Local SEO is all about knowing where you stand. More specifically, it’s about knowing where you stand in terms of your ranking on Google Maps. This is because the Google Local Pack — the box on top of Google’s homepage featuring the three local businesses that it has determined to be close (geographically), the most relevant and the most prominent in regard to a search query — is fed by Google Maps. Google Maps, in turn, is fueled by information contained within a location’s Google My Business (GMB) profile.
Thus, a fully optimized GMB profile is always a good place to start when discussing local search engine results pages (SERPs). What do I mean by that? At a minimum, the name, address, phone number, and website (NAPW) data from your GMB profile is directly supplied to Google Maps. Consistent citations, or mentions, of this information elsewhere online, bolsters the trustworthiness and authority of your business in the eyes of Google. Pictures and videos, reviews, Google Posts, and feedback further elevate that.
The Difference Between Local SERPs And Regular SERPs
The key distinction between local SERPs and regular SERPs on Google is the inclusion of the Local Pack, and it’s why leveraging the GMB/Google Maps relationship is so important. This is how and why a small, locally owned business with one location can outrank national chains with multiple locations in the same area: On local SERPS, Google measures the gravitational pull of your business; on regular SERPS, it measures the sway of your website — content, links, user experience, etc.
That’s not to say that your GMB/Google Maps info has no impact on universal search ranking or your website has no influence on your local search ranking — it’s just that they have different weights.
A Refresher On Local Ranking Factors
Even when you have that straightened out, many in the local SEO world express frustration about the variability of Google Map rankings depending on where search queries originate. How do you accurately measure local SEO rank, track your progress and gain an edge on your competition? How do you become a candidate for the Google Local Pack, strategically positioned to draw more customers who are currently in or will be in your area?
As you may be aware, the Google local search algorithm returns results based on their relevance (does this pertain to the search?), prominence (is this a quality result?) and physical proximity to the searcher. Google has become smarter over the years at interpreting context, and it will weigh these ranking factors differently depending on how a query is worded. Proximity is the most fluid of the three and is given more or less cachet depending on the phrase modifiers (or the lack thereof) used within the search terms. I’ll give you some examples.
• ‘Near me.’ Obviously, proximity becomes a higher priority with search queries containing “near me,” as Google tries to find relevant businesses within your immediate physical area. Prominence (i.e., best rated, most visited or mentioned), while still a consideration, is on the back burner to a degree.
• Conditions such as ‘open now,’ ‘outdoor’ or ‘pet friendly.’ Relevance becomes Google’s main mission here, as it is looking simply at whether businesses in the category you’ve searched for satisfy the condition or not. They may well be scattered across the map.
• Qualitative modifiers such as ‘best’ or ‘most popular.’ Prominence takes a lead when using terminology such as “best” or “most popular,” with Google pushing the superlative examples of what you’ve searched for (relevance) to the top. Results may be farther away than you’d see otherwise (the best French bistro may be on the other side of town).
Another thing to pay attention to when tracking keyword phrases is whether or not they are geo-modified — that is, is there a named geographical area that Google has been instructed to search within? If so, prominence and relevance are given more weight, as these queries are typical of someone planning travel or already in transit. In searches that are not geo-modified, Google elevates proximity as a rank factor, implying you’re looking for something nearby.
Tools To Track Local SEO Rankings
There are a handful of local SERP tracking tools out there — in the form of web browser plug-ins, desktop applications and web-based software as a service (SaaS). Smaller SEO operations (three or fewer keywords) may be able to get away with a browser plug-in, but larger web marketing outfits with multiple clients should probably invest in web-based SaaS, which offers more advanced features and can handle larger keyword volumes.
With just a few local rank tracking tools available, you are bound to do some additional research, so when evaluating local rank tracking tools, consider the following:
1. How many keywords can you track?
2. Can you scan on a schedule?
3. How many times does your business appear in results?
4. How do your numbers stack up to competitors?
5. Are reports available?
Locally Rank Tracking Your Business
Google Maps results for the same keyword phrase may look slightly or even very different depending on the searcher’s location, even within the same zip code. Many of these rank tracking tools pull in local map data — examples include GeoRanker, Whitespark or BrightLocal.
