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Building a rank ready website from scratch

Building an SEO ready WordPress website requires work in 4 areas: keyword selection; content, meta data and site architecture. This guide walks beginners through the steps required to create a coherent site that ranks well in Google for certain keywords, while actively engaging a target market.

Assuming you have already purchased a domain name and server space, you should install a fresh copy of WordPress on your server. Then, follow steps in this article: they take you through keyword selection, content building, meta data construction and website architecture.

Part 1: keyword selection

Every aspect of a successful website is based on keywords. Google is an information retrieval machine. Its engines crawl around the web, storing web pages into keyword-based indexes. Each of these keyword indexes operates as an independent database centered around a particular keyword term or phrase. Example:

Google search variations

Different search variations will yield different search rresults

What are you trying to achieve with your website? If trying to sell something, suitable keywords would describe your product and your service locations.

After selecting your keywords, compare them to the best performing keywords of your competitor. Enter your top competitor’s URL into Semrush. It will give you a list of their top-performing keywords and top competitors in both organic and paid searches. Here’s some data we pulled for silversea.com, a cruise ship operator:

Semrush search results

You can discover top competitors and keyword volumes quickly

Define your project goals. Use the above data to define your keywords. Keywords should contain your product or service plus location details, if applicable. Conduct keyword research using Semrush, getting keyword ideas based off of your most successfully ranking competitors.

Part 2: producing content

“Content” refers to words, images and design elements. With your keyword strategy in place, you should know what to write about, and also have an idea of what elements to show on your website front page.

Design Options

You can spend months coding your own design. Unless you’re a diligent pro, expect custom-made templates to be bloated and suffer mobile limitations over time. In addition, WordPress core updates frequently, custom templates do not. Over time, any custom code will bog down your site and get progressively slower.

Finally, design is one of those things that looks easy to do, but not everyone can make professional digital designs. For that reason, Planet Asia suggests using professional templates. They come with 1-click installs of demo layouts – you need only reverse engineer until you have the site of your dreams.

A good starting point is the list of best-selling templates on Themeforest. Browse templates, read reviews, check the sales numbers (more sales = more reason to trust) and check the demos. Find one you like, purchase, and install the demo layout of your choosing.

Reverse engineer by putting in your own text and images, and you’re done – in a matter of days.

Content strategy

Step 1: start organizing a content structure. Begin by creating ‘pages’, which are meant to show static content (not changing over time). Typical pages include Home, About Us, Our Products, Contact Us, Terms and Conditions.

Step 2: create blog categories. Less is more – creating dozens of categories will make your site extremely complex to manage. If you don’t plan on blogging regularly, a single category called ‘blog’ is sufficient.

WordPress Navigation Basics

The next step before writing your content is to create a menu structure. Create two menus: Main Menu and Footer Menu.

Main Menu: Home, About Us, Our Products, Blog Category 1, Blog Category 2, Contact Us

Footer Menu: additional pages that don’t belong in the top menu (additional services, terms and conditions, privacy policy, etc)

Part 3: build meta data

Search engines index pages into databases organized by keywords. Meta data contains the keywords that Google indexes, and it also contains data to compel human users to click on your pages in Google searches. Focus on the following:

  • Page title
  • Your Content Goes Here
  • Post title (h1 title tag)
  • Meta description

Step 1: install Yoast SEO and activate the plugin.

Step 2: modify some Yoast settings in order to prevent duplicate content issues. In particular, noindex tags:

Step 3: assuming you have already written your content, edit each post or page and scroll beneath the content window. You will find a Yoast data entry box. Enter an SEO title. Enter a meta description. Both should contain target keywords, but read in a natural manner:

Step 4: modify your post or page titles. These are your h1 title tags, one of the first points of contact for search engine crawlers. Make sure your titles are compelling and descriptive:

H1 title tag highlighted

Part 4: review site architecture

Follow these steps to make sure your site is running at peak performance:

  • Install WP Fastest Cache plugins to boost speeds.
  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics accounts and connect them to your site
  • Submit Yoast xml sitemaps (for pages, posts, categories and attachments) to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Create a favicon for your site. Upload it to your public_html folder of your site, or within your theme’s customizer.
  • Finally, test your page speeds using GTmetrix and Google’s Page Speed Insights. Then, run your site through a free online audit using SEOsiteCheckup. Address any problems that you find.

