So you have a WordPress site and now you need SEO. SEO costs time and money. If you’re short on time but have the money, an SEO agency or consultant is the best option. But if you’re short on money, use these do-it-yourself SEO tips to improve your organic rankings.
Prerequisites Before You Start
Setup Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a great tool to add and manage multiple pixels and tracking codes without the needing to edit the code of a site.
Setup Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a must-have. For SEO, you’ll be able to track things like how much traffic you’re getting from search engines, which pages are getting the most organic traffic, what’s the bounce rate, along with many other important metrics.
Set Up Google Search Console (Formally knows as Google Webmaster Tools)
Search Console is a free tool provided by Google to webmasters. This is how you communicate directly with Google, and get data and feedback on how your site is performing.
Using WordPress? Install an The SEO Framework
The SEO Framework is a WordPress plugin that we like to use at Net Solutions. You can also use Yoast SEO or the All in One SEO Pack but we found The SEO Frameworks to be the most light-weight plugin without constant nags to upgrade to their premium product. Another interesting contender to watch out for is Ahrefs SEO Plugin
These plugins make it incredibly easy for you to create SEO-friendly content. It takes care of things like canonical tags, noindex tags, and sitemaps for you.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Now that all of the above is setup you need to look at On-page SEO. This is where you look at optimizing individual pages on your site in order to rank higher and earn more traffic in search engines. If you have an existing site and you have never considered SEO, you will need to make some important decisions about what to leave in and what to leave out. It may mean a total re-write of your content.
There is much to do here and lots of technical terms to understand.
Heads up: check out the MOZ On-Page SEO
There is only so much you can do by yourself and while your brain is best tool, using online Tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush and MOZ are mandatory to do good SEO. These tools should be used for research and planning, but also to form a strategic and tactical road-map or checklist. Understanding the terms that people use when they search, and the intent behind them is crucial to your SEO strategy.
It starts with keywords and here are some important tips.
Using keywords in your URL
Keywords in the URL are known to be a ranking signal. However, you should avoid stuffing your URL with keywords: research has shown that shorter URLs tend to rank higher than long ones.
Side note: There are very serious consequences to changing a URL that already has authority – don’t do this if your page already has links!
Add your keyword to your title tag and make it compelling
Even though including keywords in the title tag is still important, it is not enough to get you to rank high. Search engines now weigh in the clickthrough rate on the results as well when determining rankings, so an attractive and compelling title will help you get more people to click on your page.
Add your keyword to your meta description and make it compelling
The content of the meta description is not used by search engines as a ranking signal. However, including your keyword in it and writing a compelling meta description can help with your CTR.
- Meta Description Tag: Optimizing Your CTR for More Clicks & More Traffic
- This is a helpful article about meta descriptions
Add your keyword to your H1 tag, and make sure to only use one
Even though the value of the H2, H3,…, H6 tags for SEO is debatable, it is still generally a good idea to include your primary keyword in your H1 tag, make sure there is one H1 in the entire page and that it appears before any other heading tag.
Use your keyword 3 times, and make sure you have at least 100 words per page (but 500+ is ideal)
Use your keyword 3 times, and make sure to have at least 100 words on each URL (minimum – the more the better). You can still rank with less, and you don’t ever want to put unnecessary text on your site, but I recommend not creating a new page unless you have roughly ~100 words worth of content.
Use synonyms in your copy
As search engines gain a more complex understanding of human language, content creators are able to utilize more natural language and still stay relevant to the keywords they are trying to rank for. Synonyms are great, and using natural language that’s influenced by keyword research (rather than just pure keywords) is highly encouraged.
Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) in your copy
Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, is a method used to determine context. Including keywords that are thematically related to your primary keyword can help the search engine understand what the content of your page is about.
Add descriptive ALT tags and filenames to your pages
Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, among other factors. Try to be descriptive when you name your images.
Link to other pages with SEO-friendly anchor text
In addition to including links to relevant and authoritative sites in your content, Google looks at the language used in the hyperlink itself. By including internal links with text that is relevant to the page that you are linking to, and including your keywords, you are indicating what the content being linked is about.
Avoid using keywords in global navigation, though, as that can look like over-optimization. Stick to in-content links instead.
Off-Page SEO Checklist
Use Ahrefs to analyze your link profile
Enter your domain into Ahrefs.com – what’s your domain score? How many unique root domains do you have pointing to your site? How many do your competitors have?
Are the backlinks from contextually relevant sites? Are the backlinks NOT going through redirect chains? Is anchor text distribution natural?
Evaluate your competitor’s link profiles
This is the easiest way to get started with link building. Tracking where they are getting their most authoritative backlinks will help you to understand their strategy, how they are anchoring the links on their pages, and provide insights as to where you can gain similar links.
Technical SEO Checklist
Check Google’s Search Console for crawl errors, duplicate content errors, missing titles and more
This is Google’s free tool for website owners to get data on the search performance of their websites. You’ll be able to use it to find technical issues with your site such as duplicate content, find data on search rankings, visibility, CTR and more.
Identify bad redirects (302s that should be 301s)
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect and passes almost all SEO value from the old page to the new one. This is a good redirect.
A 302 is a temporary redirect. It’s used for site maintenance or time-specific promotions. The SEO value of the redirected page is not passed to the new destination. Replace (almost all) 302 redirects with 301 redirects.
Look for broken links, errors, and crawl problems
The larger your site, the more important this is. Broken links, errors, and crawl errors make it harder for search engines to find your content, index it and drive traffic to it.
Make sure you don’t have duplicate content
Duplicate content can dilute the value of your content among several URLs. Use 301 redirects, canonical tags or use Google Webmaster Tools to fix any duplicate content that might be indexing and penalizing your site.
- Rel Canonical Tag: How to Optimize Link Rel=”Canonical” For SEO
- How to Create and Verify a 301 Redirect on WordPress
- Google Search Console
Check your site’s speed and keep it fast!
Search engines value sites that provide a good user experience and the speed of your site is a huge factor. A slow loading site will increase your bounce rate, as visitors lose patience and leave.
Make sure your site is mobile friendly
As an increasing amount of web traffic comes from mobile devices, having a site that is not responsive to different screen sizes and shapes will negatively impact usability, especially for local searches.
Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console
An XML sitemap helps search engines understand the structure of your site and find all the pages on your site that you want to be indexed.
- Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin
- The Yoast SEO plugin also comes with this functionality by default
Create a robots.txt file and submit it to Google Search Console
In conjunction with an XML sitemap, a robots.txt file will establish what activities crawlers are permitted to perform in relation to each page. Including one in the top-level directory allows you to control the way that a search engine crawls and indexes your site. It can be specified for different types of crawlers, allowing you to establish different protocols for different search engines.
Claim your brand name on as many social networking sites as possible
For reputation management reasons, not only do you want to make sure no one else gets your account name, but you can often own all the results on the first page of a search for your brand if you’re a new website or company.
Setup Bing Webmaster Tools
This is the equivalent to Google’s Search Console for Microsoft’s search engine. Bing is the default search engine for Internet Explorer and Edge browsers. There are some reports claiming that Bing now owns 33% of the market in the US.