SEO (search engine optimization) is often seen as this mysterious thing that you know will improve your website and help build traffic. But how? Luckily, there are plenty of simple things to do that can boost your traffic. Writing great content, keeping your website optimized and up to date, and strategically using keywords will all improve your website’s overall SEO.
But I don’t claim to be an SEO expert by any means! It’s something I know the basics of and am comfortable making tweaks for my clients but I would recommend seeking out a specialist if you really want to turn up your SEO game.
Even basic SEO can really help your website though. My clients at DayGlo Med-Spa wanted an SEO strategy with their new website so I helped tweak their pages, content, and images with the right keywords.
And now? They rank #1 when you search for med spa St. Petersburg Fl.
One thing you need to realize about SEO though is that it takes time. Once you start making changes and implementing techniques, you may not see results for at least 3 months, maybe longer. So don’t give up if you don’t start seeing yourself on Google’s first page the next time.
First things first, if you’re on WordPress you’ll want to use an SEO plugin of some kind. Yoast SEO is by far the most popular and highly recommended choice.
Just by installing the plugin and going through the easy to use wizard it will make all kinds of little improvements to your website. But there’s still some settings you should turn on and check out to get the most out of the plugin.
Yoast will recommend you to already be using “pretty permalinks“. If you’ve already been blogging for some time and haven’t enabled this, then you’ll run into issues if you decide to change it all of a sudden. In that case you’ll need to do some major redirect work.
You can change your permalinks by going to Settings > Permalinks. Post name is generally the most popular option.
Next, turn on the XML Sitemap by going to SEO > XML Sitemaps and making sure it is enabled.
When you install Yoast on your website you’ll get an SEO box for each post and page on your website. There you’ll choose a focus keyword to go along with that post/page. One thing about your focus keyword is that Yoast won’t recognize similar variations.
For example, if you set the keyword as dog but write dogs instead Yoast won’t count that as a plus to your SEO. But even though it won’t count towards turning your rating to green, Google and other search crawlers will be able to recognize the word variations.
Want to learn more? Yoast has a really extensive guide for using their plugin and tweaking your WordPress for better SEO.
Titles and headings
Placing keywords strategically into your website’s titles and heading is probably the easiest way to improve your scores. But don’t “stuff” your keywords wherever you can! Write for real humans, but try to stick SEO in when you are able.
For example, you might call a blog post “Easy Ways to Train Your Dog” which sounds pretty good but most people are probably searching for dog training or easy dog training tips. So you could adjust the title to “Dog Training in 5 Easy Ways”.
Why write it like that instead? Placing the keywords earlier in the title or heading puts more weight on them (i.e. important).
Once you have the perfect title in place, Yoast will create an SEO-friendly slug for your page.
Tip: People love lists. Most of my best ranking posts have numbers in the titles.
Don’t forget your content too. Sprinkle your keyword and other variations throughout your post. It should be easy if that’s what the topic is! Remember, great content will lead to great SEO.
Let’s talk about your website’s title now. It will depend on your theme and plugins setup but the first place to go to update your site’s name is under Settings > General. Update it to add in your important keywords.
Some examples: Jane Doe | Cupcakes & gourmet baked goods in Atlanta, Georgia or The Unique Blog Shop – Stylish and affordable graphics for bloggers
If your theme has a custom front-page template and you’re using Yoast, you’ll want to update that page’s title and snippet. If you have this page it should say Front Page next the name.
The images and graphics on your website are something that often gets forgotten when it comes to search engine optimization. But they are a great place to sneak in more keywords and add extra value to your website.
It’s important to note that crawlers like Google can’t tell what’s in an image. So if you have images of “text” they are really hurting your SEO and you should opt for text for an image. However, crawlers can read the filename and alt text of images.
Before your image ever gets uploaded online you need to make sure you’re optimizing it for one. Large images take longer to load and that’s no good. Use a program like Photoshop, GIMP, or a website to optimize your images.
When you’re ready to save it’s important to think about your filename. This is the place to include descriptive keywords. Time for some examples 😀
The image I created for the blog post is called seo-wordpress-boost-traffic.jpg. I’ve included important words like SEO and WordPress and removed anything generic or unimportant.
Always remember to use – between your keywords! Using underscores or spaces can be tempting but hyphens are best.
If you’re writing about blog post about your amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe some of your images may be named: chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe.jpg or recipe-chocolate-chip-cookies.jpg.
Don’t limit your images either! Adding more (with appropriate keywords) can really boost your SEO. Remember when people search they find images as well as websites.
