On-Page SEO Checklist: My 35-Step Process For Writing Search Engine Optimized Content In WordPress (2020 Complete Guide)

On-Page-SEO-Checklist

The is the same on-page SEO checklist I use to write every post on my blog.

Most of it has nothing to do with Yoast, in fact I ignore most of Yoast’s recommendations since they put too much emphasis on keyword density and not enough on real on-page SEO factors.

Instead, I focus on finding a long-tail keyword which has low competition in Google’s search results, then creating in-depth content that is organized with a table of contents and nice graphics. I also talk about lesser-known strategies like targeting variations of a keyword, optimizing your table of contents to get in Google’s featured snippets, and making content format properly on Facebook/Twitter (using Yoast). I don’t have an infographic like Backlinko, but these are all actionable tips that will improve your on-page SEO, especially for WordPress.

I have gotten many requests to write this, so I hope it’s useful. Comment if you need help.

 

1. Find A Long-Tail Keyword

Use Google Autocomplete to find a long-tail keyword with  3+ words.

If you start Googling the keyword and it has lots of Autocomplete results below it, that keyword is probably too competitive and in most cases, you should choose one of the more specific (long-tail) phrases. The only time you should consider choosing a broad, competitive keyword is if you plan on creating in-depth content, and if your site has high domain authority.

Long-Tail Keywords

 

2. Learn The Keyword’s Competition

Google the keyword and review the content in the top results.

A keyword is more competitive if:

  • It’s broad
  • Top results have strong content
  • Top results have high DA/PA in MozBar
  • It has high competition in Keywords Everywhere
  • Top results are populated with authority websites
  • You see lots of advertisements from Google AdWords
  • Top results have strong signals (links, comments, shares)
  • There are lots of search results (11.6 million is a lot, but I’m giving it a shot)

Tools I Use:
Keywords Everywhere – Google any keyword and see it’s monthly search volume, CPC (cost per click), and estimated competition. Manually researching the top results is better though.

MozBar – Google any keyword and see each search result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). Choose keywords with lower PA, and compete within your own DA range.

Keyword Competition

 

3. Find Keyword Variations

These are synonyms (or very closely related) keywords.

Try looking at the different Autocomplete results or searching for a similar keyword. You can use the underline character _ to have Google fill-in-the-blank (a neat little trick I like to use). You can target multiple keyword variations in the post title, SEO title, and meta description.

Keyword Variation(2)

Keyword Variation

Keyword Variations

Example:

  • Keyword #1: on-page SEO checklist (primary)
  • Keyword #2: on-page SEO guide
  • Keyword #3: on-page SEO 2019
  • Keyword #4: on-page SEO process
  • Keyword #5: content SEO checklist

So I wrote the title:

On-Page SEO Checklist: My 33-Step Process For Writing Search Engine Optimized Content (2019 Complete Guide)

 

4. Create A Post

In case you didn’t know how:

Add A New Post

 

5. Write A Keyword-Rich Headline

Qualities of a good headline:

  • Makes people want to read (duh)
  • Primary keyword is ideally in front
  • Keyword variations sprinkled throughout title

Post Title

Other Examples:

Headline 6

Headline 3

Headline 4

Headline 5

Headline 2

 

This emphasizes your keyword to search engines.

Shortened Permalink

Should I Remove Stop Words?
Yoast recommends removing stop words, but this can make URLs ready funny and is NOT always good. Take a look at the examples below. If you can shorten the permalink to include your keyword and read nicely, do it. But if it butchers the URL and doesn’t make sense, don’t.

Yoast-Stop-Words

Yoast-Stop-Words-Examples

 

7. Write The SEO Title + Meta Description

These are the forefront of your SEO and determine the post’s click-through rate. You should include your keyword (ideally in the front), target multiple keyword variations, and follow the character limits. It’s also a good idea to include a number or modifier like “2019” or “checklist.”

