24 WordPress SEO Tips To Optimize Your Site In 2020

If you’re looking for less obvious WordPress SEO tips, I have just the list for you.

You’ve probably heard enough about Yoast green lights for one lifetime. That’s why this list includes practical tips that go way beyond Yoast, including a full list of SEO and speed optimization plugins. I used these to grow my SEO blog to 3,000 readers/day as a 1-man show.

Just read it, you will definitely learn something.

 

1. Install The Right SEO Plugins

  • Yoast SEO – you probably already use Yoast, but most people don’t do these things correctly: forgetting keyword density, snippet variables, bulk editor, and social optimization. Or see my Yoast tutorial which covers all 4 steps to Yoast: settings configuration, Webmaster Tools, focus keywords, content SEO.
  • Google Site Kit – Google’s new WordPress plugin which integrates Google Analytics, Search Console, AdSense, and PageSpeed Insights. It’s still in beta.
  • WP Review – rich snippet plugin (best one out there IMO) and is what I use. Here’s a page I use it on. It looks great, supports 14 data types (including editor reviews, user reviews, and recipes), comes with 16 pre-styled templates, and is supported by MyThemeShop. All In One Schema is free but very minimal and lacks customization. WP Rich Snippets was abandoned by the developer. WP Review is lightweight and has both a free and pro version with tons of options.
  • Easy Table Of Contents – adding a TOC has huge SEO benefits. It encourages long content, lets people link to specific sections of your post, makes them click around, and Google may award you jump-to links by using name anchors.
  • Automatic Alt Attributes – automatically adds alt text to images, preventing you from having to add it manually (ever since WordPress stopped doing it).
  • Broken Link Checker – still the easiest way to find/fix broken links, but ongoing scans consume high CPUs (be sure to deactivate it when you’re done).
  • Quick Page/Post Redirect – free redirect plugin you can use to fix crawl errors (broken pages) found in Google Search Console (Yoast also has a setting for it).
  • Republish Old Posts – resets publish dates to current day, making all your posts look fresh in search results. It’s a little cheap (considering you didn’t actually update your posts with new content) but it can increase your CTRs.
  • Yoast Premium Plugins – I don’t use these since they don’t directly help SEO, but many people consider them. I wrote a review on Yoast premium explaining how redirects can be done with free plugins, multiple focus keywords aren’t as useful as you might think, and other reason I don’t think it’s worth $89/year.
  • WP Rocket – #1 rated cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls. Easy to setup, yields great results, and is updated frequently. Comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (database cleanup, lazy load, local Google Analytics hosting, heartbeat control, and integrate with Cloudflare and other CDNs).
  • Analytify – shows Google Analytics metrics directly in WordPress dashboard.
  • Really Simple SSL – automatically configures site for SSL. You still need to sign up for an SSL (I use the free Let’s Encrypt SSL which comes with SiteGround).

 

2. Leverage New Keyword Research Tools

Answer The Public – pulls keywords from Google Autocomplete and creates a visual keyword map. Breaks keywords down into questions, prepositions, and comparison keywords. The greener the circle, the more searches the keyword has. Not only a great way to find keywords, but to make sure your content is comprehensive and answers all questions people are asking.

Yoast Keywords – AnswerThePublic

Moz Keyword Explorer – similar to Google Keyword Planner only much better, since it’s designed specifically for SEO while Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords. Shows competition in organic results (KP is for AdWords), monthly search volume, and has filters for grouping similar keywords so you’re not scrolling through the same ones (very handy feature).

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Google Autocomplete Tricks – did you know you can use the underline character to have Google fill in the blank? Just make sure you end on the underline character _ and you can find an entire list of keywords you otherwise didn’t know about. I personally use this trick a lot.

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

MozBar – Chrome extension that lets you Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). The higher they are, the more competitive the keyword is. Check your DA in Moz Link Explorer and compete with sites that have similar DA.

MozBar Keyword Competition

Researching a keyword’s competition is a must. You don’t want to create content you’ll never rank for. The best indicator is if you Google the keyword, short (weak) content is in the top results. If you can create better, more thorough content, then it’s probably a good keyword.

Keyword Competition

 

3. Forget About Keyword Density

Yoast’s SEO analysis awards you green lights when you complete recommendations. The problem is, most have to do with keyword usage, and there’s more to on-page SEO than this.

What Yoast should say:

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy. Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTR? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, URL, SEO title, and meta description (the most important places)… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… add a table of contents to organize longer posts, use videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beef up thin content to make it better (more detailed) than the top search results.

Here’s an overview of Yoast:

Yoast SEO Analysis

 

4. Avoid Yoast Snippet Variables

In Yoast’s settings, they give you the option to use snippet variables which act as templates for SEO titles + meta descriptions. Writing custom ones is ALWAYS better and you should never rely on templates as they’re not optimized for keywords, character length (green bar), or CTR.

Yoast-Snippet-Variables

 

5. Increase CTRs With Yoast’s Bulk Editor

Yoast’s bulk editor lets you review all your SEO titles + meta descriptions without having to manually go through each page/post. You should make sure they’re optimized for keywords, character length, and CTR. The bulk editor doesn’t have the green bar (detects character length) and it doesn’t focus keywords either, so you’ll need to keep those in mind. But you can quickly see at a glance whether they read well and entice people to click on your link, or not.

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

 

6. Optimize Content For Social Sharing

Want your content to format nicely for Facebook/Twitter?

facebook-share

Step 1: Enable Open Graph meta data under Yoast’s Facebook and Twitter tab:

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Step 2: Edit a page/post, then click the “share” link in Yoast. Upload custom images for Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). You can also customize the title + description for each social network, which by default is set as the SEO title + meta description. This comes in handy when running boosted posts for Facebook Ads and want different text.

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

7. Aim For 3,000 Words

It makes sense.

Longer content does a better job at covering a topic than short content. People also spend more time on your page, finding it more useful, and are more likely to link and share the post.

average-content-length

Some of my posts are 4,000+ words…

WordPress Word Count

 

8. Add A Table Of Contents

Creating 3,000 word count articles may sound daunting, but it’s easier when you start with a table of contents. This has huge SEO benefits like Google awarding jump-to links using named anchors, and allows people to link to specific sections. It also increases time spent on the page.

How To Create An HTML Table Of Contents
Table of contents HTML looks like this…
<ul>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-one">Item One</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-two">Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-three">Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

Each subheading’s HTML looks like this…
<h3 id="item-one">Item One</h3>
<h3 id="item-two">Item Two</h3>
<h3 id="item-three">Item Three</h3>

Or you can try the Easy Table Of Contents plugin.

 

9. Create Comprehensive Content

Nothing satisfies Google more than comprehensive content. You can “optimize” all you want but if your content doesn’t cover the topics extensively, someone else’s content probably will.

Answer The Public tells you all “question keywords” people are searching about a topic. It’s a great way to make sure you’re answering the most popular questions people want to know.

Yoast Keywords – AnswerThePublic

 

10. Add Rich Snippets

The WP Review plugin by MyThemeShop is the plugin I use for rich snippets and has a free and pro version (both are great). I would avoid All In One Schema (free but lacks customization) as well as WP Rich Snippets (the developer abandoned it and isn’t compatible with PHP 7). I was previously using WP Rich Snippets, but he literally didn’t update the plugin for 2 full years.

Why I Use WP Review As My Rich Snippets Plugin

  • Supports 14 data types
  • It’s lightweight (loads fast)
  • Comes with 16 pre-styled templates
  • It’s updated frequently by MyThemeShop
  • It’s highly customizable (here’s a page I use it on)
  • Multiple rating systems with optional user reviews

Structured Data Review Stars

 

11. Add Publish Dates To Posts

If you have time sensitive posts, adding a publish date makes your content look fresh:

Publish Date

Step 1: Enable ‘date in snippet preview’ in Yoast (SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types).

Date-In-Snippet-Preview-Yoast

Step 2: Add post modified date to the top of posts. Here’s the code:

<p>Last modified: <?php the_modified_date(); ?></p>

Of if using the Genesis Framework, use Genesis Simple Edits:

Entry-Meta

It should look something like this:

Entry Post Modified Date

Step 3 (Optional): Install the Republish Old Posts plugin. This resets all post’s publish date to current day, updating the date in search results and making all content look new. Of course, it’s a little cheap since you really didn’t update the content, but it can significantly increase CTRs.

Republish Old Posts

 

Google ultimately chooses who (and if) someone gets a featured snippet, but there are definitely ways to optimize for them. This puts you in the “#0” position and gives you 2 results.

3 Types Of Featured Snippets:

  • Answers
  • Lists
  • Tables

Featured Snippets

How To Get Featured Snippets In Google

  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Optimial Featured Snippets Length

 

13. Install WordPress Speed Plugins

I have done extensive testing on these plugins and use most of them on my own website.

