If you’re the type of person who feels like you’ve been working hard on your WordPress powered blog, but not getting the results you desire, this is for you.
I wrote up a checklist for a client yesterday and thought it was worth sharing with anyone struggling with a WordPress blog that is underperforming.
There are 5 main sections that you need to work harder on.
1. Titles & Headlines
The title of a page and the headline on a page can and should be two different things. I recommend that sites running WordPress use Joost de Valk’s WordPress SEO plugin so that it’s simple to split up the headline and the title and also see what your search result will look like in Google’s results.
The headline is the big box at the top of each new post (and page). By default this is also used as the page title, but we’re going to change that.
The headline is a place where the reader has already committed to visiting your site, so they have some context. This is where you can offer a witty headline, or a play on words that you should avoid in the page title.
I’m using this article as an example so you can poke around and see what I’m talking about. The reason I use this headline is because it means something to you. You found this article because you feel stuck, so hopefully the headline resonates with you.
The Page Title
The reason I recommend having a slightly different page title is because the page title has to compete in an environment where its context is variable – the search engine result pages. When you’re looking at 10 blue links, the page title is what you are normally seeing there. You can’t get to cute with it, it needs to be clear, concise and actionable.
For this post I use the straightforward title WordPress Basics for Maximizing SEO, and the slightly less serious, You Installed WordPress, Now What? as the page headline. Related, but different wording for different jobs.
2. The Meta Description
Although the meta description isn’t a factor as far as ranking goes, it can have a big impact on your click-through-rate (CTR) when your page appears in the search results. Take some time and write a description that engages the reader and makes them want to click-through.
The meta description is usually what Google shows under the link to your page, so think of it as an ad. Sell the searcher on clicking through. Never leave it as something that has no angle. If you leave it blank, Google usually just picks the first 160ish characters on that page.
Take this article, I could have used a meta description like, WordPress Posts and Pages – how to fill them in correctly, or something equally lame. What I’ve attempted to do was give you a taste of what’s here, and hopefully leave you wondering what are the things I already know that I’m not leveraging?
3. The Lede
The lede is the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story. It’s also a fantastic podcast from Copyblogger with a ton of good ideas.
You only have a few seconds to convince someone to stick around and read, so start selling fast. My lede was attempting to find out if you were the person that I’m writing for. If you read the first line and mentally nodded your head, then I have my hooks in you. A good lead draws in the reader so that you can get them into your first paragraph. Questions and quotes make great ledes.
An engaging image can help your article get noticed. It can act as an additional siren to get you attention. The photo on the right is the one I chose to use as this post’s “Featured Image”. I choose this image because it’s how so many of us feel when we start using WordPress.
The reason to choose an image is simple. So much of what we are exposed to is now curated. We use tools like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Zite, Scoop.it and others to have our content find us. We evaluate the stream of content with a cursory look at the headline and the image attached.
Photos have been shown to double engagement on Facebook and entire platforms are now build around visual marketing.
Pro Tip: Spend more time on your headlines and images!
5. Use Semantic Markup
Semantic HTML is the use of HTML markup to reinforce the semantics, or meaning, of the information in webpages rather than merely to define its presentation. That means don’t use the font-size and bold tags to make something seem important, use the proper header tag.
For example, on this page the headline is an H1 tag, the main sub-section are tagged as H2’s and their sub-sections are titled as H3’s. Hit the CTRL-U and check out the source code for this page.
Using proper markup like that helps Google understand what the page is about. Think of your pages the same way toy used to write an outline in 7th grade English class.
If you usually compose in the visual mode, then changing the headers happens in the pulldown like in the screenshot below.
The key to success on the web is to create something people are interested in. That shouldn’t shock you. But most people give up 18 months too early. If I told you that you will need to create great stuff as often as possible for 3 years before you’ll start to get traction would you quit? If you answered yes, then quit now and save yourself the 12 months you would have wasted before abandoning your blog.
Peter G McDermott says
I have a question regarding the featured image, though. I have a few posts on my blog that I can’t for the life of me get to work with rich snippets in social media. The featured image just fails to load. Is there a certain image size that needs to be maintained in order to have it render in all situations?
Phil Buckley says
I wish I could give you an answer that would work everytime, but much of this stuff depends on the theme you’ve chosen and how well its structured.
I have come to trust the code from the guys at Studiopress. They try to keep things simple and straight-forward while also allowing a lot of flexibility for the code junkies with their hook system.
Michelle Bollinger says
I like number three the best! New info for this reluctant-blogger. Thx!
Phil Buckley says
There is a big deal. Think about how often you give up on an article because it didn’t grab you right from the start.
Glad I could help push you a little bit further away from “reluctant”.
Great post, I wish I had found this when I first started blogging. Thanks for sharing!
Phil Buckley says
Well, that’s part of the experience right? Floundering for a while until you get your sea legs.
Matteo Duò says
That’s how you should explain the difference between Titles and headlines to everybody! Useful post Phil 😉
Phil Buckley says
Thanks Matteo, it’s one of those things that doesn’t seem important when you first get started, but can have a real impact.
Great article Phil! I had the pleasure at sitting in at your class in Cary at ASPE last week. Great stuff!
Phil Buckley says
Thanks Nogui. I hope you left with a few nuggets that you could use right away.