Many marketing companies claim that having a WordPress-based website gives businesses the upper hand, especially when it comes to search engine optimization or SEO. They argue that by having a WordPress site, these organizations are more likely to rank higher on search engines like Google or Bing.
Do WordPress sites rank well? Yes, WordPress sites can rank well; however, there is no evidence that suggests that WordPress sites rank better compared to other sites developed and hosted on other platforms. The website builder or host you use has no effect on your ranking.
Because search engines treat all websites equally, improving your site’s ranking will be more dependent on the SEO strategies you implement rather than the platform you use. The remainder of this article will discuss the roles of SEO as well as list a number of tips and tricks you can use to help your website rank higher.
WordPress & Search Engine Optimization
WordPress has many SEO tools in the form of guides, plugins, extensions, and more for site owners, so it is understandable that users believe that WordPress is better for SEO compared to other sites. There is nothing wrong in thinking so; besides, the tools WordPress have available certainly makes SEO a little easier for businesses. However, just because WordPress appears to offer more user-friendly tools for SEO does not mean that it is better at SEO.
Contrary to popular belief, WordPress sites can rank equally well compared to others—it’s more about using the right SEO strategy to receive a higher ranking.
About Search Engine Optimization
When you need answers to a question or more information about a particular topic or product, where do you go? If you are like 89% of B2B buyers and 81% of online shoppers, you simply Google it. In turn, the search engine’s algorithm scans the world wide web for related keywords and returns a list of results of popular links most relevant to your query; all of this happens in a matter of nanoseconds.
Businesses have the potential to be exposed to their target audience and beyond with this intricate technology, but it could not be possible without search engine optimization, or SEO.
What is SEO?
To understand the ins and outs of SEO, you should first be familiar with the following terms:
- Rankings – Rankings are part of a system that search engines use to list where a particular website falls in relevancy to keywords or search queries sent by users in the search result pages.
- Visibility – Visibility describes how prominent a domain or website is in search results.
By basic definition, SEO helps influence a site’s rankings and visibility on search engine result pages. However, there is a little more to SEO than meets the eye.
More specifically, search engine optimization (SEO) is a blanket term that describes the various techniques that help websites rank higher in search engine result pages (SERP). SEO can help make your website more visible to people looking for the solutions your business can offer, either in the form of products, services, or even industry knowledge.
Ultimately, with more users visiting your site, you increase the chances of converting them into new customers or clients, allowing your business to grow as you increase your reputation.
How Does SEO Work?
SEO is known to work mainly in two ways:
- By optimizing a website’s pages with keywords that can be connected to frequent queries or search terms on search engines
- By earning backlinks (also known as inbound links), which essentially vouch for your site’s reputation as a reliable source.
However, although these are the most common ways of improving your website’s SEO, they are not the only methods you can use. This is because search engines look at more than just the keywords and backlinks on your site; they also assess:
- Site Structure & Design – How organized is your website? Is it easy to navigate? Is it user-friendly?
- Visitor Behavior – How often does your website see visitors, and how long do they stay? Sites that have frequent visitors or visitors who stay for long periods at a time are more likely to rank higher.
- Other External, Off-Site Factors – Factors include business activity on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
7 SEO Tips & Tricks to Rank Higher
In order to rank higher on search engines, you will need to create and implement an SEO strategy. The SEO strategy should include organizing your website and its content in a way that helps search engines understand the topics your website discusses. In other words, the easier you make things for Google to find, the more likely your site will rank well.
The following is a list of seven things you should integrate into your SEO strategy to increase your chances of improving your site’s ranking.
1. Add Keywords to Current Site Pages
There are a few things that need to happen before your website can start ranking. First, a search engine needs to be able to find your site online. Then, the search engine should be able to scan—or “crawl”—the site to determine what topics your content is related to and identify the keywords present. Finally, the search engine will add this information to its index—a database that contains all of the data from different sites it has scanned across the web.
From here, search engines can use their built-in algorithm to display your website in search results whenever it deems it relevant to a user’s search terms.
The overall idea is simple enough, but in order for a search engine to successfully crawl and choose your site as one that is good enough to show in search results, you will need to have the right keywords above all else. This is where the process of SEO begins.
So, when it comes to keywords, where do you start? Try following these steps:
- Identify which keywords you are currently using. To do that, use a keyword research tool to identify which keywords people are currently searching to find you. (For example, if you are a dentist in Houston, TX, find out which keywords users type in to come across your website. Is it something like “dentist in Houston?”)
- Find new keywords you would like to improve your ranking for. Using the previous dentist example, maybe you want more people located closer to your office to find you, rather than from a general area. In this case, you may want to target a more specific neighborhood keyword: “dentist near Broad Oaks Park.” If you want to change the keywords you want to target, start by thinking about the kind of topics relevant to your business or industry. From there, convert them into keywords. This guide from HubSpot offers additional tips for keyword researching.
