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How SEO Works Under the Hood of your WordPress Website
Let’s open up the hood of your website and see how SEO works in the background. We all know what to do but why are we doing it?
In this article I am going to assume that you are a smart person and you are using WordPress on your own webhosting. Well this would be true if you are serious about building a million dollar business. (Unfortunately I do not talk about lovely hobbies and rich people that never need to earn money from their blogging.)
How SEO Works
We all probably know that the search engines come and crawl websites using software called “spiders”. Yep a bit creepy. Anyway these spiders travel through links, indexing content and links they find.
Now you know why link building is important. Just say your website has a link on a really busy website that is constantly being crawled by the search engines? Well lucky you! Your link will be traveled to as well. So this is why we want to build links. This is still the process that happens today but search engines are just getting smarter and not following links on bad law or irrelevant sites. Therefore there is no point creating crappy links that will not be followed.
The search engines love fresh content and regularly visit websites that provide new stuff all the time. These are also the best links to get, links on fresh content, relevant and new.
So the Search Engines Follow Your Links?
When the search engines follow your link, they are taking note of everything that they find. When they reach your website, this is where internal linking comes in handy. A spider will crawl your website for longer and index more if it finds links that lead to more of your pages. Hey but wait…Make sure your anchor text matches your content and everything is relevant. A website with content that is related in topic to link anchor text and the content where the link leads must also be related. So it’s all in the family.
If you have a lot of outgoing links then the spider will leave and crawl that website.
Also search engines hate dead end pages. You know the ones where you have to push the back button to get out? It is not a good idea to have these pages when you want all of your pages indexed on a website. This is why I am always building links on old pages as I do not want to have dead ends on my site.
So What Happens When a Human Follows Your Links?
This might be a link in the search engines themselves, or a link on another website. The aim of the game here is to have content that either matches your title or your anchor text. In other words you need to deliver what you are promising. This is a big part of how SEO works and in the past, many Webmasters have tried to deceive the search engines by delivering the wrong content.
I used to think that the search engines were really smart, however then I realized they were actually listening to the humans reactions. I have tested this theory of having the right content many times over. I have examined many articles on different websites, questioned whether the content was delivering what it promised, and then editing to suit. Each time I gained more search engine traffic because I was giving the humans and the search engines what they wanted.
How Do The Search Engines Know You Have The Right Content?
There are many clues that helped the search engine decide if your content matches what it is promising.
For example, your article might rank in the top 10 in Google, but not many people click on it because it is not inviting. Your ranking drops down further and further. Or maybe they click on your search engine listing and bounce right back to the search engines. WOW that definitely did not satisfy the human visitor.
On the other hand, if you are in the top 10 in Google and people love your content and click on your link, this is telling Google that you have the right content. Then if people stay on that page and interact and share your content, this is even better and will keep your ranking position safe for a little while longer.
So this is where the catchy SEO optimized title and the Meta description coming in. When people search in Google, the results show your fantastic post title and a description. This is not be ignored or taken lightly. I personally have manipulated my position in the search engines by optimizing my meta descriptions and titles.
For example someone searching for “computer tips” might be shown a few choices. You should examine your title and description to see if it is appealing and what people might want. (You should also check the spelling!)
What Can You Do To Make SEO Work For Your Website
There is no magic bullet here, just a process where you deliver what the human visitor likes and is looking for. But the key to all this is to get found somehow first. There are some often neglected SEO tasks that are usually hidden in the background, not to be thought about much at all. In fact Google itself states that there are at least 200 factors to consider when ranking a web page.. Therefore you can see why I am not mentioning them all here.
Register with Google
Google is not god but they do have some great tools for us to use. There are two places you should register with Google. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. After registering it will take a few days for Google to gather some information for you, so be patient.
Google Webmaster tools where your website site map is submitted, which will be done automatically by a plug-in, however you need to register your website first for all this to work. You will also see all links to your site and where they are coming from exactly.
You will be asked to verify your website to make sure that you are in fact the owner prior to seeing all this information.
Google Analytics is where Google gives you all the fantastic statistics about your website. This is the most valuable information you can get, straight from Google itself.
People whine and have conspiracy theories about registering with Google, but get real, Google is the one sending the traffic. You should not be paranoid unless you have something to hide? Hmm, do you?
Register with BING
Shock horror! There are other search engines out there you know! I will even give the link to Bing webmaster tools as it is a great resource for you. I read their guidelines and I feel that I could have written these myself. They just sound like “so human” or something? Crazy to say, but true.
