On October 13th 2022, I was asked to present at the Newcastle WordPress meet-up. My talk focused on one aspect of WordPress SEO that isn’t usually covered – User First SEO.
The transcript of the presentation is below, just under the video recording from the evening. The event was both in-person and virtual, with most attendees being virtual.
I will be covering what I think is the missing piece of SEO for WordPress. SEO is a massive subject, and I could probably do 20 presentations on WordPress and SEO, if not more, but I’m going to look at one SEO aspect of it tonight.
A bit about me first, I’m a graphic designer of 30 years. I’ve been designing and building websites since the late 90s. And using WordPress since 2010.
I’ve attended quite a few national WordPress events as well as those in Newcastle. This includes WordCamp London, WordCamp Manchester, and WordCamp Edinburgh. I also run a design agency as well as delivering WordPress training.
I’ve worked with many blue-chip companies over the years. Lots of design experience, and we are currently focusing on international Life Science websites.
A lot of what I’m going to be talking about is based on real-world experience. We deliver SEO for many of our clients.
I delivered a WordPress SEO presentation back then in 2017. Covering getting the basics right first. And that was a very broad SEO presentation, which covered lots of different SEO topics. And that’s available to view here.
One aspect in particular. And I’m not going to be talking about technical WordPress SEO, which is very important.
What I’m going to focus on is the other aspects of SEO beyond the technical; you do need to have all the technical aspects in place first. And I’ll have to do a talk on that if people want it. But I’m going to presume on this presentation that you’ve got all your technical WordPress SEO in place, and you know what you do with that?
I’ve seen many talks on SEO, and WordPress, SEO, see many presentations on it. And what I’ve found is people usually talk about a good plugin for WordPress, putting on Yoast or one of those other free SEO Plugins mentioned there.
They’re covering just one tiny part of what SEO is. And second, look that a plugin or whatever plugin you choose to do SEO is one part of it. But that’s only a small section of the story.What are you going to put in the plugin?
I deliver a lot of WordPress training. One of the questions I get asked a lot is, well, I’ve got Yoast. I’ve got an SEO plugin I haven’t really done much with it. I don’t quite know what to do with it. How does that affect my website?
What should I do?
This is this aspect of SEO just covers one part of it, which is the search results. When you populate that part of Yoast SEO, it populates these search snippets and the search results page.You’ve got the link to the site. The title tag in the description. But why is that important?
Why? What do we put in there?
Do we need to put something in there?
How does that impact?
The search results?
Why do an SEO?
Do you need to get high on Google? How can we impact that?
I call it User First SEO
We spend a lot of time as web developers, thinking about Google’s algorithms, the sitemaps, and linking all those aspects, but you can lose sight of wide in that. And that’s really is we’re trying to reach out to people we’re trying to tell humans what we do, why we do it. And really, that’s, that’s one of the aspects I want to focus on tonight’s talk.
With user first, SEO, again, I’m going to simplify it down; I’m going to talk about three things, three questions that we need to be asking when we’re looking at that.
As a business, maybe even as a blogger as well, if you’ve got a WordPress site, you potentially running a business or you’re blogging, and you want to reach you, and you want your voice and your message to get to as many people as possible.
Who are you trying to reach? Secondly, what are their problems? What what are they typing into the search?
What are they trying to solve? What are they looking for?
But then thirdly, how are they talking about it? What are they? What words are they using for that? We’re gonna look at each one of these in turn. And what I’m going to do as the presentation goes on, I picked a, a subject to focus on.
I picked on bookkeeping, I don’t know why it seemed like a good example. Everyone knows what bookkeeping is in terms of their accounts. And you know, it’s quite a good subject to focus on and use that as an example. I’ve used bookkeeping. Who is your market?
I’m going to think about the demographics, their educational background, where they are, and what they’re doing?
And also, perhaps, what type of business they are.
There could be a startup. And they need certain things that could be an established or growing business looking for some bookkeeping, high growth or enterprise.
Who are they? Really, when you look at who your market is the demographics, you’re looking at things like the, you know, the male, female? Is it a male, female-orientated certain situation?Or is it kind of gender-neutral? How old are they?