Once you have identified the keywords you would like to add to your site, assess your existing content. Does it mention any of the keywords you want to see? Do they accurately describe the topics you want to talk about?
If you answered “no” to any of the previous questions, you might need to revise some of the pages to include more of the new terms.
There are a few things to keep in mind when adding keywords to existing content. For one, make sure that your chosen keyword can be found in the following places:
- Title – With any blog post or page with content, make sure the title contains the main keyword you are trying to target. Ideally, it should be near the beginning of the title.
- URL – The page address, or URL, should also include the keyword.
- H1 Tag – In most content management systems, the H1 tag automatically lists the title of the page (which should have the main keyword). However, the platform you are using may have a different setting. Make sure the H1 tag is set to have the page title.
- 1st 100 Words – In the introduction of your content, make sure the keyword is mentioned at least once. This reassures search engines that the content really is relevant to the keyword.
- Meta Tags – The meta title and meta descriptions are the short blurbs you see under each website link in search results. Users are more likely to click on links with descriptions closely related to their search terms.
- Image File Names – Search engines can only see text, not graphics (more detail on this later in the article); however, they can see the file names of those graphics. Make sure at least one of the images on a page features the main keyword in its file name.
- Alt Tags – An alt tag is a text that a browser will display instead of an image for any site visitors who are visually impaired. Although alt tags are used primarily for this purpose, they can also serve as a sign of relevance to search engines when they feature a keyword.
It is also essential to add semantic keywords—keywords that are synonyms or variations of the main term. Not everyone in your target audience will use the same exact terms when searching, so semantic keywords will help search engines better determine your site’s relevancy with these fluctuations.
Adding semantic keywords will also clarify what your content is about to search engines, and avoid the problem of being included in irrelevant searches.
For example, say you are an IT company that wants to target the keyword “Windows.” How does a search engine know you are talking about the software and not paned glass you see through? If you add semantic keywords, such as “PC” or “Windows operating system,” it is much easier for search engines to see that you are talking about Windows software.
If you have too many keywords in your site’s pages, search engines flag them as “keyword stuffers,” rather than content that actually addresses what users are looking for. In other words, if you overdo the keywords, you can actually hurt your site’s ranking.
To avoid having your pages flagged for having too many keywords, make sure your content is written as naturally as possible. Do not try to force keywords into the content to make it fit.
Yes, you need keywords in your site content in order for it to rank on search engines, but do not let that be the primary focus. The goal of your content should be to inform your audience. The safest way to do this while naturally adding keywords is to build your SEO strategy around content topics rather than keywords.
In addition, research your audience as you come up with different topics for your site’s content. Knowing and understanding your target market and their interests is essential to attracting them to your site through search engines.
2. Create New, Engaging Content Regularly
Ultimately, users are looking for content when they perform a search on Google, content that helps address the questions they have. So, the more content you produce, the more likely that your site will show up on search results.
In addition, users enjoy seeing new, original content from those they follow, so adding interesting content to your site often can help you gain repeat visitors. Keep in mind that content does not necessarily have to be only text like blogs; content can be also be anything from galleries of images, videos, graphics, and more. If it is engaging enough, users are more likely to stay on the page, and search engines determine that this means they find the content valuable.
Length of Content
How long should your content be? Content that is long usually ranks better compared to shorter content. This is because search engines see long content as being more informative on a topic.
Content & Keywords
A final note about content: do not forget to mention keywords, but as mentioned previously, avoid overdoing it. If you focus on the topic of your content and you have done your research well on your target audience, then the keywords should come naturally over time.
3. On-Site Optimization is a Must
When you visit a website, you may notice a number of things, including images, videos, colors, banners, and other content. However, what you see is not the same thing search engines see; while you see a colorful, eye-catching website, search engines only see text.
In other words, even if a website looks completely fine on the surface, a search engine may determine the opposite is true because it is blind to those visual features that may be hindering access to content. This is where on-site optimization comes in.
On-site optimization, also known as “technical setup,” is meant to help make sure your website and its various pages make it easy for search engines to crawl and index them without complication. Some of the factors that influence this ability include:
- Navigation & Links – Search engines move from page to page as you would on a new website by following different links. However, they cannot read and follow the links if they are image-based. For that reason, make sure all of the internal links on your site are text-only. In addition, make it a goal to link to other pages on your site when possible.
- URL Structure – Search engines like things simple; they have a hard time understanding long URLs composed of strings of words. Try to keep your URLs as short as possible: only mention the main keyword or topic if you can.
- Site Speed – How fast your website and its pages load is an indicator of quality to search engines. Avoid using extremely large videos or graphics that would otherwise slow the loading of a page. There is a great resource from Google that offers suggestions on how to speed up your site here.
- Dead or Broken Links – Dead links, or broken redirects, are essentially links that send a visitor to a page that no longer exists or a resource that is no longer available. Just like dead and broken links are a headache for users, they are also a burden on search engines trying to follow them.