  1. WP Rocket –  #1 cache plugin in most Facebook polls. You do not need plugins 3-7 from this list if you’re using WP Rocket, as it has these features built-in.
  2. WP Fastest Cache – #1 free cache plugin in most polls. Also easy to configure, has options for Cloudflare + other CDNs, but lacks features from WP Rocket.
  3. WP-Optimize – cleans your database of spam, trash, and other junk files.
  4. Lazy Load – delays loading photos until users scroll down and see them (improves load times but constantly loading photos as you scroll is annoying).
  5. Lazy Load For Videos – delays loading videos/iframes until users scroll down and see them. Videos take forever to load – this can shave many seconds off.
  6. CDN Enabler – easily setup your content delivery network (I use StackPath).
  7. CAOS (Host Google Analytics Locally) – fixes the “leverage browser caching” item in GTmetrix by hosting your Google Analytics tracking code locally.
  8. CAOS (Host Web Fonts Locally) – fixes Google Font errors in GTmetrix + Pingdom by downloading your Google Fonts and creating a stylesheet for it.
  9. Imagify / ShortPixel / Smushimage optimization (lossless compression, resize images, remove EXIF data). All these are similar – you only need one.
  10. Specify Image Dimensions – adds a width/height to your image’s HTML, an item in GTmetrix. It only works for images in the visual editor, it does not work for images in page builders, widgets, or any areas outside the visual editor.
  11. AMP For WPadds AMP pages to make mobile pages load faster and gives your site an “AMP Stamp” in mobile search results, which may increase CTRs.
  12. Perfmatters / Clearfy – disables unnecessary functions in WordPress core (trackbacks, pingbacks, heartbeat API, REST API, and other things 99% of you don’t need). Both plugins are similar and have other speed features as well.
  13. Harry’s Gravatar Cachecaches Gravatars, making comments load faster.
  14. GTmetrix for WordPress – keep track of load times and set email alerts.
  15. Display PHP Versionshows which PHP version you’re running (should be at least 7) which has a huge speed impact. You can upgrade in your host’s cPanel.
  16. Query Monitor – see slowest plugins, queries, etc (good replacement for P3).
  17. Plugin Organizer – if you install a contact form plugin, you probably don’t want it loading on every single page (just your contact page). Plugin Organizer lets you control which plugins load on specific pages, posts, and other content.
  18. Autoptimize – if you’re using GoDaddy, WP Engine, or other hosts who blacklist caching plugins, this plugin still gives you the benefits of optimizing HTML/CSS/JavaScript (items in GTmetrix + Pingdom) but without the caching.
  19. WP Hosting Performance Check – tells you if your server is slow and whether your speed technology (PHP, MySQL, WordPress versions) need updating.
  20. Better Search Replace – if you changed www or https versions of your domain, this plugin helps you bulk update all links on your website to reflect the new version. Otherwise you will see ‘minimize redirect’ errors in GTmetrix.

 

14. Avoid High CPU Plugins

Here’s a list of WordPress plugins that will slow down your site. I borrowed this list from a post on the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group (an amazing group) but also added a few myself.

*Common culprits include related post, statistic, sitemap, chat, calendar, page builders, and plugins that run ongoing scans/processes or show high CPU in GTmetrix.

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link Checker
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Elementor
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

Query Monitor will also find your slowest plugins…

Query Monitor Slow Plugins

GTmetrix’s Waterfall tab is another method…

Slow WordPress Plugin

 

15. Make Images Load Faster

Did you know images can be optimized 20 different ways? I had no idea there were so many ways before writing that article, especially when you take into consideration caching, lazy load,Cloudflare options, removing EXIF data, CSS sprites, and even optimizing them for SEO.

Image Optimization TOC

Here’s a list of image optimization items in GTmetrix (I’ll cover the main ones):

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Losslessly compress images – use a plugin like ImagifyShortPixel, Smush, or Kraken (all do the same thing) which also removes EXIF data (ISO, date, time, whether a flash was used, and other unnecessary info about the photo) which when stripped, will make it load a little faster.

Imagify Optimize Images On Upload

Serve scaled images – find oversized images and resize them to the correct dimensions). You can use GTmetrix to find these, and they will also provide you with the correct width/height.

serve-scaled-images

Specify image dimensions – means you need to specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS. Grab these dimensions from GTmetrix, locate the image, and add the width/height.

Specifying Image Dimensions

 

16. Leave EIG Hosting

The same horrible company owns Bluehost, HostGator, and over 60 different hosting companies. They’re known for buying out existing companies and cutting costs by packing more people on the same server, as well as “streaming” support (longer wait times). GoDaddy isn’t good either – there are better options like Cloudways DigitalOcean or Vultr High Frequency.

List-Of-EIG-Brands

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through bytecheck.com and check your TTFB (time to first byte). It should ideally be <320ms. This and reduce server response time in PageSpeed Insights are good indicators.

Reduce-Server-Response-Time-Under-200ms

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 
This was a simple Pingdom test to measure load times of 16 WordPress hosts. I signed up for popular hosting companies then installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them while measuring load times in Pingdom for 1 week at 30 minute check intervals. Some domains are still live (cwdoserver.com is hosted on a $10/month Cloudways DO plan and stgrndserver.com is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig). I cancelled most of them because it was getting expensive. Even when browsing through their pages or running your own tests, you can see the difference.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

Hosting Companies You Should Avoid

  • SiteGround – they have gone completely downhill in recent years.
  • Bluehost – slow servers, owned by EIG, bad support, rated poorly in FB Groups.
  • HostGator – also owned by EIG with slow servers, bad support, CPU limit issues.
  • GoDaddy – top malware hosting network worldwide, rated poorly in FB groups.
  • Hostinger – they write fake reviews and vote for themselves in Facebook polls.
  • WP Engine – also not what it used to be, expensive and not even fast anymore.
  • *A2 Hosting – if you can’t afford Cloudways, A2 is still fast and uses LiteSpeed.

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

 

17. Upgrade Your Cache Plugin

WP Rocket was the #1 rated cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls:

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

What’s So Good About WP Rocket?

  • It yields great results (it’s what I use)
  • Awesome support + extensive documentation
  • It’s one of the easier cache plugins to configure (see my tutorial)
  • It has high compatibility with themes/plugins and shouldn’t break your site
  • It’s always updated with new features (many cache plugin aren’t updated frequently)
  • It has features most cache plugins don’t (database cleanup, lazy loading, hosting Google Analytics locally, heartbeat control, integration with both Cloudflare + other CDNs)

 

18. Use Multiple CDNs

We know using a CDN makes your site faster.

But what about using multiple CDNs? The answer is yes, it helps even more. That’s because each CDN has their own set of data centers, and more data centers = faster content delivery.

Cloudflare data centers

Cloudflare Data Centers

StackPath data centers

StackPath-Data-Centers

How To Do It

  • Sign up for Cloudflare (free) and a paid CDN of your choice (I use StackPath).
  • Most cache plugins have an option to integrate both Cloudflare and StackPath

With Cloudflare you will change name servers

Cloudflare Name Servers Dashboard

With StackPath you will create a CDN site, then enter your CDN URL into your cache plugin..

StackPath CDN URL

WP-Rocket-CDN-Settings

 

19. Add AMP Pages

Accelerated mobile pages are a Google project that make mobile pages load faster and give you a AMP stamp in mobile search results, which looks nice and can potentially increase CTRs.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Instructions For Adding AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages Plugin Settings

Cloudflare Accelerated Mobile Links

 

20. Write A Killer About Me Page

Think about it.

Your about page is one of the most viewed pages on your website.

So why don’t you spend more time on it? In my about page, I created a list of 50 random and disturbing things about me. I also have a picture of me and my cats, my family, and other personal photos – including my story on how I created a 6 figure/year blog.

About-Me-Page

Main Benefits:

  • More time spent on my website
  • Trust (more likely to buy something using my affiliate link)
  • More emails of people sharing their own story (which I love)

 

21. Add SSL

Google cracked down even harder on non-HTTPs websites in July, 2018 when they started showing “not secure” in Google Chrome. Besides, if you’re a legit business, you need SSL.

I was scared to migrate to SSL even though I work with an amazing developer who I’ve been with for since 2011. Lucky for me, he did everything correctly and my traffic did not decrease at all. In fact, my affiliate sales went up (since I think people saw me as a more legitimate blog).

HTTPS-vs-Position

How To Add SSL To WordPress

Really Simple SSL

 

22. Affiliate Sites Need To Add Value

Yep, that’s my site.

I got penalized for too many affiliate links (plus I hired a link builder who created sketchy links). This was a hard time for me and my traffic/finances plummeted as I was forced to move back into my parent’s house become I had no money. Affiliate websites need to be super careful.

Affiliate-Link-Google-Penalty

Lessons I Learned:

  • Add value to your content beyond recommending products
  • Don’t just recommend affiliate products – recommend free stuff too
  • Do not stuff your content with affiliate links, 5 is usually plenty (for me)
  • Consider creating reviews on affiliate products, and link to those instead
  • Use an affiliate link management plugin to track statistics on affiliate links
  • Track which affiliate links people click those most, then leverage those
  • Create in-depth cornerstone content (core tutorials every visitor wants to read)
  • Don’t just create “list posts” and list your affiliate products first (Google knows)

Want to learn how I made $150,000 in 2018? Read my affiliate marketing tutorial.

 

23. Use SEO-Friendly Themes

StudioPress themes (and their Genesis Framework) are recommended by Yoast, Matt Cutts (from Google), and even Matt Mullenweg himself. I’ve been using their Outreach Pro theme since 2016 and love it. My site has 100% GTmetrix scores (loads fast), has virtually no compatibility errors with plugins, and is highly customizable with StudioPress’ Genesis plugins.

StudioPress Themes

What Makes StudioPress Themes So Good?

  • Reliability – trusted by 200,000 people including top WordPress users like Yoast. Clean code, documentation for each theme, and frequent updates to both their themes and Genesis Framework. Bottom line – I don’t have to worry about compatibility issues when upgrading plugins, PHP, theme-related CPU consumption, etc. It runs smoothly.
  • Mobile-friendly – all StudioPress themes are HTML5 + mobile responsive.
  • Large CommunityGenesis WordPress (Facebook Group) has 10,000 members.
  • Plugins – all StudioPress plugins are lightweight and add virtually nothing to load time.
  • Highly Customizable – StudioPress’ Outreach Pro theme looks like it’s designed for churches, but look at my homepage. It looks nothing like the pre-designed homepage.

 

24. Local SEO (Google’s Local Ranking Factors)

If you’re doing local SEO, there are many things outside of optimizing your WordPress you should be doing. Here are Google’s 2018 local search ranking factors which are reported by Moz every 2 years. Google My Business has become more important with it being 25.12%.

2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

*Google is increasingly taking into consideration activate business owners who: post on Google Posts, respond to reviews, keep special hours updated, answer questions, make it convenient for customers to take direct actions on GMB using business URLs.

Google My Business Logo

 

Heyyyy. You Made It To The End.

Check out some other tutorials of mine which are just as good!