In general, these calculate rankings from a centralized location within the zip code, which is somewhat valuable information but may not be as specific enough to simulate a real-world search. If you need to track your rankings on a more granular level, you may be interested in LocalFalcon, which visually represents rank variability within a locality through a series of pins, as seen here, while also comparing your ranking to competitors.
Companies now have numerous resources to determine how they stack up in search, locally and hyper locally. The trick is harnessing that data and using it to guide a path of continuous SEO improvement so that you become a magnet for both search engines and the customers who make a point to shop local.
Off page SEO refers to techniques that can be used to improve the position of a web site in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building but it is not only that. In general, off Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.
Let’s take it from the beginning…
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the term used to describe a set of processes that aim in optimizing a website for search engines. SEO is important not only for getting high-quality visitors from search, but it’s also a way to improve the user-friendliness of your website and increase its credibility.
Search engines are using complex algorithms to determine which pages to include in their index and the order they show these pages in the search results.
SEO is the way to ‘speak’ to search engines in a language they can understand and give them with more information about your website.
SEO has two major components, On Page and Off Page SEO.
On Page SEO
On Page SEO refers to settings you can apply on your website so that it is optimized for search engines. The most important On-Page SEO tips are:
Having optimized titles and descriptions
Proper URL Structures
User-friendly navigation (breadcrumbs, user sitemaps)
Optimized internal links
Text Formatting (use of h1,h2,bold etc)
Image optimization (image size, proper image names, use of ALT tag)
User-friendly 404 pages
Fast loading pages
Mobile Friendly pages
Top quality fresh content (This is always the most important SEO factor!)
External links (no broken links or links to ‘bad’ sites)
You can find out more details about all the above tips in the SEO Tips for beginners article.
Off Page SEO
Unlike On- page SEO, Off-page SEO refers to activities you can perform outside the boundaries of your website. The most important are:
Social Media Marketing
We will examine these in more details below, but first, let me explain the importance and benefits of off-page SEO.
Why is Off-Page SEO important?
Search engines have been trying for decades to find a way to return the best results to the searcher.
To achieve this, they take into account the on-site SEO factors (described above), some other quality factors and off-page SEO.
Off page SEO gives them a very good indication on how the World (other websites and users) perceive the particular website.
A web site that is high quality and use is more likely to have references (links) from other websites; it is more likely to have mentioned on social media (Facebook likes, tweets, Pins, +1’s etc.) and it is more likely to be bookmarked and shared among communities of like-minded users.
What are the benefits of ‘off-site SEO’ to website owners?
A successful off-site SEO strategy will generate the following benefits to website owners:
Increase in rankings – The website will rank higher in the SERPs and this also means more traffic.
Increase in PageRank – Page rank is a number between 0 and 10 which indicates the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. It is the system invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) and one of the reasons that Google was so successful in showing the most relevant results to the searcher. Page rank today is only one out of the 250 factors that Google is using to rank websites.
More exposure – Higher rankings also means greater exposure because when a website ranks in the top positions: it gets more links, more visits, and more social media mentions. It’s like a never ending sequence of events where one thing leads to another and then to another etc.
Link building is the most popular and effective Off-Page SEO method. Basically, by building external links to your website, you are trying to gather as many ‘votes’ as you can, so that you can bypass your competitors and rank higher.
When you start a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you’ll probably be eager to see results as quickly as possible. You might be pushing the growth of your startup, or making up for lost time in the digital marketing front.
You know that links are your best tool for building domain and page authority, which in turn will make your site more likely to rank for relevant searches, and you also know that SEO takes a long time to develop. But if you’re going to invest all this time and effort, you want to know exactly how many links it will take before you start to make progress.
So how many links does it take to move your site up the ladder?
Key Link Variables to Consider
First, you need to understand that not all links hold the same value. Links work for SEO because they serve as third-party markers of trustworthiness; the link pointing to your site will fluctuate in value based on its nature, location, and relevance.
