When thinking about the important basics of SEO, search engine optimization, the Yoast website is a great place to start!

In fact, their recent article ‘Timeless SEO tips: 6 universal SEO tactics that never go out of fashion‘ by Willemien Hallebeek offers excellent advice to those who are looking to optimize a WordPress website (or any other for that matter) for search engines and for people alike.

1. Black Hat SEO Tactics Will Harm Your Rankings

The first piece of advice Willemien offers is important to pay attention: Don’t use Black Hat SEO tactics or as she goes on to clarify …

“Never, ever, ever buy links, try to trick search engines or visitors with redirects or spam links on other sites.”

Often, in our desire for quick results, we try to shortcut the process of earning search results. In the early days of the Internet this actually worked. But today, it will backfire on you and harm your rankings with search engines.

Willemien goes on to say, “Give your visitors high-quality content, a great user experience and a secure, technically superior website. It may take more time and effort, but’s more sustainable in the long run.”

Check out ‘8 SEO Tactics You Should Abandon Forever” by guest author Jessica Fender for tips on some of the biggest SEO tactics you should abandon immediately.

2. Optimize For Speed – Faster Is Better

Few of us today have patience with websites that load slowly, whether on our mobile device or desktop computer. We expect results to be instantaneous when we look something up on the Internet. Slow websites lose business.

While most small businesses use shared hosting platforms because they are far less costly, there are still many things you can do to speed up your website.

i) Shared Hosting

All shared hosting companies are not created equal. Some may be a bit more expensive but offer options – like custom caching features – that improve the load time of your website. Is it worth saving $10 or $15 a month on your web hosting only to lose business because your website loads slowly? I don’t think so.

Several years back we moved from one hosting platform to another – from HostGator to SiteGround. The cost was slightly more but not significantly more. However, the service and the way they stayed current with the technology they used along with constantly improving the hosting services they offer was a dramatic improvement.

A little over a year ago SiteGround increased their prices fairly significantly. The rates probably went up close to double. However, while I was disappointed that rates went up I also felt the increase was probably justified. I didn’t move my business because of the increase but sucked it up and stayed with them. Not out of loyalty but because the products and service they offer with their hosting platform at a reasonable price make it worth it. I continue to encourage my new and existing clients in the same direction.

ii) Caching Plugins

For those using hosting without good quality built-in caching options, in Yoast’s article, Willemien mentions installing a caching plugin.

Caching plugins keep “static parts of your site saved on your server, and serves users these lighter HTML pages instead of processing the relatively resource-intensive WordPress PHP scripts. There are both free and paid caching plugins available and they can significantly speed up your site.”

Where clients are using shared hosting platforms other than SiteGround for their WordPress websites, the WP Super Cache is our caching plugin of choice. The free version of this plugin, setup correctly, does an excellent job of improving the site speed where the shared hosting may not be at the same level as that offered by SiteGround.

In ’10 Ways To Make Your Lead Generation Website Convert On The First Visit’, guest author Brad Shorr highlights the importance of page loading speed with this comment …

“Slow page loading kills conversions. Your web design and development team must know best practices for handling images and many other design/functionality/hosting issues.”

3. Don’t Compromise On The Quality Of Your Content

This comment from Willemien covers this topic succinctly, “content that’s only ‘good enough’ simply won’t do. You have to demonstrate your expertise and stand out from the crowd. That means a big investment of time and effort; research into your topic, your audience and what they’re looking for.”

Having a blog on your website that is regularly updated can help search engines take notice of your website. Why? Because you are providing new and fresh content on a regular basis. And, search engines are always looking for new, relevant, well-written content to deliver to searchers.

BUT, and here’s the kicker, if you write regularly for your blog but your content is mediocre and of little interest to readers, search engines will pick up on this over time. How? Search engines will see that people arrive on your site and then quickly leave never to return. They pay attention to things like: how long visitors stay on your site, do they click any links and visit any other pages, etc. These are indicators to search engines of the value of your content. If visitors don’t hang around and read your content and, ideally, visit other pages on your site, they’ll notice and it will be a signal to them of the relevance or not of your site.

As Neil Patel writes in his article ‘The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content’

“The path for (content) marketers is clear. In order to boost SEO rankings, gain traffic and/or leads, you need to have great content on your blog or website.”

So how do you write great, relevant content for your website visitors? Read on.

4. When You Write Your Content, Keep Your Audience In Mind

On this topic, Willemien writes, “Whether the aim of your website is to help you sell your product, or to attract followers for your blog posts, you will only succeed if you focus on what your audience wants and needs. That’s something that isn’t going to change, as search engines always aim to give users what they’re looking for.”

Keep in mind that Google likes sites and content that other people enjoy, find useful and share with others. They also like websites that are fresh, or put another way, updated regularly.

Think about what you look for when you’re visiting a website. The title may, and should, draw you in. But does the content deliver? Is it helpful? Is it interesting? Is it shareable? When was the last time you shared a website or blog post that had content that wasn’t useful or was downright spammy?

When you write your content, keep your audience at the forefront of your thinking. Will the information you are sharing meet their needs? Will it be helpful, interesting, entertaining even?

Neil Patel’s article ‘The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content’ shares important information on this topic. It’s well worth the read!

5. Make It Easy For Search Engines To Crawl Your Site & Know What Is Most Important

A plugin like Yoast SEO can make a big difference in how search engines look at your site. At least in part because Yoast provides you with the ability to optimize every page and post on your website, as well as the overall site itself.

The plugin helps you determine specific page or post ‘Readability‘ – because this is important to Google – by evaluating the content after you’ve written it to let you know if your sentences and paragraphs are the right length, if you are using enough sub-headings, if you are using transitions properly, etc.

My natural tendency is to write sentences that too long. Google prefers shorter sentences that are easier to read. Yoast has helped me by pointing this out when I’m writing and this has been hugely helpful. I now find I naturally use shorter sentences, most of the time, when I’m writing for an online audience.

6. Maintain Your Content – Don’t Create It & Forget It

This one is all about website maintenance and housekeeping. If you’re creating a lot of content this tip is very important. Why? Because it is so easy to keep moving forward writing more and more articles, if you’re blogging, and some of those articles are likely to become irrelevant over time. If they become irrelevant they need to be updated so they are relevant, merged with another relevant post or deleted. (When deleting or merging content be sure to forward the old article’s link/URL to a new one that is relevant or to your main blog page. This is important for SEO purposes.)

Check out ‘Keep your content fresh and up to date!‘ on Yoast’s website.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is no longer what it used to be … thankfully. Black Hat SEO is a thing of the past if you truly want to rank and reach relevant visitors for your website.

Search engines are much more advanced today than they were even a few years ago. This means that they are better able to identify legitimate content that is written to address the specific questions, issues, concerns people are looking for. They can then show these articles in search results those who are searching for that information.

Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds because there is a lot of great content available on the World Wide Web.

Your website is competing to rank above your competitors. And the best way to do that is by creating great content that targets the needs and wants of those you want to attract to your website. And by following the other tips outlined in this article!