When it comes to SEO (and affiliate marketing) without a doubt the most adopted content management system (CMS) is WordPress. However, this doesn’t mean that WordPress is SEO and Google friendly straight out of the box. Don’t expect your brand new WordPress site to grab the #1 spot in Google overnight.
WordPress SEO is relatively simple once you know the basics; the biggest challenge is getting started. This guide covers everything you need to consider when optimizing your WordPress site for Google, from the second you decide to go buy a domain to the nitty-gritty of building authority and rankings.
Patience, persistence, and attention to detail are your best friends when it comes to WordPress SEO (or any new SEO project). Results will take time, but with your finger on Google’s pulse, you can make small regular changes to improve your website’s rankings in Google.
Table Of Contents
Since we created our SEO guide for WordPress it’s continued to be updated and expand, so we’ve added this handy table of contents so you can jump to the part of the guide most relevant to you.
- Before Setup
- Domain Selection
- Partial Match Domain Names
- The Importance Of Brand
- Domain TLD Selection
- Hosting Selection
- Hosting Location
- WordPress Specific Hosting
- Theme Selection
- WordPress Theme Rules
- Thrive Themes
- Domain Selection
- Initial Setup
- WordPress Setup
- General Settings
- Indexing Settings
- General Plugin Notes
- Yoast SEO Plugin
- Google Search Console
- Sitemap Setup
- Social Meta Data
- Title Tags And Meta Data
- MonsterInsights Plugin
- Analytics Setup
- Additional Tracking
- Really Simple SSL Plugin
- HTTPS Setup
- HSTS Setup
- All In One Schema Plugin
- Site Speed
- Content Delivery Network
- Image Optimization
- WordPress Setup
- Content Marketing
- Keyword Research
- How To Upload First Post
- Optimizing Your First Post
- Blog Post SEO Recommendations
- Final Words
WordPress SEO Aspects Before Website Creation
If you’re going to set up a WordPress website and expect your main source of traffic to be organic Google traffic then it’s worth doing your research upfront. Often as SEOs and digital marketers, we get over excited and dive straight into a new project giving our competitors a headstart before we even begin.
We’re going to look over the important aspects of website creation and SEO that you need to consider before you even install WordPress.
Choose your Brand and Domain Name
The first thing you’ll want to consider is what domain name you’ll register for your website, this makes a huge difference to your long-term SEO potential.
Partial Match Domain Names
Google has invested a lot of time in monitoring the usage of exact match and partial match domain names to ensure they aren’t being used to obtain an unfair advantage in their search results. This means you don’t have to worry too much about your domain name exactly matching the name of the product your users are searching for.
In fact, you can effectively rank a website with a brand name even if it doesn’t relate to the product you are trying to sell, some of the worlds biggest brands do this. I personally prefer partial match domain names so a “testosterone booster” website could be called testosteroneproductreviews.com or testosteronesource.com.
So what are the benefits of partial match domain names? Here are a few:
- You have a unique brand name you can promote
- The purpose of the brand is very clear to new visitors
- Encourages homepage links with relevant anchor text
- Some level of improved legal protection
The Power Of A Brand
Even if you’re an affiliate exclusively promoting external brands, you still want to create your own brand for your site. Creating your own brand is essential if you wish to appear authoritative within your chosen niche.
As you’re creating a brand it’s also important to check beforehand that you can register social profiles that are intuitive. Imagine having to use the Twitter username TestosteroneSource_123 because someone had already taken TestosteroneSource – you immediately look less professional.
Domain Name Extension (TLD)
The final important factor to consider when choosing your brand name is what extension the domain will have, or technically speaking the top-level domain (TLD) you want to use.
If you’re targeting a specific country then it may be best to use a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). However, if you’re looking to have a global audience it may be best to register a global top-level domain (gTLD) such as website.com.
A Quick Note On New gTLDs
You can also consider the new TLDs such as .club, .diet and .london as viable choices; recent studies have shown they are fully capable of ranking just as well as a .com domain.
Some food for thought. Even though Google may treat new TLDs equally, users might not. We’re all so used to .com and .co.uk domain names that something as bonkers as testosterone.ninja won’t be as memorable, making it harder for users to return directly to your site.
Choosing the Correct Hosting
When thinking about SEO it’s easy to get absorbed in creating great content to the extent that you overlook the fundamentals. Choosing the correct host for your website really can make or break it.
Poor hosting slows your site to a crawl and increases bounce rate due to the poor user experience. If you don’t choose wisely when considering your host, you really aren’t giving yourself the best chance of success.
A significant aspect to consider when choosing a website host is its geographical location and how this may affect load times for your users. While geographical proximity doesn’t guarantee faster loading times due to the weird and wonderful ways that traffic is routed on the web, it is a great starting point to host in the same country as your target audience.
