SEO. Search Engine Optimization. For many SEO is an acronym (an initialization if you want to get grammatical) that conjures fear and panic in those with little understanding of what it really is.
If only I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “Help me Matt, I’ve been told I need to SEO my site”.
SEO is not something you do once, set and forget and then all is happy days, customers will come flocking.
You need to treat SEO as something integral to the whole website design process (and beyond). Every single thing you do on a website and potentially outside of your website, impacts the Search Engine Optimization of your site.
Changing a post title, renaming a page slug, no-indexing a page, optimizing an image, changing a word or adding a sentence – they all impact your rankings and your traffic. Promoting a post on Facebook, sharing your business card at a networking event or publishing a YouTube video – they all impact your search results. Some more than others.
The goal is to understand what activities positively impacts traffic to your site and increases conversions (and indirectly your rankings) and then constantly improve it, but you also need to understand what harms these things and cease or at least reduce these actions.
I get asked often at my monthly WordPress meetups, ‘Is SEO easy?’. ‘Well, yes and no.’ I would often reply. SEO is more of an effort than difficult and it is an ongoing effort but the more you do it, the better and more efficient you get at it AND usually the loss often you need to do SEO activities once you get into the groove.
SEO is as technical as you want to make it – it’s as in-depth as you want to get, but at the end of the day most website owners don’t need to get too techy. You also need to remember that it is relative – everything has been a first time at some point and seems foreign and complicated, but then we research, we learn and we resolve and then the second time it is less daunting.
I can tell you now, contrary to popular belief, you do not need a degree in computer science nor run an SEO agency to understand and implement the core principles of SEO. There are many things YOU can do to see tremendous benefit.
LIke many things in life, the Pareto Principle can be applied. In fact it very very much applies to SEO.
Remember the 80/20 rule? 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes?
In SEO, you only need to apply 20% of the principles to get 80% of the results. I will focus on this 20% and share my knowledge with you BUT before we delve any deeper into SEO there is one thing that must be done… okay, 7 things that must be done to be prepared.
Yes, SEO requires preparation.
Complete these seven activities, some you may have already done but I am sure their are others you haven’t. A good foundation lets us benchmark our current performance. We can then track and measure our progress.
Let’s get started!
1. Watch this Video
How Search Works
No, seriously WATCH the Video. If you are new-ish to SEO then this Video should be compulsory. If you are an experienced SEO watch it again – I’ve seen it at least 20 times. It goes for 3 mins – less than most songs but it will benefit you tremendously. Powerful stuff.
Matt Cutts used to be an engineer at Google. He has since left to pursue other things but he is a search genius and has a first hand understanding of how search engines REALLY work.
2. Audit your site
The best way to improve anything is through data. To get the real benefits of data analysis you need to benchmark. How can you now how far you have run if you don’t know where you started?
There are a couple of excellent free tools to audit your site. For a nice clean SEO audit try SEOptimer. Not only is it free but it is fast, easy to understand and thorough – it covers everything:
And to finish things off, SEOptimer provides a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, list of recommendations. One recommendation per area with traffic light prioritizing.
Whenever I audit my site I use a couple of tools to ensure I cover all bases. SEMRush is a great SEO Tool especially for users who want the All In One SEO experience but the free audit is limited to 100 pages – which is fine for most people.
Another Alternative: DareBoost
I have only recently discovered DareBoost.com but like SEOptimer also does an easy to understand yet thorough Audit of your site. I highly recommend signing up for a free account as it will allow you to do up to 5 audits per today and it also keeps record of previous audits so that you can compare and measure progress.
3. ADD an SEO Plugin
WordPress SEO Tools
There are four SEO Plugins that I use depending on the site, the needs of other users on a site and depending how content driven the site is.
Yoast is the most well known but has moved to the back of my list recently. All in One SEO Pro is my go to plugin for light weight sites where I want to focus more on the technical SEO and less on the content.
SEO Framework is my new substitute for Yoast when I need a free plugin but my new SEO favourite, particular for those new to SEO is SEOPress and at $39 annually (unlimited sites) it is an absolutely bargain that is worth every cent.
Incredibly user friendly, feature rich and covers all bases from content to technical to social.
4. Add Your Site to Google Search Console
Index Your Site
Two important things to consider when you contemplate if you need to do this. Firstly Google Search Console is a ‘obviously’ a Google product for the most powerful and popular search engine of our time – Google Search. Secondly (and most importantly) – it is free. However, you can’t just submit any website, it has to be a website that you can verify. If it is a friend’s or a client’s site that you manage, then out of respect, let them know and seek approval first.
So why add your site (and all the variations) to Google Search Console?
**Quick Side Note** By variations I mean:
What Does Google Search Console Do?
It allows you to:
- Submit a sitemap.
- Check your robots.txt file to detect errors.
- Connect Google Search Console with Google Analytics (we’ll get to this soon…)
- Submit your site (or specific URLs) to Index
- Displays Site Errors after crawling your site
- List internal links and external backlinks
- See what keyword searches on Google led to the site being listed in Search Engine Results including the CTR (Click-Through-Rate) and impression volumes.
- Set a preferred domain (one of the variations)
- Receive notifications from Google for manual penalties.
- Check the security issues, if there are any, with the website. (Hacked Site or Malware Attacks)
- Add or remove the property owners and associates of the web property.
But Wait, That's not all!
Whilst you are there, quickly pop over to Wayback Machine (aka Internet Archive) and Save Your Page.
Watch my brief 1 minute video to see how easy this is. (created using Fleeq).
5. Add Your Site to Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a must – a no brainer for these three reasons:
- It is free. (In case you missed that – it is free)
- It is a phenomenal piece of analytical software – powerful, detailed, relatively easy to use with a great user interface backboned by Google’s Cloud infrastructure.
- Most importantly >>> You can use the data to make important decisions to optimize your site.
Complementary Option: WhataGraph
Whatagraph still requires connection to Google Analytics (Easy) but then provides the most comprehensive, user friendly & visual analytics report you can imagine. It is a premium service.
6. Benchmark Your PAGE LOAD SPEED
Page Speed Analysis
GTmetrix is one of those tools, that every time you use it, you wonder how incredible the internet is and how lucky we are that we get such powerful tools without handing over a cent.
GTmetrix gives you a detailed page load analysis of your site and to be honest, if you are new to this, it may be over your head but never-the-less get a snapshot of your current state as a benchmark – and then we can focus on seven things you can do to improve your page load.
We’ll have your page load looking like this in no time!
7. Add a Caching Plugin
WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin but it is not expensive and is worth every cent. However, there are a number of free caching plugins available including my personal favorite WP Fastest Cache that do a great job.
Their support and Facebook group are great and always very supportive and great sources of caching and optimization knowledge.
The next step is to focus on the actual SEO improvements you can make on your site now that you have audited, benchmarked and put SEO infrastructure and tools in place. Reviewing the Site Audit will be the next step.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
If you found this article helpful…