Cheers,
Tom

20 Reasons Your WordPress Site Isn’t Ranking High In Google

It’s the #1 question I get…

Why isn’t my WordPress site ranker higher in Google?

The most common reasons WordPress sites don’t rank high in Google are: keywords are too competitive, lack of in-depth content, bad on-page SEO, click-through rates, or little to no links.

Whether you’re nowhere on the map, have a Google penalty, or wondering why competitors outrank you, this tutorial will help you identify what’s going on. These are the 20 most common reasons based on my last 5 years doing SEO consulting and writing these tutorials.

Go through the list and be sure to leave a comment if you found the problem or you need help. I’m glad to help anyone who takes the time to read my tutorials. Here are the main reasons why YOUR WordPress site isn’t ranking high in Google and exactly what you can do to fix it.

 

1. Lack Of Comprehensive Content

Beefing up articles to 3,000+ words is the #1 reason my blog grew to 3,000 visitors/day. Google your keyword, analyze top results, and include every important topic you can find. Use Answer The Public to find “questions keywords” and answer as many as you can. Backlinko suggests 3,000 words in many of his articles, especially if it’s cornerstone content. I beefed up my Yoast tutorial from 500 to 4,000 words and it went from 10 to 100 visitors/day in 1 week.

I don’t write 3 mediocre tutorials a week. I write 1 killer tutorial every 2 weeks.

Aim for 3,000+ words, especially if it’s a competitive keyword:

WordPress Word Count

You can get penalized for content with low word count (shallow pages), content that isn’t useful with bad bounce rates, affiliate content offering no value, and duplicate content. But even if you don’t have a penalty for thin content, that doesn’t mean some of your content doesn’t have low word count and is preventing you from ranking high.

Step 1: Identify Low Performing Content
In Google Analytics, head to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages. Look for pages with low average time on page + high bounce rates. Low average time on page likely means people aren’t finding the content useful. High bounce rates are a bit more complex and can be from poor design, load times, navigation, pop-ups/advertising, and bad (or no) internal linking.

Landing Pages – Google Analytics

Step 2: Add A Table Of Contents
table of contents helps people navigate long posts, but also encourages you to write long content (and gives you a better chance of being awarded jump-to links using named anchors).

Table of contents HTML looks like this…
<ul>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-one">Item One</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-two">Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-three">Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

Each subheading’s HTML looks like this…
<h3 id="item-one">Item One</h3>
<h3 id="item-two">Item Two</h3>
<h3 id="item-three">Item Three</h3>

Step 3: Beef Up Content
Now that you’ve added a TOC with a good amount of topics, write your paragraphs. Your job is really not to just make it longer, but to make your content more valuable. That usually means adding more helpful graphics, videos, or infographics. Not just spewing out text to fill the page.

Step 4: Answer Question Keywords
Answer The Public lets you search any keyword and generates a visual map (and list) of the most popular questions people are searching about that keyword. It pulls keywords from Google Autocomplete, and the greener the circles are, the more searches those keyword have.

Yoast Keywords – AnswerThePublic

 

2. Keywords Are Too Competitive

Websites with low domain authority should not compete for broad, competitive keywords. As you build domain authority (by creating great content that gets links) you can start targeting keywords with more searches. But if you struggle to get on page 1, consider going longer-tail.

Long-Tail Keywords

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer (or another tool).

Domain-Authority

Step 2: Use this chart from Orbit Media. I mostly target 3-word phrases, but I spend a LOT of time on content. More competitive keywords = more time you should invest in your content. The chart is more of a rule of thumb and doesn’t have to be taken literally, but it’s a reminder that websites with high domain authority can (in general) target more competitive keywords.

Keyword Research Shortcut

Step 3: Download MozBar and Keywords Everywhere. These let you Google any keyword and see a keyword’s competition: monthly searches, each search results’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority), etc. Of course, the most important step is clicking on top results and checking how “good” the content is, and make sure you can write better content than theirs.

Keyword-Competition

A keyword is more competitive if:

  • It’s broad
  • It has a high DA + PA in MozBar
  • The keyword is obviously profitable
  • Strong content ranks in the top results
  • Authority websites rank in the top results
  • The keyword has a high number of monthly searches

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for

  • Instead of SEO Consultant, target WordPress SEO Consultant
  • Instead of Chicago Web Designer, target Chicago WordPress Designer
  • Instead of Get Out Of Debt, target Get Out Of Debt Without Bankruptcy
  • Instead of SiteGround Reviews, target SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review

 

3. Too Much Focus On 1 Single Keyword

Many businesses get obsessed with ranking for 1 keyword, when this is actually a horrible strategy. I rank for thousands of keywords, and even though I rank #1 for keywords like “WordPress SEO Consultant,” I get way more inquiries through my blog than my service pages.

If you’re a photographer in Chicago, here are some ideas:

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

 

4. Too Much Focus On Yoast Green Lights

Obsessing over Yoast’s green lights can lead to keyword stuffing and make pages look spammy. Stop thinking SEO is so much about “keyword usage” and start thinking about keeping people engaged with your site through videos, tutorials, and things that people actually would actually want to learn/share/link to. The only time I think about keywords is when I do keyword research, write a keyword-rich (but nice sounding) headline, and craft an enticing meta description so people click my link. I rely on my kick-ass content to do the rest.

What’s Yoast’s SEO Analysis should say:

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy. Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTR? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, URL, SEO title, and meta description (the most important places)… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… add a table of contents to organize longer posts, use videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beef up thin content to make it better (more detailed) than the top search results.

 

5. You’re Using Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords, not SEO! The competition is for AdWords, and I have personally found the keywords don’t reflect what people are actually searching. Google Autocomplete, or any keyword tool that pulls from Google Autocomplete, is more accurate.

Google-Keyword-Planner

 

6. Slow Load Times

My WordPress speed guide shows you how I got <1s load times with 100% scores in GTmetrix, but I listed the most important factors below. You probably know Google rewards fast sites.

This video should help (timestamps are in the video description):

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

My GTmetrix report

2019-GTmetrix-Report

My Pingdom report

2019-Pingdom-Report

 

7. Low Click-Through Rates

Everyone knows click-through rates are important (and are used as a ranking factor), but how do you get people clicking on your link? Below are 4 easy ways to increase click-through rates.

Click-Through-Rates

Step 1: Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions
Yoast’s bulk editor lets you edit your SEO titles + meta description in bulk so you don’t have to go through each individual page/post. Rewriting these to sound nicer (and of course, include your keyword) is an easy way to increase CTR. Just remember the bulk editor doesn’t detect keywords or character length, so be sure you’re keeping these in mind (length is around 55 characters for SEO titles, 155 characters for meta descriptions). Everyone is going to include the keyword in their snippet – why would anyone click on your link? Your tutorial is current, you have a video tutorial, infographic? Tell them why! Try using numbers and clever adjectives.

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

Step 2: Add Rich Snippets
I use the WP Review Pro plugin by MyThemeShop (see a demo or a page I use it on). I was using WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned his plugin, and All In One Schema looks way too plain with virtually no customization options. I’ve been happy with WP Review Pro.

Structured Data Review Stars

Step 3: Add Post Modified Date To Search Results
Make time-sensitive content look fresh. First, enable “date in snippet preview” in Yoast’s settings. Next, add “post modified date” to the top of blog posts (this is in a different location for everybody, but for me it’s in the Genesis Simple Edits plugin). Now, whenever you update a post, the date will refresh in search results. You can use the Republish Old Posts plugin to refresh all posts to current day, but it’s a little cheap since you actually didn’t update the posts.

Publish Date

Entry-Meta

Step 4: Get In Google’s Featured Snippets

  • Create an HTML table of contents (if targeting lists)
  • Make each item in the TOC concise and actionable to solving the problem
  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Featured Snippets

Optimial-Featured-Snippets-Length

 

8. Not Optimizing For Social Sharing

Customize how your content looks when shared on Facebook/Twitter…

facebook-share

In Yoast go to SEO → Social, then enable meta data under the Facebook/Twitter tab. While you’re here, don’t forget to verify your site with Pinterest and add your Google+ page to Yoast.

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Now edit a page/post, scroll down to the Yoast section, click the share link (shown below) and you will be able to upload images to Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). Yes, this means you need to create 2 graphics for each piece of content if you want it to look nice.

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

There is no perfect number, but I usually have 50+ links in my 3,000 word tutorials.

Internal links – a natural way to build links to your own website, keep people on your site longer, and reduce bounce rates by getting people clicking on other stuff you’ve written.

External Links – these are like citing sources to Google. Linking to credible, useful content that your readers would find helpful (not just Wikipedia) develops trust with Google.

 

10. Lack Of Cornerstone Content

Here’s a tip… instead of blogging just to blog how about writing “the ultimate guide” on a key topic your audience wants to learn about? Yoast and WP Rocket are 2 of mine… people aren’t going to link to my WordPress SEO Consulting page, but by attracting links through my tutorials… the “link juice” will benefit my entire site by increasing my domain authority. So if you run your site through Link Explorer and don’t have many links, write some ultimate guides.

WordPress-SEO-Series

 

11. Not Using SSL

I added SSL in 2018 and surprisingly, my rankings went up (and so did my affiliate sales). Google is further penalizing websites that don’t use SSL (and that insecure padlock doesn’t look good either), so don’t be scared – just do it. Here’s a guide on adding SSL to WordPress.

Really-Simple-SSL

 

12. Bad Bounce Rate + Time On Site

Bounce rates (the % of people who leave your site without clicking anywhere) and average time on site are metrics used by Google to determine the value of each page and it’s rankings (you can find these out in Google Analytics). So if your web design, mobile design, lack of internal links, call to actions… and other parts of your website don’t encourage people to click around… this will hurt your rankings. Making your website “sticky” is what SEO is all about.

Bounce Rate

 

Every time you change a permalink (even if you setup a 301 redirect) you will lose MOST your rankings temporarily, and only some of your rankings long-term. It’s been said about 1-10% of link juice is lost when you setup a 301 redirect. Bottom line… I would avoid changing these all together unless your permalinks use the ugly ?p=123 format. This includes during a redesign.

