You’re an game developer and you’ve built a great mobile game. It’s on iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon App Store. You’ve even got a website but … you just don’t have any visitors. The problem could be your SEO and that’s why we present The Game Developer’s Definitive Guide to WordPress SEO.
Full Disclosure: SEO and WordPress change with great frequency. What works now might not work later. And much like making a game, there are many ways to do something. If you’ve got tips, tricks, updates, better ways, corrections, or modifications to what we’ve presented here, let us know in the comments and we’ll update the article.
If you’re like most indie game developers, you focused your energies and resources on building a great mobile game. Now that it’s done, it’s time to start promoting.
There are a few simple things you can do right now to crank up the SEO results of your WordPress website and bring in some of that sweet, sweet traffic.
Domains, Hosting and Email
Before you begin, let’s get a few basic things out of the way first. If you already have a domain, website and email account, you can skip this part, otherwise you’ll need:
- A Domain Name
- Web Hosting
- Gmail for Business
Domain names are cheap. You can buy one on GoDaddy for as little as $2.99 per year.
Web hosting is also inexpensive at $5 or less per month. If you don’t have huge server demands, you can choose to host your developer site on a service like GoDaddy. Their support is nothing short of fantastic and their automation tools to make it really easy to install WordPress.
Gmail for business will cost you $5 per month for each email address you register. Generic email addresses such as “support”, “info”, “admin”, “webmaster” and the like are free. Gmail for business gives you amazing email hosting that is simple to set up, incredibly reliable, and will sync your mobile, desktop, tablet through the cloud. And a really cool feature is that you get to use your own domain name as your email address instead of the generic @gmail.com
Google Services for Business and Developers
There are a number of advantages in using Gmail for business as a mobile app and game developer. You are given access to Google Docs and the collaboration features, which are handy for internal documentation and communication, and you’re also given access to YouTube, Google +, Webmaster Tools and a host of other great features that come in very handy for promoting your business.
Setting Up WordPress For Search Engine Optimization
Permalinks are human-friendly URLs. Instead of long strings of garbled codes or dates that don’t really mean anything, your page addresses (URLs) are made up from the actual words that form the title of your article or post.
Because the URL is human readable, it’s also search engine readable and as such can be optimized!
Tick the “Post name” radio button and voila. From now on, your page addresses will make sense.
Be sure to test your site. There is a chance, although extremely small, that enabling Permalinks might break your site. If the site breaks, simply switch Permalinks off and get in touch with your hosting company’s tech support team for a little help.
If you’re new to WordPress, Tags will mess your brain up but good. They can be incredibly confusing at first, but super easy to understand once they’ve been explained.
Most of us think of Tags as keywords. And the more keywords, the better. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tags are not keywords and Tags need to be used with great care and thought.
According to WordPress, tags are a way from grouping related pieces of content together. Articles or posts that use the tag “photography” are related because they belong to the “photography” group.
Think of WordPress Tags like the index at the back of a book. An article, page or post that uses the Tag “Wordpress” will be related to all other articles, pages or posts on your site that use the Tag “Wordpress”. However, if your article is tagged with “wordpress” and another article is tagged with “Wordpress”, the two will not be related because of the difference in capitalization.
You should only use 2-4 words, and these words should be a reflection of the most important details of the article.
NOTE: According to SEO experts, using WordPress Tags is NOT RECOMMENDED and website owners looking to improve their SEO should avoid the use of Tags. The rationale is that linking articles and posts together under common Tags results in “duplicate content“. The major search engines penalize websites for duplicate content.
Categories, like Tags, make it really easy to organize your content for your visitors. For example, let’s say you want to create a Parent Category titled “Colors of Crayons”. You might be inclined to create sub-categories for each color, Red, Blue, Green, etc.
Unfortunately, linking your content to multiple categories results in your articles and posts being penalized by the major search engines as duplicate content.
Using the Colors of Crayons example, you really only need each color category and not the parent. Use as few categories as possible and avoid placing your articles or posts into multiple categories.
Just like the WordPress SEO Definitive Guide for Developers, you’ll need to post some of your own great content. Great content means articles, posts and pages that are unique, original, interesting and fun to read. They contribute to the on-line community and provide value to your visitors.
There is a lot of controversy about article spinning and writing for search engine optimization. Avoid the easy way out and instead choose to write your own material. It may take a little longer, but you’ll be rewarded by the search engines and social networks for it. Writing the WordPress SEO Definitive Guide for Developers took the better part of a week. It involved a lot of research and experimentation.
As a game developer, your goal is to engage your app users and get them to download from iTunes, Google Play or the Amazon App Store and to encourage them to make in-app purchases. Your articles and posts should be just as engaging and interesting.
Keywords used to be extremely important and they still are. However, according to Google, the days of using keywords within the site meta tags are long over.
Instead, write great content that speaks to real people and think of keywords as a way of staying focused and speaking the niche-based lingo of your audience. What words and phrases do your gamers use? What words and phrases do app fans use? How do mobile and smart device users speak to one another and how do they expect you to speak to them?
