Getting eyeballs to your content matters more than ever, no matter what business you’re in.
Content farms. The Panda Penalty. Pogosticking. Fred (yes, Fred!).
No, these aren’t the names of new series streamed on Hulu, but just a sample of the dizzying array of nomenclature in the high-stakes world of search engine optimization (SEO). Do too little SEO, and your WordPress web page will get buried by bad page-rank. Do too much, and your site might get penalized as spam and possibly de-indexed.
But like any art form, SEO can create magical results. Here are five tips to help you navigate the fascinating, bewildering realm of SEO for WordPress.
1. Think Like a Googler
We are, by coming up with a list of five items in this high-quality blog post. Hopefully, you’ll read all five of our incredible suggestions, which means you’ll remain on our page for an extended amount of time, which is the opposite of pogosticking. Pogosticking, a user jumping from a site very quickly, can hurt your page rank. If your “bounce rate” is too high, Google will think your site has nothing to offer.
According to a 2017 study by SEMRush, time spent on page and number of page views are two of the most critical metrics Google uses to rank a website. To grab a user’s attention, you must provide thoughtful content, and to Google, that means longer posts of over 1,000 words. So filling your website with 25-word snippets of keywords won’t help you much. The difference in word count between a top-3 site and the 20th-ranked site is about 45%.
The Google metric here is known as “dwell time”, and most SEO pros think it’s very, very critical. Google knows when you spend 5 seconds on a site, and when you stay for 4 minutes and 21 seconds.
The bottom line is that Google doesn’t disclose how it ranks web pages, but it does admit to having a “rigorous process” that does factor in the freshness of content.
2. Out with the Old!
So it seems as if updating the content on your website matters a great deal. The question then becomes, update it how? With what?
Google is looking for websites that provide an authentic user experience, meaning hiring an AI specialist to churn out machine-created blog posts won’t cut it. There are many such “content farms” advertising their services, but Google has long waged war against them, through the Panda program, the source of the infamous “Panda penalty” that rooted out about 12% of all U.S. sites as being useless shams.
Nor will Google be impressed by content that is replete with internal links, a kind of self-referential form of advertising that Google will consider low-quality. You can’t provide content that is intended solely for Google’s algorithms, but you should instead think about what information your users need. What will bring added value to their life? Google rewards blog posts that are well-researched, and so take the time to authenticate your content. And maintain a schedule of regular updates.
3. Always Be Optimizing
Your content needs to be original and organic, but your website has to be lightning-fast, too. Loading time matters when it comes to SEO. WordPress is a tremendous resource, but if you don’t design your web page properly, the performance can suffer, which in turn can negatively impact SERP.
Images that are improperly formatted can make your page load slowly while having too many as content can sink your Google rank. So you have to walk a fine here, and on WordPress, tagging images properly can definitely influence your SEO. Plugins like Yoast can help with various SEO issues, but depending the amount of traffic you get, you might want to think about going with a professional web designer if you want to max-out SEO.
The same goes for coding. Getting your keyword into your URL can help boost your SEO, and the same applies to subheaders as well. But if your WP permalink is older than six months, you should be careful about changing it for keyword optimization, because you’ll lose your social media share and undercut your existing rank too drastically.
If you’re using a free hosting platform, you might want to consider an alternative for increased page-loading speed. WPEngine, FlyWheel and Liquid Web are three of the more highly rated managed-hosting environments, with plans that start at $15 per month.
4. Get AMPed
In 2015, Google launched what became known as “Mobilgeddon”, which represented a major change to how the company ranked web pages. Before, only desktop pages were ranked, but now Google uses what it calls “mobile-first indexing,” meaning that the mobile version figures predominantly in a page’s rank.
The reason? Most of Google’s search traffic is done on a mobile device. The result? Companies need to get AMPed. Google has rolled out what it calls Accelerated Mobile Pages, a platform webmasters can use to help facilitate mobile-first indexing. If you haven’t made this transition, you’ll need to if you want to get serious about SEO. Often the desktop version of your website doesn’t translate easily onto a mobile device, and basically, AMP is a stripped-down version of HTML. Some WP page builders can handle this, but most can’t.
5. It Takes a Village
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the beginning, there were links, and now, despite all the changes that have rocked the web, SEO still comes down to…links. The gold standard was, is, and will always be external links, the simple act of connection when someone decides to link their page with yours.
With Google now using artificial intelligence, called RankBrain to evaluate the quality of web pages, it’s crucial that you keep up the old-school virtues of building relationships. RankBrain cuts through the clutter of the web with more precision than any human-made algorithm because AI writes its own algorithms. This could be scary, but it’s really an opportunity to remain authentic.
So it’s back to building and maintaining relationships with bloggers. It’s allowing for comments on your page so you can interact with your users. It’s investing in your content to ensure high-quality marketing that feels organic because it is. It’s using social media to do more than promote yourself.
The reason that Google has always treasured external links has to do with the linear algebra that Larry and Sergey used to build the company, but also because external links aren’t easily manipulated. Between phishing, splogging, finstas, and sockpuppets, the web can seem very fake. Google even tasked Fred with the job of hunting down sites that were too aggressively monetized.
Optimizing search then relies on optimizing your own capacity for growth and exploration, which can take many forms. It could be a new technological approach or a new way of seeing how your company interacts with the world.
Want more SEO tips? Reach out to the team at Reliable PSD today!