Why some websites pop to the top in search results? How to make your website pop to the top in your niche? How to make Google notice your business? SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the answer to these questions. Most people consume SEO complex and time-consuming job, but it does not have to be like this.
In the past five years Google has changed the meaning of SEO. Websites which have used black-hat SEO received penalties including loss of ranking and even being banned from Google. Since that time SEO experts and website owners have been searching for white-hat (good) methods to make their business pop up.
This guide will be useful for those who have a WordPress site or are about to set up one, and want to know how to do things correctly with SEO.
SEO for WordPress is not that difficult as it may seem, however it requires to read and apply the information you have been given.
After reading this guide you’ll be able to manage your WordPress site the way Google loves. It means more traffic, higher conversion rates and growing your business online. This guide will be useful for SEO newbies as here we explain everything in easy-to-understand words. Now you have a unique opportunity to take your business to a whole new level. Become an SEO expert of the most popular CMS in the world.
How Search Engine Work?
The first thing first, let’s figure out how all those complicated search engines work and why some search results pop to the top, and others don’t. For most people Google is a standard homepage and the first port of call before browsing the web. Without search engines websites would be handpicked just the way we choose magazines and newspapers in the local store. Of course, search engines have changed a lot since they were created, but the overall principle of work has stayed the same.
The are three basic strategies for a search engine:
- Crawling - where content is discovered;
- Indexing - where the content is analyzed and stored in a certain way;
- Retrieval and ranking- where the user query gets a list of relevant websites.
Crawling is the very beginning, when all the data about websites is gathering. The process involves scanning each site and getting a complete list of information, such as page title, images, keywords it has, and other pages it links to. Exactly, an automated bot visits each page, just like you do, only very fast. Then the crawler adds the pages it visits to the lists and crawls again. It re-crawls the websites from time to time to see if something has changed. It’s a never-ending process.
Indexing is a process of taking all the data after crawling and placing it in a huge database. This process is like making a list of all books you own, number of pages and authors. Going through every book is crawling and creating a list is indexing. However, it’s not a small room of books, but every library in the world. All the data is stored in huge data-centres with thousands of petabytes. Here is a sneak peak to one of Google’s:
Retrieval and ranking is the last step and it is exactly what you see. When you type a query in search box the search engine displays the most relevant pages it finds to match this query. In fact, this ranking algorithms are so complicated that companies guard them as patented corporate secrets. Some search engines work with keywords, some allows you to ask questions, and even filter your results by age of content and keyword proximity.
Considering that over 90% of searchers end up on the first page of Google, clicking on the results it’s easy to see why ranking your web page is important.
What is SEO?
If you have searched something online for at least ones, you know more about SEO than you think you do. You put a word or a phrase into a search box of Google (for example) that describes what you’re looking for. After that in less than a second you get thousands of results relevant to your search and pick the most useful ones. For example, here are Google search results for “the best plugins for WordPress”:
SEO experts apply various strategies to make websites appear higher in search results to make it more likely when you click on them to find exactly what you’re looking for.
What Factors Affect a Search?
When you type your query in search box, a lot of things are going under the hood. Google’s algorithms are secret, as I mentioned above, but 200 factors Google takes into account while ranking websites are known.
Let’s take a closer look at a few major factors that we know Google takes into account for sure.
1. Your Query
Google tries to understand the nature of your query ones you typed your question into the search. You may be looking for an answer to a question, just a word, phrase, list, map, or something else.
As you have already noticed, Google offers the end of your search as you start typing and even correct your mistypes.
Google also works hard to give you exactly what you want quickly, for examples, if you check the weather in Los Angeles:
It can even start a timer for you:
Search engines are constantly working on better ways to predict what you’re looking for and give you the most accurate results.
2. Your Location
When you search for something in Google, your location also matters. If you type ‘coffee shops new york’, you’ll get all the information you might need, such as location of the store on the map, it’s working hours, and even rating of this place.
So, it’s important to put special SEO efforts to maximize local visibility. Google Place pages can help search engine see your business and show local results.
3. How Many Social Shares the Page Has
Google also takes into account the number of social shares to define the popularity and quality of the website. The more shares it has, the better chances to get in Google’s top.
