This article is part of a series – Internet Marketing For Every WordPress Startup.
- Part 1 of the guide explains why good communication skills through blog, transparency and friendliness are essential ingredients of every successful WordPress startup and how all your efforts will be multiplied by the level of passion you show for your work.
- Part 2 turns your attention to things that will convince others of your quality service by demonstrating your credibility and availability.
- Part 3 is all about search engine optimization.
6. Being Polite to Search Engines – SEO
Just to be clear before we even start, the value of your WP product outweighs any marketing or optimization efforts you put into making your code, design, templates or other WordPress goodies accessible and visible to search engines. What SEO does for your WordPress startup is make it search engine friendly, semantically correct and enhances usability and user experience.
SEO is an ongoing process which includes things you do:
- On-page – happens right there within your domain
- Off-page – externally, outside your domain through link building
Yes, I know… there’s no excuse for me not showing up with the SEO guide I promised several months ago. I’m sure all you thought about, during the holiday season, was search engine optimization, marketing techniques and analytics, right?
Yeah, yeah, me too, so let’s get started!
Web Traffic Basics
All web traffic is made up of these three musketeers:
- Search Engines
- Referring Sites
- Direct Traffic
In order to get your website going, you have to make sure it’s in Google, Bing and Yahoo indexes, because this is where a lot of friendships and partnerships come together.
By making everything you do on web both people and search engine friendly, you’re increasing your chances for conversions, which is people signing-up for your services, newsletters, rss feeds, making purchases, etc…
Search engines 1. crawl your every page and make a note of the most prominent phrases in their indices. The phrases are keywords which define a topic for every page. After 2. indexing, your content is being 3. analyzed and 4. served in Search Engine Result Pages based on the search query relevance and web page quality score.
OK, now that you know the basics it’s time to make your content interesting to both people and machines. I’m not going to bore you to death with technical terms, but instead with actionable stuff.
Why Does Search Engine Optimization Exist?
One of the reasons SEO exists is because of search engines’ inability to comprehend things as people and the only thing robots are currently capable of dealing with is HTML text. Consider SEO a bridge between human and machine understanding of the web.
That is why if you have:
- flash or java based content, you would want to copy what’s written in it in HTML.
- audio and video content, you would want to have transcripts.
- photos, you should write ALT Tags that explain what’s in them.
You content is as valuable as the number of people it influences.
Optimize Title Tag
Title Tag is one of the most important on-page elements. Always include your main keyword in a title, preferably at the very beginning of the tag. Include your branding and put it at the end of each title tag.
For example, the Title Tag of this post is ~
Internet Marketing For Every WordPress Startup – 3 | Dragan Nikolic
and it is 67 characters long.
If you can, stay below 70 characters, so complete title can be displayed on search engine result page, but don’t follow this rule blindly. If it takes more to name your topic, make it so, as search engines index a lot more than 70 characters.
Title, header and alt tags, URL slug and meta description should all be relevant to one another and preferably contain keywords.
Optimize Alt Tag
If your website is packed with photos you should add an Alt Tag which explains what each photo is about. This HTML tag will help search engines index photos and it will also make it accessible for on screen readers that are being used by visually impaired people. It helps if your photo has a relevant filename, too.
This photo, for example, has an Alt Tag that says “Best Actor Ever”. I’d advise against using Alt Tags in this manner, because search engines don’t get irony. A filename for this photo is “kurt-russell-imbecile.jpg”, which is far more appropriate.
Make sure you use search engine friendly dash for separating words in filenames and urls.
Optimize Meta Description
Meta Description is something not used in search engine ranking algorithm but is displayed in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) and plays an important role in Click-Through Rates. Try to stay bellow 154-character mark when writing Meta Descriptions, so search engines can display them nicely.
If it’s relevant to search query and compelling in content than there’s a good chance of users clicking on your link. Also, the words that users enter in search engines will be bold in your Meta Description, Title Tag and URL, thus increasing chance of a click.
URL and Link Optimization
URLs perform better if they’re shorter. Put keywords in your friendly URL slug. If you’re thinking about using sub-domains or sub-directories, despite being longer most of the times, sub-directories tend to perform better. Don’t use stop words, such as “and”, “an”, “a”, “the”…, in your URLs, because search engines discard them.
Links in footer and sidebars are not as valuable as your top navigation or links in your main content. Remember to always put navigation as high in your HTML as you can.
Search engines value links that are right below your home page more, so don’t go all crazy with categories and subcategories, archives and sub-directories. Make it nice and flat, if you please.