If you’re using a gTLD, then hosting in the UK may indicate to Google that you’re targeting a UK audience. If your actual primary target is the US, then it may be better to host somewhere closer to your audience. Over time when scaling up your website, you may choose to host localized sites in different countries and use a service such as AWS Route 53 to route traffic to the correct server based on their location or response time.
WordPress Specific Hosting
No matter whether you’re an affiliate marketer or setting up a small business, it’s easy to get dragged into doing everything yourself. One day you simply wake up and realize you cover every role from Systems Administrator to Office PA.
Don’t want to worry about technical stuff like PHP versions, mod_rewrite Apace Module or file permissions when setting up WordPress? Then choose a WordPress specific hosting service that makes setup simple and takes away the stress.
There are a couple of WordPress specific hosts I would recommend:
- WP Engine – I’ve heard great things from a lot of people about WP Engine. They are a WordPress specific hosting provider with over 80,000 customers spread across the world. In fact, WP Engine hosting is so prevalent these days that you can pretty much guarantee that every month you’ll visit a site hosted by them.
The biggest advantage of WP Engine over hosting such as GoDaddy’s WordPress hosting? Speed, speed, and more speed. Their setup is optimized for fast content delivery so your visitors don’t have to wait before browsing your website.
In addition, WP Engine also holds your hand when it comes to security. They block over 150 million attacks daily and work with you to ensure your plugins are up to date and your site secure.
- WPX Hosting – One of the emerging leaders in the WordPress hosting market, WPX has the best score on TrustPilot of all hosting providers as of October 2018. With over 100 reviews and an average 9.8 score, they have a lot of very happy customers and with good reason too.
WPX focuses on the thing that matters most for search engine optimization; speed. Just take a look at some of the customer reviews:
Whilst our team has found that you can improve on some of their recommended caching settings to further improve speed, your site will still pretty much be lightning fast straight out of the box. In addition, we really value WPX Hosting for their business practices, support and value for money when compared to WP Engine.
There are cheaper alternatives available to both WP Engine and WPX Hosting but you really do get what you pay for. If there’s one thing you can’t afford to cheap out on, it’s your hosting.
The Google team are very aware that most website users are now on mobile devices with slower connection speeds than desktops. The right host can be the difference between a 2 second or a 12 second load time.
WordPress SEO Friendly Theme Selection
When choosing a WordPress theme, it’s very easy to be drawn to the shiny interactive ones with preloaders, parallax scrolling effects, animations, video backgrounds and an abundance of other ‘cool’ features. Although many of these elements may be beautiful, it doesn’t mean they’ll be good for SEO.
Let’s take a look at some basic rules for theme selection and then go into a bit more detail with a specific SEO friendly WordPress theme provider.
General Rules WP Themes & SEO
Here are some very simple general rules to follow when choosing your WordPress theme:
- Think fast first – Quite often it’s a good idea to run Google’s page speed test tool on the demo site before purchasing a theme. If the demo site doesn’t even run quickly then move onto the next theme.
- Think mobile first – The volume of mobile traffic on the web has exceeded that of desktop traffic since 2014, and for this reason, you need to think about mobile users first. Choose a responsive design and one which doesn’t reduce the amount of content for mobile devices. Google crawls and indexes the web as if it was using a mobile device, so you want your mobile content to be very similar (if not the same) when compared to desktop content.
- Avoid preloaders – If a theme has a preloader, then in my experience it generally performs poorly in search results. They’re usually used for heavily interactive sites and while there are some exceptions to this rule, preloaders are not recommended for sites where organic traffic is the primary goal.
- Avoid themes lacking content above the fold – The fold is the point at which you would have to scroll down to see the rest of the page. The content above the fold is more valuable than content below in terms of SEO, so having a huge oversized hero image and no content visible on the first load can hurt your SEO efforts.
These are the four core rules for theme selection that I follow. Additionally, if you have a multi-regional or multilingual site, it’s advisable to ensure that there are no compatibility issues with the plugin that you are using to manage your translations.
Thrive Themes Rock
In the past, I’ve massively regretted recommending specific providers. Whether that’s hosting providers going downhill, or theme providers creating themes that seem to get slower with every update. However, when it comes to Thrive themes, it’s one of the very few recommendations I make that I can be confident in both today and in ten years time.
Both WP Engine and WPX Hosting massively recommend Thrive Themes when using their hosting and the reason is simple. They build beautiful, high converting, fast and SEO friendly themes specifically for WordPress.
If you’re interested, why not take a look at their website. At the time of writing ,they are in the process of releasing Thrive Themes 2.0 – a new visual theme builder, so you aren’t completely reliant on the designs they create and can create something unique without any coding experience.
You’ll still be able to install premade skins designed by Thrive that are conversion optimized, so you get the best of both worlds. A conversion and speed optimized theme. With unprecedented customization options and the ability to inject your own style and branding into your website.
WordPress SEO Getting Started With A New Install
So you’re up and running, you’ve registered your website, selected your hosting and installed your theme. You now have a website… a very empty website. We’re going to look in detail at what you need to do next now that your website is up and running to get your SEO efforts off to a flying start.
