July 21, 2016 Knocking Door

Beginners Guide to WordPress SEO

It takes time, effort, passion, and creativity to create and maintain a blog.  It is important, therefore, to put it into good use and make your investment worthwhile.

The thing is, even if you have a good blog with well-crafted text and engaging content, you won’t get the most out of it if readers and potential visitors are not able to find it.  This is why knowledge and application of SEO or search engine optimization is important.

Using WordPress

WordPress is a website creation platform and content management system that is used by many individuals and businesses all over the world.

Since there are several ready-made templates available, even a beginner with no background in computer programming or website creation can set up a blog with ease.  As soon as they sign up and personalize their chosen theme, they can start blogging immediately.

Many WordPress users, however, are unable to maximize the platform’s full potential.  While it meets the technical requirements so that the websites within it get indexed, getting an individual blog ranked in search engines is still dependent on how the owner manages it.

It is no secret that getting ranked higher in a search engines results page (SERP) translates to more visitors and page views, which is undoubtedly what many bloggers want.

Utilizing WordPress SEO

If you have a WordPress blog, then you can use certain strategies so it would appear in search engine results. You can optimize your blog by doing the following:

·         Choose a suitable theme.

The theme you choose, including the font, the color, and the arrangement, should be consistent with the purpose of your website.  There are designs that are well-suited for photography enthusiasts and there are those that are fit for writers.

Not all themes are free, however – but paid ones usually have more to offer.  These are often optimized by their respective developers so they can be crawled and indexed more easily by search engine bots.

·         Provide high quality content.

There is nothing like interesting and informative content to gain regular, loyal visitors and readers.  More often than not, search engines deem that a website is relevant – thus, giving it higher rankings – when it draws a lot of visitors, when these visitors stay to read (and not click away immediately), and when other websites link to it.

Apart from the quality of the text itself, you can include some multimedia like embedded videos or social media posts.  Also, quantity can also boost your readership so make sure to regularly add fresh content to entice new and return visits.

·         Optimize your images.

While your blog may become more attractive with the use of images, too much may turn out to be overwhelming.  Also, large sized images may result in slower page loads that not only frustrates visitors but could also affect your page rank.

Since Google considers PageSpeed as a factor in ranking, you may want to reduce the file size of your images before putting them in your web pages. There are free plugins that can help you compress them without sacrificing the quality, such WP Smush.

Also, as much as possible, use relevant keywords for your images’ file names, descriptions, and alt tags.

·         Have a structured internal link system.

Links are important, not just inbound ones but also those within your own website.  Google puts some weight into this, so it’s advised to give it some attention.

In each of your new blog posts, link to one or two of your older posts but these should be of the same topic or category.  As such, each of your posts should belong to several categories so they will overlap.

It’s also wise to give each of your posts five to 10 tags.  This does not exactly help your ranking, but your readers would appreciate it.

·         Customize your permalinks.

WordPress automatically generates a permalink or an address for your blog post.   This, however, is not optimized so you need to make changes and put in the most relevant keywords so that search engines will more easily be able to index it.

To customize, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > permalinks.  You can set your own structure as default, and you can also adjust the address on an individual page.

·         Use a caching plugin.

When a visitor visits your website, the pages are loaded directly from the server, which may take some time.  With caching plugins, however, a copy of the page is put in the memory of the user’s computer.

This, in turn, makes loading faster the next time they visit and improves a website’s performance.  As mentioned earlier, one of the factors in Google’s ranking is PageSpeed so this helps a great deal.

You can check your WordPress blog’s speed through the use of tools like PageSpeed Insights.  If there’s a need to improve its performance, then you can utilize free plugins like ZenCache and W3 Total Cache, which can compress scripts and source codes and also have various settings.

Installing WordPress SEO Plugins

There are WordPress SEO plugins that you can install that can help you in optimizing your blog. Some, like wpSEO, offer a free trial, after which you need to pay to use them. These paid options usually feature many functions that can help you in your SEO strategies.

One free option is WordPress SEO from Yoast, which is easy to use and comes with many features.  These include: keyword analysis; snippet preview; generation of XML sitemaps for Google Analytics; and configuration of .htaccess file without FTP. It also tracks down duplicate content and automatically creates meta data.

Checking for Conflicts and Errors

If the blog or website that you are handling has been established before, then you need to check if any SEO strategy was already put in place.  This is because some old practices may be harming your chances of getting ranked.  For instance:

·         Find out if SEO was done before, when, and by whom.  Remember that Google has changed many of its guidelines in the past years, and some old methods, like keyword stuffing, may have been used that are now keeping the website from getting a higher ranking.

·         Check backlinks.  Use software SEMRush or MajesticSEO to determine if your backlink profile is in good shape; otherwise, request for the websites in question to remove the link to yours.  You can also disavow bad backlinks using the Disavow Tool on Google Search Console.

When it comes to plugins, not all of them work well with other plugins or even with the hosting provider.  Often, the latter removes those that are simply duplicates of what they already offer, like caching and backups, and those that strain their servers or use a lot of resources.

In order for your blog to be enjoyable for your visitors and beneficial for you, you need to do the following:

·         Remove plugins that are unnecessary for your website.  Make sure that they are properly deactivated and deleted, including all their functions. Use the P3 Plugin to check.

·         Update plugins that you are using.  Outdated versions may not work well with WordPress’s current version, so you need to make sure that you update them.

Apart from those, you should also make sure that your custom codes are in line with W3C standards.  You need to check if there are console or markup errors, some of which are:

·         302 redirect.  This is a temporary solution.  If a page was permanently moved to a new location, then your website should be performing a 301 redirect.

·         4XX error.  This appears when a link leads to a forbidden page or it does not exist.

·         5XX error.   This is a server error.

You can use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to find out about these issues.

Also, you may want to crawl your own website in the same way that search engine bots do. You can determine DNS, server connectivity, and robots.txt file errors by using tools like the Google Search Console or the Moz Crawl Test.

Running an Effective Blog

As mentioned earlier, your blog will only be successful if people can find you.  To make sure that they do, you must appear in the results when they make a search using a search engine. Therefore, don’t forget to do the following:

·         Use relevant keywords for each page on your blog.

·         Your meta titles and meta descriptions should be optimized with the right keywords.

·         Put alt tags on your images.

Moreover, your website should be responsive – that is, readers should be able to comfortably browse through it regardless of what device they are using, be it a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer.  It should also work on different operating systems and different browsers, and the text and images should adjust to varying screen sizes.  This way, loyal readers and new visitors will be able to follow your posts no matter what device they use.

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