Basic WordPress SEO: For Beginners
A lot of business owners are intimidated by SEO. For a long time I was one of them. That is until I started to actually try and learn it. I am by no means an expert or guru in the art of SEO but I can help you at least get started on the right foot.
Just a fair warning this post is geared toward WordPress.org users. If you’re not using WordPress I highly suggest you give it a try. Mainly because it’s easy to use and WordPress has done an ah-ma-zing job with making their users already pretty SEO ready.
Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links. That means if you purchase from the link I may receive a small commission. I only recommend products that I absolutely love and stand behind.
What is SEO?
I know you are probably sitting there going “What is SEO?” Well, its an acronym coined by the evil geniuses that run the world of search engines. SEO stands for search engine optimization.
“I already knew that Misty, but WHAT is it?”
Well…I could sit here and give you some long technical answer to what it really is using words like algorithms and organic search results but to make it easy to digest…
SEO is all the “stuff” you do to your site so that Google will put on the first page of their results versus page 50.
Why Do You Need SEO?
This is easier to answer. If you don’t use SEO for your website you won’t show up when someone is searching for your products and services. And you want to show up. Preferably on the first page if not the first spot.
You can, if you are so willing, spend a fortune to secure first-page placement but I think it’s worth the saving to try it the good old fashion way.
So now that we have the basics of what SEO is and why you need it lets talk about some simple and easy ways to help your WordPress site rank higher.
Basic WordPress SEO
These first three steps are best done before you start building your actual site, but don’t worry if you already have a WordPress site and maybe skipped these steps. Nothing is irreversible. Don’t panic.
So login to WordPress.
Done? Good. Let’s look at the menu that runs down the left side of your welcome screen. Down a little way you’re going to see an option that says “Settings”. If you hover over it you will see a box pop up to the side (See screenshot below) or you can just click it.
If you chose the hover route then click on general. If you’re like me and just clicked that bad boy you’re already where you need to be.
This page has a couple things we are going to look at and or tweak to get your SEO going.
This is the title of your website. It’s also a great place to add a few important keywords.
Example: John Doe / Wedding Photography Dallas Texas or Jane’s Cakes / Delicious Cakes & Confections For Your Next Special Occasion
Simple enough right? You just want to make sure you use keywords that your clients will be using to find you. Be straightforward and don’t over embellish.
If your business already has a tagline great! Put it here. If not you can create one using the some of your most important keywords.
Example: Wedding Photos That Last A Lifetime (yes, cheesy but you get the point)
The more places you can add your main keywords the better, especially if you’re just starting out. You want Google to know exactly what you offer.
That’s it for the general setting so go ahead and save your new setting.
Now navigate your way back to the main setting menu and choose the “Reading” option.
This step is probably the most important step. Once the “Reading” setting appears scroll down till you see the “Search Engine Visibility” heading. Double check and make sure the checkbox is NOT checked.
If it is checked… uncheck it now. This is super important because if that box is checked the search engines will never find your website no matter how much SEO you do. It’s essentially like Harry Potter putting on the invisibility cloak.
Of course, if you don’t want Google to find your website you could check this box and move on. But if your goal is to make money and find leads double check that it’s not checked (say that last part 10x fast).
If you did have to make a change on this section make sure you save them. Always save your changes.
Now we are going to go back to the main settings menu and this time you’re going to choose “Permalinks”.
If you don’t know what a permalink is I’ll give you the lowdown skinny.
A permalink is a link to an exact page on your website. Here’s an example for you:
https://mistyandersondesigns.com is my websites URL (takes you to my homepage).
https://mistyandersondesigns.com/why-you-need-a-blog/ is the permalink to my blog post on the 8 reasons a small business needs a blog (go ahead and check it out you know you want to).
It’s important that you choose a permalink structure that makes it easy for your audience to know what they are about to get into. It also helps you rank higher in the search engines.
Really the easiest and most effective way to set this setting is just choose the “Post Title” radio button. When you choose this whatever you title you blog post or page will automatically become your permalink.
Moving on from our setting let’s talk about some of the other ways you can SEO your WordPress site. Remember these are all things you can do on your own without having to pay to show up at the top of the result. You also don’t need any special skills or tools to do these things.
Content is king. No matter who you talk to they will all tell you your content is what is going to bring in your audience.
