How to Achieve Higher Search Rankings with WordPress SEO
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Nearly everyone I talk to wishes they could get higher search rankings, but most solopreneurs can’t afford to invest hundreds of dollars every month for SEO services.
My guest today is WordPress expert Tracey Jones, with a few strategies for enhancing your site and improving your search engine results.
Why do you even blog?
Don’t scowl, or roll your eyes. That’s a perfectly reasonable question. I ask because the reason determines the quality of your content (to a greater extent than you would think).
Anyway, fame (getting recognition), attention (spreading your word), money, et al… you’re likely doing it for one or more of these reasons. Regardless, your goals will never be realized without achieving sufficient “Rankings” on the search engine results page (SERP). Only those at the top see the light of day. Which is why we are here, discussing ways to get you higher rankings.
Fortunately, WordPress takes care of 80-90% of the mechanics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Says who? Says Matt Cutts, Google’s (former) SEO and Anti-Spam wizard. In this post, we’ll take a look at a few ways how you can optimize your WordPress website for higher search rankings with little-to-no fuss.
Site-Maps give site visitors — humans as well as the search bots — a sort of map of your site’s content organization and navigation, helping them crawl your content at a better pace. XML sitemaps are for the bots while HTML ones are for humans. They improve your user experience score, and consequently give you a better chance on SERP (search engine results page).
Tip: HTML Sitemaps can be shown on 404 error pages to help improve UX (user experience).
Search engines place significance in sitemaps of both kinds. To make sure you have them, use the WP Sitemap Page plugin. Note that it only generates an HTML sitemap. Most SEO suites like Yoast SEO take care of XML sitemaps.
You don’t need any fancy plugins for this beautiful feature because WordPress has you covered.
Your URL structure plays an important role in how easily your posts are reached by search bots, not to mention a legible URL looks legit and makes users less apprehensive about visiting or being on it. To change your permalink structure through WordPress admin, go to your admin >> Settings >> Permalinks
Now, it’s suggested that your post names should be as close to the central domain name as possible for max positive effect on SEO. So ideally, the best structure for any page on your site would be www.website.com/sample-post.
While we’re on the subject of links: make sure to check your website for 404 errors with the Broken Link Checker plugin. This ensures that any pages, posts, or page-elements that are somehow ‘Not Found’ are not responsible for keeping your content away from search bots.
Tip: Unless it’s absolutely necessary (for instance, in the case of news websites), try not to select time based (day and name; month and name) URL structures if you’re not writing and publishing regularly. Stick to category and post name by writing /%category%/%postname%/ in custom structure option.
3. Alt Text for Visual Media
Accessibility and SEO go hand-in-hand on this one (search engines encourage WebAIM’s accessible web drive).
This goes beyond captioning, which you should always do anyway, for the sake of writing better content. You need to take care of accessibility criteria and help visitors with visual impairments to be able to use your website (typically through screen reader devices). Alt text (Alternative text) is a short text description of the image which is read aloud by screen readers.
WordPress gives you default options to add alt text right when you’re adding the media (image or video). Always use them to make your content accessible.
Tip: Also make sure to add transcripts, subtitles, and descriptive text for audio and visual media.
4. Performance Optimization
The faster your web pages load, the better you rank, and the happier your visitors are: necessarily and without exception in that order.
Tip: Check your performance scores in Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom. Note that you can also run the URLs of a WordPress Customization Company or freelance developer’s previous work through these tools and objectively assess the quality of their work.
5. Avoid: black hat SEO tricks
You can end up getting blocked or penalized for employing deprecated or black hat SEO practices.
Keep an eye out to make sure you don’t employ outdated, punishable, and more importantly, unsustainable methods like sneaky redirects, keyword stuffing, duplicating existing content, aggressive link building, etc.
Keep your code clean and error-free, use the best SEO plugins of the year, work on enhancing your user experience, and stay tuned for more updates on the platform.
Keep swimming in the right direction. It’ll take time and a whole load of patience, but you’ll get there.