Let's learn how to optimize your website for SEO and see your site's traffic grow in no time! Before we start, let's understand some important points.
Hard Niche Vs Easy Niche
If you go back to my niche lesson, you'll probably wonder what niche is still not taken to avoid competition.
While it is true that some niches are easier to target - like a blog that aims to solve a problem with snails in a garden, it doesn't mean you cannot rank if you choose a more "saturated" niche.
It will just take a longer time to rank, but it doesn't mean you cannot rank.
Niche sites do rank faster. The more targeted your website is, the faster you can see results.
Google Will Detect Your Site Automatically
Upon building your WordPress site, you'll see from the settings that the visibility of your site is set to searchable by default.
It is up to search engines to honour your request if you choose to make your contents private.
1. Page Speed - Enable A Web Cache
If you have a repeat visitor, a web cache will make the experience of that visitor pleasant.
Because the visitor has already been on your site, your site cache is already saved on that visitor’s browser, making your web pages fast to load.
A Web cache (or HTTP cache) is an information technology for the temporary storage (caching) of web documents, such as web pages, images, and other types of web multimedia, to reduce server lag. - Wikipedia
If you have a first time visitor, a visitor who is using a proxy server or is surfing in incognito mode (and therefore doesn’t save cache files), the site speed will not be as fast.
Your visitors’ clicks on links to your other pages, will request directly to the server where those web files are found. Depending on how busy the server is and how heavy the files are, it can take longer for the requested web files to load.
Wherever you are hosted, ask the Site Support what plugin is compatible with their server because some caching plugins are not compatible with specific servers and can therefore cause problems.
I tried to put a code in my .htaccess (for advanced users) as per the lesson I found on a coding website. True enough, it eliminated the need for a caching plugin.
However, it only worked for 10 mins. After that, my test website in Cloudways was down (conflict with Breeze, another caching plugin). I highly encourage newbies to use codes only when you already understand them.
Building your website on a dedicated server where you do not have to share the resources will obviously make your site load faster.
Owning a server in Cloudways for as low as $10 per month is not a bad idea BUT ONLY IF you know how to handle server problems should they arise (or is patient enough to learn the technical sides of managing servers).
Otherwise, I highly suggest that you build your website as a newbie in Wealthy Affiliate since the caching is already built-in.
A fast-loading website is one of the criteria in ranking on top.
Page speed - it's sometimes about your images.
Optimizing Images For A Fast-Loading Website
This is probably the most overlooked aspect of optimizing website for SEO. You’ll know this when you go to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.
If you type a URL of a page you want to speed test, you’ll see image-related warnings like this:
Even me, I’m guilty of this. Being a one-man show in the past, my goal is just to publish contents therefore overlooking the image optimization part in order to speed up my sites.
There are a lot of free WordPress plugins that you can choose from which can do this job automatically. Everytime you upload an image in your media library, it will automatically convert the images in a format that can speed up your site.
Some of the most famous image optimization plugins are "Smush," "EWWW Image Optimizer" and "ShortPixel Image Optimizer." You only need one.
Let's use the most used - Smush. It's free to use.
To locate the plugin, go to your WordPress Dashboard, click on Plugin> Add New> Smush.
Click on "Install Now" then Activate.
We will setup the Smush settings in details in a separate lesson. For now, this will do.
CHOOSE A CLEAN THEME
When you are just starting out, choosing a clean theme will be easier since your website is still empty and a simple test in gtmetrix.com will tell you if it’s a heavy theme or not.
If your hosting provider allows you to make unlimited or extra websites for free, you can create a test website. Before installing anything on your LIVE website (like a theme or plugin), test it first on your trial website.
2. Install An SSL Certificate
It is free (renewable every three months) most of the time.
You can easily spot a website with a valid SSL Certificate by looking at the URL of the website. It should have a padlock beside it.
Without it, site visitors will get a warning telling them that the website they are browsing is unsafe and stealing datas like credit card information, etc.
SSL Certificate = Trust Seal!
3. Submit A Sitemap
We are in this business to be seen and we want to be seen (indexed) fast. In order for Google and other search engines to easily find you, it is better to submit your XML Sitemap (or the list of your contents).
During an exam in school, you may submit your test paper (XML sitemap) to your teacher (Google) once you are done.
The teacher can check right away or days after submitting and acknowledge (index) your submissions.
You'll know your score (ranking) when real users submit search queries in Google, your contents get ranked/clicked and the results will register in your Google Search Console.
Submitting your sitemap is not a guarantee for ranking on top (getting high scores), so you better do good (provide quality/helpful contents) so users will click and consume what you have.
To create the map of your site or your "Sitemap," make sure to install the Yoast SEO plugin as per previous lesson.
Go to your plugins page in your WordPress dashboard, then to Yoast's settings.
In the "Features" tab, you'll see that the Sitemap is generated by default.
If you click on the question mark beside the XML sitemaps, you'll find the "see XML sitemap" link. Click it.