Use those words and phrases within your WordPress articles and posts, but do so respectfully. Remember, the goal is to have real people read your articles and they’re not going to respond well if you stuff your content with keywords.
By understanding the lingo of your niche and using it effectively, you’ll attract more visitors, more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, a lot more relevant traffic to boost your downloads.
There are thousands of articles on the web that can explain keywords in much more detail. In the meantime here are a few resources you can use right now to help decide on which keywords to use on your site:
The headlines, or titles of your articles, pages and posts are incredibly important. Nobody is going to read your article if the headlines don’t reach out, grab them and pull them in. And nobody will read your pages if the articles are misleading, not relevant to the content or theme of your site, or don’t make any sense.
A little salesmanship goes a long way. Here are five examples of typical headline structures that work really well:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- How I Made a Fortune with Just Five Dollars
- 10 Ways to Quickly Triple Your Game Downloads
- Who Wants to Make Money by Making Great Games?
- Ten Design Mistakes Every Developer Makes and How to Avoid Them
Avoid writing really long headlines. Google only shows the first 60-70 characters of the headline in search results, the rest is truncated. You can use a free service called LetterCount to count the number of characters in your headlines. Be sure to put the important information, such as primary keywords, up front.
Slugs are “web-friendly” (or URL valid) form of your article title. You’ll notice dashes in between words instead of spaces. The search engines see the slugs, evaluate the keywords for relevancy against the content and rank accordingly.
Stop words are words that provide no information to the search engine or to search engine logic, however are critical in human communication.
It’s best to avoid using stop words in your headlines and especially your slugs. Here’s an example of a headline and its matching slug that contain stop words:
An Article They’ll All Love
The stop words include: an, they’ll and all
A properly formatted SEO friendly headline and slug would look like this:
An Article They’ll All Love
Why is this so important? Right now, when search engines crawl your page they calculating your ranking based on a number of factors including the number of words and the percentage of keywords compared to the number of words.
Stop words dilute or reduce your rankings. Essentially, the stop words add to the total word count without adding value that makes sense to search engine logic. Stop words hurt your relevancy.
Here’s where you can find a list of default English stop words: http://www.ranks.nl/stopwords
Meta Descriptions are short pieces of text that describe the content of the article or post. Search engines not only use the meta description to evaluate relevancy and ranking within a search, but they also display the meta description in the search results to provide visitors with an idea of what your page is all about.
As a developer, it’s critical that you use meta descriptions in your search engine optimization plan. But remember, meta-keywords are no longer used by Google. You can find an explanation of web site meta here.
As a mobile game developer using WordPress, you’ll be disappointed to learn there is no built-in way to add meta descriptions to your pages or posts. You’ll need a plugin. But be careful with the plugin you choose. One of the best plugins for SEO is Yoast SEO Premium. Even though Yoast is fairly easy to use, it does have a bit of a learning curve. There are a number of tutorials on Youtube that demonstrate how best to use Yoast.
Avoid plugins that automatically generate meta descriptions. They’ll fail you almost every time. Instead, you should write the description yourself. The effort is well worth the payout down the road.
You’ve made a fantastic game or app, so why not show it off on your WordPress website? Now is not the time for modesty! Not only do images make for much more interesting and engaging content, but they can greatly help your SEO.
And the beauty is that most webmasters overlook or forget to use images to their SEO advantage! Their mistake is your gain.
If your article references something visual, include a picture. Or if a picture helps describe or demonstrate a concept, use it. Make sure your pictures actually match the content and make sense. It’d be incredibly odd to show a firetruck in an article about bees. Instead, images should reflect the subject, theme or help to illustrate a point.
Additionally, by positioning the image beside related and relevant article text, your SEO ranking greatly improves. Just like people, search engines love pictures.
Re-name your pictures to reflect the content of the picture along with the content of the article and the keywords being used. In our article about bees, a photo named DSC19930.jpg means nothing to humans or search engines. Naming the photo 3 Bees Entering A Nest Full Of Honey.jpg suddenly becomes relevant and searchable.
Here’s a HUGE TIP: Google sees dashes (also known as hyphens or minus signs) between words as a way of identifying separate words. For example: disrupted-logic is seen by Google as two words, disrupted and logic. Google sees underscores between words as a way of indicating the words are joined together to make one word. For example: disrupted_logic is seen by Google as one word, disruptedlogic
When adding an attribute such as a name to a photo, place hyphens between the words to rank faster and higher.
Use WordPress’s caption function to add a human readable short description. The caption is also read by search engines and again boosts your SEO results.
There has also been an interesting study that claims people read image captions 300 times more often than they read the actual article itself. If that holds true, it makes sense to caption your photos to capture your readers.
Alt tags are used to describe the photo when the photo can’t or won’t be displayed. The contents of the Alt tag are displayed in the place of the photo. Again, the search engines read the Alt tags and use this to rank the result based on keywords and relevancy.
