How to Optimise your WordPress Site for Better Search Results in 10 Easy Steps
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a tricky thing to learn. With Google constantly updating their algorithms, chasing the number one spot on the organic search results is akin to shooting at a moving goalpost. Without a sound knowledge of the basics of SEO it’s pretty easy to feel like a fish out water, even just looking at your WordPress dashboard.
Fortunately even though Google’s best practice can be a little difficult to keep with at times, WordPress has done a lot over the years to help its customers along the road to a fully optimised site. While there’s no simple button you can press to optimise your site and be done with it, there are a few different ways you can get your site on the right tracks – with each and every little change you make in this area, your site gets more and more optimised. Remember that when it comes to the race to the top of Page One, every little helps.
- Choose the right domain name
First things first, the chances are that you don’t want your site to be known as xyz.wordpress.com. You can get around this by buying yourself a domain name – just be aware that the name you choose makes a difference to your SEO. Two identical sites with two different domain names will rank differently on Google – davescars.com and davessite.com for instance will not rank the same when someone searches for cars on Google. Try to fit your main keywords into your domain name where possible.
- Choose the right theme
It’s a sad fact of life – no two WordPress themes are born equal. If you were to look under the hood of your site (type view-source:yourwebsite.com into the address bar) you will see that different sites with different themes are coded entirely differently. The more code you have on a page, the longer a page takes to load. The lower down the source code your keywords are found, the less optimised your site. Pick an SEO optimised theme from Day One and half the battle is already won.
- Remove default site name for titles
As you navigate through your site the chances are that your URL is going to get longer and longer. Unfortunately WordPress has a bit of a habit of filling this URL with things that are irrelevant. Change the default site name for titles in your WordPress settings and watch your site speed get more optimised as a result.
- Find the right keywords
Finding the right keywords for your site can be very lucrative – just ask anyone in SEO, PPC or social media marketing. Take some time to look at the keywords your competition is using, and try to gauge how well they’re doing as a result. The chances are that you’ll be using similar keywords along the way, so if you can learn from their mistakes, your site will wind up all the better for it.
- Craft the right content
There’s a saying in digital marketing – content is king. This is truer today than ever before, especially as Google works harder and harder to separate the digital wheat from the chaff. If you want your site to be optimised for SEO, you need to make sure that you prioritise content quality over content quantity. Don’t stuff your content with unnecessary keywords or your site will get penalised. Don’t skip out on using the right keywords or your site won’t rank. It’s a fine line to walk, but as a rule of thumb if you read it aloud and it sounds like it was written for a search engine to find, the chances are Google won’t thank you for it.
- Compress and rename your image files
All in all, there are hundreds of things which go towards a fully optimised website, and the quality of your images is one of them. More specifically, your images should be compressed so that they load quicker and use up less bandwidth at your readers navigate through your site. This is remarkably easy to do using plugins like SmushIt.While you’re at it, make sure that your images have the right filename and alt tags if you want them to help your SEO. Google promotes sites which puts usability first and by changing DSC152875.jpg to Boris-Johnson-Greets-Barack-Obama-At-London-Climate-Talks.jpg will do wonders for your SEO (assuming that that title is relevant to the picture, of course).
- Link your relevant pages
Websites have this wonderful thing called ‘link juice’. By linking your relevant internal pages to one another, you spread your link juice (also known as trust flow) throughout your site, helping keep your site optimised. Don’t link every page back to your content page or your homepage, however, as this won’t get you anywhere – keep your links relevant.
While you’re at it, make sure that your outbound links all open in a new window – this will help keep people on your page for longer, helping redirect your readers to your money-making pages along the way.
- Create a sitemap in XML
A sitemap is simply a list of pages on your site, neatly organised into an appropriate hierarchy for both human and robotic users. Having a proper sitemap on your page will help your site’s SEO more than you might think, and with WordPress this is extremely easy to do. Simply download and run a plugin like Yoast SEO Tools and the bulk of the heavy lifting will be done for you.
- Test usability once live
This may be seem obvious but the importance of testing your site cannot be overstated. If you can break your site within 30 seconds of it going live, the chances are that your users will be able to do the same. Test your site on your PC, your phone and your tablet – see how long it takes for your images and content to load; see how obvious your links are; see how easy it is to read your content with the theme you’re using. If you come across any problems, now is the best time to fix them.
- Find which plugins are slowing you down
As with WordPress themes, not all plugins are created equal. Some plugins slow you down far more than you’d think – finding the ones which are slowing your site down and replacing them with ones which simply work more efficiently can lead to massive boosts in your site’s optimisation without making any changes that the end user will be able to see. There are plenty of diagnostic plugins you can use which will help you trim the fat around your site, though P3 is a good place to start.