There are some people who will tell you that SEO is dead. They say content and quality have edged out search engine optimization, and you’d be better off spending your money there.
However, while it’s true that search engines have changed their algorithms to focus more on quality and user experience, which doesn’t mean search engine optimization is obsolete. In fact, in an ever more competitive online landscape, every little bit counts!
The lines between SEO, content and general site quality have blurred a little, but there are definite, concrete, on and off-site steps you can take to rank higher.
Get Good Quality Links
SEO used to be about getting as many links as possible. The more links you had, the more important search engines thought your site was. Those days are long over, and spammy links are a quick way to get your site penalized by search engines.
But that doesn’t mean links should be completely ignored. Make sure your site is listed in relevant local directories and on services like Google My Business. A few links in industry publications don’t hurt, nor do links from industry associations and organizations you belong to.
What you do need to avoid are spammy links in article comments or on completely irrelevant sites.
Use Internal Links
While lots of junky links to and from unrelated sites won’t help you to gain credibility online, internal links can help a lot. Links tell search engine “spiders” when there’s related content on your site, which helps them to catalog and classify your site and your content.
While we’re on the topic of search engines and crawling, make sure you submit your XML sitemap to search engines and keep them up to date. Your sitemap tells search engines which pages are on your site, which helps to ensure that your pages get indexed. That, in turn, helps you to rank higher for your keywords and phrases.
Dial-In Your Keywords
Keywords for SEO have changed a lot too. Stuffing your site with keywords used to be a strategy, but with the shift to focus on quality content, that’s not likely to win you any SEO prizes.
You should still do keyword research but stick to keywords that are closely related to what you do, and don’t focus on things like keyword density too much. It’s better to use variations of your keywords that look natural in your content than to try to shoehorn as many exact match words as you can in wherever you can.
Remember – your content should be written for humans first and search engines second!
Use SEO Tools
SEO tools help to ensure that your WordPress site is optimized and they’re easy to use. If your site is built on WordPress, Yoast is one of the best and most trusted SEO plugins, and there’s a free version, so you don’t have to spend anything to use it.
Tools like Yoast also help to ensure that you are using keywords correctly. If you can, try to use relevant keywords and phrases in headings, subheadings, and links, because these will also help search engines to correctly index and catalog your site. The ultimate goal is to make sure that when someone searches online, your site comes up in the organic search results.
Content Really Is King
A very long time ago, internet marketing gurus declared content is king. Nothing has changed. In fact, as search engines and algorithms have changed to focus more on quality and the experience visitors have on websites, content has become even more important.
Quality content is the cornerstone of your SEO efforts. It’s where you will be sending all that traffic you get, and there are some golden rules:
● Dive deep. Search engines have got very smart. They can tell when content is “thin” or low on useful information. So, try to make your content as detailed and in-depth as possible.
● When in doubt, opt for longer-form pieces. Content that is less than about 500 words is unlikely to rank well. So, write and create content that is long and detailed and really answers your reader’s questions.
● Remember that content is all about your visitors. This is not a sales pitch. The content you post on your WordPress site should be valuable for the reader. So, make it interesting. Teach them something. Share your knowledge. It might not close the deal right away, but it will establish you as the go-to expert in your field.
● Break it up! Large blocks of content do not read well on screen. So, use links, headings and subheads, lists, bullets, and shorter paragraphs to keep it interesting and help people to read easier.
● Make sure you include images when relevant too, they make it a lot easier to understand and digest your content online.
● Update your content regularly. Search engines rank websites that have “fresh” content higher. You don’t have to add new blog posts or content every day, but once or twice a week is ideal.
The importance of metadata has decreased over time, but it’s still an important way to tell search engines what your pages are about. It’s also used as the description of your page in search results, so it matters to your visitors and readers too. Well-written metadata can help you to rank better and show up in more search results and entice people to find out more.
Keep Your WordPress Site Up to Date and Speedy
Over time, websites get slower. When things are out of date, or you have lots of unused widgets and plugins cluttering things up, your website won’t load as quickly or smoothly.
Likewise, if your WordPress version and in-use plugins are out of date, they might slow things down or even produce errors on your WordPress site.
Make a habit of doing a little spring clean on your website from time to time. Remove old or unused items, make sure you don’t have large files or images that aren’t in use stored on your server, and update all your in-use widgets and plugins.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to audit and update your content from time to time. Some content is “evergreen,” but some will need to be updated to reflect new ideas or technology.
Share and Automate
Even if you have the best information and content in the world, if no one knows it exists, it can’t do its job!
Sharing content on social media and similar sites is a great way to promote your website and your content, and there’s always the chance that it will “go viral.” When your content is shared by other sites and people, those links to your WordPress site DO count towards your SEO, and they will influence your ranking!
There are lots of automation tools that can be built into a WordPress site to automatically post new content to your social media channels too, so you can save time and effort and still get the marketing boost!
Optimize Your Images
Images are very important to your WordPress site’s usability, but they can slow things down, and if they are not optimized, they can count against you in SEO. There are a few ways you can optimize your images, such as:
● Use the smallest images possible. Larger images in high resolution take a long time to load, which won’t hurt your SEO directly but can limit the time people spend on your site!
● Make sure all of your images are properly sized. Browser resizing is not good for SEO.
● Use alt text for all your images. If an image doesn’t load for whatever reason, users will know what should have been there, and alt text for images can be indexed too – so it will count towards your SEO.
Always Use SSL
SSL used to be optional, but these days, it’s very definitely on the list of things search engines consider when ranking your WordPress site. If your site doesn’t have an SSL certificate or has a self-signed certificate, it won’t rank as high as it might otherwise.
Make It Mobile Friendly
Another big change in SEO and search engine rankings was what is known as “Mobilegeddon,” which was a giant search engine algorithm update that happened a few years ago. Sites that weren’t mobile-friendly were automatically downgraded, and any new sites that weren’t mobile-friendly automatically ranked lower.
A mobile-friendly site is often as easy as using a responsive template, so if you aren’t already, start now!
Create a Checklist
A big part of good SEO is consistency, and the best way to do that is to make a checklist. Make sure that your articles, images, and content are correctly formatted from the start. Add metadata when you upload new content. Schedule regular cleanups and stay on top of everything.
It is possible to fix bad SEO, but it’s a lot easier to do it right from the start. So, whether you do it yourself or outsource your SEO, make sure your WordPres site checks all the right boxes all the time.