August 10, 2020

Optimizing WordPress Content for SEO

WordPress supports everything you need to build a website that ranks well on search engines: The WordPress code is properly written for maximum SEO efficiency. Themes are responsive and fast loading. The structure of WordPress websites are designed with both user interaction and search engine indexing in mind.

But making sure you have a sound technical foundation is only part of the equation. Your next step is to figure out what kind of content you need to create and how to best go about it.

In this guide, we’ll go over the steps needed to make sure your website’s blog has the best chance of success—both in terms of engagement and in search rankings.  Here’s how you go about optimizing WordPress content for SEO.

Research

Choosing topics for your blog posts is overwhelming. Writing content involves a lot of trial and error and guesswork. This is where keyword research comes in: The best way to write content that users want to read is by knowing what they’re searching for to begin with.

Keyword research involves using an online tool that can tell you what users are searching for on search engines. A few of the more popular ones are:

Using any one of these specific tools is beyond the scope of this guide, but we’ll cover the fundamental principles so that you can apply them to the tool of your choice.

Keywords

chart showing keyword research numbers

To do good keyword research, you need to understand the distinction between long-tail and short-tail keywords.

Short-tail keywords are short and simple search queries of usually two or two words max. Think “restaurants,” or “buy shoes online.”

Long-tail keywords are much longer and much more specific. Take the following query for example: “How to grill a strip steak on charcoal.”

Generally speaking, you want to be targeting long-tail keywords. This is because short tail keywords are more catch-all words and phrases and, as such, the search rankings are occupied by massive corporations, so the competition is fierce.

Long-tail keywords have much less competition. Depending on the type of content you want to write, you can build an entire content strategy around long-tail keywords and niche blog posts.

Finally, when choosing keywords for your content, you need to consider the person’s search intent. Ask yourself what the people writing this query are searching for. Are they looking to buy a product? Read a tutorial? Be entertained? Answering this question will keep your content focused and relevant, which means higher rankings.

Writing Your Posts

Writing is a chore and good writing is hard work. Some businesses or individuals will write their content themselves. Others opt for hiring a freelancer or agency to write content for them. Regardless of the route you take, here are a few good tips to remember when publishing on the internet:

Be concise. People online generally have a much lower attention span. Don’t bog them down with run-on sentences and walls of text. Punchier sentences in smaller paragraphs help to keep users engaged.

Use images to give your readers a break. Images help to break up the monotony of reading. Use relevant photos in your posts to give your readers a breather and keep them engaged with your content.

Read what you’ve written out loud. This can give you a good idea of what your readers will hear inside their heads when they read your post for the first time. This can help you identify parts of your writing that doesn’t flow well.

Provide value. Whether you’re providing your readers with knowledge, inspiration, or simply entertainment, always seek to provide value to your readers.

Give careful attention to your headers and especially your title and meta tags. The latter two are what’s displayed on search results, so this could be the only chance you get to entice a user to visit.

Site Structure

Now that you have masterfully crafted content focused on long-tail keywords, you need to start thinking about how your WordPress website is organised. The purpose is twofold: First, it makes it easier for visitors to navigate your website and find what they’re looking for thus providing a better user experience. And it also makes your website more accessible to crawlers—automated bots that crawl your website and indexes everything on it. Both result in better search rankings.

Use Permalinks

permalink options in WordPress

By default, every page in WordPress has a randomly generated website address. It’s not your biggest concern, but it could impact how relevant your content is perceived to be, both by users and search engines.

To change this setting, visit Settings > Permalinks. The recommendation is to use a website address that reflects the content of the page. The Post Name option works for this. If you want to include your categories in your website address, you can select Custom Structure and add:

/%category%/%postname%/

Note: Only change this setting on new WordPress websites. Changing it on websites that are already established will restructure their content and might result in negative impact on search rankings.

Use Internal Contextual Links

A contextual link is one that’s inline with the text, such as a link to Google. As you might have guessed, internal contextual links are inline links that link relevant posts and pages together on your website.

This creates a network of pages that can keep your readers following their curiosity and staying engaged with your content. It also has an impact on SEO, as search engines can use this information to help determine a site’s structure and relevance.

Navigation

Bad navigation can cost you visitors. A website’s menu shouldn’t have a learning curve. Readers want a simple way to get from your homepage to the content they’re interested in and then back again.

Your main menu should link from your homepage to all of your main pages or categories. If you WordPress website is a blog, your menu should be your categories. If you sell products, it should link to your product categories.

For more granular navigation between your pages, consider adding breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs show a user where they are in terms of the hierarchy of your content categories. It gives them the ability to quickly jump between areas. Breadcrumbs can also give you a SEO boost.

Categories and Tags

As mentioned, keeping your categories organised in the simplest way possible is good for many reasons. But there are also sub-categories for when one or more of your categories becomes too bloated.

Like with categories, sub-categories should err on the side of simplicity. Find a way to organise the content in your main category into only a few sub-categories.
Tags, on the other hand, are used differently than categories. While categories can have an impact on your SEO, tags won’t change it much. But they’re a great way to tell your readers what your content is about. Don’t overdo them though—the idea is to loosely group content together that doesn’t fit into the same category, giving visitors another method of navigating your website.

Final Words

This guide, while thorough, isn’t comprehensive. There are numerous factors and variables that determine how successful you’ll rank on Google and other search engines. At WPAssist, we provide a WordPress website audit service that will identify underlying technical issues that have serious impacts on your SEO. If you’re serious about the longevity of your site, consider enlisting a WordPress management service to take your WordPress website to the next level.

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