Before you read this WordPress SEO guide that I have created, let me tell you a quick story.
When I started my first blog, I thought that if I post content and put a link to Amazon (not an affiliate link) that I’d get hundreds of sales per day.
Of course, that wasn’t the case.
In fact, the only traffic I got was from my family members. I remember getting my first comment and getting excited just to find out it was my mother in law.
That felt like a kick in the balls.
Anyways, there are tons of different ways to gain more & more traffic. However, you will get the majority of your traffic from SEO.
In this guide, I’ll be covering the following SEO tips:
What is WordPress SEO?
Depending on your level of knowledge, you might not even know what SEO means.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Whenever you type a query into Google, Bing or any of the other search engines, you will most likely find ten results to your question.
Those web owners have optimized their page to show up (or rank) in Google.
So when I say "WordPress SEO," all I am really saying is the ability of using WordPress to have a technical advantage in SEO.
Now that you know what SEO is, now it’s time to learn some of the best practices used by web owners.
The Basics of SEO (Keyword Research)
In SEO if you get this part wrong, you can kiss your potential traffic goodbye.
Keywords are the search terms that people use when they’re looking for something.
For example, if I wanted to buy a new TV, I’d probably search for something like:
“Sony 50-inch TV Amazon”
“What is the best TV under $500?”
There are many reasons for researching what keywords to add to your web pages.
The most important reason is understanding your target audience’s intent.
By understanding what your target audience search for when looking for something to learn or purchase, you can have your customers come to you instead of you chasing them.
Think of it like this.
Whenever you see an advert on TV, that company had to spend a ton of money to get their ad seen by you.
They're going into this ad campaign not knowing how high the quality of leads will be.
In your case, by ranking for search terms that your target audience will search, you can guarantee that the people who will consume your content or purchase your product are already interested in what you have to offer.
Always Start from The Outside and Move In
You know what a maze is right?
I’d sure hope so.
Whenever you go through a maze, you start on the outside of the maze and find your way to the middle.
You should perform your keyword research the same way.
By starting with broad terms.
Using Basketball as an example, you could search for terms such as:
- “Air Jordans”
- “Kevin Durant”
One thing you’ll notice is that these search terms have thousands of searches every month
Now before you start rushing in excitement to your blog or sales page and add those keywords in, I want you to wait for a second because I have something important to tell you.
You should NEVER use those types of keywords.
If I could come up with those keywords after 0.5 seconds of thinking about basketball, just imagine how many other "SEO Experts" are trying to rank for the same keywords.
The Key is to Find Keywords With Less Competition
The obvious solution to our current problem is to find keywords that don’t have as many websites trying to rank for them.
If you’re running any business would you rather have:
Have fewer people see your product but have more people in total buy the product
Have more people see your product but have fewer people in total buy the product
Quickly, I want you to write in the comments section below what the end goal of your content will be.
Could it be that you want people to purchase a product from you?
Or maybe you want people to sign up for your email list.
I am sure whatever it is, you’d rather have option 1 over option 2.
Use this principle when looking for keywords.
By optimizing content around a more specific topic, you can speak to a smaller more targeted section of said niche.
If 350,000 people searched for basketball, I am sure that less than 50 of those people are looking for an article on how to improve their handling.
The search term “Ball Handling Drills” gets around 2,000 monthly searches.
Meaning that by creating content around drills that people can learn to become better at basketball and optimizing that around “Ball Handling Drills,” would get you 40 times the amount of traffic than if you tried ranking for basketball.
Another thing to take into account when looking for these type of keywords is the commercial intent of those keywords.
If you want to purchase some Air Jordans you won't type in ball handling drills, would you?
That goes back to user intent.
Imagine starting out at Google’s homepage then imagine yourself at the checkout page on Amazon or Sports Direct.
Ask yourself these questions:
How did I get here?
What did I type?
What type of content convinced me to look further
At what point did I decide to buy or signup to whatever they were offering
By reverse engineering this process, you can have a better understanding of your audience which will help them and your business.
Topic clustering is one of the best forms of SEO/Content Marketing to date.
It helps keep your content organized, makes sure that you do not create the same thing twice and helps search engines & users navigate your site with efficiency.
What is one of the most well-known site to-date that only has one page per topic?
They have some much content on their site, yet it is all organized by having one page per topic.
