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Optimizing Your WordPress Site For Search

Sep 18, 2017
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Your website is the foundation for all of your online marketing efforts. But just having a website is not enough. You must optimize your website so that the search engines have a better understanding of your content and value proposition.

WordPress is currently the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world, with more than 25% of the web built on it. It has a number of user-friendly tools and plugins to help you maximize your visibility. In this video, we will take a look at the basics of on-page optimization as well as go over a few WordPress plugins you can use to optimize your website.

 

 

SEO Plugins we use in this video:

Video Transcript:

Hey there, so we're going to be talking about on-page optimization and how do we optimize our website pages to perform better in search. To help search engines better understand what our site is about, what our specific pages are about, and how they can benefit the end user.

This is a site that I've created, and it's just a one-page site right now, and it's built on WordPress. WordPress has got a number of plugins that we can use that are really easy to optimize for site pages. It takes some of the harder work, the coding work, out of search. Back in the day before we had all these CMSs, you used to do a lot of this by hand, and some people still like to do it by hand, and that's totally fine. But if you want a really flexible site, WordPress is a great CMS to use to make sure that you do it the right way.

You want to make sure that it's obviously secure, but with some of these plugins, you can optimize your site pages and take your site to a whole new level. But before we get into the WordPress plugins, I do want to talk a little bit about the code behind it and look at what's going on behind the scenes when we're talking about on-page optimization.

What we have right here is just a very simple code. This is just straight HTML, there is no styling added to it, and this is really what is going on behind all of the style, all of what people see when they look at a webpage. Typically, what you have is you've got three different levels. You've got the head, which is up here and it's going to go from the head, open tag to the close tag, then you've got a body, and this is typically where the content of the website is housed. The main content is going to fall into the body. Then lastly, you've got the footer, and this is obviously the bottom of the webpage and usually, there are some links here or maybe widgets or some other kind of information, but typically it's not the most important part of the page. The most important content is going to lie inside the body.

Now, what the HTML is telling computers, the internet, it's telling them the content. It's telling them how the page is styled, how it's marked up, where things should be. It's also a place where we can inform the search engines about our page, so title tags are one of the most important things when it comes to SEO, and this is done within the header tag, and it's just done with a simple title tag. Again, we want to make sure that's keyword optimized, that our main keyword is up at the front, that our brand is at the end. We're not going over those 60 characters.

Now right below that you can add a number of different meta tags, and for the purposes of this, we're going to look at the description tag, and this is what it looks like. Meta name equals description and then we put the content in. Again, about 156 characters and we want to make it actionable, very descriptive, very call-to-action-oriented.

Now I also added an H1 tag, so this H1 tag, we want it to kind of complement our title tag, and this is really what the main title the user typically sees like on a hero section of a page. Then we've got some content, and I even threw in an image here because often this is something that we miss, is image optimization, and you want to have the file name as well as the alt text to be optimized. This helps the search engines understand the image and understand what that image is supposed to be.

This is basically what the code looks like behind the scenes when you're optimizing, and if you have a site that's done in HTML or you're not using a typical CMS, this is what you would do. You would go into the code, and you would optimize it with meta descriptions, with different other meta tags, with adding in alt text and title text and making sure that the markup is done here. But with the help of WordPress, we can actually use some cool plugins, so I'm going to show you how to define the plugins, as well as how do we set them up.

You want to log into your WordPress site. Now if you're new to WordPress, this left navigation is going to be very helpful for you. This is really where you're going to find everything. Posts are going to be your blog, media is going to be your media manager, so this is where images, PDFs, anything you upload is going to be really into this media bin. You've got your pages, which is your website pages. Comments, if you're allowing comments on your blog, you can monitor those here. Appearance is where you're going to customize or choose the theme, as well as add widgets, change your menus, and plugins; this is where we're going to add the extras.

We're going to go ahead and just click plugin. I've just got two installed, and the first one we're going to look at is WP Meta SEO. We're going to actually look at both Yoast and WP Meta, so let's start with this one, it's a little bit of an easier setup. Just click on install and WordPress is going to do its thing and install it. Now we also have to activate it because if you don't activate it, it's not being used, it's just kind of sitting there. Once we hit activate, now we can actually go in and use this cool tool.

Now as you see over here on the left-hand side, a new option has opened up for WP Meta SEO. If you click into the dashboard, what it's going to do it's going to tell us a little bit about the site. Have we optimized our permalink, so have we optimized the way the linking structure of the site is done? Now, this is a brand new site, so I haven't done any work to it. We've got HTML images that need to be resized. We've got new content we need to add. There are no 404 errors, so we don't have any of these things, so we're 100% good.

