How to Improve SEO for WordPress

You need to "search engine optimise", so that you have any chance of being found from a search engine

You’ve heard of SEO right?

You probably know that it stands for Search Engine Optimisation.

And, you know that it is important for your website.

But, have you stopped to consider why?

Competition is the answer.

Whilst you have just read these few sentences (less than 1 minute), there have been at least another 3000 new blog posts published on the Internet.

Of course your website or your blog will not be competing with all of these. But it is clear to see that there is likely to be considerable competition in your industry.

That is here SEO comes in.

You need to “search engine optimise”, so that you have any chance of being found from a search engine.

After all, web users make 5 billion Google searches every day.

My Website Audit Tool

In the SEO audit of my Website Audit Tool, there are 8 tests that I run on your website.

Whilst I don’t go so far as to test the keywords you are using, I do test for fundamental features that you should be implementing.

And, the more tests you satisfy, the more you score:

1. Do you have a robots.txt file?

This little file, officially know as the robots exclusion protocol or standard, is a way to communicate to search engines directly.

With this file you can tell search engines i.e. Google, which pages on your website not to index (crawl).

And believe it or not, telling Google not to crawl certain pages, is actually a good thing.

Google has a crawl budget – it implements a crawl rate limit so that it is a good web citizen and doesn’t spend too long crawling too much of your website.

Thus, if you have a website with a lot of pages and posts – some of which are duplicates of each other (only written slightly differently) – it is a good idea to tell Google not to go there.

2. Do you have a sitemap.xml file?

The sitemap.xml file is a description of the structure of your website.

A useful way to consider it is as the opposite of a robots.txt file as it tells Google what you want to be indexed – and if you have duplicate content, which one is the primary.

And that is a major SEO win.

Without Google having to determine the information itself, you can tell it what to crawl and what to index.

The sitemap.xml file also tells Google when content was updated and how all the content links together.

3. Do you have meta descriptions?

Most people have heard of meta descriptions. And it is important to understand what they are and how to get the best value from them.

yoast entry in Google SERP with meta description highlighted

A meta description is the descriptive text that appears under a search result title on Google and it is limited to 160 characters.

Meta descriptions do not improve search engine ranking.

What you decide to put for your meta description will not change how you rank on Google – not by itself.

The optimisation (SEO) that a meta description brings is the ability for you to talk directly to potential website visitors.

Thats the power of a meta description.

It gives you the chance to write something so appealing, that people read it and want to click on your page in the search results.

4. Do you use H1 tags?

H1 tags are HTML that should be used to describe the very first, most important heading on all your web pages.

And, H1s carry significant weight for SEO.

Actually, saying SEO here is a mistake, because it is actually about user experience.

Google will rank you better if it believes people will have a better experience on your website.

And, with H1s, you can improve the experience of your website visitors.

5. Do you use title tags?

Title tags are another part of the HTML of your website that can bring significant gain in SEO. They are the 2nd most significant on-page factor for SEO after content.

The contents of the title tag is the text that appears on the search results page before the meta description (the paragraph of text).

yoast entry in Google SERP with page title highlighted

And, just like meta descriptions (above), they in themselves will not improve your search engine ranking – they’re an opportunity for you to sell your web page to search engine users.

By writing a short and appealing title, you can encourage users to click on your page in the search results.

6. Do you use 60 characters for your title tags?

As I said just now, you need to write a short and appealing title.

The first reason is because Google will not show anything beyond 60 characters – instead it will show an ellipsis (…).

So, if your title is longer than 60 characters, that’s a title less likely to convert.

Secondly, short, punchy titles are much easier for people to read and easier for search engines to crawl.

7. Do you have internal links?

Internal links are simply links that stay within the same website.

And by that I mean the same domain e.g. etalented.co.uk.

By linking together – in an appropriate manner – all of the content on your website, you are not only aiding user navigation, but also strengthen your authoritativeness in your field.

Thus, the user is more likely to spend more time on your website and have a better user experience – that’s a reduced bounce rate!

Plus, search engine bots can more easily crawl and index your website – that’s a better search engine ranking!

8. Do you have external links?

External links are the opposite of internal links – they direct people away from your website i.e. to a different domain.

But, they do have the same power as internal links.

If you provide visitors with quality external links, you will boost your authoritativeness in your field.

These links should provide further value to the visitor. They should be relevant to the subject matter and used in context.

How to score well

1. Create a Robots.txt file

You literally need to create this plain text file at the “root” of your website if do you have it already e.g. etalented.co.uk/robots.txt.

Here is a basic example you can use for your robots.txt file if you are on WordPress:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/
Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php

Google has a great tutorial on how to create the ideal robots.txt file for your needs.

2. Install Yoast

Yoast is an excellent plugin for WordPress that helps you maximise your SEO.

It will enable you to pass these tests:

  1. Create a sitemap.xml file
  2. Use meta descriptions 

Create a sitemap.xml file

Yoast will create your sitemap.xml file automatically for you, if you turn on the right option.

Use meta descriptions

Yoast won’t automatically create your meta descriptions for you, but it will help you.

At the bottom of each post or page, you will find Yoast’s snippet editor where you can sculpt the perfect meta description.

3. Use H1 tags 

On WordPress, your page or post titles will naturally be used for the H1 tag – just be sure that you don’t create any more H1 headings on your page.

Outside of WordPress, you will be placing your title into a tag that looks like this:

<h1>My attention grabbing title</h1>

4. Use title tags

Again, for WordPress, your page or post title will be used automatically for the title tag.

Not on WordPress? You will be writing your title into a tag that looks like this, which should go in between the opening <head> and closing </head> tag:

<title>My attention grabbing title</title>

If you would like to do some advanced SEO, you can create a different title for search engines only.

By default, your page title will be used for your search engine listing.

With Yoast, you can have something different. Often, a shorter title tag looks better…and it takes less time to read.

5. Use 60 characters for your title tag

With Yoast on WordPress, you are given a handy little progress bar in the snippet editor that turns green when you great a title of the ideal length.

6. Use internal and external links 

As I said before, providing both internal and external links is vital for SEO success.

And, it couldn’t be easier if you are using the Yoast plugin.

As you write your content, you will be automatically given suggestions for other content you can link to – amazing!

But, as Neil Patel says, there are 7 commandments you should stick to for internal links:

  1. Create lots of content, so that you always have other content that you can link to
  2. Add the link to natural, unoptimised text
  3. Link to pages deeper than your top-level pages i.e. not your homepage or contact page
  4. Add links that truly match the context of what the user is reading
  5. Link to content that is truly relevant to what the user is reading
  6. Forget about the “nofollow” attribute
  7. Include 20 links or so for every 1500 words you write 

Externally linking is more difficult.

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