These are some key variables to consider when evaluating the “value” of a link:
Source strength. The biggest factor here is the domain authority (and, to a lesser extent, page authority) of your link’s source. Trustworthy sources that link to your site will make your site seem more trustworthy than sources that are new or low quality. You can use tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to check the domain authority of your sources. Generally, the higher the number, the more powerful effect you’ll see from the link. Aim for links that come from sources with a DA higher than your website’s current DA.
Domain diversity. The value of links from a given domain has diminishing returns with each link after the first. That is to say, in general, from a purely SEO perspective, it’s better to have a single link from each of three different domains than it is to have three links from one domain—even if that source has a high DA. Therefore, the diversity of sources that currently link to you will also play a role in how many total links you need to see a benefit.
Target page. Links pointing to your site will pass authority to your domain as a whole, but they’ll also pass authority to the individual page they specify. If you use the majority of your links to target one specific page, such as a high-quality content post, that page will rise in rank faster than it would if you used a variety of internal pages to link to. In general, it’s better to go for the diversity; otherwise, you might trigger a red flag for spam, but if you’re looking for fast results for a specific page, this may be a good strategy.
Keyword associations. The anchor text of your inbound links doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to, but there’s still something to be said for keyword associations between your off-site content, your off-site publishers, your anchor text, and the nature of the work you’re linking to. These variables can significantly influence how a link portrays your internal pages’ relevance.
Delay. You should also be aware that building a link to your site won’t immediately boost its authority; Google needs time to crawl and evaluate those links, so it might be weeks or longer before you see the effects.
Other Variables to Consider
On top of the variability of “link power,” you’ll also need to consider these other variables:
On-site factors. Links are powerful, but they won’t be the only factor affecting your domain and page authority. On-site factors, including the structure of your website, the depth and quality of your content, and other page-level factors, will also affect how your campaign develops. This could significantly hasten or slow the process depending on how much time you spend on it.
Existing authority and positions. If you’re just starting an SEO campaign, you’ll probably be able to see quick results; your DA will be low, and just about any new inbound link will help you improve that position. If you’re already ranking highly, with a respectable DA, it’s going to take more links to move you further up the ladder; you’re up against much stiffer competition when you’re ranking on the first page of Google search results.
Additional links. When you build a link, you’ll be introducing a new population segment to your on-site content. That, in turn, can fuel the development of even more inbound links. A single reference point can lead to an explosion of new reference points, amplifying the power that a link can have under the right conditions.
Competition. You’ll also need to consider how much competition you’re facing, and the keywords you’re trying to target. If you’re going after a number one position for a high-traffic keyword, it could take hundreds or thousands of links to get you there, on top of perfect on-page optimization and other factors. On the other hand, a low-traffic long-tail keyword could be easy to snatch up.
Time and Effort
Overall, it’s nearly impossible to calculate the “number” of links required to see results, because links aren’t the only variable in the ranking algorithm. Instead, your results are going to be dependent on the amount of effort you put in (including the quality, diversity, and targets of your links) and the amount of time you put in (allowing your authority to develop naturally).
The more time and effort you put in, the faster you’ll see results—but “fast” in the SEO world is often at least several weeks. Try not to focus too much on link quantity. Instead, focus on acquiring the best links you can for your domain, on a consistent basis. The results will manifest over time with continued effort.
For marketers in the education vertical, Here are some helpful tips to get your site optimized in time for admissions season.
July typically means a new fiscal year for colleges and universities, bringing with it new marketing plans and goals for the upcoming educational year. Where does SEO fit into your higher education marketing plan this year? Hopefully, right at the top.
Earlier this year, Chegg Enrollment Services and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA) conducted a survey of 726 high school students researching universities. Online searches ranked as the top method used by prospective college applicants to discover universities and programs, and the second most popular method used both during and after the admissions process.
However, higher education faces its own set of unique challenges for SEO. University websites are often segmented by school, program or department. This can result in many contributors to the SEO process, often without a singular roadmap to follow across the organization. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the university’s IT department to own web development, sometimes creating a backlog for technical SEO changes that need to be made.
I’ve worked with many colleges and universities on SEO, and the problems can certainly be unique compared to other industries. I recorded a webinar about those challenges earlier this month, and I pulled out the primary points to share. As you begin to prioritize your higher education marketing plan and the specific SEO tactics you’ll tackle this upcoming year, here are the seven top areas that I see as some of the greatest challenges in SEO for universities, and also the areas that need the most attention.
