SEO Strategy for WordPress Users

June 30, 2024

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial aspect of digital marketing that helps businesses improve their online visibility and attract more organic traffic to their websites.

In this article, we will provide a foundational SEO strategy, covering the essential elements you need to get started.

From keyword research and on-page optimization to link building and performance monitoring, we'll guide you through the steps to create a solid SEO strategy that drives results.

And I’ll bring to bear my experience helping businesses achieve exponential growth.

Does Every Business Need SEO?

First, let’s answer the question, “Does every business or website need SEO?”

The common answer is “Yes,” but a more precise answer is “Not necessarily.”

For instance, a popular food truck in Washington, D.C. that sells cupcakes may only need to emblazon their Twitter handle on their truck. That way fans can easily find out which street corner they’ll be at on any given day.

If the cupcake food truck plans to expand into catering, then it’s beneficial to have a website and to optimize both for SEO.

So, most websites will benefit from SEO, but some niche businesses may not need it.

Now, let’s define SEO strategy so we can set your expectations.

What is an SEO Strategy?

An SEO strategy is a plan to improve a website's visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

This plan typically includes keyword research, on-page optimization, content creation, and performance monitoring.

Local businesses will need to incorporate local ranking factors into their strategies, and we’ll cover exactly how to do that.

Why Create an SEO Strategy?

With SEO, consistency is key. And that’s exactly what an SEO strategy will give you: a path forward and a repeatable process.

Most of us are motivated by results. Here are a few that you can expect.

  • Increased visibility: An effective SEO strategy helps improve a website's visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), making it easier for potential customers to find the site when searching for related keywords.
  • Free traffic: By ranking higher in SERPs, a website can attract more organic (free) traffic. Use the right keywords and your traffic will be likely to convert into leads or sales.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Compared to paid advertising, SEO is a more cost-effective way to drive long-term traffic to a website. The results can last for an extended period without ongoing costs.
  • Competitive advantage: Implementing a strong SEO strategy can help a website outrank its competitors in search results, leading to increased market share and revenue.
  • Brand credibility: Websites that consistently appear at the top of search results are often perceived as more credible and trustworthy by users, enhancing brand reputation and authority.
  • Improved user experience: Improving website content, structure, and performance, can lead to a better user experience, more repeat visits, and better engagement.
  • Long-term success: While SEO results may take time to manifest, a solid strategy can deliver long-lasting benefits, ensuring a website's continued success and growth.

Writing your SEO strategy down is important. Writing produces clarity. It also ensures your team members are on the same page.

Now let’s get a brief view of what causes higher rankings.

What Causes High Rankings?

There are well-publicized Google ranking factors. And Google has been straightforward about the factors that cause local businesses to rank well.

Here are key movers:

  • Relevant, high-quality content: Creating valuable, informative, and engaging content that addresses user needs is key. Write for people not search engines.
  • Keyword optimization: Strategically incorporating relevant keywords into your content can help search engines understand your website's content and rank it for relevant keywords.
  • Backlinks: Earning high-quality, natural backlinks from reputable websites signals to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy, which can improve your rankings.
  • User experience: Factors like website speed, mobile-friendliness, intuitive navigation, contribute to a positive user experience, which search engines may consider when ranking websites.
  • On-page optimization: Optimizing elements like title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and image alt text helps search engines better understand and rank your content.
  • Domain authority: Websites with a strong domain authority, built through factors like age, size, and quality of backlinks, tend to rank higher in search results.
  • Local SEO: For businesses targeting local customers, optimizing for local search by including location-specific keywords, creating local listings, and earning local reviews can improve local search rankings.

Does Social Media Impact Rankings?

What about social media? Google states that social activity doesn’t impact rankings.

That said, social media engagement and shares can indirectly impact SEO by increasing brand visibility and driving traffic to your website.

To learn more see my guide on SEO and social media.

Is Click Data a Ranking Signal?

Google has long stated that bounce rate, clicks, pogo-sticking, and dwell time play no role in rankings.

Years ago, prominent SEO experts, like Rand Fishkin and A.J. Kohn conducted their own analyses and concluded that user interactions likely played a role in Google's rankings.