Does that impact the type of content that you’re going to create? You know, what’s the profession? What do they do, and then, education or kind of tone of voice, to different people, absolutely different reading experiences, when they land on your site, so that they are going to read things in a different way.
That could be quite formal, academic, you know, the serious thing that we’re looking at finding really your content, or your site needs to reflect that. Or it could be content where that, you know, it’s quite light-hearted. And, you know, quite gentle.
Really, yeah, those are the I’m not going to keep reading them out. But those are the aspects there. What’s their tone of voice? What level of professionalism are they looking for?Where are they geography? Are they local? Is it local SEO?
Do you need to use related keywords in that area? Or if it’s an international audience, you know, they might use different terminology for different things, different phrases, there might be grammatical differences as well.
Thinking about all those aspects on where they are, where they’re located when you’re thinking about the users to your website. Do you think you need to think about very specific location-based content on the site?
Where are they? And then their background responsibilities? Iif it’s an E-commerce site that you’ve got, or, you know, sign a specific service for people searching for that service, might not be the end user that might be buying that on behalf of someone else?
Or it could be a procurement department. They’re looking for something for a colleague or a friend that could be a gift. Thinking about who’s searching, They might not be the person that’s going to use the end product or service. Taking into account who they are, do need to educate them about what the end product is.
If it’s a procurement department, they might not be using that piece of equipment. But they might need to understand why that piece of equipment important. They’re thinking about their background. And then what are their problems?
Going back to the bookkeeping example.
They are if you’re a startup, they’re going to kind of be lacking some information. They might need different types of content to educate them. If they’re growing business, how, you know, how can those bookkeeping or accounting services help them move forward?
If they’re a high growth, they might attach to things really quickly. And if they’re an enterprise, you know, they’re going to need to understand that you’ve got a large team to help them. What are their problems? And how can the content and the SEO that you do help them? Find the answers to those problems. And then, thirdly, how are they talking about it?
Not what terminology are they using? It might be, they might use different phrases than what you think they’re using. They might use industry-specific terms that you need to include, or they might not know the industry-specific terms. Just thinking about that and taking that into account.
And where’s their community where they hang out? That could be a good source of finding out how they describe things, and how they talk about their problems. Yeah, struggling with defining if it’s safe, it’s a piece of equipment for a business, or do they need a service, but they’ve got a problem, and they don’t want to know what service is going to help them with that. Think about that as well.Perhaps who do they look for, for advice that can be a good source of understanding how to give you the authority and the trust that they’re looking for?
Here’s that person or that organisation that they’re looking for trusted advice? Yeah, have a look at what they’re saying and how they’re helping, their community. That’s useful as well.
Once you kind of looked at all of that you can clearly define, you can understand who you’re trying to talk to, because that’s what we’re trying to do with the websites we’re trying to reach people talk to them.
Instead of this person who you think, either know who they are, or you’ve got, you know, perhaps some preconceived ideas, we kind of roughly know, but really, you want to identify exactly who they are. And it could be, you might find out, but it’s actually several types of people.
That one thing that you’re talking about your selling or wanting to promote that there might be a range of people that you need to reach out to of all different demographics, and locations. So there could be a few.
Thinking about those types of people, how do you then incorporate them onto your website?
For example, again, going back to the bookkeeping, bookkeeping example, a startup business might have one consumer profile, and the established one a different one.
And as you can see there, you know, different people, situations, and needs. Once you’ve all that together, you can formulate an audience profile. This is an example of one of us. And that would define the demographics, how they might find your website, what terminology you might use, what do they look like, you know, putting a face to that it’s always really, really helpful.
And you might have a few of these. Putting that audience profile together gives you a lot of already referenced to keep referring back to when you work on website content when you’re creating it.
You’re thinking all the time, who am I talking to here? Who do I need to inform? And I say there could be several of these.
You might have several audience profiles to help you put that SEO strategy together. Once we’ve got that audience profile, or a variety of audience profiles, because very often it isn’t one, it’s several. You can then create what we call we call it a tone of voice.
We’ll put together a guide that ensures that our tone of voice reflects the tone of voice of the people we’re trying to talk to. And we’ll put together that guide. And it could have, again, a range of different voices throughout that. But again, it’s having that guide to hand.