Although Header Tags (H1…H6) have less impact than originally thought, make sure yours are explaining the topic well for the sake of semantics and usability if for non other.
Decide what the core message of your content will be. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. By doing this you can more easily create your titles.
While it’s good to refer to your readers as “YOU”, they will refer to themselves as “I” when performing a search. Have this in mind when you write both Title and Header Tags.
Keyword Selection Guideline
Keywords define your web-pages. In order to generate maximum amount of traffic you’d want to find keywords that people use the most to find your content. You should install Google Analytics code and track metrics that lead to conversions, keywords included.
The way you can extract keywords is to:
- look for keyphrases which are specific and which describe your topic, product or service
- look for keyphrases which are supported by substantial amount of content on the website
- scan through the pages and headlines of your site and identify the words that are most relevant and may look interesting to your audience
- brainstorm for as many relevant keywords and variations as possible
Consider what you want your audience to do – read an article, get in touch, sign-up for newsletters and edit your content accordingly.
Use Google AdWords Keyword Tool for choosing which keywords are the most valuable. It even does brainstorming for you.
You do this by:
- entering all your keywords
- making sure that on the left side, under “Match Types”, “[Exact]” is checked
- performing search
As an example, let’s take our Super Light Nivo Slider Skin freebie page. I’ve entered several of the keywords, I thought might bring people that are looking for a light jQuery slider, in Google Keyword Tool and this is what I’ve got.
After this, you would want to see how many other web-pages you are competing against. You do this by performing the following searches:
This gives you a rough estimate of pages which have phrase “nivo slider” in their title, URL and as an anchor text. If the search volume number is greater than the number of pages you’re competing against, than that keyword might be a valuable one. But, do take time to investigate results, because sometimes top ranking pack is just a bunch of clueless websites with no real value, whatsoever.
Contradictory to what I wrote above, we never did SEO optimization for our Nivo Slider Freebie page and we’ve managed to get it on Google’s first page for a very general term “nivo slider”, among others (just don’t tell anyone). This only shows that quality of your work is beyond any numbers or Google estimates.
Don’t be frightened by numbers, for if your WordPress product is a great one, you’ll get on top eventually.
Additional tools that can help you with keyword research are Google Trends which shows search volume and popularity for a given keyword and Google Insights for Search which provides data about regional usage, popularity and related queries for keywords.
Web Usability & SEO
Internet is being crawled by engines, but it’s meant for people. Bear this in mind every time you decide to produce something new online.
Your web-site should:
- be designed with function in mind
- provide easy navigation
- have pages optimized with 1 or 2 keywords
- have high-value content
User experience is tightly connected to web-usability. If your web-site’s design, information architecture and content are created with logic in mind and easy for users to navigate through, then search engines will crawl it equally easy and index more of your content. Not to mention a positive sentiment it will leave people with.
Off-page SEO is All About Building Backlinks
You’ve done everything in your power to make your WordPress totem accessible, usable and search engine friendly. The time has come for you to show it to the online community and hopefully get their approval.
There are three main ways of pulling this off:
1. Do Nothing
Your content is exceptional and people will figure that out by themselves.
2. Find Influencers In Your Niche
Find potential link prospects by investigating your niche and get in touch asking them to do a review. If you’re building a web-app you can offer them a free service for it.
3. Build Your Brand by Commenting
Whenever you comment on a blog post you can leave your web-address and create awareness. Be active throughout your community and everything you do will not go unnoticed.
In addition to this you could get your customers’ backlinks by asking them to add your badge to their site if they like your product.
Other Online Resources For Making Your Website Search Engine Friendly
Google Webmaster Tools will tell you a bunch of technical stuff about your website including keywords, sitemaps, crawler access, URL parameters, internal links and links to your site, malware, etc. You should also set your preferred domain (either www or non-www version).
Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin will take care of your sitemaps, meta robots, breadcrumbs. You should set admin and search pages to noindex, so search engines don’t present them in SERPs.
SEO landscape is constantly shifting, so focusing on the quality of your goods, whether it’s a blog, a web-app or a WordPress premium theme, you will ensure your SEO effort is a long lasting one.
Be consistent with your on-page, as well as your off-page SEO. Do it for the sake of a better and more usable Internet and search engines will reward you. By using techniques described above you will ensure that no search engine algorithm update can do your WordPress creature harm.
Optimizing your web-pages is never a done deal. It can always be better. If you’re into testing which layouts are most user-friendly and provide best user experience, then check out Google Website Optimizer. Using it is pretty straightforward.
I wish you Happy Optimizing!