It’s worth remembering that ultimately WordPress is a blogging platform. So while you can use it straight out of the box, you’ll benefit from doing some basic configuration to make it more effective. Once your initial setup is complete, you should never have to return to this.
You’ll want to immediately change your permalink structure, otherwise each blog post will display something like: https://website.com/?p=3 rather than: https://website.com/easy-read-post-slug. Having a name rather than a number is much more search engine and user-friendly, as it describes the nature of the page content.
Go to permalink settings
The most commonly recommended setting is ‘post name’ so that all posts display as https://website.com/post-name/. I’ve seen the best success with this set-up rather than a custom structure such as /%category%/%postname%/, especially for smaller websites.
Select the post name option as shown below
In the vast majority of setups, especially for affiliate marketing stick with the post name option, unless you have a very good reason not to!
Note for huge websites: If you’re expecting to create a lot of content (thousands of posts), it may be worth considering your URL structure to prevent your site from becoming bloated with all posts existing directly off the root.
The general settings in WordPress cover everything from the site title through to the URL of your website. Some themes use your tagline as part of the home page <title> element, so it’s worth setting it to any slogan you have for your website and brand.
Where to find general settings
The two most critical elements in general settings are the site title which is used in the title tag and the site address. Remember to be consistent with the site title; if you have a space in your brand name, now isn’t the time to omit that space from the site title. As for the site address, the most important thing to check is that it’s set correctly to either the www or non-www version of the website (I prefer without www because it looks cleaner). Also, if you’re using an SSL certificate, ensure that it is set correctly to https:// rather than http://.
Example from CrazyBulk merchant site of general settings
Once these are set up correctly, it’s a good time to quickly check that your website loads on the correct URLs.
- https://crazybulk.com – Should load correctly.
- http://crazybulk.com – Should redirect to https://crazybulk.com
- https://www.crazybulk.com – Should redirect to https://crazybulk.com
- http://www.crazybulk.com – Should redirect to https://crazybulk.com
- https://crazybulk.com https://test.crazybulk.com – Shouldn’t load
- http://test.crazybulk.com – Shouldn’t load
Testing that these URLs behave correctly prevents multiple identical copies of the website from being served to users, which stops Google from confusing your site with duplicate content.
Reading settings impact indexing
Did you know there is a button in WordPress that will prevent Google from ever ranking your site? You’ll want to make sure that it isn’t turned on…
You can find it here
Even if you only wish to prevent Google from indexing while you’re developing the domain, it can sometimes be trickier than expected to reverse the process once you’ve actually ticked the box!
Avoid ticking this box, ever!
Personally, I’ve seen mixed results and have even seen Google refuse to index a site for almost a week after the option was unticked, with the page eventually having to be found through the Google Search Console.
Important note: If you use a separate development domain to prepare the website before launching, then do not let Google index it.
Where possible, limit access by IP to those who need it, as you really don’t want a development website out there in the public. If a separate development domain gets indexed, you may find that the development domain rather than your real domain picks up and holds rankings for your content. In extreme cases, this is a tricky problem to resolve and can result in having to rewrite content.
General Plugin Notes
Plugins are, in my opinion, both the number one savior and the killer of WordPress sites for SEO. Straight away you can greatly improve your site’s functionality and save hundreds of hours of development work by using a solution straight out of the can.
On the other hand, plugins slow your website down! Only ever install plugins you need. If you aren’t going to use it then don’t install it. Importantly if you’ve been using a plugin for a temporary campaign or split test, don’t leave it active all year long when it isn’t needed.
Yoast SEO Plugin
If I could only install one plugin for WordPress it would be Yoast SEO every single time. This plugin single-handedly resolves some of the biggest issues with WordPress:
- Setup a sitemap
- Edit metadata
- Integrate social networks
- Control indexing by page
There are tons of SEO plugins for WordPress available. So why Yoast? Yoast SEO is, in my opinion, currently the most complete SEO plugin available. It handles the technical optimization of your site but also assists with optimizing your content. It’s definitely an essential plugin for the affiliate who is serious about building quality sites and succeeding within affiliate marketing. If you don’t have it installed yet, I recommend you to search for ‘Yoast SEO’ in WordPress or visit their official site here and download it.
We’ll go over some of the basics that you need to configure with Yoast to really get the most from it.
Setup Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the easiest way to tell Google that your site exists and to configure it within Google, it’s also the best and most underutilized tool for daily organic search optimizations. The first thing you’ll want to do is sign in and add your website. You can follow the guide from Google for this here.
When doing this you’ll be asked to verify your ownership of the website, the easiest way of doing this with a WordPress site is using Yoast SEO. When Google asks you to verify your domain, simply click ‘other verification methods’ and select ‘HTML tag’. You’ll want to copy the whole tag ready to put into WordPress.