I am not telling you to copy exactly what Wikipedia is doing but what I am saying you have to have a content plan that helps users navigate your site easier.
Hubspot made an excellent video covering topic clustering, and I advise you to watch it now.
As the name may suggest, On-Page SEO is how you optimize the front-end of your website to get it ready for ranking.
Some of the things to think about when talking about when optimizing for SEO:
- Meta Tags (for example title tags & description tags)
- Site Speed
- Internal & Outbound Links
- Duplicate Content
- Alt Tags
So I am going to go through all of the things you need to look at when optimizing your content.
Creating Your Meta Title & Meta Descriptions
In short, the meta title & description is what you see in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
Take a look at the image below to see what I mean.
By default, WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast add the title of the post and the excerpt of your post as the meta title & description.
In most cases, I’d recommend to change them.
With your title, sometimes your title might be longer than the recommended character limit (which is 60).
Regarding your description, I would fix it up to help boost your CTR (Click Through Rate).
Optimizing Your Title for CTR
Whenever you watch a video or read a blog, you usually choose which one to read or watch based on the title.
That’s why your title needs to be amazing.
8 out of 10 people will read your headline. However, only 2 of them will read your content
In Brian Clark’s article on Copyblogger, he mentioned that on average 8 out of 10 people would read your headline; However, only 2 of them will read your content.
That’s because people have blog titles that appeal to everyone but doesn’t cause them to say “I need to read this as my life depends on it.”
Remember how I said:
Have fewer people see your product but have more people in total buy the product
Have more people see your product but have fewerpeople in total buy the product
Having a more targeted bunch of people read your content will increase your conversion rate.
Believe it or not, the process for this starts at your title.
The goal is to get your target audience thinking that they need to read your content after they read your title.
You have to make them think that you created this piece of content for them specifically.
Internal & Outbound Links
One of the most underrated aspects of your WordPress SEO is links. Google uses a crawling system to help understand what the topic of your site is.
Here is a video on Google’s YouTube page where Matt Cutts talks about how searching on Google works.
It’s not as important to your rankings as maybe backlinks are, however, it could determine whether or not your content reaches the first page or not.
Earlier, I talked about topic clustering.
That is where you start to see the bigger picture of why topic clustering is so useful.
Did you know that most of your traffic will only come from a few pages?
When I first started out, I had a small gaming blog that had around 4,000 monthly visitors at the time of this image.
Over half of that traffic was going to only a single blog that was about Call of Duty Black Ops 3.
Yes, out of the 60+ blogs I had on the site, 2,000 out of the 4,000 monthly visitors that I had was only going to a single blog page.
If I had known about topic clustering, then I could have gained some more traffic from other blogs as well.
By having a few pages that are closely related but speak about different things, you can use internal links that Google and most importantly your audience will thank you for.
Outbound links aren’t complicated.
If you’re like me, then you do a lot of research on a topic before creating content about it.
Whenever I find a site that has a lot of information that I can use in my content, I save that link so that I can link off to them in my article.
Not so that I can show Google that I link out to authoritative sites, but so I can also thank the creator for giving me something valuable to take home with me.
Even if they're in the same niche as you, linking out to relevant sites is a win-win for everyone.
The Importance of How Fast Your Site Loads
Okay, this one isn’t really for ranking on Google, but it is at the same time. Here’s what I mean by that.
How many times have you visited a page on the internet and left because it took too long to load?
Probably more times that you can count right?
Most people don’t have the time or patience to wait 30 seconds or 10 minutes for a website to load.
1 in 4 people will bounce from your site if it takes over 4 seconds to load
In fact, if Kinsta stated that 1 in 4 people would leave a website if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load.
When people find you on the search result page and it takes forever for your site to load, people will leave, and Google will notice that.
Google track a few things when people click through to your page from their results.
One of them is how long a user spends on your site. If they see that lots of people are leaving your site after a few seconds (Not just for your site speed but other things as well) they will move you down the results.
Check out this guide to improving your site speed from CrazyEgg.
One more tip about improving your site speed is images.
Sometimes you might need to upload images to your blog or your landing pages and to depend on the image size and quality it could drastically slow down the load time of your site.
Is Your Site Mobile Responsive?
One of the most asked questions you need to ask yourself in 2018 is if your site is mobile responsive.
