With the constant change of Google’s algorithm, getting your website on page one has become harder. For a start a good portion of the page is taken up by paid advertising. This has the effect of pushing any organic searches further down the page. So not good for us small business owners.
The following is my WordPress website optimisation guide on how to get some ideas on how to boost your rankings. It’s aimed at small businesses but if you are a general user of WordPress it should still be helpful. I’ll be honest and say that this takes a little hard work and you need to keep at it to get the best results.
Choose your keywords
Why do we need keywords?
We need keywords as they help search engines find our website’s pages. In basic terms, search engine software searches the web looking for these keywords and pages, then adds them to its index. It learns what topics are being covered and then decides what your web pages are about.
So when someone searches for a word or phrase in a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo etc., this search engine delivers all the web pages that it thinks are relevant in descending order of importance.
Of course there are many other factors that determine who appears at the top, but you can get the general idea of how it works.
How do we generate our keywords?
The easiest way is to use the Google keyword planner. Once signed up, you enter the relevant details in the find new keywords and get search volume data panel, then hit the Get ideas button.
I personally like the software Market Samurai, and you can get a free trial here. This provides more options than the Google keyword planner and you can even check what your competition is up to, which is important.
So back to the keyword planner. You’ll then be presented with some keyword ideas. Hit the ‘keyword ideas’ tab to see the suggestions.
You’ll notice some words get a lot of search traffic and some have a lot of competition. Filter through the results and find words that have low to medium competition and have a search volume of at least 40-50 hits. You’ll stand a much better chance of being found using these.
Play around with the product or service panel at the top of the page. You can experiment with different phrases and words to see which keywords will work best for your industry. Use at least 2-3 words.
Make a note of these keywords as you’ll use these to form the basis for your web pages and blog articles later.
Update: You may be interested to read my article on how best to optimise your website homepage.
Website main search phrase
Once you or your web designer has created your WordPress site, it’s a good idea to put the main keyword phrase in the site title box. This is one of the key factors for WordPress website optimisation and can be found in the admin panel under Settings > General.
This is your site-wide title so choose something that fits your industry. Unless you are going for global domination I’d suggest keeping it local. Include your town or city plus your occupation.
I currently use Birmingham Graphic Designer. This shows my main professional service and my location. You can also add a relevant tagline that further specifies what you do and offer.
Add the Yoast SEO plugin
Next I’d encourage you to install a good SEO plugin which is great for WordPress website optimisation. There are several good plugins on the market but my current choice is one created by Yoast. The setup is fairly simple and they provide several text fields that you’ll need to fill in on each page of your website. The free version is great and they do offer a premium version if you want more functionality.
To install it, go to Plugins > New. Then search for Yoast SEO, download and install it.
To get the best out of the plugin I’d recommend spending a bit of time setting it up correctly. Once you are in the admin section of the plugin, you can click the start tour button. This will guide you through the different tab options. There is a good article on their website that outlines how to set up the Yoast plugin fully.
Update: Check out my article on the best WordPress plugins to add to any business website.
Page titles or title tags
When you first create a web page in WordPress you’ll need to add the page title at the top. This is known as a title tag and is also your H1 tag. You should only ever have one H1 title tag on any one page.
So decide what the subject matter is for that page. Try and add a good relevant keyword phrase so that the title encourages someone to click on it. Choose a phrase that contains at least three words as this will give you better results. This is known as a long-tail keyword.
Put the primary keyword near the front of your title as search engines favour this. Also restrict it to 69 characters as Google will cut any letters off if it’s too long. Use unique titles for every page as you may be penalised for duplicating content.
The page title appears in Google as a blue heading. Your site-wide title will appear after that page heading. In this example cakes & tea time treats recipes is the page title. The site-wide title is Jamie Oliver. You can of course change these in the SEO panel.
You’ll also notice that the SEO plugin has added a new panel to your page which looks like this.
Notice how the snippet editor shows you the view you would see in a search engine. Cool eh?
This will help you keep an eye on the correct way to structure your page. The more green lights you can achieve, the better. This is key for good WordPress website optimisation.
In the SEO panel, add your three-word keyword to the focus keyword text field. Once done, you’ll notice the SEO panel highlights this keyword every time it appears in the snippet editor.