So when you sit down to write your blog posts or the content for your services page remember to include keyword and keyword phrases. If you don’t know where to find these key ingredients to your SEO recipe you can use the Google Keyword Tool. You’ll need to sign up for a Google AdWords account but don’t worry it won’t cost you a dime.
Word of caution when writing your content… Do NOT stuff your writing full of keywords just so you please the Google bots. Remember real people will need to read your website and blog posts so write your content for them, not Google. Include keywords but don’t go overboard or you’ll turn readers off and they won’t stick to your site.
This one is pretty easy as long as you make it a habit.
Internal linking is adding links to other content on your site. In this post alone I will have provided 4 total internal links. The two I gave as an example in the “Permalinks” section and two more located at the bottom of the post under the “More To Love” section.
It’s not just a good practice for your SEO but it’s also helpful to your readers. And as much as I want to please the Google bots I’d rather please you guys by giving an easy way to find more relevant content.
Images & Graphics SEO
I see a lot of first-time website builders skip this step so I want to make sure you don’t forget it.
Have you ever wondered how Google knows that a picture of a dog is actually a picture of a dog? It’s not because someone is looking at every picture uploaded to every website all across the globe. Nope, Google doesn’t have time for that. Instead, they use alt text inputted by the website builder (that’s you or your designer).
Using these tags also allow the visually challenged to “see” what’s on your website.
When you upload an image or graphic to WordPress you are given a few boxes to the left that you’ll want to fill in (see the screenshot).
This is where you will add the title to your image. If you have been saving your images and graphics with great file names you won’t have to worry about this too much. If by chance you’ve been saving them as image1.jpg or image2.png you’ll want to change the title of the image here.
Use descriptive words that describe what the image is.
This is the most important part of image optimization basics. This is the information Google “read” when it’s bots are crawling your website. This is what is read to blind people when they go to your site. And if you didn’t know this is the information that shows up when someone “pins” your image to Pinterest (More on this another day).
This spot is perfect for a description that is short sweet and to the point. Don’t cram a bunch of keywords in this space. Make it descriptive and keyword friendly but don’t overdo it.
Install A SEO Plugin
So the last thing I want to talk about isn’t something you have to do but it is something that I highly recommend you do to help with your SEO efforts and that is to install an SEO plugin.
There are a lot of SEO plugins out there for you to choose from Yoast, in my opinion, is the end all be all of WordPress SEO plugins. It has literally saved my biscuits multiple times.
To install the Yoast plugin navigate to the Plugins section of your dashboard menu. At the top, you’ll hit the “add new” button. In the search bar on the right-hand side of the page type in Yoast SEO.
Once it brings up your results hit the “Install Now” button. The button will change to bright blue and say activate. Click that and it will take you to your plugin page. Easy Cheesy Peasy.
I’m not going to walk you through every setting there is in the Yoast plugin in this post. That would just be too much. But to get you started with using it in the meantime I’ll show some of the great features you can use for your basic WordPress SEO.
When you create a new page or post in WordPress your Yoast plugin will give you some options to add some extra special SEO to your site.
To see this part of you’ll want to hit the “edit snippet” button. Your SEO title is the title that appears when Google brings up your page in their search results.
As you type in your SEO title you will see two things happening. First, your snippet preview will change to whatever you type. Second, the bar under the SEO title section will change colors. Green is good Y’all!!
Use a title that describes your post or page but also includes your main keyword (more on this in a sec.)
Yoast also allows you to edit the snippet or description of the page. This is yet another great opportunity to use keywords and keyword phrases your audience will more than likely use to find this page.
Again, Yoast has given you a nice visual indication for when you’ve got a good SEO snippet. Green is good Y’all.
The last part of this section is choosing your focus keyword or phrase. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to help you. If you’ve written a good SEO title and snippet then your keyword should be easy. You want to make sure the keyword you choose for this section appears in your title and in your snippet.
If you’re ever in doubt about your SEO, either your keyword choice or content, Yoast has a nice little analysis section. This section will give you a break down of ways to improve the SEO around your keyword and also in your content.
Yoast has a lot more features and benefits but to save your sanity I’ll save them for a post just about the Yoast SEO plugin. This will give you a good place to start using the plugin.
How was that? Not too bad I hope. You should now be able to go forth and start to conquer the world of SEO.
Do you have any other questions about SEO? If so leave them below in the comments. And if you like this post and found it helpful share it with your friends.