WordPress Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

WordPress Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

wordpress seo for local business owners

At Indexsio Digital, we work with various professions and businesses to create stunning WordPress Websites with a high conversion rate, visually appealing imagery and achieve higher rankings in search results.

WordPress is the most common Content Management System (CMS) on the web, used by 25 – 30% of all websites. Popular websites based on the WordPress platform include CNN, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (Law Blog), Mercedes Benz and many others and could also become your next website platform.

One question we get quite a lot at Indexsio Digital is “how do I get my WordPress website optimised for search engines for higher rankings”? Is it enough to install WordPress on my hosting account and watch my rankings skyrocket to the number 1 position on page 1 of Google’s search results? In this blog, we will talk about the Yoast SEO plugin which we use to optimise our website for prominent rankings in Google results.

Yoast SEO is a plugin from Joost de Valk, a Dutch SEO expert who goes by the nickname “Yoast” and coincidentally, named his company…well you guessed right…Yoast. We will not blame you in thinking that your WordPress site is optimised for search engines simply by installing Yoast SEO. This is a common misconception we meet on a daily basis and this blog should put an end to this myth. Installing the plugin is the first step in optimising your WordPress website. There are a couple of steps to complete in ensuring you derive the best out of the plugin and in ensuring that your website has the prerequisite for higher rankings on Google.

At Indexsio Digital, we have developed a bespoke Yoast SEO framework which works for all our customers. Contact us today for a no obligation chat on how we can skyrocket your rankings with Yoast SEO.

SEO Starts with Site Structure

Drawing up an SEO strategy and working with SEO on a daily basis starts with an strong foundation in website planning, design and development. It is crucial to implement a web design based on the keywords which drives traffic to your website. This is accomplished by building web pages (pages in WordPress) for each individual keyword which drives traffic to your website. For many product based businesses, this will be the products being offered. For service based businesses, this would be the services being offered.

A well structured WordPress site is built with the most important keyword pages are placed at the top of the hierarchy (usually as the main menus) and the least important keywords placed at the lower part of the hierarchy. The lower the keyword page, the lower the importance attached to it. This helps Google to understand your keywords and their importance to the business and their relative importance to each other. Building a hierarchy of this nature also helps ensure that the semantic meanings derived from these keywords are correctly passed to Google. This is the first in achieving higher placements all webmasters dream about.

At Indexsio Digital, we recommend building your site structure as an organisational diagram in an application such as PowerPoint and implement this as pages on your WordPress website with the help of the page attributes available on each WordPress page. From the Page Attribute properties window, webmasters can specify parent and child page relationships which then creates a URL based on this relationship. This is useful for Google bots, in understanding your website’s hierarchy.

Choose the Right Permalink Format

The next important step in optimising your WordPress based website is to ensure that Google can index your pages and posts correctly. Correct indexation starts with your choice of Permalink (the format of your web page URLs).

Standard WordPress employs the use of blog titles and page numbers from the WordPress database as the default URL. This makes it easier for WordPress to process call to URLs on your web page however, by so doing, WordPress does not provide enough information on the content of your web page. As a result of this, WordPress URLs should be amended to reflect page titles and posts.

To amend YOUR URLs in WordPress, navigate to Settings > Permalink in your WordPress Administration dashboard. The most commonly used “out-of-the-box” setting for URLs is the “Name of Post” setting however, if your requirement is for Google to gain a better picture of your site structure, you will have to amend this to “Custom Structure” and insert /%category%/%postname%/ in the field next to it. Doing this will create a long-tailed but useful URL for your website or blog which provides useful information about what your pages and posts are about and also, a unique naming convention for all pages and posts. This also helps in gaining clicks to your website as searchers are more inclined to click on a blog with a clear naming convention than one with a host of numbers and symbols.

To WWW or Not

To www or not to www is not the question. In fact, Google does not place any ranking emphasis on the www prefix. What matters most is that once you have come to the decision as to www or not, you are consistent with your choice, whenever you specify your URLs. This is because Google penalises websites that show with the www and non-www versions of the same webpage as duplicate content hence the need come to a decision which format of URLs to use.

To this end, it is important to specify (once and for all) and be consistent with the correct version of your URL to use in Google Search Console (we truly hope you already have this setup as a webmaster) as the preferred domain name.

From the WordPress administration dashboard, navigate to Settings > General > WordPress Address (URL). Key in your preferred URL with out without www. To make things easier for yourself, ensure the same address is entered in the Site Address (URL) field.

Next step is to go to Google Search Console > Site Settings > Preferred Domain.  From here, select the URL entered in the WordPress settings above.

Ensuring that your URLs are the same on both platforms (WordPress and Google Search Console) ensures that Google only indexes one version of your website, with or without the www prefix.

Shorter Blog Posts URLs

Generally speaking, it is advisable to maintain URLs as short as possible. In the past, Google placed emphasis on the order in which keywords were arranged however, several studies have disproved this myth. We say myth because no one really knows all 200 factors used by Google in ranking websites. Google search results utilises a raft of factors in ranking websites and the content of each individual page or URL is just one of many factors.

To ensure that Google understands the context and content of your web page, you need to organise your keywords so that the most important keywords appear at the very beginning of your page or post URL. As previously explained above, using one of the two suggested permalink formats ensures that your URLs follow this rule, however, it is advisable to keep an eye on your generated URLs, as WordPress has a tendency of converting blog titles to URLs with dashes in between the individual words. As blog posts are more often than not longer than the recommended 5 word limit for URLs, it is advisable to shorten URLs to reflect the keywords or key phrase you want the page or blog to rank for, with a couple of supplementary keywords included. Including keywords or key phrases in your URL sends a signal to Google to highlight those keywords or key phrases in search results if searchers enter the exact same keyword in their search.

