15 Best SEO Practices for Your WordPress Website

All webmasters are aware that it is top quality, authoritative content on web pages that can get them high up on a search engine results page (SERP). This does not mean that you should be satisfied with creating and publishing the right content on your website. There's a great deal more you can do to make it easier for your audience to find you. That's what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about.
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All webmasters are aware that it is top quality, authoritative content on web pages that can get them high up on a search engine results page (SERP). This does not mean that you should be satisfied with creating and publishing the right content on your website. There’s a great deal more you can do to make it easier for your audience to find you. That’s what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about.

Google is the Dominant Search Engine

Internet users depend on search engines to find what they’re looking for. The dominant search engine on the internet is Google with more than 75% of the market share. Google crawls the internet for content, and ranks the webpages in the search engine results page (SERP), using a number of ranking factors.

For a detailed list of the ranking factors and the effect they have on rankings, you’ll find this annual study by Searchmetrics extremely handy. The higher up in the results that your webpage figures, the more the number of hits that you’re likely to get. So it’s imperative that your website is search engine friendly. Google also offers tools and diagnostics to create and maintain a Google friendly site.

The Two Sides To SEO

You need a two pronged approach for SEO – Technical SEO and Keyword Related SEO.

  • Technical SEO – This refers to all activities related to website optimization. It ensures fast loading times, smooth navigation, having a responsive design, HTTPS encryption and generally ensuring an easily accessible website.
  • Keyword Related SEO – Visitors search the internet using commonly used search phrases, often referred to as keywords. Keyword related SEO includes keyword research, content creation using keywords, on-page optimization and all that is related to help your audience find you more easily.

Technical SEO

1. Website Speed – This was included as a factor counting for rankings by Google as early as 2010. There are many things that you can do – database and image optimization, lazy loading, deferring Javascript while loading and minifying CSS – to improve the loading speed of your website. Using Content Delivery networks, good caching plugins and reliable hosting can have a big impact on site speed.

To know more about it, read up our recent post on improving Website speed.

2. Website security – Reliable hosting contributes greatly to a secure website. Visitors need to know they are on a secure site to be able to keep returning to it with confidence. A good hosting provider will take care of a number of security issues like firewall protection and malware screening. Managed hosting is also an option to consider here.

HTTPS Encryption – At present, Google sports a neutral indicator for HTTP sites. In January 2017, a new version of Chrome (Chrome 56) will begin to label all non HTTPS websites as “non-secure”, if they ask visitors for passwords or credit card information. In the long run, Google aims to label all non-HTTPS pages as non-secure, and change the HTTP security indicator to the red triangle, as is currently being used for broken HTTPS.

So, if you are dependent on Chrome for traffic, consider adding adding HTTPS encryption to your web pages.

3. Mobile Friendly – This is one factor that you cannot afford to ignore. The traffic reaching a website via a mobile has increased substantially over the last few years. To cater to this audience, a website has got to be mobile friendly. You can test if your website is mobile friendly in the Google Search Console .

You can either have two versions of your website – one for mobiles and the other for desktops. Or install a responsive theme that sizes down perfectly to smaller devices.

Moreover, publishing sites are required to create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) of their content for better user experience. AMP Project was announced by Google in October 2015. Publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load everywhere on the mobile web instantly. As of August 2016, Google Search has over 150 million AMP docs in its index and growing at the rate of 4 million a week.

4. On site Navigation – Structuring your content logically, using the taxonomies offered by WordPress helps not only users navigate your website, it also helps search spiders look for and find relevant content. Create main and sub categories to guide search engines to user intended content.

Keyword Related SEO

5. Do a keyword research using the Google Keyword Planner and develop content around it. Infographics, interviews, how-to lists, tutorials and media rich content can hold a reader’s attention better. They are more likely to acquire backlinks from quality websites.

The study by Searchmetrics shows that backlinks is now only one of the contributing factors for page rank, slipping from being a most important factor in the last few years. However, it’s expected that backlinks will continue to have a role to play, for some time to come. Great content coupled with quality backlinks may be your best shot to race to the top.

