Part 2 of a 3-part series on Search Engine Optimization for WordPress Users. This tutorial seeks to cover the broad picture of SEO practices and some specific application for WordPress users and developers.
On-Page Elements: What search engines see that you don’t…
Now we will look at the elements that affect search engine visibility and performance in your website’s source code. You may have seen plenty of beautiful websites that just don’t perform well in search results. This is because designers didn’t take into account what search engines see, that normal eyes do not and vice versa.
We will examine the most important meta elements, attributes and tags for impacting your search engine performance.
Anatomy of a Basic HTML Page
Take a look at the page structure above and use it as a reference for the discussion to come. It is important to note that your final product will look nothing like this if you are using a WordPress website! We will explore why later when we discuss templates and plugins.
What’s in your HEAD?
Meta information (meta meaning ‘along with’ or ‘self’) are bits of data which serve to identify your pages and distinguish sections of content.
Meta Keywords are your starting point (we’ll explain why later in Keyword Strategy). This is a list of topics, localities, products or descriptive words that people would use to search for your website. All other SEO data should reinforce your targeted keywords. Selecting appropriate keywords can be the most important part of your SEO strategy. Try a tool like Google AdWords Keywords Tool.
Your Meta Description is sometimes pulled from your Tagline in Settings. This description provides a sentence or two utilizing your keywords to put the purpose or explanation of content in a short statement.
URL: Your domain name and page names reinforce your keywords and content. If you can secure a domain name that includes your #1 keyword, this will reinforce your strategy. Also, by utilizing ‘pretty permalinks’ in WordPress, you can achieve excellent url structure. Under Settings/Permalinks, select Day and Name or Month and Name.
Title Tag: The title of your page and website. You should provide a logical title which includes one or two of your keywords and then repeat the name of your website with a ‘from’ or ‘by’. See plugins for options on managing page titles.
A Short Aside: Elements in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS)
Your Title, URL and Meta Description make up your search engine results page listing when properly organized. Keep in mind what a person searching would be likely to click on when they see your result.
Heading Tags: H1, H2 and H3 tags are typically used to organize content on the page. Search engines see these tags as providing clues to the purpose of the content. You should have one H1 tag per page, one-three h2 tags per page and nest tags in order for logical organization. A page name is usually displayed by your page template automatically and may have a heading tag applied to it already. View your source code to confirm.
Paragraph Tags: These tags set off content as content. Content wrapped in paragraph tags is given more weight on the page than other extraneous bits of text. It is tempting for some to use <br /> tags to achieve desired spacing on a page, but a well designed template will set you up to space paragraphs appropriately.
Alt and Title Attributes: A descriptive filename is a great place to start when placing images relevant to your content. But search engines can’t see images, so utilize the image Title and Alternate Text when uploading images to your WordPress pages or posts. These should reinforce your keywords.