It should look something like this
Once you’ve copied this you need to login to your WordPress account and click the Yoast SEO button on the left-hand menu.
You should then be presented with the Yoast settings. Just click the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab and then copy and paste your tag into the ‘Google Search Console’ box and hit save.
You’ll notice that a lot of what you pasted into the box will disappear. Don’t worry this is simply Yoast removing the bits that aren’t needed. Job done! You’re all set up for Google search console and can go back and hit the ‘verify’ button.
Previously I’ve recommended using another great plugin for sitemaps; Google XML For Sitemaps, but now I’m fully converted to Yoast. I’d recommend you do the same, as the fewer plugins the better. Also, Yoast is fully compatible with popular translation plugins for foreign language sitemaps which helps if you ever want to target other languages.
I recommend that you have a sitemap containing the home page, posts, and static pages. Avoid adding categories and tags to the sitemap for small sites as this will bloat it with lower value content. Google will still discover some of this anyway, so just restrict your sitemap to the most important content.
The easiest way to get this setup is using the configuration wizard. Just click the link in the alert box when you open the Yoast plugin in WordPress.
Yoast SEO can also prevent specific pages or posts from being included in the sitemap at the post and page level. This is particularly useful if you have several websites and they all have the same ‘Terms and Conditions’ page which you probably don’t want to be indexed.
When you have a page or post open simply scroll down to the Yoast SEO section to find the settings for this.
Once you’ve created your sitemap, ensure you submit it directly to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Social Meta Data
Getting exposure from social media is great when building a brand, but it’s also really useful for SEO. Social media is one of the easiest ways to get your content in front of other content creators, who with a little luck will link to your content if they like it.
Social metadata simply improves your chances of being seen by giving you more space in someone’s feed. There are two main types you need to think about: Facebook Open Graph metadata and Twitter Card metadata. Once implemented, they both show a featured image and description of the link that you’re sharing.
The good news is with Yoast, they’re really simple to set up.
Step 1 – Fill in your social account details
Search engines may use social signals for a whole host of reasons, from checking that your name, address and phone number is consistent through to an indication of brand activity and relevancy of your brand. With this in mind, it’s wise to set up your social profiles so they are integrated into your website, both visually for users and in the <head> using Open Graph data.
Step 2 – Ensure Open Graph meta data is enabled
Step 3 – Enable and setup Twitter Cards
Pretty simple right? Much easier than getting a developer to implement it for you, you can update all of the social metadata right on your page or post. Just look for the Yoast SEO box and click the social network icon.
You can then fill in all the relevant fields if you want to overwrite them, by default it will use the same information as the title tag of your page and meta description along with the featured image on the blog post.
Title Tags And Meta Data
By default, WordPress displays the <title> element in the head as the name of your site followed by the post name. This isn’t intuitive for SEO since the most important information should be at the start of the title followed by any branding. For example, ‘Daily Collagen Routine | XYZ Smart Collagen’ is a better title than ‘XYZ Smart Collagen | Daily Collagen Routine’ for a page that focuses on the best routine for a collagen product.
This can be configured using Yoast in the menu SEO > Titles and Metas > Post Types. You’ll probably notice that the format is something like: ‘XYZ Smart Collagen %%sep%% %%title%%’ which you simply need to reverse so that the brand name is at the end. A quick fix now will save the need for many manual changes in the future. If you’re using taxonomies such as categories and tags, then it’s also worth configuring these at this point to ensure you follow a similar format.
This is one of the more advanced features of Yoast, so if you’re not a developer, implementing Yoast Breadcrumbs is something best outsourced as it requires the following additions to your WordPress theme where you want them to appear:
Breadcrumbs are a really handy feature that visually displays your site structure on the page and provide links back through site structure. Once you’ve implemented the code above you simply need to go to SEO → Search Appearance → Breadcrumbs and enable the breadcrumbs. In many cases, breadcrumbs can also display in the Google results page and look something like this:
As breadcrumbs are a really useful internal navigation and linking tool we recommend that you display them above your post title on every single blog post, on the CrazyBulk blog it looks a little like this:
If you’re not comfortable coding then the best option to set up Google Analytics is the MonsterInsights plugin, a plugin formerly owned by Yoast.
Google Analytics Setup
This is a very similar setup to Google Search Console. First, you’ll need to install the plugin ‘Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights’ you can do this either by the WordPress plugin repository or by manually downloading the plugin here.
Once this is done and the plugin is activated, login using the Google account you used for Google Search Console at https://analytics.google.com/. You’ll then be prompted to add a property (website) to analytics.
Just follow the setup guide and then click the blue get tracking ID button. Return to the MonsterInsights plugin and click on the ‘click here to authenticate manually’ text link. You can then copy and paste your tracking ID (the blurred out bit of the image below) into the box to complete setup.
This code simply needs entering in the text field that displays once you press the text link.
That’s it. You’re set up and Google analytics will start to record the visitors of your website.