Make sure you verify your website to see the amazing features offered to webmasters here.
Get a Theme That Has Built-in SEO
So you have your WordPress website, but now you need a premium WordPress theme that has built-in search engine optimization. Is this really necessary? Yes it is!
I use WordPress with the Thesis WordPress Theme on this website. There are many good reasons why I use this theme.
- I can no follow and no index pages at the tick the box. I do not have to be a coding genius to stop the search engines from doing certain things.
- I can enter in the Title, description, and keywords for each page or post and even the entire site. I can also do this for categories.
- Thesis allows me to have less plugins.
- New versions of WordPress now make sure your URLs are canonical. But Thesis already did this.
- I can do a 301 redirect by just adding the URL of the redirected page into the post options. I used this option when moving my WordPress website. Amazing and simple!
Get Your SEO Plugins
I can do all my SEO manually but I choose to install a few SEO plugins to save time. The one that is really saving me the most time is SEOPressor. I use this to research my keywords and related keywords for my article directly from within my WordPress dashboard. Previously I used to go to the Google keyword tool and do the research, download a CSV with the keywords, and bring them over to my WordPress post. Now I just use the LSI keyword feature in SEOPressor and it brings the keywords to me. See my detailed SEOpressor review. I have been using this plugin since 2010.
If you do not choose to buy a WordPress theme that has search engine optimization included, you can also install a if you free plug-ins to help you.
For example the All in One SEO Pack will let you add post title, Meta description, and keywords to each post. Also WordPress SEO is a great plugin that will submit your site map to Google, and many more SEO options.
Configure Your WordPress Settings
When you first setup your WordPress website you will need to configure your WordPress settings. One of the settings that are very important is your Permalink structure.
We have all head of search engine friendly URLs, well this is to do with the permalink structure.
Instead of having your URL look like this: http://yourdomain.com/p=123 you can make it look pretty for the search engines and the humans by having real words in the URL. You can find out more details about this is the free PDF report about WordPress setups.
No-index Some Stuff
To manually prevent all robots from indexing a page on your site, place the following meta tag into the <head> section of your page:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
You can also edit your robot.txt file to stop the search engines from indexing a page. One way to edit your robot.txt file is to go to Google webmaster tools or access it through your server.
All you have to do is add the URL of the page to the robot.txt file.
For example the real address of the page is http://yourdomain.com/mypage.html but you only need to put /mypage.html as we already know what domain the robot.txt file is for as it is stored on the root domain.
No Follow Too
Some links and pages need to be nofollow. As you can see above, Thesis allows you to nofollow entire pages easily.
To no-follow actual individual links on your pages you can edit the HTML section in WordPress. In the screenshot below you can see a Dofollow link and a Nofollow link.
If you need to edit the HTML, here is what your link should look like to make it No-follow.
Format Your Content the Right Way
I absolutely hate content that is not formatted for both the search engines and the humans. I always say that writing SEO content is an art and so is the way you present it.
We all know that you should be using H1, H2 tags and more, but where? This is what I do:
- H1 is for the title of the page or post only. If this is the case then there is no need to add this tag within the content of your page.
- H2 is for subheadings to break up your content. You should not use your keyword in every subheading and should always avoid looking spammy.
- H3 is for sub subheadings that go under the H2 headings. I do not always use these but if I have headings under headings then I use H3.
I always add one image at minimum to every page or post. I also add a ALT tag to describe what the picture is about. This is simply a few words to describe the picture so it can help you get found on Google images.
What about keyword density?
I like to stick to 1 to 2% keyword density, which in fact is not that much at all. This leaves some people wondering how I actually get picked up in the search engines, but it is the use of related keywords as well, that does the job for me. This is all part of Onpage SEO.
I choose a main keyword and make sure I mention it at least five times in 500 words. That’s 1%. Then I look at the related keywords, finding them using SEOpressor, and also adding them into the mix. This tells the search engines that my content is about “my main keyword” and has related keywords to reinforce it.
Some Webmasters recommend 3 to 5% keyword density, but I have seen articles like this and they look terrible.
I cover most of this in my post about What is quality content. I would really love for you to check that article out as it took me a long time to work out what quality was..
Also here is a quick video to explain more.
How SEO Works Video
Are You Starting To Understand How SEO Works?
When I write about SEO people comment and say “Oh yeah I have been meaning to do that!” What the? Why are you meaning to do anything. This is how it must be done for SEO to work for you and generate free traffic.
I just want you to know that SEO still works if done the right way.