Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) is a nasty horrible subject with a massive amount of complexity if you want to pursue it professionally. Fortunately, there are simple steps that will help that don’t involve massive effort.
The whole point of SEO is to convince the Google engine that you are a good source of information on a subject. There are a few simple things you can do improve your position on the search list. The most basic principles work with all the search engines, whether it be Bing or Yandex or DuckDuckGo.
First, we start with the keyword or keyphrase. Before you even start writing a blog, you
ought to have a keyphrase in mind. A couple at the most. Too many become impractical. I’m using the term keyphrase because it can be one word or it can be an entire paragraph. The “tags” section of the WP editor is a list of potential keywords/phrases but it would be impossible to focus on 27 different items so we ideally decide to push one or two.
It is what you expect a user to search for on an engine that will pull up your page. Because of how pages are put together, though there can be many potential search terms that might lead to your site, practically you need to limit your focus. Distribute the others freely thru your post and put them in the tags.
Short keyphrases are more likely to be searched on but there are also going to be many more competitors and you will be way down the list in placement and less likely to be seen. A longer and more specific keyphrase means fewer people will search on but if someone does, you’ll be near the top.
Google is pretty good about finding variations on a word. “Nude” will direct searchers to the keywords nude, nudism, nudist and nudity. It’s also fairly good at synonyms. It will direct searchers to nude, naked, bare, and unclothed. Using nude, nudist, naked, exposed and unclothed all count as related words for a crawler. You could also count Gymnosophy and gymnosperm.
Let’s say you did a blog post on the anime “Aoi Hana“. You could use that as your key phrase but you would be buried under anime providers, studios, reviewers, manga, Youtube, IMDB, and other major web sites.
Now suppose you were to use “You are always so quick to cry Fumi” as your keyphrase.
I just did a Google search on it. The first entry that came up was someone’s personal blog about Aoi Hana. Other pages came up below that had unrelated content about crying a lot. You see the trade-off? High placement but few searches. A compromise is needed.
Ideally, a keyphrase should sum up your post in 1 to 3 words. The way the Google bots work is by ascribing value to where the phrase is placed and how often. You definitely want it in the title. You want it in the first paragraph. You want to repeat it every 100-200 words. You want it in the excerpt. You want it as a tag. You want it in the URL.
According to Yoast, an SEO company and creator of an SEO plugin for WP, It should pop up every one to two hundred words or so. A shorter keyphrase is easier to work into the conversation. Seeing “You are always so quick to cry Fumi” every couple of paragraphs would make for a poorly written blog.
A technical aside here: A “head” keyphrase is usually short and general. “Aoi Hana” would be considered a “head keyphrase”. Keyphrases like the” quick to cry” quote are called “long-tailed.” And there are “mid-tailed” keyphrases of intermediate length.
But you don’t want it to appear too often or the Google bots will decide you’re just sticking it in to fool them. There was an old trick where people would insert their keyphrase many times and they’d use white typeface to keep it invisible to viewers. That’ll get you banned from Google.
One thing you can do is use that keyphrase as illustration names. Say you decide to go with “Fumi loves Akira.” And your images would be Fumi loves Akira(1).jpg and down the line. There’s the added benefit that it makes pictures easier to keep in sequence. Google crawls your images as separate pages.
Other places to put it in the URL for the post and in the excerpt. Since in WP the title is included in the generated URL, that isn’t a problem. It shows up in the field labeled “slug”. (That is the last part of the page URL) Make the introductory paragraph and excerpt such killer writing that people will want to read the rest!
The excerpt is very important. When a search engine goes to create an entry for your page, that is where it will first go. Keep it between 120 and 150 characters. Not words.
Parts of a Google search entry. The top line is the specific page and the overall website. There is always some kind of separator between them, in this case, a hyphen. There’s a way to set what separator you want and in the Yoast SEO plugin.
The second line is the address. In this case, it is expressed as a series of clickable breadcrumbs going from the general to the specific. This is how WP does it.
Then third we have the excerpt. Google may take your excerpt as is. Or it may not. It may take the first paragraph of the blog as it did here, out to the 155th character. Or it may (rarely) generate something on its own. (Google works in mysterious ways.) The excerpt and the title are all you have to get an “impression” turned into a visit.
Mobile phones may also display the first image in the post as a small picture. Pick a featured image that looks good really small.
WordPress also allows you to create a site icon to show up on browser tabs and favorites. (Not exactly SEO but still useful to have for site identity.) It is called a favicon. It is tough to make a favicon that really displays useful information because it only displays 16×16 pixels but it does add a little bit to your page’s identity. It is found under the “site identity” option. I like to use the same image as my Gravatar because I’m lazy and want to make my readers squint.
I’m thinking about a logo for the site too. You can suppress the website title for a cleaner look but it is still there for purposes of searching for your site and keyphrases.