1. Perform an SEO audit
Before you can improve on your organic rankings, you have to first understand what needs to be done. Performing an SEO audit will help you to identify and prioritize tactics. That’s especially important when some of the tactics involve technical site changes that involve the IT department. Often a university IT department will have a backlog of requests and site changes.
Google has announced that in the coming months, it will be implementing “mobile-first” indexation. Essentially, this means that the mobile version of a website, rather than the desktop version, will be considered the default version for Google to create and rank its search listings (even for desktop users).
This shift to mobile first may pose a problem for universities — often, multiple websites and content management systems are pulled together under one overarching domain. That often means that some parts of the university’s website may be mobile-ready, while others are not.
Remember, too, that Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool works on a page-by-page basis. So don’t trust that just because one page of your university’s site is mobile-friendly, all of them are. Make sure mobile is prioritized for your site this year.
3. Review your keywords and how you’re integrating them into site content
While there are many areas of the university website that may be outside your control, most marketing departments do control the site’s content.
It’s not uncommon for colleges and universities to name a degree or program with a brand name that might not match the search keywords a prospective student will use in a search query. And while Google is getting better at semantics, it’s not perfect. Help Google learn the connection by integrating keywords and brand terms.
For example, my own degree is actually in “Human Communications” from James Madison University. What does that mean? Over the years, I dropped the word “human” from the degree on my resume because it confused so many people. The intent of the university had likely been to separate mass communications (journalism and the like) from other communications (public relations, alternative dispute resolution). But if I were a student today searching for a degree in public relations, would I know to use the term “human communications?” Would Google know that human communications and public relations degrees are the same?
Consider the terms you’re using on the page. Even if the branded degree is “B.S. in Human Communications,” you can write content that incorporates important keywords that define the degree, such as “The Bachelor of Science in Human Communications is a degree incorporating public relations and corporate communications.”
Websites often inadvertently create duplicate content, but it’s important to recognize duplicate content and indicate to Google which version of the content you want to be displayed in organic search results. There are three common culprits I find on university websites that create duplicate content: secure protocol, URL parameters, and blogs.
Google has indicated that using secure protocol can give a website a slight edge in the organic search rankings, so many sites have already implemented it. However, some sites forget to redirect the nonsecure version (HTTP) to the secure version (HTTPS). HTTP and HTTPS appear as two different URLs to Google; thus, if it finds both versions, then both may be indexed and ranked, creating duplicate content.
Another problem with URLs is parameters. Here’s an example of JMU’s donation page:
Notice how the URL is the same except for the “dids” parameter. Google identifies each URL with a unique parameter as a unique page. In this case, JMU is using the dids parameter to determine the program that the donor specifies that the donation is given to. It’s the same page with just the donation recipient changed. Dids 288 is the Future Fund while 188 is Finance and Business Law Department Endowment and 426 is the Wolla Scholarship.
This can become a problem if one of these URLs ranks above all others; it could unfairly skew how donations are received by various recipients. By identifying parameters to exclude in the Google Search Console, this problem can be easily fixed, or even avoided altogether.
Blogs, too, can lead to duplicate content. Take this example from UVA’s Darden School of Business. Darden has 10 blogs — some run by the school, some by professors, and some by students. Sometimes blog posts might be copied and used on multiple blogs on the site because each blog has a unique audience, and a piece of content might resonate with multiple audiences. For example, a piece titled “UVA Darden Strategic CFO Roundtable Tackles Impact of Trump Administration First 100 Days on Business and Society” appearing on the Institute for Business in Society blog at Darden also appears on the news section of the Darden site, creating duplicate content:
In this case, the canonical tag should be used to identify the piece of content that should receive the SEO benefit and be the version ranked by Google.
5. Address page load speed
Page load speed is a ranking factor for Google and has been for many years. One of the more common issues affecting page speed is image size. It’s not uncommon for university websites to have multiple people adding content, including images, to the site. However, not everyone who is uploading images is also optimizing them for the page.