But as you can see, what it's doing is it's looking at not just the content, but it's also looking at the images. It's looking at how often we update, do we have any broken links. That's what I like about this tool. It's a little less intuitive, it doesn't do as much for you as Yoast would, but it does get to the heart of SEO, it's what I like. It's got this great optimization tool where you can actually do the Meta tags and title tag descriptions here in bulk. I really like the way that this is done.

It's got a sitemap generator so you can create an HTML sitemap. You can save those and generate them. You can look at your image information. Again, you can look at all the images that you have installed and what's the alt tag, what's the title. You can add a little bit more information. Very, very cool tool. You can change the image file name, so maybe you uploaded a bunch of images but you didn't change the file name, so now it's not optimized. Well, you can actually change that right here with this tool.

You can do image compression, which is great. A lot of times we load these images to our site, but they're too big, and they slow the site down. This is one of the most common problems I see when a site is slow. They've got these huge images, so you just image recycle, you add this in, and then you can do that right in here. Really cool tool.

Link editor:

This is going to look at the links on our page, and it's going to tell us if we have it linked right, what's our linking title, what's our linking text.

404 redirects:

Do we have pages that need to be redirected, do we have 404 issues.

You can set up Google analytics to track and add your JS code, so maybe you need to add your analytics code, but you don't know where to put it. You can put it right here using the JS code, or you can just use your count reference, so they make it pretty easy. Again, they've got settings like most of these so you can add your homepage title, your Facebook, your Twitter, as well as some other options. They've continued to grow this tool and it's quickly become my favorite SEO tool for WordPress.

I use this more often than any other SEO tool on WordPress. I don't work for them; I don't get kickbacks from them. I happened to find it one day, and it's been a great tool for me to use and my team to use, but this isn't the most popular one.

Probably the most popular one is Yoast, so let's go ahead now and take a look at Yoast. Again, we're going to click on plugins, and now I don't want to have two SEO tools running at the same time, so I'm going to go ahead and deactivate this one even though this site isn’t one I'm doing a lot of marketing around it yet because, again, we just built it mainly for this purpose and hopefully grow some stuff off of it as well, and just see how it works, but I'm going to go ahead and type Yoast here.

Again, they've got a number of plugins you can use. Yoast has some plugins, but the one you want to look for is just Yoast SEO. Again, hit install. As you can see, pretty quickly. Hit activate. Now once again, over here on the left-hand side, we're going to see Yoast show up. Now, you've got a couple of different settings. You can go deep with Yoast and customize it or you can just kind of use their general settings.

They have a configuration wizard that you can do. It's a pretty decent configuration wizard. It's a step by step process but what I like to do is a little bit of some customization to the tool. It's got features so what do you want them to give you suggestions on and you can also obviously upgrade to premium, everybody's got those today. One of the great things they have is the webmaster tool verification so if you have a website and you're serious about ranking in search; you need to be using Search Console.

You want to be looking at big webmaster tools. You're just going to uncover a lot of data on how your site is performing in search, so you need to verify these, and sometimes people have trouble verifying these, well Yoast let's you just copy that verification code into here instead of uploading a file to your site or trying to verify through another means and it makes it really quick and easy.

Here's the dashboard, the general features. Typically, to get access to some more of the features, we go through this configuration wizard. You can restore to default. You really can't break anything, which is great. I like to enable the advanced settings because now I can go and you see here; I have a lot more options. This allows me just to customize a lot more, so I can go to my titles in Meta, and I can say how I want things separated. I could set a default for the homepage if I wanted to. I can go to the different posts and set these strings.

So say I want to have a title written a certain way, I can also go to taxonomies.

Maybe you don't want to index your categories and your tags or your format, you can “no index” these, which means we won't have the search engines crawl them. Sometimes this is a really good thing to do because sometimes the tags and category pages can produce duplicate content and you don't want to have duplicate content so you can go ahead and have that content on your site but just tell the search engines not to index it.

Again, the same with archives. You can create an index sitemap. This is great that you can then submit to Search Console. Google will then crawl your page in the way that you want them to crawl it. You can also exclude certain things, certain post types. Maybe you don't want to include your media in there. That's kind of a set by default, so the default settings are pretty decent. You can turn off these if you don't want to have them indexed.

They've got some other advanced settings. Do you want to enable breadcrumbs, permalink optimization, so again this is how your permalink would be displayed on the back end of this. You want to get rid of variables or certain things to just make them look better, easier for people to use. It’s a great tool for that.

RSS feature:

This is how your site is, if you're sending it to a feed to be syndicated, you can optimize it right here, which I highly recommend you do that, especially if you're going to be an active blogger, optimizing your RSS feed and Yoast helps you do that.

You also have some other tools in here. You have a bulk editor, kind of like we had in WP SEO, but it's a little bit different as you see here.

