WordPress SEO: Content Optimization. Basic Meta Tags
Bill Gates once said that ‘Content is king’, and no one dares argue with him since. However, without appropriate optimization, even the most amazing content will be at risk of being left out both by users and search engines. In this article, we’ll explain how to optimize content on the WordPress-based websites.
1. What Content Elements You Need to Optimize
Optimized content is the content created considering user experience and factors raising its positions in search results.
Each page includes elements that require optimization. All of them show users and search robots what this page or post is about.
Elements That We Will Talk About:
- Headings (H1 и H2-H6)
- Images and ALT attributes
We will show you how to edit all these elements using basic visual or text editor in WordPress console and YOAST plugin.
Page Title is the first box in WordPress page editor. Title tag is just like a direction sign for search engines: it explains the main concept of the document. Moreover, Wordpress uses it to generate URL automatically. Don’t forget to check it before posting.
After you’ve set the main Title in WordPress editor, use YOAST to fill one more Title for an attractive snippet. Push ‘Edit snippet’ button to do it. In fact, it duplicates original Title and adds the website name to it. You can edit it as you wish. When you complete editing additional Title, you’ll see how this page snippet looks like in search results.
1.1.1. Basic Requirements for Title.
Title meta tag has to:
- reflect the essence of page or post;
- be short, but not sweet;
- be unique and do not duplicate Titles of any other pages or posts;
- have a length no less than 10 and no more than 70 characters;
- contain one of the main keywords that are important to be ranked for (if they do not conflict the main essence of page or post).
1.1.2. Possible SEO Issues of the Title Tag You Can Find with Netpeak Spider:
- multiple Titles
- duplicate Titles
- missing or empty Title
- same Title and H1
- max Title length
- short Title
System generates URLs from the Title by default but you can create and edit them manually. Proper URL simplifies user’s navigation and affect search engines ranking.
1.2.1. Basic Requirements for the Page Address.
URL has to:
- Consist of words and be clear for user. Words must be separated by hyphen and do not contain any special characters.
- Consist of Latin characters only.
- Be no longer than 2000 characters. Ideally, it must be as short as possible and reflect the essence of a page or post at the same time.
1.2.2. URL Issues You Can Find with Netpeak Spider:
- max URL length
1.3. H1 and H2-H6 Headings
Headings and subheadings are the main tools of text structuring. They can simplify reading and navigation, and show your care about users to search engines.
H1 is the most significant heading on the page for search engines. It must be present on every page. It has to be unique and should not appear on more than one page of your website. In case of WordPress websites, H1 tag usually contains a title of a page or a post, so there is no need to make an additional H1 inside a text.
If you use text element as a main header of your website (at the top on all pages of your website) and you didn't upload a logo or image in the .png or .jpg format instead, there will be a conflict of two H1 headings. As a result, your website will contain 2 main headings: the main heading of the website and the main heading of every single page. In terms of the logical structure, it is wrong. In terms of SEO, the situation is similar: Netpeak Spider will find pages with two H1 headings and mark them as an issue with a ‘Warning’ severity degree.
1.3.1. Basic Requirements for the H1 Heading:
- Each page must contain only one H1 heading. It is the main heading your visitors see. Thus, multiple H1 headings will be identified by Netpeak Spider as an issue and have negative effect on your website’s SEO.
- The H1 heading must be no longer than 65 characters.
- If Title isn’t placed in H1 tag, you can use H1 at the beginning of the text.
- Title (out of H1 tag) and H1 shouldn’t be the same.
- Every page of your website should have a unique H1.
1.3.2. H1 Issues You Can Find with Netpeak Spider:
- missing or empty H1
- multiple H1
- duplicate H1
- same Title and H1
- max H1 length
1.3.3. Basic Requirements for H2-H6 Headings:
- It is recommended to have from 2 to 4 H2 headings per page.
- In terms of SEO, H3-H6 headings are not that important. However, if a document is pretty big, it would be better to divide it into parts and paragraphs with H2-H6 headings.
Description is a meta tag that contains a short description of each page. It provides more detailed information to search engine robots than Title and it is often used for the snippet in search results.
1.4.1. Basic Requirements for the Description Meta Tag.
Description has to:
- be no less than 60 and no more than 320 characters long;
- contain the most important keywords or key phrases;
- be unique within the current website;
- be the only one on this page (multiple Description tags can confuse search engine robots).
