Search Engine Optimization doesn’t involve any tricks or gimmicks. SEO is just about making your site as search friendly as possible, and helping search engines to find your site. Search Engines like Google and Bing are businesses too, they are competing to be the top search engine out there (though Google is already far, far ahead). So, to be the best, they want to present the most useful and relevant results to their users. If your site falls into that category, they will be happy to bring your site up in their results. SEO basics only involve making your site friendly and then making sure search engines see it.
What do Search Engines Want?
Search engines want to find the best possible sites to present their readers. This means sites that have good content, authority, usability, and provide a great user experience.
Content: Using a plugin like SEO Yoast, you can set a keyword for each post. This tells search engines what your content is about. This information helps SEO, but your content also must be relevant to your keyword for SEO to be optimized. You might see that the keyword “summer” is popular right now, but tagging your post with that when it isn’t about summer will not help you. Making sure that your content is filled with relevant keywords and then tagging it correctly will make your content as search engine friendly as possible.
Authority: If you see a website that has no comments, no links to anywhere, and no mentions anywhere else, you might question how valid the information is. Search Engines act the same way. If your site has lots of traffic, views, comments, and links to other sites, search engines see it as having more authority, and are more likely to link to it.
Usability and User Experience: Even if your content is relevant, search engines don’t like to link people to sites that aren’t usable. If your site loads slowly or gives people viruses, your SEO will be awful, because search engines won’t want to bring people there. Today user experience is so important. I’ll admit, if I reach a site that is unattractive or difficult to navigate, or maybe the text is hard to read, I’m gone within seconds. Search engines know this, and want to present sites that you will be happy to see and use. Regardless of how relevant or accurate your information, if your site doesn’t promote a good user experience search engines won’t link to you.
How to Optimize
There are things that you can do at the design level to improve user experience and usability, but for the most part, you can tell when your site is user friendly. Just think about whether you would want to read something on your own site if you stumbled upon it. The next step is easy. With WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO, making sure that every post or page you publish is optimized is easy. All you do is set a keyword for your post, and the plugin will tell you whether your SEO is red, yellow or green. Of course you want to strive for green on every post, and better yet, the plugin will tell you exactly what to do to get there. Doing things like adding image title tags, writing a meta description and making sure your keyword is present will increase your SEO rating.
What Else Makes a Difference?
So you write your first blog post, you get a green rating with Yoast and and your site is gorgeous and easy to navigate. So the next time someone Googles your keyword your post will be first in the search results right? Well, not so fast. Realistically it probably won’t be anywhere near the first page. Remember, there are other factors involved like authority. In order to build authority and good SEO you need to have a good amount of content and links. My old blog, The Crafty Frugaler, still gets good traffic from search engines every day because I have over 500 posts with good SEO ratings and I was writing for years so I have tonnes of links out there. When search engines like Google look at your site, if they see only one post and no one else linking to you, it doesn’t matter how good your SEO rating on Yoast is, you probably won’t be found.
Today, another thing that makes a huge difference is responsiveness. In April Google updated their search engine algorithms to favour mobile friendly sites since such a huge portion of users are using their phones or tablets over computers. This means that regardless of how great your SEO is, if your site is not mobile friendly it probably won’t show up in the results. Search Engines want to make their users happy, and presenting a user with a search result that can’t be read or navigated on their mobile device will make them anything but happy.
So What do You do?
The bottom line is that you need to keep working. Keep writing quality content. Install the SEO by Yoast plugin and make sure every post has a green rating. Make sure your site is attractive, usable, and easy to read and navigate. Work to interact with others and get your name and link out there. It won’t happen overnight, but if you keep at it, eventually you will start to see traffic coming from Search Engines. And then you will see more and more traffic over time. And then maybe one day you’ll Google something and see your own site on page 1.
There are so many different aspects of SEO and ways you can boost your rankings that we could talk for days about all the ways to improve. In fact, today people work entire careers dedicated to SEO, and spend years in school learning all there is to know. Here I’ve just given you some of the bare basics so you can get a good handle of what SEO is before digging deeper into how to improve upon it. If you’re looking to do some more reading and learn more about SEO, this guide by Moz is a great place to start.