Beginner’s Guide: How can I use SEO for my website?
Search engine optimization, SEO for short, is an extensive subject area.
Unfortunately, this term is no longer protected and anyone can call themselves an SEO specialist.
Even though agencies are now mushrooming and promising the blue of the sky, such offers are to be enjoyed with extreme caution.
With just a few basics you can achieve a lot with your website.
We have therefore compiled the most important basics in this article.
Why it is not enough to install an SEO plugin
In many conversations with newcomers in the past years, we have always received an almost identical answer.
"I use a plugin for SEO."
SEO plugins like Yoast and wpSEO do not optimize your posts, content or website.
They only help you to support the implementation of SEO. Like an intelligent checklist.
Note: An SEO plugin is only as good as it is applied and implemented. An SEO plugin does not optimize your website by itself.
Understanding Search Engine Optimization
The Internet is full of SEO tips and advice, but these are usually based exclusively on theoretical assumptions and not on how SEO works in practice.
This is the reason why many beginners find SEO confusing and either give up SEO or simply do not achieve the desired results.
To optimize content for search engines, you first need to understand how search engines work.
Furthermore, you can't be at the top of the search engines with your website, but only with a start page or subpage.
Your website consists of the homepage and the respective subpages. Each must be optimized individually for the search engines.
Subpages can be a menu item, a category, a post or a static page.
1. The Permanent Link Structure
What links are probably everyone knows. Strictly speaking, the Internet consists of a countless collection of links.
When we talk about a permantent link structure, we mean the URLs of your subpages.
With the adaptation of the permalink structure the search engine optimization of your website starts.
Talking permalinks are not only beneficial for your visitors, but also for search engines to better understand your content.
Guidelines for search engine friendly URLs:
- Make your URLs simple and understandable.
- Use hyphens and words in the URLs to separate.
- Avoid long URLs with unnecessary information.
- Use words that describe the content of the page. In most cases it is ideal to use the page title as URL.
Poor link structure
Good link structure
2. The Internal Link
Links are among the most important ranking factors in the Google algorithm.
Often only external links are mentioned, i.e. incoming links from other domains.
The internal linking is one of the most important SEO measures and should not be limited to the use in navigation or in the footer.
When we refer to internal links, we mean links on your pages that refer to other pages within your website.
Unlike external links, you don't have to worry about Google filters. This does not violate any Google guidelines.
In addition to longtail keywords, money keywords can also be linked without hesitation and without restrictions.
Example: If you want to achieve a good positioning for the keyword free credit card, then link from as many subpages as possible with exactly this longtail keyword.
Note these rules for internal links:
- Link related posts together using either a keyword or the full title of the post.
- An internal link should be understandable for the reader as well as for the search engine. In short, the more often a link is actually clicked by real visitors, the better it is.
- The link should be directly related to the read post.
- Avoid terms like click here or read more for internal links.
- Don't overdo it. A few internal links per page is enough.
The breadcrumb is an additional navigation within your website, which shows the visitor in which hierarchy level he is.
Example: Business directory - New York - Restaurants - Steaks
This type of navigation creates many pros:
- Visitors know where they are at all times
- A different hierarchy level can be reached with one click.
- The operation is intuitive and self-explanatory.
- Navigation takes up extremely little space.
- Strengthening of the internal link structure according to the hierarchy principle.
3. The Page Title
The page title is one of the most important SEO measures and should therefore be carefully selected.
Also the page title belongs to the most conspicuous characteristics, which the searcher gets to see in the hit lists of the search engines.
A well thought-out page title should therefore be short, precise and meaningful so that both the search engine and the searcher know immediately what the page is all about.
The most important properties of an optimized page title are:
- Each page should have a unique page title.
- The maximum length of 70 characters should not be exceeded.
- If possible, include the main keyword at the beginning to describe the page.
- Include the name of the website, company or brand to achieve a branding effect. Example: Visit my website - myherothemes.com.
