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20 Tips and Best Practices

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20 Tips and Best Practices


Most people choose WordPress as their website’s CMS because it’s easy to use and SEO friendly out of the box. 

Both of these things are true, but it’s important to remember that WordPress is just a content management system (CMS). So the mere fact that you’re using WordPress isn’t enough to rank on search engines.

Luckily, WordPress makes it super easy to implement many SEO best practices.

In this guide, we’ll cover 20 SEO best practices, share tips to help you rank higher, and explain how to implement them on your WordPress website.

Here are the practices that made the list:

  1. Check search engine visibility settings
  2. Set preferred domain
  3. Set up permalinks
  4. Require manual approval for blog comments
  5. Install an SEO-friendly theme
  6. Install an all-in-one SEO plugin
  7. Make sure to generate a sitemap
  8. Exclude low-value content from indexing
  9. Install Ahrefs’ SEO plugin
  10. Write a “clickworthy” title
  11. Set an SEO-friendly URL slug
  12. Use headers to create hierarchy
  13. Internally link to relevant content
  14. Add alt text to images
  15. Write a compelling title tag
  16. Write a compelling meta description
  17. Nest pages in subfolders
  18. Install WP Rocket
  19. Minify code
  20. Install ShortPixel

1. Check your search engine visibility settings

There’s a checkbox in WordPress that, if checked, is effectively an SEO death sentence for your website because it prevents Google from indexing your pages. And if Google can’t index your pages, they can’t rank.

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You’ll find this under Settings > Reading > Search engine visibility:

Search engine visibility in WordPress

Make sure this is unchecked if you want to stand any chance of ranking whatsoever.

Google looks at domain.com and www.domain.com separately, so it’s important to choose a preferred version for your site. You can do this under Settings > General. Just set the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to your preferred version.

Preferred domain in WordPress

For a new website, it doesn’t really matter which version you choose. But if your pages are accessible at both URL versions, your best bet is to use the version with the most backlinks.

To see which version this is, plug them both into Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool and check their referring domains.

For us, it’s clearly the non-www version:

Referring domains to preferred domain in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

The beauty of WordPress is it automatically redirects the other version to the preferred version so that search engines and visitors can only access your site at the preferred domain.

WARNING

Changing the preferred version can cause technical issues if your site has already been up and running for a while. If you’ve any concerns, it’s worth enlisting the help of a developer to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Permalinks are basically the URL format for your posts and pages, and the “post name” option tends to be the most SEO-friendly because it helps:

  1. Make it immediately obvious what the page is about.
  2. Keep URLs short, which can prevent them from truncating in the search results.

However, if you’re already using a different permalink structure, then changing it can lead to broken pages. So if you make a change, you’ll want to crawl your website with a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit after the fact to check for 4XX errors:

4XX errors in Ahrefs' Site Audit

If there are any, you’ll want to use a WordPress plugin like Redirection to redirect the old URLs to the new ones.

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4. Require manual approval for blog comments

Spammy blog comments are unlikely to cause penalties or any drastic SEO issues because they’re pretty much always nofollowed. But according to Google, they can still cause some SEO issues for a few reasons.

Luckily, WordPress makes it really easy to solve this issue once and for all by offering users the option to set all blog comments to require manual approval.

You can do this in Settings > Discussion > Comment must be manually approved:

Blog comment approval in WordPress

5. Install an SEO-friendly theme

Pretty much all WordPress themes are responsive and mobile-friendly these days, so there’s not much to worry about there. What you really need to check when choosing a theme is its performance.

If the theme is bloated with unnecessary code and features, it’ll slow your website down. And that’s not good, given that page speed has been a Google ranking factor for over a decade.

So when choosing a theme, it’s worth reading through the description to see what’s included. If there’s a bunch of features you won’t use, it may not be the best choice for you.

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You can also run the theme demo through PageSpeed Insights for a better sense of its performance.

WordPress theme in PageSpeed Insights

If you already have a theme and its performance isn’t great, give tips #18–20 a shot and hire a developer to optimize it if it’s still slow.

6. Install an all-in-one SEO plugin

Extend the SEO functionality of WordPress and make it easier to optimize aspects of your site with an all-in-one SEO plugin. We use Yoast SEO, but there are plenty of other alternatives.

To install it, go to Plugins > Add New > Search for “Yoast SEO” > Click Activate > Click Install:

Installing Yoast SEO for WordPress

Most of the settings will be good out of the box, but we’ll adjust a few of them as we go.

