Before we get going, here is a quick round up of the topics we will discuss in this post:
IN THE BEGINNING…
So you’ve taken the plunge to self-host your blog. Many first time bloggers rely on the patience (and kindness) of their hosting companies to help them set up their blogs and ensure they’re able to use them. Beyond that, it’s all up to the blogger to get noticed and start sharing their content.
During this time, many bloggers will study their blog in the context of their market. They’ll Google their own blog to see what comes up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), they’ll search for competitor blogs to see how they’ve laid out their blog posts, and they’ll soon start to notice the differences between blogs that look “normal” and those that lack a little information.
Check out the SERP result for our blog page below:
You might be wondering things like, ‘How did they get those vertical pipes in there?’, ‘how did they add their bio?’, ‘my blog has a bio that I haven’t approved, help!’
If so, let’s get started!
WHAT IS SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s when websites try to put their best foot forward so that Google will pick them and place them first on their results pages. Optimising each of your blog posts and blog pages will allow Google (not only Google; Yahoo, Bing, Ask and all the other engines too) to ‘read’ your blog and categorise it correctly, adding it to its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs – yes we use all kinds of fun abbreviations).
TOAST TO YOAST
The sad and realistic truth is that the internet is like Hollywood. If you’re pretty, you’re in. If you’re ugly, you’re out. In the case of your website, this doesn’t only relate to the good looking outside of your site, but the technical insides that also need to be in order. Ensuring that your website has its basic aesthetics & technical elements down can make all the difference when Google indexes your website in order to present it to those looking for blogs just like yours.
The people at Yoast have created a very clever little tool to help you do exactly that; ensuring that your blog (or website) is presented as nicely as possible. Here’s how to install and use it:
Once logged into WordPress, go to Plugins on your left hand menu and click add new.
You will then need to search for the Yoast plugin in the top right search bar. Yoast SEO should be a result:
Once Yoast has been installed, it will be added to your list of installed plugins. Ensure that you’ve clicked ‘Activate’:
FIRST THING’S FIRST
Before you start optimising individual blog posts, there are a few general SEO settings that the Yoast plugin takes care of for you. It’s important to remember that the Yoast plugin’s main function is to enable your website to be search engine crawlable and to ensure that the content on your site is being displayed in the most accurate way, for both readers and crawlers.
The main Yoast plugin menu includes General, Titles and Metas, Social, XML Sitemaps, Advanced, Tools and Extensions.
TOP 6 MUST DO’S FOR YOAST SET UP
1. MAKE YOUR NAME OFFICIAL
Under the General sub menu, select Company Info. Here you will be able to input the official name of your website. For example, if your URL is www.wearehappy.com, but the name of your company is Happy Toys, here you will be able to put the official website name of Happy Toys in.
Should you have an alternative name that you would like to include here, insert it into Alternate Name and Google will consider which one to use.
Under Company or person, you will be able to select whether you are a human or a company. Depending on what you select, the tab will either say Your Info for a person or Company Info for a brand.
*Be sure to save changes any time you change something on a tab
2. SEPARATING TITLE FROM NAME
Ever wonder how some websites have their title and the name of the page so well organised on browser result pages? This is easily set up within Titles and Metas. Navigate to the second subcategory: Titles and Metas. Under the General tab you will see Title Separator options. Select the icon that you would like to use to separate the titles of your page and the name of your website.
The Titles and Metas settings also allow you to create Meta Title & Description templates for your blog posts, category pages, tag pages & archives. Once these templates are set up, all new blog posts you generate and publish will make use of the templates created.
3. SOCIAL SETTINGS
The Social subcategory is the next ‘must do’ on our Yoast SEO 101 for Bloggers. Navigate to the Social section and select the Accounts tab. Here you will be able to input all the official social media channels that you associate with your website.
4. PROMOTING THE BRAND SOCIALLY
We’ve all spent time scheduling posts on Facebook. When we paste a link sometimes an image automatically pops up, other times not. Why? Usually, if there is a featured image in a blog post, it will be automatically pulled from the blog and will show up. If there isn’t a featured image, another resource may be suggested. If you would like to ensure that your links always display one presentable image every time a post link is pasted, then this can be set in the Social – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Google+ tabs.
When the “Add Open Graph meta data” setting is checked, the Yoast plugin automatically adds Meta tags for your Social accounts. The same should be done for Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
Click the Upload Image button and select the image you would like to be featured on any links, should a featured image not be set within the individual blog post.
5. XML SITEMAPS
An XML sitemap is a list of all your blog pages in a format that makes it easy for Google and other search engines to discover and crawl every single page of your blog.
Yoast makes the creation of such a sitemap very easy. Simply Navigate to the XML Sitemaps sub section in the left menu under SEO. All you have to do is tick the check box to enable XML sitemap functionality. This will allow Yoast to automatically generate and update the XML sitemap each time a new page is added. Such Fun!
6. MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOOGLE
Connecting the inside of your blog with Google and the tools that monitor your website is very important, as it ensures that Google receives all your relevant information and updates about what happens on your blog. It’s relatively easy to set up. To start:
Navigate to SEO > General > Webmaster Tools – find this on your left SEO menu. You now have to prove that you are the owner of the blog by authenticating yourself. To do this, login in to your Google account (most of us have Gmail accounts, log in there for easy access).
If you don’t have a google account, sign up here.
