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5 SEO Best Practices for WordPress Digital Publishers

5 SEO Best Practices for WordPress Digital Publishers

The digital publishing industry has evolved substantially over the past decade. According to Statista, digital publishing revenue has increased to 18 billion U.S. dollars in the United States alone in 2018. The average revenue per user for digital publishing in the United States is 79 U.S. dollars per capita and it is trending towards a steady future.

To stay in the digital publishing game, you must invest in your online presence and be present where the target readers are. At the same time, your readers must be able to easily find your website, and that’s the point where SEO steps in!

SEO is often ignored by publishers that are after the quick win. As the trends and algorithms evolve, for publishers that don’t keep track of the industry, it will be extremely difficult to cope with the changes. The following are some of the best practices for improving the search visibility of your WordPress digital publishing site.

Why SEO Matters for Publishers?

seo for publishers

Regardless of the topics that you’re trying to cover as a publisher, SEO can be a real challenge. We’re talking about digital publishing, not some sort of small business website that you can optimize with few tweaks and alt texts here and there. You need to find the right balance between producing a substantial amount of content and its optimization for search engines.

SEO is all about optimizing your website to rank better in the search engines and being visible in the SERPs when a search is being performed. It involves two main categories:

  • On-page SEO: On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing page elements for higher rankings and increased relevant traffic in search engines. It involves the optimization of both the content and HTML source code of your pages.
  • Off-page SEO: Off-page SEO refers to the actions that you can make outside of your website to improve the position of your pages in the SERPs.

SEO is particularly important because you’re competing with giants in your field, such as BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post. The finest SEO strategies for media publishers merge every on-page and off-page aspect into a single and powerful game plan. The results of your strategy can bring massive improvements for your online ranking and your revenue.

1. Determine the Keywords That You Want to Rank for

laptop displaying brand on the screen

The most important aspect of your SEO strategy is and will be the keywords! Without relevant keywords, Google can’t show your content on the first results page. If your articles are not optimized with the right keywords and meta descriptions, you will never reach a good position in SERPs.

Ranking for all sorts of topics is not a good SEO strategy! Assess what topics are relevant to your content strategy. Write down the topics that your readers like to read about. If the topics that you’ve used so far are still relevant, you can continue with the keyword research process.

The most effective keywords for publishers are defined by the following parameters:

  • Cost-Per-Click: The amount spent for an ad that is clicked.
  • Competition: The difficulty for appearing on the first few positions of SERPs.
  • Volume: The number of searches for a specific keyword in a specific time frame.

Example: Using SEMRush to Conduct Keyword Research

SEMRush is a highly recommended tool that you can use to conduct keyword research for your articles. With SEMRush, you can observe the keywords that you’ve already used to analyze how your content performs compared to your competitors.

Open your SEMRush dashboard, and navigate to Organic Research > Position Changes. There, you’ll see all the New, Declined, Improved and Lost keywords for yours and the competitive websites.

SEMRush dashboard organic research

The Organic Research > Positions tab will show you the keywords that you’re already ranking for.

SEMRush keywords you already rank for

Start by searching short-tail keywords. SEMRush will automatically show a list of relevant phrases and keywords that you can group according to Volume, CPC, Competition, Trend, and Results.

SEMRush relevant keywords and phrase match keywords

If you go again to Organic Search > Overview and scroll down, you’ll also get a list of the Main Competitors for the domain that you’re researching.

SEMRush main organic competitor overview

The competition is calculated according to the number of overlapping keywords.

SEMRush has another trick in its sleeves for successful keyword research called the Keyword Difficulty Tool. To use it, navigate to Keyword Analytics > Keyword Difficulty.

keyword difficulty tool

The tool is simple to use and it will show you the difficulty percentage of beating your competitors in organic search.

Use LSI Keywords

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are conceptually connected terms that search engines use to understand the content of your pages. The Search Engine Journal defines Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) as:

“a mathematical method used to determine the relationship between terms and concepts in content. The contents of a webpage are crawled by a search engine and the most common words and phrases are collated and identified as the keywords for the page.”

LSI keywords are not synonyms that have the same meaning, but words that are related to your main keyword phrases.

an example of lsi related to the main keyword

Google evaluates the entire semantics and the context in an attempt to figure out the overall topic of a given page. When Google registers multiple words that are semantically connected, it will be much easier to determine the topic. This means that your LSI keywords will be a key asset when it comes to your website ranking.

2. Nail the Critical On-Page Article Components

On-page SEO is the process of improving various front-end and back-end components so that your website ranks better and brings in more traffic. These on-page SEO components comprise content elements, site architecture elements, and HTML elements. The following are the on-page SEO elements that you need to focus on as a publisher.

