Search engine optimization (SEO) is complex, difficult to understand, and invites a lot of superstition and folklore—as well as a fair amount of outright fraud. It’s also really important. As a result, it’s an endless topic.
Fortunately, the basic principles of SEO are simple to understand. Plain and simple, SEO is the process of getting your site to show up in relevant search results. If you’re in the Chicago metro area and operate a dog kennel, you want your website show up whenever someone searches for “Chicago dog kennel,” “Illinois pet boarding” and “Chicago kennels.” That’s all SEO is.
Also fortunately, there are easy, commonsense steps you can take to optimize your site. Here are a few tips for on-site SEO, which means steps you can take on your own website to encourage search engines to rank you highly. Follow these steps on your WordPress site, and you’ll be on your way to nailing some of the basics of SEO.
1. Think about keywords, then include them.
Keywords are phrases that someone would use to find your website on a search engine. For the dog kennel example above, “Chicago dog kennel” and the other phrases are examples of keywords. Search engines judge what your website is “about” by the frequency of different keywords on the site itself—so don’t forget to include your keywords!
Start by choosing at least one keyword you want to target—the most concise way someone would be likely to search for a site like yours. Then find natural ways to insert your keyword or keywords across the site. For your WordPress site, you’ll want each post’s title, as well as its content, to be keyword-rich. Including keywords should be natural—after all, your keywords are what your site is about in the first place—but paying attention to actually include “Chicago dog kennel” all in one place (rather than “we’re kennel experts,” “we’ve been in IL for 20 years,” etc.) can make a big difference to search engines.
2. Pretty permalinks.
This is something that WordPress makes really easy. Your “permalinks” are the URLs for your different pages and posts. WordPress’s default looks something like “yoursite.com/?p=74”—which means nothing either to human beings or to search engines.
However, you can switch these by going to “Settings” in your WordPress dashboard, and then to “Permalinks.” If you set your permalink structure to “Post name” rather than “Default” (remember to save your changes!) then your permalinks will resemble your page titles. For example, a page called “Top Chicago dog kennels” would have the URL “yoursite.com/top-chicago-dog-kennels.” This is something search engines can understand—and it’s another place to put your keywords. It’ll also be a lot more memorable for your human visitors, improving your site’s navigability and overall health.
Fundamentally, people come to a website because there are interesting things there. Search engines understand this, and they reward sites that have fresh and relevant content. If your website doesn’t have any new or interesting content, it’s going to be more difficult for it to rank in search.
Keeping a blog is a great, simple step you can take for SEO—and, more than anything else, WordPress is tailor-made for blogging. Keeping a blog can seem like a pain—one more thing that nobody has time for—but it really works wonders for getting site traffic. Commit to writing one short blog post about your topic every week or so (don’t forget what we said about keywords earlier), and you will start to see results.
There’s a broader principle here, too: A blog is an opportunity to contribute your expertise to the world. The internet is a giant discussion, and if you contribute to that discussion on the subjects you know best, you’ll naturally benefit in return. If there’s something Chicago pet owners should know about boarding their dogs—maybe that the kennel should be windproofed?—don’t sit on this knowledge, or simply tell it to everyone who calls your business’s phone line. Put it out there! The people you help are likely to become your customers, or to recommend others to you, or simply to “like” your article for their friends to see. The greatest and most sustainable way to win at SEO is to have helpful, interesting content that others really want to see.
We hope that’s a start! There’s a lot more to SEO than these three elements, and there are about a billion guides to good SEO out there. If you need further resources or help sorting through all the advice, please feel free to contact us.