 

14. Terrible “About Me” Page

I never knew how important this was until I wrote an awesome about page.

I instantly had people emailing me… relating to my story and sharing their own story. It was really cool, opening myself up and watching that grow into relationships/opportunities. From an SEO perspective, it’s one of my most viewed pages and keeps people on my site longer.

About Me Page

 

15. Citations Errors (Local SEO)

If you’re targeting local keywords (especially where Google Maps appear), you need citations. They’re about 10% of local SEO. My 3-step process of Google My Business > Moz Local > Whitespark gets awesome results and is the same process I used to get multiple clients #1 rankings in Google Maps. Everything is free besides Whitespark’s citation building service ($4-5/citation). The more competitive your keywords are, the more citations you should order.

Moz Local Citation Score

How To Create Citations

How To Check For Duplicate Citations

  • Run your site through Moz Local and fix items in the duplicates tab
  • Search “Your Business Name Google+” and look for duplicate GMB pages

 

16. Google Search Console Errors

Most people don’t use Google Search Console as much as they should. I use it 10x more than Google Analytics for finding crawl errors, mobile errors, AMP errors, sitemap errors, security issues, manual actions, HTML improvements, and many others. I recommend you do the same.

Mobile Usability Errors Google Search Console

I also use the Performance Report religiously to measure my keywords, CTRs, rankings, and most popular pages. For me, this is much better at measuring SEO than Google Analytics.

Google Search Console Queries

View My Google Search Console Tutorial

 

17. Duplicate Content + Search/Replace Pages

Use Siteliner to check for duplicate content…

Siteliner Duplicate Content

Search and replace pages are probably the most common form of duplicate content (where you duplicate the same page over and over but only swap out a few words on each page). You see this a lot in local SEO when businesses create geo-targeted landing pages for multiple locations… but this doesn’t work. Each page should ideally have unique content about each location like photos, reviews, team members, etc. Rand Fishkin made a nice video about this:

 

18. Discouraging Search Engines From Indexing Site

Make sure “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is NOT selected in your dashboard under Settings > Reading. This makes your site completely disappear in Google.

Discourage Search Engine From Indexing This Site

 

19. Affiliate Website Mistakes

Affiliate sites are prone to Google penalties. This can either be a penalty in your manual actions report in Google Search Console, or it can be an algorithmic penalty (in which case you have to compare the time your traffic dropped and look at Google’s algorithm changes).

Trust me, you don’t want an affiliate penalty…

Affiliate Link Google Penalty

Tips For Affiliate Sites:

  • Don’t stuff posts with affiliate links
  • Add value! I spend a ton of time making sure my tutorials are helpful
  • Don’t always list affiliate products first (Google knows what you’re doing)
  • Consider writing review pages for affiliate products, and linking to those instead
  • Always nofollow affiliate links

 

20. You Have A Google Penalty

Go to your manual actions report in Search Console to check for penalties. There are many types (thin content, keyword stuffing, spam content), but unnatural links is the most common.

Unnatural Links To Your Site – early on, I hired a link builder and got a Google penalty for unnatural links which took 1 full year to recover. My rankings plummeted, and so did my client inquiries and income. It was dark times for me. Think twice before hiring a link builder on Fiver, Upwork, or any of those freelancer sites… unless you really, really know what you’re doing.

How To Clean Up Bad Links

  • Check to see if you have one in the manual actions tab
  • Go to the links to your site section of Search Console
  • Write down all spammy, irrelevant, and suspicious links
  • Reach out to these websites and ask them to take it down
  • Be persistent… Google wants to see you have made an effort
  • For any links you can’t get taken down, use the disavow tool
  • Submit a reconsideration request with all proper information
  • Fire your link builder and never hire a sketchy link builder again

Unnatural Links To Your Site - Google Search Console

 

Still Not Sure If These Are The Reason?

Kiss Metrics has an awesome article on 50 Reasons Your Website Deserves to Be Penalized By Google, but I think I covered the main reasons here. If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below and I’ll be glad to answer your question. Otherwise, good luck with your SEO!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do I rank my WordPress website higher in Google?

The easiest way to rank a WordPress website on Google is to find specific, long-tail keywords which aren't too competitive, then write in-depth content about each topic. Engagement, click-through rates, and on-page SEO all help improve Google rankings.

✅ Are my keywords are too competitive?

New websites or those with low authority (backlinks) should always target long-tail, specific keywords. It's hugely important to Google each keyword and analyze the search results to make sure you're not competing with strong content and authority websites.

✅ How can I check for SEO errors on my site?

Google Search Console tells you if you have mobile, security, and indexing errors. It also tell you structured content errors on FAQs and reviews. However, you should really get an SEO audit if you want to learn exactly what's going on with your SEO.

✅ Will getting green lights in Yoast help rankings?

Not exactly. Yoast only does a good job at detecting keyword usage and there's much more to on-page SEO than this. Try adding FAQ rich snippets, adding an HTML table of contents to long posts, and creating in-depth content with videos. Optimize click-through rates!

✅ Is my Yoast plugin configured correctly?

Check my Yoast configuration tutorial to make sure your Yoast is setup correctly, especially the Search Appearance tab. Don't forget to setup Google Search Console.

See Also: How I Optimized My Site To Load In <1s With 100% GTmetrix Reports

Or: my WordPress SEO Guide is even more helpful than this and includes 101 actionable tips.

Cheers,
Tom

Local SEO For WordPress: How To Optimize Your Website (And Citations) To Rank Higher In Google Maps & Local Search Results

Ready to rank higher in Google Maps and local search results?

We’ll follow Google’s local search ranking factors which Moz reports every 2 years. I broke these down into factors on and off your WordPress site. Citations (online directories like Yelp, Superpages, and Axciom) are about 11% of local SEO, so it wouldn’t be fair to leave these out.

This guide assumes you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin. If you don’t have Yoast, I suggest installing it then configuring my recommended Yoast settings. It also assumes you have a physical address in your targeted city which is not mandatory, but is the #1 factor in Maps.

 

1. Local Search Ranking Factors

Here are Google’s 2018 local ranking factors. The main factors are Google My Business, citations (directories), reviews, geo-targeted pages, mobile optimization, and of course – links.

2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

Top 50 factors for local pack and localized organic…

Top 50 Local SEO Factors

Google your primary local keywords and see which results you want to target…

Local-Search-Results

 

2. Localized Keywords

Google Autocomplete
I have a separate tutorial on choosing Yoast focus keywords + green light optimization but I’ll go over this briefly. Go to google.com and use the underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase to have Google fill-in-the-blank and learn keywords people are searching in your city…

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

To find even more keywords, try using different variations of the keyword, like plurals

Google-Autocomplete-Plural-Keywords

Use different word ordering to get even more ideas…

Word Ordering Keywords

Target Specific Services – if “Chicago Wedding Photographer” is your primary keyword, try also targeting Indian and Gay Wedding Photographer. Same thing with web design… you can target both Chicago Web Design and Chicago WordPress Design which both show up in Autocomplete. For dentists, you may have Chicago Dentist, Chicago Dental Implants, Chicago Emergency Dentist, etc. Relying on 1 single keyword for ALL your traffic is never a good idea. You need to research Google Autocomplete for all your services, then create a page for each.

Moz Keyword Explorer
Next, use Moz Keyword Explorer to make sure you’re not missing keywords. This is similar to Google Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords), plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the exact same ones.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Once it runs, click keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions. You should see a nice list of keywords and the volume (monthly searches). Note phrases you DIDN’T find in Autocomplete.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Estimating Local Keyword Competition
More Autocomplete results + broad phrases = more competitive…
Broad-Local-Keyword-Competition

Less Autocomplete results + specific phrases = less competitive…
Specific-Local-Keyword-Competition

You can also use the MozBar Chrome Extension to Google any keyword and learn it’s competition. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the higher the competition and the more effort needed to rank for it. Try to stay within your own DA range.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

 

3. Blog Post Keywords

Blog posts usually attract the most links to your site (a huge ranking factor) since people naturally link to USEFUL content (not promotional service pages) which benefit the rankings of your entire WordPress site. Just like we researched keywords for pages, find as many informational, non-promotional blog keywords as you can, then write a post for each topic.

Local SEO Keywords
Local SEO Keywords

 

4. Geo-Targeted Pages

Create a page for each keyword – target your primary keyword on your homepage, then create a separate page for Chicago Indian Wedding Photographer and other specific services. Average Cost Of Wedding Photographer In Chicago would be a good article on your blog.

Optimize content with Yoast – you can get green lights all you want, but designing a nice (ideally lengthy) page with awesome photos, testimonials, video and other useful content – is the heart of content optimization. Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so if you use “Wedding Photographer in Chicago” instead of “Chicago Wedding Photographer” in your content… that counts as a keyword. So even if that specific light isn’t green (eg. keyword density), you can ignore it as long as a variation is present. Synonyms are actually encouraged.

Yoast Content Analysis

Presence of NAP – each location page should have your business name, address, and phone somewhere on the page. If you only have 1 location you can add this in a footer widget or your copyright area at the very bottom of your website (like I do) so it’s present on every page. For multiple locations you’ll usually want to add it somewhere in the actual content body.

Short Permalinks  – use short permalinks with your keyword in it.

Keyword Density – include your keyword in the first couple sentences and a few times in your content body (naturally). Sprinkle LSI keywords (synonyms) in your content instead of using the same keyword over and over. These can be secondary keywords you want to rank for.

Alt Text – label your images before uploading them to WordPress since the visual editor automatically uses the image file name as the alt text. This should simply describe the image – don’t stuff keywords. Images in widgets and page builders may not do this so check the HTML:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/chicago-wedding-photographer.jpg” alt=”Chicago Wedding Photographer” width=”680” height=”380” />

Internal / External Links – Google follows links on your page to learn what your content is about. The important thing is linking to useful content your visitors will actually find helpful (like a blog tutorial). Interlinking blog articles/pages is also a natural way to build links to your own website but outbound links are good too since it’s kind of like citing sources to Google. Finally, always use descriptive link text (called anchor text)… never use words like “click here.”