Once you upload your image to WordPress you’ll see a page like I have below. You can also bring up any images you’ve already uploaded and edit their information too.
In the Title, Alt Text, and Description area you’ll want to fill these in with your descriptive keywords, page title, or post title. The details above is for an image of myself, so I’ve included my name and title (which is also my website title).
I recommend leaving the Caption section alone unless you’d like to have a caption appear with your image.
You should make it a habit to edit these for each image you add to your website the moment you upload it. While going back and tweaking your current images can help, they won’t do much good if you’ve already put them into a post or page.
So what the heck is interlinking?
Basically this is when you link to another page or post of your website in your post/page. These types of links help reduce your bounce rate, drive traffic to other areas, and keep people on your website. Plus give you some nice SEO juice.
If you’re writing a blog post and have another post that is related, or that the people would also be interested in, link it in your post! But don’t use some lame wording like check out this similar post here.
Use those keywords! If your first post is about dog training and the post you want to interlink is about the best dog treats, you might use this wording as your link: If you’re wondering about the best treats for dog training, check out this post.
That way you’re giving some context to what this other post is about and sprinkling in your keywords so search bots know too.
It’s also good to interlink your pages as well, but don’t go overboard with filling your site with links. If you have a work with me or services page include a link or button to your contact page there. You can also include extra links in your footer if you have more pages than your navbar can handle.
I haven’t found any great free plugins that can handle interlinking well but a good paid option is Interlinks Manager. You can always try a related posts plugin that will pull up similar posts (but not in your content as links).
So we discussed interlinking on your own website but what about backlinking, or having other website’s link to yours? Backlinking can often be seen as a black-hat SEO technique (basically the sleazy way to do SEO) but done properly it’s a great way to build up trust in your website and bring traffic.
Today, backlinking is harder to do because of no-follow links. The essential difference between a no-follow link and a do-follow link is the SEO juice that goes with it. When a link is do-follow, it tells search engines to follow that link.
No-follow links are the complete opposite and stops the search engine from indexing that link and website (basically putting the kibosh on any SEO juice). Unless you make a link no-follow (by adding rel=”nofollow”) then they are always do follow. Here’s what Google has to say about using nofollow.
So how can backlinking help if everyone is making the links no-follow? While it won’t directly help your SEO scores, it will still bring traffic to your website and get your name out there.
These tips probably won’t hope you if you’re a digital business without a physical presence but for brick and mortar businesses it’s a must!
Always, always include your location with your keywords. Like I wrote above about titles and keywords, add your area of business here too. Before I started working with mostly virtual clients, I had my website set up for Web Designer in Chattanooga, TN because that is where I was located.
Put it in your site name, put it in your header, put it in your footer, your contact page, wherever your business name is listed. This brings us to NAP!
NAP, or name, address, phone number are essential for local SEO. You want these three things to be consistent throughout the entire internet. I recommend having your NAP in at least your footer and contact page.
But where else would your NAP might be around the interwebz? This is where local listing sites come in. (Psst, even if you don’t have a physical store some of these sites will let you list your biz without an address.)
Google Places for Business, Bing Places, Yelp, and YellowPages are probably the most popular of these business listings websites. Here are some other places you list your business: here, here, and here.
Remember to keep your business name, phone number, and address identical throughout each of these websites. Inconsistencies will cause SEO issues and confuse people trying to find your business.
Other little tweaks
There are other things you can do that will improve your overall search engine optimization but won’t make such a huge impact that they must be done.
First, speed and loading times impact SEO. Faster sites that score good on speed tests will good a boost. There are literally a ton of things you can do to improve your website speeds but a good start is finding out what might be slowing down your site.
In my free challenge there is an entire day dedicated to testing your website speeds and improving things like image optimization, website caching, and reducing the amount of scripts and plugins you use.
Another good thing you can do for your website is sign up for Google Search Console (formally known as Webmaster Tools). Once you get your website verified the next thing you should do is put your sitemap into the console. Easy since you already have Yoast, which makes a sitemap for you.
The Search Console will keep you updated on your website’s health, how it performs on mobile, analytics and search tools, plus errors and security issues. It’s a great tool to have in your back pocket to keep check up on your website.
A couple of years ago, Google started giving boosts to SSL secured websites. When a website has a secure socket layer certificate installed you’ll see https:// instead of the regular http://. SSL basically secures all the information that gets passed between the web server and the user’s browsers.
Recommended Reading: How To Install SSL For Free on Your WordPress Site
And it’s often required if you’re taking credit cards directly on your website or sell products.
Did I miss any good SEO tips? Were any of these a total surprise to you? Let me know in the comments!