Search engine optimisation for WordPress WP SEO) is essential if you are to gain maximum traction from your website promotion efforts. However, what many people fail to understand is that the default installation of WordPress does not really include anything but the most basic SEO tools. The default WordPress installation does now generate intelligible URLs and Page Titles, but that’s about it.
The world of SEO has changed rapidly and dramatically in the past couple of years. SEO now encompasses several issues that many site owners have yet to come to grips with.
Fortunately, SEO for WordPress is facilitated by the concept of “plugins” or easily installed mini-applications which provide specific search engine optimisation functionality. They do so dynamically – in other words, once installed the applications automate the process of generating accurate outputs, with no manual efforts required by you. Here are ten suggestions that you should attend to that will make a significant difference in the qualified traffic your website delivers to you!
– in no particular order…
1. Improve Page Load Speeds
The importance this is outlined in great detail on a related post about page load speeds. Google long ago began assessing page load times as part of ranking signals. The average page size has grown to approximately 1.6Mb and that’s hard on speed… You need to;
- implement a good caching system to serve static HTML pages, not dynamically generated pages
- learn all about resizing and compressing images to reduce their sizes
- keep the total number of images per page to a sensible limit
- Use a testing site that tells you the page size and load time in your target market area
- Test your main “landing” pages
If your site targets NZ customers, you can use www.webpagetest.org to test page speeds in Wellington…
In a recent benchmarking test, the top three caching plugins were;
- WP Rocket – costs $39 but is worth every penny in the time it saves and the results it delivers
- WP Super Cache – I’ve used this a lot, but I can’t ever get it to outperform W3 TC. It seems to me that performance actually degraded after its purchase by Automattic…
- W3 Total Cache – I use this the most, but it can be troublesome, especially the Minify – some themes won’t tolerate concatenation and minification of CSS and/or JS files
2. Ensure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
On 21st of April 2015 Google introduced and algorithm dubbed “Mobilegeddon” – aimed at rewarding those sites whose design offers a good visitor experience for viewers using small-screen devices. Conversely, if your website sucks on a mobile phone or tablet, Google won’t be including your site in search results for mobile users!
Google has a testing page here: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Given that mobile users make up the fastest growing sector of users, that’s not a good situation for you to be in!
You need to get your website redesigned in a mobile-friendly format, and that is something we can help you with.
3. Use a Good SEO Plugin
The most popular SEO plugins offer dynamic and manual production of Titles and Descriptions for both pages and posts.
- All in One SEO Pack is simpler and far easiest to use for anyone new to WP SEO
- WordPress SEO does more, but the complexity of settings requires some effort to understand
Both allow you to set trivial pages and sections to Noindex – and keeping the dross out of Google’s hair is important. For example, if you have no real idea what you are doing when creating tags and categories, you should;
- set both Categories and Tags to no index
- Author & Date Archives to noindex
- set media, portfolio, slider and similar extraneous items to noindex
4. Titles on Pages & Posts
Accurate titles are still a very important SEO element. Both the bove plugins provide quick solutions. They can dynamically insert the Page and Post title into the Title tag, followed by the Site / Business Name. These days, that’s often referred to as the “branding” element of the title. This facilitates keyword-rich titles that are specific and unique to the page / post in question. It also identifies the site / brand in search engine results.
Keyword-relevant and accurate Titles can make a positive difference to your SE rankings. Each page/post title should include a relevant keyword / keyword phrase that encapsulates the content therein. Don’t overdo this, or over-optimisation penalties are likely.
Brevity is required – currently Google will display between 56 and 60 characters of a Title in a search engine results page. Anything longer is truncated, meaning a reader does not see it. Keep it short, sharp and to the point.
5. Description Meta-tag
These are not going to give you any SEO traction per se – so stuffing them full of keywords is pointless. Instead, write them as a “sales pitch” that extolls the virtues of the page they belong to.
You are limited to between 156 – 160 characters including spaces, so use it wisely. Don’t waste space repeating the “brand” element, or recklessly stuffing in keywords!
Alternatively, pay particular attention to the opening sentence of your page. Where you don’t handwrite a Description, your SEO plugin will take the first 160 characters and use that by default.
NB: don’t use the Keyword meta-tag. No search engine actually pays heed to it in a positive way, and stuffing the results of a keyword brainstorming session into it is more likely to result in an over-optimisation penalty!
6. Use Keyword Anchors in Content
Google pays close attention to the words used in links from one page to another. Those links should convey some indication as to what the page linked to is about. Doing this carefully and sparingly across the site can make a demonstrable difference to rankings for the keywords that have been used.
This can be automated to some degree by using a “related posts” plugin such as Related Posts Lite – this will add a nicely formatted list of relevant content as per the example below;
The important thing is that this one plugin serves multiple purposes;
- Generates good anchor text to aid rankings for the target pages
- Provides a useful tool for visitors to navigate to relevant content
- Increases visitor retention time, another Google ranking metric
Related Posts Lite has the smallest “footprint” of any such plugin I’ve tested. Competitors such as YARPP are notorious for hogging server resources and slowing page load times. RPL barely registers a 100kb of additional page size!
7. Sitemaps in HTML & XML
A sitemap is a key SEO tool to ensure all pages and posts have the best possible chance of being found and indexed by search engine spiders. Firstly, you should have an XML site map, as this is the format adopted by all major search engines. You can either;
- use a separate plugin to create a Google-compliant XML Sitemap of your WordPress site
- use the tools in WordPress SEO to generate an XML sitemap, which does save the overhead of a separate plugin
A good sitemap includes including homepage, posts, static pages, categories and archives and notifies Google and a couple of other SE’s whenever the sitemap gets regenerated . That happens automatically every time a new post is made!
8. Categories & Tags
Use Categories wisely! take care to use accurate Category names because these will be used in URLs.
- Take particular care to ensure that a Category name does not match a Page name
- Categories work best if they are few and broadly based
- If you don’t have or foresee at least half a dozen posts for a Category, dont create one
Tags are dangerous in unskilled hands. I recently worked on a site that has 1,257 Tags used over the 200 pages and posts the site contained. What most people fail to realise is that EVERY tag generates an individual Tag PAGE!!! In this particular instance, 1257 tags generated 1275 pages, each containing the FULL version of one page or post!
My advice on Tags is therefore;
- Don’t use them unless you fully and totally understand the principles of cross-indexing content
- If you do use them, set them to noindex if the above applies
9. Use Image Alt Texts
If you write brief and accurate Image Alt texts to explain the content of your images, Google will consider those as part of the ranking analysis. Brevity and accuracy are the goals. Go stuffing keywords in there and the effect will be the opposite to that which you desire.
With images in general, I try to name them accurately, use the Image Alt text wisely, and remove the image titles to prevent duplication of text relating to each image.
10. Read Google’s Starter Guide to SEO
Whenever Google provides publicly available comment on anything related to SEO, one does well to read it intently. That said, hardly anyone actually does so… After all of the anguish in the wake of Panda and Penguin, Google produced a pretty decent Starter Guide to SEO – this provides a great deal of commonsense information for any webmaster wondering how to credence in it.
If you implement these 10 simple WordPress search engine optimisation tips into your website, I am confident you will achieve a demonstrable improvement to your rankings and traffic flows! If you need help, its part of what we do…