SEO Title – use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on your link in search results… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis” is a good example. Also make sure your SEO title has a decent length (the bars in Yoast should be green).

Meta Description – the main purpose of the meta description to entice people to click on your link. This and the SEO title are the first thing people see in search results so spend time writing these. It should include your Yoast focus keyword, plus a secondary keyword if you have one.

Post Long Content – Google measures “average time on page” which is why videos and other engaging content is key. Long, organized content generally ranks higher than short content.

Social Media Optimization – this ensures your page will display a properly formatted image when shared on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “share” link in Yoast and upload custom images where it tells you to. If you don’t see the tabs, check your Yoast social settings to enable Facebook and Twitter meta data. Yes, this means you need to design 2 separate images for Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). I leave the other fields blank which let you write a custom headline and description when it’s shared on Facebook/Twitter.

yoast-social-media-optimization

Rich Snippets – make your snippets stand out in search results by adding rich snippets to your content. You can do this with events, reviews, recipes, articles, products, organizations, restaurants, and videos. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin which supports all rich snippet types except for events (use All In One Schema.org) and videos (use Schema plugin. However if you’re doing any other type of rich snippets, WP Rich Snippets looks way better and has more options, plus they have awesome add-ons. Here’s my WP Rich Snippets review which is definitely worth the money if you have content on your site that can be marked up.

Rich Snippets

Example Geo-Targeted Landing Page…

Localized Landing Page

 

5. Google My Business

Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

*Google is increasingly taking into consideration activate business owners who: post on Google Posts, respond to reviews, keep special hours updated, answer questions, make it convenient for customers to take direct actions on GMB using business URLs.

Google My Business Logo

 

6. Moz Local

Since citations are 11% of local SEO, this step will help you create and fix your top 15 citations. Just like you did with Google My Business you will make sure profiles are 100% complete, duplicates are deleted, and ensure consistent information is present. Run your website + zip code through Moz Local and look under “choose the most accurate listing.” Go through each one and see their recommendations. Yes, you will need each profile’s login info.

Moz Local Profiles

Correct Incomplete, Inconsistent, Duplicate Citations
Once you click your listing you will see incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate tabs. Go through each one and fix all items. Incomplete profiles are often fixed by uploading more photos or adding categories. Inconsistencies can be as easy as correcting the www website version or using “st” instead of “street” in the address. Duplicates are fixed by deleting them. Moz Local includes links to your profiles which makes it easy to fix, delete, and report profiles.

Sometimes you will only have 1-2 categories (eg. photographer + wedding photographer) so it’s not always possible to get your profiles 100% complete. Just do everything you can.

Moz Loca

 

7. Whitespark

To conquer those #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors in Google Maps (citation consistency, quantity, and quality), we need to build even more citations. The more competitive your keywords are (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) the more citations you should build.

local-seo-citation-ranking-factors
citations-by-city

Whitespark has lists of top citations by city, country, and category, or use their citation building service for $4-5 per citation which saves a LOT of time. Google ‘Whitespark Canada‘ and you’ll see they have over 120 reviews with a 4.9 star rating. I’ve invested over $2,000 in their citation building service and have jumped from #8 to #3 in Google Maps. Read my Whitespark citation building review to learn the process, but you basically fill out an intake then wait 2-3 weeks for them to send a report of the new citation URLs and 1 universal login.

Free citations can cause spam emails and sometimes spammy phone calls. They improve rankings, but it’s a tradeoff. Here’s a response I got from Darren Shaw, owner of Whitespark:

 

8. Mobile Responsiveness

The best way to check for mobile errors is to setup Google Search Console and use the mobile usability section. This checks for ALL errors on your WordPress site (instead of just 1 page) which is only what Google’s mobile testing tool does. Even if you’re using a responsive WordPress theme you can still have mobile errors! So it’s definitely a good idea to check.

google-mobile-usability-errors

 

9. Mobile Speed Optimization

Most businesses doing local SEO have a good amount of mobile visitors (you can check in Google Analytics under Audience –> Mobile –> Overview). If you haven’t read my W3 Total Cache tutorial which shows you how to configure the performance tabs, Cloudflare, and MaxCDN, I would start with that. Then you can optimize images and make other optimizations from my WordPress speed guide. This helps you fix items in your GTmetrix report (the speed testing tool I recommend using) and improves page load times for both desktop and mobile.

To make your WordPress site load faster specifically on mobile, you can use AMP pages (accelerated mobile pages) using the AMP plugin and Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP. You can read Yoast’s AMP tutorial but this will basically add an “AMP” sign to your mobile search results…

amp-pages

Hosting
I use SiteGround and have 200ms response times with 100% GTmetrix scores and .4s Pingdom load times. Do a hosting check, run your own tests, or click through my pages to see how fast they load. They were rated the #1 host in 26 Facebook polls and are worlds better than EIG (Bluehost, HostGator), Godaddy, and bad hosts who pack too many people on the same server. They’re recommended by WordPress, do free migrations, and I use their semi-dedicated plan.

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

 

10. Reviews

You’ve heard this before so I’m not going to state the obvious. But you should know that Google My Business is usually the best place to get reviews since these appear directly in search results, and you need about 5 of them for the review stars to start showing up…

Google Reviews For SEO

Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter – Yelp reviews can get filtered even if they’re legitimate. You can avoid this by doing a Google search of “business name Yelp” and sending them that link. If you send them the direct link to your Yelp profile, Yelp will know and could filter it. Ideally you would ask existing Yelpers since they are more likely to get their review posted (another factor is if their profile is filled out and Facebook is connected). You should friend your reviewers too.

 

You know links are super important for your rankings, and it doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass. But yes, you WILL need to reach out to people to get these links. Here are some tips…

  • Ask partners to link to you
  • Ask sponsors to link to you
  • Ask suppliers to link to you
  • Get published by local newspapers
  • Get included in list articles (eg. best pizza in Chicago)
  • Make sure these articles include a link to your site
  • Find business directories and organizations who promote green businesses
  • Turn your business relationships into links, that’s what it’s all about

 

12. Targeting Multiple Locations

Create Multiple Location Pages On Your Site – sometimes you should create 1 page per city (if only 1 keyword is being search in that city), or multiple pages per city (if multiple keywords are being searched). It depends on how many keywords people search and whether you need content about different services (miami dentist vs. miami dental implants is a separate page).

Add Location-Specific Content To These Pages – your Chicago page might have photos of your Chicago office. Or testimonials from your Chicago customers. Or a Google Map showcasing your Chicago location. Avoid creating ‘search and replace’ pages (identical pages only you simply change the city name) since these are duplicate content and will not rank.

If you want to check out a great example of localized landing pages, check out Seda Dental.

local-landing-pages-multiple-locations

Create Citations For Each Location – each location should have it’s own Google My Business page, Yelp, Facebook, and other citation profiles you can use Moz Local and Whitespark to create (see steps 4, 5, and 6). Whitespark’s citation building service will save you a LOT of time. If you do this yourself, list the specific location page (website.com/locations/chicago) when listing your website. Photos and business information should be unique to that location.

 

13. Measure Keyword Rankings

Google Search Console’s Search Analytics – see keywords (queries) you rank for. This ONLY measures Google’s organic rankings, not Google Maps or other search engines. So if Google Maps appear when you search your keywords, you need to measure those too (see below). You can still get very helpful data in Search Analytics using filters: click-through rates, impressions, top pages, devices used, countries, and compare your rankings to the last 28 previous days.

google-search-console-search-analytics-queries

Whitespark Local Rank Tracker – track rankings in Google Maps, Bing pack, Google organic, Bing organic, etc. Sort by city names across multiple locations. User-friendly design and starts at $20/month for measuring up to 100 local keywords. Easiest way to measure local keywords.

whitespark-local-rank-tracker

 

14. Bonus Tips

Google Search Console – I mentioned this a couple times in this WordPress local SEO guide, but you really should take advantage of this tool. My video and Google Search Console tutorial show you how to set it up, submit your Yoast XML sitemap to Google, fix crawl errors (broken URLs), and quite a few other site optimizations. You can use it to test AMP pages, rich snippets, and find indexing, mobile, and security issues. Once signed you will need to wait around 1 week for the data to populate. But definitely revisit it and take advantage of it’s features.

Mobile Click-To-Call Button – if you’re running a website where many people call you (eg. a pizza business), adding a mobile click-to-call plugin can improve conversions but is also a ranking factor if you look at “Behavior/Mobile Signals” in Google’s local ranking factors.

Security – run your site through Sucuri security checker and the security section of Google Search Console to make sure you have no errors. Either way the best 2 things you can do is change the generic “Admin” username in the your WordPress login, then install WordFence.

Sucuri Security Scan

Social Media – just make sure you’re active on social media, it’s 2.8% of local SEO.

 

Time To Get To Work

Hopefully this WordPress local SEO guide gives you some ideas! Just remember it’s not all about optimizing your WordPress site – there are many off-page factors that are just as important like Google My Business, citations, and reviews. Start cranking some of this out and within a couple months hopefully your organic searches go up (let me know in the comments)!

SEO Google Analytics

Need help? Drop me a line. Looking to hire someone who actually knows what they’re doing? Check out my WordPress SEO consulting services. I love when people read my tutorials so if you have a question about regarding WordPress and local SEO, I’m glad clarify your questions.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What are Google's local search ranking factors?

Moz reports Google's local search ranking factors every 2 years. They emphasize geo-targeted pages, directories (citations), links, and reviews.

✅ How do you optimize websites for local SEO?

Research local keywords using tools like Google Autocomplete, create geo-targeted content around those keywords, make your mobile site load fast, get relevant links, and show NAP on localized pages.

