SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the art optimising your website to ensure it is found and ranked by Google and other major search engines.
Getting the Foundation Right
There are some important steps that a website developer should take first to set your on your way. This needs to be in place before you start worrying about updating WordPress SEO.
The way your site is coded is very important for SEO. There are web standards with which your site should comply to give it the best possible start. It should be built with HTML5 code including the modern markup and sections that search engines recognise. Your site navigation should be well structured and easy for visitors (including search engines) to follow.
Your URL (Permalink) structure should be search engine friendly. For example https://traceyrickard.co.uk/seo-for-wordpress is written in English and readable by search engines. Whereas https://traceyrickard.co.uk/?p=6686 has strange characters and numbers after the forward slash, which mean nothing.
Page load speed is important to Google and we need to be sure again that your pages load quickly, no matter where or how your visitor accesses your page. We can do lots for you here but equally, getting good hosting in place for your website is vital. Cheap shared hosting is rarely satisfactory. (I wish hosting companies would use page speed as a marketing tool, rather than price!)
Responsive web design is Google’s preferred method of making websites user friendly for smartphones and tablets. This ensures that the same content is displayed for every device. These websites react the way that liquid does when poured into a container – its width expanding or contracting to fit the available space. That is what we make happen with your website content as it adapts from the desktop to mobile and tablet devices.
Newbies Give it time!
Before you do any SEO work on a brand new website you’ll need to give it 3 months to settle in. Then it will be more clear in terms of what you need to do.
Google will start to rank your site as it crawls your pages, beginning with your home page. It can take up to 3 months to complete this indexing of your pages. If you consider that there are billions of sites on the internet to be crawled, you can start to see how this can take so long. Equally it needs to find out what other presence you have on the internet, such as links from other sites and social media. Your total online presence all goes towards your Google page ranking.
It is not just the crawling though, Google also associates more trust with a website the longer it is on the internet.
Regularly publishing new and unique content is also important. Google will rank you higher if your blog is attracting lots of readers who are sharing your posts and commenting on them. If we have built your website, you should have all of the sharing buttons and icons that you need.
SEO Tags (Metatags) for search engines
SEO tags, often known as Metatags, are added to the code in the header of your website. You do not see them on your site because they are hidden in the code but robots such as Google read them when crawling your site. Google will display your SEO tags in search results and they will be seen when your content is shared on social media.
When building your website we will set up WordPress SEO and automatically program your site to output SEO tags based on the content. (If you don’t have WordPress SEO, you can easily install it through Plugins or find it here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/)
Above you can see the SEO Title tag is in purple at the top and the SEO description tag is in black below it (the green is the URL or web page address). In this instance we set up the website to generate these automatically for every page, post and product. This saves you the trouble of having to update the SEO tags manually in each and every page, post or product.
However, you can change them if you wish to make them more inviting or to improve performance. As above, let your website settle in first.
Manually Rewriting your SEO Tags
You will find the SEO editing section near the bottom of the individual product/post or page editing area. If you cannot see it click on screen options on the top right hand side of the editing area and make sure ‘WordPress SEO’ is ticked. (This screen options box appears on most pages in the WordPress Admin and it is worth a look if you think you should be able to do something but find a tick box missing.)
The SEO Tags preview (Snippet Preview)
This box (below) shows the SEO tags that have been automatically generated. You can see the title preview in blue/purple and the URL in green. You can see the description preview in black.
So let’s look at how to change the automatically generated SEO tags shown.
A Little Thought
Before we go ahead and change the SEO titles and descriptions you will probably want to think about what you will write. It is ultra important that you write your SEO tags for real people, not for search engines. You want people to choose you from the search results and click to go to your website. Your tags should carry the personality of your brand in the same way as everything else on your site. It should not be a comma separated list of keywords that you think might make Google rank you higher!
Search engines want to see the same keywords used in SEO tags as they see in the content for that particular web page. Relevance is really important, it is pointless to add a keyword to a Metatag in the hope that a search engine will latch onto it – it will not – unless that keyword also appears in the page content and ideally the page title.
So the best place to start with choosing your keywords will usually be your page (post or product) title. These titles naturally make good SEO Title tags.
You can use the Focus Keyword section to guide you, it is an indicator of the validity of your keywords. In the Focus Keyword box, type in the keyword phrase that you feel applies to the post, product or page. If you take the post you are reading now, the title is: ‘Manage Your Metatags & More SEO for WordPress’ and my keyword phrase will be ‘SEO for WordPress’ because that is the main subject. This Focus Keyword section then behaves as an indicator to tell you how well your page is optimised. Please note this is case sensitive.
Manually optimising the Title tag (Meta Title)
Click on the pencil next to the purple/blue title field. You will need to hover over the section to be able to see the pencil icons.
You can type in a new title of your own. The counter will tell you if you go over the character limit. You only have 70 characters in total, so some smart thinking is required. Search engines only output 70 characters for the Title tag.
