Monthly Archives: August 2017
If you’re new to the business of SEO and are just figuring out how to optimize your WordPress site for search, navigating the landscape of SEO can seem like a nightmare.
You’ll have seen a thousand different articles on SEO: on-page optimization tips, off-page optimization tips, SEO basics, email marketing tips, etc. online and implemented them – only to see them fail, or worse, backfire.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. SEO can be tricky, and there is always a huge scope for overdoing or underdoing things. While I can’t fully solve this problem for you, I’ll make an attempt to round up the most commonly faced SEO challenges with WordPress so that you can look into your site and make some amends.
The important thing to understand here is that the same factors can prove to be a boon as well as a challenge when it comes to SEO. The key is to understand your own website intricately and devise plans depending upon what works best for you. Listed below are a few things that are commonly done wrong.
1. Finding the right theme
Ask yourself, how did you choose your WordPress theme while creating your website? Odds are you picked the most visually attractive theme that you thought would appeal to your customers.
Another common mistake people make is picking the most premium or commonly-used themes, as they think these are shortcuts to success. This is where you’re going wrong. Many complicated themes are filled with poor code that slows down your website. And loading time is a small but significant factor that affects your SEO rankings.
So pick a theme that works best for the nature of your website. Minimalist themes can be just as effective as complicated themes. And remember to check how often these themes are updated; you do not want an outdated theme dragging your site down.
2. The plugin game
WordPress plugins can truly be a boon for website SEO. But people tend to overdo it by adding too many of them and as a result, the website becomes heavier and slower to load. In order to improve user experience and your website ranking, it is imperative to pick and install only the right plugins for your website.
Multiple plugins also tend to occupy excessive server resources. Therefore, many managed WordPress hosts do not allow websites that consume too many resources.
3. The sitemap issue
As a basic WordPress website doesn’t give you too many features and controls, you’re bound to install SEO plugins, most of which have the option of sitemaps. You can even create multiple sitemaps by getting additional plugins to allow you further control over your site.
But here’s the problem. Many people forget to submit their sitemaps to Google Search Console. Once you fail to do that, search engines stop recognizing your sitemaps and needless to say, you won’t show up anywhere despite all your customized plugins.
4. Link stuffing gone wrong
Adding links to your site is one of the most important SEO tactics, and can do wonders for your website ranking. Many themes come with pre-set links to help you out. But there are two ways this can go wrong:
- Over stuffing – Nothing overdone is attractive, and adding links is no exception. Adding too many links can distract your user and also turn them off your site. A good rule of thumb to go by is using up to 20 links. This way you’re well within your bounds.
- Stuffing nonsense – The relevance of the content you feed to your customers is more important than you think. Offer original and relevant content that is useful to your customers so that they spend more time on your site, thus improving your rankings.
5. Schema gone wrong
Schema markup is the primary code that allows Google (and other search engines) to understand what your website is about. You showcase your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) so that Google can run it through its algorithms and display your site if it has local relevance. So this is the single most important thing that helps Google understand who you are and what kind of services you provide.
This obviously improves your rankings and visibility. But if you get this wrong, it could work against you, as it confuses Google.
The best way out of this challenge is to gain a deep understanding of how Schema works. Various online resources can help you learn that. For starters, you can check-out the ‘Organization of Schema’ page to look for the list of most common types of schema markup and the ‘Full Hierarchy’ page for the schema types that you will need.
6. Underestimating alt text for images
People often focus all their attention on optimizing text content and miss out visual content, i.e. images. It’s a big blunder. Without fail, make the time to give your images proper names and descriptions. This will go a long way in improving your site’s functionality, accessibility and ranking.
So if you’ve overlooked this, rename all your images now and add proper descriptions. Another shortcut to do this is using the SEO Friendly Images WordPress Plugin.
7. Wrongly done permalinks
Despite the huge amount of information available on permalinks over the internet, it is one of the most difficult things to get right. And your website takes a really big hit by doing this wrong.
So here’s an over-simplified tip for you. The ideal permalink will allow you to include two very basic yet important things: post name and category. It should look something like this: “/%category%/%postname%/“.
What this does is allows search engines as well as your site visitors to clearly understand what your website is about.
8. Ignoring H1 tags
As your webpage grows, you might end up having a lot more duplicate content than is advisable. Even if this doesn’t affect you initially, it will in the long run.
With growing popularity and content, you might feel you have no option but to use the same H1 tags for multiple pages. But this makes search engines alert and eventually averse to your site. So as far as possible, get precise and innovative and provide only unique content for your site.
And don’t even think of employing the age-old technique of overusing keywords in your meta tags. This might have worked in the past, but Google is very smart and now identifies it.
9. The sin of using duplicate content
It’s not an exaggeration when I say it’s a sin to use duplicate content. The problem is that you might be doing this without even knowing that you are.
The most common mistake in this department is over-categorizing and over-tagging: Google identifies content with multiple common tags and flags them as duplicate content. As a rule, a post should typically be in no more than one or two categories, and tagging should be limited only to the most relevant topics covered in the post.
Furthermore, if you find no obvious way in which you can tag a specific post, don’t tag it. Not every post needs tagging.
However, it is easy to tackle this. WordPress offers plugins like All-In-One-SEO or SEO Plugin Yoast to avoid this error. These plugins add ‘No Follow’ tags to pages that help search engines categorize pages appropriately.
