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DIY SEO part I – content principles, what’s important and where to start

DIY WordPress SEO Guide or SEO, no longer a dark art

SEO or search engine optimisation has passed through the stage of being a buzzword into a widely understood term. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that how to make it work for your site is quite as widely understood.

In certain hands, SEO used to be a bit of a dark art, with people in the shadier corners of the internet promising to get you to the top of the search results for your key terms. Major search engines like Google shut that down and now you have to earn your right to be at the top. The questions we are often asked are, how do you do that? And is it something we can do in-house?

If you start by understanding that search engines aim to achieve customer satisfaction. They want to serve up the best possible results to their enquirers. You just need to help them to do their job.

These days SEO is mostly common sense and ensuring that you have optimised certain elements makes a huge difference in your rankings. Hence, there are many things you can do to adapt your written content to improve your online visibility.

It’s important to understand your SEO objectives and some fundamental SEO principles before you start. This guide will help you prioritise tasks and allow you to have a more thorough discussion with your developers.

Understanding some fundamental SEO principles:

Google has led the charge in driving change in SEO. Google does not want to disappoint their user, and wants to send them on to the best, most comprehensive website to match their user’s search query. With this in mind, you can appreciate that a website with boring or outdated content, or simply not 100% matching the search query will not be top of their list. Google can measure the visitor satisfaction by analysing metrics such as time on site, time on page and bounce rate. If your website does not score better than the next site, chances are you will be demoted in the rankings.

Whilst SEO challenges are, broadly speaking, broken into two categories – namely content aspects and more technical aspects – we’re focusing on content as it’s the one which you can most likely see the most improvement, assuming you’re not a developer.

From a DIY SEO perspective then, this guide will focus on the content elements that you have direct control over if you have access to your content management system (CMS).

Let’s consider your written site content

Written content is arguably the most important aspect of your website, it’s what prospects have come primarily to see. You have direct control over the success of this visit through your choice of copy, your language and layout. How you use storytelling, clear language and engaging copy will affect some of the key SEO metrics such as bounce rate and time on page and time on site.

It is vital to understand what your visitors are looking for before you build your site or write up your content. Remember, Google will send you more visitors if you have the exact answer to a user’s question.

Let’s think about some content elements that you have control over:

  • Meaningful text – What you are actually saying on a page
  • Utilising your CMS meta-data tools
  • Layout – Whether you use headings to break the content into scannable chunks (we know visitors don’t read everything immediately)
  • Signposting to further reading and other related content

1) Meaningful text

If you’re not engaging a content agency to write your copy you will want to make sure that a lot of consideration has gone into what it is that you are actually saying on your pages and whether this speaks to your visitors’ pain points.

What then, can you do from a DIY perspective?

  1. Know your visitors. Be sure you understand their motivations and their needs before you put cursor to page as they want to see how you provide the best solution for them.
  2. Know your competition. There is little point saying you offer the exact same thing as someone else in your sector, unless you’re comfortably the market leader. Look for the competitive edge and highlight the benefits of this.
  3. Make sure you’re speaking to an interested audience. When you type a query into Google, the autosuggest feature brings up search queries that other users have been looking for. If these are relevant to your topic, make a note of them and be sure to cover off those topics effectively.
  4. Be specific. Don’t try to cover off too many topics within one page of content. Make sure that your page is focussed, your message is clear and that as a whole, it is easy for a visitor to understand and digest.
  5. Have a detailed answer which shows your knowledge. These days Google is choosing to send visitors to longer pages of content, longform content up to 2000 words.
  6. Establish trust through your content by sharing case studies, reviews, testimonials as well as highlighting expertise from within the organisation.
  7. Critically, what you need to do is fundamental keyword research. Knowing which search terms are bringing people to your site and where there are opportunities to leverage is hugely valuable. This is too big a topic for here, but there will be a future blog about this, or you can get in touch if you want some advice now.

Understanding how to present the core topic of the page goes a long way and helps you shape the meta description and page title to be most effective for attracting the kinds of visitors you want.

2) Meta-data tools

WordPress as a platform has traditionally been very SEO friendly. By default, WordPress creates quite a comprehensive site architecture, and many things happen in the back end that are very beneficial for SEO and this certainly helped the platform’s rise to popularity.

3) Layout

Layout is important as you need to keep the visitor on your page for Google to consider it having been a success (having sent the visitor to your site). In today’s world, people want instant gratification and when faced with chunky text the first instinct is to turn around and leave.

Meaningful headings help you retain that visitor. Breaking content into digestible paragraphs is less daunting to a reader. Interesting and meaningful images and diagrams again make the process less painful. In fact, most of this is, again common sense. Make it easy to read!

It goes without saying that you need to consider different devices and how your page appears on a mobile, tablet or desktop. This becomes more of a design consideration, however the important aspect is to consider how your content is being digested, and how you can make it as pain free and enjoyable as possible.

4) Signposting and navigation

Linking to further related articles are an opportunity to keep a visitor on your site. It also allows you to signpost content very specifically with a link and a title, again advertising the specific topic the visitor will find at the other end. Apart from being another link for spiders to follow, it indicates what content you think is important.

Cumulatively the most important pages on your site should have the most inbound links (both from on-site and other websites). For this reason, breadcrumbs are very important as it shows the users (and search engines) where in your site they are, and it passes weight to the categories above. In the absence of breadcrumbs, you want to be sure that you feature your most important content or how to get there as much as possible.

Don’t abuse footer links – Google will have a boiler plate of your site and knows your footer will contain links to privacy policies and the like, but at the same time you should consider linking to important other pages such as the about page or key topics/categories. An HTML sitemap link in the footer is considered good practice and can be done quite effectively as in this example. {}

In Summary

Think of written content as a tool for making life as easy as possible for your visitor and their stay on your website as comfortable as possible. If you can look at your web content critically, you will find many opportunities to improve your natural, or organic, SEO.

Also, you cannot presume that your web developers will automatically create optimised content for you, as often you know your industry best, and secondly, unless a specific SEO exercise has been undertaken, the objective is usually a site build and design. When you undertake web development, ask whether a separate SEO process is going to be part of the build to properly set your expectations.