Conclusion

By following all of these steps, you can have an SEO-ready website in a leisurely two weeks. Most of your time will be spent producing content. Once your content is ready, site speed looks good and it passes an SEOsiteCheckup scan, you should focus on two things:

Building backlinks is the very last step you need to do, in order to ultimately appear on the first page of Google searches. When building backlinks on an SEO-ready site, your rankings will soar.

When doing the same on a bloated, slideshow heavy site with poor navigation, thin content and raw meta descriptions, your purchased backlinks will have a significantly diminished effect.

WordPress publishing checklist for SEO

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specify how to optimize websites to best be crawled by search engines. Webmaster Guidelines were updated in early 2016.

Here is breakdown of the most important points, written for WordPress website publishers with Yoast SEO installed.

Google Webmaster Guidelines 2018

A summary of best SEO content and technical practices using Worpress and Yoast SEO, as per Google’s official Webmaster guidelines.

Part 1: Meta Data

Screenshot of meta data bast practices on a WordPress page using Yoast SEO

Address these three key pieces of essential meta data for good SEO

  • H1 Title tags: proper use of headings tags lets search engines know what your webpage is about. In WordPress, the H1 is the article title. In the body, use H2, H3, etc. if you need to do so.
  • Page Title tags: Beneath the text editor of every page and post is a Yaost-powered meta data box. The page title is what shows in browser toolbars and s titles in search engine results. Write a unique title tag for every page and post, maximum length 60 characters. A common tactic is to append your brand at the end of the tag to increase brand awareness.
  • Meta Descriptions: these have no relevance to search engine bots, but good descriptions generate more clicks. Description should be maximum 155 characters (including spaces). Sprinkle in some keywords and make it enticing so that viewers will click through from the search engine results page to your content. Protip: short calls to action like ‘read more’ often helps.

Part 2: Content

Google’s 2013 rollout of the Hummingbird Algorithm combined several previous releases into one: Panda, Penguin and Payday are designed to fight spam; Pigeon is designed to improve local results; Mobile Friendly is designed to reward mobile-friendly pages and Pirate is designed to fight copyright infringement. Rankbrain is designed to server user search queries even if they don’t make sense.

In the Rankbrain era, structured content that expands on a theme via multiple articles is ideal. This is a very basic form of an Information Architecture (IA) content plan:

A simple silo content structure

A simple silo structure breaks a topic down across several dimensions

Think of silos as a topic, and the silo pages as different dimensions of that topic. Combined, they form a whole picture of a topic across all dimensions.

Example silo webpage structure bubble chart

‘Digital marketing’ is the topic. The added sub-topics offer comprehensive coverage of a topic across different dimensions – this builds authority.

Part 3: Images

Image Compression: images should be optimized for fast loading. Try for a tight crop, a maximum width of 1200 pixels wide and a maximum file size of 150kb. Avoid using css to scale down large images into smaller thumbnails.

'Save for Web' settings in photoshop for fast loading websites

Save images at the smallest file sizes possible for faster page loads

Image Alt Tags: these became an official Google Webmaster guideline on 2016. Alt tags describe the image for search engine crawlers and the visually impaired. If you have an image of a cartoon monk dancing in front of a Google logo, you should write a description like ‘cartoon monk dancing in front of a Google logo’.

Write images alt tags that are descriptive, specific, and accurate

Priority task: write alt tags that are descriptive, specific, and accurate

Part 4: Links

Wordpress permalink setting options

Choose an appropriate permalink structure before optimizing site links

  • Permalinks: when setting up your site, choose one of the two most common permanlink settings for best SEO.
  • Internal Links: ensure that all pages can be reached by a link from another easily accessible page.
  • External Authority Links: use external do-follow links when referencing another piece of content on the web, and be sure to use relevant anchor text when linking out.
  • No-Follow Advertiser Links: an important Google guideline is that ads on your site do not influence search engine rankings. When linking to advertiser homepages, use the rel=”nofollow” tag to prevent the links from being followed by crawlers.
  • Fix Broken Links: ensure that all links go to live web pages. 301 redirect dead pages to relevant replacement pages.

