Increase your SEO

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    SEO is slow. It can take years to build up the authority of a domain and the rankings of pages. Search engine optimization is the slowest form of marketing I know. It really is. But there’s one big shortcut. This post is a step-by-step guide to improving your Google rankings quickly. It’s the only fast SEO tactic that I know of. If you’ve never done it before, there may be huge opportunities to improve your Google rankings. The key is in your Analytics.

    1. Choose Your Hosting Provider Carefully

    Since Google takes speed into account when ranking sites, a good host can help push you to the top of the SERPs. Your host also affects the amount of downtime your site experiences and the physical distance between servers and visitors — both of which are ranking factors. Last but not least, since Google gives HTTPS sites a small boost, you’ll want that too. At DreamHost, it’s free with all our plans.

    If you haven’t created your website yet, you’ll want to choose a host that’s reliable and has a reputation for excellent performance. Even for an existing site, you may want to consider switching hosts if your current provider doesn’t meet these criteria.

    A smart way to go is with a WordPress-specific hosting plan. Our fully-managed WordPress plans provide impressive speeds and little to no downtime.

    2. Pick a Theme That’s Optimized for Search Engines

    Your theme is one of the most important choices you’ll make for your WordPress site. It determines your site’s appearance and layout, can provide new functionality, and also plays a role in its SEO. For example, your theme can affect your site’s speed — which (as we’ve already discussed) is vital. The way a theme was developed also matters since clean code gives your site the best chance in SERPs.

    Therefore, when picking a theme you’ll want to opt for one built with SEO in mind. These themes are often referred to as ‘SEO-friendly’. You may also want to look for a theme that offers features specifically designed to improve your SEO, such as new heading tag options. Fortunately, there are plenty of themes available that fit the bill.

    3. Use a Dedicated SEO Plugin

    If you’re new to WordPress, you may not yet be familiar with plugins. These are small pieces of add-on software you can install, which add new features and functionality to your site. There’s a plugin to help your site do just about anything — including rank higher in search engines. In fact, there are many plugins designed specifically to improve your site’s SEO.

    These plugins can provide small, targeted features such as creating a sitemap (we’ll talk more about that in a moment). For even better results, you can also opt for a comprehensive SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, which will add a whole suite of optimization-focused features to your site.

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    4. Change Your ‘Permalink’ Structure

    Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point to your site’s individual posts, pages, and other content. They’re what people will use to reference and link back to your site, and their appearance matters. Clear, descriptive links that describe their content are easier for search engines to make sense of and tend to get a ranking boost.

    5. Create a ‘Sitemap’

    A sitemap is a list of all the pages and other content on your website, usually organized into a hierarchy. It provides a quick way to see how your site is laid out and what it includes. While these sitemaps were once designed to help users navigate websites, their primary purpose now is to communicate information to search engine bots (also known as crawlers).

    While adding a sitemap to your website doesn’t directly boost its search engine rankings, it’s still a valuable SEO tool. It enables crawlers to see all of the pages on your site and understand how they relate to one another. This makes it easier for search engines to index your site, and to present relevant content in user searches. Adding a sitemap to WordPress is simple — you can do so with a targeted plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps, or through a comprehensive SEO tool such as Yoast SEO.

    6. Use Heading Tags Throughout Your Content

    While a sitemap is useful for helping search engine crawlers see how your site is organized, it doesn’t help them make sense of the individual content. For that, you’ll need to use heading tags. These are formatting options you can apply to section headings within pages and posts.

    7. Build Your Content Around Keywords

    Chances are you’ve encountered the concept of keywords before. These are short phrases that describe your content’s topic. For example, you might choose the keyword “easy recipes” for a blog post that shares simple recipe options for beginners. By doing this, you’re predicting that a lot of people will type the phrase into a search engine when looking for this type of post.

    Choosing a keyword for each post or page and using it in various places — such as the title, the headings, and the content itself — is a common way to communicate your topic to search engine crawlers and increase the chances of showing your content in relevant searches.

    Of course, you want to be smart about the way you use this tool. For example, it’s best to avoid ‘keyword stuffing’, or forcing your keyword into too many places so that it appears unnatural or spammy.

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    8. Incorporate Useful Internal and External Links

    Google and other search engines don’t consider your website in a vacuum. Instead, they look at how well it’s connected, both internally and to other sites. Using plenty of links throughout your posts and pages tells crawlers how they relate to similar content. It also encourages other people to link back to your site — which in turn communicates to search engines that your content is valuable!

    As with keywords, this is a strategy you’ll want to use carefully. If you cram too many links into your content or use a lot of links that point to irrelevant pages or exist only to promote products, your search engine rankings will likely suffer.

    Instead, look to incorporate links where they fit naturally, and to point readers towards high-quality websites that already rank highly in SERPs. Smart use of both internal links and external links is key to achieving the best SEO results possible.

    9. Use Responsive Design on Your Site

    More people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the internet. This means your site needs to look and perform as good on any type of device a visitor happens to be using. You can ensure this by following the strategy of responsive design — in other words, designing your site so it reacts and adapts to each user’s device.

    Responsive design is so important that Google uses it as a ranking factor. If your site is responsive, its chances of appearing high on SERPs will be that much better. For WordPress users, the best way to get started with responsive design is to choose a theme that supports it (which many, if not most, now do). Just don’t forget to check out each theme’s other SEO features as well!

    10. Optimize Your Images

    Images are important for just about any website. They provide visual appeal and context, plus they help break up text and make it more readable. As you’ve probably guessed, they can also have an impact on your SEO. For one, the quality and size of your images can affect your pages’ loading speed, which is a ranking factor. Also, crawlers will look at certain information attached to images — such as filenames and ‘alt text’ — when trying to index and understand your site.

    Addressing these two issues will go a long way towards shoring up your SEO. First, be sure to optimize your images and other media, so they have as little impact on your site’s performance as possible. Then, give each image a descriptive filename and alt text (bonus points if you use a keyword in one or both places).

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