How to SEO your WordPress Website Part 2: Content and More Plugins

How to SEO your WordPress Website Part 2: Content and More Plugins

Now that we’ve played around with a whole load of tweaks it’s time to start thinking about words.

What’s the most important thing on your website?

Top quality content

I can’t stress this enough. What would your website be without loads of great content? Just a bunch of rubbish words and maybe a nice design. There’s no point in getting your website all shined up for search engines if people are going to hate it. After all, what else is a search engine but a way of delivering to people the information that they want?

Some things to keep in mind when writing your content:

  • Keep your style in line with the overall tone of the website and company. An up-beat chatty style probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a funeral home – a somber tone won’t work for a site selling kids toys
  • Proof-read like a million times – there’s nothing worse than coming across a typo on a website. It makes the site look unprofessional and lacking in attention to detail
  • Keep it brief – people tend to scan websites and they’re not interested in your beautifully crafted purple prose
  • Put your most important content at the top. Like I said, people will scan your content. If you don’t grab them in the first few sentences then you’ll lose them
  • Be a good writer – if you’re not a good writer hire one. If you can’t hire one ask a friend or colleague to proof read for you.

With that in mind, while you’re writing your top quality content you still need to be aware of all of those bots. Today we’ll look at how to optimize your beautifully crafted content to keep them happy.

SEOMoz logoTip: If you are really excited about SEO then the place to go to for all of the tiny little details is SEOMoz – they have a great handbook that will walk you through everything you need to know.

Keyword Research

When you are researching your keywords remember what you are aiming for – a word or phrase that someone will type into a search engine.

Let’s do a little thought experiment – imagine you are sitting in front of a search engine. You want to find a customized birthday cake for your Mum’s 60th birthday (yum! I like cake: ) ). What do you type in? Do you type in the word “cake”?

No! Of course not. That would be stupid. You type in something along the lines of “Custom Cake San Francisco” or some other town that you live in (I don’t live in San Francisco – I can only dream of places with sunshine). If you typed in the word “cake” you would end up with cake recipes, or the entry for “cake” in Wikipedia.

screenshot of cake search in google

What have we learned?

1. The word “Keyword” is inaccurate – what we actually are trying to achieve is a “Keyphrase”. We need a sequence of 2 – 3 – 4 (or even 5) words. 55% of searches are more than 3 words. Keep that in mind.

Okay, so now we know we need a phrase rather than a word. Let’s look at the search results for our two searches. On Google today we get:

Cake: 92,100,000 results
Custom Cake San Francisco: 1,220,000 results

That gives us our second point:

2. Be specific – an element of specificity brings down the number of pages that you are trying to compete with. I am never going to rank for cake – but with some effort I’m hopefully going to rank for “Custom Cake San Francisco.”

Next thing:

I am the owner of a cake shop in San Francisco. However, I only make Chocolate-Maple-Bacon Cupcakes with a Cream Cheese Icing (if you think that’s disgusting then you are totally, 100% WRONG). Since I only make “Chocolate-Maple-Bacon Cupcakes with a Cream Cheese Icing” in San Francisco I try to rank for that phrase. I type it in to Google and there are no pages.

Wooooooo!

screenshot of google searchBut put yourself once again in the position of someone looking for a custom cake in San Francisco. If no one else is ranking for it then chances are no one is actually searching for it. I mean, who would ever be that specific? Even if you are one of those rare people who like meat in their cake, you’re still unlikely to search for that.

So:

3. Don’t be too specific. Aim for things that people who are looking for your type of business/website would look for

Recap:

1. Keyphrase, not keyword
2. Be specific
3. Don’t be too specific

With that in mind, here are some ways to start coming up with your list of keywords:

  • Carry out our thought experiment –what would people who are looking for your type of business (not necessarily you in particular) search for? Remember, if you are looking for new business you aren’t trying to rank for your name specifically but what it is that you do
  • Often you are too close to your own website: ask friends what they would search for
  • Remember that if you are selling something people will often include the word “buy” if they want to buy something
  • If you are a local business you might find people searching using regional specific words