According to The Guardian, in 2016 mobile usage overtook desktop usage and recently have started looking at how the mobile version of your site looks first which I will be talking about later on in this guide.
Why You Must Be Using SSL
SSL or Secure Sockets Layer according to GlobalSign are small files that are bound digitally by a cryptographic key to an organization’s details.
It’s the https you see in front of many websites (including mine).
Recently, Google stated that they want to start using SSL as a ranking factor.
Currently, it’s not a substantial factor similar to how backlinks or high-quality content are but you want to have every advantage possible.
The main reason I encourage SSL is because unlike a few years ago, it’s free now.
Using Let's Encrypt hosting companies are now giving you free SSL for your sites.
What is Google RankBrain?
Google Rankbrain is one of the few updates (like Panda for example) that shows how advanced Google are getting regarding ranking websites.
Quoting from Backlinko
“RankBrain is an AI algorithm that is used for sorting the search results. It also gives data to Google to help them understand user intent behind search results.”
RankBrain now tweaks the search results on its own to benefit the person searching.
Before the development of RB, Google had to scan web pages to see what keywords you had on the page and if it matched the user's query.
Now, however, RB understands all the words used to searched and understands the intent behind the structure of the search giving you the best possible results.
As you can see below, I asked Google “What was the Italian game made by Nintendo?” and it shows me results based on the Mario games.
SEO for mobile as it may suggest is optimizing your site to help mobile (& tablet) users consume your content easier.
Remember that Google’s goal is to give their users the best experience possible.
Remember how I was talking about how mobile usage has overtaken desktop usage.
That is why more than ever before, mobile SEO is essential.
How does desktop and mobile differ in regards to SEO?
The difference between desktop and mobile is quite significant now.
Why is Mobile SEO Important (Google’s MFI)
MFI or Mobile First Index means that Google has now created a mobile version of their search result.
Yes, an entire algorithm for mobile content.
The real kicker is that Google is now using their mobile index as their primary result page meaning that the mobile version of your site is now viewed as the primary version.
Now it might sound scary but it isn’t all that it means is that it will scan the mobile version of your site first. If you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, it will still scan your desktop version.
Like I said before though, you want as many advantages as possible.
Now let’s discuss how to start optimizing your site for mobile.
How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile
If you have already worked on optimizing your site for search engines, then you’ve done most of the work.
There are still a few changes you need to make to have a well optimized mobile site.
Do Not Use Email (or Any) Pop-ups
When using a mobile phone, it frustrating when you’re reading or watching a piece of content and bam! There’s an annoying pop-up asking you to sign up for this or sign up to that.
Search engines have noticed this and could give you a small penalty for having pop-ups that users can’t control.
The solution to this is to have a 2-step opt-in form where users can see a small box embedded in the content that they can click and then have your pop-up show.
Think About Fat Fingers
Quoting Moz here, make sure that you have a design suited for all fingers.
Accidental clicks happen all the time because of buttons, or clickable content have been in the way.
Reoptimize Meta Titles & Descriptions
Since mobile devices have smaller screen space than a monitor, it means that you’re working with less space.
So the titles and descriptions character limit will be slightly smaller.
I decided to stick this under mobile SEO instead of having its section because more people search for local businesses on mobile than on desktop.
It amazes me how many local businesses have a WordPress site but doesn't use any WordPress SEO plugins.
If you’re a local business and you want to rank for any keywords relating to your area make sure that you have a fully optimized by adding the:
- Contact Info (Number, Email, etc)
Not only is this good for your Local SEO but brand recognition as well.
Lastly, Leave CSS, JS & Images Unblocked
Now that mobile phones have become more powerful it can handle more than it could back in the day.
GoogleBot needs to be able to see the same site as your users would so blocking images, CSS or JS is a no-no now.
Finishing This SEO Guide
A few things before we finish up here I wanted to remind you that Google isn’t the only search engine out there.
Though it’s the most known search engine, there are others. For example:
And those are just a few.
So if you make videos, remember that YouTube is the most significant video sharing website. In 2017, Gizmodo stated that Bing enjoys 33% of the market share.
Which is a massive amount of people.
So, don't forget to try and rank your site in other search engines as many have seen success with them.
If you have any questions about WordPress SEO or suggestions, then please feel free to comment down below, and we can discuss your topic.