This month’s WordPress Weekend meetup covered on-site SEO. Many thanks to David Michaels for presenting and to Eric Ayache of Guaranteed SEO for dropping in to share some expertise.
Here’s a quick recap of what we covered during the meetup.
Quick Website Audits
- What’s the meta title and description? These are primary indicators of what topic you’re targeting for a post or page. They should be unique to each post or page on your website. Use a plugin like Yoast SEO to customize them.
- Does the page have enough content? Thin content doesn’t rank.
- Does the content support the topic? Simple rule of thumb: Does the targeted topic appear in the page heading, subheading, and first paragraph?
- Are you balancing clarity and cleverness? Too much “SEO-friendly” writing comes across as unnatural and unpleasant to read. Likewise, being too clever can obscure the topic.
- Are you using multiple types of content? Consider supporting your written content with images (e.g. an infographic) and video. Keep in mind that YouTube is the second most popular search engine. If you’re not producing video content, you might be missing out on traffic.
- Is there clear navigation, no more than two levels deep? Don’t force your site visitors to click through multiple pages. A dropdown menu or mega menu allows visitors (and search engines!) to quickly find deeper pages on your site.
- What do search engines see when they crawl your site? Use a tool like Xenu Link Sleuth (free, Windows only) or Screaming Frog (freemium, all platforms) to crawl pages on your website. Look for error messages and duplicate content.
- What’s your page speed? A slow site causes low rankings. Google’s PageSpeed Insights; GTmetrix; and Pingdom are three popular (and free) tools for auditing page speed.
- Is your site secure? HTTPS websites receive a small boost in search rankings. But more importantly, Google Chrome will flag non-HTTPS websites as Not Secure starting in July.
- Have you connected your site to Google Search Console? Formerly known as Webmaster Tools, Search Console is how Google communicates with website owners.
- Who’s linking to you? Backlinks are links pointing to your website from other websites. They’re a critical factor for ranking in search results. You can discover your backlinks with Search Console or with a premium tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.
- How are your competitors doing? In addition to Ahrefs and SEMrush, SimilarWeb is another premium tool for keeping tabs on competing websites.
Topic & Keyword Research
The goal of SEO is to rank for a particular topic in order to drive search traffic to your website. So how do you determine what topics or keywords to target?
Start with what you know. What is your website about? What are some related topics? What about related questions? Who are your site’s visitors? What are they trying to figure out? What topics are they interested in? Brainstorm and come up with as many topics as you can.
Install the Keywords Everywhere extension for Google Chrome and Firefox. This will show approximate search volume for phrases on Google, YouTube, Amazon, and elsewhere. You can get the Keywords Everywhere extension here.
Using your brainstormed topics, see what keyword suggestion tools recommend. Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, KeywordSh*tter, KeywordTool.io are all free to use. Also look for ideas in the autocomplete dropdowns on YouTube, Amazon, Google, Bing, Ebay, and Etsy. The Keywords Everywhere extension will load search volume on those sites.
If you have a premium budget, enterprise tools can come in handy. Ahrefs and SEMrush are both designed specifically for marketers and agencies. You can keep track of site performance, keyword research, rankings, etc… in these tools. The prices are steep, however. Both start at ~$100 USD per month.
Recommended SEO plugins for WordPress
Optimizing for speed: By caching posts and pages, you’re not forcing WordPress to hit the database for every site visit. WP Super Cache is a free, lightweight caching plugin from Automattic. WP Fastest Cache was recommended by David at the meetup. WP Rocket is a premium option.
Compressing images: Large images can add a lot of overhead to loading posts and pages. Smush is a free plugin for compressing images. EWWW Image Optimizer and ShortPixel are also popular. If you’d rather compress images before uploading, you can use CompressPNG.com or CompressJPEG.com.
Redirection: Sometimes you’ll want to change the URL for a post or page. If you were to change the URL without redirecting it, anyone heading to the old URL would hit a 404 error – including search engines. With a 301 redirect, anyone going to the old URL will be routed to the new URL. 301 redirects also tell Google to update their listings with the new URL. The Redirection plugin lets you manage these redirects in WordPress.
Schema and rich snippets: Ever notice the star ratings for reviews in Google search results? Those rich snippets come from schema markup on a page. There are a whole bunch of different schema types supported by Google. To manage them in WordPress, use a plugin like Schema, WP SEO Structured Data, or All In One Schema Rich Snippets.
Where should you go for further reading?
Check out the following resources:
- Backlinko’s definitive guide to SEO in 2018
- Moz’s beginners guide to SEO
- Yoast’s WordPress SEO tutorial
If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in search engine optimization, check out:
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. Our next WordPress Weekend meetup will be on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day). We’ll be talking about Gutenberg development topics.