Optimizing your site for search engines should be on top of your to-do list as a webmaster. And while writing unique and interesting content is your first step toward good SEO ranking, there are several other strategies you can apply to further extend the reach of your articles, gaining new readers and obtaining new leads as a result. Some of the SEO tips in this article are specifically catered toward WordPress site owners, while others will be relevant for any webmaster, no matter what platform you are using.
1. Meta Description
Before you start optimizing any individual posts, you might want to make sure your site as a whole looks presentable in search engine listings. Put some thought into the name of the site and its meta description. The latter refers to the sentence or two that shows up right under the site’s title when someone sees the link to your home page in a search listing.
Remember to include a couple of keywords into the description. While these specific keywords won’t affect your overall ranking per se, they do serve a purpose. When a user searches for these keywords, they will show up in bold, making the user more likely to choose your link over others.
By default, WordPress will display an excerpt from your latest post as your site’s meta description. You can use an SEO plugin to modify it, as well as for each post and page. Some themes also provide that capability, but I personally think that a plugin is meant to serve that purpose. We can leave the aesthetics to the theme.
Optimized headlines should be an important component of your overall SEO strategy. Always try to include a keyword or phrase into your headlines. You will improve the post’s ranking even further if you place the keyword close to the beginning of the headline. Make sure it still sounds natural; otherwise your readers might skip your article even if it does get a good ranking.
You shouldn’t ignore your permalinks either if your want your SEO efforts to bring results. A good permalink is usually a shorter, more concise version of the headline. It can just be a keyword or a couple of words. The permalink is less detailed than the headline, but it still offers a brief description of what the article is about.
By default, WordPress will include numbers for the permalink, representing an internal database number which is useless “on the outside.” Many people will also change permalinks to include the post’s date. Yoast, a man who knows SEO, recommends taking the date out in all cases except for news sites. Unless your content is time-sensitive, your articles can probably still be useful a couple of years down the road. When people see the date of your non time-sensitive post and consider it “old” they may not read it. So, avoid the dates in permalinks and maybe move the dates to the bottom of the post.
You can change your permalinks to simply display the site name followed by the post name. Go to Settings and select Permalinks. Choose the Post Name option from the list – it’s your most SEO-friendly way to display posts. After doing this, you’ll need to redirect old permalinks to new ones.
Break your text into segments, use H2 and H3 tags for your subheadings, and include keywords into them for further optimization.
Make sure every image you add is optimized for search engines as well. WordPress makes it easy by letting you insert the Alt tag right after uploading the image to its gallery. This is the tag you want to pay attention to if you want your photos to rank well in image search and to contribute to your overall optimization strategy. Include keywords into your Alt tags as well. Name your images (the filename) appropriately as well. Don’t spam in filenames and alt text, just describe exactly what’s in them as concise as possible.
Optimize your main text with search engine friendly HTML tags like strong (for bold) and em (for italics). If you use the WordPress visual editor, you won’t need to worry about knowing HTML, as the CMS will create these for you behind-the-scenes. If you are editing your articles in HTML, however, this is something to keep in mind.
Avoid keyword stuffing and let your content flow naturally, but do include a keyword every now and then. Many SEO experts recommend including a keyword once in the first and last paragraphs of the post, and distributing it evenly and naturally through the rest of the text. Whatever you do, always keep in mind that you are writing first of all for people and not for the robots crawling the Web. If your readers don’t enjoy your writing, your site’s activity will drop and search engines will notice.
7. Keyword Selection
You might be wondering which keywords to go with to achieve the best results with your SEO. After all, the Internet is flooded with articles in pretty much every possible subject area, and there is probably plenty of competition for you to deal with in your own niche as well. Start by doing some keyword research to find out what your target audience is searching for exactly. You can use one of the free tools for this, like Wordtracker, Google’s Keyword Planner or KeywordSpy. You can also check Google Trends to see which keywords are hot right now. Check out Google Suggest to see previously searched long tails.
Choose several keywords revolving around the topic of your post and run them through a search engine. You might want to drop the ones with millions of competition right away. It will be too hard to rank high among all these competitors, many of which pay off-site SEO teams to get them ranked so well. To get around this problem, use low-competition keywords instead. This will narrow your article’s niche somewhat, but it will also give you a much better chance of ranking on top of the search for that particular niche. Although there’s no magical threshold for this, try going with keywords that produce less than 100,000 results in search engines.
Besides, isn’t the money in the long tail?
Sources for this article include: