Let's get the organic traffic to your WordPress site growing!
I'm going to cover my step-by-step process to optimizing WordPress SEO, just as I do for my own sites... without worrying about keywords, and backlinks.
Here's the deal, Google rewards sites that provide a great user experience, for that reason, I do not focus on keywords.
And about backlinks... A) getting 'whitehat' natural links is generally a fruitless effort and B) 'blackhat' link building will not stand the test of time. Instead I cover my method for promoting content through paid ads, which sends Google real user signals and builds your community.
Let's jump into it!
1. Write high quality, value added content
Cliche, I know. But content is king.
Writing unique, high-quality content that is share-worthy on social media platforms gives you better chances of enhancing your website's search engine rankings. It should not only be free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes but should also be helpful and informative.
Focus on creating something that has good quality (meaning readers actually find value in it). You can also try and produce something trendy for your audience, increasing the chances of your content getting shared to places like Facebook and Twitter.
Google's algorithm pays more attention to longer content, so that’s something you should try out. Take advantage of it, but be sure that what you write is original and valuable, instead of just rehashing other website’s content or stuffing it with filler words.
Neil Patel puts the process of writing blog posts quite simply in this video:
Bottom line: content is #1. Don't expect long term and sustainable SEO results unless you have truly value added content . And for the 'niche site' crowd out there, product reviews with manufacturers images are not 'value adds' to any one.
2. Choose a fast WordPress host
Speed matters when it comes to SEO -- and it will matter.
Google rolled out their first algo update using speed as a ranking factor in 2018.
And it is about to matter a whole lot more with a planned update for 2021 around 'Core Web Vitals'.
Why does this matter? Well Googles ultimate goals to deliver the end user the best experience, and a faster websites creates a better experience. Consider this, 2018 research by Google found that 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. I would venture to say attention spans have gotten even shorter than this in the last 2-3 years.
So back to the hosting... while there are many things you can do to improve WordPress speed on any host, the hosting is 90% of the game. It's the foundation.
Trying to speed up a WordPress site on shitty hosting is like putting lipstick on a pig.
Take a look at this video where I compare the load time of the same bloated website (my local business) on 3 different hosting accounts, Hostgator, A2 Hosting and Vultr HF.
You can see the difference.
I recommend the A2 Turbo plan at $9.99 as a budget option for unlimited sites.
And then Cloudways Vultr HF as a more premium option -- but starting at $13/m it really isn't that expensive. You could run 2-3 small wp sites on that.
Personally, I use Vultr for the 'money' sites and A2 for my smaller clients or newer websites.
3. Format your heading tags properly
Using the best heading tags for your website is important, too. They should catch your reader's attention enough to convince them to stay on your website and read the whole content. This also creates information focal points that enhance the user interface of your website.
Head tags also function as tags or keywords that the search engine will use to know what your content is all about. So don’t just choose a header that can catch the user's attention; make it something that search engines will understand as well.
If you're not sure about where to set up heading tags and how exactly to use them, check this out:
As you see so far... It's all about the user!
4. Set your permalinks
Permalink is short for the word(s) permanent link. It is the full address or the URL of your post, page, or website. Most default permalinks are not SEO-friendly because they contain numbers or letters that do not make any sense, without even relating to the content on your website or web page.
By setting you permalinks, it makes your website look a lot more professional and trustworthy. Make sure to choose permalinks that are relevant to your topic or describes the content in hand, something that will provide the specific information the user or audience needs to know at a glance.
As permalinks are also visible in the search results, that can impact your click-through-rate, which is a factor in ranking placement.
This is how you can set up your permalinks on WordPress:
5. Install an SEO plugin
WordPress SEO plugins can make some of the 'tech' behind SEO much easier. Just a couple clicks of the button can make your content more digestable to search engines.
I recommend Yoast SEO, but there are other plugins out there.
The two primary ways I use the SEO plugin are
1) To create a sitemap. Rather than relying on Google to have to crawl and find everything on your site, the sitemap gives Google the 'map' of what is new. For older sites with a good bit of social signals and backlinks, a sitemap really won't matter that much as Google will likely crawl the site enough to detect any new or updated content. But for younger sites, with the social signals and backlinks, the sitemap can mean the difference between your content getting indexed in days vs months.
Personally I keep a sitemap on all my sites as it is a best practice and simple to do.
2) Noindex valueless pages. Wordpress generates a ton of pages that 100% valueless. Like pages for all the media files you upload. These pages aren't a part of your user experience subsequently shouldn't be indexed by Google.
There are other ways to use the SEO plugin such as meta titles & descriptions, but I actually don't use those very often... I strongly believe Googles algorithm is sophisticated enough to determine the applicable relevance of my website without my guidance.
For configuring Yoast SEO plugin I recommend this video.
6. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
Think of Google Search Console as your sites' direct connection to Google. The nifty tool provides insight to what you're showing up for in the searches, what key words are getting clicks, performance issues you have, and who's linking to your website.
But for the sake this guide, you need to submit your site map (from the prior step) to Google. Here's how:
7. Optimize your Images
Your website shouldn't only contain plain text. Images are completely necessary to better explain and support the content of your post. They help provide aesthetics and visual charm to your website, making your content look a lot less boring and serious. Just make sure to use high-quality images that are relevant to your content.
You also need to be careful about how you tag and name your images because that is the only way that the search engine will determine what images you used. In addition, having a slow loading page is one of the reasons for the downfall of some pages because visitors will end up clicking the back button or looking for other websites if things take too long to load.
Quick note: although I don't cover it in this post, image size can impact your page load times. I would advise completing all of this guide before going on to research image and page load times. Remember, as I say above, the biggest factor in load times is your hosting.
8. Design pages for mobile
Nowadays, most people use mobile devices to search the internet, so your website should be flexible or mobile-friendly. Don’t make the mistake of optimizing your website for desktop computers while forgetting about other devices.
Start by choosing a theme that has a responsive design, your user interface will adapt to almost all kinds of devices.
From there look at your 'target pages' on a mobile device and customize them using a page builder.
In this video below I show how we improved the mobile page layout for one of my websites!
For page builders I recommend Thrive Themes. I have been using them to create sites for 3 years, currently operating more then 20 sites on them, and love their platform and continuous improvement.
9. Promote your content with The Sizz Method
As I mentioned in the intro, backlinks are generally fruitless attempt and take a long time to see results from. In otherwords, I don't send off countless random emails saying "hey check out this awesome blog post, wanna link to it" to people who are already annoyed and overwhelmed with those emails already.
Instead I opt for a small budget of paid advertising, which is typically less than what many people spend on links.
This method sends real users signals to Google, and builds a community around our blog. In time it garners backlinks.
For those that prefer the 'skim & swipe' over watching I have a tutorial post on The Sizz Method.
Implement the steps above to get more traffic to your site.
Remember, SEO is all about THE END USER.
Create good content.
It may take time, but the traffic will follow.