Yoast Snippet

Tips For Writing SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions

  • SEO title length: 600 pixels (about 58 characters)
  • Meta description length: 920 pixels (about 158 characters)
  • Do not use Yoast’s snippet variables (write them yourself!)
  • Primary keyword is in front, secondary keywords are sprinkled

 

8. Create An HTML Table Of Contents

I can’t stress how important this is.

A table of contents organizes the post, lets people jump (and link to) specific sections, and increases your chance of being awarded jump-to links and featured snippets by Google. It also encourages longer content (Brian Dean and most SEOs recommend at least 3,000+ words).

Why You Should Do It

  • Helps users navigate the post
  • People can link to specific sections
  • Encourages in-depth content (3,000+ words)
  • Chance of getting jump-to links in Google by using named anchors

Template:

 

Featured snippets can be in the form of lists, paragraphs, or tables.

Since your table of contents is a list, make each item concise and actionable. Do not ask questions or give long answers – people want direct solutions to the problem for their query.

How In Google’s Featured Snippets

  • Find a keyword where people want concise information (eg. a list)
  • Moz Keyword Explorer has a filter that helps find question keywords
  • Target existing keywords/featured snippets that don’t do a good job
  • Create a concise, logical table of contents to target ‘list’ featured snippets
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content
  • Design an image exactly describing the keyword and label the image file name + alt text as the exact keyword (this can get that image showing in your featured snippet as well)
  • Google ultimately determines whether they will show your result, or any result at all

Featured Snippet List

Featured-Image-Snippets

 

10. Add FAQ Rich Snippets

FAQ rich snippets are great for standing out in search results:

FAQ Google Snippets

Instructions

  • Install the Structured Content plugin.
  • Edit a page/post you want to FAQs on.
  • Click the “FAQ” icon in the WYSIWYG editor.
  • Add your questions and answers (I recommend 3-8).
  • Click the OK button and the plugin will add the code to your post.
  • Once the post is published, submit the URL to Google’s URL Inspector.
  • Your FAQs should appear in Google’s search results within a matter of minutes.

 

11. Drop Internal/External Links

These should provide helpful resources for specific topics not completely covered in the post, don’t just insert them for SEO or link to Wikipedia. If your visitors click it, it should be helpful.

Internal Links – natural ways to build links to your site while mentioning articles where visitors can more information on specific topics, while improving bounce rate and time on site.

External Links – similar to citing sources to Google. I always use internal links if I have content about the topic, otherwise I link to external sources where people can find more information.

 

12. Get Content From Facebook Groups

I love taking screenshots of Facebook conversations, especially polls.

It’s an easy way to show upvoted answers, common solutions to problems, and comparison polls. There are plenty of polls on the best hosting, cache plugins, SEO plugins, and others.

Step 1: Join Facebook Groups related to your topic/industry.

Facebook Groups

Step 2: Search Facebook for specific topics while only searching within your Groups.

Facebook Keyword Search

Step 3: Find polls and conversations related to the topic, then share them with your readers:

SEO Plugin Facebook Poll

 

13. Design Images

I use GIMP.

Be sure to crop/resize images to the correct dimensions (see next section).

GIMP Editor

 

14. Optimize Images

Alt Text – the Auto Image Alt Attribute plugin will automatically add alt text to images based on their file name. Just remember to write a descriptive file names before uploading images.

Alt-Text

Resize Images To Correct Dimensions – my blog is 680px width so I crop/resize full width images to those dimensions. Otherwise I would see serve scaled images errors in GTmetrix.

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

Lossless Compression – ShortPixel, Smush, Imagify, and Kraken all do the same thing (lossless compression + EXIF data removal). I use ShortPixel which shows an unnoticeable quality loss.

optimize-images-gtmetrix

 

15. Write A Solid Introduction

How to write a great introduction:

  • Use your keyword in the first couple sentences
  • Add links (from the TOC) to entice people to jump to a specific section
  • Tell them why they should read your post (eg. I don’t focus much on Yoast)
  • Be personal, lead with a story, or talk about topics that are currently going on

Post Introduction

 

16. End With A Call To Action

What do you want people to do?

