I will not go into details of how big WordPress is? What is the language it is written on? Or, how many big websites use it? I am not writing this post to sell you WordPress.
Instead, my only purpose to write this post is to help you in understanding SEO on WordPress. The recent updates from Google have shaken the boat quite much. Therefore, this post highlights the significance of some current and some new SEO practices. These are the things that I have learnt over a period of time.
While reading this post, many of you would think “been there, done that”. However, I ask you to continue reading. The idea behind this post is to educate the uninformed. The aim of the post is to generate a meaningful conversation upon its content. If you know anything better or something which is totally opposite to my practices, feel free to let us know in the comment section.
1. Speed/Load-time optimization
As per the surveys done by Akamai and Gomez, half of all the visitors who visit your website or blog expect your website to load in 2 freaking seconds. Also, 40% of visitors abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Plus (if you still don’t believe me) according to Moz and one of my favorite bloggers, Neil Patel, load-time also affects your search engine ranking points (SERPs). Neil very nicely puts it:
When Google ranks slow sites, people use Google less.
Now, why would Google want less people using its search?
You can find your speed and page load-time using free online tools like Google Page Speed or Pingdom.
If Google Page Speed is scoring your website slower than 95% of the websites then you might be in trouble. Following are some useful links from Cloudways Blog that will help you optimize your WordPress website for optimum load-time:
- 10 Ways To Optimize WordPress Performance: A Developer’s Perspective
- Using Nginx & Apache Together – A Secret Formula To Accelerate Magento Performance (and it works for WordPress, too)
- How To Optimize Your Images In WordPress Without Using Plug-ins
2. Configure critical WordPress SEO plug-ins
You will find tens and thousands of posts on plug-in recommendations. I will try to sum it up and settle the debate by mentioning only two best plug-ins:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: So much has been said about this plug-in. Perhaps, you might have it installed already. This is one of the best plug-ins around and it is used by websites like SearchEngineLand, The Next Web, and Mashable. If you want to migrate to WordPress SEO by Yoast, here is a short guide to help you out.
- Squirrly: This is relatively newer than WordPress SEO by Yoast, but it is a tough challenger. Squirrly offers what no other plug-in offers. It offers intelligence to content marketers. Squirrly gives side-by-side SEO advices, keyword suggestions, SEO scores, social proofs and most importantly reports on the performance of the specific article.
- 9 WordPress Plug-ins Favored By Developers And Agencies
- 5 Best Free WordPress Backup Plug-ins For Worriless Sleep
- 17 Plug-ins For Lock, Stock, And Barrel WordPress Security (Infographic)
3. Configure critical social plug-ins for WordPress
Ever since Flare was launched, I have seen a difference in our social media goals. We use it on the Cloudways blog. If you visit one of our posts, you can see it floating on the left hand side as you scroll up or down. I am a big fan of it and here are the reasons why I simply love it:
- It sums up all social media ‘sharing’ activity and shows them as “Flares”. The idea is really simple but it is equally great. It basically presents an aggregated social proof to your readers which can encourage them to share your content.
- The plug-in is really simple, yet beautiful. It does not just put social buttons like all other plug-ins. It puts them beautifully complimenting your website design and user experience.
Social plug-ins (like Flare) are extremely important. Search engines follow social signals. They follow this simple ‘social analogy’ (as I call it):
“We only share good content from our social profiles, the more a particular content piece is organically shared, the more quality and substance it has on that particular topic/issue. Which means it is safer for a search engine (like Google) to rank it organically on that topic/issue.”
Of course, there are hundreds of other factors in determining SERP of a particular content piece. However, renowned internet marketing website, Moz and the Global SEO Head of Adobe, Warren Lee suggest social signals as one of the most criticial factors when it comes to SERPs. So, how can you miss a social share plug-in on your blog that motivates your readers to share your content on most social mediums?
Too many choices kill the purpose! Do not give your readers too many social buttons. Flare gives you choices of almost all the popular social buttons and I have seen blogs showing all the social buttons to their readers, which is actually a blunder.
What difference does a social button makes, when its counter is showing ZERO shares? That is in fact not only a negative social proof but also discourages users from sharing. Wondering why? Here are some insights by SearchEngineJournal which actually prove how smaller choice in social buttons generated them more social shares.
4. Write unique and in-depth content
Nothing would work if you do not have unique and quality content. Gone are the days where you would do a blog post maintaining keyword density and stuffing META details with keywords. If you are still doing the same, then I am afraid I have a bad news for you. This won’t work. Wake up! Do not be a laggard, the world has changed.
Write unique high quality content. I won’t preach you on how to do this as there is already a great guide at ProBlogger that you can follow.
Recently, Google rolled out “In-Depth Article” update, according to which Google Search separately shows in-depth content in search results; therefore, providing you with a better CTR and superior positioning for your content piece. Write in-depth articles and you can easily increase your search traffic drastically without much off-page SEO. (Hint: Search “SEO” on Google and you will know what I am talking about.)