7. Make sure to generate a sitemap

Sitemaps list the important posts and pages on your site to help search engines discover them. Yoast SEO creates a sitemap for you, but you need to make sure the option is turned on.

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To do that, go to SEO > General > Features > Toggle “XML sitemaps” on:

XML sitemaps toggle in Yoast SEO

8. Exclude low-value content from indexing

You should only allow Google to index pages that offer value to searchers. Tag pages and format-based archives rarely fall into this category, so it’s generally best practice to exclude them from indexing.

To do that, go to SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies > Toggle “Show Tags in search results?” off:

Excluding tag pages from indexing in WordPress using Yoast SEO

Do the same for format-based archives too.

9. Install Ahrefs’ SEO plugin

Our free WordPress SEO plugin audits and monitors content performance and gives recommendations on how to improve it.

For example, if the plugin spots that one of your pages is no longer ranking in the top three for its target keyword, it’ll tag it as “No longer well-performing” and give a personalized recommendation on how to improve based on your settings:

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Ahrefs' SEO Plugin

Here, it recommends that we update a post that no longer ranks. If we hit the suggestion caret, it gives advice on how to do that:

Content recommendations in Ahrefs' SEO WordPress plugin

Recommendation

The next eight tips are content-related. Keep them in mind when adding posts and pages to your WordPress website.

10. Write a “clickworthy” title

Every page and post in WordPress needs a title, which you set here:

Clickworthy title in WordPress

This title usually gets shown elsewhere on your WordPress website. For example, the title for this post shows up on our blog archive page:

Example of a blog post title

For that reason, it’s important that your title entices visitors to click through to your page while accurately describing what the page is about. In other words, the title should be clickworthy but not clickbait.

If you’re struggling to write something that fits the bill, take inspiration from the SERP titles of the top-ranking pages for your target keyword, as these are often the same or similar to the page title. You can do that in Google, but it’s better to use our free SERP checker for more accurate, non-personalized results:

Ahrefs' free SERP checker

For example, you can see above that many of the pages ranking for “SEO tips” talk about boosting traffic or rankings in their SERP titles. So this is probably a good angle for a clickworthy title for this topic.

11. Set an SEO-friendly URL slug

By default, WordPress sets the URL to the full title of the post or page. This is rarely ideal because it’s usually long, and long URLs tend to get truncated in the search results.

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For a more SEO-friendly URL, click “Edit,” enter your primary keyword (or a close variation), and replace the spaces with dashes.

URL slug in WordPress

12. Use headers to create hierarchy

Headers create structure and help visitors and search engines to better understand the hierarchy of your content.

In WordPress, you can use the WYSIWYG editor to quickly and easily add relevant headers. Just hit the “Paragraph” dropdown, and you’ll see six header options:

Heading tags in WordPress

Sidenote.

If you’re using WordPress’ block editor, things will look slightly different. You’ll need to click to add a “Heading” block instead. 

As most WordPress themes use the post title as the first header (H1), it’s best practice to use H2-H6 in the content itself.

13. Internally link to relevant content

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Internal links point to other pages and posts on your website. They’re important for SEO because they help:

  1. Keep visitors on your site.
  2. Boost the “authority” of your other content and rank the content higher.

You can add internal links to posts and pages in WordPress using the WYSIWYG editor. Just highlight the text you want to use as the anchor, hit the “Insert/edit link” button, and paste in the URL of another page or post on your website.

Adding internal link in WordPress

Sidenote.

Again, things may look a bit different if you’re using the block editor, but the process is pretty much the same. 

If you’re not sure if and where to add internal links, sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) account, run a crawl in Site Audit, then go to the Link opportunities report to see relevant internal link suggestions:

Internal link suggestions in Ahrefs' Site Audit

For example, you can see above that it recommends we internally link the phrase “link building tactics” in our guide to bad links to our list of link building strategies.

14. Add alt text to images

Alt text is important because it:

  1. Tells Google what images are about, which may help them rank higher on Google Images.
  2. Improves accessibility for visually impaired visitors using screen readers.
  3. Replaces the broken image on the page if the image breaks.

To add alt text in WordPress, fill in the “alt text” field when uploading an image:

Adding alt text to images in WordPress

Sidenote.

Once again, things may look slightly different in the block editor, but there’s still an “alt text” field. 

