If you open a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo and search for a term and hit enter, you are more likely to visit links that appear on the top, and preferably on the first page of the results. There is a reason why some of those websites rank higher than others and the basic reason is SEO!
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a process of making a webpage or a website appear higher in a search engine’s search results. In this process, we consider how search engines work and the general way in which people search anything, there by reverse engineering our posts so that they do well in those results.
The basic trick here is that search engines are basically programs which crawl the web and index webpages that it encounters and their content. On searching a term, it is processed by the search engine and the content is displayed in terms of relevance. Although this is the basic principle of the working of a search engine, major search engines usually differ in their searches by a certain degree. That means, you need to be careful in order to optimize your site for more than one search engine.
Basically, there are two broad categories in which the techniques for SEO can be categorized- those which are approved and recommended by the search engines as a way of good design and those which are not the correct way of SEO, naturally unapproved by the search engines, known as white hat and black hat techniques, respectively. White hat techniques usually involve creating quality content for the users, thereby increasing the rankings. Black Hat techniques involves creating content for the search engines, which is not visible to the user, like making an invisible part of the page, or creating text that has the same color as the background.
There are many plugins available for SEO in WordPress and beginners use these plugins a lot. However, it is generally observed that people are not able to fully utilize the plugins. Improving rankings of individual posts is possible by these plugins, but only if you use them properly.
At WebRiti, we use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, which is one of the best in the market and hence, I would guide you through the usage of that plugin.
To install it, head over to the plugin page at the WordPress site, or search ‘Yoast’ in Plugins > Add New. Install and activate it.
Yoast will ask you if it okay to send anonymous stats back to the server by tracking your activity. You can select either option. There is no right or wrong choice.
You can start by going to the Dashboard of the Yoast SEO plugin by selecting SEO > Dashboard.
You can add your Alexa Verification ID and Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to integrate the plugin with them. Naturally, it helps increase your Alexa ratings and other search engine ranks, so it is advisable that you complete this step before proceeding.
This plugin also provides a chunk of other settings that you might want to fiddle with, but the most important part of the plugin comes into play when you are adding or editing individual posts. Now that you have the plugin activated, go to Posts > Add New to see this SEO plugin’s magic.
There are generally three parts which you need to add after you have completed your post. They are Focus Keyword, SEO Title and the Meta Description.
A focus keyword is main keyword that you hope people would look for when they stumble on to your blog post. If you are writing on a very popular topic, note that there will be many other posts which might have similar focus keywords, increasing your competition in the process. That being said, a longer keyword which is more likely to be used while searching for something would help you more. The focus keyword can be a phrase. For example, for this post, a focus keyword should be the phrase ‘SEO in WordPress’.
Just like Google suggest, this Yoast plugin shows you possible words or phrases as you type in your focus keyword.
Once you have selected a focus keyword, the plugin would show you different places where you have used the keywords in the posts, namely the heading, title, URL, content and the meta description (which we would soon come back to).
Someone searches for a phrase and your post appears in the results. However, that is not enough. You need to make sure a user visits your post over the others. The best way to do so are optimizing the SEO Title and the Meta Description.
The SEO title is the title of the post that appears in the SEO results. Generally, it is same as the page’s title, but in many cases, it is considered a good practice if you modify the title. Remember that the character limit here is 70. Make sure that the title looks catchy and provides enough incentive to the user to visit your site.
This is the short description of the blog post that appears below the SEO title and the URL. By default, it contains the first few sentences of your blog post, delimited by the 156 character limit of the description.
With the advent of HTML5 and custom tags, many argue that meta tags are becoming obsolete. However, even now, social websites like Facebook and Google+ use these meta tags for the description of your posts. I would recommend that until and unless W3C deprecates the meta tags, you should continue using them for your benefits.
Make sure that the meta description describes your post in a gist and keep in mind that the user might read it to gain more knowledge before visiting your link.
Categories and tags:
Categories divide your website into broad areas whereas tags describe your blog post. If your website was a book, think of categories as the content page and the tags as the index. That being said, using a mix of apt categories and tags can really help your blog in SEO.
Using internal linking:
Internal links are those hyperlinks which link back to content from your own website. Internal linking is a very good habit because not only does it establish an interconnection between your posts but it also helps in increasing your rank in search results. You can easily link to content within your blog through WordPress by clicking the link button in your editor and selecting the option to link to existing content.
With each quality post that you write, there is a good chance of it getting a decent number of hits through organic searches, but with proper SEO tools, you help your posts get a better exposure and more hits as a result. Here’s hoping that this post helped you in your quest to make your site a better one!