Getting your website to appear on page one of Google’s search results for important keywords can be a business game changer, so it’s no surprise that many companies put search engine optimisation (SEO) very high on their agenda.
According to ad network, Chitika, 91.5% of the people who search Google click on a link from page 1 of the search results, a third of them clicking on the top result. And although SEO cannot guarantee you the highest ranking, without it, there is no chance at all that your website or page will appear anywhere near the top results, so it is vital that you optimise to the best of your capabilities.
Luckily, if you use WordPress, you have chosen a platform which makes it much easier to for your site to rank well.
SEO benefits of using WordPress
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, “WordPress takes care of 80% – 90% of the mechanics of SEO” because it is built in such a way that it makes it easy for Google and other search engines to find and index all the content on your website. Only by being indexed can your content be searched for by people. With WordPress, then, you already have an inbuilt advantage over sites created using other platforms.
Whilst this give WordPress sites an advantage, ranking highly in search results is far from easy and there are a lot of factors that search engines take into consideration: site speed, keyword relevancy, site-trust, domain authority, page rank, domain age, content-quality – and many others. Thorough search engine optimisation requires improving all these factors.
How to improve your SEO the easy way
One of the simplest ways that WordPress users can improve their SEO is to install the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast has a range of features which a user with limited SEO understanding can take advantage of.
Search engines like websites to be well structured as they believe organised sites offer a better user experience. A well-structured site has menus, categories and tags that effectively help users navigate the site and has posts and pages that which have names that make it easy to understand what their content is about.
Yoast SEO help is designed to help you to achieve this. Whilst it is up to you to decide which content goes into a particular category or under a menu heading, it organises the way your post and page titles and meta-descriptions are formatted so that they are easier to access and understand.
Yoast SEO also enables you to override settings which can make it look like there is duplicate content on your site (something search engines can penalise you for) and it does this by providing the option to stop certain parts of your website from being indexed by search engines. (The Yoast SEO user guide provides detailed help on how to configure all these settings.)
The importance of Social Media to SEO
One of the factors that search engines take into account when assessing how relevant and trustworthy your site is, is your social media profile. Genuine companies will have active social media accounts through which they interact with their clients and customers. If you have active social media accounts they show search engines that your company can be trusted and this can improve your ranking. Yoast SEO helps here by informing search engines about your social media accounts.
One of the most effective ways to help search engines find their way around your website is to provide them with an XML sitemap. This shows search engines not only every bit of content on your website but also how it is structured and linked together. To do this, you need to create an XML sitemap and upload it to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
Yoast SEO creates your XML sitemap for you so all you have to do is type in the sitemap’s web address into your Google Webmaster Tools account and then Google can easily find all the content on your site. If it can’t find all the content, Webmaster Tools will tell you what the problems are so you can fix the problem. (Note: you will need to create a Webmaster Tools account with Google to do this. It’s free and offers an excellent set of tools to help with keeping your website in line with Google’s best practice.)
A permalink is basically another name for a URL or web address. Search engines like their permalinks to be created in specific ways and Yoast SEO ensures yours are search engine friendly. It also gives you a few other options to make your links cleaner, which can possibly make them rank better.
One of the best features of Yoast SEO is its ability to quality assure the SEO of each page and post you create for publishing on the internet. If you want your content to rank well for a particular keyword or key phrase, Yoast SEO will inform you how successfully you have optimised that page for that keyword. It does this by providing you with a detailed overview of the things you have done successfully and explaining all the other things you need to do to improve.
You can see, from the images below, the depth of analysis that Yoast SEO provides when you create content. To make sure that the page is fully optimised, all the points on the list should be green, not amber or red.
Yoast will help you optimise titles, subheadings and the content. In addition, it helps you optimise your own keyword focused meta-descriptions for each page or post. These meta-descriptions have two functions: they are used by search engines to help understand the content of your post or page and at the same time they are displayed as ‘snippets’ (the short pieces of text you find under page and post titles) in search results.
By writing your own meta-descriptions, you can make the relevancy of the post stand out for the searcher, improving the chances of it being clicked on and read. Yoast SEO will assess the content of your meta-description and let you know whether it contains the right information.
If you don’t write your own meta-description, search engines will just provide searchers with a snippet from the first sentence it finds containing the phrase the user has searched for – which might not always make sense and probably won’t give you an advantage in being clicked on.
From reading this article, you will now have a better understanding of the importance of SEO for helping your website’s posts and pages rank better in search engine results. You should also be aware of how WordPress itself is useful in helping search engines index your site. Most importantly, you should understand how the free Yoast SEO plugin can help you optimise both your website and the content.
For those who install Yoast SEO, you will be pleased to know that it comes with lots of developer support including a complete guide to how to configure all its settings.