In a new tab, do a Google search for “Google Search Console” (this used to be Google Webmaster Tools). Click the red button to add a site. Enter your blog URL and hit continue:
Return to the WordPress Webmaster Tools tab and click on the Google Search Console hyperlink. A new tab will open that allows you to validate your account (once you’re already signed in to Webmaster console). Select the Alternative Methods Tab and select the HTML Tag option. Copy the code only, as below:
- Add the code to the Google Search Console field
Save changes and head back to Google Search Console and click Verify.
HOW TO USE YOAST WITHIN A BLOG POST
Select a blog post that you would like to optimise. Once you’re inside your blog post template, scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will see that a Yoast dashboard has been added to the bottom of your blog post template. These empty fields are now ready to be filled with your information.
The general tab includes a number of important SEO features. They include:
- Snippet Preview
- Focus Keyword
- SEO Title
- Meta Description
Yoast automatically pulls in the name of your website and includes it in the title, thanks to the settings that you previously applied. The snippet preview allows you to preview all the data that you want to include on search engine result pages, and see how it will look.
The Focus Keyword is the single word or phrase that this page is about. Use one or two words at the very most here.
SEO Title is the official title at that Google will read about your post. So ensure what you include here is accurate and straight forward.
The meta description is the extended, yet brief, description that you would like to include about the post’s content. Let’s use MediaVision’s blog post about being shortlisted for the UK Agency Awards as an example:
The snippet preview will combine all the information that you have put in the fields and show how it will look in search engines. The focus keyword here is UK Agency Awards, the SEO Title is the main title of the piece (MediaVision Shortlisted in UK Agency Awards) and Meta Description is the brief, extended information that is included (Proudly shortlisted for best content marketing campaign in the UK Agency Awards…).
Whatever you include in these fields will be incorporated and indexed on Google.
If you have share buttons on your blog, the Social Tab in Yoast will allow you to customise the information that is used when readers want to share your content. For example, if you click on a social icon, a pop up window will appear with a title and link, etc. The Social Tab allows you to specify exactly what you want pulled into a reader’s pop up when they share it. This is all set and found under the Social Tab.
This is where you can specify what’s included:
USING THE CORRECT KEYWORDS
Adding keywords in that you believe to be accurate is completely fine, but those who want to be competitive about having their blog rank higher will need to be more specific with their keywords. For example, Boring Cape Town Chick is a South African blog written by a Capetonian, therefore, this blog could be ‘South African Blog’, ‘Capetonian Blog’ or just a ‘blog’ in general.
If no one is searching for ‘Capetonian blogs’ then there won’t be a great opportunity for Boring Cape Town Chick to ever appear in the search results. Bloggers need to check what users are searching for and position their blog accordingly. This can be done with Wordtracker.
Type in South African blog (for example) and enter. This will then show you the most popular words relating to this term. ‘Most popular’ meaning – what people are actually typing in when searching.
From these results you can see that people have been searching for ‘blogs South African’, ‘South African food blogs’, ‘South African wildlife blogs’, ‘South African mom blogs’, ‘South African wedding blogs’ and ‘South African law blogs’ the most. If you have a lifestyle specific blog for example, the search can be refined to include ‘lifestyle blog’, as the intention is to use keywords that are relevant to the topic matter of your blog but also have decent search volume.
KEYWORD USE BEST PRACTICE
Whatever your website post is about, search the term first and see what comes up. Rely on those results to add to your SEO title. Never keyword cram, but do feel free to add a few more words into your meta description if they naturally fit in and make sense. Search engines can pick up when there is ‘foul play’ so best to err on the side of caution.
GIMME MY SEO MOFO!
There is a Google preview tool called SEOMofo that allows you to preview what your blog post search result will look like on Google. Go to the site and insert your information to preview it. While the snippet preview gives you an idea of what it will look like, SEOMofo will give you the total overview. Head over to their site and test it out.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO WRITE?
Start with the truth. NEVER use keywords that don’t accurately describe what’s on your page in the belief that it will get your more traffic. The Google algorithm is likely to make you rank even lower if you try to pull any tricks. It’s also in bad taste for potential users. We’ve all been victims of clicking on a piece that turns out to be the opposite of what it was advertised to be.
GETTING IT RIGHT
Input your information and save your post as a draft before publishing. Once you’ve saved your information as a draft, Yoast will give you a red, orange or green light to indicate how well your post as been optimised. This can be seen in the publish block to the right of your post, as well as under the page analysis tab. (In this example (right), this blog post was already published, yours will more than likely say Draft.
The picture on the right says I have a green SEO “light”, meaning good. If you have an orange or red light, click on the Page Analysis on your Yoast form, at the bottom of your post, and learn where there are errors (the colours are the key). Here are the possible options:
Use Yoast’s feedback to improve your input data until your blog post has a green light. Sometimes it can be a silly thing like a typo in your focus word, which will be good to pick up and correct.
Otherwise, if you are totally satisfied that your page is accurate and correct (even if Yoast is giving you a red light), then publish it. Humans are always going to know better than a machine, and if you are confident then that’s fine.
Once you’ve included all the information that is important for your blog post and sharing (you do not have to do the social sharing specifications, but it is recommended so that you can ensure the most accurate information is being included in the social sharing) you will be able to publish your post.
It is also possible to go back and update all your other blog posts now that you’ve installed Yoast. Google crawls your website all the time, so it’s never too late to bring previous posts up to date and ensure everything is accurate and sound.
Good luck and happy blogging!