MonsterInsights makes a lot of the more advanced features of Google Analytics simple. With this in mind, it’s often worth purchasing a premium license, especially for affiliates who want to track link clicks.
Tracking your affiliate links allows you to gather all the information you need to make more money online. It will help you identify the visitors to your website that bring you sales and help you discover which pages to optimize to get the most out of your affiliate marketing websites.
A comprehensive guide to tracking affiliate links can be found on the MonsterInsights blog here.
Really Simple SSL Plugin
We’re getting to a point where HTTPS is the standard on the web, with 89% of Chrome traffic on Android being to HTTPS sites in October 2018 compared to 73% a year before. Google has confirmed that it is a ranking factor, so if you’re setting up a new website there really isn’t an excuse to get a free SSL certificate and a HTTPS website.
Setting up HTTPS is really simple. The first thing you need to do is set up an SSL certificate. If you followed our previous advice on hosting providers then you can follow their guides to get your certificate:
- WP Engine – How to setup Lets Encrypt SSL Certificates.
- WPX Hosting – Guide to free SSL certificates.
The process is relatively quick and simple – a lot less painful than setting up SSL certificates used to be. Just follow the guides and you’ll be done in no time.
Once you’ve done this you’ll want to Install and activate the Really Simple SSL plugin. After that, it’s a simple job and SSL is enabled for your website.
Simply put HSTS makes your browser force all visits to your website via HTTPS. This is one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of setting up a secure website. It prevents hacking and session hijacking on insecure networks.
Most importantly, it helps Google to know to treat any links to your HTTP site as being to HTTPS. There isn’t much proof of this other than previous experience which has shown that migrations from HTTP to HTTPS are more successful where HSTS has been implemented.
The easiest way to setup HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) is to upgrade to the Really Simple SSL Pro plugin which as of October 2018 costs $26 per website. Once you’ve enabled the option in the plugin all you need to do is go to hstspreload.org and submit your domain in the box at the top of the website.
There you go a secure website, with some potential SEO benefits too.
All In One Schema Plugin
This plugin handles all things schema for your website. What does this mean? Well, schema.org is a format of structured data that helps to add additional data or context to your web page’s content. This covers everything from making it clear to Google parts of your content that are a review and refer to star ratings, through to who the author is for your blog post.
Once you’ve installed the plugin you can configure it at a page level for the following types of schemas:
- Software Application
The most useful of these for affiliates will be the review and people schemas. The review schema should be used if you’re reviewing a product and want to provide a star rating, whilst the people schema can be used to show who the author is for your blog posts.
Site Speed Plugins
The final type of plugins that you can’t set up an SEO friendly website without are speed plugins. Site speed is a vital element of search engine optimization. More and more website users are primarily browsing on mobile devices and are demanding a faster web experience. Google has responded to this so slow sites now rank worse than sites that load in less than 2 seconds.
We’ll take a look at the three important aspects of speed optimization that are easily handled with plugins.
If you’re using WP Engine then you don’t need to worry about this, they manage caching for you and they do it automatically thanks to their in-house EverCache system. It’s damn fast too!
If you’re using another provider such as WPX Hosting then you’ll want to set up W3 Total Cache, fortunately, they have a guide that will massively help and provide all of the settings you need to make it work almost out of the box.
Content Delivery Network
Once again WP Engine makes it simple to set up a CDN through their partner MAX CDN. You can enable it in your WP Engine control panel, just follow their instructions at the bottom of this page.
WPX Hosting recommends that you use the W3 Total Cache plugin to set up your CDN and provide a guide for setting up Amazon CloudFront CDN on WPX. I couldn’t find any guides for other CDN providers so even though they never say it I would bet that they prefer CloudFront.
It’s interesting to note that as of October 2018 SimilarTech is showing an increase in adoption of Amazon CloudFront and a decline in MaxCDN usage. This may not reflect their performance but I personally prefer to use the most adopted services as the support tends to be much better.
When it comes to image optimization there are a lot of different plugins available. Personally, I would recommend WP Smush which is a great plugin supported by the team at WPMU DEV. They also provide a pro version that further optimizes your images for even greater speed improvements.
Simply set up this plugin before you upload any images and it’ll automatically optimize your images to keep their file size as small as possible. You can also manually improve the file sizes of your images by ensuring they’re only saved at the quality and dimensions that they’re actually needed for your website.
So you have a WordPress site all setup that is capable of ranking, but what to write about? Well, this is where content marketing comes in and ensuring you publish great fresh content on a regular basis. I highly recommend that you read up on content marketing and keep up to date with any new developments, as it’s a core skill for affiliate marketing with organic traffic as your main traffic source.
We’re going to quickly cover what you should write about then dive into how you upload that to WordPress and what you should do to optimize it for Google search engine.
It’s important that before you even start any keyword research, you have a good understanding of your subject area. This means reading other websites, (probably a lot of other websites), especially if you’re promoting a new product. Getting familiar with your new found niche helps you to understand what people could be searching for. Before you start any keyword research ask yourself:
- Why are people searching in this niche?