Part 5: Other

  • Page Speeds: ensure that images are properly sized and rendered; use gzip compression and script minification; ensure sufficient use of expires headers. Use GTmetrix to check your speeds.
  • Enable HTTPS: encrypting interactions between the user and your website is now considered by Google as a requisite best practice.
  • No-Follow Advertiser Links: an important Google guideline is that ads on your site do not influence search engine rankings. When linking to advertiser homepages, use the rel=”nofollow” tag to prevent the links from being followed by crawlers.
Google map rankings attracting more customers artwork

Google map rankings starter guide

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There is a bar to entry if you want to set up a Google map listing for your business. First, the Google My Business interface is confusing – setting up a map listing requires a number of steps that even experts need hours to set up completely. After setup, getting your map verified (so that it can be seen by the public) requires having a physical postcard delivered to your address several weeks after you apply. The reward for those who manage is a map listing that doesn’t actually show up on any searches relevant to your business.

Imagine4D solves these issues with our trio of Google My Business map ranking packages. However, for those wanting to rank their map listings in-house, this guide will highlight the steps you should work through.

Important map ranking variables

“Ranking” refers to where your business appears in search results when someone searches for a keyword you are targeting. Note that search results depend on location. A user from London would see different results than a user in New York, if they search for the term “emergency plumber”.

Also, not all searches yield map results. In the first screenshot below, a Dallas based user search for ‘Italian food’ has a map at the top of the search results. Beneath the map are 3 “ranked” listings, in a spot called the 3-pack. However, a search from the same user for the term ‘cheesy pizza’ shows organic, image and video results, but no maps.

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Map ranking terminology

As you prepare a map ranking campaign, the following terminology is important.[/fusion_text][fusion_imageframe image_id=”27311″ style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”center” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” alt=”” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://www.imagine4d.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/italian-food-search-details.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_text][fusion_checklist icon=”fa-arrow-right” iconcolor=”” circle=”” circlecolor=”” size=”16px” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””][fusion_li_item icon=””]

3-pack rankings: high visibility placements that show up at the top of first page searches directly under a map.

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Map rankings: a numbered placement on the dedicated maps search page of Google. Map rankings are all on a single page, usually with less than 20 listings total.

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Organic rankings: old-fashioned organic rankings will earn your SEO company thousands of dollars per month, while pitting you against thousands of competitors also spending thousands.

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Essential map ranking factors

Moz has a great breakdown of all relevant map ranking factors. While the total recipe is incredibly complex, there are fortunately a number of easy optimizations. Small businesses can apply the following techniques that will put them on the same footing as large large corporations and chain companies.

#To-do checklistDetails
1Verify business detailsMake sure that your listing is complete, with accurate contact information, address, phone number, operating hours and website.
2Use a local phone numberToll-free (800 and 877) numbers are often used for spam, while local numbers show Google that your business is an actual brick and mortar location in the area.
3Categorize listingMost people don't know that you can add five additional categories to your main category. Make use of all of these. Make the primary category the main classification of your business (lawyer, landscaping, nail salon etc). The remaining categories should use sub-niches. For example, a lawyer's sub-categories might be divorce law, family law, litigation law, criminal law etc.
4Optimize listing descriptionIn the business description, include local SEO keywords that describe your business. For example, instead of “great restaurant offering quality service” write “The best Italian restaurant in Dallas".
5Upload geo-tagged imagesA simple but powerful job that every business owner can do in-house. First, collect 10-15 original photos of your business (pictures of your shopfront are more effective than product photos). Second, geo-tag your images using this free tool. It will embedd your map coordinates and keyword optimised metadata of your choice in each image. Finally, upload the geo-tagged versions to your map listing - every time the photos are accessed, Google receives an engagement signal from your business.
6Embed map on websiteAn easy way to get a fast rankings bump is to embed your Google map on your website. Most businesses embed their map onto their contact page, along with their NAP written as text. This verifies to Google that your business listing is legitimate.
7Get Google reviewsUser reviews add a powerful trustworthiness dimension to a business. Listings without reviews look dubious, while those with many are ranked higher by Google. Most businesses can easily get a reviews program started by asking for help from their most loyal customers.
8Branded Youtube channelGoogle My Business allows integration of branded Youtube and G+ accounts. On Youtube you should set up a branded channel; verifiy and optimize; produce at least one video for branding and ranking purposes.
9Branded Google PlusA branded G+ account will re-post all of your Youtube videos. You can also manually re-post links to individual user reviews. We also suggest using your G+ for monthly long-form articles - write something original about your company and pack it with relevant links (to your website, map listing, etc).
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Need help with your Google Maps business listing?

Professional map ranking services for agencies and small businesses worldwide.

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