- Provide an incentive for the searcher to visit your website.
There are several free SEO tools that you can use to create SERP snippets. These will show you directly what your information would look like in the search engines.
Such a preview helps you to get a feel for how you can optimize your page titles, especially at the beginning.
Recommendation: Use the SEO plugin Yoast, then you will see a snippet preview directly below the editor (for all your content).
You should avoid these properties in your page title:
- Multiple repetition of the main keyword.
- The mere stringing together of keywords has a spamming effect and can also be rated as such by search engines.
- Irrelevant keywords that have nothing to do with the site. Align the page title exclusively with the content of this one page.
- Unnecessary commas, separators, stop words or special characters.
Check occasionally in the search engines, whether your defaults are also displayed in such a way.
In rare cases Google will automatically change the page title into other text modules of your website.
This is done when usability is expected to improve.
4. Text Formatting
Do not publish contributions without having previously formatted the text accordingly.
The use of formatting serves the good readability of your contents. Nobody wants to look at content that is not easy to read.
The resulting measured values, such as a high bounce rate, have a negative effect on all SEO measures.
Which formatting should be done?
- Use H1 for the title of your posts.
- Structure your content with multiple subheadings in H2.
- Use bold and italics in your content to attract readers' attention.
- Write short sentences with a maximum of 20 words.
- Write small paragraphs.
- Use a font size and font that is easy to read.
- Your content should be equally readable on all devices.
5. The Image Optimization
Images can be optimized not only in terms of size and quality to improve loading speed.
Images are taken separately by the search engines and can also bring potential visitors to your website via the image search.
We ourselves do not optimize images separately for search engines, as the cost-benefit factor does not open up for us here.
However, this does not apply to every website. The image optimization is especially suitable for someone who uses many images, for online shops, graphic designers etc..
What you should pay attention to when optimizing your images:
- Use ALT-texts to describe the image.
- Use keywords in the file names. Not Good: image01.jpg Very Good: red-apple.jpg.
- Structure your images all from one folder www.mywebsite.com/images/.
- Optimize the image sizes of your images. There are many small plugins that can help you here without affecting the quality of the image.
6. The Page Speed
Google has commented several times in the past that the loading speed of your website is a ranking factor.
Actually logical, because the goal behind it is to deliver to the visitor as fast as possible exact information.
Fast websites also contribute to a good user experience that encourages your visitors to return to the website.
Recommendation: Your website should be fully loaded in less than 4 seconds, then this factor contributes to an improvement in positioning.
How to improve the loading speed of your website:
- Optimize the size of all images and graphics used.
- Use a caching service or a suitable WordPress plugin.
Especially as a beginner it is often difficult to take care of technical details and implementations.
If necessary, ask an external developer to take care of this optimization.
7. 404 Error Page
Even though it is generally 404 error pages to avoid, in practice it happens every now and then.
Causes for this can be found both externally and internally.
Another website links to a post whose URL you changed a few months ago and the visitor who clicks on this link and gets to your website receives a 404 error page.
Many websites do not care about an appealing 404 error page and the visitor is immediately irritated and suspects spam or worse.
Make sure therefore already with the Theme selection for your web page that a 404 error side is already integrated.
What should a 404 error page bring:
- Give the visitor information about what happened instead of displaying Not Found.
- Create a design that matches the rest of the site
- Give visitors the opportunity to click directly on other content on your error page.
8. Responsive Layout
The responsive design of your website plays an important role in search engine optimization.
The leading search engine Google has already expressed its preference for websites with responsive layout in their positioning.
What is responsive design?
Visitors to your website use different devices, i.e. computers, notebooks, tablets or even smartphones.
To make your website look the same on all these devices, a responsive layout is required.
Simply put, responsive layout adapts to the terminal device used in the form of screen resolution and menu navigation.
Therefore it is important that your website is responsive optimized.
If visitors use smaller screens, they will have to zoom in to read your content or zoom out to navigate the website.
