Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been an interest of mine for many years, and it should be when developing and building websites. When I create websites, I make sure that my clients have the means to produce an excellent SEO strategy for every page and post. Let’s learn a few dos and don’ts of do it yourself SEO for your website.
There are many websites with very well known authors out there who have spent time and money exploring the ins and outs of SEO. Much of what I have read has excellent information, albeit it’s easy to get lost in a sea of confusion if you are new to writing blog posts and selling products. My job, as a web designer is to teach what I know in ways that are easy to remember.
Are you wondering why your website may not be getting the traction it needs in Google? I hope that I can shed some light on some simple things you can do, or should not do, to help optimize your website for search engines.
Experts suggest that a third-party plugin can handle any theme for independent functionality on a WordPress site.
DO: Always use a plugin to manage the SEO of your WordPress website.
WordPress offers many SEO plugins. Most SEO plugins can help you administer basic optimization tricks that you don’t require an expert. Even a novice website owner can use these plugins to reap the benefits. For instance, the Yoast SEO plugin provides a box below the WordPress editor to help you perfect each post. It analyzes the post and shows you how to make the post more readable. It lets you set a “focus phrase.” According to Yoast’s website, “the focus keyphrase is the search term that you most want your page to rank for, so when people search for that keyword or phrase, they should find you.” Yoast SEO also has a premium package that builds more into the focus phrase and other functions.
DON’T: Rely on the theme to be sufficient for overall site optimization.
When switching to a new theme or revamping your website layout, you should always prioritize on elements such as meta tags and title tags. If the SEO functionality is built into the WordPress theme by default, implementing a new theme with the same SEO elements would be impossible.
Let me explain. Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content. Meta tags do not appear on the public view of the page itself, but only in the page’s code. A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages (also known as SERPs) as the clickable headline for a given result and are important for usability, SEO, and social sharing.
Okay, what the heck is Taxonomy? 😕 I pulled this definition off of Webopedia.
Taxonomy is the science of categorization, or classification, of things based on a predetermined system. In reference to websites and portals, a site’s taxonomy is the way it organizes its data into categories and subcategories, which can sometimes be displayed in a sitemap.
DO: Use appropriate taxonomy terms with descriptions
By using categories, subcategories, & tags, you organize your site so that both the reader and search engines can navigate easily through your website.
Readers navigate differently than search engines. People click on topics that they find interesting and then move on to another topic. Your readers are random in comparison to search engines. Taxonomy allows you to connect people with their interests and likes.
Search engines, on the other hand, need structure to be effective and efficient. Search engines crawl the web and websites just like humans do but do so through links and structure. The more optimal your structure (both internally and externally), the more efficiently and effectively the search engines will be at finding, indexing, and ranking your content.
Your SEO plugin should ask you what you want to index, posts, pages, archives, slides, etc. You can choose to index all, but if you do, do everything possible to enhance them.
DON’T: Go tag crazy!
It is possible to go tag crazy. Don’t do it. It’s cluttered and in most cases, redundant. I’ve seen people use tags like they do categories. For instance, you’ve created a category, “Recipes,” but then you create a tag, “recipes.” This redundancy trips up the search engines and marks the post as a duplicate. Another example of redundancy is making tags to include the author’s name. The article already has the author’s name, and your SEO plugin should allow for search engines to crawl all authors on your website. Therefore, it’s not necessary to tag your name.
Ideally, a good rule of thumb is to maintain between 5 to 7 categories per website and up to 3 tags for each post. It is a common-sense measure because too many categories imply that your page covers too many topics and many tags imply that your posts don’t have focus.
DO: Write Short Page and Post Titles
Your page and post titles are critical, not only for SEO but also to grab your reader’s attention. If your SEO plugin is one like Yoast SEO, you can create two titles…one for your readers and one for search engines.
When writing your post/page, you are given a field to input a title. Once published, this title is what I call the public title and is surrounded by
</h1> HTML tags. When Google crawls your website, it looks specifically for
<h1> heading and
<h2> subheading tags. All WordPress pages and posts titles render with the
<h1> element. There is some controversy over how many
<h1> elements there should be in one post or page. I side with those who suggest using only one
<h1> tag per post. With HTML5 you can have more than one on the page. It depends on how you separate the content. My advice would be to use
<h3> tags instead of multiple
<h1> tags. Using the different sized elements makes your content cleaner and more organized for both the reader and SEO.
Next, keep your titles catchy, not too short, and not too long. Remember, your title is what search engines, like Google, use in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. For optimal title length, if you keep your titles under 60 characters, you can expect about 90% of your titles to display correctly. Yoast is an excellent tool for judging the length of your title.
These are just a few ideas to help perfect the SEO for your website. Let me know your thoughts below in the comments section.