Search engine optimization never had a clear definition. Page speed, for example, once considered to be a matter of usability, found its way into the SEO domain. Same goes for design, readability and accessibility as they’re main conversion rate factors now.
You might say: “But my SEO person never had any say in these matters.” It’s not anybody’s fault. Everything’s evolving and so is the definition of an SEO.
Making your WordPress SEO friendly means it’s optimized for conversions. These are the things all websites should aim for:
- Having a targeted audience
- Retaining people long enough, so they read what you have to say
- Evoking the desired reaction in people after they read your content
Before we start making your WordPress website SEO friendly, know this – The quality of your content is paramount. Everything else is just making it more appealing, easier for people and search engines to access it and put it to function of what you want your visitors to do once they read it.
For SEO to work, your content should be informative, educative and/or entertaining.
Making your WordPress SEO friendly means it’s accessible and optimized for conversions.
1. Speed Up Your WordPress
Before doing anything with your website, you should first create a child theme. You might ask – Why is this so important that you had to put it first?
You’ve got a nifty little plugin that does this in one click, which you can download here. You’ll thank me later for it.
WordPress speed is what makes your website more usable, so your visitors tend to stay longer, which can increase the conversion rate.
2. Optimize Site Architecture
Site Architecture or Information Architecture is something you’ll have to think through before you start creating your first content. Think which categories you want to have and try to stay below 10.
On ThematoSoup, we have 5 categories: Reviews, Products, WordPress, Business and Marketing. For every post, we assign 3-4 tags. This post, for example, has the following tags: best practices, design CRO and SEO. The category is “WordPress”.
The goal of optimized information architecture is to have a nicely categorized and symmetrical pyramid, so content is evenly distributed across your website. Every page should be, ideally, accessible through only one URL.
WordPress uses archives and taxonomies which will make this task hard for you. Fortunately, using WordPress SEO plugin you will be able to define canonical pages and also those you don’t want search engines to index at all (categories, tags or other archives, thus avoiding duplicate content).
3. Optimize Tags
Tags and meta tags are used to further label websites. Search engines use them to determine what your WordPress website is about. They present good pointers for search engines and people, likewise. Your keywords should always be present in the title tag, meta description tag and alt tags.
Besides keywords, try to include branding and put it at the end of each title tag. Ideally, your title tags should be no more than 70 characters long, but don’t follow this blindly. You can go well over 70 characters if that’s what it takes to explain what the page is about.
An example of a title tag is: “How to Make Your WordPress Website SEO Friendly • ThematoSoup“. It’s 61 characters long and contains the main topic of this post.
Header tags (H1…H6) are not as important to search engines as they once were. They are a very important part of making your content hierarchically and semantically correct. Header tags help people read and remember your content much easier.
A meta description is used by search engines for crafting result pages. It’s also a great way for you to leave a nice first impression. It’s good practice to make your meta description relevant to your title and content. If you can, stay below 154-character limit so they look nice.
Your website will contain images and photos for easier understanding your content and for spicing up dull paragraphs of text.
Search engines learn about images through:
- Alt tags
- Image filenames
People learn by reading:
- Image titles
My image titles are often the same as my alt tags and very similar to captions and image filenames. When uploading your photos, take a minute to populate these fields.
Url structure – Permalinks
Permalinks should be “pretty”. By this, I mean that the URL slug should be descriptive, like this – http://example.com/2012/post-name/ and not something like – http://example.com/?p=123.
We use a permalink structure that uses both category and post name.
You can read more on permalinks here.
4. Link to Related Posts
Relationships matter in everyday lives and they matter on the internet, too. Links are your website relationships. It’s important that your WordPress site is well linked internally as well as externally, so people may continue reading a topic of their interest.
There are a lot of WordPress plugins which will do this job for you. Here are some best rated:
Link within posts
You can see how I’ve linked to other content in the post you’re reading. I do it so you can follow those links in case you want further knowledge on the matter.
An interlinked website is so much easier for search engines to follow and index, too.
5. Use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin
Your pages and posts will carry the most of your content and it’s important to have them optimized. WordPress SEO plugin will take care of your:
- Content analysis
- Technical SEO
- Meta & Link Elements
- RSS optimization
- Social integration (Facebook Opengraph and Twitter Cards)
And if you’re really into technical SEO stuff, check this definitive SEO guide by Yoast.
Now that you’ve got SEO basics covered, it’s time to improve things that matter to people most. Naturally, you want people to enjoy browsing your website and actually read the content.
A nice design certainly helps in creating a pleasant ambient for your visitors. Here’s an overview of the upcoming web design trends. One thing to remember is that you cannot go wrong with clean, unobtrusive and simple. Add “using best practices” to this WordPress mix and your foundation is rock-solid.
Since typography is 90% of design, it’s important you pay special attention to choosing the right font and making it easy to read.
The more readable your posts and pages are, the more usable and likable your website becomes.
Both legibility and readability will increase the chances of people reading what you wrote, liking it and ultimately doing what you want and ask them to do. For example, I want all those who read this post to subscribe to our monthly newsletter. When you optimize your content think font size, line height, contrast, paragraphs and white space.
Here are the two best posts on readability and legibility I could find:
Search engines take into account every upvote and share your website gets. Make easy for people to share your stuff. There’s a number of plugins that will allow you to add social buttons to your posts.
On ThematoSoup, we currently use AddToAny WordPress plugin.
Or you can read our post about the best WordPress social plugins.
Making your WordPress website SEO friendly has become so much more than doing basic, technical SEO stuff. Search Engine Optimization is everything you do in order for your website to perform better with search engines, but also with people and that’s why SEO means so much more than what the acronym stands for.
A big part of SEO is Conversion Rate Optimization and CRO is what you should be focusing on, because, although search engines bring traffic, they don’t really care for what you have to say and they certainly can’t purchase anything.
If you need help making your WordPress website more usable, accessible and SEO friendly, please use the contact form and get in touch. I’d like to extend your online reach.