It means that Facebook likes, tweets, and Google’s ‘+1’ do play role in ranking pages. It makes sense as social media sites are the tools to discover great content. If people share something, then it’s worth seeing.
Many marketers believe that links to your website via social media accounts do have a major impact on your rankings. Marketing consultant Brian Honigman says:
Today, links are mainly achieved through developing original content that is in turn, shared across social media. Links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks help the search engines understand what websites are credible and should be ranked for what keyword phrases.
4. Your Device
For Google it’s important to understand what device you’re using for your search, would it be a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Your needs change from one device to another, for example, on computer you may search for some articles to read or recipes, when on smartphone you may need a quick answer to how long does it take to boil an egg, or quickly get to the city center, or compare some prices. Mobile search requires different results for different needs.
Taking into account all the factors, it’s easy to understand that your search results for a particular question might look completely different from mine, depending on device you use.
These are only four factors affecting a search, but there are much more of them. So, what does SEO do?
Audit Your Site for SEO
Before we start working on your website SEO, you need to ensure your site is in compliance to perform a detailed site audit.
Moz Site Audit Checklist is one of the most powerful tools to check your website for SEO issues. It mentions some important parts of SEO, such as On-Page Optimization, Content, Duplicate Content, Accessibility and Indexation, Site architecture and internal linking, Technical issues, Site speed, Mobile, International, and Analytics.
SEO is critically important for companies, because if people find your website via search, then you’ll get more visitors and as a result, more sales. If people can’t find you via search, they would choose your competitors instead and you lose your opportunity.
As a rule, SEO is a part of online marketing campaign along with content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and so on.
SEO is all about optimizing your website for search engines, defining perfect keywords, and building links. We’re going to figure out how to do that below.
Some SEO experts say that keyword research is the most important part of SEO. It’s quite difficult to argue as numerous statistics back it up. If you’re planning your SEO campaign, you need to put time and efforts in keyword research. You need to gain understanding of what your target audience is and what they are looking for.
One of the most useful tools for keyword research is Google Keyword Planner. In order to use this tool you need to have Google AdWords account.
After signing in your Google AdWords account, go to Tools and Analysis - Keyword Planner - Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.
A menu shows the list of options:
Here you need to choose keywords, your website link and your niche.
Then you need to choose targeting, which is your country, language and search engine of your choice.
After filling up the necessary data, you’ll get the information about level of competition and average monthly searches for these keywords.
The tool can also help you to find more keywords in your niche. Here is a detailed guide with screenshots on how to use Google Keyword Planner.
You have probably heard the statement “content is king”! And it’s true! You need to fill up your website pages with quality content for visitors to read and view. Instead of keyword usage new Google’s algorithms put emphasis on useful quality writing.
That's why you need to use well-planned keywords instead of keywords stuffing. Each page should have proper arrangements, headlines, categories, and tags. I’m going to show you how to use SEO plugins for WordPress to optimize your pages for search engines below.
7 On-Page Keyword Factors
Sometimes it may be the case that perfectly optimized keyword targeting conflicts with user experience and usability. You need to optimize keyword usage taking into account some important factors, such as page title, headline, body text, URL, images, internal and external links, and meta tags. Let’s get a closer look at each of them.
1. Page Title
Using the primary keyword at least once in page title and as close as it’s possible to title tag is highly recommended. It will help not only search engines to rank your page accordingly, but increase chances a searcher will click your link.
Above is an example of proper usage of keywords ‘responsive WordPress themes’. You see that the keyword phrase is in title of the page along with meta description which means people are more likely to open it.
For years H1 tag was used for placing keywords. Obviously, the searcher who clicked the link in Google expects to see a matching headline on a page he visits. Failure to do so is certainly a mislead. But relevant H1 tag is associated with higher ranking. Of course, page title and headline may be not the same all the time, but they should be at least similar.
3. Body Text
There is no surprise that your primary keyword phrase(s) should be used on the page. Search engines evaluate relevance and quality of your content, so it’s important to make your content useful, not just fill it up with keyword phrases. In fact, too many keywords on a page may lead to negative impact on ranking, so stay judicious.
A proper page URL has a few important aspects, and keyword usage if one of them. It will not only help with search relevancy, but URLs are often used as anchor text when they are copied and pasted in blogs, forums, etc.. Best practices are described here.