Title Tags

title tag view on search engine results page

Your title tag appears at the top of the browser and as the page headline in search engine result snippets. For that reason, it has a big SEO and “clickability” value. To have the right title tag, you need to find the right balance between SEO and excellent user-friendliness. Tips that can help you with this are:

  • Place the keyword closer to the beginning of the title tag
  • Keep the title tag length between 50 and 60 characters
  • Make the title tag unique and compelling
  • Avoid keywords without search potential
  • Don’t stuff keywords

SEO-Friendly URLs

The first 3-5 words of your URLs are crucial. According to Backlinko, short URLs perform better than longer ones. This means that if you want to have SEO-friendly URLs for your articles, you need to make them concise and to the point.

You need to avoid URLs such as:

  • www.mywebsite.com/p=1298
  • www.mywebsite.com/12/6/12/pageid=8923.html%232

Your URL should contain the target keyword, and it should be clear, readable, and accessible for the users. A shorter URL is much better because it’s more accurate and easier to remember.

Include Internal and Outbound Links

Links are vital for SEO. Including appropriate links is an excellent white-hat SEO strategy that can help you obtain more traffic. Outbound links to related pages help Google to better understand your article topics. Make sure that the outbound links are relevant to the article and come from authority sites.

When optimizing the links in your pages, ensure the following:

  • Link only to quality resources
  • Use keywords with search power as anchor text
  • Don’t use Javascript to produce the link
  • Avoid keyword stuffing in the anchor text
  • Link to pages you want to rank higher for

Optimize Images

Each of your pages should include images. They can show up in an image search, and they can help your SEO as well. Advanced search engines can crawl the text within images. So, when optimizing, you need to use the most important keywords for the first image, and the keyword variations for the additional images. Optimize according to the following requirements:

  • Use a filename that closely matches the URL suffix.
  • Separate the keywords within the filename with dashes (-).
  • Use only lowercase characters in the image filename.
  • Never use special characters in the image filename.
  • Use the right image resolution.
  • Ensure the smallest possible image file size.
  • Provide an ALT attribute that closely matches the meta description.
  • Provide a TITLE attribute that closely matches the page’s <title> tag.

Keep Your Content Readable

To rank your pages, Google inspects user signals such as dwell time and time on page. If your copy is too difficult to read, people will either click the ‘Back’ button or open a new tab with your competitor’s domain on it. To avoid that, use shorter sentences and paragraphs: Write in the same manner as you would speak to someone that’s listening. A tool called Hemingway Editor is excellent if you want to simplify your copy!

Hemingway app for writers

3. Improve Website Structure

Most of the content that you’ll produce as a media publisher will be time-sensitive and it will probably bring in more traffic from searches than directly from your homepage.

The architecture of a website influences how search engines crawl, read, and rank pages in SERPs. To maintain high link equity, you need to organize your web structure so that search engines can crawl your content.

Your WordPress digital publishing site should also be organized so that users can find what they were looking for in as few clicks as possible. Here’s what you need to focus on as a publisher if you want to deliver powerful link juice to each of your pages:

Pagination

Pagination is the method of dividing content into individual pages that influences SEO and the overall UX of your site. If you publish a lot of new content, pagination will allow for older articles to remain available to readers.

Internal Linking

Linking internal pages helps search engines to assess your pillar pages and any related content. Internal linking shouldn’t be complicated, and the main goal should be to direct search engines to the important pages.

Categories and Tags

The following are built-in taxonomies in the CMS:

  • Categories: A taxonomy that lets you group your content under a common category: videos, photos, or just posts. You can have parent-child hierarchical relationships for the main categories and their subcategories.
  • Tags: Allow you to classify your content in a useful, but less structured way than Categories.
  • Link Category: Used to group your links. These are internal taxonomies that are usually not displayed publicly on your site. Not that popular with the latest version of WordPress.
  • Post Formats: A meta info that can be used to customize a theme or a post. Also, a powerful tool in the arsenal of WordPress developers.
  • Custom Taxonomies: From the 2.3 version of WordPress, creating custom taxonomies is allowed as an extremely powerful way to group items.

Categories are hierarchical and you can have subcategories, but tags can’t have any subtags. Tags are just the indexation of the content that is inserted in the categories.

Make sure that each of your tags is used frequently, especially if more posts are contextually related. Allow the readers to see the tags by placing them at the bottom of the article or the sidebar.

Sitemap

Your sitemap acts as a diagram that outlines your digital publishing site. Each of your pages is defined and organized in the sitemap, from the general pages to the more specific ones. If your digital publishing site is relatively new and you don’t have a lot of backlinks that lead to your posts, with a sitemap you can help search engines discover your posts easier.

4. Develop Shareable Content

Obsev content page

Image Source: Obsev

Trending content can attract a lot more readers to your website via search engines than sharing your content on social media. However, that doesn’t mean that you should disregard social networks for enhancing your SEO.

