WordPress SEO Basics – Part 4
Search engines don’t see web pages as humans do. They interpret content differently and this difference is important if you want your site to be crawled properly. This article will begin to get a little technical in it’s approach, but it is all in the name of helping you create a great site for users as well as search engines.
Search engines have gotten really sophisticated over the last few years. They can now look at images and find similarities, identify faces, read text that is part of the image, and more. However, search engines still can’t see images and videos quite like humans can. Because of this discrepancy, it is important to firstly design a website that is great for users, then make sure that the site design is search engine friendly in it’s content markup.
The most important and descriptive part of your website should be in HTML text format. This ensures crawlable content for search engine spiders. Flash, Java, images, videos, etc. are not seen well by search engines. Even if the search engine has the ability to crawl these portions of the site, they may not know what to do with the content. Therefore, I will say it again, your most important and descriptive content should be actual text.
If you do use images (as you should), it is important to mark them so that search engines can see them. The most important markup for images is the “alt text.” This should be a word or words that best describes the image. The search engine will see the alt text and will make determinations about the image based on the content of the site and how it relates to the alt text. When it comes to video and audio, provide a transcript and description.
If you’re not sure if your content is being crawled, use Google text cache as a tool.
Crawlable Link Structure
Search engines need to be able to find all the pages on your site so they can list them all appropriately. If the search engine can’t find all your pages though, then you will be missing out. WordPress and it’s database structure are pretty good and keeping internal links working properly. Even if you change the slug of a page or post, WordPress will adjust the link structure. Sometimes, however, links break. It’s inevitable. To combat this, use the Broken Link Checker Plugin.
Keyword Usage & Targeting
Keywords are the backbone of search. Search engines like Google actually keep individual databases for keywords rather than one giant database. That way search indices can be called in a matter of a fraction of a second. This is the bread and butter of quick keyword search. So the basics are simple – if you want to come up under the keyword “monkey” than you better make sure that you have the word “monkey” in your website content.
Keywords dominate how the user communicates their search intent and interact with the engines. When one enters words to search, the engine matches indexed pages based on the words that were entered. The order of the words (“monkey eating bananas” vs. “banana eating monkey”), spelling, punctuation, and capitalization provide additional information that the engine uses to help retrieve relevant pages and how to rank them.
Search engines measure how keywords are used on pages to help determine the relevance of a particular document to a query. One of the best ways to optimize a page’s ranking is to ensure that the keywords used to rank for are prominently used in titles, text, and metadata.
Generally speaking, as keywords are made more specific, the competition for search results is narrowed, and improves the chances of achieving a high search result ranking.
Since the birth of the internet people have tried to manipulate keywords to attain a higher search ranking. One of the most popular in the early days of the internet was “keyword stuffing.” A page would be built with a huge number of keywords on the page somewhere, often at the end of the page. Search engines in these days wouldn’t take keyword use into factor when generating results. This obviously seriously skewed the results and didn’t help users find the information they were looking for.
Keywords are still abused today in SEO. The best thing you can do is use keywords strategically and naturally. In other words, if you are forcing the page to rank a certain way, then you are abusing keywords. Remember, the point of using keywords is not to rank highly for all keywords, but to rank highly for the keywords that people are searching for when they want what your site provides.
In WordPress, it is very helpful to use the Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin has all the tools you need to acheive natural keyword optimization. Basically, if you use Yoast SEO, yet you still don’t rank well, then there are other factors going on (like link building, content, etc.).