  • Read another post
  • Make an affiliate sale
  • Follow you on social media
  • Subscribe to your newsletter
  • Get in touch as a potential client

Call To Action

I rely on affiliate marketing to make a living, so I usually link to my WordPress speed guide which is super helpful, but also promotes SiteGround where I get a commission from each sale.

Just sayin’ but at least I’m transparent.

2019-Hosting-Facebook-Poll

Get hosting from SiteGround Get managed cloud hosting from Cloudways

 

17. Spell Check Using Grammarly

Grammarly is great, but you should have someone else read it with fresh eyes.

I like to reread it first thing in the morning, or hand it off to a coworker. You can also hire a writer. If you do not speak native English, you should 100% hire someone to edit your copy.

Grammary Recommendations

 

18. Assign A Category And Give It Some Tags

Assign the post to 1 category, and give it a few tags. Don’t overdo the tags.

WordPress Categories
WordPress Tags

 

19. Optimize For Social Sharing

This makes your content format properly when shared on Facebook/Twitter, specifically your image since both networks use custom dimensions to display it, otherwise it will look funny.

Facebook Post

If using Yoast, go to the “Social” settings and enable Open Graph for both Facebook/Twitter:

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Now edit a page/post, then click the “share” link in Yoast and you will see options to upload custom images for Facebook (1200 width x 628 height) and Twitter (1024 width x 512 height).

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

20. Add Rich Snippets To Reviews

If you’re writing reviews, you need rich snippets.

I use the premium WP Review plugin which looks great (here’s an example post I use it on), does the job, and is lightweight so it doesn’t affect my load times or my GTmetrix reports.

Structured-Data-Review-Stars

Instructions

  • Write reviews, recipes, or other content types where rich snippets can be used
  • Choose a rich snippets plugin (eg. All In One Schema or WP Review)
  • All In One Schema is free but has minimal customization options and looks boring
  • WP Review looks much better, has multiple pre-styled templates, is maintained and updated frequently by the MyThemeShop, supports 14 data types, and is what I use
  • Use the plugin to markup content and test it using Google’s Structured Data Tool
  • Use my tutorial on adding rich snippets to WordPress for full instructions

 

21. Add Multimedia

Videos keep people on the post longer. Ideally it’s your own since embedding videos on your blog gives them more views, likes, comments, and engagement, a key factor for YouTube SEO.

That’s why I like creating YouTube videos in conjunction with my blog content. I haven’t created a video for on-page SEO yet (I probably will soon), so for now, here’s Brian Dean:

 

22. Ignore Yoast Feedback

Yoast green lights don’t matter.

Yoast doesn’t tell you anything about keyword competition, content depth, or how to improve engagement. It focuses too much on keyword density and not enough on what actually makes great content. Instead of focusing on green lights, beef up your articles with a table of contents and cover the topics in more depth. That is what I did to grow my blog to 3,000 visitors/day.

Importance Of Yoast Green Lights

 

23. Prefetch DNS Requests

This helps browsers anticipate external resources so they can load them faster.

If you embedded YouTube videos, Tweets, Facebook posts, or even use social sharing plugins or comment plugins, these can slow down your website and also show in your GTmetrix report.

Here is a great list of common domains to prefetch:

Prefetch-DNS-Requests-WP-Rocket

You can add them to WP Rocket (the cache plugin I recommend):

Prefetch-DNS-Requests

Otherwise, add them to your header:

<link rel=”dns-prefetch” href=”//youtube.com”>
<link rel=”dns-prefetch” href=”//maps.googleapis.com”>
<link rel=”dns-prefetch” href=”//fonts.googleapis.com”>

 

24. Test Load Times In GTmetrix

Thank you Cloudways for the crazy load times. Even posts with tons of images load in <1s when they’re 2.70MB and have 61 requests.

If I didn’t embed the YouTube video or GitHub code it would be 100%. Make sure images are optimized, use fast hosting, a good cache plugin, PHP 7+, and see my WordPress speed guide.

On-Page-SEO-Load-Times

SiteGround vs Cloudways Cloud Hosting

 

25. Publish The Post

Go ahead, do it.

