8 WordPress SEO Hacks every Online Business Owner Needs to Know
The Gold Rush has begun all over again, this time in the digital arena. Businesses anxious to discover new audiences for their products are leaving no stone unturned in their quest for inbound traffic- the new age gold vein! From paid ads to affiliate marketing, marketers and business owners have developed an entire arsenal of tools to generate leads, engage customers and earn positive reviews. In turn, they feed into the sales funnels that online business owners, around the world, have meticulously built up.
However, none of this is possible if potential customers don’t know your WordPress website exists. This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in.
The business case is clear: the global reach of the internet has leveled the playing field for online businesses versus Fortune 500 companies. eCommerce sales volumes have grown exponentially and at a far lower cost, compared to traditional channels. However, to get the most bang for your online marketing buck, you need to have your ear to the ground at all times.
The search landscape is changing fast. Millennials are spending more time online than ever. Google, Yahoo, and Bing have all emphasized user experience and content quality as a key ranking factor. Search algorithms have become more sophisticated at classifying content. In fact, since the 2010 Google Caffeine update, there have been almost daily, often unannounced, changes in the algorithms that make it virtually impossible to game the system.
With its Panda and Penguin updates, Google further cracked the whip on websites that were relying on keyword-stuffed content to rank high on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). What does this mean for you as a WordPress business website owner?
The ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy still holds true, however, with one important caveat. Your website needs to be searchable and your content shareable. With social media coming into the picture, your inbound marketing strategy must include SEO.
Of course, you still need to know what your audience wants and give them plenty of genuine value. When visitors find information on your website that is credible and practical, you can be sure that they will return. For example, if you have a WordPress directory website or even a popular how-to blog, great content can help you establish authority in your niche.
If your conversion funnel has not been performing to your expectations, SEO can help you run the last mile. It gives you the best chance to influence the ‘to buy or not to buy’ action as it happens.
However, that is not all there is to get your SEO strategy right. In marketing jargon, buyer behavior across all phases of their interaction with your product or service is called the customer lifecycle or customer journey. Your SEO strategy can shape the level of engagement you build with your target audience across 5 major touchpoints. These are:
At every one of these stages, there are SEO practices you can use to facilitate a better customer experience, improve Click-Through Rates (CTR), boost conversions and revenue. The best part is that you can do all of this effortlessly with WordPress’s extensive collection of plugins and feature-rich themes. Let’s take a closer look at some of these SEO aspects and how they influence the customer journey.
When a visitor first discovers your website, he is likely to notice the domain name. Customers make subconscious associations with your brand even as they interact with your content. If you want to make the best possible impression, you need a domain name that means business, though not literally!
On the SEO front, if your domain name is an EMD or an Exact Match Domain for the keywords you are targeting, it might work against you. Even if you have a very niche product, an EMD can mean being penalized in terms of search rankings.
Besides, keyword-stuffed domains look cheap and don’t do much to build trust in the audience.
Web Page Layout:
As a visitor makes his way around your website, you’d want to do everything possible to be inviting and warm, as if he were visiting you at home. Now, if the homepage wore a cluttered look in terms of too many ads or affiliate links, it may do you more harm than good. Remove these links if they overshadow any useful content on the page.
With all the ads go, make sure that your home page and product landing pages have enough information for visitors. This will set the stage for that perfect ‘good to know ya!’ Awareness score: 100/100.
Is navigating your website easy? Are there enough links in the header and sidebar to let users view pages in a click or two, as soon as they land on the home page? What about a search box? Consider replacing the default search box in WordPress with Google’s custom search.
Also, use hyperlinks from the body of an article to link to other pages of your website. To make your content easily found, organize it under relevant sections. More importantly, never use tags that are identical to some of your product or service categories. An easy to navigate site is more likely to draw in your target customer and get them interested in what you have to offer. Congratulations, your lead just went from warm to red hot!
On the same note, if your cart abandonment rate is going through the roof, the importance of easy navigation cannot be stressed enough. An easy to navigate website really is good for business!
Voice of Customer:
Make sure you invite customer feedback by including a comments section on your WordPress site. A range of plug-ins is available to optimize your website for customer suggestions, ratings, reviews and comments. However, moderate all user comments manually to weed out any spam. Add a Contact Us form, if you do not have one already.
If your customer feels heard and valued, you keep him for life. Remember, an engaged customer is the best advocate for your brand you will ever find. Retention: Check!
Social media helps you tell your story and tell it well. Remember, social media likes are links. With a few social media sharing buttons, your visitors can spread the word about your online business effortlessly and at zero cost to you. If your WordPress website comes recommended by a friend or colleague, more customers will buy from you and likely come back for more. Take advantage of the ‘people who bought this also bought..’ factor to send your sales graph soaring through the stratosphere.
At the very least, you’d need a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to make your presence felt on social media.
To build trust, your personality should shine through your WordPress site. It starts from the About Us page. Make sure that you have your/your webmaster’s photo on it so visitors know the person behind the brand! If you have testimonials on your site, make sure that they are current. You’d want your business address and phone number displayed prominently on your site. Unanswered comments are a big no-no. Make sure that every last one of them is acknowledged.
Track your bounce rate and time on site statistics on Google Analytics every two weeks. If your average bounce rate is high, you need to do some spadework to find out why. Know which pages are getting the most attention and dwell time from visitors. This aspect has a bearing on not just engagement and sales but also retention and referrals.
Content is king but left unattended it can lose its appeal! Make sure that your content is genuinely valuable to your target audience. If your content gets shared and bookmarked enough, you probably have a winner on your hands. However, check to ensure that your content has not been copied by others. If you find another website using your content without permission, bring it to the attention of its webmaster. Implement Google authorship to ensure that you retain exclusive rights to the content you develop.
It is just as important to ensure that your content is readable. By humans, that is! It is all too easy to forget about the end customer and get caught up in minutia around the right keywords. Also, your sitemap may collect a lot of similar or overlapping content over a period of time. Search and destroy (aka rewrite) such content as soon as possible. It is a sure-fire way to add some substance to your relationship with customers.
Any meta descriptions used should be unique to each page. Keyword stuffed meta tags are a no-no. Also, any text written specifically for web crawlers that are otherwise visible should also be removed. Say your story well with content that is engaging and up to date.
Inbound Link Profiles:
If you have ever bought or sold links, it is time to let go of them. This applies equally to any reciprocal links you may currently have. Likewise, if you have used automatic backlink tools, steer clear from them. Remove or disavow any bookmarking links that are of poor quality. Any backlinks from themes or widgets you have created also need to be deactivated. Any backlinks to other sites from themes or widgets you may be used also need to be removed.
If you run other websites that link to each other solely for building up page rank, you need to remove them too. If your inbound links use a lot of keywords as anchor text, modify them to include your brand name, URL or title website.
Finally, SEO is a trial and error process that evolves with time. Even with the time tested tips we’ve just discussed, you will need to adapt your SEO strategy to continue seeing measurable results. Patience and persistence is the key to long term SEO success. However, it does not have to be as gloomy as it sounds! The beauty of the WordPress platform is that it comes with a host of SEO tools that take minutes to install. If you need installation assistance, it also has exhaustive learning resources that give you step by step information.
To get you started, here are some proven SEO plug-ins that thousands of online business owners around the world rely on. If you need a customized all-inclusive solution, that is both affordable and comprehensive, we recommend that you do a comparative analysis – both in terms of time and cost – on the alternatives before you decide which route to take.
About the Author
Anthony Presley is a managing partner at Templatic and he loves enabling entrepreneurs and business operators to reach their target audiences and grow their businesses. He and the Templatic team are working to build the next generation of WordPress themes.