- What are the pain points of someone who would likely use this product?
- What would they search for to find out more information?
- What information do I need to give them to solve these problems thoroughly?
If you can’t answer these questions then do some more reading! Even if someone handed you the perfect keyword list it’s very unlikely that you would produce content that ranks well unless you can answer these questions. The greater your understanding of a topic the better starting point you have for keyword research.
Ahrefs Basic Keyword Research
This type of keyword research presumes two things:
- You have a subscription to Ahrefs, (trust me you want it)
- You know something about your chosen Niche
For example, for PhenQ you could start with the fact that it’s a ‘weight loss pill’ and that it’s similar to the prescription pill ‘Phentermine’. This really basic knowledge is a reasonable starting point for some related keyword research. What follows is the process you would use to take these terms, which I’ll refer to as seed keywords, to generate a full keyword list.
Log in and go to keywords explorer
To start, login to Ahrefs and click on ‘keywords explorer’ so that you’re using the correct tool.
Enter a seed keyword
The next step is to enter a seed keyword, I advise doing this one at a time as you’ll gather a lot more related keywords this way. Enter the term in the box and change the country in the drop-down to your target market. Most product’s largest market is in the US, so if in doubt default to the US.
Then simply click the search button and wait, you’re gathering a lot of data so don’t be surprised if you have a long load time.
The seed keyword overview
So, after your patient waiting you’ll be presented with this screen, below we’ll explain the key features.
The keyword difficulty shows the overall difficulty for the seed keyword. As you can see its 43 for ‘Phentermine’ on a scale of 1 to 100. It should be no surprise that this would be very difficult to rank for with a brand new website, so let’s take a look at the keyword ideas section to find some more attainable search terms for a relatively new affiliate site.
Straight away you will notice 4 headers:
- Having same terms – These are all the search terms that contain the seed keyword.
- Also rank for – This looks at the top 10 pages that rank for the seed keyword and takes a look at what other keywords the page ranks for.
- Search suggestions – Start typing your seed keyword in and this is what Google autosuggest would provide.
- Newly discovered – Ahrefs adds new keywords all the time that it discovers. Anything in this category is new. It’s perhaps the least used section in the report.
We’ll take a look at each of these sections in turn and discuss them further. As you go through this process you can export each section’s data in turn.
Having same terms
When you click ‘View all’ under the ‘having same terms’ column, it will display the following report:
This is a great starting point rather than targeting Phentermine. You can see that ‘Phentermine reviews’ has 4,800 monthly search volume but a much lower competition rating of 13. Some other terms such as ‘Phentermine 37.5’ could be seed keywords in themselves and entered in the tool again.
At this point, you can hit the export button in the top right-hand corner of this report to export all of the data. This is vital as you can take a bunch of different reports from Ahrefs and make a single master keyword list to decide what to target.
Bits of the report that are useful:
- KD (Keyword difficulty) – This is a scale between 1 and 100 of how hard it is to rank for the keyword. This is the most accurate estimation of any available tool, but it is based solely on links.
- Volume – This is the monthly search volume for the selected region.
- Parent topic – Clicking this link can help you find more related keywords. It’s another form of seed keyword.
Also rank for
To me, this is the most important keywords report that Ahrefs can provide. As content becomes more and more comprehensive, it’s natural that pages rank for more keywords. Often you’ll find that a generic article will rank well for a big term, but not quite as well for long tail variants. This is often because it only provides a general overview and doesn’t go into specific detail. This means with more specific long tail search terms, there’s plenty of room to create content.
Making content that answers more specific user questions is great because it’s much easier to rank when you answer a specific question. The better your content resolves the user’s query, the less likely they are to return to search, and over time you’ll naturally see your site drift to the top of rankings.
As you can see from the above example in related keywords for ‘Phentermine’, the term ‘Adipex’ was found. This isn’t surprising as it’s the most popular brand name for Phentermine. In addition, you’ll notice that it has a search volume of 35,000, but only 26 competition – much lower than the general Phentermine search term.
This could take your whole keyword research in a different angle finding lower competition search terms. Take the time to understand how search terms relate to your initial seed keyword. Expand your keyword research as you learn more and just as before keep exporting keywords as you go.
One final point from the above example is that this report also raises a red flag, the search term ‘Phentermine online’ has competition 90, so I would avoid it completely.
This report simply speeds up the process of manually typing into Google to see keyword suggestions. Every single suggestion from your seed keyword is pulled off into this report and you get search volumes and keyword difficulties like below.
Once again, export the whole lot and add it to a single master spreadsheet. You need to keep repeating this process for all your seed keywords.
A quick related keyword research summary
Let’s make it simple, follow this process and tick it off as you go:
- Pick a couple of seed keywords using common sense based on the product you want to promote.