5. Images ALT Attribute
Having images on keyword-targeted page is very important, as they may directly and indirectly help with ranking. Directly, there is a huge chance your image will show up in Google Images search result. You brand need to be associated with high-quality graphics, photos, and other visual elements.
When it comes to search engines, image title, filename, ALT attribute and surrounded text matter from ranking perspective. I think that image title and filename are clear, but what is ALT attribute?
The ‘ALT’ attribute specifies an alternate text for an image, if the image cannot be displayed. The ALT attribute provides alternative information for an image if a user for some reason cannot view it (because of a slow connection, an error in the “src” attribute or if the user uses a screen reader). Let me give you an example:
Here is how complete HTML image tag looks like:
For example, if you write an article about SEO, you need to put a word SEO in your title, filename and ALT attribute of the image.
6. Internal and External Links
A good page needs to be accessible from through no more than four clicks from any other page on the site. Also, it should provide useful links to other websites with relevant information that has been discussed.
When it comes to external links, the more trusted websites links to your page, the higher its ranking in search engines.
7. Meta Tags
Just imagine how search engines work. When you start searching for something how do you choose which search result to click? Most probably you read the titles and brief description of each page in snippets.
These brief description is meta tag. Its length should not be more than 156 characters (for title it’s 70), as it may be cut by search engine. There are special tools to adjust the look of your snippet and meta tag as well, for example Snippet Optimizer lets you to see your snippet beforehand and adjust it as you need. It’s critically important to make it short, but informative and insert your keyword in there. Your meta tag should encourage people to click on it and be relevant to the information on the page.
Coding part of SEO may be difficult for not tech-savvy people out there. If you’re not familiar with coding, you would need to find some specialist for it, as this step is dramatically important. There is just one area you need to understand and it’s robot.txt.
In simple words, robot.txt is a text file which you put on your website to tell search engines about the pages they are not allowed to visit. It’s like ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. Make sure that your robot.txt file is in the main directory of your site and is placed appropriately.
Let me explain it for you. When a robot looks for the "/robots.txt" file for URL, it strips the path component from the URL (everything from the first single slash), and puts "/robots.txt" in its place.
For example, for "http://www.example.com/shop/index.html”, it will remove the "/shop/index.html", and replace it with "/robots.txt", and will end up with "http://www.example.com/robots.txt". So, as a website owner you need to put your robot.txt file in the right place on your web server. Here is an informative guide on how to set up your robot.txt file.
Of course, many tools and services proisse your site would be seen by search engines. But the most reliable way to lead search engines along with your visitors is to create a sitemap. With an HTML or XML sitemap your visitors would be able to quickly navigate your site content and you would ensure search engines display the most relevant pages. For example, here is our blog’s sitemap:
There are a lot of tools to create sitemap in a few simple steps, such as XML-Sitemaps.
As you see it has only four steps to generate your sitemap in no time. The sitemap can index up to 500 web pages.
In addition to the work you put into SEO online, there is also an offline part of the job. Unlike On-Page SEO, it refers to all activities outside the webpage. The most important off-site activities are:
- Link Building;
- Social Media;
- Social Bookmarking.
We will get a closer look to each of them but let me explain first why Off-Page SEO is so important.
Search engines have been trying for years to find a way to show the best results to a searcher. So, they took into account some on-page SEO factors mentioned above, and off-site factors. Off-page SEO gives them a good indication on how other websites and users perceive a certain website. Useful website is more likely to have references (links) from other websites. It’s more likely to have mentions on social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, and it’s more likely to be bookmarked and shared by similar communities.
The efits of off-site SEO are huge: you can increase your site’s ranking, its PageRank and as a result more exposure, sales, and growing your business.
Link Building is the most popular and effective off-page SEO method. It includes blogging, guest blogging, blog directories, comment links, link exchange schemes, forum postings, cross linking and more. Here is a full list of 21 off-page SEO strategies from MOZ.
Social media is one more important part of Off-Page SEO. The more likes and shares get your web page, the more chances it will be increased in ranking in Google. It shows popularity of a page. If people share your content, it means it’s high-quality and useful.