5. Rich snippets. Please!
Rich snippets are few factors that appear just below your search results and are designed to give searchers an idea of what to expect on a particular search result.
I still see many blogs and websites on WordPress not using rich snippets. It’s OK if it is not applicable on your type of business, but if it is, why not use it? If you are running a blog, show how many people like your particular blog post. If you are a review site, show what is your or user rating. There are rich snippets for almost all major business categories like reviews, people, products, business etc. Using them will not only give better idea to users but would also help search engines structure your website in a better way. It also helps in increasing CTR.
6. Authorship with Google+ is the future
Authorship not only increases your CTR but it also positively affects your search traffic. Your blog or content piece will appear with your Google+ profile picture. Therefore, you are identified as the author of the post. This adds trust as compared to the other results that do not have a human face associated with them.
Google is now putting more trust on authors, and has started to give more importance to author profiles rather than domains. So, if your website is relatively new but you have an author who is highly influential, writes on several top blogs, and has a large Google+ following, then your content is more likely to appear on top SERPs without much effort.
So if you have still not started building author profiles, it is high time you start using authorship. Craig Fifield has an excellent guide to get this working.
AuthorSure is a free WordPress plug-in to get you started with authorship within few minutes. Make sure you first read the guide (written by Craig Fifield) to know the correct way of implementing it. If you do anything which is not recommended, then there are high chances of getting hit by a penalty.
7. Commenting is the new SEO
So, you are publishing great content, but you fail to generate discussion and debates in your comments section—and you also don’t care about it. Let me tell you are losing on considerable ‘free SEO power’. Try to generate valuable discussions in your comments section by inviting influencers and community members to discuss the issue addressed in the content piece.
Google now crawls the comments section which means you will have lots of fresh and unique user generated content. Comments also keep your content fresh over time by regularly telling search engines that your content has been updated.
My personal favorite commenting systems are Disqus and Google+ comments. Both have easy to integrate plug-ins available in the WordPress plug-in directory. I have seen blogs using both of them together as well.
- Grow your loyal subscribers and readers list because they are the one who comment most.
- Encourage people to comment by regular call to actions in your content.
- Respond to all comments individually. It might take time, but it shows you respect your readers, and you listen to them. This will result in more comments.
- Make sure your comments are crawled by search engine.
- Maintain a local database of comments in case you plan to switch your commenting system.
8. Keep updating the (old) content
Yes! I know you knew it. You are daily updating your blog and posting new content pieces. You are trying to grow the daily traffic but, like millions of other bloggers, are you also losing traffic on your once most popular blogs? The reason is you are focusing too much on new content. The secret to consistently grow traffic to your content is to maintain the balance between updating the old content and publishing new content.
Following are few tips on updating old content:
- Post timely updates on the issues.
- Link it with new content.
- Add community discussions to your blog.
- Repackage it by doing a slideshow, video, or audio podcast.
- Make an infographic on the topic.
- Drive traffic to old content by linking them up with fresh content pieces, digest blogs and emails to generate discussions. As explained in tip 7, comments also account for fresh content.
9. Be a community person!
Unless you are (late) Steve Jobs, Rand Fishkin, or Matt Cutts, you will need to take your content to the community because they won’t come to you by themselves. You should make your content social.
How we do it at Cloudways?
- Before writing a blog post, we ask real people in the communities (like Quora, Google+, Reddit etc.) to find out what community has to say about the issue we are planning to discuss in our next blog post.
- Once we have an idea, we then improvise our content based on the community view.
- We then take our finished content piece back to the community discussions we initiated.
- We also invite more influencers to comment and argue to what we have written.
This does not only help in generating discussions on our content but also generates high quality back links to our content. It also brings in high quality targeted traffic to our blogs resulting in more leads and customers.
Do it consistently!
10. On-page website structure
Meta keywords, titles, descriptions, keyword density, headings (though still relevant) are all old-school on-page SEO factors. Google weighs other factors more than the factors it used to weigh. The question is: What are the other critical factors for on-page SEO?
- User experience
- Content cannibalization
- Information architecture of the website
- URL Structure
- XML Sitemaps
- Robots.txt File
- Rich snippets and authorship
There are several other factors. I will not reinvent the wheel and tell you what are the factors you need to take care of. Rand Fishkin from Moz has done an excellent job of explaining all on-page factors in his blog post here.
2013 was the year of changes for the entire SEO industry. Some were in the state of denial, some in shock, and some lost their jobs.
As I see, 2014 will be the year of evolution for the SEO industry. We are now seeing people burying old SEO techniques. Webmasters have stopped complaining and started adapting to the new techniques of SEO. They call it SEO; I call it ‘Content Marketing’.
Let me know in the comments below if I have missed anything or if you disagree with anything I mentioned above. I will also encourage you to let me know about the tools and plug-ins that might help in achieving any of the tips mentioned above.