- Plagiarized or Duplicate Content – Pages with identical or nearly similar content confuse search engines because they are unable to discern which content is appropriate to display on search results. For this reason, search engines often flag duplicate content and penalize the website by not showing the page on results at all.
This resource from HubSpot serves as a guide for on-site optimization, and the multiple things you can do to optimize your existing site pages effectively.
4. Be Active on Social Media
Believe it or not, social search has become very popular with search engines. Hootsuite conducted an experiment in which they tested the relevancy of social media to search engine results, and found that there is a high correlation between social activity and rankings.
If your business is active on social media, you are more likely to be found in search results related to your product, service, or industry. The following are a few ways you can take advantage of social search by being active on social media:
- Build a Network on Facebook or Twitter – These two social media platforms see the most users, increasing the potential for visibility for your business. Start following other businesses or key leaders related to your industry, as well as everyday users who may be interested in what you have to offer.
- Post Regularly – It’s not enough to make a profile, post once, and disappear. The point is to be active. Create a social media schedule that involves sharing or posting original content at least once a day. Even better, send out a post every time you post a new blog on your site.
- Brand Yourself as an Authority – This will come with posting original, quality content frequently. The goal should be to become the authority figure in your industry.
- Build Organic Links – If you create quality content often and share it on social media, you can generate organic backlinks from places that end up sharing it.
5. Find Opportunities to Earn Backlinks from Similar Websites
Search engines assume that the more popular or well-known a web page is, the more valuable its content is to users. That is where backlinks come in.
Backlinks are essentially references to your content from other websites. In other words, if another related website has a page with a link to one of your pages, you have earned a backlink. Search engines are more likely to rank your site higher if it has many backlinks. The logic behind this is that people would rather reference a site with quality content rather than poor.
So, with relevant backlinks, you not only solidify what your topic is about to search engines, but you also appear to be a credible and authoritative source.
However, you cannot just have any backlinks to guarantee a better ranking. It matters where the backlinks come from. Here are some things that affect a link’s quality:
- The Popularity of a Linking Site – Any link that originates from a domain that search engines consider an authority will have a higher ranking. So, sites with a “good reputation” that have quality links directing to them will produce higher quality backlinks.
- Topic Relevance – Sites that are more relevant to your site’s topic will carry more authoritative weight compared to any random website that links to you.
- Trust in a Domain – Links from trustworthy websites (free of spam, phishing, etc.) are considered higher quality.
Now that you know about what search engines consider quality backlinks, how do you go about gaining them? There are several strategies marketers use for link building:
- Organic Links – These backlinks will come from websites that reference your content on their own.
- Outreach – With outreach, you will have to contact other relevant websites for links. There are many ways you can go about doing this. One way is to create original, informative, and engaging content, and then email them about it. If they read the content and find that they enjoyed it or it is very valuable, then they will reference it.
- Guest Posting – Guest posts are blog posts you publish on third-party websites. In return, the company may allow you to add links to one or two pages of your own site within the content or author bio.
- Profile Links – There are many websites that allow you to add links when you create a profile. In these cases, it can benefit you to add your website.
- Competitive Analysis – Finally, you can always perform a competitive analysis to see what backlinks your competitors are using. You may find there are a few that you could recreate for your own advantage.
For more ideas on how you can gain more backlinks for your site, visit the HubSpot blog about creative backlinking here.
6. Monitor Site SEO Performance
Of course, you will not know if your SEO efforts are working unless you routinely monitor your site’s performance. The following are a few KPIs (key performance indicators) that businesses often use when it comes to monitoring SEO results:
- Organic traffic growth and conversions
- Keyword rankings
- Average time spent on pages and bounce rate (the rate at which users arrive at a page and immediately click back)
- Top landing pages that attract the most organic traffic
- Number of indexed pages
- Link loss and growth
Also, pay attention to which pages are performing well and which are not. Keep adjusting your SEO strategies accordingly over time to maintain positive results.
7. Hire a Third-Party Marketing Company or Use SEO Software to Help
Don’t worry, you are not expected to manage your site’s SEO all on your own. If you have an in-house marketing team that is overwhelmed—or even if you are a new business that does not have a marketing department yet—you may benefit from hiring an SEO specialist to help with your business’ goals. There are also a number of applications designed to help manage SEO efforts and track your results.
WordPress websites are known to be preferred among marketers because of their ease of use and supposed SEO benefits. However, there has not been any evidence that suggests WordPress sites rank higher nor have extra SEO advantages compared to other sites.
If you want your website to rank well, you will need to develop a solid SEO strategy designed to help your business show on the map that is SERPs. But keep in mind that it will take some time—even the best SEO strategy will not produce results overnight.
A well-planned and executed SEO strategy, over time, will give your website the exposure it needs, pulling in more potential customers and clients to allow you to grow your business.