10. Forgetting internal links and related posts
Linking one article to other relevant content across your site increases the average time spent by a user on your website, and also acts as a search engine ranking signal. However, adding unrelated links or poor-quality content will do the opposite and put them off.
If you do not wish to use too many internal links, another smart way to go about it is by adding related posts. Get a plugin to pick the right kind of posts to display as related posts to keep your relevance and integrity intact. The best way to do this is getting the right balance between internal links and related posts.
So read this article through again and thoroughly examine your SEO practices to identify how many of these aforementioned things are you getting wrong, and how many you are doing right.
Another factor that significantly affects your user experience is your host. A slow host will increase your loading time and therefore affect users. Keep this in mind while picking your web hosting company.
Your goal should always be to give your visitors rich quality and relevant content, delivered in the right manner and at the right speed. That is the only true way to keep your customers happy and run a thriving website.
What would happen if the whole industry followed Ed Skrein’s lead?
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As a society, we have been conditioned with the age-old saying “Build it and they shall come”.
However, does this hold true for the digital world and your website? And more specifically, what about Google?
In most organizations, organic search optimization becomes a layer that is applied after the fact. After the brand teams, product owners and tech teams have decided what a website’s architecture should be.
However, what if I were to tell you that if search were a primary driver in your site’s architecture you could see a 200%+ performance gain out of your organic channel (and paid quality scores if you drive paid to organic pages), along with meeting brand guidelines and tech requirements?
The top 5 benefits of architecture driven by organic search
- Match Google relevancy signals with audience segmentation and user demand
- Categorization of topical & thematic content silos
- A defined taxonomy and targeted URL naming schemes
- Ability to scale content as you move up funnel
- A logical user experience that both your audience and Google can understand
When search strategy is aligned with your architecture you gain important relevancy signals that Google needs to understand your website.
You position yourself to acquire volume and market share that you would otherwise lose out on. In addition, you will be poised for organic site links within Google, answer box results and local map pack acquisition.
Imagine opening a 1,000-page hardcover book and looking for the table of contents, only to find it is either missing completely or reads with zero logic. As a user, how would you feel? Would you know what the chapters are about? Get a sense of what the book is about?
If you want Google to understand what your website is about and how it is put together, then make sure and communicate it properly – which is the first step for proper site architecture.
Let us pick on a few common, simplistic examples:
/about-us (About who?)
/contact-us (Contact who?)
/products/ (What kind of products?)
/articles (Articles about what?)
/categories (Category about what?)
And my very favorite…
/blog (Blog? What is that about? Could be anything in the world)
These sub-directories within the infrastructure of your website are key components – they are the “chapter names” in your book. Naming something “articles” lacks the relevancy and key signals to describe what your chapter is about.
The upper level sub-directories are known as parent level pages, which means any pages underneath them are child level pages. As you build and scale child level pages, it should be categorized under the proper parent level page. This allows all of the related content of the children pages to “roll up” and become relevant for the parent level page.
Google thrives on this sort of organization, as it provides a good user experience for their users, as well as communicating systematically what the pages are supposed to be about and how they are related to each other.
Example of a proper architecture
As you can see from this example, the relevancy of the two category levels (business plan template & how to write a business plan) all have relevancy that rolls up to the term business plans.
Then as you drill down one level deeper, you can see that you would isolate and build pages that are for business plan outline and business plan samples. These both roll up to the business plan template category.
Through proper keyword targeting and research you would locate the primary keyword driver that matches the page intent and high volume for the URL naming conventions. This communicates to Google what the page will be about as well as matching high customer demand from a search perspective.
Most brand or product teams create and name a structure based on internal reasons, or no particular reason at all. So rather than applying search filters after the fact and trying to retrofit, do the research and understand the volume drivers – then apply them to the architectural plan. You will have significant gains in your rankings and share of voice.
With a structure like this, every page has a home and a purpose. This architecture not only is designed for “current state” but also will scale easily for “future state”. It becomes very easy to add child categories under the primary silo category thus allowing you to scale easily and move up funnel to capture new market share and volume.
How does user experience (UX) play a role in architecture?
A common crossroads we encounter is the UX as it relates to search, content marketing and architecture. UX typically wants minimal content, limited navigational options and a controlled user journey.
However, keep in mind that a UX journey is considered from one point of entry (typically the home page), while search if done properly – every page becomes a point of entry. So we need to solve for both.
The good news is that pure architecture structure and URL naming schemes is and can be completely different than the UX. Build the architecture the proper way and you can still apply any UX as an overlay.
Where the primary differences come in is between UX and navigation. Here again, UX typically wants to limit the choices and control the journey, which means that the navigation is reduced and not all architectural levels are available and visible.
The challenge here is that you want Google to rank you number one in the world for all of these pages; however, you are also telling Google they are not important enough to you to even be in your navigation.
A rule of thumb I learned almost 20 years ago is to make sure every page can stand on its own. A user should never have to go “back” in order to go forward. So make sure your navigation and categorical pages are available from every page, especially knowing for organic search, a user will enter your site and the journey at every level.
Now does this mean abandoning UX? No. You can still control the journey through your primary CTAs and imagery, without sacrificing navigation or architecture.