These conclusions referenced original research, search engine patents, and academic papers.

Google Document Leaks

More recently, documents that emerged during Google's 2023 antitrust trial and the recent Google algorithm leaks, have led some experts to conclude that click data does indeed play a role in Google’s algorithms.

To learn more about this see:

This click data controversy can be difficult to understand. Even asking a simple question like “What kind of click data influences rankings,” entails an enormous amount of related questions.

The documents reference highly technical issues that most SEO professionals don’t understand.

I recommend focusing on known ranking factors since you can’t manufacture clicks to influence Google. And the nature of and use of click metrics cited in the documents, like badClicks, goodClicks and unicornClicks, is not clear.

For instance, do these click metrics influence rankings or are they solely used to test the effectiveness of Google algorithms?

If you want to explore these issues further try WordLift’s AI-powered query tool to ask questions about the leaked documents.

Now let’s get hands-on with your SEO strategy.

If you’re reading this then you likely already have a website.

Optimizing your site for improved rankings should be an ongoing part of your SEO strategy.

Here’s how to move forward with this.

1. Pick a Theme That Loads Fast and is Easy to Use

WordPress users are lucky. If they want a new web design they can simply upload a theme. It takes a few clicks to do.

We recommend you choose a theme that’s advertised as loading fast. This will satisfy impatient users, especially those on smartphones.

But it also benefits your standing with Google, as their algorithms may consider speed in ranking decisions.

Keep in mind quality content will always be more important than speed. Whether or not speed influences your rankings depends on your competitors vying for the same spots.

If their sites are much faster than yours, then speed yours up by choosing a new theme.

Above: Examples of pre-built websites available in Blocksy.em>

There are plenty of options. For starters, consider SeedProd, Blocksy, or GeneratePress. Or browse ThemeForest and look for themes advertised as loading fast.

Above: The interface for SeedProd. Their landing page and website templates are designs to load fast and convert.

Once you install it, try the theme out. On both your desktop and mobile devices, navigate through your website.

  • Is it easy to find things?
  • Or is there something confusing about the layout?
Above: A few of the many themes available in GeneratePress.

2. Add Some Plugins

Once you’ve chosen your theme, you’ll want to add functionality like:

  • Forms
  • A checkout option
  • Event calendars

And so on

This is where WordPress plugins come in.

Like themes, you simply install plugins in your WordPress editor, and that functionality is automatically added to your site.

Here are my recommendations regarding plugins:

  • SEO: To optimize your pages for search engines, use All in One SEO (AIOSEO). This is an established plugin with thousands of 5-star reviews on WordPress.org. And it makes on-page SEO easy.
  • Popups: If conversions are important to you, add OptinMonster. This plugin provides professional-looking popups that appear when visitors are getting ready to leave your site. This can be powerful, especially when deployed on checkout pages. Your popup can offer a discount to encourage visitors to complete a transaction.
  • Forms: Pick a form plugin that is mobile-friendly. Otherwise your forms may not fit mobile screens and you’ll lose out on capturing visitor information. Two of the leading WordPress form plugins are WPForms and Formidable Forms.
Above: This site’s web form pop-ups don’t work properly on mobile.

3. Do On-Page SEO

With a fast-loading theme and plugins your particular site needs, you’re ready for on-page SEO.

Each page or post you create should be optimized for improved search engine rankings.

This is made easy with an SEO plugin like All in One SEO (AISOEO).

After installing the plugin, All in One SEO will analyze all your web pages and provide recommendations for improved SEO.

When you’re logged into WordPress, most of these recommendations will appear in a sidebar to the right of each page.

For example, click on General in the sidebar to see the following.

Next, click on any tab, like Focus Keyphrase, to view recommendations like the one below.

As you act on the recommendations, your SEO score, at upper right, goes up.

This helps reinforce good practices.

Follow our instructions in our on-page SEO checklist.

AIOSEO Checks

All in One SEO comes bundled with many SEO tools. The small business team behind AIOSEO also releases new features on a monthly basis.

You can explore some of the AIOSEO features here.

Some of the features I use regularly include:

Above: These are examples of rich snippets, made possible by schema markup.

Internal links can be considered to be a form of on-page SEO. But they deserve the detail added below.