Just try to keep it short and sweet while being descriptive.

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Recommended reading: Alt Text for SEO: How to Optimize Your Images

15. Write a compelling title tag

Google usually uses your title tag for the snippet in the search results.

Yoast sets your title tag to your post or page title by default. This is often fine, as you should have already crafted an enticing post title. But sometimes it’s too long, so it’s worth pasting in the full title manually to make sure it’s not likely to truncate.

If it gets highlighted green, you’re all set. If it gets highlighted red, it’s too long.

Adding title tag in WordPress using Yoast SEO

You can usually solve the issue of a lengthy title tag by removing any superfluous information. Easy ways to do this include:

  • Removing information in brackets.
  • Removing unnecessary words.
  • Rephrasing.

16. Write a compelling meta description

Meta descriptions aren’t a direct Google ranking factor, but Google often uses them for the search result snippet.

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For that reason, it’s important to write a compelling meta description that supports your title and further entices people to click.

Here are a few tips for doing that:

  • Double down on search intent
  • Use an active voice
  • Keep it under 120 characters

Recommended reading: How to Write the Perfect Meta Description

17. Nest pages in subfolders

Assuming that you set your permalink structure to post name, your page and post URLs will look like this:

domain.com/post-name
domain.com/page-name

But with pages, you can create them with different levels using subfolders.

For example, let’s say you’re a digital marketing agency offering three different services: SEO, PPC, and social media marketing.

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Here’s the best way to structure that:

  1. Create a “Services” landing page that lists the services you provide
  2. Create individual pages for each service you offer
  3. Link to each service page from your “Services” page

Here’s what your URL structure will look like by default:

domain.com/services/
domain.com/seo/
domain.com/ppc/
domain.com/social-media-marketing/

That looks OK. But it is better to nest the individual service pages under the “/services/” subfolder like this:

domain.com/services/
domain.com/services/seo/
domain.com/services/ppc/
domain.com/services/social-media-marketing/

That’s easy to do in WordPress. Just use the “Parent” dropdown on the page editor and choose the “Services” page.

Nesting pages in WordPress

Recommendation

The next three tactics are about page speed. Use these to speed up your website and improve its performance. Note that we haven’t covered every optimization you can make here, as page speed is a complex topic. So if you want to delve deeper into this side of things, read our full guide to speeding up your WordPress website.

WP Rocket describes itself as a web performance plugin that boosts your page speed. The beauty of the plugin is that it makes a bunch of useful optimizations out of the box, including browser and server caching.

Here’s what caching does in a nutshell:

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  • Browser caching – Saves common files on visitors’ hard drives so they don’t have to keep re-downloading them on repeat visits.
  • Server caching – Saves static versions of your webpages on your server so they’re ready and waiting whenever a visitor requests them.

This is not a free plugin but, in my opinion, it’s well worth the $49 price tag if you have the budget. If you’re looking for a free plugin that does something similar in terms of caching, try one of the many other caching plugins available.

Minification removes unnecessary white space from your code to reduce file sizes.

Minified vs un-minified code

It’s simple enough to enable minification if you’re using WP Rocket. Just head to the File Optimization settings and check the options to “Minify CSS files” and “Minify JavaScript files.”

Minification in WP Rocket

If you’re not using WP Rocket, give Autoptimize a shot (it’s free).

warning

Enabling minification can lead to features breaking in some instances. So it’s always best to test how this affects your website in a staging environment before deploying live.

ShortPixel automatically compresses and optimizes the images you upload to WordPress. This makes the image files smaller, reduces strain on your server, and makes things load faster for your visitors.

To get started, install the plugin, activate it, then enter your API key in the settings.

Note that ShortPixel is a freemium plugin. So if you’re compressing more than 100 images per month, you’ll need to buy some credits or sign up for a paid plan. This only costs a few dollars and is well worth the money, in my opinion.

If you do have the budget for a paid plan, it’s also worth hitting the option to bulk optimize the images already uploaded to WordPress.

Resizing images using ShortPixel

Final thoughts

WordPress is flexible, easy to use, and provides a good base for SEO. But it can only get you so far because it’s just a CMS. If you’re serious about ranking on Google, there are a few more things you’ll need to do.

Ready for better rankings? Read our step-by-step guide to ranking high on Google.

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Got questions about WordPress SEO? Ping me on Twitter.