Particularly if you’re, if you’ve got a team and you’ve got colleagues you want to share with when you’re putting the project together, or putting content together, or even an external service, then you’ve got that guide, and everyone’s on the same page.
Once you’ve got the personas, you can create content or individual service or product pages for each audience type.
Instead of having one generic page, you could break that down into several pieces of content that talks to those individuals in a very specific and tailored way to really answer their problems because the startup looking for a bookkeeper is going to want very different things to high growth, enterprise business.
Really, if they landed on the same page, and seen a very generic message, it’s not really going to resonate with them, it’s not going to convince them that you’re the right, perhaps the right person to speak to.
But if they land on a page, that really describes it, and understand what they’re looking for, that’s much more appealing, or much more engaging for them.
To think about his imagery. Again, it’s great for visitors to see images that reflect who they are, aware of what they’re doing, and what their problems are.
Doesn’t have to be photography, it could be graphics, could be illustrations, but really, it needs to be in keeping with it. You know, what they’re expecting to see on the site when they get there. And also the content that you create. It can support those questions.
When you sit down with your audience to research, you’ll get an understanding of what’s what are they looking for, and what are their problems. And then, as well as your top-level pages, you can create lots of supporting content to really support the helping them understand that you know, what they are, what their problems are and how you can help. Also, there’s been a recent update on Google.
I know Google updates everything all the time. But this is just one that I wanted to highlight, which kind of supports the user first SEO strategy. And this was, this was called a helpful content update. What Google is trying to do is make sure that the search results present the most helpful information to that to that searcher.
In order to present the most helpful content, it’s going to start to evaluate sites in a slightly different way to make sure that it’s producing the best search results, it might be worth looking at the reason that there’s a link there. Just to kind of better understand what Google’s doing.
What’s Google looking for? So yes, it’s not going to present the best content. I know there’s a lot of talk at the moment about AI. artificially generated content. But really, the best content is going to be written by people for people. And that’s going to be assessed by the quality of the content, experience, and user experience. What does that mean for your website? content?
As well, as Google assessing best your visitors is going to assess this as well. The quality of content is around, does it? Does it speak to these audiences?
Does it resonate with them? Does the imagery mirror the audience? You know, are you incorporating the words and phrases that they’re using? A startup business, we probably use different phrases to establish business. And is that is is that reflected on the site?
Again, that that quote there from Google is definitely read the content, will the visitor then leave and think I have achieved what I needed to hear this, this has been really valuable?
Then the experience, user experiences, you know, massive impacts on science, if you can find what you need quickly. When people land on a site, they very often want to find what they need straight away. Can they find that instantly?
Can they navigate around the site? Well, and this can link back to you know what type of user it is. If they’re, if they’re in procurement, they might be looking for certain phrases and might find it a navigation but then if they’re an end user, they might use different phrases.
Navigate around and find what they need. And donate do they get that you understand their problems and how you can help them and really, is it is it a really nice experience? Hopefully they haven’t gone on the site and got away frustrated that they can’t find what they need. It’s hard to know gait?
It’s not a great experience, they will they leave, feeling that they’ve had a really great experience.And then they use profiles, why do they matter?
Really, we use the audience profiles to put together what we call the searcher intent. It’s just journey, really are different stages of those different audiences, though, they’ll be searching for different things.
We create content around the searcher intent. And the sports for stage as indicated there.
What you know, what are they? What’s that journey, when they’re researching what they’re looking for? From being, you know, well aware of what they need to to bind something. You’ve got different types of keywords there. Early on, they might be looking for information. What I need to do this, how do I how do I solve that?
With bookkeeping, it could be well, you know, I need to keep all my paperwork in order. But I don’t know how to do that. Who do I need to do that? They might not even know that they need a bookkeeper. Then after they’ve done that search, yeah, they might then think I need to find a specific site about bookkeeping. You know, what, what does that involve? How do I how does it integrate into my business?
Do I need to outsource it? Do I need to learn it? What you know, what’s that going to look like? Then they might become aware of your business. Then they’re going to look for different brands that could deliver that. It could be different accountants, different bookkeepers, you know, they’re gonna search for different ones.