Internal links are one of the most overlooked SEO tactics.

By adding links to your most important pages, such as the top 3 product or services pages, you tell Google what your key pages are.

This can directly impact the ranking of those pages.

I’ve seen this tactic yield fast results, but it’s not possible to guarantee the timing or nature of results.

Next, add links to your orphan pages.

Orphan pages are pages with no internal links. It’s common for newly published pages or posts to be ‘orphans.’

Adding internal links may help Google discover those pages, but the search engine can also reference your RSS sitemap.

Internal links will certainly help users discover these new pages and can increase engagement and time spent on page. Speed Up Linking with Link Assistant

All in One SEO’s Link Assistant makes internal linking easy and fast. You won’t need to open individual pages.

Above: You can see the AIOSEO website has 154 orphaned posts. Click on “Orphaned Posts’ to view your orphans and take action.

If you have any web pages with similar content to the orphan, then Link Assistant will make specific recommendations for internal links.

Learn more in Find and Fix Orphan Pages.

Now, your most important pages will likely have plenty of recommendations. But the number of recommendations depends on the number of related pages on your site.

Pro tip: If you’re using topic clusters as part of your content strategy, then mark their related pillar pages as Cornerstone Content. This is easily done in the AIOSEO sidebar.

Above: How to mark important pages as Cornerstone Content: Click General in the AIOSEO sidebar, and click Cornerstone Content . Then toggle on the Mark as Cornerstone button that appears.

5. Do Image SEO

Image SEO is straightforward and easy to understand.

The benefits of optimizing your images is they may rank higher in Google Images search and drive additional traffic to your site.

To optimize images:

  • Provide a short description. This description is added to the Alternative Text field in WordPress.
  • Create descriptive filenames: Instead of something like DSC100007.jpeg, use the filename to describe the image.
  • Use a plugin to compress images so they load faster.
Above: The original filename for this image is nicolas-j-leclercq-va_nrBLonf8-unsplash.jpg. Can you tell what the image is about from the filename? Given the image is of northern lights as shot from an Icelandic shoreline, northern-lights-iceland would be a better filename.

Learn more in:

6. Find Valuable Keywords

If you’ve heard of keyword research, you probably know the basic idea is to find keywords related to your goals and products, and to create content on those topics.

That way, searchers looking for what you sell or write about can easily find your site . . . if your pages rank high.

Pick Easy Keywords

But here’s the problem. Some keywords are nearly impossible to rank for. That’s because there are top sites like news, big business, or university sites already dominating the rankings.

So you could be wasting your time (and getting discouraged) by unwittingly focusing on keywords that are hard to rank for.

Instead, you can use a keyword research tool to find keywords relevant to your niche that are easy to rank for!

Learn more in my guide on how to check keyword difficulty scores.

Above: Semrush’s filters enable you to pick easy keywords.

Use Keywords That Signal Buying Intent

Next, if you have a business, then I recommend picking keywords that signal buying intent. This means that searchers are researching products or on the brink of buying.

These types of keywords are labeled “commercial” or “transactional” in keyword research tools.

What’s even better, you can pick commercial or transactional keywords that are also easy to rank for.

Here are some of my how-tos on this:

Pitfalls of Starting Your Content Strategy with SEO Keywords

Before going further, I recommend watching this Rand Fishkin video about pitfalls of starting your strategy with SEO keywords.

7. Follow a Simple Content Strategy

If you’re like me, reading articles about content strategy can give you a headache.

A lot of the top-ranking articles for this seem to be written to include every conceivable topic related to content strategy. This is done in hopes of ranking higher.

Worse, many are written from a corporation’s view: the writers are simply passing on their own business’s approach, which won’t be a good match for everyone.

This is why I created this common sense content strategy guide, which focuses from the start on achieving your unique business goals. You can quickly sketch out a strategy on a notepad by following my method.

No need for 5-figure consultants or ring binders filled with complicated plans.

Have a question about content strategy? Leave a comment below and I’ll respond.

Backlinks from trustworthy sites are a known ranking factor. Google has previously viewed them as votes of confidence in your site.

