Do words and abbreviations like CSS, HTML5, and Java turn you into a gibbering wreck? Is your WordPress site perfectly optimized? Have you avoided thinking about WordPress SEO because it’s too complex?
SEO is something non-techies can learn to do. Parts of the field are complex and require extensive coding knowledge, but an amateur can do enough to make a difference in how a website ranks in Google.
Books have been written about SEO, and it is a very broad subject. If you are looking for more detail, this article gives in-depth coverage of SEO for WordPress suitable for most non-tech readers.
The content you place on your site and the way you organize it will mean the difference between appearing on page 20 or page 2 of Google’s search results. Google tries to imitate human searchers and to serve up content-rich web pages that match searchers’ intentions.
The number of social media likes and shares is important for search engine results pages (SERPS) because it gives a human-sourced judgment of quality. You will get more social media kudos if you make it easier for people by placing buttons on your site that link to Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Your WordPress site needs a narrow focus. You can be the emperor of a small niche or a peasant in a broad niche. Without a niche at all, you will not even be a peasant; you will only be a mouse. Neil Patel gives great advice on creating a blog and choosing a niche. You cannot expect to succeed with a general news or other site that lacks focus.
You can extend WordPress functionality by using plugins, and this page on Web Designer Drops gives you a great list of essential WordPress plugins. Every WP plugin is easy to install and requires no coding knowledge.
However, there is a downside to installing plugins: Your site’s loading speed is an important SEO factor, and every plugin you install has the potential to make your site slower. Use a free tool like GTMetrix to check the speed before and after you add a plugin.
The screenshot above shows that even big sites like Moz.com have issues. Your site will probably look more like the one below.
The GTmetrix site tells you what needs to be done, or you can pay their employees to fix the issues for you.
If the plugin you add has slowed your site significantly, then look for an alternative.
Social media plugins help you get links from large social networks, but some have an unacceptably negative effect on your site’s loading time.
Premium plugins are faster and give you more control than free ones. You should experiment until you find one which has social sharing buttons that fit well on your site.
Social Feather is worth a look because it is free, fast and has many display options.
There are three widely-used free SEO plugins for WordPress:
The first two focus on the technical aspects of speed in the same way GTmetrix does. Either will do a good job.
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Yoast SEO is a different animal. It helps you with readability, titles, and keywords. You should install Yoast SEO alongside either W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
Large photos have a dreadful effect on site loading speed. There are three ways you can reduce this effect:
- Load up pictures of the exact dimensions you need. Avoid making WordPress scale your images because it takes server resources and slows down your site
- Install a photo optimization plugin
- Use smaller images where possible.
Statcounter does a similar job as Google Analytics but is infinitely easier to understand.
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You might not get as much detail, but Statcounter’s intuitive interface beats Google Analytics’ techspeak every time. There is a Statcounter WP plugin to make installation a breeze
In Google, you are competing with millions of other web pages for the privilege of appearing at the top of the search results. The content on your pages needs to be the best. Nothing but the best will keep visitors on the page. Poor quality or unoriginal content will send visitors straight back to Google, increasing your bounce rate and telling Google you didn’t satisfy searchers’ needs.
Break up text into paragraphs of one to five lines and use H2, H3 and H4 subheadings to make your page easier to skim-read. Interactive features, images, and videos will keep visitors on the page for longer.
One aspect of SEO is to keep visitors on your site, proving to Google you are a good match with the search term. If you include internal links to related content, your visitors may click through to another page on your site.
It is best to insert these links manually. Related links plugins turn your website from a sprinter into a runner dragging a medicine ball along the ground. This website slow-down happens because the plugin searches all through your article database every time a page loads, which uses a lot of server resources.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
There are free CDNs that will speed up your site, which will improve your search ranking.
Anything that speeds up your site and costs nothing has to be good. When you use a CDN your images and other static content are stored on multiple servers at strategic points around the globe. This reduces the load on your web host’s servers which can mean a lower cost hosting plan than if no CDN was used.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools) gives you much information about how your site appears to Google’s spiders. If you register, you get alerts when Google finds problems with your site or if you have been saddled with a manual penalty for infringement of one rule or another.
The Google Search Console also notifies you of any broken links on your site or increase in 404 Page Not Found errors.
Bing has a similar tool, and you should register for both.
On-site factors are quick and easy to fix compared to off-site ones.
Links are what off-site SEO is about. Google sees links as a measure of trust. They are still at the core of the company’s search algorithm, so Google does not take kindly to attempts to get links by underhand means such as paying for them.
Not all links are created equal, and the best links are those from .gov or .edu sites.
However, if all your links come from authority sites that are suspicious. A natural link profile will have most links coming from web pages with low authority ratings and will grow slowly over time.
This graph illustrates the principle of a natural link profile. PA here refers to Page Authority, which is a Moz.com measurement related to how well the Moz algorithm predicts the page will rank in SERPS.
In a perfect world, your site will acquire more links gradually as more web users discover your wondrous articles and videos. In the real world, we have to help the discovery process along. Guest posting is still one of the best techniques to build links.
Another link-building method is to ask other website owners to link to you. It’s a simple 2-step process:
- Search competing sites for links
- Reverse engineer any links you find and ask the linking site to link to you
A variation of this technique is to ask authority site that have dead links to competitors to replace those non-functional links with links to your content. You can use tools such as Ahrefs to find broken links.
What do you do if someone builds links to your site from unsavory porn or extremist web pages? You do not want to be associated with those pages, and a link suggests an association to Google.
You can ask the webmaster to delete the links, but these requests will often be ignored. Luckily there is an alternative; you can disavow those links using the Disavow Tool included in the Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools). Google says this is not normally necessary and that their algorithm knows which links are fake without you telling them.
Social Media Links
Links from social media sites are also a measure of how popular (and illogically how good) your site is. Social media links may bring you visitors, but they are certainly one of many factors in search engine algorithms as well, so you need to encourage visitors to share your site with their social contacts.
DIY Vs Professional
You can see how simple each of the above DIY SEO steps is. These are the first steps a professional SEO contractor will work through, so save yourself more than a few dollars and go through the basics yourself, or assign a freelancer to do it.