Another factor in SEO is the link structure. If other web sites link to yours, that’s considered a good thing. Google’s AI claims to be able to tell if you’re getting then “naturally” or as a mutual exchange of links or if you are just buying them. I’m not sure how but people have been banned for it. Probably for doing it on a large scale.
Google likes to see people linking to your work. If people like it enough to link then you must have a good product. It tracks who is linking and how. A link from the Museum of Natural History will get more brownie points than a link from Joe’s Porn Blog.
You have to have at least one link from a site that the bots have crawled to yours in order for them to find your site. Otherwise, they do not know you exist. Technically you’d be part of the “dark web” which is defined as that part of the internet that search engines don’t reach.
Internally you need to link outward to the other parts of your site. Google’s crawler bots
have an easier time indexing your site that way. And it gives people an easy way to keep reading related stuff instead of wandering off. Time spent on a site is important. You also need external links to related information. If someone follows a link on your site to another site, Google can track that. They consider that a sign of “quality”.
There is a thing called a site-map. It makes your site easy for Google bots to crawl. Easy to crawl is considered a sign of “quality”. Bots are also lazy. They don’t like to work.
Links to bad pages will hurt. Be careful of what a change in site organization does. You can invalidate a lot of links accidentally. If you pull a page or change its URL, pull or fix all the links to it in your other blog posts. If other people have linked to it, you might want to put in a place holder or even a redirect. Check your external links for “site not found” errors. Yandex and Google keep sending me emails every time they hit a bad link.
I am absolutely stunned at the micro-detail Google maintains on millions of sites. You just need to sign up for Google Analytics and you will have no secrets.
The last thing is site loading speed. Google likes fast loading sites. (So do readers!) It is part of their definition of quality. We’re stuck with WP here. Other blog platforms are second fiddle at best. We could host it ourselves for faster loading but that is not a reasonable option for most of us.
Things that slow loading speed that you can control include the length of the blog and the size of your images. I’ve read that blog posts – or post sections – should be about 5-800 words long for a personal blog. Commercial blogs need to be shorter. That is both for load time and for reader interest. Longer post? Use multiple posts and daisy chain them. Three minutes’ time on site is considered a long time. (Obviously, I’m not worried about SEO here. This could easily be several posts.)
I’ve never worried about SEO but if your site generates revenue or you want to maximize followers, you should. User studies show that most readers won’t wait for more than a couple seconds for a page to download nor will they read more than a few paragraphs.
Remember that phones take a lot longer to download than desktops even with a perfect 4G connection. Pages don’t display much text. The horizontal layout native to a computer monitor doesn’t always translate well to the verticle format of a phone or a pad. Long posts are less likely to be read and big, high res images are a waste for them.
Don’t host your videos on WordPress if you have any other option. My experience is their server is glacially slow. I don’t think it slows the page load but it sure slows the time to get the video up and running should the viewer click on it. It often stalls for me in mid-video. You do not have unlimited storage space and even a short video really eats into it. WP slide shows also seem to slow things down a bit.
Make your original videos as small in size and as short in length as possible and still get the message across. Hosting your videos elsewhere (like YouTube) will load them faster and avoids the WP limits.
I used to host my short video clips on Vimeo. Somebody did an anonymous complaint and that was that. I never found out if it was a copyright issue or “inappropriate” content. There are other sites you can try.
If the number of images you have on WP starts getting into the hundreds they can start eating into your storage limits, especially on a personal pan. “Optimization” thru the use of a photo editor will save space and make them load faster. I use Corel (when I bother). Uploading images that are exactly the final size they will appear on the blog post also saves space but you won’t be able to click on the image and get a full-size version.
You can use WP’s tiling and mosaic features for smaller on-page image size (thumbnails). You can also use resize a single image on a page and then make it a link to the larger version on the WP (or other) server. This depends on the viewer being so interested they are willing to do something to get the full detail.
Most anime images can be compressed a great deal. Pallettes are limited in the number of colors and the amount of dynamic range for practical reasons.
Typical results from using editing software to optimize images for the web. On the top is the uncompressed version. It comes in at 260K. On the bottom is the compressed version. It comes in at 56K. Not a lot of visible difference, is there? If you click on each image, you’ll get the original image I uploaded. Still not a lot of difference. Anime screenshots have a lot less detail than still artwork so you could compress even more.
OTOH, something like nature photography or high-end artwork has a wider pallet of colors, fine details, and a greater dynamic range. You want to make sure not to compress too much. WP has “portfolio” themes that work better for those.
WordPress has a page devoted to optimizing your blog’s performance. Some of it is things an average blogger might look into and much of it is for high volume commercial sites.
Google Analytics lets you get deep into the murky waters of site performance.
So ends this long and boring dissertation on search engine optimization. If you want a detailed course on the subject, there are quite a few sites online that can help you. Yoast has the highest-ranked SEO plugin for WordPress. It automates things like counting how many times you’ve used a keyphrase and making a site map.