Looking again at the Yoast SEO panel, you’ll need to fill out the meta description tag. Tell the readers what your web page is about, making sure you include your keyword phrase in the description. Also consider adding a call-to-action and your brand name to increase awareness of your business. In the below example it appears in grey below the green URL.
The next thing to look at is the URL which is shown in green. The SEO plugin automatically generates a URL based on your focus keyword, but you may wish to alter it if it includes a Stop Word or doesn’t read well. Stop Words are common words such as: of, your, etc. These are ignored by most search engines to speed up search results, so don’t include them if you can.
Images and image alt tags
The featured image should be placed at the top of the page. Make sure the image file name includes that same keyword phrase. Once added to the media library it’s important that you fill out the alt description box. Some visitors turn off images so this not only provides them with a description but provides another useful keyword source for search engines. Only do this for the first image though. Any further images should contain their keyword description.
Creating content – the longer the better
When it comes to writing your content, make sure your keyword is included in various places. I like to add it to the first H2 title and include it in the first 100 words. I’d also add it again maybe 1-2 times throughout the page. Lastly I’d add it near the bottom of the page when possible.
Aim to write at least the recommended 300 words for service-based pages. For blog posts try to create large articles that are 1000-2000 words in length.
According to the above results, the higher the Google SERP position, the more content the page has. Notice that every one of these first page results has content exceeding 2,000 words.
A word of warning: Don’t stuff your page with your keyword too many times. It will look unnatural and search engines may penalise you. So always write as you would talk and keep things relevant and natural.
Going back to the Yoast panel, you should now see some green lights and probably some oranges or reds. This tells you how many times your keyword has been mentioned plus other page instructions.
The plugin is so good that it provides suggestions on what you need to do to improve your page optimisation. You’ll probably need to spend some time tweaking your page to improve it.
Don’t bust a gut trying to get a column of green lights though. They mention on the Yoast site that this is difficult to achieve for some pages. Hey, I never said WordPress website optimisation was easy!
Update: Check out my article outlining a step-by-step guide to creating a website.
Webpage load times
Installing a lot of plugins will certainly slow your site down. But if you are like me, there will be certain plugins that you just can’t live without.
When you start loading lots of content and especially large images to a page, it will inevitably slow your website down. I’d recommend installing a good image optimising plugin such as WP Smush which downsizes most images and will help keep file sizes small.
One important thing to note is that with a WordPress site, every time someone visits your site, it requests fresh information. This can slow your site down. So to combat this install a cache plugin which will create static versions of your pages, thus speeding up page load times. I currently use WP Fastest Cache which works great and is compatible with my site.
If you are still having issues you can install a plugin profiler like P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). You can check to see which plugins are slowing down your site and remove or replace them.
Finally, consider using a website speed checker. There is a good free tool that I have used called Pingdom. After entering your website URL, it outlines what pages need attention and provides tips on what to do to improve your website speed. Again this all helps with your search engine ranking and user experience.
If you are using a shared hosting server, you could also try switching to a different hosting provider to see if it makes a difference.
Using cornerstone content
This is another term for internal linking. In basic terms you are figuring out which pages Google thinks are relevant for a certain keyword.
The easiest way to do this is to go to Google. Type site: then your URL which in my case is marknarusson.com. Then add the keyword for that page like this:
site:marknarusson.com birmingham graphic designer
Google will then deliver all the pages it thinks should be linked to that page. Go through each page and insert a text link that is relevant to the cornerstone page. Use the keyword you’re targeting as the anchor text for that link, but most importantly link from within the content. You can read a good explanation of the cornerstone linking on the Yoast site.
Don’t forget you can do this for any pages on your website.
Update: Check out my post on small business marketing for more tips.
Website Optimisation Summary
- Choose long-tail keywords using the Google Keyword Planner.
- Select less competitive words but with good overall search numbers.
- Set your website’s main search phrase. Make it specific to your skills and industry.
- Add a good SEO plugin and add your focus keyword phrase.
- Setup page titles (H1), H2 and H3 tags.
- Make your meta description compelling. Add a CTA and brand name.
- Check your URLs are optimised with keywords.
- Set your main image with your focus keyword.
- Create natural, relevant content. Write at least 300 words.
- Improve your website load time by adding optimising plugins.
- Work on your cornerstone linking.