Mastering SEO is the key to driving and maintaining quality traffic to your website. In the past, all you needed to do to rank search engines was to intelligently insert keywords into your content.
But all that has changed now. SEO has gone from keyword insertion, optimizing post titles and loading time, and so on. for a new, more complex algorithm. No wonder some believe SEO is dead.
Well, this is far from true – SEO is still as effective as it was in the beginning. Your job is to learn how to do it right.
In this definitive guide, we'll explain, in simpler terms, what SEO is. Good reading!
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization – SEO for short – is a term used to refer to strategies used to improve a website's visibility in search engines.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to drive traffic to a website organically – that is, without paid ads. If you are looking to rank your site on Google, Yandex, Bing or any search engine of your choice, SEO will come in handy.
It should be kept in mind that search engine optimization differs from Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The key difference between the two is that while SEO comes at zero ad cost, for SEM you need a marketing budget.
To illustrate the difference between SEO and SEM, go to Google. In the search bar type “SEO + your area”. What you will see is this:
The web link prefixed with “Ad” (Ad) was what paid Google to appear for the keyword you searched for. Whereas web link without prefix is ranked by SEO function – no ad money has been paid to Google.
Basically this is SEO!
Why invest in SEO?
While it's true that you don't need a marketing budget to maximize your SEO, you definitely need to invest time – a lot.
This, plus the fact that it takes some time to see significant SEO results, makes it undesirable for marketers looking for quick returns.
But if you have the time to invest, SEO is an excellent source of cheap, quality organic traffic. Here are more reasons to invest in SEO:
- SEO has higher click through rates than SEM. Statistics show that 70% of users prefer to click on organic search results.
- SEO is an excellent channel for capturing localized traffic – that is, traffic coming from your local area. This makes it a great solution for companies operating locally.
- You can easily outperform your competitors with SEO. With the right strategy, you can rank above the competition, regardless of the size of your marketing budget.
- SEO helps build credibility as users tend to rely more on organic search than paid search.
That said, let's look at the different strategies you can use to improve your site's ranking.
WordPress sites are the best to be optimized for SEO and that's why this SEO guide will be inside this platform, after all, this is the fastest and most efficient way to get a good ranking. Unfortunately, that alone isn't enough – it's your job to properly optimize it if you want to see meaningful results.
Tip #1: Install an SEO plugin
WordPress plugins exist to make life less work as a WordPress designer/developer. Of the numerous WordPress SEO plugins on the market, Yoast SEO plugin is the most popular.
To install, log into the WordPress dashboard and scroll down to Plugins. Mouse over it and click Add new
Then search for Yoast in the search bar. When you find it, install it and activate it.
After successful installation and activation, you should have Yoast right on your WordPress site dashboard.
Please note that Yoast will not automatically optimize your site for SEO. At best, it will provide recommendations – it's entirely up to you to implement them.
Tip #2: Make sure your site is visible to search engines
Directly from the WordPress dashboard, you can make your website inaccessible to search engines. The idea behind this feature is to keep your website out of public reach while you build it.
By default this feature is turned off, but if it is turned on by mistake your site will not be ranked in search engines.
So, remember to turn on search engine visibility and indexing. With that, you are ready and search engines can find and index your site.
Tip #3: Choose HTTPS over HTTP
You may have noticed that most websites now use HTTPS in their domain structure. The “S” – which stands for secure – is a function of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology.
Simply put, https ensures that data transfer between your browser and web server is secure. In the early days of the web, configuring HTTPS / SSL was purely by choice – now it's mandatory.
Sites with an unsecured connection (HTTP) perform poorly on search engines. You definitely don't want this to happen to your website.
Tip #4: Define the correct permalink structure
Permalink is a term used to describe the structure of a website's URLs (web links). This includes URLs for blog posts and website pages.
The permalink structure, in more than one way, influences a website's performance in search engines. As such, it is important to get it right from the start.
The key is to make the links to your site readable as meaningful text. If you were using an unfriendly permalink structure, say Numeric, WordPress will take care of the redirects.
If your site is older than 6 months, seek advice from an SEO professional before changing your site's permalink structure. This avoids losing the ranking you've built.
Tip #5: Update Your Website's PHP Version
You can't paint a car with a rusty body and chassis and expect everything to go well. This goes for WordPress SEO – you can't use new SEO strategies on an old version of PHP.
Upgrading to the latest version of PHP has several benefits, some of which include better loading speed and better security.
Tip #6: Research Before Creating Content
Content is the foundation of SEO – it's primarily through it that web users find your site. But content curation just because everyone else is doing it is a flawed strategy. Your goal should be to educate, entertain and ultimately attract quality traffic.
Before writing a single word, do some research first. Your goal should be:
- Find out what kind of content web users are looking for
- Find the right combination of keywords for your content
- Perform competitor analysis and determine which keywords they are ranked for
- Avoid going too far with keywords in your content. For example, “professional photographer” is too broad a keyword to rank. “Children photographer in São Paulo” is much better.
Also, when using keywords, be careful as overuse of them can put your site on Google's blacklist. The Yoast SEO plugin can help straighten things out with keywords.
Tip #7: Optimize your blog post
Blog posts that are not properly optimized may never be rated, no matter how informative they are. Everything from the title, meta description and subtitles of every blog post you publish must be optimized.
When optimizing your blog posts for search engines, also strive to optimize them for human reading.
Here are some rules to follow when optimizing your blog posts
- Use subtitle tags generously to split your content. H2, H3, H4 etc. are typical subtitle tags in WordPress.
- Make sure the focus keyword you're targeting is contained in the permanent link in the blog post. But, of course, make it readable.
