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SEO Best Practices in WordPress for 2016 and Beyond

The BIGGEST question – How to improve my website’s SEO?

Well everyone is asking the same question and only a few ones has the answer.

Today, I’m going to tell you how you can actually improve your SEO, what are the tools you should use and what are the SEO best practices that you need to follow in the year 2016 which will help you even in 2017.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with minute details on how you can improve your WordPress site’s SEO and what Google and other search engines love.

We all know Google is the baseline for all the SEO strategies. Whatever algorithms or changes Google does, we follow. So, let’s first learn what changes or enhancement Google has done in its SEO algorithm in the past 6 months.

  1. On January 8, 2016 Google released a ‘core algo update’. There were huge ranking shifts seen after this update but it wasn’t a major update in the Penguin algo.
  2. on February 23, 2016 they made major changes to AdWords. Google removed the right-column ads entirely and rolled out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches.
  3. On May 12, 2016 Google rolled out a major update. This update was for the mobile friendliness of a website to boost rank of mobile friendly site.

Check out: Mobile SEO Optimization Guide

If you are unaware about this updates and feeling let out, then don’t worry. The basic principles of SEO remains the same.

Now, lets learn about some the best practices you should follow for improving your WordPress SEO in 2016.

SEO Best Practices for WordPress in 2016

I will provide you these SEO best practices in a form of a checklist, so it will be easy for you to understand and implement it later.

Google Analytics

This is the base to start with. You need to setup a Google Analytics account for your website. For this, you need to add a tracking code on your site to start measuring the traffic and other metrics. To start with Google Analytics, watch the video below and learn from the Google Analytics Training Academy.

Google Webmaster Tools

After Google Analytics, comes Webmaster Tools. Open an account there to keep an eye on search queries, crawl errors, security issues and more.

Sitemap

Create a sitemap of your WordPress site and submit to Google Webmaster Tools. The sitemap help Google bots and even users crawl your website easily. You may use the Google XML Sitemap plugin to create a sitemap of your WordPress site.

Robots.txt

Generate a robots.txt file and upload it to your site’s root folder. This is nothing but just an empty file which gives instructions to web robots.

Install a WordPress SEO Plugin

SEO plugins like WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast is one of the most popular and effective plugins to set SEO of the page/post/product. There are a few alternatives too:

Details top 5 WordPress SEO plugins here.

Page Load Speed

Get your website’s page load speed analyzed by Pingdom’s Speed Test Tool. It is free of cost and you can use it as a benchmark to take a look at your load speeds again after optimization.

These were just the starters, lets now have the main course.

How to search for Keywords (long-tail keywords are best)

how to search for keywords

Develop a buyer persona

Think like a layman. Think who are your clients or visitors. What challenges or questions do they have? What is target market searching? Find the answers and you’ll have a picture of your ideal client and these are the people you have to write for.

Google Search Bar

Not many use this technique to search keywords. Suppose, now you know your clients are searching for. Head over to Google and type the keyword in the search bar and without pressing enter, look at the phrases that Google suggests. These are those keywords which people are searching for. So, start building your own keyword list using just the search bar.

Find More Related Keywords

Find more related keywords for your main keyword using Google Keyword Planner. This tool will give you suggestions and alternate keywords worth targeting.

Slim Down the List

You know you can’t target all the keywords. So you need to narrow down the list by checking the competition on the keyword and eliminating overly competitive keywords. You can do this by using a this keyword research tool.

Select target keywords

Now, you removed all the irrelevant and competitive keywords, its time to target some for the post. These target keywords or key phrases will become the center-piece of your page. Use them to answers to visitors and position yourself as an authoritative person who can help people.

You have done the initial setup now, let’s start with how to add keywords to content.

Content is the king

Whatever changes Google or any other search engine makes in its SEO algorithms, one thing won’t change. Content will be the king always. And yes, there are SEO best practices for that allow.

content is king

Create an editorial calendar

Keep your content marketing plan effective and organized by having an editorial calendar. This way you can plan which post/page are going when to build consistency.