The example above shows two images. The image on the left is only 194 pixels wide. It’s the actual image size of the image file that loads on that page. The image on the right is 783 pixels wide and has a file size of 143K. If the image were resized to fit only the 194 pixels needed, the file size would be reduced by 88 percent.
Taking the extra step to resize images can go a long way to help improve page load time, and it’s something that university marketers often can control. Free online tools like Compressor.io can help you resize images quickly and easily without sacrificing image quality.
Also try Google’s newly revised Test My Mobile Site tool, which tells you how fast your mobile pages are loading and how you compare to others in your industry. Google will even send you a report with specific recommendations on what to fix to improve mobile page load speed.
6. Optimize your linking
Inbound links are typically the most difficult type of link to attain but can hold great value. Unfortunately, when sites are redesigned or degrees or programs are changed or removed, it can create broken links. External links that once pointed to a live page are now broken, and those inbound links are lost for SEO. Or are they?
I recently Read an article about link reclamation — reclaiming your broken inbound links. Link reclamation represents an incredible opportunity for many sites to regain valuable inbound links quickly by just fixing the broken links. What impact can it make? I recently ran a broken links report for Virginia Tech using Ahrefs. While Virginia Tech boasts nearly 8 million inbound links, it also has over 400,000 broken inbound links. By reclaiming its broken backlinks, Virginia Tech could increase its inbound links for SEO by 6 percent.
7. Measure, assess and understand SEO value
SEO requires a lot of effort and addresses many aspects of your site. How do you know if your efforts are resulting in positive outcomes? Analytics is a great place to start. It’s important to measure beyond the page view if you can and examine how organic traffic is responding to calls to action on your site. Set up goals and review how organic traffic meets those goals.
With university sites, it’s not uncommon to find many third-party tools, such as application processing, integrated with the website. In most cases, these third-party tools don’t allow for Google Analytics tracking code to be added to the pages within the tool, such as pages of the online application process.
Consider creating an event goal in Google Analytics to track when a visitor begins the application process and tracking a page view goal for the page the applicant returns to on your own site once the application is submitted. This will allow you to parse how many applicants start the application process and how many finish and even allow you to provide retargeting ads to those that do not initially complete the process.
To improve your online reputation for your business or personal brand has a powerful impact on your overall success. One wrong move and your reputation could be ruined. The best course of action is to take steps to keep your reputation protected before a disaster happens. One of the most powerful tools you can use for a strong online reputation is search engine optimization. Here are 10 SEO principles that could help you maintain a positive online reputation.
1. START WITH WHAT’S OUT THERE
First, start by searching for your business or name using the most common search engines. See what kind of websites, articles, and other links pop up. Review what content is associated with your business or name, and carefully read over everything to see if there are any inaccuracies or negative content. Once you see what could possibly pop up whenever someone searches for your business or brand, you can begin to address any issues that could damage your reputation.
2. CREATE SEARCH ALERTS FOR THE FUTURE
Next, you should also make a plan to address any new content that is added to the internet about you or your business. The easiest and most effective method of keeping up with new content specifically about your brand or your business is to create a search alert. Setting up a search alert through Google can help you keep close tabs on any content that gets written about you or your business. You’ll get all of your alerts sent to you through your email address, so you don’t have to worry about running searches every day.
Setting up a search alert through Google can help.
3. GET YOUR OWN DOMAIN
Another idea that could help keep you ahead of your business and its reputation is to create your own domain. If you have your own business, you probably have one for your company, but it may be a good idea to register additional domain names related to key search terms about you or your organization. With your own registered domain, you’ll be able to control your reputation much more easily.
4. CREATE POSITIVE CONTENT
With your domain and any other related sites you own, you should then take the time to create positive content about you or your business. Positive content doesn’t necessarily have to be articles or links bragging about how great you are; you can simply focus on upbeat content that is relevant to your business or helpful to potential customers. This way, you can build your brand and position yourself as an expert.
Link back to your website.
5. LINK BACK TO YOUR WEBSITE
With your content, you can also try another effective strategy that is rooted in a typical SEO practice, linking back to your website. SEO strategists aim to create shareable content that links back to your homepage. This is another great way you can control the narrative more about your brand or your business.