For SEO Title tags the following things are important:
- It should always contain the keyword phrase you think is most important for the current post or page, the focus keyword.
- Your post, page or product main title is the best place to start. Just making this your SEO Title and adding your brand name to the end is fine, as long as this fits within the 70 character limit. Otherwise perhaps just use the focus keyword phrase from the main title.
- If possible it should contain your brand, preferably at the end, so people may recognise you in consecutive searches. This is not such an issue if your brand and your web address are the same. For me using Tracey Rickard in the SEO Title every time would be a bit repetitive, so I might want to use “Web Designer” in place of my brand. The only exception to this is if your brand name describes what you do, e.g. Gorgeous Yarns describes what they sell but it is also a descriptive keyword phrase.
- The SEO Title should encourage people to click.
- Do not over-stuff with keywords that you think will appeal to search engines but not to a human being. Keyword stuffing is bad and likely to be detrimental to your page ranking. It is far more important to appeal to a human being, that is what Google wants you to do.
“Metatags, SEO, WordPress” – is very unfriendly.
“Manage your metatags in SEO for WordPress” is much more appealing
Manually Optimising the Description tag (Meta Description)
The meta description can be used by search engines to show in the search results, it’s the black piece of text shown beneath the URL (see below). The meta description is usually only used when it contains the keyword the searcher was searching for.
Usually Google will just look for the words searched in the text and then return a snippet with those keywords included. So if someone searches using words that you have not included in your description tag but that appear on the page in general, Google will generate their own description snippet around those keywords.
Above, Google has put ‘SEO for WordPress’ in bold because those were the keywords I used to search.
Use the meta description field to write your own description – click on the third pencil down next to the black paragraph. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once (but not more than twice).
A perfectly optimised post (nearly)
You can see the SEO title and Meta Description that I have manually updated below. The focus keyword section is now showing a positive green indicator for each of the SEO elements of this post apart from the stop words. Sometimes you have to accept that things will not make sense without stop words like for, to, the etc. This is only an amber warning, so not serious.
NB. Any changes you make here can take up to 7 days to register in Google. You have to wait for it to re-crawl.
It should happen naturally don’t try to force it…
My Focus Keyword appeared naturally in my content several times, you would expect it to though because that is the subject of the post.
Please note that different pages and products should use different focus keywords. The focus keywords should always be based on the title of the post/page/product. You will find that much of that happens naturally, as I mentioned above. If you are writing about a subject, then that subject will naturally appear in the main title and the content.
If your focus keyword does not appear anywhere in the content or main title then it probably isn’t the true focus keyword for that item.
Optimise Your Images
When you upload your images you can add Alt Tags. These are alternative tags and are used by screen readers for people with visual impairments, it tells them what the photograph is about. Search engines also read this tag because they also cannot see a photograph.
Please don’t use this tag as an excuse for keyword stuffing, please be accurate in the description.
Optimise Your Post Tags
Some themes output Post or Product tags, you can use these for outputting your keyword lists. These are not to be confused with the SEO tags we have been talking about, they are completely separate.
I tend to use these tags for keywords that are in my content but that are not the Focus Keywords. Again there is absolutely no point in using words that do not appear anywhere in the content, that is a waste of a tag. If you are determined to do a bit of keyword stuffing, this is probably the safest place to do it. Not that I recommend that behaviour!
The post or product tags box can be found on the right hand side of the post editing area underneath the Categories container.
Other Things You Can Do
There are other things you should do to help your website to be ranked by Google:
- Advertising in online business directories and online publications relating to your industry. What you are aiming to do is add your website link to these directories. Make sure these are reputable directories; listing your site willy nilly in large unprofessional directories can have a detrimental effect on your SEO ranking.
- Blog and share your posts. See my post on how to Be the Best Business Blogger »
- Get involved with social media to spread the word about your brand and what you are doing. Use photos if you can, people love photos!
- Make sure that most of what you post via social media channels includes links back to your site. Links from other sites back to yours show your site as more popular, part of the Google ranking is based on popularity.
Don’t rely on solely on Google Search for the success of your business
Every business needs to be supported with a marketing strategy, Google search should only be considered as part of that marketing strategy. Businesses that rely solely on Google search in the first 12 months are very likely to fail.
We have to consider that in certain markets there could be potential customers that don’t use Google or any other search engine. Imagine that none of your clients use Google, this will force you to think of other ways you can reach them.
Other things you can do aside from the internet:
- Advertise in industry specific magazines
- Represent yourself at markets & local shows,
- Represent yourself at exhibitions and trade shows
- Local and national advertising
- Word of Mouth, ask people to mention you
There are no guarantees when it comes to SEO and Google placements for your website. As long as the best has been done for you in terms of coding and development you will be very well set.
If there is a lot of competition on the internet for your products and services then it will be necessary to do other things to put yourself ahead, including social media and blogging.
Plus, as described above, making sure you get links back to your site is important, that shows Google you are popular.
Thanks for reading!
Need something to really get your teeth into? View the comprehensive Google SEO guide here »