Now you should have a list. It should look something like this:

badly handwritten list of keywords

Hopefully your list will be more legible and have better keywords than mine! :)

By this point in writing I was going to tell you how to use Google Adwords Keyword Research tool, but I was doing a bit of looking around the internet for some nice factoids and I came across this article that points out that Google’s keyword research tool is now pretty much ineffective.

hand drawn google iconAt the recent SMX conference there was a session entirely devoted to the tool. Baris Gultekin of Google Adwords said that the keyword tool only provides keyword data for keywords that Google thinks are commercial – i.e. things that it can make money on. Therefore it will only show you keywords that it thinks that people will want to buy. That sucks although isn’t entirely surprising. After all, the keyword research tool is part of Google’s commercial Adwords product.

There have been rumblings about Google rolling back on this but at the time of writing this post that’s how it stands.

In light of this here are some suggestions:

If you are a fully commercial enterprise with money to invest then I’d suggest signing up for something like SEOMoz. This will give you access to some of the best keyword and SEO tools you can get.

If you’re a small business, non-profit, or freelancer you might want to look at some of these free tools:

screenshot of Google wonder wheel

You can use these tools to whittle down your list of keywords to around 5 – 10 phrases that you will want to optimize your site for.

Remember! A search engine ranks per page not for your entire site. You may have a few phrases that you will want to use site-wide but you will need specific keywords for each page (or blog post) containing content.

Using your keywords

image of crawlerFirst of all, forget about keyword density. It’s a phrase frequently bandied around by people who like terminology that make them sound smart. You know better – direct your keyword density loving friends to this paper by Dr E. Garcia to be re-educated.

I’m not going to go into details of the paper (mostly because I can’t understand it all :( ). Instead, I’ll paraphrase the excellent advice given by the SEOMoz guide to SEO:

  • Put the keyword in the title tag once, or twice if you can make it sound natural. Keep it close to the beginning
  • Place it once in the H1 header tag
  • Put at least 3 in the body copy
  • Include the keyword once in bold
  • At least once in an alt attribute
  • Once in the URL
  • At least once in the meta tag (I’ll get on to Meta tags in a moment)
  • Not in the link anchor text that points to other pages on your site. See this blog post from SEOMoz for more info.

Tip: when I’m writing SEO content I tend to write the content as I would for any project and then look for places where the keywords can be inserted naturally without upsetting the flow of the piece. It is very important that all of your content reads as naturally as possible. These bots are smart, they can sniff out spammers in an instant.

Time for a Plugin

What would a WordPress “How-to” be without a plugin? Nothing!

Let’s SEO-up our meta-data using Headspace 2. This will allow us to craft page titles, descriptions and keywords.

What’s that? You think meta-data isn’t important for SEO?

We’d better stop and look at that. You’re right that search engines don’t crawl meta-data for rankings. This is because people caught on to that and started stuffing their meta-tags with keywords. But the information is still important.

Here is my homepage appearing on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) without any amendments to the meta-data:

screenshot of search engine results page before using headspace

You can see that Google has made its own decision about what it wants to appear on the SERP. Not too pretty. I want each of my pages to have an accurate description of what that page contains. That means that when my page does rank the searcher is given the information that I want them to have, not what Google thinks is best. Here’s how I appear after optimizing my descriptions (it did take a few days for these to be updated):

screenshot of search engine results page after using headspace

Although you may want to auto-add descriptions to each blog post or page I would really recommend doing each one individually. This will be great for your SEO and means that you have overall control on how your blog appears on a SERP.

screenshot of headspace settings below a post

Here are the many other things that Headspace 2 can do in a short video:

I recommend that you watch this video by Cenay Nailor which goes into the details of how you can set up Headspace 2. It’s a few years old but the info on how to get Headspace 2 working still stands and it really is a great introduction to setting the plugin up(can’t embed it here though, sorry!)

This time Headspace 2 is the only Plugin that we’ve used.

That’s it for Part 2. Want to go back to Part 1?

In the third and final part of this series on SEO for WordPress we’ll take a look at how off-site optimization and also see what Plugins you can use to seamlessly integrate your off-site optimization into your website.

Have I left anything out? Don’t forget to let me know in the comments!