6. POST NEW UPDATES OFTEN
It’s essential to keep your content fresh and updated so your voice will always be heard above the others on the search engine results list. That means you’ll need to invest some time in posting new content regularly.
7. INTERACT WITH THE ONLINE COMMUNITY
SEO specialists also recommend that businesses interact as much as possible online. Posting to message boards, blogging, responding to inquiries, and more can help you keep the information about your company accurate and positive. You can also mold the public’s opinion about your online identity.
8. PARTNER WITH PROFESSIONALS
Doing all of these specialized tasks related to your personal brand can be time-consuming, so it may also be a smart idea to team up with a professional, such as ReputationDefender, to manage your online presence and develop a strategy to fix things. If you already own and operate a business or have a successful career in your field, it may be challenging to juggle these additional steps.
Social media can also give you more opportunities.
9. USE SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTIVELY
You’ll also need to be more strategic with your use of social media. Staying away from Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites may do more harm than good. You should make sure you post only positive or neutral updates on your accounts and avoid any controversial issues or negativity to keep your reputation pristine. Social media can also give you more opportunities to be more personable with the online community.
10. RESEARCH KEYWORDS
Above all, it’s essential to know what kind of keywords are associated with you or your business. This is one of the guiding principles of effective SEO management, so you’ll need to do some research in this department. Knowing the right terms or phrasing can help you harness the power of the major search engines and redirect it to a more positive light about you or your organization. This is a vital piece of keeping your online reputation strong.
If your online reputation isn’t what it should be, it’s time to take it back and put yourself in a better light again. Try thinking like an SEO specialist to use the power of the search engine to keep your reputation strong or improve it. Tasty Coders can Help you with you Online Reputation Management,
There are more websites than there are people in the United States, by a good margin. The population in the U.S. is around 321 million while the latest web server survey in May 2017 stated that there are about 1.8 billion websites online. That’s a lot of websites out there that you have to compete against — more than there are consumers in the U.S.
The increasing number of websites online has made the website competition “to be found online” even more challenging. In other words, getting visibility online keeps getting tougher as search engines become saturated with websites. Creating a website and hoping for the best is not enough. Smart businesses owners must be on top of the latest SEO and paid advertising trends to beat the competition.
Furthermore, keep mind that your efforts have to be constant. Doing one SEO tweak every blue moon won’t yield results. Fortunately, website CRMs like WordPress make SEO easier to manage with user-friendly platforms and SEO plugins. Here you’ll learn the SEO fundamentals to use for WordPress to jumpstart your efforts. Let’s get started!
What Is SEO and How Does It Work?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It refers to the process and methods to get visibility online from “free” or “organic” search results in search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. As you can see below in my search for “jumpsuits” on Google, I found paid listings — specifically, Google Shopping or PLA ads—and organic listings enclosed in green.
If I were searching for a service, I would have found a similar mix of paid and organic listings, but with a different look. In this case, there are no Google Shopping ads, but Google paid search ads.
The middle listings are locations found in Google Maps; they are also not paid. Getting listed on Google Maps or other local directories would be considered local SEO — still important, but not the primary focus of this article. We’ll mainly focus on SEO strategies for eCommerce retailers.
Factors Affecting SEO
There are on-site and off-site factors that affect SEO. Examples of on-site factors are a website’s content, structure, and speed. Some off-site factors that affect SEO are outside links pointing to the site and its social media following and engagement.
Search engines like Google want to provide the best user experience for the searcher; therefore, it uses these and other factors to rank websites. For example, websites that have an organized structure will have higher rankings than websites that don’t. This is because more organized structures help users find what they are looking for faster, which leads to better user experience — a priority for search engines.
Is It Really Free Traffic?
Another thing to keep in mind is that although organic rankings don’t require payment to Google, they will still end up costing you money. Whether you decide to hire a search marketing agency or do it yourself, advanced SEO efforts such as link building or writing will require additional paid help. Luckily, all the WordPress SEO tips we’ll cover in the next section can be done fairly easily.
WordPress SEO Tips
1. Permalink Structure
A permalink is a URL to a specific post. Instead of having a URL with numbers or dates at the end, such as www.yoursite.com/1234, the recommended permalink structure is to use more user-friendly URLs, like www.yoursite.com/seo-guide. These types of URLs are easier to share and are preferred by search engines.
