Key Point: Submitting Your Website to Google is NOT the Same as Ranking in Search. You can be indexed, but that is no great help if your website shows up only on page # 47 of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), because NOBODY clicks through all the pages even up to page 47 to see what results come up for their search term.
The easiest and sanest way to optimize your pages on a WordPress site is to install and configure an SEO plugin and then update the meta tags / descriptions on each page in the fields provided. My two personal favorites are YOAST https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/ and RankMath https://rankmath.com/ . Both are very good, and both will also generate your sitemaps for you, making it very easy to collect and submit your links to the search engines. The difference between the two: YOAST seems a little easier if the person managing the site content is less technically savvy. RankMath requires you to sign up for a free account in order to activate and use the tool and provides for free a number of advanced features that are only available in the paid version of YOAST.
The alt tags on page images should also be added for both SEO and accessibility (especially accessibility), but you can leave that until you are sure that the images are the final ones you plan to use on the site. If an image is a background image primarily for decoration it is fine to not include alt tags.
Adding descriptive copy to the site pages is very helpful to help the search engines in knowing what to rank for, especially for keywords and phrases that people commonly would search for when looking for the site services. For best optimization with content, aim for a minimum of 300 – 400 words per page along with one or two good images with captions and alt tags. (This would be about three to six paragraphs with 1 to 3 good sentences per paragraph).
Your new friend: Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and LSI Keywords.
Latent Semantic Indexing is how the search engine algorithms identify the purpose of your page and figure out the main topic of your article, by looking at the related words and phrases (LSI Keywords) on your page that expand on and relate to the main keyword. LSI keywords are words that are commonly found together within a single topic and are semantically related to each other.
This is how the search engines know that an article on Python is about the python programming language and not about snakes. This is also how they know what websites and pages to include in the results even when
You help boost your page’s rank by including the main keywords for your topic along with the appropriate LSI keyword phrases and ideally also longtail keywords (multiword phrases that also include the main keyword).
The easiest way is to identify the keyword phrases: what search terms are people using when looking for the services your business or site provides. Examples might be “horseback riding near Cleveland”, riding lessons”, “pony parties”, and so on. Next identify the pages that these keywords can be targeted on. Pick one or two for each page and try to use a different keyword / phrase for each page.
Next: identify the LSI keywords for each page. LSI keywords These are related terms and synonyms that people might also search for that may also be easier to rank for. By way of example: EVERYBODY is likely trying to rank for “riding lessons”, it’s a common term. This means it’s going to be harder for a brand-new small website to rank for that keyword. BUT, not everybody is trying to rank for “dressage lessons”, “western saddle riding”, “unicorn pony theme birthday party” or even a search like “where can I go horseback riding in the parks for fall scenery” (and people do search phrases like that). By adding a paragraph or two of copy that includes these related phrases, you will help improve your rankings as well as improve the potential for your site to be included and rank for the related terms.
One way to identify possible keywords to rank for is to start with a Google search for a common phrase around the product/services and see what Google shows for “people also searched for” or what Bing shows as “related searches”.
NEXT, and this is huge for ranking and if you do not already have one: I would look at adding a blog. To get started you can include repurposed content from things like your Facebook posts, but what would really boost the site’s presence is building your content and tying it to your social media marketing. By way of example: If you are a chicken breeder and are sharing on FB something about a show competition you went to (by way of example), you can create related content for your site that you can then share and link back to. This could be (for example) a blog post on “10 things you can do for Exhibiting Prize Winning Show Chickens”. It doesn’t have to be a long-content novel (people love quick listicles), but a few sentences of “here are some things you can do to prepare for a chicken competition with 10) Make a checklist of things you will need for the show, 9) Have confidence, your chicken will be calmer if you are calmer, 8) (etcetera) and then include a link on the page linking back to your page about breeding chickens (thereby also adding link-juice with internal links. Google loves that). Even if you only add one post a month, this over time adds up to a lot of content and search engines adore good content.
Takeaway: Organic SEO is not a “one and done” project, it is a process of continual improvement and adjustments. Getting your site indexed and making the initial improvements is how you get started.
SEO is all about the tools. All the tools. Fortunately, there are many good tools out there, and as always and for small freelance or business startup options, I’m looking first for the free and freemium offerings. I particularly like freemium, as they offer room to grow and expand to greater services as your business grows, as well as the ability to support others in the community as you grow and now need (and can afford) the premium tools.
I like to start with TheHoth.com website, as they have a great suite of free SEO Free SEO Tools for SEO analysis, keyword research, content analysis (and idea generators), website tools, site auditing, PPC ROI calculation, and more. It’s a good place to start.
They have a good tool for checking your rank for keywords:
Which leads us to:
SEMRush is powerful for analytics. I’ve only begun using it (it looks like there IS a free tier, yay), but everything I see says that if you have the budget, GO for it.
More SEO Resources
These sites have a wide variety of tools in one place to check and tweak site content and elements, particularly on-page elements.