Updated: September 2018
I get a lot of questions about SEO. Usually “Do you do SEO?” No. I don’t. I *DO* social media. Here’s a refresher on the difference between SEO and social media. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques and practices you do on and off your website, to get better rankings in search engines. It is EXTREMELY important for any business that relies on being found in internet searches, and VITALLY important for anyone who sells on the internet.
Basic SEO techniques are simple and very easy for most DIYers to maintain themselves. The things I’m talking about are not going to change with the next Google algorithm update. They’re not “black hat” and won’t get you in trouble with Google. And the best part is, THEY WORK!
There are a multitude of SEO plugins you can install for your WordPress website/blog, and Yoast SEO is probably the most popular. It is the one I use on this website, as well as many client websites. Essentially it helps you put all the SEO data in all the right places so Google will find you more often. (Tweet This.) Using a simple green, yellow, red light system, it tells you how good your SEO is. You are aiming for all green lights, of course!
This is Yoast SEO for Beginners.
This is what your Page or Blog Post will look like in Google searches. You need to watch this as you make changes to the other features in the plugin as it will change. This is the first and best chance you have at attracting someone to your page to read what you’ve written, so you want to make sure it says what the page is about. You don’t want to entice people to click by false advertising as Google will eventually learn that your Page is not what it purports to be.
This is *SO* important. This is NOT where you list off all the keywords your “SEO person” gave you (an outdated technique Google now frowns upon). This is NOT where you list the one keyword phrase you use everywhere on your blog. This *IS* where you pick the keyword phrase that your page is focusing on. For example, the focus keyword for this blog article you’re reading right now is SEO, not social media! There are very good reasons for this and you’ll see how it works further down. Pick the main topic of your blog article or page and craft the best keyword you can. You can always come back and change it later.
Just below the focus keyword window entry you’ll see a list of where the focus keyword has been used. Note that in order to get all green lights on your SEO efforts, your keyword should appear in all those places: heading, title, content, url, meta description. A green light is not necessary, it’s a goal.
To get all the green lights in this section you need to ensure your website will use the words in your title as the url, not the date, and not some random page number. Dates and page numbers have no SEO value to you. This is very important, so if you can’t make that change, Google it up or get your website developer to help.
The SEO title is auto-populated with the main blog title. If you just can’t bring yourself to use the keyword in your headline in the same way you want to use it as a keyword, then you can write a separate title for SEO purposes. I prefer to keep my titles the same. For example, if your keyword gets cut off, you’ll want to rethink your titles. You’ll notice in the picture below that my title is cut off and the plugin is warning me. I left it alone because the keyword was still included.
I chose to go with simply “SEO” as the keyword because writing the phrase “SEO for beginners” naturally is difficult. You always want to write naturally, so pick your keywords carefully. You don’t want to sound like you’re stuffing keywords in just because you have to.
This is the description that will appear in Google under the title of your post, which links to your page. You need to ensure this explains what your article is about, preferably in a manner that will intrigue people to come read your post. Sometimes making it do double duty is difficult, but it gets easier with practice. Think of this as an introduction to your article. Pay attention to the character limits!
Social Media Integrations
There are three tabs in the Yoast SEO plugin. I generally ignore the last one. Page analysis rarely works for me and advanced is something I don’t want to mess with. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you skip over those two sections and head straight for the social tab.
If you like to give your articles a different headline and description on Facebook, you have that option here. Again, I tend to leave my headline the same everywhere.
I do, however, generally upload a Facebook-sized graphic for the article. This ensures Facebook will have the proper sized graphic to go with your article. Depending on how your site was built, your developer may not have coded things quite right and Facebook may not pick up the best graphic when you and others link to it. Uploading a 1200 x 628 pixel graphic here ensures you will always see the best one, no matter who shares the link on Facebook. Use the same graphic in the Twitter tab.
Final SEO Check
At this point, everything is green on the main tab, except the warning about my title being too long. I ended up only writing five points (you’re welcome), so I had to change the title anyway. Sometimes in the required editing of something you come up with something better.
While these are really beginner things you can do, if you’re ready to take it up a notch, this article from Serp.co about on-page seo should provide some more great detail.
So there you go. Only FIVE steps to using the Yoast SEO plugin effectively. It’s all quite common sense, really. Write for your audience, not algorithms. Then use this template to put the bits and pieces together. Do this for every page and every blog post on your website and watch your rank improve. Then come back and tell me how it worked for you!