Publish Post

 

26. Disable Unused Scripts + Plugins

You might be familiar with Plugin Organizer, which lets you selectively disable plugins you don’t use on certain pages/posts. This is the same idea, only I use Kinsta’s perfmatters plugin. Since I’m not using rich snippets in this post, I disabled my rich snippets plugin in the settings.

You can also use the free WP Asset Clean Up plugin.

Script Manager

 

Each link in your table of contents should jump to it’s subheading. Hold ctrl (PC) or control (Mac) and click each link to make sure it works. The tags in your subheadings and table of contents tags should match. Otherwise if it’s another problem, recheck the GitHub code.

Table Of Contents Links

 

28. Submit URL To Google

Next, submit the URL to Google using their URL Inspector in Search Console.

FAQ Request Indexing

 

29. Make Sure Google Doesn’t Cut Off Snippets

If your SEO title + meta description are too long, Google will cut it off. Make sure they don’t.

Google Snippet

 

Anytime you mention the topic, include a link to the article.

Internal Link

 

31. Keep The Article And Publish Date Current

Adding a post modified date makes  your content look fresh and increases click-through rates.

First, enable ‘date in snippet preview’ in Yoast (SEO → Search Appearance → Content Types).

Date-In-Snippet-Preview-Yoast

Now add this code to your theme (or use the Post Updated Date plugin) which does the same thing. If you’re using the Genesis Framework you can use Genesis Simple Edits plugin to add the post modified date shortcode to the ‘Entry Meta’ section under Genesis → Simple Edits.

<p>Last modified: <?php the_modified_date(); ?></p>

Mine looks like this…

Entry-Meta

Which results in…

Post Modified Date

Keep the article updated to refresh the publish date:

Publish Date

 

32. Send A Newsletter

Anytime you publish a great article, tell your subscribers about it (and what’s in it).

Mailchimp Newsletter

 

33. Take It To Social Media

Without being spammy, share it in Facebook Groups and other places.

 

34. Respond To Comments

HubSpot did a study on comments and found this:

“There is no correlation between the number of comments on a post and the number of views that post got. There’s also no correlation between comments and the number of links that post got.

Pros

  • They’re where I get my most valuable feedback
  • People who receive feedback are more likely to sign up for my newsletter
  • Creates a two-way conversation (eg. you’re trying to get clients to contact you)

Cons

  • Spam, lots of it
  • Too many people trying to get a link
  • It’s basically free consulting (if you don’t have guidelines)

 

35. Monitor The Post’s Performance

After a couple weeks, check the performance report in Google Search Console which helps you see the post’s performance. It tells you it’s ranking position, clicks, and click-through rate.

If the post ranks high with lots of impressions, but has a low click-through rate, consider rewriting the SEO title + meta description. If it doesn’t rank well at all, improve the content.

Use Google Analytics to check the post’s average session duration and bounce rate.

If the post has bad bounce rates and average session duration, it could be anything from slow load times to poor web design, no internal links, or lack of well-designed, original graphics. Try listing your most popular tutorials in your sidebar (see mine).

 

Backlinko’s On-Page SEO Infographic

This post wouldn’t be complete without Backlinko’s on-page SEO infographic:

on-page-seo

You May Also Like: How I Got 100% Scores In GTMetrix (WordPress Speed Guide)

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How did I get these FAQs in Google?

Install the Structured Content plugin and use it to add FAQs to pages/posts. The plugin will markup the content for you, then test the page in Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.

✅ How important are Yoast's green lights?

Not very important. Yoast emphasizes keyword usage but doesn't pay much attention to keyword research, quality content, rich snippets, or adding an HTML table of contents. The most important places to use your keyword are in the page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content. The rest is quality content + on-page SEO.

✅ What are on-page SEO factors outside of Yoast?

Rich snippets, FAQ rich snippets, adding a table of contents, quality content, using multimedia like infographics and videos, speed optimization, and getting your content showing in Google's featured snippets to name a few.

✅ How do you add a table of contents to long posts?