If are interested in Off-Page SEO, here is a detailed guide from Neil Patel which will tell you everything about Off-Page SEO, link building, Google penalties, and more.
WordPress Plugins for Improving SEO (with Examples)
Taking into account the list of factors above, you see that on-site factors you need to take care of is quite limited: it’s page titles, descriptions, navigation, URLs, content quality, image optimization, correct usage of titles and tags.
Yoast SEO is the best WordPress plugins when it comes to dealing with page titles, descriptions and URLs. The other two main features by SEO Yoast are generating of XML sitemap and URL redirects. Of course, it’s important in terms of SEo, however, there are particular plugins for both these things which can do that work much better.
SEO by Yoast has general configuration section which can be accessed via WordPress admin panel. Right after installation of the plugin you’ll see a new panel appeared right below your post.
As you see the section is separated into tabs: General, Page Analysis, Advanced and Social. Using General tab you can choose a perfect keyword to match your title, URL and meta description. I choose the keyword ‘site speed’ for my article and have adjusted meta description, title and URL in accordance to it.
Also, after the snippet editor is Content Analysis which will tell you what you need to correct or adjust, for example, focus keyword does not appear in the first paragraph. The SEO plugin should become green, which means that you do everything properly. If it appears yellow or orange, it means you need to correct something.
All in One SEO Pack has almost the same setting as Yoast’s. Unlike Yoast, it does not separate settings by tabs, all the stuff you need are located on one page. It also allows you to generate XML sitemap.
Like in Yoast, All in One SEO Pack has settings section beneath your post. However, it does not count how many times you have used focus keyword in the post, which is a major Yoast feature.
Yoast has way more options then All in One SEO Pack. The keyword counter and snippet preview which come with Yoast are a huge plus.
SEO Ultimate is more advanced than the previous two plugins and is a strong competitor to Yoast. The plugin has 25 different features splitted out into individual tabs.
The plugin has useful keyword research features, instead of analysis and counters. It offers a range of helpful features, yet it’s completely different from Yoast.
For example, the Deeplink Juggernaut feature SEO Ultimate helps intelligently link your content based on keywords. It also offers some useful social media options that Yoast doesn’t have, like its Rich Snippet Creator and Social Network Listing feature.
Top 10 SEO Tools
Here you’ll find free and easy SEO analysis tools which cover a number of common needs. For each tool we have provided a brief overview of its functionality. So, don’t waste your time and choose your perfect SEO tool(s) below.
Google Analytics for website owner is like fresh air for human beings. There is no other website that provides so much data about your website, traffic, visitors and their behaviour. Just use your Google account to sign in.
MOZ is one of the leading websites providing useful and up-to-date information about SEO. The MOZBar button is a browser extension. Just install it and click the button to get instant report on the website you are viewing.
SEO Workers tool allows you to check any website using an URL, even if a website is not yours and get a deep report. The report is quick and detailed.
With this awesome tool you’ll get over 700 keyword suggestions based on a single keyword.Just enter your keyword, and the tool will offer a list of long-tail keyword opportunities in alphabet order.
The QuickSprout tool does full analysis of your website: SEO optimization, site speed, tags, keywords, links, and even competitor comparisons.
Similar Web is a great website which will give you an information about traffic, keywords, and users on any website you want. It may be also added to your browser toolbar for quick access.
Ahrefs is site explorer and backlink checker. It’s one of the best SEO tools I have been ever used. Their dashboard for referring pages and inbound links is huge and informative.
Copyscape allows you to check for duplicate content. Just enter a URL of a blog or web page, and the tool will tell you where else this content is used.
This tool will help you to check your website speed and usability on various devices. Just enter an URL of your website to get information about loading time and performance on both mobile and desktop.
There are two ways to use this tool: put your website link and keyword to see where you land, or just leave website field blank and see list of results for a particular keyword.
Over to You
Hopefully, you enjoyed reading this article. We tried our best to explain SEO in simple words. Whether you have tried SEO before and failed or have never given it a shot, don’t step back. There are tons of articles, ebooks, and how-tos on SEO around the web, but you don’t need to learn everything at once.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please help us spread it over social media and like it. If you have any questions, suggestions or ideas, feel free to use comment field below.