That said, Google analyst Greg Illyes has indicated backlinks are no longer among the top 3 ranking factors. That’s a good thing, since users don’t care about the number of backlinks to a page.

That said, as far as we know now, backlinks can influence rankings. So how do you get them?

In the Local SEO section below we’ll talk about options for local businesses.

For others, produce the best content you can. People will then want to link to you.

Sure, there are lots of complicated link building campaigns you could get involved in, but take it from me. These need to be meticulously planned, and take a large amount of resources to get impact.

Furthermore, you can easily run afoul of Google’s policies by cutting corners on link building. Case in point: stay away from buying links for rankings. Learn more in my guide to paid links.

SEO Strategy for Local Businesses

If you have one or more business locations that serve locals, then you’ll want to implement local SEO.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a set of known tactics for boosting your business’s visibility across the web and improving its ranking in search results.

Google has laid out specific actions for improving your local rankings and these are what we follow.

Get and Optimize a Google Business Profile

Did you notice how much Google emphasizes having a profile and one that’s complete and updated regularly?

Here’s recent Whitespark data on the impact of Google Business Profile ranking signals.

Follow WhiteSpark’s founder, Darren Shaw, for more insights like these: @DarrenShaw_

Take action now:

Get Listed in Business Directories

Having your website vetted and listed on multiple websites gives Google, and shoppers, confidence in your business.

Google Business Profile is an example of a business listing. You’ll also want to get listed in online directories like Yelp. These directories often rank high on local search results pages.

When you sign up for business directory listings, you’ll have an option to get vetted and listed by a handful of data aggregators, including those that push data out to vehicle GPS systems.

Instructions to get your listings and data aggregator vetting. (It’s very low-cost.)

Look for Local Content Opportunities

Local content is content on topics of interest to the community.

Examples:

  • A restaurant that uses local ingredients may create an article about sourcing those ingredients and their historical use.
  • A business that supports local causes or evebts can create a page listing their involvement.
  • A pest control business may highlight pests that are common in the area.

Interestingly, WhiteSpark noted that last year local search experts were “investing more time and resources on website content, and seeing this work drive improved local pack/finder and local organic results.”

Consider Localization Techniques

Localization techniques are tactics used to personalize content for viewers in specific regions or countries.

These may include:

  • Displaying prices in local currencies based on geo-targeting information.
  • Dynamically generating references to the region on a page.
  • Using geolocation information to automatically display local references, problems, or local dialects.

An example of localization is from Rentokil’s Italy-based page.

Rentokil is an international pest control service with locations in multiple countries.

A unique element of their Italy page, not seen in many of their other country-based pages is the image of a pigeon as a pest.

This shows the company knows pigeons cause serious problems in Italy, and that they can solve that problem.

As you can see, tere’s an overlap between localization techniques and international SEO.

Q&A on SEO Strategies and Tactics

What are your top 3 SEO techniques?

It’s hard to rate SEO techniques on a “top 3” scale. That said, I often share my own SEO techniques in articles.

For instance, check out:

How to do SEO in simple steps?

The easiest way to do SEO in simple steps is to use an SEO plugin. This requires that you have a WordPress website.

SEO plugins, like Yoast, RankMathm or All in One SEO, analyze your site’s pages and make specific recommendations. These plugins then walk users through a step-by-step checklist to improve their SEO, page by page.

This interactive approach helps beginners start doing SEO quickly.

That said, SEO, like all disciplines, encompasses advanced techniques wielded by professionals as well as consumer tools to make basic SEO easy.

What is the best SEO strategy?

There is no single "best" SEO strategy, as effective SEO depends on context. Here, the specific website, its history, how competitive its niche is, all come into play. However, this article outlines common elements of effective SEO strategies such as keyword research and on-page optimization.

Be guided by customer problems rather than starting with solutions. Learn how to prioritize problems worth solving.

Additionally, experimentation is key. Formulate a hypothesis and test it. Repeat this process regularly.

After Creating Your SEO Strategy . . .

Now that you’ve learned the elements of an effective SEO strategy, what’s next?

Check out:

And don’t forget to use mobile-friendly forms and plan for conversions.


Image of northern lights courtesy of Nicholas J. Leclerq via Unsplash.