Find trending topics

Google Trends provides you with latest trend. Use it for your advantage to find latest news and updates and what people are searching for and create fresh content around it or update existing one.

First Impression is last impression

The above idiom applies to content also. Have an intriguing title for your blog post to attract more viewership. Use blog title generators to generate compelling titles.

Old is gold

Don’t think old articles are waste. You can tweak them, re-purpose its content or even update them with some fresh content. Believe me, most of the top bloggers update there old articles and publish it with a new date.

On Page SEO Best Practices

If want to get your posts/pages rank high in the SERPs, you need to know the SEO best practices that are followed for on-page SEO.

on page seo best practices

Title tags

What you write inside title tag is shown as the title in Google search. The title that you give to your WordPress post/page is not what is show. The title inside the title tag and the WordPress title can be different, but try to keep it same.

It should include the focus keyword and try to limit your title between 60-70 words.

Meta description

This is a short description of your page/post that is shown in SERP (search engine results page). Keep it short, under 155 words and enticing so that the viewers click on your link after reading the meta description.

URL structure

Include your keyword in URL of the post. However, this is not a major factor, but it is best if you do it.

Headings and sub-headings

Use proper heading tags to help search engine know what your page is all about. Make sure you include H1 tag for your main heading and H2 and H3 or H4 for sub-headings.

Image SEO

Make sure you include atleast one image in your content. Give a proper name to your image and include the keyword or its alternatives in the alt tag. Title of the image should also include the keyword or key-phrase in it.

Ideal length of articles

As such there is no compulsion. But try to aim for content over 500 words approximately. Ideally, the more content the better but it you can explain your point concisely in about 400 words then you are the boss. Don’t add fluff just for the sake of increasing the word count. Quality matters.

If you want to learn more about on page SEO, we have a dedicated article on it.

Off page SEO Best Practices

Well, the off-page SEO is what improves your domain authority (DA) and the page authority (PA) too. So, if you want to improve just follow these off page SEO best practices.

off page seo best practices

Analyze competitor link profile

When building backlinks, check from where your competitors are getting their links. You can use the Moz competitive link analysis manual to get it.

Build an link opportunity worksheet

After analyzing and collecting your competitor’s backlinks add it to a spreadsheet. This way you’ll have a list of links from where you can get relevant backlinks.

Contact websites

Now that you have a list, create an email script that you will use to contact the website owners or authors and ask them if they can provide a backlink to your article.

Build relationships

Your website/blog will grow if you’ve have atleast some number of visitors who are constant. Yes, you have to think about getting more traffic but to do that you need to build relationship with current visitors. So that they can recommend it to others. Also, look out for key influencers in your niche. Contact them and leverage their network to increase your traffic.

Indulge in discussions

Take part in forums and discussion boards related to your niche. Answer people’s queries, but give relevant answers only. Support your answer by giving a link to your one of your articles. To learn how to interact in forums and discussion boards read this guide on how to engage in online forums by Jason Falls.

Disavow irrelevant links

Some links may harm your SEO as they are totally irrelevant. Remove such backlinks by disavowing them from Webmaster Tools. This Google article will help you understand how you can disavow backlinks.

Anchor text

Anchor text is the text that you add link to. We instinctively add links to text like, ‘click here’, ‘read more’, etc.. But the best practice is to add link to the text which is relevant and explains the article in few words. Best way is to use the article title.

Social proof

Social media is gaining its importance day-by-day. Posts on social media get indexed and provide a good backlink to your site. Even though it does not affect SEO directly, it does in small bits.

social proof for seo

Verified social accounts

There is no need to say to create a social accounts, because probably you have it. But probably you don’t have verified social accounts. Also, create accounts on all possible social media platforms because you never know which will strike.

Setup social media calendar and monitoring

Use social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts on social media. This way you have a queue of posts for period of time that you select. Once you start posting on social media, start monitoring and see how your posts are working.

Wrapping up

SEO is really big and can’t be covered in one article. To improve your WordPress SEO you need to have patience and consistency and follow these SEO Best Practices. It doesn’t happen overnight. These were some of the best practices for WordPress in 2016 that I personally follow on the WPeka blog.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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