To amend page or post URL, navigate to the page or post URL in the page or post editor and click Edit. Edit the URL to the preferred URL which includes keywords. Remember to use dashes (instead of underscores) as the separator and to maintain a maximum word count under 5.

Duplicate Content – Categories

Publishing blog posts under two or more categories exposes your content to a Google content duplication penalty, as content published under these categories can be accessed from two different URLs – one from each category content has been published to.

In earlier versions of WordPress, canonical tags were manually created for duplicate content however, with recent updates of WordPress (we recommend using the most recent WordPress version to prevent hackers from hacking your website with known vulnerabilities) publishers can easily specify a primary and secondary category. By so doing, Google can identify the original post from the duplicate post. WordPress in this sense creates a canonical tag for the duplicate content automatically.

Titles and Descriptions

Good titles and meta descriptions are valuable in helping Google understand the content of each individual page. By using the Yoast SEO plugin,publishers are able to specify appropriate titles and descriptions for each individual page, as search engines decipher tiles in their quest to understand the contents of a web page. Specifying an appropriate title and description for each has a direct effect on page rankings on Google. A more streamlined title and description will ensure that Google bots can identify the content of your page in search engine rankings.

In specifying page and category titles, emphasis should be placed on keywords you want to rank for.

With regards to meta descriptions, these are not read by search engines however, a good description of a page will most likely entice the right audience to click on your link in search results. Loads of clicks on a page results in higher rankings in search engine results, as Google begins to see the relevance and usefulness of the page.

Image Optimisation

Image optimisation is the process of specifying the ALT-Text for images used in WordPress blog posts and pages. ALT-Texts are used by text to speech applications which read websites for the blind. Google also ranks images based on the descriptions given in the Google image search results. To this end, it is clear that Image optimisation is an essential piece of work which cannot be ignored by any web development project.

In WordPress, image optimisation is a straight-forward process. Once images have been uploaded to posts and pages in WordPress, ensure that you complete the Title and Alt-text attributes at the right-hand corner with descriptive text, just as you would with your meta descriptions for posts and pages in the Yoast SEO plugin fields. The length and format of your Alt-texts should not be of great concern in this regard. Emphasis should be placed on the actual image description. Providing accurate and descriptive texts in your image Alt-text attributes enhances the credibility of the website on Google and for the blind.

Help Google Help You

To aid Google in indexing your website as accurate as possible, you need to provide a sitemap in XML format to Google. This is done via your Google Search Console account. Yoast SEO accomplishes this by building and maintaining an XML sitemap for your website at installation. This helps in maintaining an up to date sitemap on Google each time a page or post is updated. Yoast does the heavy lifting in this regard.

In Yoast SEO, you can locate your sitemap by navigating to SEO> XML Sitemaps in the Administration panel of Yoast SEO. Click on XML-sitemap and copy the URL from the page and page in Google Search Console for verification. Verification can be done by clicking Verify in Google Search Console. This enables Google to easily locate the sitemap and index the latest updates to your website.

Can Yoast SEO’s Recommendations be Trusted?

An advantage of Yoast SEO over other rival plugins is that it has a recommendation engine which works out opportunities for improving your site SEO score. The latest version of Yoast SEO also has a recommendation engine which predicts the readability of your text on the page. As Google moves towards a more semantic search intent, this is becoming more and more crucial in achieving higher rankings on SERPs.

In as much as Yoast SEO tries to provide recommendations for titles, descriptions and meta descriptions, there is much to be desired in instances where it is clear that the plugin cannot decipher the content of the page or post. As an example, the plugin has a tendency to highlight the missing focus keywords in titles and meta descriptions when these are already present on the page.

Snippet Optimisation

It is important to visually highlight your links in search results. Snippet optimisation makes this possible to add an extra layer of visibility to search engine results.

Among other things, snippets enables the inclusion of an image of the products or services being offered. “Rich snippets” enabled the inclusion of informative and visually enticing attributes such as reviews, ratings and other web properties which enhances the click-through rate of your website and in turn, enhancing the websites rankings on Google searches.

For a list of snippets which Google recognises, visit Schema.org. On schema.org, there are a host of tools and other resources used in highlighting website markups for Google to pick and include in search results. Schema.org is a product of Microsoft, YAHOO! And Google and therefore markups from Schema.org are recognised by all three internet giants.

Speed Optimisation

wordpress seo for local business owners - Page load stats - Indexsio Digital

According to Google, over 50% of visitors will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. This make is crucial to ensure that your website loads in under 3 seconds by optimising how your website loads. Page load time, as a ranking factor cannot be ignored by webmasters and needs to be reviewed on a regular basis.

To resolve slow page loads, WordPress has a several plugins which can be used to cache websites, set expire headers and other techniques that help in reducing page load times. Among the recommended plugins are the W3 Total Cache plugin and WP Super Cache. The plugins are available from the plugin download page within WordPress.

Seek Professional SEO Help to All Things SEO

This blog post has just touched the surface of optimising WordPress for higher ranking in Google searches. There are a whole raft of techniques and tools available which can help webmasters achieve the ultimate goal – higher rankings in Google SERPs – and driving traffic to their websites. SEO is constantly changing. At Indexsio Digital, we have developed a bespoke framework which helps our clients achieve the higher rankings in Google search results. Contact us today for a no obligation chat on how we can improve your WordPress site for higher rankings in search results.

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Indexsio Digital is full service performance marketing digital agency. We offer professional SEO, Shopify, PPC and Web Development services to Small and Medium-sized (SMEs) businesses across the NorthWest of Englang. We help online stores increase their organic and paid search rankings across medium to highly competitive keywords. Request a free SEO or PPC audit today to identify opportunities within your paid search and SEO strategies.

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