- Enter these seed keywords into the keyword explorer one by one and export the keywords from ‘Having same terms’, ‘Also rank for’ and ‘Search Suggestions’ reports.
- Research any ‘Also rank for’ keywords that you aren’t sure how they relate to your seed keyword. Where relevant use them as new seed keywords to expand research.
- Any high volume/low competition terms should also become seed keywords used to expand your research.
- If you’ve spent less than half a day doing keyword research then you haven’t expanded enough. Decide on more seed keywords using low competition terms that you think have potential to bring traffic.
If you’re starting a new site I would recommend that you do your keyword research before you even choose a domain name.
The more time you invest into keyword research upfront, the greater chance you have for success, it helps you to create a longer-term content strategy for your site and can help to determine things such as what’s going to be on your sites top navigation.
How To Upload Your First Post
Before you can optimize your blog posts for the search engines, you first need to publish them live on your website.
- After logging into your WordPress backend, https://myawesomeaffiliatesite.com/wp-admin hover over ‘Posts’ and then click ‘Add New’ in the menu.
- Now add the title of your post where it says ‘Enter title here’
- and paste the main text of your post in the section below.
- As you can see in the screenshot above, when adding your blog post you can alternate between ‘Visual’ and ‘Text’ editor. I always start with the ‘Visual’ editor as I’m not super-technical, but I do know a bit of HTML, so at the end, I always check the ‘Text’ editor too in order to see if I can spot any errors in the code (it doesn’t happen that often).
- If you want to include images in your post, which I recommend in order to get your readers even more engaged and excited about your useful content, then place your cursor where you want the image to appear. Click on ‘Add Media’ and select ‘Upload Files’.
- I recommend compressing the images before uploading them to ensure fast loading times which is very important for SEO. After choosing your image settings, click ‘Insert into post’. After that you will be able to align the image with your content as you can see in the example below, so choose the layout you prefer.
- It depends on your site and layout, but many affiliates categorize their blog posts, as this is good from an SEO perspective. So if you are using categories, go to the right-hand side of your screen and assign your new blog post to the relevant category.
- Below ‘Categories’, you will see a section for tags. These aren’t strictly necessary but are helpful for users if they search for something specific. If you do add tags, always ‘noindex’ tagged pages that are auto-generated by WordPress, as they can sometimes cause duplicate content issues.
Further Words Of Wisdom on Uploading WordPress Blog Posts
1: I always write blog posts for my sites in Microsoft Word or Google Docs first and then copy the content over to WordPress once I think the content is good enough to be published. That’s simply because I prefer keeping an original copy. You can, of course, also write your post within WordPress and save it as a draft if the content is not ready to be published.
2: When writing your blog posts, always use subheadings to improve the readability of your post. Use keyword rich titles that describe the upcoming section, since people often like to scan through a post before reading the whole content. By doing this, you will improve the user experience massively.
3: If you have copied over links, it’s always worth double-checking them as broken links may impact on search engine rankings and are annoying for the user. If you add them manually, simply use the ‘add link’ option as highlighted in the screenshot below, and remember that these links (both internal and external ones) should be relevant to your blog post.
4: Visual content is key so I always add a featured image to my blog posts. By placing the image at the top right or left of your blog post, you can gain the attention of the reader. The featured image forces the first few lines of your blog post to shorten in width and this actually has a psychological effect. Researchers Bruijn et al. and Dyson/Haselgrove have proven that fewer characters mean readers think the text is less complex and easier to understand. They’ve also found that readers comprehend shorter line lengths much better than longer ones.
Once all of the above is done, scroll back up to the top right section that says ‘Publish’. Here you can also choose ‘Preview’ to make sure everything looks good before optimizing and publishing it.
At this point, we’re ready to optimize your blog post – so let’s do it!
Optimizing Your First Post
Ok, now it’s time to optimize your post in order to achieve the best return on investment. After following this guide a few times, your optimization skills will become second nature – mark my words!
- Okay, let’s assume that you are still on the ‘Edit Post’ page. Scroll down until you see ‘Yoast SEO’.
If you can’t see it, please make sure that you have installed the correct Yoast plugin. Another reason may be due to your screen option settings. If you want to check them, scroll up and ensure ‘Yoast SEO’ is ticked.
- The Snippet preview is great as it lets you see what your title and meta description will look like in the SERPs, so you can make sure all the important points are covered and nothing is being cut off. If you want to amend what you see, click on ‘Edit Snippet’ and enter your title under ‘SEO title’. I recommend that you always include your main keyword at the beginning and make sure it’s between 40 and 65 characters in length.
- Next on the list is the Meta description. I also recommend including your main keyword here if it flows well with your content. A good meta description is important for your potential buyers/readers since it will encourage them to click through to your full blog post. So make your description as appealing as possible – readers need to see at a glance why they should click on your blog post and not a competitor’s one. Rule of thumb here: always stay around 150 characters.
- The Slug field allows you to edit the URL of your blog post. WordPress does add the title of your blog post by default which is a good way to go, but if you want to alter it, this is the place to do it.
