WordPress developer

Optimising your website using SEM Rush.

Here are 10 ways you can use SEM Rush to optimise your website.

Part of my blog is dedicated to showing you exactly how I plan, structure and optimise my own personal website.

This is a new site (launched March 2019) and is on a brand new domain, with a domain authority of zero (March 2019).

Optimising WordPress with SEM RUSH

This is what I am starting with. Oh well, I like a challenge.

Part of the challenge of optimising any website is knowing where to start as there are 100s of apps out there that will help you identify what needs fixing and optimising.

So where do you start?

My personal favourite tool is SEM Rush (pronounced S-E-M Rush, not SEM). 

This is a paid-for tool, and it’s not cheap, but then you do get what you pay for when it comes to this sort of thing.

Below are 10 key things that I’ve done on this site using the tool to identify what to improve.

First of all, you need a website.

Before you can optimise your site, you need to have a live site. You can optimise a development site, but so much optimisation is based around URLs that you’ll have to do a lot of it again post-live.

I would recommend getting your site to a soft-launch stage before doing too much optimisation (you can, of course, plan your structure, categories and tags etc before it’s live)

Ten ways to improve your site using SEM Rush.

1. The Site Audit

The first thing to do is to run an audit on your website. This takes a little while, but the results will show you a wide range of errors, warnings and issues on your site. 

Don’t panic at this point if there are loads (there will be) – this is the whole point of the audit.

2. Fix the technical stuff first.

My site had a range of technical issues with it to start with.

Uncompressed CSS and Javascript, broken links, missing ALT tags and so on.

Before you move on to optimising your content, fix these things first.

Uncompressed files, oversized images and other speed-related issues can be fixed using Autoptimize, or WP Rocket (what I use). One is free, one isn’t, so take your pick.

These two plugins deal very well with compressing and optimising your CSS, JS and HTML. They also allow you to defer your JS and CSS to improve page load times and overall score.

Note that this will break some stuff on your site.

If it’s Javascript-heavy, combining and compressing all that will cause issues – so check your site thoroughly once you’ve done this.

WP Rocket also has some additional features like lazy-loading images and Cloudflare integration. Although it’s not free, I strongly recommend it for optimising your site.

3. Use Cloudflare to serve your DNS.

Cloudflare is free and awesome – not really an SEM Rush-related thing, but do it anyway – it will fix loads of errors and issues highlighted by the audit before you even see them.

It has built-in caching that goes over-and-above your site’s own cache to make your site incredibly fast.

Moving your DNS to Cloudflare is very easy and once done you will see speed improvements.

If you use WP Rocket, you can also integrate your Cloudflare account into the plugin so you can manage the CF cache directly from your WordPress admin.

4. Start with the errors.

SEM Rush will highlight what errors you have on your site. Some will be site-wide, others will be page specific.

Depending on your theme, you’ll have a few or loads of these.

My site had about six errors on the first audit, so I simply worked through these, one by one, running a fresh audit each time to check the fix.

This process took about two hours to get everything correct.

You really don’t want your live site to have too many errors when Google first indexes it, so get these done pronto.

Some of these errors will be simple things like missing meta descriptions, duplicate content and so on – you should be able to fix most of these easily by clicking through from the SEM Rush dashboard and fixing stuff.

Some stuff is more complicated like missing tags, mixed content issues and so on – you might need some technical help with these or a good few hours to Google the fixes yourself.

Stuck with fixing your site? Get in touch.

5. Now address the warnings.

Warnings aren’t as bad as errors, but you should still fix these next.

These will relate to on-page content, internal and external links and generally stuff that you have done yourself.

The warnings in SEM Rush are usually a list of things that you can pragmatically work through and fix yourself – it’s often just a case of a tweak here and there, some more copy on one page, fewer links on another.

Working through the warning messages will make sure all the content you’ve added to your site is optimised from a technical point of view and will ensure that the content is SEO-ready.

6. Finally to the notices.

Don’t be tempted to ignore these are they are last.

The notices may only be advisory, but I strongly recommend addressing all of these to get your sites audit score as high as it can be.

The notices also take into account things that you have done on the site – so structure, page depth, broken links etc.

Methodically work through all of these until your audit result looks like mine below.

Optimising WordPress

Getting 100/100 on SEM Rush takes time and is a hard slog.

You may notice that I have 5 excluded checks on this audit. These were mainly down to false-positives being thrown for external links – SEM Rush was telling me they were broken, they weren’t.

7. Check, fix and repeat – content.

The process of getting this site to 100 in SEM Rush took about four hours to complete (there are less than 50 pages on here currently).

As you work through the warning messages, you will often see notes about either too little content or the wrong HTML to Text ratio.

To fix these, follow the links from the SR dashboard to your page, edit it and then simply add more content.

Don’t just pad it out.

You’ll need to write decent content to get your site ranking, so make sure additional content adds value to the article as well as extending its length.

This can be a time-consuming exercise, but it needs to be done to ensure your site scores well and has the best chance of ranking.

8. Once all your content is sorted, fix the meta descriptions on EVERYTHING.

You will find at some point that you think to yourself – nope, I can do no more and will sort this later.

DO NOT DO THIS.

It simply won’t happen, and here’s why:

Once your site is live, your primary focus will change from fixing existing stuff to writing new stuff, getting backlinks and promoting your site.

However painful or mindnumbing it may seem, work through EVERY error, warning and issue on your site and fix it BEFORE you jump into writing more content.

If you don’t, a few errors will become 10 errors that will grow into 100 errors – it’s far easier to fix the initial errors now before you add more (which you will over time).

You’ll find you are far less inclined to fix 100 errors than you are 10.

I can say this from experience – keeping on top of your site score is one of the most important things you can do for your site.

9. Remember, this is not ‘set-and-forget’.

Even the most experienced WordPress developers miss things and forget to add a tag here or there.

My site gets 100 out of 100 today – once I’ve published this post, the score may drop, so it’s imperative that you check your score weekly and fix anything that’s pulling it down.

It’s a never-ending job, so get used to it, or get someone else to optimise your site for you.

10. Once optimised, switch on all the other SEM Rush tools.

Once your site is 100/100, or as near to it as you can get, switch on all the other SEM Rush tools, hook up Search Console, Analytics and everything else.

This will give you a wide range of other things that you need to keep on top of and fix!