuration settings are well-organized. It also uses Red-Yellow-Green indicators and provides specific recommendations for individual page and post SEO.
You may want to give each one a try before making your final selection. Once configured you will spend most of your SEO time with the ‘on-page optimization’ feature of these plugins. Spend some extra time acquainting yourself with that feature.
SEO for Your Links
A sound link strategy for your WordPress site is essential, but a thorough discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this post. My point here is only to raise your awareness and guide you to some excellent resources on the subject.
At it’s most basic level there are three types of links for any WordPress site. They are in order of value:
Inbound links (also called backlinks) — These are links from other websites to your content. These are the most highly prized form of links as Google directly correlates these inbound links with the ‘authority’ of your site. The more people who link to your content, the more Google looks on your site as an authority in your space or niche, and the higher your content will rank in search results.
Internal links — These are links internal to your site that help tie your related content together. A robust internal linking strategy, combined with well-produced content encourages visitors to explore more of your site and remain on site for a longer period.
Outbound links — These links point to content on another site. Links pointing to highly credible, authoritative and related content help boost the credibility and authority of your site. Most of the links I have in this article are external links that take a deeper dive in various aspects of WordPress SEO. It’s not that I want you to leave my site, but part of my focus is to provide you with high-quality articles that elaborate on the content presented here.
A final note on links — be sure to scan your site frequently to uncover ‘broken links.’ These occur as you build and edit your site and content. They can also occur when an external site that you’ve linked to moves or deletes the content associated with your original link.
Google recognizes that every site will occasionally generate broken links (referred to as 404 errors), so there is no immediate penalty. However, a very large number of broken links can indicate that a site is not well-maintained or is inactive. Fix or remove the offending links to avoid penalties by Google.
To scan your site for broken links go to Broken Link Check.
If you want a plugin that continually monitors your site try Broken Link Checker. One word of caution, this plugin can add a significant load on some sites, which can defeat your page speed optimization efforts. So, be sure to recheck your load times after installing this plugin.
SEO for Social Engagement
The social engagement aspect of SEO really relates to shareability. If you have a well-designed site with great content, you want to encourage your readers to share that content.
Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible to share your content across all social networks. Make it easy to share all of your great content including images, videos, podcasts, videos, PDFs, etc.
Include social share icons on each page and post. Some social share plugins such as Social Warfare, which I use on this site, go beyond just sharing a link to your content. In the case of Social Warfare, you can assign custom images that will automatically display in shared social posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn. It’s a great feature and allows you to maintain ‘editorial’ control over your content’s presentation.
Wrap Up and Recommended Reading on WordPress SEO
With this very broad breakdown and description of WordPress SEO, I hope I have given you a general concept and approach to learning about and implementing SEO on your site. Unfortunately, SEO is not a one-time, set-and-forget effort. Each new piece of content you produce requires a unique SEO effort. Beginning with some of the resources presented here is a good start.
Take your time in learning about SEO. It’s a complex subject, so you won’t learn everything overnight. It’s a process and not an event. Just keep in mind SEO is really about just one thing — EASY. Make your site:
- Easy to discover
- Easy to navigate
- Easy to consume
- Easy to share
To learn more about SEO, you may want to do a deep dive in just one of the four broad categories, apply a few techniques and then move on to another area. To help you get started here are a few recommended resources.
Google SEO Guide
Moz Beginners Guide to SEO
Quicksprout SEO University
SEO for eCommerce
Quicksprout Advanced SEO Guide
SEO Copywriting by Copyblogger
Keyword Research for SEO
Link Building for SEO: The Definite Guide from Backlinko