4 tips for URL optimization:
- Keep your URL short
- Include your keyword if possible
- Ensure it’s easy to read
- Your URL should make it obvious what your blog post is about
- Below the snippet preview, you can see a section called Focus keyword. When setting your focus keyword, always remember to go with the main keyword you want to target, because you are only able to set one focus keyword per blog post.
- The next section is Page analysis. Here you get some specific feedback on how search engine friendly your blog post currently is. The Yoast SEO plugin will tell you if you are using your main keyword sufficiently, or even too much (refrain from keyword stuffing to avoid penalties), whether you have images or outbound links, if your content is too short or if you have used the focus keyword before, and much more.
- Remember the red, orange and green buttons are not the end of the world, they are simply recommendations. In my experience ignoring these is best practice or you’ll get into the bad habit of writing over-optimized content.
- Also, keep in mind that the Yoast plugin is not 100 percent perfect – remember that it’s taking an extremely objective look at your blog post content. Ultimately you are writing content for humans and not for the search engines, so if you feel that Yoast SEO has picked up on something that does not feel right to you – follow your gut instinct and do what’s best for your readers. For example, if Yoast recommends adding your focus keyword at the beginning of your title, but you can’t find a natural way to include it – then leave it as it is.
- Below the content optimization icon is the Share icon. This feature allows you to amend the default metadata (title, description and image) that social channels such as Facebook automatically display. So if you wish to amend them (for example, you want to test a different image for a different target audience or add an even better description more targeted for the social audience), then this is the place to do it. Make sure that your post is eye-catching and will stand out from the rest when someone does share your content.
- The next tab is for Advanced optimization. Here you can amend settings for meta robots, breadcrumbs titles and canonical URLs. These are set to default site-wide which generally works really well, but you can overwrite settings for your blog post here if you wish.
As this is a comprehensive guide, I will explain what each setting is for, even though you may not need to use them:
- Meta Robots Index – This lets you decide whether the post or page should be indexed by the search engines or not.
- Meta Robots Follow – Here you can set a ‘follow’ or ‘nofollow’ rule for all links on the page.
- Meta Robots Advanced – Four meta tags you will probably never use.
- Breadcrumbs Title – You can change the title used for this content inside your breadcrumbs (if active)
- Canonical URL – This feature is very useful if you are reposting content that has already appeared on the internet. Instead of risking a penalty for duplicate content, you can tell the search engine where the original article is posted.
Further Words of Wisdom on Optimizing WordPress Blog Posts
A collection of other advice on optimizing WordPress blog posts to help you on your way to SEO success:
1: Another important element to optimize is the header tag (<h1> tag) which is vital for telling search engines what your blog post is about. In most cases, your blog title will automatically be the <h1> tag. Make sure that your <h1> tags are unique and that you have only one per page.
2: So simple and yet so many affiliates forget about that beautiful alt tag for images. Ensure that your alt tags always describe the image. So if you write a blog post about ‘5 Ways To Become Healthy’ and add an image of a woman eating a salad, the ideal alt tag would be, “Woman eating salad”. You can add alt tags using the Visual or Text editor. Just follow these instructions:
- Visual Editor: Click on the image you want to add alt text to and click on the ‘Edit’ icon. Add your alt text in the ‘Alternative Text’ field and then click ‘Update’.
- Text Editor: Just add the alt code inside the image tag. It should look something like this: <img src=”http://www.myawesomeaffiliatesite.com/images/1″ alt=”add your description here”>
3: Internal links within your blog post are another essential SEO element. They supply your audience with further reading options and also help to spread link juice around. It’s important that the internal links in your post are relevant to your topic. Use descriptive keywords in the anchor text that give information about the topic or the same keywords that the source page is implementing. I suggest adding three to four in a blog post of around 1,500 words or longer as long as they’re relevant. Also, don’t be frightened to add good external links.
4: Calls-To-Action are very important for affiliates, to ensure that your blog post has at least one or two. CTAs such as, ‘Read Our Detailed Review Here’, ‘Find Out More’, ‘Sign Up For Our Newsletter’ etc., are necessary to ensure that people know what to do next. Rui, our conversion specialist, wrote a great article, “Where Should You Place Your CTA?” which I highly recommend that you read.
After following the steps above, make sure you double-check everything again before clicking the ‘Publish’ button. However, if you do find afterwards that something needs changing or doesn’t look right, simply go back to the editor, make your amends and click ‘Update’.
First things first, if you’ve managed to read this in a single sitting congratulations! Go make yourself a well-deserved cup of tea. Hopefully, you’ll now have some great ideas for creating a WordPress website and optimizing it in Google search.
If you’re interested in affiliate marketing or promoting any of our products then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here at MoreNiche, we believe in supporting and working closely with our affiliates. If you choose to work with us then you can get access to expert affiliate managers and our SEO team for ongoing support and advice.