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SEO and Keyword Placement in WordPress

We are assuming some knowledge of how to open WordPress posts and pages, gained either from the reader's own experience of from our more basic instructions page.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a separate field from webdesign. But as website owners, there are a few things we can do ourselves to improve our site’s online visibility: WordPress makes this possible in a number of ways.

Yes, it's Google

By "search engines", we largely mean Google because although there are others, Google is still the market leader. Google has retained its dominance in part by ruthlessly updating its algorithms to weed out website owners who try to game their system. The company’s advertising model relies on its ability to provide the searching public with what they asked for when they typed in a search.

While we are concerned with organic rankings and not advertising (another complex field), we must nevertheless comply with certain basic rules. We will go through some of these now but we won’t promise that you will instantly be "first in Google" in your chosen field. Anyone who does is lying, because Google reveals its algothims to no one.

The judicious placement of keywords

Search engines learn what your website is about by checking specific locations for keywords that describe your business or organisation. See our SEO page [LINK] for an explanation of keywords and key phrases.

To add the file to a Page or Post from within that Page or Post's editing area, you need to create a new block. Either press the return key on your keyboard or click the little + Plus sign at the top left of your screen. When browsing the choice of blocks, look for the section called Media, and click on the block called File.

These locations are:

  • The Title metatag
  • The Description metatag
  • The headings in your text
  • The body text
  • Permalinks
  • The alt (alternative text) metatags for images

Title and Description metatags

A listing in Google

Metatags hold information that is not displayed on a website but is visible to search engines. As per the above screenshot, the contents of the Title and Description metatags also appear in search lists. Title is especially important to search engines, and a good, relevant Description makes it more likely that people will click on your page.

WordPress plugins such as Yoast give you access to these normally hidden areas of your websites. Yoast is free, with premium add-ons. It creates a dedicated box on the editing area of each page or post which you need to fill in. Start by choosing a unique focus keyword for that page or post and edit the Title and Description boxes to include the focus keyword. Yoast provides a colour-coded line to guide you as to the right length for each.

Yoast's algorithm will rank your page with a traffic light system according to how well it thinks your page is optimised for your focus keyword or phrase, and give you a list of suggested improvements. This system is algorithmically determined and to be used as guidance only:

The Yoast box

Remember to click the Update button on your page or post when you’re done.

Headings in the text

Web pages are structured with the same hierarchy as any document: title, subtitles, lesser subtitles etc. For the web, this hierarchy is coded with headings numbered from H1 to H6 in decreasing order of importance, and P for body text. Wordpress themes are usually set up so that your page title is a H1 heading. Further sub-headings will be labelled H2 or H3 and so on.

To write a heading, either choose a heading block before you write, or highlight the text you have already written and choose the heading in the options. Use keywords or phrases in these locations, but only as they would occur naturally in good writing.

Webpage body text

This is the body text where you write about your subject and should include your focus keyword. Yoast suggests that a webpage should contain around 300 words and that the density of your focus keyword should range between 0.5 and 3% of those words.

Page copy should be punchy and well written and the keywords flow naturally within it. Too few and you will be asked to add more, but too many and you will be warned about keyword stuffing.

Yoast will give you a score for readability as well. I have only had one client score green for readability and she is a professional editor!

Controlling the address line: permalinks

The permalink is the part of your page’s web address that appears after the domain name (with a forward slash in between). If set up correctly (in Settings > Permalinks), the WordPress system automatically appends the name of your page or post to the domain, and that part becomes your permalink.

As search engines look for keywords in the web address line, you need to think carefully about the title of pages and blog posts and try to include your keyphrase.

The web address line showing the permalink

The alt (alternative text) tag of images

All images should have a unique, short description placed in the Alternative Text box in the Media Library. Its purpose is threefold:

  • It loads quickly, and tells the viewer what kind of image is coming is there is a delay in loading it;
  • It tells blind web users what the image is: the alternative text is read out by their screen readers;
  • It informs search engines about the content of the image and makes it searchable.
  • The last two items in that list are related. Google is viewed by some as the largest blind user of the internet because search engines scan words, not pictures. Therefore images without alternative text are as good as invisible to screen readers and search engines alike.

    To access the Alternative text box for a particular image, click on that image in the Media Library:

    The alternative text box in WordPress

So...

What are you waiting for? There’s work to do!

Last updated July 2021