Innocents abroad: Your WordPress site and the world of SEO
The crucial part of the word Internet is the “net” part of the word: your website, if you have one, is part of a NETwork of a billion (yes, billion, as of Sept. 2014, and at the moment of writing this today: 969,143,470 online) websites and information repositories. Whether you want to make sure your website is findable amongst the billion other websites, or not, depends on whether your site and its information is formatted to be findable by search engines. In other words, whether you have applied SEO, Search Engine Optimization. What Michael David points out in a very detailed, thorough and balanced way in his manual WordPress Search Engine Optimization (2nd ed.) is that basically there is no shortcut to SEO. So how are you supposed to make your website stand out amongst the billion?
WordPress Search Engine Optimization, by Michael David
As an amateur WordPress site owner, you can do a lot yourself to clean up, format and correctly link the contents of your site. But David explains that most sites are simply fodder for the massive, complex and completely obtuse search engines, portals and information aggregators that make their money off people like you. You cannot outmanoeuvre Google.
“It’s important to keep in mind the role of the search engine. Too often, webmasters think or say Google is against them because Google appears to rank lower-value sites in favor of their own. The truth is the exact opposite: Google wants you to rank – as long as your result serves the need of its user base. You need to give Google what it’s looking for (or Yahoo or Bing, as the case may be), and Google will rank your site higher.” (p.3)
I was somewhat unnerved by David’s to-the-point disambiguation and clarifications of the world of Google and SEO. But don’t shoot the messenger: He is merely stating outright what many people don’t know and will never find out, unless they read this. He gives the reader the advantage of his insider knowledge.
Never again will you be fooled by spam, or hoax emails or all the other nonsense that pitches up on your site or in your in-box. Armed with this info, you will see, for the first time, clearly what you must do. You will also look at your site that you have spent so long building, at the pretty pictures you put in, at the nice bits of coding you did to make your headings pretty, at the friendly tone of your text – and realize that, oops, you probably did it all wrong.
So, here is what you can do with this hefty manual:
- Read it all. Honestly, it’s not so hard. Even I got it. And I’m not a programmer.
- Apply what you learn. While he uses mostly WordPress.org websites as examples, the principles pretty much apply to any website, regardless of where it is hosted or who develops it.
- Many of the diagnostic websites to which he refers are free, if so go there and run the diagnostics on your site. You want to find out how many links on your site do not work? Go check, and you will be sorely embarrassed by the results.
- Be careful who you ask for help with SEO. Don’t throw your money away on mindlessly handing over your site to a commercial company to do the SEO. David founded a SEO company, Tasty Placement, so he knows which mistakes to avoid. As he explains, SEO is all about the contents. You know your stuff. You are the expert. So you are the best person to do SEO on your site and your SEO company’s people have to understand your subject matter, or at least ask all the right questions. You can leave the formatting, linking, grammar checks, etc. to such a company. But the generation of original contents is your business and yours alone.
- Consider whether you want to do SEO. SEO is used to make your site findable and as close as possible to the top of the Google search results list. This ties in with people’s browsing and buying behaviours. There are many reasons to have a website. Yours might not be to generate sales, therefore you should think about what your objectives are and whether you need SEO, and if so, how much of it.
- Bear in mind that David sets the standards high. Doing proper SEO is a big job, a long process, a way of working. So, set your own standards for the performance of your site. He not only advises on what to do for WordPress SEO but also what to do in general to have a well designed, properly functioning website. I need my WordPress sites to work properly and look pretty. I don’t care if they’re not the best in the world, or the most glam, but at least they should not embarrass me. So I will not be implementing all of the techniques.
Having read and reviewed this book, I realized how much more there is for me to do, how things hang together, and which mistakes I must avoid. It was a real eye-opener. Particularly useful chapters were:
- Chapter 1: SEO Basics (I never really understood the whole tags and inbound/outbound links thing, until now.)
- Chapter 5: Creating Optimized and Engaging Contents
“In this chapter, we begin to fuse our knowledge of search technology, optimization, and keywords together, to create optimized and engaging web content – the words on the page. Note the term engaging. We have to give greater credence to our human visitors, rather than simply following the rules imposed by search engine algorithms. We don’t just want readers, we want engaged readers. We don’t want customers, we want engaged customers.” (p. 117)
- Chapter 6: Avoiding SEO Mistakes
“Sadly, it is typically professional web designers that serve as proponents of placement-robbing design methods like Flash graphics and image-based navigation menus. With web technology, just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. Thankfully, WordPress won’t let you make the most serious SEO errors, assuming, of course, that your WordPress template is well drafted. WordPress builds sound, hierarchical, text-based navigation that keeps most webmasters from making the gravest of errors. There are, however, mistakes that WordPress will not prevent you from making.” (p.229)
- Chapter 7: Testing Your Site and Monitoring Your Progress
I would recommend you buy the ebook or pdf version of this manual because of all the website links in it (specifically in the Appendices that list the plugins and resources). Apart from being comprehensive and balanced, David also has a good writing style that makes the argumentation flow and draws the reader into the explanations, which are often complex. If you have a WordPress site, I would say this is one of the best manuals and technical handbooks to refer to.
About the author: Michael David is Founder and Chief Strategist of Tasty Placement and serves as the head of search. He does most of the intermediate coding and meets with new clients, and serves as the principal architect on all search campaigns.
About Marthe Bijman: Marthe Bijman was technical/contents reviewer of WordPress Search Engine Optimization (2nd ed.), by Michael David.