Happy Thursday, y’all! Don’t you just love short weeks?
I wanted to pop back in today with an installment in my (unofficial) blogging 101 series. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post on my SEO tips for bloggers. Those seven tips are still as applicable as ever, but today I wanted to speak specifically to the SEO by Yoast plugin for WordPress*. If you’re a blogger on WordPress, I consider this a must-have! It’s free, user-friendly, and will make all your content much more crawlable by search engines, and therefore more likely to be seen by more people.
To give you some background, I think SEO is very important to a successful site. If you spend time creating this awesome content that is both relatable to your readers and potentially helpful to the public at large, you want to make sure search engines can understand what your post is all about, and therefore show it on relevant searches. Not thinking about your SEO pretty much ensures that people will only see the post the day it goes live and they check your site and/or see it on social media. On the flip side, good SEO will grow your readership and pageviews overtime, which in turn will help you net those larger partnerships and stronger voice/community you’re probably after.
*A note for all you blogger/Squarespace users—just because you may be on a different platform where SEO by Yoast isn’t applicable, there are still some tips below you could implement on your own sites. Both blogger and Squarespace are optimized by the platform itself for search engine crawlers, you just have less control over setting the exact focus keyword. If you’re considering moving over to a self-hosted WordPress site, you can read about my experience here.
So let’s hop to it, shall we?
This step is pretty straightforward, as SEO by Yoast is easily installable from WordPress. No need to upload a .ZIP file or anything like that. You’ll know it is installed correctly when you see an SEO column appear next to each post under the “All Posts” menu. A green dot means you’re killin’ it with the SEO, orange means you’re doing okay—but there is room for improvement, and red means your SEO is pretty poor.
A note that on some of my more personal posts, such as On the Difference a Year Makes, I don’t worry as much about SEO. Those are the posts I write for you and me, and they probably won’t be as relevant to a random Google searcher.
I am planning on writing a whole post on how to pick good keywords, but remember these two tips for now: think like a Google searcher and there is strength in the long tail.
To set the focus keyword, simply enter it in the box “Focus keyword.” For my outfit posts, I generally make the focus keyword the main item featured. For instance, although I wrote a lot about wasted time in last week’s post, the main way I could generate revenue from the post was through affiliate link sales of the LOFT Palm Tie Waist Romper I was wearing. As such, I made this my focus keyword knowing that people looking at the LOFT website may very well enter the name of the item in Google to see product reviews, more detailed fit information, and additional images. I also make sure the keyword is the SEO title.
(A note that SEO by Yoast recently introduced a “readability” rating. I have not played around with this enough myself to have much insight, but I will keep you posted as I understand it better.)
Now that you’ve set your focus keyword, you’re main goal is to make sure this focus keyword appears as many times in your post as possible without going overboard. No one wants to read a post that just says “LOFT Palm Tie Waist Romper” twenty times in a row, you know?
Images are a great way to get your keyword in the post while allowing you to create the content you want and avoid being an obnoxious “keyword stuffer.” There are two main ways to do this. First, the name of your images should always be the focus keyword. For instance, the image highlighted above is named “loft-palm-tie-waist-romper-5.jpg*.” Search engine crawlers cannot “read” images the way our brains can, so it is important that you tell them what your image is about. By naming your image the focus keyword, you’re doing just that. And, it’s important to separate each word in your image name with a hyphen, otherwise WordPress will fill it in with a slew of junk like “%!%#” since URLs cannot have spaces.
(*Lightroom makes it super easy to batch-edit image names. A tutorial on that coming soon.)
Second, enter your keyword in the Alt Text field. Alt text shows up in the HTML code for your image, and not only will this let your reader know what the picture should be in case it isn’t there, but it allows your keyword to be in yet another place on the page in text form which search engine crawlers can pick up—remember, they can’t “read” images.
Even though I often opt for a post title that isn’t my focus keyword, I always make sure to update the URL to the focus keyword. This is another place where you can tell search engine crawlers what you’re post is about. If possible, keep your URL structure as simple as possible, and strip it of any month/date coding (i.e. atouchofteal.com/07/05/loft-palm-tie-waist-romper is less desirable than atouchofteal.com/loft-palm-tie-waist-romper).
If you are noticing a post you are working on won’t change from an “orange” rating to a “green” rating in SEO by Yoast, definitely consider making the title of your post the same as your focus keyword. Google’s algorithms are written to reward sites with a higher ranking that help people find the content they need. The better your content accurately tells crawlers what your post is about, the better Google can display your content to those looking for that information.
The meta description is the short paragraph that shows up under the search result link on Google. By default, the first sentence of your post is used. Unless your focus keyword is in that sentence, I highly recommend changing it. A good meta description captures what the post content is about and uses the focus keyword. To edit the meta description in SEO by Yoast, click “Edit Snippet.”
I hope this goes without saying, but it is important to use your exact focus keyword in your post at least once. After all, the focus keyword is supposedly what your content is about!
When everything is done right, you’ll notice the rewards pretty quickly as search engine crawlers generally will visit your site every 24 hours. For instance, although my post on the LOFT Palm Tie Waist Romper was shown on the third page in Google search results, which definitely leaves a little to be desired, an image from my post shows up “above the fold” on the Image search. This is great for me, as it means shoppers looking to potentially buy the piece could easily look at my review of the romper, click on my affiliate link, and then I receive the commission for the item.
SEO is also a great way to drive traffic to your site in general, which can pay off in overall revenue growth due to increased demand for, and eyeballs on, your content!
Any questions? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll answer them!