✅ What is NAP and why is it important?

NAP stands for business name, address, and phone number. This should be consistent throughout your website and citations. Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking factor.

✅ Where should I build more directories (citations)?

Moz Local analyzes 15 top citations and shows you which ones are incomplete, inconsistent, or duplicates. Whitespark also has lists of top citations for different industries and locations. Google My Busienss, Yelp, and Facebook are some of the most important, but you should built more using Moz Local or Whitespark.

✅ How do I optimize my GMB Page?

Fill out everything including including NAP, categories, descriptions, photos, categories, attributes, hours, menu, services, etc. Verify your page and answer customer questions + respond to reviews. Get a custom URL and post updates on your GMB page.

See Also:
How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In .2s (100% GTmetrix/Pingdom Scores)

Cheers,
Tom

How To Get Inbound Links: 7 Strategies That Actually Work

Is your website suffering from link deficiency?

You’ve probably heard how important backlinks are for SEO (roughly 40% of Google’s ranking factors). But getting inbound links ain’t easy. Rather than going out and building links on external websites, Google’s Matt Cutts says we should earn links through creative content.

And since part of creating “good” content is making your pages/posts stand out, I only found it appropriate to use a set of brilliant colored pencils to light this page up with some personality. I actually borrowed this idea from an article on Search Engine Journal (only they cheated and used a cute puppy). Either way, making your content visual, useful, and easy to navigate is WHY people will link to it. People don’t link to anything – you need to do something different.

Colored Pencils

Table Of Contents

  1. Create Educational Content
  2. Spruce Up Your Content
  3. Add Videos
  4. Create Infographics
  5. Post Long Content
  6. Improve Your Design
  7. Do More Content Marketing

 

1. Create Educational Content

This is the type of content people actually WANT to link to, they’re not just going to come by themselves. I specialize in SEO for WordPress so most people are looking for help configuring the Yoast SEO Plugin, or how to make a WordPress site load faster. These are some main topics people want to learn and I have spent WEEKS writing these tutorials. They’re the ones I put front and center in my navigation menu and the ones I link to most on my site. If you have a high value keyword but only a mediocre post about it, you should try improving that content.

What happens when you take a medicore post and invest multiple days turning it into the best tutorial online? My Yoast tutorial went from 5 visits/day to 100 visits/day (all from SEO) within 24 hours of republishing it with the new content. Now it has over 190 comments and a TON of links from people who have found it through Google. Of course it’s been ranking on the first page for it’s keyword (Yoast SEO Settings) for years because I’ve invested hours and hours into the content. When Matt Cutts says to “create good content” that’s exactly what he means.

WordPress Speed Optimization Guide

You need to identify key topics and write the ‘ultimate guide’ on each one. Yes it can take an entire week to write just one article, but that’s exactly what it takes if you want an extra 100 visits/day through a single post. Good content WILL pay off especially since Google has started penalizing websites with low quality content. 90% of my links are to my SEO tutorials.

Creating articles targeting high value keywords (educational topics) helps you:

  • Establish long-term, high traffic posts
  • Get links through SEO traffic it generates
  • Be viewed as an authority in your industry
  • Get tons of comments/conversations on those posts
  • Acquire some of the most loyal followers through education

 

2. Spruce Up Your Content

Visual content is 40x more likely to get shared (source) and while nice graphics are obviously important, don’t limit your content to text and graphics. Embed a Twitter status if you’re quoting someone, use a 2 column layout to list pros and cons, embed a video, or use an HTML table of contents like you see in the top of this post to help people navigate to specific topics.

I personally like using 2 column layouts in many of my blog posts. I also know my content body is 680 pixels (width) which means if I’m using a 2 column layout with photos, each photo would be 330(w) if you count the 20 pixels of space between each column. Knowing your dimensions helps you resize images to look better and makes them load faster. Just a quick tip for you :)

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

Although it’s specific to WordPress, my tutorial on how to spruce up content in WordPress has a LOT of ideas for diversifying your content. This includes how to add an HTML table of contents, embed a YouTube video without Youtube’s branding, embed social media statuses, style fonts, and other ideas. Here are just a few ways you can make your content more visual…

Content Ideas

  • Add an HTML table of content to help with navigation
  • Design infographics using canva.com or hire a freelancer
  • Embedded videos, ideally your own if it’s a high value topic
  • Take screenshots (I do a LOT of this since I blog about WordPress)
  • Use Advanced Twitter Search to find tweets to embed on your posts
  • Style links (and their hover color) in your posts so they’re easy to see
  • Use tables, 2 column layouts, buttons, lists, bold items, and other styling options
  • Adding a photo/bio in your blog sidebar so people know who is writing the article

 

3. Add Videos

People love videos (and love linking to them too), but few website owners actually do this. Creating your own videos if definitely preferred if you have the time, but even finding a helpful video on Youtube adds a ton of value to your content, like what Matt Cutts says about links…

 
Listen, I’m an introverted dude who was completely uncomfortable creating SEO tutorials (I still cringe when I hear myself talk). But guess what? I have over 200,000 views between all my YouTube videos and have gotten links, clients, and affiliate sales through these videos. When I write a super important article on my site (like my tutorial on optimizing content for keywords) I will create a video and embed it on that tutorial. Videos not only attract links because people love them, but by embedding videos on your site you are also improving engagement with your content (average time on page) which Google uses to determine your rankings.

Higher rankings, more links, more subscribers, and more sales from people who saw your videos. That’s like a win-win-win-win! Suck it up, get a camera, and start creating some videos.

 

4. Design Infographics (In 10 Minutes)

What else do people like linking to? Infographics. Read this article by HubSpot which says visual content is 40x more likely to get shared. You can create these yourself using a free infographic maker like canva.com or hire a freelance infographic designer for around $100-$400 depending on the graphics, how detailed your directions are, and the freelancer’s rate.

This infographic literally took me 10 minutes to create…

seo-link-building-infographic

I’m still trying to keep up with my videos, but you should be investing time in either videos or infographics – ideally both if you have the time/money. I urge you to create a couple videos or infographics and see what happens. I bet traffic to your post will double, and so will your links.

 

5. Post Long Content

One of the BIGGEST mistakes I see is people throwing up short content (usually mostly text) and wondering why it doesn’t rank. If you want to be on the first page of Google and people to link to you, your content needs to be better (and more thorough) than everyone else behind you. Longer content ranks higher in search engines and posts with 3000+ words is ideal. If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO Plugin counts number of words for you in the content analysis tab, otherwise you can paste your full article in a Google Doc and do a word count.

When I revisit old posts to improve the content, I try add at least 500 words. You can plan out key topics (subheadings), add a table of contents in the beginning with those subheadings, then add additional sections to the article. Do your research and Google the keyword, see what other people are writing about, then include topics you think would make your article better.

 

6. Improve Your Design

People link to websites that look good. This does NOT have to cost a lot of money. For $40/hour you can hire a skilled overseas developer on freelancer.com who can help you design or redesign your site. I’ve been working with the same WordPress developer (Pronaya) for 5 years who is only $40/hour and helped me build over 25 websites when I was running a small WordPress design business. You can hire him by signing up for a freelancer account and searching for user BDkamol. I’ve invested $20,000 in him over 5 years because he’s that good.

pronaya-freelancer

Even if it means migrating your to a WordPress theme from StudioPress (super nice mobile responsive themes), I did this and it this has payed off HUGE for me. My old site wasn’t responsive so I migrated to StudioPress and while I can’t directly correlate it with link growth, it looks WAY better, loads in under 1 second, and is more SEO-friendly. Generally the nicer your website is (and the easier it is for people to find things) to more people will link to you.

 

7. Do More Content Marketing

Once you’ve creating an AMAZING piece of content around a high value keyword and published it, you need to get some eyeballs on it. Here are a few easy ways you can do that…

  • Send out a newsletter
  • Post it on your social networks
  • Join Facebook groups and share it when appropriate
  • Email bloggers in your industry who it would interest
  • Mention people in the actual article (they could likely link to it)
  • Publish interviews and quotes from Twitter to include more people
  • Hold contests, prizes, and discounts in return for sharing your content
  • Create a YouTube video about the topic and leave a link in the description

 

Avoid Hiring A “Link Builder”

You can hire an overseas link building freelancer on websites like freelancer.com and upwork.com but I would NOT do it since this can get you a Google penalty. I dabbled with some (very high rated) link building freelancers and they did get me ranked higher for WordPress SEO consulting and other services. But sure enough, within a couple months I got hit with a Google penalty and my traffic cut in half. It took me several months (and a lot of hard work) to recover from this penalty so do yourself a favor and avoid doing this together.

Besides, Matt Cutts says we should be earning links, not building them.

matt-cutts-link-building

The few “link building” methods that actually work:

 

That all I got! If you have any questions about how to get inbound links to your website, drop me a line in the comments (glad to help). Just remember, people naturally want to link to good content so that is the single most important thing you can do to speed up your link growth.

Cheers,
Tom

7 Local SEO Strategies To Rank Higher In Google Maps And Localized Results (Based On Google’s Local Ranking Factors)

local-seo-strategies

Want to use local seo to get more geographic-specific customers?

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local SEO ranking factors to optimize your website and online presence to rank higher in Google Maps and localized organic listings (the blue results under Google Maps). I’ll cover Google My Business, reviews, directories (also called citations in local SEO), creating location-specific landing pages, and other local SEO strategies. I will also show you how to optimize for 1 location as well as how to optimize for multiple locations.

These are the CORE factors needed to rank higher in Google Maps and while there are plenty of other factors, most people don’t get the fundamentals down. I recommend taking some time to get these down first, then use my full local seo guide to optimize for the other factors like speed optimization, fixing errors in Google Search Console, and adding AMP Pages. That guide shows you how to do everything and while it’s specific to WordPress, most items are universal no matter what you run your website on (since the local ranking factors always stay the same).