Recommendation: On our website you will find many responsive themes for your WordPress website.
9. The Sitemap
There are 2 types of sitemaps, that are HTML sitemaps for visitors and then there are XML or TXT sitemaps that are created on search engines.
Sitemaps for search engines
All formats have an upper limit of 50 MB and 50,000 URLs for a single Google Sitemap. If the file is larger or contains more URLs, the sitemap must be split across multiple sitemaps.
If the sitemap only contains web page URLs, you can provide Google with a simple text file with one URL per line. Example:
Guidelines for sitemaps based on a text file:
- Encode the file in UTF-8 format.
- The text file should only contain the list of URLs.
- The text file can be given any name, provided it has the extension TXT, for example sitemap.txt.
10. Structured data
A good way to make your website's content more searchable and searchable for search engines is to use structured data.
Put simply, structured data is a way to catalog your content so that crawlers can better index your content.
Search engines can therefore use structured data to better determine what your website is about and display additional information on specific content.
There are different markups for almost all kinds of content: Articles, videos, pictures, products and many more.
11. Content is King
Content is King! Search engines now recognize the quality of website content and reward good content with high rankings in search results.
Unique, high-quality and up-to-date content is an essential factor for a good ranking in search engines like Google.
Finding information on any topic on the Internet is no problem.
The challenge today is to create well-founded and substantial articles that actually help the reader.
How do I know if my content is good?
There are 4 good ways to see how good your content really is:
- Use an analysis tool to find out how long visitors stay on your website.
- If your content is good, more fans will join you on your social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter & Co.
- The comment function gives you direct response what your readers think of your content.
- Search engines also judge the quality of your content, if it is good, they gradually climb up into search engine positions.
How do I write good content?
There is no simple answer to this question, but in the How to write a blog post, we have already dealt with this question.
Quantity vs. Quality
This depends greatly on the type of contribution.
There are questions, in order to be able to explain these, a contribution with 2000 words is necessary. Other questions are sufficiently explained with 200 words.
It is better to write a high-quality contribution than a contribution designed only to reach a certain number of words.
So don't inflate a contribution unnecessarily. The answer to this question was explained in detail in the Google Forum.
Regularly fresh contents
Fresh content is therefore an incentive for visitors to come back and read regularly.
For search engines and their crawler bots, new content provides feed for crawling.
So if new content is published regularly on the website, this is an incentive for the crawler bots to crawl your website several times a day.
12. Use webmaster tools and analytics software
The major search engines such as Google and Bing provide webmaster tools for website operators.
Simply register and verify your own website there. Once verification is complete, valuable information is made available via your own website.
Although this is not directly related to SEO, these webmaster tools have a number of advantages:
- Inform search engines about your website and store sitemaps.
- Get information about the number of your indexed content.
- You will face potential problems, for example when crawlers have access problems to content.
- Incoming and internal links are shown.
It is also important to use analysis software:
- Where do the visitors of your website come from?
- Which keywords bring visitors to your website?
- Which subpages are visited?
- How much time do visitors spend on your website?
Recommendation: Use Google Analytics, that tool is also free.
How important are external links?
The Internet lives on links. Without these links your web pages will not be found. External links are therefore very important for successful websites.
All in all, Google should take into account well over 200 factors according to which the positioning takes place. So backlinkbuilding should not be neglected.
These rules should be observed when building backliners:
- Do not link to spam websites or questionable websites.
- Avoid receiving backlinks from spam websites or questionable websites.
- Do not sell or exchange backlinks.
- Avoid broken links on and to your website.
- Use the attribute nofollow for the comment function on your blog.
Big compliment, if you made it this far.
Stick to the SEO Basic measures listed here and you will continuously achieve a better position in the search engines.
Please read this article more often, because especially at the beginning this much information can be a bit overwhelming for you.
For further information we recommend our beginners guide, where you will find a lot of useful information about WordPress.