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Which Is Better For You?

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Which Is Better For You?

Content marketers are using video content more than ever.

In 2022, 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool.

Aside from the rise of TikTok, especially during the pandemic, more marketers are creating videos, and 46% of marketers said it was because videos had become easier to develop in-house.

As a content marketer, should you jump on the bandwagon?

And what about the more “traditional” YouTube?

Worldwide, YouTube is part of the Top 3 social media networks. TikTok isn’t just yet, though it’s steadily climbing the ranks at No. 5.

Just because TikTok is the newest kid on the block doesn’t mean you have to allocate all your video budgets to it.

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Choosing between the two requires careful thought and consideration. You must factor in content type, target audience, engagement rates, and influencer marketing spend.

So, which of these two viral video platforms makes more sense for your business?

Let’s dive in.

What Is TikTok?

After Chinese tech company ByteDance acquired Musical.ly in 2017, its technology was ported. Thus, TikTok was born.

TikTok (called Douyin locally) is a user-friendly social media platform that allows users to create short-form videos.

With a free video editor in-app, anyone can add filters, stickers, and text-to-speech for a 15-second video.

TikTok has over a billion monthly users, making it the most downloaded app worldwide in 2021.

What Is YouTube?

With over 2.1 billion monthly active users, the video-sharing platform has been around much longer. Launched in 2005, YouTube has been the mainstay for sharing video content.

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Three former PayPal employees founded YouTube as a way for people to have fun sharing their home videos. (Remember the first few viral YouTube videos?)

Compared to TikTok, YouTube videos are a lot longer.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between TikTok And YouTube

TikTok YouTube
Audience (U.S.) 50% between ages 18 and 24, 17.7% between ages 12 and 17 95% between ages 18 and 29
Average Content Length 15 to 60 seconds 11.7 minutes
Average Time Spent Per Day 45.8 minutes a day 45.6 minutes a day
Traffic (Organic) 318.2 million 646 billion
Traffic (Paid) 643,600 65.1 million
Successful Niches
  • Dance
  • Comedy
  • Smaller/specialized creators
  • Product must-haves
  • Breakdowns of news stories
  • Makeup and fashion hacks with trendy sound clips
  • Storytime (first person POV)
  • Evergreen content
  • Lifehack and DIY videos
  • How-tos
  • Gaming, people, and blogs
  • Music and entertainment
  • Sporting Events
Cost For Business Accounts $o – free account $o – free account

Audience For TikTok vs. YouTube

TikTok Has A Younger U.S. Audience

If you’re marketing to teens, a.k.a., Gen Z (and by extension, Generation Alpha who are becoming teens next year), TikTok is a strong bet.

As of April 2022:

Almost half of TikTok users in the United States were between 18 and 34 years, making up the largest demographic group for the platform.

TikTok users aged between 12 and 17 made up approximately 17.7% of the popular social video app user base in the United States, while 2.5% of TikTok users in the country were 11 years old or younger.”

This means that TikTok is especially popular with Gen Z while more and more adults are steadily becoming app users, too.

Note that younger children ages 12 and above can access TikTok (the app requires a minimum of 12 years of age to get a profile).

Gen Z And Millennials Are More Likely To Trust YouTubers

If you’re trying to reach Millennials (while keeping older Gen Z in mind) and be seen as more authoritative, YouTube could be a safer bet.

According to Pew Research:

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“In 2021, 95% of U.S. adults between 18 and 29 years of age said they use YouTube (the age demographic with the highest percentage) while only 49% of U.S. adults who are 65+ years reported using it.”

According to the YouTube Culture And Trends Report 2022, 83% of Gen Z watch soothing content on YouTube to help them relax.

Lastly, in a survey by Ypulse, YouTubers were the most trusted public figures (31%) among those surveyed, beating TikTokers by 12%.

TikTok vs. YouTube: Content Format And Length

Keep It Short And Sweet On TikTok

TikTok has a maximum length of three minutes. TikTok recommends an optimal 21 to 34 seconds to keep viewers interested, but average videos last 15 – 60 seconds.

While it leaves little room for all-out explainer videos, you can still create quality content on the go and turn it into a non-chronological series.

TikTok favors short-form videos with an aspect ratio of 9:16; it is vertically optimized for mobile devices.

The platform also has TikTok LIVE, a feature for creators to connect in real-time with their audience (think Q&As or concert experiences).