I recommend using HTML instead of a plugin to make sure the TOC includes linked anchors so people can jump to (and link) to specific sections of your post. I listed the code in this tutorial.

✅ How do you get in Google's featured snippets?

Google can show featured snippets for paragraphs, lists, and tables. Find a question keyword where it makes sense that Google would show featured snippets, or ones that already exists with content that does a poor job answering the question. Next, create a section on your post that answers the question concisely. If optimizing for lists, create a table of contents. Keep the maximum character counts in mind.

Subscribe To My Newsletter: Subscribe to my newsletter if you liked this post! I continuously write new tutorials on WordPress SEO + speed optimization over 3,000 people read each day.

Cheers,
Tom

How To Choose Yoast Focus Keywords: A Guide To Keyword Research And Learning The Competition In Google Search Results

Need help finding better Yoast focus keywords?

Researching Yoast focus keywords is done by selecting specific, long-tail keywords in tools like Google Autocomplete which have a nice balance of monthly searches and low competition. Google the keyword and review the top results to see the content you’re competing with. After that, it’s all about creating a strong, optimized piece of content around that keyword and topic.

These should not be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for, or rank for a keyword with no search volume. We need to know WHAT people are searching (keyword research) and whether your site is capable of ranking for it (keyword competition). A little research can easily get you on page 1, and should be done before writing content. Writing about how to get out of debt vs. how to get out of debt on one income can make the difference.

I wrote a definitive Yoast tutorial that shows you how to configure the ideal settings, verify Google Search Console and fix crawl errors, optimize content (there’s more to it than green lights), and add accelerated mobile pages (AMP). Be sure to check it out when you’re done.

At the end of the day, keywords are just topics. If the topic is being searched a lot and already has strong content in search results, it’s probably competitive (especially if your site has low authority without many backlinks). If two topics are different enough, create a page for each.

Yoast-Focus-Keywords

 

1. Keyword Research Tools

  • Answer The Public – visual keyword map broken down into questions, prepositions, and comparisons. Keywords are pulled from Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches the keyword has.
  • Keywords Everywhere – Chrome Extension that shows you the monthly volume, CPC, and organic competition when searching keywords in Google, Google Autocomplete, YouTube, Amazon, Moz, and other popular websites.
  • MozBar – Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) which are core indicators of how competitive a keyword is. Try competing with websites who have similar domain authority.
  • Google Autocomplete – cool tricks like using the underline character _ to have Google fill-in-the-blank. If you search Chicago _ Photographer, you will see wedding, newborn, photography, and other types of photography services.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer – similar to Google Keyword Planner (only better) as it’s designed specifically for SEO while Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords. Moz Keyword Planner shows you the competition for organic results based on each result’s links, domain authority, etc. While Keyword Planner mainly uses CPC (cost per click) based on their advertising data.
  • HubShout WebGrader – see all keywords you (and competitors) rank for. Includes other metrics like each website’s domain authority and # of backlinks.
  • Google Trends – shows history of keyword volume for Google, YouTube, other mediums. See trends for specific geographies, and questions people are asking.

 

1.1. Answer The Public

The coolest keyword research tool is definitely Answer The Public. Search a keyword and it generates a map of keywords being searched in Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches that keyword has. It also breaks keywords down into specific categories (questions, prepositions, comparisons). Then it breaks them down even further (below is an example of “question keywords” about “Yoast” and I can see all the whats, hows, wheres, etc).

Question keywords (great way to make sure your content answers people’s questions)…

Yoast-Keywords-AnswerThePublic

Preposition keywords…

Preposition Keywords – Answer The Public

Comparison keywords…

Comparison Keywords – Answer The Public

 

1.2. Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere lets you Google any keyword (in Google, YouTube, Amazon, Etsy and other search engines), while showing each keyword’s monthly searches, cost-per-click (CPC) and competition. Combine this with MozBar (the next tool I cover) and it’s a killer combination.