If you log into here, you can see here are all the titles, and then you can do all the descriptions, so they don't let you see it side by side. I like WP Meta a little bit better because I can see my title and my description and kind of sync them up. Even though you can see them, it just makes it a lot easier when they're right next to each other, in my opinion.

You can also see Search Console alerts and data and information if you authorize it here, so when you put your access code in, you authenticate, and then it allows you to get Search Console information, which is nice so you don't have to go back and forth to a lot of places. This is a brief overview of Yoast and kind of what it does. There's way more that you can do. You can go much deeper, and if you want to, you can go Premium and do a lot more, but that's really the basics of it.

How do we use these tools to optimize a page? Alright, so let's take a look at this page right here, and you'll just click edit. Now, this page is using a front end builder, so we're not going to have anything in the text editor, but as you see right underneath here, you're going to see Yoast SEO, and WP Meta SEO works very similarly. You're going to see a box just like this. You want to optimize this page for search. You want to make sure that you're telling your story in the right way.

Here's what we do. You just simply click on this and it's going to open this up. As you can see, Yoast has that string, well I don't want that string to be my title tag, so I'm going to make my own. You can optimize it any way you want. You want to make sure that these are descriptive. You want to have your SEO title, what's the keyword that you want first in your search in the front and less important terms at the end.

The great thing is ... Probably my favorite tool in the whole world too right now is Grammarly. It makes sure that you have grammar and spelling correct no matter what you're doing online, so if you're typing a lot and you're doing a lot of marketing, you want to make sure that your content is really good. Grammarly is a great tool, so I highly recommend that too.

One of the cool things that Yoast does is you see this little green line. When I was back here, it was orange, which means I didn't have enough content. Once I hit green, it's saying, "Okay, this is looking really good." Now it shows me a snippet preview, so this is what it's going to look like in the search. This is a really good way to make sure that you don't go over on your title tags or your meta descriptions, but it also makes sure that you have enough.

Another common problem is people don't have long enough title tags; they don't give enough information to the search engines. Now, the reason on-page optimization is important; you have a chance to tell the search engines about your site; who you are, what you do, and why they should index you, why they should have you higher for a specific query. This is your chance to talk directly to the search crawlers, so Yoast is going to help make sure that you have enough content and have enough information. Just enough behind it to rank.

It's also going to give you a little bit more analysis here at the bottom. Now this page doesn't have a lot of content because right now it's just a landing page. There are no internal links, but it's going to give you a couple of other cool on-page optimization factors that you really should consider. Do you have an outbound link right now? Well, no. There are no images on this page that contain an alt attribute. So basically it's saying, "Hey, you need to do a little bit more optimization."

What'll happen now is if I hit update, it's going to post that live. Now if I want to get a score right here where it says SEO not available, I need to put a focus keyword so let's say my focus keyword is "hack my growth." Now my SEO score is okay, which means it's just okay, it's not great. This is a cool thing to do so you want to put your target keyword in here if you're using Yoast and then check your score to see how you're matching up and what more you can do to optimize your page.

Now just optimizing it doesn't mean you're necessarily going to rank but it is definitely going to help you if you have a better-optimized page. Now remember we talked about the code before, so now let's take a look and see what Yoast did in the background. This is what all of the plugins are going to be doing for you. Well, I know for sure Yoast does, and WP Meta SEO and a couple of other SEO ones do, so make sure you're using a good plugin, one that's known by others.

Alright, so here's our document HTML type, here's our head. As you can see, there are a couple of other things going on in here. One, it's a WordPress site, so you've got some of the WordPress install features here, like the pingback and that sort of thing. I've got a style structure to responsiveness but here's my title tag. Remember? That's exactly what I typed into Yoast. Now again, this site is optimized with Yoast, so here's my description that I added. Click here for more.

It also added a link real here saying that this is the main page for this piece of content. It means I don't have any other content that's like it on the page. If you're looking for HackMyGrowth.com, this is it. Just that page.

This is the main page. Yoast also added some other meta properties. They added some OG tags, Open Graph tags, which are for social. They've added some Twitter card information, so if this site gets shared on social, it's going to pull the right content. You see it's pulling in an image that I have on that page right here where it's going to use that image in the link when it gets shared.

Here's the Twitter description. It's going to use the same description that I added up here. That's another nice feature that Yoast gives, these other factors in optimization that you may not have thought of like Social optimization. It takes a lot of these things into account for you, so you do not have to type all of this right here into the head of the site, and you don't have to know all of these in-depth pieces of code.

This is a brief overview of how to optimize your site using Yoast or WP Meta, one of these WordPress plugins. You want to do this to every single page of your site, every single blog post. You want to make sure that you have a unique title tag. You want to make sure that this image here has an alt tag, that your logo has an alt tag. Actually covering all your bases to make sure that you're giving the search crawlers the right information to get your site ranked. Hope you enjoyed this video

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works has also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing solutions.

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