- For images and videos, use the appropriate alt attributes for a proper description.
Also, name your media files appropriately. Avoid using generic names like “IMG_123.png”
Tip #8: Use internal links as much as possible to improve SEO
Internal links are part of Google's ranking algorithm. As the name suggests, these are links that interconnect pages as well as individual posts on your site.
Internal links help Google search bots find pages as well as newly published posts. They tell Google bots, "hey, there's something interesting there, so follow this link to see."
Human readers also rely on internal links to navigate your site's content. Other benefits of using internal links include:
- Increases your content's ranking.
- Increases user engagement, thus reducing bounce rate
- Increases traffic to your website.
- A higher number of internal links pointing to content means a higher ranking for that content. Therefore, the most important content on your website must have more links to them.
There are many ways to link to certain content. One is the contextual link: text-based links.
The text that contains the link is known as anchor text. An anchor text must be descriptive. Other linking methods include linking to navigation menus and linking to taxonomies (categories and tags).
Tip #9: Use prohibited links for external links
When you link to an external website, part of the WordPress SEO score would be passed to that website.
To prevent this from happening in places like comments on your site, use a prohibited link to follow. The Nofollow attribute tells Google's search bots not to follow a link wherever it's pointing.
They can also be used to reference external sites when you don't want to pass link juice to them (for example, when linking a product).
Tip #10: Avoid Duplicate Content
A piece of content is said to be duplicated if it appears more than once on the web with different URLs.
Duplicate content is a headache for search engine robots: they find it difficult to determine which content to rank. Search engine bots do one thing when they find duplicate content: they downgrade both content.
Duplication of content is caused by a few factors. Common factors include the generation of multiple URLs by your Content Management System, as well as content elimination.
Content removal happens when someone copies the content from your site and publishes it to their site. The only right solution to combat duplicate content is a canonical URL.
The canonical URL tells Google which post/page is the original. So, even if the post / page has several different URLs, Google only ranks with URL with canonical attribute.
To make a link canonical, just add the attribute rel = “canonical” the same way you would add the attribute rel = “no-follow”.
Tip #11: Make Your Website Load Faster to Improve SEO
The loading speed of a website is a important ranking factor for Google. So the faster a website loads, the higher Google ranks.
There are some online speed checking tools you can use to check your website's loading speed. So we know that Google PageSpeed Insight is one of the most popular.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for improving a website's loading speed. Popular strategies include compressing images before uploading, thus using a content delivery network, etc.
Uninstalling but also deleting redundant plugins can help improve your site's loading speed. To learn more, read our WordPress speed guide.
Tip #12: Optimize Your Mobile Website
Until 2016, the desktop was responsible for the highest traffic on the site, compared to mobile. However, now more people surf the Internet with their mobile devices than on the desktop.
In the wake of the mobile age, Google has come up with what is known as indexing that prioritizes mobile devices. So mobile-priority indexing means that Google's search algorithm will rank sites based on their mobile responsiveness.
In other words, sites that do not respond on mobile will not perform well on search engines. If your site is not mobile responsive and runs on WordPress, then change the theme.
Make sure the selected theme is mobile responsive. Thus, Twenty Nineteen WordPress Theme is a popular and free theme known for its mobile responsiveness. If you have a budget for premium themes, they usually offer better value and features.
In addition to using a responsive theme of WordPress, the use of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) can also help improve the usability of your website on mobile devices. The idea behind AMP is to make websites load super-fast on mobile.
To start using AMP, install and then activate the WordPress AMP plugin on your website. This will therefore greatly improve your WordPress SEO.
Tip #13: Structure your website content with categories and tags
Categories as well as tags allow you to organize your site's content in a way that makes search bots and humans sense.
Think of categories as an index for your website. Let's say you manage as well as manage a travel blog, you can categorize your posts into travel gear, best summer destination, travel deals etc.
Tags, on the other hand, are descriptive keywords used in a post. At first glance, a reader can know what a post is about by checking its tags.
While categories are hierarchical – in the sense that they can have children – tags are not.
WordPress SEO Tip #14: Make Your Website Safer
Designed for its generation, WordPress is one of the main targets of hackers, so if a hacker has access to your wordpress site, SEO will be severely affected.
While WordPress has a handful of security features, there are additional steps you can take to improve security.
One is to use usernames as well as unique passwords to login. That is, your login details must be hard to guess. You can take things one step further using two-factor authentication – there's a plugin for that.
Other additional measures you can take include including limiting how to login, disabling file editing, in addition to using high level security plugins.
Tip #15: Fix broken links
Broken links hurt SEO in more ways than you might think.
A link is said to be broken when it leads to a non-existent or deleted page. Often, when you click on a broken link, an error message saying “Sorry, this page does not exist” appears.
Unverified as well as broken links can also damage your website's reputation, especially if there are too many of them.
The first step in fixing broken links is therefore to find them. There are basically two things you can do to fix a broken link: you can change the URL, but you can also delete the link altogether.
Let's say a link on your site was broken because the domain of the site it's linking to changes. All you have to do is upgrade to the new domain. If you are linked to a deleted page that you cannot crawl, you should therefore delete the link.
In this guide, we've thoroughly discussed what SEO is. Of course, it's up to you to put the work into practice. But with persistence, a lot of tweaking and a little luck, your site would start to rank in no time.
To Colors Agency, we guarantee much more than just an attractive look and a modern layout for your website.
Our main focus is to offer companies around the world effective solutions, that is, to generate visibility on the internet.
Our agency develops SEO strategies as well as brand positioning for multinational companies, large, medium and small, all projects are important to us.