And one last image tip. Resize your images in Photoshop (you’re a game developer … you must have Photoshop!) to be load-time friendly. Reduce the width and height of the photo to approximately what you need in your posting and choose Photoshop’s “Save for web” option to export a byte-friendly image of high quality. Search engines will reduce your ranking if your load times are too long compared to sites with similar images and or keywords.
Mobile visitors will thank you for giving them ultra fast load times and keeping their bandwidth down at the same time.
Breadcrumbs are visual trails that make it really easy for visitors to see where they are and how to navigate your site.
They’re also used by search engines to map out your site and find content.
Breadcrumbs can be a matter of design preference. Some webmasters like to use breadcrumbs on their posts, but not on their pages. Breadcrumbs are fantastic for blogging and for helping visitors find content, but for the main content that never changes such as a Privacy Agreement, you can safely turn the breadcrumbs off .
Site Wide Linking
You’ll find a number of links in the footer of the Disrupted Logic pages. These links are always there and they never change, regardless of which page you visit. These types of links are called site wide links.
Search engines frown on site wide linking, so avoid excessive use of them. Do not fill your sidebar with site wide links but instead with useful tools.
Linking to Relevant Content
Linking related content within your own website is a good method to improving your SEO. If you’ve written an article about bees, some of the content might relate to your new article about honey. Search engines see this as valuable and will rank your site higher for its depth. Be careful with over doing it as you may be flagged for being spammy.
Here’s a plugin that can help you link related posts: https://wordpress.org/plugins/contextual-related-posts/
Your website should be about engagement and interactivity. The easiest and fastest way to engage your gaming and app visitors is to turn comments on and ask your viewers to participate. We’d love to hear your comments, suggestions, feedback and tips for improvement for the WordPress SEO Definitive Guide for Developers. Be sure to leave them below.
First, be sure to activate Askimet. It comes with the default installation of WordPress and if it didn’t, you should install it. You can register for an API key at a nominal cost for personal use.
Askimet helps filter out and remove comment spam from your site. It’s an incredibly useful tool.
Moderate your comments serves two purposes: First, it adds another layer of spam control, and second it forces you to reply to and interact with your visitors. It’s also a lot of fun.
Comments both help SEO but can also hurt SEO. So you need to be on top of it. Comments that are not relevant or that do not contain your keywords can reduce your rankings. To keep the rankings up and without deleting or altering the comments that are impacting your SEO, take advantage of the opportunity to link to related articles on your site or respond by using some of the keywords on your page. But be careful as you do not want to risk coming across as spammy or insulting.
Engaging with your audience is fun. Follow their Twitter feeds and like their Facebook pages or other social media sites. It’s especially interesting when they follow back. Not only will you increase your visibility within the community, but you boost your social network rankings as well. It’s also a great way to make new friends and connections from around the world.
As a mobile developer, engaging with your audience will help you get more downloads, increase in-app purchases and greatly improve your games or applications.
Search engines rank you on load speed as well. Be sure that you’re not using heavy templates and or images that take forever to load and that your hosting company’s servers a super peppy. You can also use a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache to help speed up re-visits to your site.
There are many websites that can test and rate the loading speed of your site. One such free service is Pingdom Website Speed Test.
Update November 19, 2018: Alejandra, a fan and friend, has found a free web tool site at Website Planet. They offer a host of simple-to-use tools that will enhance your web development toolkit, including a “site down or not” tool that checks to see if your site is down, down locally, or down globally. The tool can be found at Site Down or Not. Be sure to check out their AMP Validator.
Google Webmasters Tools
If you set up a Gmail for business account, you’ll automatically have access to Google Webmasters Tools. It’s a free service that helps you optimize your site and check the site’s indexing status with the Google search engine. Some say that it also improves your rankings.
You can set up a free account (or access your account) at: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home
Once you’ve logged in, Add your website as a property. You can add your site as both www.sitename.tld and sitename.tld You’ll be asked to verify the site by uploading a small Google html file to your website’s root folder.
You should also submit a sitemap to Google Webmasters Tools. You can do this by visiting:
Yoast’s SEO Premium plugin will help you generate compliant XML sitemaps that you can submit to Google.
Simply follow the instructions, download the completed XML file and then upload it to your website’s root folder.
Within Google Webmasters Tools, click your domain name and then from the Google Webmasters Tools dashboard, select Crawl > Sitemaps and submit your sitemap address.
There are plenty of plugins for optimizing your developer WordPress website SEO.
Here’s a few that I’ve found that seem to work well:
Yoast SEO Premium by Yoast
All in One SEO Pack by Michael Torbert
W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes
Rel Nofollow Checkbox by Fabio Santos
404Page by smartware
The following are tools that mobile app developers can use for both their WordPress SEO and writing great content that will attract an audience:
We’d LOVE to hear from you!
What tips and suggestions do you have to help developers improve their WordPress SEO? Tell us what you think of the WordPress SEO Definitive Guide for Developers in the comments below!