Keywords Everywhere Autocomplete

YouTube Keyword Competition

Amazon Keywords

Etsy Keywords

 

1.3. MozBar

MozBar’s Chrome Extension lets you Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). Higher numbers = higher competition, and you want to try to compete with websites that have similar domain authority – check yours here. You can increase domain authority by getting more quality links (eg. by creating awesome content).

Mozbar Keyword Competition

MozBar Tips

  • Learn your DA using Link Explorer and compete for keywords in your range
  • Broad phrases usually have high DA + PA, long-tail phrases have low DA + PA
  • Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content)
  • Websites (especially new ones) will have low DA, so target very specific phrases
  • You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page

Combine Keywords Everywhere with MozBar to see a nice glimpse of your competition…

Keyword Competition

Avoid Keywords That Show Strong Content
The best opportunities are when you Google a keyword, weak or irrelevant content appears in the top results. Just Google the keyword and skim through the top results to see if people cover the topic extensively. If not, that means it’s the perfect opportunity for you to rank high.

Weak Search Results

Avoid Competing With Authority Websites

  • amazon.com
  • wikipedia.com
  • yelp.com
  • credit.com
  • and so forth…

 

1.4. Google Autocomplete

Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method. If you don’t see the full dropdown menu with all the keywords, try using an Incognito tab.

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

Try using different variations, like plurals

Google-Autocomplete-Plural-Keywords

Or different word ordering

Google Autocomplete Keyword Ordering

Autocomplete works with most search engines including YouTube for video SEO

Video Keywords

Autocomplete Tips

  • Choose specific (long-tail) phrases which are less competitive
  • No need to include “best” and other non-descriptive adjectives
  • Synonyms can be targeted on the same page (as secondary keywords)
  • Most businesses have multiple keywords per service (I have WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit… all of which are different enough that I have a separate page for each and I’m ranked in the top 3 for all them… it works)
  • Being more specific can mean choosing Chicago WordPress Designer (instead of Chicago Web Designer) or WordPress SEO Consultant (instead of SEO Consultant)… targeting a geography or a specific type of ‘web design’ is one way to get more specific

 

1.5. Moz Keyword Explorer

To make sure you don’t miss keywords, use Moz Keyword Explorer. This is similar to Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords) plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the same ones. Start with a broad keyword.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Click on keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Moz Keyword Explorer Tips

  • Group related keywords with low lexical similarity (use filter)
  • Start with a broad phrase, then look for specific, long-tail phrases

How Many Searches Should My Keywords Have?

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer.
Domain Authority

Step 2: Use this handy chart by Orbit Media.
Keyword Research Shortcut

But Can I Target More?
If you plan on creating strong content (ideally with 3,000+ words and lots of graphics/videos), you can target keywords with more monthly searches (my WordPress SEO tutorial will help as it has over 100 tips including 20 on content optimization). Use the chart as a general guideline.

 

1.6. HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)

HubShout WebGrader shows you:

  • All keywords you (and competitors) rank for
  • Each website’s estimated traffic value based on CPC
  • Top ranked content, domain authority, backlinks, and referring domains

HubShout WebGrader Report

See a full list of keywords you (and competitors rank for)…

My Keywords

 

Google Trends tells you whether a keyword is on the rise, or declining. It also filters for finding local keywords and YouTube keywords. This is especially helpful for finding what seasons are busiest, whether your market is declining, and where people are searching these keywords.

Ramen is on the rise!

Google Trends Keywords

Better publish that YouTube tutorial on gift wrapping before December :)

YouTube Keywords – Google Trends

 

1.8. Search Analytics

The Search Analytics feature in Google Search Console (which you can verify with Yoast) tells you your keywords, ranking position, CTR (click-through rate), top ranked pages, and the countries + devices of visitors. I hardly use Google Analytics for SEO – I use Search Analytics.

Cool Trick: find queries (keywords) where you already rank in the first 5 spots in Google, then improve those pages so you can get in the top 1-3 where all the traffic is.

