Magnify glass and earth icon representing search engine optimization

With WordPress and other new platforms that don’t require knowing a lot of coding, building a website is becoming easier and easier. It’s getting people to visit the site that is challenging. This is where search engine optimization comes in. We’ve listed some of the most important tips for driving traffic to your site: a few may require professional help to implement but most are easily put into action.

1. Follow Google’s Rules

Google has a number of guidelines established to prevent manipulation of its search results. Google frequently updates is algorithms to prevent any kind of unethical or “black hat” techniques from cheating the system. Google’s ideas of best practices changes regularly depending on what people are doing to improve their search results. Some activities that were once rewarded by google can now be detrimental: avoid too many guest blog articles, forum posts, over-use of keywords and inbound links from dodgy sites may have negative impacts on your site’s ranking. It is often good to check online to see what the current status is for SEO.

2.  Search Engine Visibility

screen capture of the search engine visibility boxBe aware of a problem that can easily go under the radar and prevent any traffic from search engines. When developing your site go to the “Reading” page under “Settings” and uncheck the box that says  “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. I have encountered a few WordPress themes where this box is checked by default.

3. Make your site mobile-friendly

Early in 2015 Google revealed that its ranking algorithm would boost rank for mobile-friendly websites. You can make your site responsive which means the layout will adjust to fit the device’s browser or redirecting the site to device-specific versions of the site. If you need to check, Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site passes muster as mobile.

4. Make your website fast loading

According to  KISSmetrics 47% of people expect a web page to load in under 2 seconds so it is important to have your pages load as quickly as possible. Google’s search algorithm takes your page load times as a parameter in calculating page rank so be certain to include it as part of your search engine optimization strategy.

speedometer showing good site speed for SEOHow to make fast loading pages:

– use a good hosting service

– use a good caching plugin. See the top 6 caching plugins

minify HTML, CSS and Javascript

– Minimize the number of HTTP requests

–  Compress your code with GZIP

–  modify your .htaccess file by inserting code which will add expires headers for common static file types.

–  Use Lazy Load for text, videos and images the BJ Lazy Load or and Lazy Load for Videos.

– Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) such as CloudFlare to deliver static files on your site faster by being cached on multiple server locations so your viewer will receive pages from a closer server location.

– compress images; consider WP Smush.

5. It’s all about Content and Keywords for SEO

When planning blogs and articles for your site it is important to think from the perspective of your desired audience. What keywords or key phrases will be searched for? Choosing good keywords is critical in the success of any site. To look for common words and phrases people use to search your niche use tools like Adwords Keyword Planner or one of these alternative keyword tools.

It has become very difficulty to get good Google ranking for competitive keywords so targeting less competitive keywords will help you rank higher in searches. Over time you can build towards ranking for the competitive keywords.

Ultimately you want to provide quality content that people will want to share. People connect to visuals so be sure to use interesting images and videos that will help inspire them to share your posts.

6. The Best Use of Keywords for Search Engine Optimization

Text

Target a specific keyword or phrase on its own page or post. For the text on the page use the keyword several times if possible. The text needs to read naturally though, in simple language that the majority of your readers will easily understand.

Title

By including the targeted keyword in your title people searching those words will immediately see your page has the content they are looking for. Keep the title within 50-60 characters.

Header Tags

Header tags help organize your page contents by prioritizing headings and sub headings. The most important tag is H1, which is usually used for the page title and can only be used once per page. H2, H3, H4 and H6 are sub heading tags. It is useful to include keywords in these tags too.

URL

The URL of each page provides another opportunity to use your keyword. It should be structured like www.example.com/topic-name

Keyword Density

Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword appears on a page in relation to the total number of words. SEO experts suggest aiming for a keyword density of 2% but don’t use your keyword too many times or in ways that seem unnatural because you can be penalized for keyword stuffing. We recommend using your keywords in:

  • the page URL
  • the title tag
  • the main heading (H1 or H2)
  • 3 x in the text

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions provide a short concise description of what is on your page or post. When someone searches on google the results show the page title and meta description. Keep the length under 155 characters otherwise the description will be truncated. Remember that it is often the title and description that is competing against the other sites listed in the search results so well-written titles and meta descriptions can drive more visitors to your site than other sites that are ranked higher than yours.

7. Image Alt Tags 

Take a little time with every image you add to your site to make pages accessible by providing alternative text that describes the the image. This helps people with poor vision understand your page content when they are using a reader. Use keywords when appropriate. Search engines can also read the tags and reward accessible sites with higher rankings.

8. Create good quality inbound and outbound links

Inbound links, also called back links are important in search algorithms because they help determine a site’s popularity. When these links are coming from highly ranked authority sites google sees the page as more credible than pages without quality back links and rewards the page/site with better ranking. Likewise, when you link to highly-regarded sites, Google sees your page as more credible.

Also, be sure to link keywords to related pages internally within your site. A typical tactic is to have a page with a main keyword you wish to boost receive links from other related pages.

Watch out for broken links

Your site can be penalized if it has broken links. There are plugins for WordPress to alert you of broken links or you can find them using Google Webmaster Tools. If you remove a page use the robot.txt to prevent the search engine spiders from indexing the broken links or if you have moved a page use the 301.htaccess to redirect to another page.

9. Frequently update your blog with relevant posts

For search engine optimization Google is all about relevancy. It seeks out fresh and unique information that people will search for. By regularly adding new blog posts with good content Google will reward you with better ranking.

several common social media icons10. Use Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn are all valuable in driving people to your website. People who are actively commenting and sharing on social media are often referred to as “influencers” or “content distributors” and can be quite valuable in bringing traffic to your site.

Be sure to complete the profiles in each of the platforms. Completed profiles help establish credibility.

11. Make a Site Map

A site map is an xml file that lists the pages and posts on your site to tell search engines how your content is organized. Site maps are especially valuable when your site is new and does not have a lot of external links to it. Web crawlers like Googlebot can more easily index your pages when it can easily find links between them. While a site map is no guarantee that your entire site will be indexed, more pages will be included more quickly.

12. Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a very helpful tool that provides site managers with critical tracking information like which sites are sending you traffic, total visits, bounce rates, search terms and demographic information. This information can be invaluable for seeing what is and isn’t working on your site and for developing marketing strategies.

Google Analytics dashboard

The success of a website or blog depends on receiving the right traffic. It requires a little patience and a lot of diligence. Follow our search engine optimization tips and you will succeed in growing your traffic.