Leave The Longer Videos To YouTube

Verified accounts on YouTube can run up to two hours of video, while unverified accounts can only upload 15 minutes. The average length for videos is 11.7 minutes.

While YouTube videos are popular on mobile devices (49.3% are watching on mobile YouTube), the number is expected to decrease as YouTube continues to be available on desktop and TV devices.

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Keep a 16:9 aspect ratio in mind since YouTube apps are becoming more popular with smart TVs, gaming consoles, and other gadgets.

YouTube launched its livestream feature for creators back in 2011.

The platform is famous for its gaming livestreams, the Superbowl, the Olympics, and more.

Moreover, YouTubers can curate content playlists, allowing viewers to enjoy music streaming and related content for hours with an autoplay option.

Note: The average time per day for both channels is around 45 minutes, with TikTok winning by a hair at 45.8 minutes compared to YouTube’s 45.6 minutes.

Comparing TikTok vs. YouTube Algorithm

There is content that works well on both platforms (consider product reviews and reaction videos).

Nevertheless, here are the types of content for which each channel is better known.

To dig deeper into TikTok’s powerful search algorithm or how YouTube’s search results recently changed, we recommend further reading up on them in the links provided.

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TikTok: Niches That Succeed

Screenshot from TikTok, September 2022

Bite-sized content has never been more digestible, with creators using TikTok to spread straightforward content in memes, educational content, lip sync, and dance videos.

These often include specialized content series, like Random Amazon Finds That Just Slap, Things I Just Found Out In My 30s, or professionals connected to a particular hashtag with content usually dedicated to one specialty. (Note: That could be an opportunity for your business’s industry or niche.)

Small and big brands can work with influencers to create simple, engaging, potentially viral content. See how Clinique’s Black Honey Lipstick sold out because of TikTok videos spreading awareness.

TikTok Creator content tends to be relatable and authentic; you can use the TikTok Insights tool to see what works for each generation in what industry.

Niches That Work On YouTube

Popular content on YouTube includes how-to videos, product reviews, music videos, comedy skits, and much more.

Your brand can benefit from collaborating with YouTubers (the most trusted figures, according to the survey above). For example, NordVPN frequently has sponsorship arrangements with tech gadget reviewers, like Techmoan.

YouTube can be better for products that aren’t as easy to show off in short formats. Additionally, YouTube tutorials tend to have a more serious tone.

TikTok Ad Formats

For TikTok ad formats, you have the following options (see TikTok Ads For Beginners: A Complete Guide & Steps To Success to learn how to use them).

  • TopView: An attention-grabbing, distraction-free, 60-second video format.
  • In-Feed Ads: A native-inspired ad type that will integrate seamlessly into a viewer’s “For You” page.
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge: A UGC (user-generated content) using your brand’s hashtag campaign.
  • Branded Effects: Branded stickers, filters, or special effects.

YouTube Ad Formats

For videos that have ad monetization features, these are the following video ad formats available for YouTube business accounts.

Read The Complete Beginner’s Guide To YouTube Video Advertising for a comprehensive guide on how to use them.

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  • Skippable video ads: A video ad with an option for viewers to skip after five seconds.
  • Non-skippable video ads: These ads don’t allow viewers to skip this typically 15-20 second video.
  • Bumper ads: Up to six seconds long, these ads need to be watched before a video is viewed.
  • Overlay ads: Only seen on desktop, these ads take up the lower 20% screen of a video.

YouTube videos can be monetized and can earn shared ad revenue.

Setting up business accounts is free on both platforms. Keep in mind that TikTok has a $50 minimum for an ad spend, while YouTube Ads offers $100 in free credits when you spend $50 on video ads.

Conclusion

Should you favor one over the other?

On the surface, TikTok.com has 318.2 million organic traffic, and YouTube.com has 646 billion.

For paid, TikTok traffic is 643,600, while YouTube reaches 65.1 million.

YouTube and TikTok are here to stay, and while YouTube’s traffic seems bigger, TikTok’s fast rise to the top is one to look out for.

Typically, both are ideal for marketers who invest in video marketing; 87% of marketers say video has helped them increase their traffic, and 82% on dwell time.

The best platform depends on your brand and the type of content you have the resources for, the customer purchase cycle, your social media goals, and your budget.

When used wisely, whichever of the two you choose will help benefit your business in the long run.

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More Resources:


Featured Image: Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock

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