AD | What’s the focus of your blog? Marketing tips? Cat breeds? Star signs? Regardless of what type of blog you run, you probably know that following SEO best practice is key to driving traffic through organic search, especially Google. Whether you want to make money from your blogging skills or not, you’ll most likely want to know how you can help your blog rank better, and your content reach a greater number of people. So, this article will take you through some actionable SEO tips that you can implement easily on your WordPress blog.
What are actionable SEO Tips?
From clean URLs and good page structure, through to page speed and image size, there’s a lot that you need to consider when it comes to creating the most optimised blog for your audience, industry, or market sector. Because after all, we want as many people as possible to find and read what we write, don’t we? I’ve teamed up with digital marketing agency, Embryo Digital*, to help you do just that with these six handy SEO tips to get you going.
Checking your Blog’s Page Speed
Have you ever visited a website but been put off by how long it was taking to load? That’s not surprising, considering that the average load time of the top ranking websites on Google is under three seconds. In fact, according to Google, 57% of people leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. Page speed has recently become a key ranking factor in the way in which Google uses its algorithm to rank pages within search results. So, checking the speed of your blog is just as important. Fortunately, there are a range of beneficial tools that will help you measure your blog’s page speed as well as provide some handy insight on areas for improvement.
You can test your blog page speed with Google PageSpeed Insights, as well as GTMetrix. GTMetrix is great for determining how long it takes for your blog to load, the size of the page you are testing and also allows you to view your PageSpeed and YSlow score.
Ideally, your fully loaded time should be within 2 – 3 seconds, and your page size no more than 3MB. GTMetrix then provides you with a number of areas for improvement, and the most common areas for speed improvement are:
Leverage Browser Caching
Browser caching caches images and other blog assets, so that when they’re reloaded on another page or blog post the second time around, the assets are actually loaded from the user’s device instead of downloaded from the Internet. Browser caching can be set up in a number of ways, however if you’re using WordPress, the easiest way to add browser caching is by using the Hummingbird plugin. (WordPress is a goldmine for useful must-have plugins). The Hummingbird plugin will automatically set up browser caching for you and this can improve page speed and performance considerably.
Compression can help reduce the size of your blog pages, posts and blog images by using GZIP. Hummingbird can automatically apply GZIP to your blog through its WordPress plugin – it’s a very handy plugin 🙂
Images add visual appeal to your blog, but they can often lead to longer loading times and large page sizes. Uploading images straight from your digital camera or smartphone creates large file sizes that really aren’t suitable for the web. To mitigate this issue, you can use the WP Smush plugin (which I do, it’s great). The WP Smush plugin will automatically optimise your images for web on upload, and you can also scan and optimise your current WordPress media library with it too.
Serving Scaled Images
The images you use play a key part in making your blog informative, user-friendly and engaging. Therefore, it’s imperative that your blog serves scaled images. In other words, the images you use on your blog have to be sized appropriately according to the rules set by your active theme. Otherwise, if an image is too small, the browser will scale it up (i.e. make it bigger), and it may become blurry and unrecognisable. If an image is too big, the browser will shrink it to the right size.
Instead of amending the size of the image using HTML or CSS, you can scale your images so that the image is loaded at the correct size. Scaling images in WordPress is quite easy: simply open the image in the media library, select edit image and the scale options are in the top right corner. You can add your new image dimensions here and then click scale.
Header Tag Structure
Providing context and structure to your blog, the header tag structure must be laid out appropriately too. The first tag should be the H1 and there must only be one of them per page/post. A H1 tag is defined as the most important heading and is used to give search engines context on what the page or post is about. Generally, in blogging, the H1 tag should be the title of your blog post. From there on you can use H2 tags for subheadings and there is no limit to the number you can use.
To identify your current H1 tag, H2 tags and other heading tags, all you need to do is load up your blog in your browser, right click, click ‘view page source’ then another tab will open with code for the given page. Next, use the find tool to search for <h1>, and this will highlight the H1 tag currently in use, and let you know if there is more than one, or even – horrors – if there’s none at all.
For page title optimisation, they should be no longer than 65 characters in length, and include the context and keywords of the page content as well as your blog name. Page titles are used as the blue link found within search engine results. For blog posts, you can set up SEO tools like Yoast to automatically use the blog title and blog name using the following variables: %%title%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%. Each page title should be unique to each page, as having copies or duplicates can cause Google some confusion in determining which page to rank for the same terms.
Meta descriptions are the short text found underneath the link to your website in the search engine results page. They are used to encourage search engine users to click through to your content. As with page titles, meta descriptions should be unique for all pages and posts. Meta description length should be no longer than 155-160 characters – anything beyond this won’t appear – and should outline what the content is about, including keywords and a call to action to encourage users to click through.
Having a clean and simple URL structure is key to SEO. Keep your URLs in lowercase (capital letters are a no no) and ensure you use hyphens instead of underscores for spaces. Don’t incorporate any special characters either. Your blog URLs should also be relevant and related to the content, and you can check that your WordPress blog is using the post name for URLs by clicking Settings and then selecting permalinks – ensuring that the post name checkbox is selected. You can also amend URLs by page and post; simply click ‘Edit’ on the permalink under the blog post title or page title in the WordPress editor while writing your post.
*Bonus Tip* – Media Attachment Pages
When you upload an image to WordPress, the CMS automatically creates an attachment page which is a page on your blog that has the title of the image and the standalone image displayed. Google identifies these types of pages as thin content which can have a negative impact on your blog’s SEO performance. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you can simply set the attachment pages to redirect back to the image file which helps to remove the thin content issue. You can do this by heading to the search appearance section of Yoast and then clicking on the media tab. From there, ensure that ‘Redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself?’ is set to yes and, finally, click save changes.
So how many of these actionable SEO tips are you using?
With these handy tips, I think it’s pretty clear how you can greatly reduce your blog’s page speed, and improve its likelihood of appearing for relevant search terms and gaining greater visibility. While I’m already implementing some of these tips, I now realise there’s still a whole lot more I can do to improve my SEO. And if you’d like any more information on actionable SEO tips, why not get in touch with Embryo Digital to see how they can help?
Did you find this article useful? How many of these SEO tips are you using? What steps have you taken towards improving your SEO and helping your blog rank higher on Google?
* This is a sponsored post.