Search Engine Optimisation and Your WordPress Website

Hello and welcome to article in this easy-to-understand (hopefully) series of articles on blogging for beginners all about your WordPress website and Search Engine Optimisation. Please note that you can also find this series of articles on blogging for beginners as a Kindle eBook. I personally think that if you are looking for help to learn how to blog, then downloading the ebook will make your life a lot easier. It’s also incredibly cheap (or maybe even free if you happen to find it on a promo day!) so click on the image below.

Now, I don’t want to go into too much detail concerning Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) because, quite frankly, you can find tons of information all over the internet. However, I think that most of it is written by SEO experts for SEO experts. I have no proof but I reckon 99% of people who read that stuff don’t understand most of it.

Which is why I think it’s worth giving you an overview of what SEO is all about. Now don’t worry! I promise you I’m not going to make this complicated. In fact, I am going to keep this so simple that even my mum would understand it.

Types of Search Engine Optimisation

There are two types of SEO. One is called ‘on-page SEO’ and the other is called ‘off-page SEO’. While both are important, I’m going to concentrate primarily on on-page SEO for two reasons. Firstly, it’s fairly easy to understand and secondly, it’s much more closely related to what this article is about, which is having a content strategy that will get lots of visitors to your site.

Having said that, I am not going to completely ignore off-page SEO. Later in this article series, we will look at things like getting backlinks*, which is one method that website owners use to improve their site’s ranking. However, let’s not get off-track by going into too much detail about off-page SEO. Let’s stick to the task in hand.

On-Page Search Engine Optimisation 

For on-page SEO, we’re going to do is look at all the different elements of a good blog post. If you include all of the following strategies before, during or after you have finished your post, you will have a strong piece of content that Google, and other search engines, should love.

I would strongly recommend you take your time reading through this section and try to understand as much as you can. Having said that, the best way to really understand on-page SEO is to put what you learn here into practise when you write your next blog post.

Also, at the end of this section, there is a link to a WordPress plugin you can instal which simplifies the whole process. However, understanding why you have to do something will give you a better understanding of the process. The plugin is great but it is NOT a substitute for understanding how to write great content.

Using Keywords or Keyphrases 

A keyphrase (aka keyword) is a word or set of words that you want search engines to rank your post for. For example, if you’re writing a post about what type of dog food is the healthiest, then your keyphrase would be ‘healthy dog food’. If your post is about how to bake cakes without butter, then your keyphrase might be ‘butter-free cakes’.

Search Engine Optimisation

There is one thing that is important to know before you begin your content strategy because it will guide what you write. Each post must have a different keyphrase. This is because Google will try to rank each post on your website on a set of predetermined factors, one of them being the keyphrase. If you use one keyphrase for two different blog posts, then Google will be confused about which post to rank, which may lead to neither being ranked.

The Right Length for Your Keyphrase

Finally, don’t go too crazy with the number of words in the keyphrase. You want your keyphrase and the phrase people are typing into Google’s search box to match. If you choose a keyphrase that’s 10 words long, there is going to be little chance that whatever people are searching will be the same. Four words should be more than enough. 

Of course, there is a little more to keywords than the three paragraphs or so that I’ve written above. In fact, there have probably been millions of words written about keyword research, so it’s fair to say there is a lot more to keyphrases than what I have written. 

However, as I’m trying to keep this simple, the above is enough to get you started. As you become more proficient, you can google “how to do awesome keyword research” and learn more about the ins and outs of this somewhat complex area of SEO.

Using Keywords or Phrases in Titles

Once you have decided what the keyphrase for your article will be, you need to make sure it is in the title. For example, this article is about Search Engine Optimisation. And as Search Engine Optimisation is the keyphrase for this post, it is also in the title. 

Also, notice that my keyphrase is at the beginning of the title. Make sure that you put it at the beginning if you can. However, don’t make the title sound unnatural or wrong; that will put people off clicking your title, which will mean you won’t have as many people reading your post as you would like. 

While we’re on the subject of titles, try not to make your title too long. It should be between 50 and 60 characters. Getting your headline the right length on a regular basis may take a little practice but persevere; the more you practise the easier it gets.

Using Keywords or Phrases in Slugs

Your keyword or phrase should not only be in your title; it should also be in your slug. A slug is what you see in the address bar of your browser. For example, you may have a blog to help you promote your plumbing business. And one of your blog posts could be “Avoiding Blocked Pipes in Winter – How to Keep Your Water Flowing”. 

Search Engine Optimisation

So, thinking about the slug again, the slug for the above post would be the name of your website and the name of the post. It might look something like the link below, with the keyphrase being “avoiding blocked pipes in winter”: ‘https: / /’.

As you can see, I have managed to include the keyphrase in the title and the slug, the keyphrase is at the beginning of the title, and the title is a good length. All in all, a job well done, even though I do say so myself.

Add Your Keyphrase in Your Introductions

This is pretty obvious so I’ll apologise now if you think I am teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, but you can always be sure that no matter how obvious things seem, someone will not know it. I’m sure that’s how my maths teacher used to feel about me whenever he was trying to teach me pretty much anything involving numbers.

Google wants you to put the keyphrase in the first paragraph of your blog post. This isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good for your writing technique as well. Your keyphrase is what your blog post is all about and if you don’t put it in the first paragraph, you’ll not just confuse Google, you may also confuse your visitors.

Repeat Your Keyphrase in Your Post

The number of times your keyword or keyphrase is repeated is called Keyword Density. Now, in the good old days, google loved keywords so everyone repeated the keyword loads of times in each post. The problem was that there was no real content in the post; it was just all about the keyword.

These days, you need to be a lot more careful. However, if you’re just starting out or don’t have much experience writing content, the problem you will have is not putting the keyword in your post enough times. 