6. Use SEO friendly URLs. The first few words in your URL are what carries weight with Google, so insert your keyword in the beginning of the URL. Change the default URL in WordPress into a keyword based URL or use your post name in the URL.

7. Add and activate an SEO plugin in your WordPress install. Standard plugins like Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO plugin scrutinize your content for SEO compliance and recommend corrections.

The Yoast plugin checks your posts for keyword density. It checks for presence of keywords in a post title, in heading tags, in the first few words of the article, in the meta description and in image titles. It also looks at the length of content, duplicate content on your blog pages and more, to make sure your posts are search engine friendly.

8. Include links to quality websites to let Google know you’re serious about your content. And take care to set these links to open in a separate tab. Else, people are likely to click on them and move away from your site, thereby reducing the time spent on your site. Similarly, internal links persuade visitors to spend more time on your website.

9. Duplicate content on the different pages in your website generates multiple results, especially if you use tags. Google prefers fresh content, and old and duplicate content only depresses your overall ranking. So update old content or take down duplicate content. If you must keep it, add a canonical URL to each version.

10 Google spiders crawl the Heading tags for keywords. The most important heading tag is the title tag or H1 tag, and your keyword should be present within it. WordPress automatically adds a H1 tag to the title of your post. But if it has been modified by your theme, you can revert to the H1 default by altering the theme template.

It’s good, but not necessary, to include keywords in the other heading tags too. Words like “list”, “Best”, “2017”, “Top” or “Checklist” are useful for longtail versions of keywords. Refer to paid ads and the top few results in the SERP to check what works in practice.

Even if you reach the top in the SERP, you may not count among the click throughs. The difference in click through rate (CTR) for a result at the top and at the bottom of a SERP is huge. If your meta description is good, it can improve the CTR. Try to state clearly in the meta description how the reader will benefit by reading your post. Searched words appear bold in the meta description and can guide a user to the appropriate result.

11. A lower bounce rate on your pages is a sign of quality content, so you should target to get repeat visitors who stay longer on your site. This is a signal to Google that you are a high quality resource. An article length of 1000+ words and a greater level of detail may indicate that the article is a good resource. But it’s also true that Google scans 140 character Twitter posts for content. So there’s really no hard and fast rule here. See the comment from John Mueller of Google.

12. Don’t fret too much about Exact Domain Matches. They may bring you an initial spurt of traffic, but if there’s no content in the website to match the domain name or if content is of low quality, Google is likely to penalize you.

Miscellaneous

13. Adding Sitemaps – Add XML sitemaps so Google can crawl and index your pages. These maps will help Google understand your content. The Yoast SEO plugins can add XML sitemap functionality to your site.

14. Pay attention to crawl errors or 404 errors. Rectify these errors with 301 redirects. Also take care to fix broken links on your website. Too many broken links may indicate that your site is not current. Use Broken Link Checker to fix this.

15. Social sharing is an effective way to attract readers. Don’t depend on visitors to share good content with friends. They are much more likely to share if they simply have to click on a social sharing button placed visibly on your website.

To Sum Up

Google has access to a tremendous amount of data gathered via search results that it uses to assess user experience. Therefore, create relevant content that is targeted at a specific user intent. If you include misleading content or dodgy links, or if your site is hard to navigate, users will simply move away. On the other hand, if your site receive repeat visitors who spend time reading what you’ve got to say, check links that you provide, buy stuff and share on social platforms, Google figures you’re a worthy resource.

Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is a freelance writer by night, works as a data analyst by day.

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One Response

  1. Vishnu you’re provided a great general overview of the topic, I think it’s actually the base for a decent checklist when doing quick site audits.

    One thing I would recommend is taking a look at your stance on exact match domains however, since in the local SEO market space EMD’s are actually doing quite well. I see more and more people saying not to use them because it’s easier to recommend that versus telling how to optimize them right without spamming.

    Other than that, I completely agree with everything you wrote and look forward to any expansion on the topic you may soon provide.

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