Today I did something I’ve never done before: I started to “SEO Optimize” my WPShout posts, seeing which posts were doing well in search results and how I can make these posts do better in search results. I also had a fiddle around with my theme to make sure it was all in fine optimised order.
I have no idea if it’s as a result of this, but after doing my optimization, WPShout has suddenly jumped to PR 5 (I believe it was last at PR 3).
The finding bit.
1. Find your best posts
Head over to Analytics (or whatever you use), set the time back to the beginning of the year and see what your best ten results have been. It’s important to you’ve got a wide date span so results aren’t skewed by your most recent posts.
I did this and found there were eight posts which were all a couple of thousands visits ahead of the pack. I focused on these eight; statistically, they’re my best posts.
2. Find your best keywords
Whilst you’re still in Analytics, see which keywords people are using to find your site. Again, there are probably a couple which stand out as your top ones. Pick these out and then see where you’re appearing in the results for these searches. If you’re halfway down the first page, then it’s time to roll out the optimisation. Actually, regardless of where you are, it’s time to roll out the optimization.
The optimization bit.
My theme options tutorials have always been popular, to the extent I updated the whole lot last year. The trouble was the original, not-so-good original tutorial ranks very highly and visitors would often not see the link to the new version. Plus, it made Shout look bad, having a fairly bad tutorial getting thousands of visits — these thousands of visitors would assume the site was horrendous.
The solution was to use a plugin, the first of a couple. This one’s called “Redirection“. Essentially, it’s an easy way of adding 301 redirects to posts which tell search engines the post has permanently moved to a new location — soon the updated, better post will be the one ranking high.
It works, too; as you can see I set up two redirects, the first to test it out and the second redirecting the aforementioned post. At a glance I can see 79 people have been saved from seeing the old post. It also tracks 404 errors and seems to be working well! Thoroughly recommended if you need to redirect posts.
2. Auto linking keywords
Google needs to know if your post is relevant to a certain keyword, we all know this (or at least, pretend to). Therefore it makes sense to link words of phrases on your blog to relevant posts.
A quick bit of Googling and I found a plugin: “Automatic SEO Links“. It pretty much does what it says on the tin: goes through your posts, if it finds the word you’ve asked it to find, it links it up to the link you’ve asked it to. And that’s pretty much it:
3. Updating better posts
Some of my more successful posts were older and as a result weren’t quite as good as the newer ones.
They were still bringing in a ton of traffic though, so I went through and made sure they follow the best practices of today, not the best practices of a year ago. This may not help your SEO, but it will increase your readership as search engine visitors will find your content interesting and thus come back for more, instead of leaving immediately.
4. Change titles
I make a point of not writing my titles for search engines, instead writing them for readers.
Lately I’ve started getting quite good at combining the two: short, punchy titles that tell you immediately what’s in the post and also are keyword relevant. The title of this post, for example, couldn’t really be much shorter or more relevant.
On my older, successful posts I started changing the titles to make them lean further towards keyword relevant rather than reader relevant as the majority of readers will now be coming from search engines and thus they need to be able to find the post. In my mind, it makes sense to change the titles so they’re shorter and punchier.
5. Short, relevant URLs
Along with long post titles, in the past I’ve had long URLs which I’ve kept the same as the title. Turns out this too was a bad idea: if you’re not writing your titles for search engines (as you shouldn’t be) then it seems reasonable to write URLs for search engines; they’re not designed to show you what the article is about, they’re just the location of the article!
I first noticed Chris Coyier doing this: wordy titles and short URLs. Take the latest post, for example: “Tips for Web Design that Crosses Cultures” or, http://css-tricks.com/cross-culture-design/.
Ideally you do this before you publish, but if not, you can use the plugin from earlier to give a permanent redirect to the new URL. This should have a noticeable impact.
And that’s the game!
That’s it. More or less all I did in a couple of hours. Already, as I said at the top of the post, it seems to already have had an impact on my search engine results and visits from search engines.
(sorry, no art direction!)