Table Of Contents

  1. Make Your Google My Business Page 100% Complete
  2. Create Profiles On Other Directories
  3. Ask Customers For Reviews
  4. Submit Business Information to Top Data Aggregators
  5. Create Location-Specific Pages
  6. Kick Your Social Media Into Gear
  7. Get Links From Blogging, Customers, Partners, Publicity

 

1. Make Your Google My Business Page 100% Complete

Claim your Google My Business Page and fill it out to be 100% complete. If you don’t have a Page already, create one, but you should only have 1 per location with NO duplicates. List all relevant categories, upload professional photos including a logo, and do everything they prompt you to do. Don’t forget to verify your page and set a custom URL (should be your business name). There’s an “edit info” and “photos” tab which should both be 100%. If it makes sense for your business, you can also get a virtual tour from a Google preferred vendor.

google-my-business-profile

Your My Business page is what shows up in Google Maps and when people Google your business name (on the right side of search results). It’s the heart of local SEO so make it legit!

Google My Business Local SEO

I want to emphasize that if you already have a Google My Business Page you do NOT want to create a duplicate or it will compete with your main page – and potentially penalize it’s rankings. To check if you already have a Google My Business Page, run your business through Moz Local or search your business on Google Map Maker. If you find a duplicate page, delete it by logging into Google My Business and select the Page you want to manage. Go to the tab on the top left menu and click “Settings” then scroll all the way down until you see “delete page.”

 

2. Create Profiles On Other Directories

Online directories (also called citations in local SEO) are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factor in Google Maps. Overall it’s about 25% of how you rank. Creating 100% complete profiles on top directory websites can be tedious but is EXTREMELY important for your localized rankings.

You can either do this yourself using my list of top online directories or use Whitespark’s resources page which has top citation lists by city, country, and category. Alternatively you can outsource it using Whitespark’s citation submission service which is $4-5 per citation. This is what I use for ALL my local SEO clients and has helped many of them rank #1 in Google Maps.

Whitespark has a 4.9/5 star review on Google with over 120 reviews and is a one-time fee compared to companies like Yext who charge ongoing fees. You basically fill out an intake, Whitespark will create the citations in about 3 weeks, then they will send you a follow-up report with your new citations URLs and 1 universal login. It’s very easy and you should see an improvement in your rankings within 2-3 months once the citations get indexed and Google updates they’re local search results. Finally, don’t forget to use Moz Local to correct issues with your top 15 citations. I would do Google My Business, then Moz Local, then Whitespark.

Just to review, you’ll want to use Moz Local to fix your top 15 directories (citations)…

Moz Local

Then use Whitespark to build additional citations since they’re about 25% of local SEO. You can either use their resources page to build these yourself, or outsource to Whitespark for $4-5 per citation. Just fill out then intake and let they will complete the job in about 2-3 weeks.

citations-by-city

 

3. Ask Customers For Reviews

Reviews are about 10% of Google Map rankings but are the single most important part of local SEO for obvious reasons. People see reviews when they search your business name, and they also show up for non-branded localized keywords like “Chicago Wedding Photographer.”

You need about 5 reviews on your Google My Business page for the stars to show up in Google, but the more the better. If you Google your primary keyword and you see the top ranked competitor has 20 reviews, you should have at least 21. Once you have more reviews than competitors on Google My Business, move onto Yelp and niche directories like WeddingWire or UrbanSpoon. I know reviews can be a pain but for local SEO this is the main way you’re going to build a solid online reputation while ranking higher in Google Maps.

Google Reviews For SEO

 

4. Submit Business Information to Top Data Aggregators

There are 3 major data aggregators that send your local business information to million of other websites. You should sign up and create a nice profile on each of these websites…

 

5. Create Location-Specific Pages

The first step to building geo-targeted pages is learning what phrases people are searching. Use Google Autocomplete to have Google “fill in the blank” using the underscore character to get keyword suggestions. You can also use Moz Keyword Explorer to get additional keyword ideas, but make sure you write down ALL the difference services people are searching…

Photography SEO Keywords

If you only have 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Newborn Photographer) then you should target that on your homepage using the strategies listed in the screenshot below.

If you have multiple keywords (Chicago Newborn Photographer, Chicago Portrait Photographer…) then create a separate page for each one to better target each keyword. If you have multiple locations you will also need to create a new page (sometimes multiple pages) for each location depending on how many keywords are being searched in that city. The general rule of thumb is that each page can only target 1 keyword (service) in 1 location.

Once you know your keywords, create your geo-targeted landing pages…

locally-optimized-landing-page

Notice the content is unique to it’s location (Boynton Beach). The keyword “Boynton Beach Dentist” is also present in the page title, URL, title tag, meta description, etc. Also, the slider photos are unique to that location and so are the testimonials and other content. Each page should have completely unique content and you should avoid using “search and replace pages” where you duplicate pages then swap out a few words. This is not a good strategy and only pages with well-designed, unique content written about a specific keyword will rank high.

 

6. Kick Your Social Media Into Gear

facebook-dimensions

Most successful business at least have some presence on the main social networks, and Google is looking for this. Make sure your social media profiles are filled out completely and that you’re posting on them somewhat regularly. Even 1 post/week is better than nothing.

 

Links to your website are about 20%, but many people are confused on how to get them. First make sure your website is well-designed and has content (eg. useful blog articles) that people actually WANT to link to. These articles should be optimized for a non-promotional keyword found in Google Autocomplete (eg. average cost of wedding photographer in Chicago). As you accumulate blog articles and more content on your website, you can start referencing other pages/posts you’ve written within your content. These are called internal links and are a natural way to build links to your website organically. You will need a good amount of content!

You can also reach out to other website owners who you think you could get a link from. Think about other local businesses in your area, business partners, friends, or customers and vendors. Maybe some businesses have a partner or testimonial page you can get a link on. The key is turning your business relationships into mentions on a website – in the form of a link.

See Also: Local SEO Guide For WordPress

I hope you found these local SEO strategies helpful so you can use them with your own keywords! If you have any questions leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to help you out. Otherwise if you enjoyed my article, please share it with others who would like it too.

Cheers,
Tom

WordPress SEO For Photographers: How To Optimize Your Images, Citations, And WordPress Website For Higher Google Map Rankings

WordPress SEO For Photographers

If you’re a photographer, have a WordPress site, and you want to use local SEO to rank higher in Google Maps + localized results for photography-related keywords, this tutorial is for you.

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local search ranking factors to improve rankings by optimizing your Google My Business Page, citations, photos, and how to use Yoast’s SEO plugin for content optimization. No matter what kind of photography you do, it’s actually easy to do WordPress SEO for photographers (local SEO is usually much easier than national SEO). It can take 3-6 weeks to see results (Google takes time to update) but you can use Google Search Console’s search analytics to track your rankings, clicks, and overall traffic from SEO.

SEO For Photographers

Now let’s jump into it…

 

Understanding Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re doing local SEO these are the ranking factors associated with Google. They are taken from Moz who does a survey of Google’s ranking factors every 2 years. This tells us which core ranking factors we should be focusing on.

Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

 

These are from 2015’s local search ranking factors, but most of them have not changed…

Top-20-Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

I go over these in my tutorial (drop me a comment if you need clarification on anything), but here is a translation with more practical tips:

  • Complete Your Google My Business Page (complete and verify your profile)
  • Sign up for generic citations (Yelp), local (COC), and photography directories
  • Get reviews on your Google My Business Page, Yelp, others
  • Use a mobile responsive and SEO-friendly WordPress photography theme
  • Use your primary keyword on your homepage (using Yoast’s SEO Plugin)
  • Get links from customers, directories, local websites, relevant photography websites
  • Complete your social media profiles, get followers, post updates

 

Complete Your Google My Business Page

This is the easiest way to improve your Google Maps rankings. In fact you HAVE to have a Google My Business Page to even show up in Google Maps. Make your profile 100% complete.

Add your website, hours, and list “photographers” as the category. If you’re a wedding photographer, list this as your primary category then list “photographer” as the secondary category. Now write a thorough introduction, verify your page, and complete your profile. If you already have a Google My Business page, do not create a duplicate listing.

Google My Business Page

 

Improve Directory Listings With Moz Local

Moz Local Dashboard

Run your website and zip code through Moz Local to get a report on your directories. You will get a score and recommendations to improve some of the most important directories…

Moz Local

Click on the different tabs, view the red notifications to see what items need fixing, then use the “update listing” links to improve those directories. Notice how consistency of information (business name, address, phone, categories) and not having duplicates are important. If you don’t want to do this, you can pay Moz $84/year. However, it’s usually a matter of adding photos and making sure your profile is consistent and 100% complete.

Moz Local Incomplete Listings

 

Build More Directories With Whitespark

Now that you have your core directories down, let’s build more. This will further improve your rankings so please don’t think this is a waste of time – it most certainly is not. These are the kind of extra steps that will help you outrank competitors. Notice “citation volume” is a direct ranking factor in the local SEO pie chart (yellow section) – so the more the merrier.

Top Online Directories

Do It Yourselfuse Whitespark’s list of top 50 directories
Hire Whitesparkpay Whitespark one-time fee of $4-5 per directory (worth it)

 

Ask Customers For Reviews

Online Reviews On Google My Business

Google My Business and Yelp are most important. Simply follow-up with customers after the work and ask for a review (leave them instructions with a link to your Google My Business and Yelp page). Make this a priority since reviews are good for both branding and SEO. Sometimes legitimate Yelp reviews get filtered out, so read this post to learn how to avoid it.

 

Use An SEO-Friendly Photography Theme

Let’s talk about optimizing your website – which starts with your WordPress theme. You want a theme that is SEO-friendly, responsive, secure, and loads fast. At the same time your theme should be built by a reliable developer so it won’t crap out on you down the road.

Djazz WordPress Photographer Theme

My list of photography themes is a good place to start. They all have the SEO-friendly features listed above, and they’re all built in the Genesis Framework which is recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and the founder of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg. If you don’t know what Genesis is then you can read about it on StudioPress’ website. But it is the best way to build a WordPress photography website that is SEO-friendly.