The rule of thumb is to repeat the keyphrase enough times that Google can work out what your article is about but not so many times that Google thinks you’re spamming your post with keywords or phrases. I aim for about 5 keywords or phrases per 1000 words.

Include Keywords in Your Subheadings

Adding lots of subheadings in your post breaks up the text making it easier to read. As a general rule, I would go for a subheading every 150 to 200 words. In other words, you want around six subheadings in a post of 1000 words.

You also need to try and add your keyword or keyphrase in your subheadings. This can be quite difficult but if possible, you want to have around 25% of your subheadings with your keyword in them. Personally, I don’t worry about subheadings too much but if you can add a few keywords in them, go for it.

Add Outbound Links to Your Post

One of the biggest problems when working out what is good for your blog post, and therefore your website, is what Google wants. This is even more of a concern because Google often doesn’t make it clear what is good for your site and what isn’t so good. Outbound links, which are links to other websites you put into your post, are one such problem.

In the old days, Google was happy if you put lots of outbound links in your post. That is definitely not the case any longer. However, how many outbound links are good is still a little up in the air. 

Generally, what I do is add links that add value to your posts. For example, this is a blog post about outbound links. If I wanted to send you to another site with a lot more information about outbound links.

Google would know this post is about Search Engine Optimisation and Google knows outbound links are part of Search Engine Optimisation so a link to another post about outbound links would make Google happy. 

Also, make the link open up in a new tab. In WordPress, this means that it’s automatically made a ‘no follow’ link, so Google doesn’t think I’m trying to spam my post with lots of outbound links. Plus, if your outbound links open in a new tab, your visitors stay on your site for longer, which is also good for SEO.

Internal Links Are Great for SEO

Internal links are really important. Not just for Search Engine Optimisation but also for what Google thinks of your site in another way. I want to talk about the other way another time so we’re just going to concentrate on the Search Engine Optimisation aspect of internal links here.

There are two types of internal links you need to remember here. The first type, which is the one most people concentrate on is including a link to a previous post in the post you are writing at that moment. 

Search Engine Optimisation

For example, you’re writing a post about affiliate marketing and you include a small section about using Social Media Marketing to get better results. You don’t want to write a lot about Social Media Marketing because it will mean you are going off-topic. So all you do is add an internal link to another post about Social Media Marketing you have already written.

The problem is that you may not have written that post yet. Don’t worry as this happens to me all the time. Just write a sentence that you’re going to write a post all about Social Media Marketing in the future. Then, when you write that post, go back and add the link in the previous post. Simple!

In-Post Internal Linking

The other type of internal link is an in-post internal link. Again, I want you to remember I’m trying to keep this simple so the easiest way to do this is to add a table of contents to each post. Google “WordPress plugins table of contents posts” and you’ll get lots of options to choose from. 

Of course, you don’t want to do this if your blog post is short as it just looks a bit silly. In this case, choose a plugin that allows you to turn on and off for individual posts. And if you don’t use WordPress, google how to write internal links in HTML and follow the instructions. It’s fairly easy. I know because I can do it!

J. Keyphrases in the Meta Description

The meta description is the text that you see when you are searching for information using search engines such as Google or Bing. It’s the bit of text that is underneath the name of the article in your search results. When you’re writing your meta description, ensure that you include your keyword or keyphrase. The good news is that it doesn’t matter where you put it so you can make your description sound nice and natural. 

By the way, the point of the meta description is to persuade people to click on your article link. Try and make it sound persuasive. I’m sure you have read good meta descriptions, maybe even if you didn’t realise. Spend some time looking at meta descriptions to get an idea of what you should try and aim for.

Finally, make sure you get the length of the meta description correct. You have a fair amount of space to use so use it well and wisely. I always try and aim for around 160 characters, including spaces, of course. Don’t write more than that otherwise important information might be lost. Plus, it doesn’t look very good.

K. Adding Keywords as Image Alt Attributes

Image alt attributes are important. If you have ever visited a website and for some reason, the images didn’t load, you may have read some text which replaced the image. You can use this to add your keywords or phrases in a few more places. Google loves this but you shouldn’t go crazy or it will think you are trying to game the system.

Search Engine Optimisation

If I write an article of around 1200 words, I will normally add about four or five images. I will then add keywords or phrases to two or three of those images. With the other images, I just put in a few words describing what the image is. Don’t spend too much time on this; it should only take a few seconds at most.

L. What Is a Good Blog Post Length

Finally, a few words on text length. Things have changed a bit over the years. It used to be that 300 or 400 words were enough for Google to rank your post. However, Google decided that this was not long enough to get across any useful information. Now, you need to write a lot more than that.

Apparently, Google wants blog posts of 2000 words or so. Personally, I hate writing 2000-word posts because I just think they’re too long and boring, So, I make most of my posts between 1000 and 1200 words. It might not work quite as well, although I am not convinced about that.

M. Write Good Content

And my final bit of advice for this chapter is to avoid writing rubbish. If you have the choice of writing 500 words of great content or 1000 words of which 500 words are just nonsense, then go for 500 words of great content. Don’t waffle just to hit some kind of target. You’ll lose visitors quicker than something that loses visitors very quickly.

And there you have it. A short but hopefully useful overview of everything you need to know about SEO. If you remember, I promised you a link to a plugin that will help you remember to do all of the above. However, it’s easier to just head over to your plugins page in WordPress, select add new, and then search for Yoast. That’s the #1 WP plugin for SEO and I have used it for years. Or just click this link.

Wrapping Everything Up

And there you have it. A long article, I know. However, I think it was well worth it if you made it all the way through. Next, we’re going to look at planning your content creation.

Michael Williams

Blogger, writer, teacher and an all-round good egg.

View all posts by Michael Williams →

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