Using dates, for example, can make posts look outdated (if the date is old), which, in turn, can lead to lower click-through rates. Which URL would you click on: a post with the URL www.yoursite.com/12-5-12 or www.yoursite.com/seo-guide? You’d probably skip the post from 2012 and opt for the one that says SEO guide.
To get the ideal permalink structure on WordPress, simply go to Settings> Permalink and select “Post Name,” as you can see in the image below.
If you haven’t used this structure so far, make sure to redirect old URLs to the new ones to prevent 404 errors. There are online tools and plugins that can make this process easier.
Additionally, you can add the category name before the post’s name. This may be a good idea if your categories and post names are short and descriptive. Otherwise, if your URL is too long, it may get cut off, which is not ideal.
2. Title Tags
Title tags are one of the most important steps in optimizing website pages for WordPress or any other platform. It’s the first snippet of content searchers will read about your page, and it will help differentiate your listing from the rest.
Keep in mind that title tags are meant to encourage the user to click on your listing—they can’t look like a bundle of nonsense keywords. They should contain certain keywords in a manner that is easy to read. It should contain your focus keyword, your brand’s name, and some supporting text to provide the user more information about the page.
Also, note that title tag length varies, according to screen display, so make sure your most important keywords are positioned toward the front. Title tags can help you increase your click through rate or CTR and, in turn, increase your organic ranking; so, the more enticing your title can be, the better.
3. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are located below the listing’s URL. These are the snippets of information that allow the user to get more insight into the page’s content. They can help with click through rates; however, they don’t affect Google’s ranking anymore. In 2009, Google announced that meta descriptions and meta keywords don’t factor in Google’s ranking. Although this news has been out for quite some time now, there are still many people who use meta keywords. Don’t bother wasting your time.
Note that if you don’t use a meta description, it will be automatically generated by the search engine by finding the keyword searched for in your document and automatically choosing information around that. This shows a bolded word or two in the results page. See, below, an example of an automatically generated meta description in red and a manually created description in green:
As you can see, meta descriptions that are created manually look better and are more enticing than automatically created ones.
4. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap shows all the pages in a website and shows relationships of content within the site such as organization, navigation, and labeling. It allows search engines to crawl your site and properly index pages. Having a sitemap won’t help you automatically jump in ranking; however, it will help search engines easily crawl your site and find pages faster. Also, it will allow you to keep track of all your pages to make sure there are no broken links and all redirects are properly in place.
The easiest way to create a sitemap on WordPress is using a plugin such as Yoast or Google XML sitemap generator. Using Yoast, you’ll simply have to enable the XML sitemap functionality. Every time a new page is created, your sitemap will automatically be updated.
5. Image Optimization
Image optimization is often overlooked, but it’s an important component in your SEO efforts for many reasons. To start, your images need to be the right size and dimensions. If the image is too big, the page will take too long to load and cause a bad user experience, which, in turn, results in lower rankings. The file size is measured in KB or MB, and you can think of it as the “weight” of the image. The file’s dimensions are measured in width, height, and pixels.
Regarding image size, full page images should be around 80Kb-100Kb at most. If the image is part of a page, 20Kb-30Kb is fine. Images in full-screen mode can be around 1280px, 1290px, or even wider. Fortunately, when uploading images, WordPress automatically creates three resized images in addition to the original one: large, medium, and thumbnail. Thus, you can select a different size if you need it.
Other useful optimizations are the addition of image alt tags and title tags. Alt tags show when an image is unable to display, and it helps the user know what the image is about. The title tags help search engines know what your images are about to index them properly.
Wrapping It Up
SEO is a must to increase a website’s visibility and stay competitive. Smart business owners must follow best practices to optimize all the various offsite and onsite factors that contribute to a healthy SEO.
Although it is meant to increase “free traffic,” there are advanced SEO techniques that will require some paid help. Allocate a budget for SEO tasks to ensure you’re prepared for any future workload. Putting these SEO fundamentals into practice will help you take your WordPress site to the next level.
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