And then eventually, they’ll, you know, they’ll pick they’ll pick a company or go with make the purchase. That’s just a very fast read through it. But searchers journey, searchers, intent, and really, all that profiling that you’ve done beforehand, helps you to really map out the phrases that they’re going to use. How does that how can we put that together?
Since lots of elements on the website, where you can incorporate all this, I’m gonna just briefly look at titles and headings, but there’s your body copy, there’s obviously the meta description and meta tag, there’s different areas on your site. But if we just take the heading.
Mr. David Ogilvy, very famous Advertising man. He said, If your headlines don’t sell, then you’ve not really engaged them. It’s not really brought them in.I was just gonna touch on headlines, how can you make those headlines SEO relevant?
Whether it’s on the page or on that search results? How can you make them as relevant and as impactful as possible? For example, you could have a heading that just says bookkeeping services, but why not actually create a range of headings or a range of pages that really speaks to more of those audiences?
And that really tells them, you know, answers their questions. A startup is potentially they’re looking for something of a low cost, some cost effective, because we’re just starting out this want to get going. And so that top headline there reflects that as you go down. Yeah, by the high growth. What are those things? Well, there’s essential things I need to really kind of pair up what I’m doing.
And then if I’m an enterprise business, really, I want a team. You can see how we’ve taken that just that one phrase, bookkeeping services, and actually made it really relevant to each of those audiences. We have one site, three pages with those headlines, which really speaks to the pain points they’ve got.
If you take that as a, as a process or as a structure, he began to build that into your body copy into pull quotes, meta tags, you know, whatever you need, but it’s making it relevant to that visitor.
You can see here how, you know, those, those headings, those headlines, those titles, then fit with each of those audiences. It’s all about balance. It’s about balancing the technical, which I haven’t covered tonight, which is briefly covered in my other presentation from 2017. But also the human side of SEO, those people who try and talk to you do need both you can’t have one without the other.
Just getting that balance there’s a bit of recommended reading their books that might be interesting if you’re if you’re looking to fine tune what you do for audiences. I am cleansed. Let’s make any questions at the end.
Two aspects to that, I think, yes, it’s there’s probably another presentation. In about half an hour, tonight, and I really wanted to focus on one aspect, which is really important. I could do another presentation on keywords, they are important, but actually, the this audience research that you would do all that profiling will provide you with the keywords that you need, just by default by writing about the things that they need, the things that they’re looking for.
Understanding that that searchers journey, it will give you the keywords that you need. Without you’re trying to guess or in a set, it’s kind of understand without any research, what phrases they’re likely to put in, if you do that research first and understand the audience of this gonna give you a really good keyword list.
Because you’ve got different audiences, they’re gonna use different phrases. A startup might use one set of keywords or phrase or terminology, an enterprise level business might use a different set of keywords and phrases and terminology.
I would map out your target keyword list each of those audiences. And then you should naturally blend it into the writing with those headlines that I had the perfect keywords in there. But I’m not second guessing or forcing it. It’s natural, natural reading natural understanding. By default, yes. You can have the right keywords.
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t be a slave to use traffic light system. Volunteer that myself. Guys, well, all of them would have some kind of grading system for your content. It’s a really good guide. But you got to be painstaking about the reader first. Yeah. And Google’s algorithm is incredibly sophisticated. It’s no longer just looking for keywords; it’s looking for topics. Just looking for topic-based information that is really helpful is that eat up thing is expertise, authority and trust.
Even if a page doesn’t have an exact match keyword, but it’s highly visited, is highly relevant. It will present that above a page that’s got the keyword in but isn’t as relevant or as long as well trusted.
Think of topics, and then you will reach a wider audience because you can ask one person what keywords you will ask 100 people what one keyword they will put in for a subject and probably get 100 different answers.
You can’t possibly put every single keyword in, but if your top Pick covers that broader conversation and is answering people’s questions, Google’s likely to present that higher than some page with random keywords that isn’t that helpful or isn’t getting a lot of traffic or knows linking to it. Yeah, I think it’s a blend. Yeah, with SEO, it’s not a science; it’s an art. You’re trying things, and you’re testing
But as I said at the start of the talk, a lot of people talk about the technical and just putting the plugin on, but, let’s talk about the user, the visitor, what they are talking about, what they’re looking forward,
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