This is how a newbie site's XML sitemap looks like. As you add contents and other stuff in the future, this will automatically be updated.
Once your Sitemap is created (by the plugin) you have the "option" to submit it to search engines so they automatically have the lists of your past and future contents.
Have Your Sitemap In Your robots.txt File
Select the Yoast SEO Settings > Tools > File Editor.
Create a "robots.txt file."
The default robots.txt looks something like this...
This is where you will paste the URL of your sitemap.
The search engine bots start crawling a website by checking the robots.txt file. A robots.txt file provides you an opportunity to notify the bots of your XML sitemap (or the list of your contents).
Everytime the bots visit your website, they will check if there's something new, acknowledge if there is and put it in their index (database).
Having your contents in their database is the first step in having the "opportunity" to rank.
Copy the URL of your sitemap, paste it on your robots.txt file and save the file.
You don't have to submit your sitemap to search engines as there is nothing to acknowledge yet (initial stages). Search engines can find your site as you build it.
However, if you want search engines to acknowledge your progress fast, I highly suggest that you submit your sitemap. Besides, you might forget it!
To submit your sitemap to Google, go to your Google Search Console. You should have it in place as per previous lesson.
Make sure that you select the correct website (applicable for those who have several sites).
4. Website Structure - Use Categories And Tags
Make your site easy to navigate. Your menus should clearly convey what they will get when they click it.
Use categories and tags to segment your contents. Don't worry about this in the initial stages as there is nothing to structure yet. You can restructure your contents later.
For example, when I started with this site, I only have "work from home" categories.
As contents are published and there are already available sub-categories to use, I added them to the existing contents structures.
Main Category: Work from home jobs
Sub-category: microtasking jobs, usability testing jobs, other remote jobs, online teaching jobs, etc.
Tags: Legit Online Jobs (those which are not legit needs a different tag).
Setting up your website so search engines can find it (and crawl it easily) and making your website easy to navigate for real users (later on when there is enough content), are the basic things you need to learn about optimizing your website for SEO.
The number of changes that Google makes to its rules or algorithms has grown over time. The search engine may have changed the way that it works without telling you. You need to know what those changes are and how to fix them.
It pays to know the history of Google Algorithm updates. Knowing the rules of the past will make you avoid breaking them. That way, your website will be always in line with what they like.
The following is a list of the Google Algorithm updates that can most likely impact your website ranking.
"Intrusive Interstitials Update"
Google's "mobile interstitial penalty" targets pop-ups and other annoying things. If they are spammy or difficult to dismiss, it can hurt your website in the search rankings.
If you must use pop-ups and overlays, change them so that they are not too disruptive. For example, wait to show a pop-up when people are about to leave your website or when they have finished reading your blog post.
However, if someone has a legal reason for putting something, they can do it, such as for cookie use notifications.
Websites need to have a mobile-friendly design so that it will be easy to find items when someone looks online on their phone or tablet.
This can be easily resolved by choosing a mobile-friendly Theme, to begin with.
When you search for something on the internet, the search engine looks at what you are searching for. Then it gives you content in a way that it thinks is best.
RankBrain is a way for Google to understand what people are looking for (read: long-tail keywords). RankBrain helps Google find the best content and in the best format(s).
You need to make sure your content is unique and high-quality. Panda needs information that is different from what other websites offer.
But how do you make your website "unique?"
You can start by creating a specific target audience with specific problems. Every content you produce will aim to solve that person's problem (Read the lesson here).
You should not focus on the number of words in your article. If you have already made your point and only used 1,000 words, then it is not necessary to make the article longer.
Also, pay attention to the comments that you approve of. Comments are content, too! Comments on blogs can cause posts to rank high or low.
If you used Google in the earliest days of the Internet, it was hard to find what you were looking for. Hummingbird solves this by focusing on words that mean the same thing and related topics.
The old way was only exact match keywords.
In April 2012, the first Penguin update was created to reduce the rankings of websites that are using spam-like techniques.
Penguin worked hard to make sure that the links that point to websites are natural, authoritative, and relevant. But if they're manipulative or spammy, then they're downgraded instead of rewarded.
Penguin went after link building with a vengeance: sites were penalized for having too many low-quality and irrelevant links pointing to their pages.
There are many online groups that still use link-building tactics to manipulate rankings. They need to know the history of the update which was first released almost a decade ago.
Google always updates its system. This means that the tactic of manipulating rankings will not work anymore.
Because of the Pigeon update, Google ranks local businesses differently now.
Google wanted to make it easier for people to find local businesses. They wanted these businesses to have a better chance of being seen.
People can now find out more information in fewer steps. The Pigeon algorithm ranks them by how relevant and useful they are to someone searching in a certain radius of the business, so people can get what they need quicker.
If you Google for "rest house" and you are in the US, and if I Google for "rest house" too and I am in a secluded place somewhere in Asia, we will both get different results - businesses that are near us.
Questions so far? 🙂