Optimizing for SEO on WordPress.com (not .org, see the difference) can be tricky. This is because you’re not given plugin tools like Yoast or All in One SEO that can make search engine ranking easier. And, to make matters worse, WordPress tell you their blogs are built with SEO in mind, but they don’t actually tell you how to optimize for SEO on a wordpress.com site.
But, is it worth wrestling with this lack of customization to build a blog post that pulls in traffic through SEO?
Yes! Content marketing firm BrightEdge, claims organic search is the primary driver of website traffic.
The BrightEdge study found organic search drives 51 percent of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites, trumping all other non-organic search channels, including paid search (10%) and social (5%).
Despite it being a WordPress.com site, It’s clear that SEO optimization is worth paying attention to.
But, if you’re using wordpress.com then you’re normally pretty new to blogging, let alone content marketing. Of course you just want to focus on writing more, but writing with the method of gaining traffic is the best way to see what’s connecting with your audience.
I’ve been working on my wife’s WordPress blog, and have found some tricks that will help you rank well.
Create an SEO rich post with the right keyword for your audience
Before you do any SEO optimizing, know what you’re ranking for, and how hard it’s going to be. There’s plenty of tools out there which you can use, like ahref’s keyword planner, Moz’s keyword explorer, and Google Adwords.
I use Google Adwords simply because it’s free, and that’s how I’ll be structuring this section.
Use Google Adwords to find keywords
You have to go through 4 steps to create an account if you haven’t setup an account with Google Adwords, (it’s a little tedious to begin with). Then you have to design a campaign.
It can seem a little overwhelming at first, as if you’ve had this campaign in mind for a long time, and now’s your big day to release it into the wild of Google advertising.
Just set everything up and rush through it, because as soon as you’re done you can go into the “Campaign” tab and cancel exactly what you did.
Once you’re in, you want to head to the Keyword Planner tool, and use the option “search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
Finding your keywords to rank for
I find this technique is a great way of finding topics that are in demand to write for your audience. Everyone may differ in the way they find keywords, but this was the process I used for finding blog topics for Lacey to write about.
As Lacey is a dance teacher, I wanted her to show some thought leadership in her industry with the aim to get her more work. For her, dance breaks up into four key areas she teaches:
To start, we chose “jazz dance” because it’s her favorite area to teach.
The tool on the right is great way to filter your search. When you input your search term, you could be given thousands of related search terms, so it’s best to use “exact match”.
Start a new plan, then begin to filter through the list. Aim for keywords that have a good amount of traffic, and that you feel you could write a blog post on. When you find a good keyword click the “add to plan” arrow.
Once you’re done, you can either find another search term (e.g. “modern dance” would the next one for Lacey), or just download your plan.
Generally speaking, if there’s a search term that has over 1000+ hits, and you’re new to blogging, it is going to be very hard to rank for unless you have some serious inbound marketing chops. So when you’re starting out using this method, pick a keyword with 100-300 searches.
SEO best practices for your WordPress post
So now you’ve done your keyword research, you need to write your blog around that keyword. For example, Lacey chose writing a post on picking jazz songs for dance, and building a great playlist.
When the post is finished, in the WordPress editor it looks like this:
Which looks pretty ordinary…
But, let me break down – in order – best practices on getting your post to rank well in search:
1. Build your keyword into your H1/post title
This is vital for ranking well because not only should this appeal to your current readers, it should also drive traffic from search to your site.
But it can be tricky or unnatural to work into your headline.
A tool like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer is great for seeing which titles are working and which ones aren’t. It gives you a great breakdown on which words are common, uncommon, powerful or unique – allowing your headline to stand out from the noise in a results page.
2. Build your keyword into the URL or “slug”
This is how search engines read that your page is relevant to the topic you’re going after. Make sure to separate your keyword with hyphens.
Ditch page URLs that are yourdomain.com/blog/post3462 and start building the keyword into the URL, or as WordPress calls them “slugs” (located under the “more options” tab).
This URL best practice sits with equal importance as the post title.
3. Build your keyword into the excerpt (or meta description)
WordPress calls a meta description an excerpt. Your meta description is what shows up below your headline in search results. Search engines are able to take the phrase from the meta description and connect it to the headline. It’s an important way to build on your headline, and show that the post promises to match the topic.
Aim for this when creating your excerpt/meta description:
- Stay within 150-160 characters, this range guarantees your entire meta description will be read.
- Use your keyword in the meta description once.
Page excerpt is located alongside slug under “more options”.
4. Build keyword frequency into your blog post
Having your keyword appear in your text as naturally as possible is ideal, but always, always have reader experience at the heart of what you’re writing.
Google now knows if you’re trying to game the system. Hiten Shah digs into this deeper in his podcast How to Think About SEO for Your Startup, than I will here, but Google can now decipher what good content is vs bad content.
5. Build your keyword into your image naming system
Most blogging engines give you the opportunity to give the image a description through alt text, the WordPress.com engine doesn’t.
To counteract this, what you have to is build your keyword into your naming system. So ditch “Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 21.10.27” and go for something a little more practical a search engine can pick up, and list in it’s image results.
What are the results from doing this work?
Well your post is neat and tidy for the search engines to find, and you’ll start attracting a bigger audience:
After the blog has been live for five days, a quick incognito Chrome search revealed that the post is currently sitting in 17th place out of 22,500,000 in Google – yes twenty two million.
And we only expect the post to rise onto the first page because we made sure the blog was better content than everything else currently on the first page of search results.
The Five principles of SEO on WordPress com
SEO on WordPress.com is difficult because you’re not given much control. But, it’s not impossible to get your page to rank well using a few tips and tricks.
As long as you have done your keyword research, and you’ve got your target keyword for one blog post then you’re way ahead of most other WordPress bloggers.
Remember to focus on creating a valuable post for your readers first, then look to optimize your blog post around your chosen keyword with the five steps laid out in this post.