Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a blanket term for all methods and techniques employed by WordPress website content creators, and developers, aimed at improving website (or webpage) ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Usually, websites are optimised for certain keywords which the website expects favourable ranking when users search with these keywords online.
SEO is essential in marketing as search engines are likely the first point of call for all who come to the web without an idea of where exactly they are going to find whatever it is they are after.
Search engines have rules which outlines the parameters they use in ranking websites. The goal in SEO is to meet these criteria, hence increasing the probability of search engines understanding the website and ranking them appropriately.
SEO is not a trick. The content creator’s job is to give search engines a fundamental understanding of what each page on the website is about. The rest is up to the search engines. Any attempt to manipulate search engines into ranking a website better than it actually deserves may result in penalties by these search engines, including removing the website from their index.
WordPress is inherently SEO-friendly. It allows to use pretty permalinks for your posts and pages. This means you can insert keywords relevant to your content into your permalinks during post editing.
WordPress includes a canonical link on single posts and pages telling search engines the authoritative link of the page, if the page is reachable from multiple links.
Additionally, there are several plugins in the WordPress plugins directory that provides options to add more SEO-related configuration to your website.
The following are some the methods WordPress content creators may employ to ensure a fully SEO-optimised website:
Content is King, they say. Search engines need to be able to present results to searchers that are relevant to their search at any point in time. It is how they get searchers to trust them and keep using their services.
In this regard, search engines, such as Google, keep updating their algorithms to weed out irrelevant content from appearing in search results.
Content should be created for human users, not search engine bots. Search engines have their algorithms to tell whether a particular content is aimed at gaming the search engine rather than written for humans.
Content creators are encouraged to create exclusive and unique content relevant to their human readers. Websites that seek to aggregate content from other websites, either automatically or by manually copying and pasting, are likely to be penalised by search engines.
While SEO is geared towards improving traffic, traffic, in turn, improves SEO. Some search algorithms are actually recommender algorithms that attempt to identify content a searcher might be interested in based on their search keywords, browsing history and a number of other factors.
Visitors to your website, and visitors that exhibit similar browsing habits and interests as your website visitors, are more likely to get search results from your website in any later search.
The more visitors your website gets, the more likely your website would appear in search results for these visitors and other visitors for whom search algorithms determine may have similar interests as your site visitors.
Encourage people to visit your website through word of mouth, and use social media to spread your posts as wide as possible.
Links are very important in SEO. Outbound links are links to other websites, while inbound links are links from other websites to yours. Internal links are links from within one page of your site to another page on the same site.
Outbound links are good, but too many of them may flag you as a spammer. Try to use internal linking as much as possible, linking to other content on your site that are relevant to the current content.
Inbound links are the most essential to building a search reputation. The more sites that link to your content, the more likely your reputation goes up.
Note that you cannot simply buy links, as the links must be as organic as possible. The content from which your page is linked must be relevant to your page, and the reputation of the page that links to your page counts towards your reputation.
Writing content that others find useful may encourage them to link to your content from their own websites.
Search engines love good content crafted for human users. Essentially, how your website users interact with the content could determine how well your website ranks.
Mobile-friendly pages affect usability, and Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Your WordPress theme should be responsive, to provide optimal mobile user experience.
Another factor that affects usability is page load speed, also a Google ranking signal. Websites and servers should be configured to provide maximum load speeds.
Websites that host spam content, or install malware on visitors’ computers are, obviously, a bad deal for search engines. Search engines would blacklist any such website from appearing in their results.
Malicious actors that find their way into your website or server can inject scripts and links that would cause search engines to penalise your website for hosting malicious content.
Your WordPress website’s security, is therefore, a very important factor in your website’s SEO. Make sure your WordPress host is one you can trust your website with.
Use strong passwords, and use password managers to store and retrieve passwords, to avoid the need to reuse the same password across multiple services.
Where hosting account security is not directly handled by your web host, use potent security plugins to protect your website from malicious actors.
SSL/TLS encryption is also a ranking factor, at least for Google. If your website has no TLS certificate installed (ie if you do not see https in your browser with a green lock icon when your visit your site), contact your web host about installing the free letsencrypt certificates.
Search engine bots are not humans, and do not possess the ability to understand content in a way a human can. How we convey meaning to bots about a page is through page meta data presented to bots.
Websites should be marked up with appropriate meta information to allow non-humans appreciate what the content is about. In the context of WordPress, SEO plugins can be leveraged to add the necessary meta data to web pages and presented to bots.
A web page’s title tag gives search engines an idea of the main topic of the page. Additionally meta tags can define a short description of the page’s content, as well as author and other such relevant information.
Choose WordPress themes that are developed with these SEO factors in mind. Modern WordPress themes and plugins include options to add structured data (microdata) to content, providing a better understanding of content to search engines.
Your website should have a
robots.txt file at the site’s root. This folder provides further recommendations to search engines as to which areas of your website they should, or should not, crawl.
A good SEO plugin could generate a sitemap with links to all pages on your site which can be submitted to search engines.
Webmaster Tools & Analytics
Submitting your website to search engines through your their respective webmaster tools accounts would let them know about your site, and begin to crawl it if they haven’t already.
Webmaster tools allow you to tell search engines more about your site, submit sitemaps, set primary target country, among several others.
Google has Google Search Console and Google Analytics, while Bing has Bing Webmaster Tools. These provide tools for configuring and monitoring your website with detailed reports. Google Analytics provides all traffic data for your website accessible through a detailed reports dashboard.