 

Learn Your Keywords

If you haven’t learned your photography-related keywords, here’s how to do that…

Photography SEO Keywords

Just go to google.com and type in your keywords using this format. Google Autocomplete will fill-in-the-blank with the most common phrases people are searching, with higher phrases having more searches than the lower ones. Just be sure the last character you type is an underscore “_” so Google will fill-in-the-blank. You can try other combinations too.

Keep in mind your 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) should be targeted on the homepage. If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) you will need to create a new page for each of those for better keyword-targeting.

This leads me to the next step…

 

Target Keywords Using Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast WordPress SEOf Plugin

You will use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to target keyword(s) on your website. This is where a lot of photographers get overwhelmed. Don’t though, because I made this very easy.

Step 1 – Configure The Yoast Settings
Once you install Yoast, go ahead and download this zip file below which includes the Yoast settings I use. Upload this to your WordPress site using the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard. You will go to Tools –> Import And Export –> Import. Upload the zip file.

DOWNLOAD MY YOAST SETTINGS (ZIP FILE)

You will need to navigate through the Yoast settings and change a few things…

  • General –> Company Info (fill this out with your info, and upload a default logo which should be at least 200 x 200 pixels)
  • General –> Webmaster Tools (see video below)
  • Social Settings –> fill this out with your own social media links
  • Advanced –> Breadcrumbs –> use your own company name

 

Step 2 – Target Keyword(s) On Your Website
As I mentioned earlier, you want to target your 1 primary keyword on your homepage. To do this, go to Yoast’s SEO tab on the left of your dashboard –> Titles & Metas –> Homepage. You should be able to fill out your SEO title and meta description here (this is the text that appears in Google’s search results), or click the link to view the page where you can edit this.

Targeting Keywords With Yoast

Use the same format in the photo. Write a unique meta description summarizing what you offer while including your keyword in a way that sounds natural. This is very important as it’s the forefront of your SEO. Also make sure you don’t go over the character limit of 156.

This might be all you need to do. You can’t include the keyword in the URL (this applies to any website’s homepage) so that’s OK. Most photographers prefer to have no text on the homepage (in the photo the article heading and content is red with “no”). I understand most photographers prefer let the photos do the talking, but it WILL benefit your SEO if you include text on your homepage. Otherwise Google will only have your photos to go by.

I suggest adding “Chicago Wedding Photographer” (or whatever your primary keyword is) as your title. Then include a short paragraph of what you want to tell your audience, while also including the keyword here. With all the different typography and layouts, you should be able to make this look nice. Here’s a good example of a website that uses text in the design.

How To Target Multiple Keywords
If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) then target the main keyword (eg. Chicago Photographer) on your homepage. Now create a new page for each different type of photography. This gives you a better chance of ranking high for those specific types of photography since searchers will find THAT page in Google – not your homepage. Make sure each page contains unique content since duplicate content is an SEO no-no.

To optimize those pages for their keywords, use the same strategies described above only set “Chicago Baby Photographer” (or whatever type of photography it is) as your focus keyword. Then optimize that page using Yoast’s SEO Plugin. If you need help using Yoast to optimize your content for green lights, here’s a video…

 

Optimize Images For Keywords

Before uploading an image to your WordPress site, make sure it has a descriptive file name. Instead of using “DSC27272” a better file name would be “willow trees blowing in the wind.”

Willow trees blowing in the wind

 

Optimize Images To Load Faster

A common issue with photography websites is that the images are so large, they take forever to load. Since website speed is a ranking factor in Google, you don’t want this.

Luckily there are a few ways to prevent this…

Serve Scaled Images
If a featured image calls for 150 x 150 dimensions but you use an image that is 300 x 300, you are not using the correct featured image dimensions. This will cause slower like times by 200%. To solve this, learn the correct dimensions of your featured images (or even images in your slider) and resize them in the media section with the correct dimensions.

Another example of not serving scaled images, is when you drag to resize an image in the visual editor. This resizes the displayed image but not the actual image file (this is what “serve scaled images” means). The correct way to resize images is in the media library:

Serve Scaled Images

Optimize Images
Install the WP Smush.it plugin and go to Media –> Bulk Smush.it –> Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now (screenshot below). That’s it! You can automatically smush images once uploaded under Settings –> Media. I like to also run EWWW Image Optimizer which can catch images missed by WP Smush.it.

Bulk Image Smushit

If you don’t want to mess with images or you just want more tips on making your site load faster, see my WordPress speed optimization guide. There’s tons of good tips there.

 

Use Your Business Name, Address, And Phone # In Your Footer

I know, I love easy tips too… and this one doesn’t get easier. This helps with the whole consistency of information thing that Google looks for. In WordPress, you usually find this under Theme Options (look for the copyright area) or in the Editor –> Footer.

Here’s how I list mine:
Online Media Masters | 1324 West Byron Street, Chicago IL 60613 | 847-271-2422

 

Get Links To Your Website

Looking good so far! You’ve got your directories in place, your website optimized for your keyword(s), and you’ve make some other optimizations to improve your photography SEO. But let’s not forget about links to your website since they are essential! When people link to you, it’s a strong signal that tells Google your website is important and to rank it higher.

So how do you get links?

  • Asking customers to link to you
  • Asking partners to link to you (eg. you’re someone’s preferred photographer)
  • Local directories like the ones from Moz Local and Whitespark
  • Chamber Of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Getting published in articles (eg. in the Huffington Post)
  • Creating useful content on your blog (videos are good for this)
  • Making sure you have a nice website design
  • Sharing your photography on social media
  • Sharing your photography through an email list
  • Add social media sharing buttons to your website
  • Other publicity/marketing to get your website “out there”

 

Kick Your Social Media Into Gear

You know that awesome picture you took the other week? Did you post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram account? You SHOULD! Spend some time creating nice social media profiles and cover images. Add your pictures, write an introduction, and so forth. Now keep updating those profiles with new photos. Then you’re golden.

 

Ongoing SEO Maintenance

The main “maintenance” involves asking more customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business and Yelp page. It can also mean creating more directories, adding useful content to your blog, and posting on social media. But once you’re setup with all the WordPress SEO tools and tweaks, local SEO should be pretty low maintenance.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share :) or if you have a question about your photography’s WordPress SEO, drop me a line in the comments. Glad to help you out.

Cheers,

Tom Signature

7 Top Link Building Freelancers On Freelancer.com

Link Building Freelancer Freelancer.com

Looking for the best link building freelancer on freelancer.com?

Look no further. After extensive research and reading through countless reviews on each freelancer’s profile, I have hand-picked the 10 best link building freelancers on this website.

Choosing a good link builder is one of the most important decisions you can make as far as SEO goes, as links are roughly 40% of Google’s algorithm. If you have a good link building team, chances are you will have much better rankings.

This list is constantly being updated to reflect changes made on freelancer.com. If you have any questions or feedback at all, leave me a comment at the end of this post.

 

1. SovoSowravDatta

SovoSowravDatta Freelancer Profile

 

SovoSowravDatta Skills

 

 

Rate: $20/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 350+

Description: Sovo is the best link building freelancer I could find. Superb ratings, reviews, and completely worth the $20/hour if you’re looking for the best Google-safe link builder to improve your rankings.

VIEW PROFILE

 

 

2. BeOnPage1

BeOnPage1 Link Builder Profile

 

BeOnPage1 Freelancer Ratings

 

 

Rate: $9/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 200+

BeOnPage1 looks like they value long-term SEO success because you will notice most of their projects are a significant investment – which is good because the buyers have faith that the job will be done right. Based out of Romania, I can confidently say that BeOnPage1 deserves a spot on my list of best freelancer.com link builders.

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3. Chandra Brian

Chandra Brian Link Builder

 

Chandra Brian Freelancer Profile

 

 

Rate: $8/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 180+

Chandra Brian (SEO expres) has 9 years experience as an SEO link building freelancer. He only 1 bad rating which is incredible considering he’s completed 180+ projects. Even Calcius Tech (another top rated link building provider on freelancer.com) hired Chandra for help – that should say something.

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4. mikehurley

mikehurley Link Builder

 

mikehurley Freelancer Ratings

 

 

Rate: $15/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 700+

Mike Hurly (W3Era) is a team of 45 employees who is killing the link building market on freelancer.com. With a 27% repeat hire rate and $5 cheaper than the the #1 link builder, it was a tough call. Read their customers reviews and you’ll see why I put them on the list.

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5. Queensland SEO

Queensland SEO Link Builder

 

Queensland SEO Freelancer Ratings

 

 

Rate: $55/hour
Average Rating: 5 / 5
Total Projects: 35+

The only reason Queensland SEO isn’t 1st on my list is because they haven’t completed a ton of projects (since they’re relatively new on freelancer.com). However their customers are delighted for the projects they have done. This is an Australian-based team who seem to be lead by a link building expert named Zane.

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6. Gamit SEO

Gamit SEO Link Builder

 

Gamit SEO Freelancer Ratings

 

 

Rate: $7/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 1,700+

Gamit is a team of 30 SEOs and link builders who have been on freelancer.com for 9 years. And with a $7 hourly rate, this freelancer looks like the best bang for your buck. They say their advantage is “theme links” which seems to be working because they have plenty of good customer reviews.

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7. Sanjid Rahman

Sanjid Rahman Link Builder Profile

 

Sanjid Rahman Freelancer Ratings

 

 

Rate: $50/hour
Average Rating: 4.9 / 5
Total Projects: 350+

28% repeat hire rate ain’t no joke! This guy knows what he’s doing and that’s why he’s worth the $50/hour. He clearly states that believes in long-term success which is what link building is all about. Not only that, he’s got the good reviews to prove it.

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I have been doing SEO myself for 4+ years and I would highly recommend one of these freelancers if you’re looking to take your SEO to the next level with some quality link building. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below. Otherwise if you found my list helpful, please share it on one of those social networks to the left!

Cheers,

Tom Signature