Chances are that if you run your own website– especially for a small business where web traffic is essential to success– you’ve heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. To the uninitiated it may sound cryptic, however, it’s really fairly straightforward. SEO is all about optimizing your website so that when a search engine (like Google, Yahoo, or Bing) searches for keywords or key phrases that relate to your site, it displays your site earlier in the results, increasing your chance that a casual internet browser will navigate to it. After all, the internet is all about efficiency, convenience, and speed. No matter how good your product or site really is, the sites that are displayed first will almost always have more traffic. That, for better or for worse, is just how human values on the internet tend to work. Keeping this in mind, let’s discuss how your WordPress site can be optimized.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume you’re targeting Google as your search engine of choice. After all, Google accounts for 64.5% of searches online, and nearly all searches made by denizens of the web under the age of 35. At a conceptual level the process of optimizing your site is similar for each search engine; however, there are some key differences that would require another article to cover. So, for now– Google.
Your first step is determining what your current presence is online. For instance, if your site is new, you can pretty well assume it hasn’t gotten much (if any) traffic yet. This will make it difficult to optimize based on experimental data, but does give you the freedom to customize your content to SEO specifications. On the other hand, if your site has been up for a while, or you have data (like online sales, comments, plugins measuring web traffic, etc.) suggesting that you do have visitors to your site, you can move on to step four, detailed later.
If you’re starting a website on WordPress, and want to do SEO from the get-go, our company highly recommends the plugin Yoast SEO— which does most of the work for you, and allows you to easily edit important site data that may be otherwise difficult to alter for a non-coder. However, as they have their own tutorials, we’ll move on to what you should do outside of Yoast.
Your second step is to figure out what keywords you want to capitalize on– in SEO, keywords are, as they say, key. The best tool for this is from Google itself, using their Trends service. Using this you can plug in a keyword/phrase that you know relates to the site– let’s say “bananas”– and see related keywords and topics to that search. While some of the common searches that come up may be useless to you, such as “can bananas get you high” and “married with bananas”, others may show you what types of bananas, in what form may interest people, and the tool even lets you narrow your gaze by state, province, or region.
After you’ve determined what keywords interest people in your targeted region, you can begin adding them to your site’s content. This can be done in several ways. The first and most obvious is simply using them within the text of the page itself, though this should be done carefully to preserve the original intended message of the textual content. The second is to add it to the alternate text of the images embedded into your page, something easily done on wordpress through the media library. The third and potentially most useful way is to add it to your site’s title and snippet– the text that appears when it’s displayed in the search results on Google. This is where a service like Yoast becomes useful, giving you a simple UI that allows you to edit this as if it were simply another section of the page. The reason this is incredibly useful is not only because it will cause the site to appear higher in the search results, but also because searchers will see the snippet, with those keywords bolded (provided that’s what they searched for), and be enticed towards the site that appears more relevant to what they want.
Your fourth step is somewhat more complex, but fortunately, Google will hold your hand through the entire process. Using a tool from Google called the Google Search Console, you can have google’s sitecrawling robots track your site’s data, giving you information on not only how much traffic the site is getting, but what actual search terms were used to direct users to your site. This can show you in clearer terms what’s working and what isn’t in terms of SEO. However, in order to do this, you must either add specific HTML tags (created by the GSC) to your webpage to register your ownership of the site in Google’s eyes, or have Yoast do that for you. There are several other ways of registering your ownership, but they’re all equally if not more complicated than adding an HTML tag, so we personally recommend Yoast. That way, all you’ll need to do is log in to your chosen google account and click a few buttons in the Yoast UI, and you’ll be squared away.
At this point, after your google search console is set up, you should probably wait a few days to a week before checking on it again, leaving the site as-is during that time. That gives the GSC time to measure your site data and give you useful results. Once you have that search data, you can return to step three, and incorporate it as best as possible without damaging the integrity of the site. However, if you find that your site isn’t getting any traffic at all, your best bet is social media and business indexes (like Yelp) to get the initial interest off the ground. With proper SEO and a little starting interest, the increased web traffic will get your website listed higher and higher, starting a positive feedback loop that will boost your online presence through the roof!