SEO and Keyword Placement in WordPress
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a highly complex specialism separate from webdesign. But ordinary website owners have a few methods at their disposal to improve their online visibility.
We are assuming some knowledge of WordPress, gained either from the reader’s own experience of from our First Steps page. Read on to learn about SEO and keyword placement.
Yes, it’s Google
By “search engines”, we largely mean Google because although there are others, Google is still the market leader. Google retains its dominance in part by ruthlessly updating its algorithms to weed out websites that to game their system. The company’s advertising model relies on its ability to provide the searching public with what they are looking for.
We are concerned here with organic rankings, not advertising (another complex field). We will share some basic rules, but we won’t promise that you will instantly rank “first in Google”. Anyone who does is lying, because Google reveals its algorithms to no one.
The judicious placement of keywords
Search engines learn what your website is about by checking specific locations for keywords that describe your business or organisation. See our SEO page for an explanation of keywords and key phrases.
These locations are:
- The Title metatag
- The Description metatag
- The headings in your text
- The body text
- The alt (alternative text) metatags for images
Title and Description metatags with SEO and keyword placement
When you search for your website in Google, the result looks like this:
Metatags hold information that is not displayed on a website but is visible to search engines. As per the above screenshot, the contents of the Title and Description metatags also appear in search lists. Title is especially important to search engines. A good, relevant Description helps people decide whether your page contains what they are looking for.
The Yoast Plugin
WordPress plugins such as Yoast give you access to these normally hidden areas of your websites. Yoast is free, with premium add-ons. It creates a dedicated box on the editing area of each page or post which you need to fill in. Start by choosing a unique focus keyword for that page or post. Edit the Title and Description boxes to include the focus keyword. Yoast provides a colour-coded line to guide you as to the right length for each.
Yoast’s algorithm will rank your page with a traffic-light system according to how well your page is optimised for your focus keyword or phrase. It will also give you a list of suggested improvements. This system is algorithmically determined and to be used as guidance only:
Remember to click the Update button on your page or post when you’ve finished.
Headings in the text
Web pages are structured with the same hierarchy as any document: title, subtitles, lesser subtitles etc. For the web, this hierarchy is coded with headings numbered from H1 to H6 in decreasing order of importance, and P for body text. The page title is usually a H1 heading in most WordPress themes. You can label further sub-headings H2 or H3 and so on.
To write a heading, either choose a heading block before you write, or highlight the text you have already written and choose the heading in the options. Use keywords or phrases in these locations, but only as they would occur naturally in good writing.
Webpage body text
This is the body text where you write about your subject and should include your focus keyword. Yoast suggests that a webpage should contain at least 300 words. The density of your focus keyword should range between 0.5 and 3% of those words.
Page copy should be punchy and well written and the keywords flow naturally within it. Too few keywords will trigger a prompt to add more. But add too many, on the other hand, and you will get a warning about keyword stuffing.
Yoast will give you a score for readability as well. I have only had one client score green for readability and she is a professional editor!
Controlling the address line: permalinks
The permalink is the part of your page’s web address that appears after the forward slash that terminates domain name. If set up correctly (in Settings > Permalinks), the WordPress system automatically appends the name of your page or post to the domain. That part becomes your permalink.
As search engines look for keywords in the web address line, you need to think carefully about the title of pages and blog posts and try to include your keyphrase.
This permalink makes it clear that the post is about the renovation of a clock tower.
The alt (alternative text) tag of images
All images should have a unique, short description placed in the Alternative Text box in the Media Library. Its purpose is threefold:
- It loads quickly, and tells the viewer what kind of image is coming if there is a delay in loading it;
- It tells blind web users what the image is: the alternative text is read out by their screen readers;
- It informs search engines about the content of the image and makes it searchable.
To access the Alternative text box for a particular image, click on that image in the Media Library:
You can also access the Alt box from within the Post or Page after you have inserted the image in the flow of the text. Highlight the image by clicking on it and look for the settings in the right settings sidebar.
SEO and keyword placement can be time consuming. It requires you to think carefully about your writing with each new post or page. But the rewards can be great if you get it right.
So, what are you waiting for? There’s work to do!
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