There are several ways social media can help you with the organic visibility of your digital publishing content:

  • Social media is great for content distribution and reaching a wide variety of audiences.
  • Social likes and shares lead to a prolonged content life.
  • Social media content links can accelerate your content indexation.
  • Social media increases traffic to your website when users click on the posts containing your content.
  • A powerful social media presence enhances the brand perception of your digital magazine.
  • With social media, you can understand which type of content is better suited to your content strategy.
  • Strong social media profiles have a greater chance at appearing at the top of SERPs for branded keywords.

To obtain as many readers as possible, besides being SEO optimized, your content must be shareable as well! If you want maximum content exposure, go through the following questions:

Is the Topic Interesting?

A great topic is a shareable topic! If the topic and the content are good, it urges readers to share it and inform other people about it. Useful and interesting articles are best because readers are always looking for something helpful, amusing or interesting to read.

These are topics that resonate with users:

  • Emotional: It makes readers feel something!
  • Identifiable: Readers feel a personal connection with the topic!
  • Trending: Content about the latest hottest trends and topics.
  • Valuable: Provides useful advice.

One of the best ways to come up with a shareable topic is to utilize a tool such as BuzzSumo to gauge how audiences respond to a certain topic.

using BuzzSumo to analyze a shareable topic

Is My Headline Attention-Grabbing?

Once you have a list of powerful and shareable topics, you must add attractive and shareable titles to your articles as well.

Headlines encourage social sharing on their own. About 59% of links shared on social media aren’t even clicked! This means that users share them only because of the article.

Captivating headlines:

  • Present the value and tell the readers what they’ll gain from reading the article.
  • Specify the information included in the content.
  • Show that the content is easy to read (listicles, galleries)
  • Talk in the second person by utilizing words such as “you” or/and “your.”
  • Include the best keywords that capture the attention of your target audience.

A tool that can help you write the perfect headline is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. The tool will provide you with a rating for your headline and advice on how to improve it.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer tool

Are My Images Properly Sized and Shareable?

Images are appealing to users because visual information is easier to consume. The neuroscience team at MIT revealed that the brain can process whole images the eye sees in about 13 milliseconds.

You should always include featured images that are properly sized and designed for social networks. Each of your posts should contain custom imagery for social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Is the Sharing Process Simple?

The amount of content shares is also related to your page layout and options. A blog post is shared if the page layout itself encourages it.

Adding social sharing buttons to all of your posts is a must because it makes it easier for people to share your content. At the end of each post, you can also ask the audience to spread the word on their social media accounts.

If you use WordPress, there are numerous plugins that you can use to insert sharing buttons and options throughout your posts.

5. Speed Things Up

Google considers website performance as an important ranking factor. It is equally important for SEO, ad revenue, and UX. About 61% of users won’t return to a slow website, and 40% of them would rather browse a competitor’s site.

This is why no matter the industry you’re in, your WordPress website must be lightning fast!

Before you improve the performance of your site, you need to test things out. There are some great online tools that can perform the testing process for you:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Enter the URL and click Analyze. When the process is over, access the Mobile section to see which improvements you can make.
  • GTMetrix: This tool collects data from various sources, including PageSpeed Insights and YSlow. It provides you with a full-speed report, including the “fully loaded time”, which is how long it takes for everything to be loaded on your WordPress site.
  • Pingdom: It’s an easy-to-use tool that compares your website against others.

After you collect the data, it’s improvement time!

Use a Quality Hosting Provider

Don’t get fooled by cheap hosting packages that they state they can provide you with everything you need to run a successful online magazine!

If you want to scale your digital publishing, you need the best hosting plan, and there’s not a better provider than Pagely!

Pagely WordPress hosting solutions page

With Pagely, you can forget about WordPress performance issues and focus on optimizing the site.

Optimize Images

Images play one of the key roles in digital publishing. When used properly, they help users understand what the topic is about. Although, they can also add additional weight to your pages that can slow the entire site down. For that reason, you need to trim the images down to improve loading time.

The best solution is to have the right image size and resolution before you insert it in a post. Make sure that each image has the right resolution for each of your pages. Then, before you insert them, reduce the images file sizes by compressing them with tools such as TinyPng.

TinyPng tool use to compress images

Image responsiveness is also vital for better loading times. Luckily, that’s a feature that has been integrated into the WordPress core since version 4.4. With an updated WordPress installation, you don’t have to do anything to optimize the responsiveness of your images.

Eliminate Bad-Performing Plugins

Plugins can be really useful to your WordPress publishing site. But, they can also be the cause of serious performance issues. A poorly-coded plugin filled with excess JavaScript will increase the loading time across the entire site. This is why you should delete any plugins that aren’t enabled, as well as all plugins that add excessive CSS, JavaScript, and HTML to your website.

Wrapping Up

Improving the SEO of your WordPress digital publishing site requires some time and patience. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll see your website rise to the top position in the SERPs and an increase in ad revenue in the process.

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