1.4.2. Description Issues You Can Find with Netpeak Spider:
- missing or empty Description
- duplicate Descriptions
- multiple Descriptions
- max Description length
- short Description
To edit the Description push the ‘Edit snippet’ button under visual editor window on the YOAST panel.
1.5. Images. ALT Attribute
Properly placed images improve text readability. They make content appear more valuable for users and therefore — for search engines. While selecting and uploading images for new posts and pages do not forget about requirements they should meet.
1.5.1. This is How You Optimize Images And Pages Containing Them:
- Upload images no less than 1024x800 pixels in size.
- Compress images via web services maintaining quality (TinyPNG, for example), or use some free compression plugins like (Imagify, for example).
- Try to keep image size smaller than 100 KBs.
- Always fill ALT attribute. It explains the main essence of the image to the search engine robots.
- Don’t try to put all your keywords in ALT: search engines don’t appreciate it. Same rules ally to the ‘Title’ box.
- Try to name your images using words written with Latin characters and separated by hyphens. For example, small-husky-puppy.jpg instead of ght45tgfw.jpg
Also, we advise you to turn off automatic generation of additional thumbnail images in standard sizes (300х300px, 150х150px). To do so, you should go to your website console and open ‘Settings’ → ‘Media’. In this menu you will find settings for standard thumbnails that are automatically generated by WordPress. If you don’t use them, set 0 in the image sizes boxes. It will save your website from dozens of useless image copies and reduce the load on the CMS.
All rules listed above can be used both for images in the text and images for thumbnails.
1.5.2. Image Issues You Can Find with Netpeak Spider:
- missing images ALT attributes
- max image size (size exceeds 100 KBs)
2. Additional Optimization Elements
In addition to the elements mentioned above, basic WordPress editor and YOAST plugin (and its counterpart ‘All in One SEO Pack’) let you set following parameters for every single page or post without leaving console:
- tags (for navigation within a website)
- focus keyword
- Canonical URL
- breadcrumbs Title
- basic Meta Robots settings
- Facebook and Twitter markup attributes
‘Tags’ panel is placed on the right side of the WordPress editor window under ‘Categories’ panel. These tags are not related to SEO but they can be used as a navigation element. Let’s say, you have a big category about sportswear and you don’t want to make additional brand categories within it. In this case, you can use tags with brand names or sublabels. But don’t try to overload posts and pages with them: focus on a few main tags you can’t do without.
2.2. Focus Keyword
YOAST helps you not only fill all necessary fields and set additional parameters. It also can give you some recommendations for content improvement. In particular, it checks if page content corresponds to keywords important for search engine ranking. To start checking you need to input your main keyword (key phrase) for this page in ‘Focus keyword’ box.
If you don’t need it, you can skip this box – it will not affect your website’s SEO.
2.3. Canonical URL
We already talked about rel=canonical in one of our previous articles WordPress SEO: Duplicate Content and Canonical Issues.
To set the canonical page you need to go to YOAST panel and open ‘Advanced’ settings tab. Then you need to put a link to the canonical page in ‘Canonical URL’ box. If you leave this field empty, YOAST plugin will automatically set current page or post as canonical. It will be correct in most cases.
2.4. Breadcrumbs Title
If your template allows you to use ‘breadcrumbs’, you can set alternative Title for each page or post in YOAST ‘Advanced’ settings tab.
2.5. Basic Meta Robots Settings
We have already shared instructions about Meta Robots setting with Meta Tag Manager in our article Creating Robots.txt File. Using Meta Robots Tag. XML Sitemap. In case of YOAST, there is not so much we are able to do. We can set only a few main instructions:
- no image index
- no archive
- no snippet
All pages contain following Meta Robots by default:
2.6. Facebook and Twitter Markup Attributes
We can edit basic settings for OpenGraph markup on the ‘Social’ tab in the same plugin. It is a structured dataset responsible for the look of your page snippet in social media or messenger apps.
With YOAST you can set markup parameters for Facebook and Twitter snippets.
If you leave these boxes empty, plugin will use information you have already put in basic tags in ‘Content optimization’ tab. However, it will be better to fill them manually and check before posting.
To ensure your website’s high positions in the search results, you need to optimize several elements of each page important for your website’s SEO.
Pay attention to the key elements:
- Title (the main Title, additional Title for snippet and OpenGraph markup).
- Address (URL).
- Document structure (headings, images).
Of course, the content itself must be unique, useful and serve the users’ needs.
In the next post we’ll explain you how to connect your WordPress website with social media and increase user engagement. And we are always glad to answer all your comments, questions and suggestions about content optimization.