Google Search Console Queries

 

1.9. Avoid Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is designed specifically for AdWords – don’t use it for SEO! The competition is not for organic results. Google Autocomplete, or keyword tools that pull keywords from Autocomplete (like Answer The Public) are better at categorizing keywords and showing you the organic competition. And for the record, no keyword tool is better at estimating a keyword’s competition than Googling the keyword yourself, and analyzing the top results to see what content is already out there – so you know what/who you’re up against.

Google Keyword Planner

 

2. Types Of Keywords

The following sections break down keywords into specific types.

 

2.1. Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for and usually have 3-7+ words in the phrase. They also attract a more targeted visitor. You can even target Chicago WordPress Design instead of Chicago Web Design since that is a more specific type of web design. As you saw in the chart by Orbit Media in section 1.5, websites with low domain authority (DA) should almost always target longer-tail keywords. As you build your DA, you can start targeting broader keywords.

Long-Tail Keywords

Examples Of When To Get More Specific

  • Chicago Painter is competitive, Chicago Interior Painter is better
  • Chicago Real Estate is competitive, Chicago Commercial Real Estate is better
  • Chicago Computer Repair is competitive, Chicago Macbook Pro Repair is better
  • Yoast SEO Plugin is competitive, Yoast SEO Plugin Settings is better
  • SEO Consultant is competitive, WordPress SEO Consultant is better
  • SiteGround Review is competitive, SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review is better

 

2.2. Date Keywords

Drive even more traffic by targeting date keywords (mainly for time sensitive content)…

Time Sensitive Keywords

When optimizing content, you should include the date (year) in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. Of course this requires me to keep the tutorial up to date, but this has already driven quite a bit of extra traffic during 2017 as I’m included as a featured snippet.

Dates In SEO Titles

 

2.3. Local Keywords (Small Town vs. Large City vs. National)

The larger the area, the more specific your keywords will be, and the more you will have. Smaller towns will have broad keywords while larger cities will have more specific phrases…

Local Keywords

Unless you’re targeting a small town and have 1 primary keyword like “Lake Forest Divorce Lawyer” you probably have other keywords you can target (find them using keyword tools).

Small towns have a small number of broad keywords…

Small Town Keywords

Large cities tend to have multiple specific keywords…

Large City Keywords

National keywords are even more specific, and there’s more of them…

National Keywords

Don’t forget to use Google Trends to see local keywords and their popularity…

Local Keywords – Google Trends

Multiple Locationseach location should have it’s own page (sometimes multiple pages) depending on whether multiple keywords are being searched in each area. Each location should also have it’s own citations (online directories like Google My Business, Facebook Page, Yelp, Bing Places…) which is exactly what my WordPress local SEO guide walks you through.

 

3.4. Blog Post Keywords

Post-Focus-Keywords

Getting traffic to your blog is fine and dandy, but how does this get you clients?

Here’s what I did…

I offer WordPress speed optimization as part of my SEO services. I wanted more of these projects so I learned what phrases people Google when they have a slow WordPress site. I looked at Google Autocomplete for “slow WordPress…” and saw some results. Then I really put myself in my searcher’s position when I Googled “why is wordpress” and saw it completed the phrase with “why is wordpress so slow” with that keyword on top. There are plenty of variations below it in Autocomplete, indicating that keyword has a good amount of searches. It’s also within my competition if you Google the keyword using MozBar. We have a winner!

And so my blog post was born: Why Is WordPress Slow (And 7 Ways To Fix It)

People read my guide, realize they don’t have the technical skill to do everything, and some inquire. Completely coincidental that this happened while I was writing this post (seriously, I haven’t gotten one of these for weeks) but I literally just got this comment 3 hours ago:

Inquiry

Update (2018): That guide is now one of the most popular tutorials on my website!

 

2.5. Multiple Keywords (Synonyms)

All you have to do is research a synonym of your primary keyword then incorporate both of these in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. This is by FAR the most important part but you can also sprinkle your secondary keyword 1-2 times in your content. You do NOT have to incorporate both as full keywords (exact matches) otherwise your headline will look spammy. Crafting a headline that sounds nice AND includes partial matches is the way to go.

Here’s an example:

Step 1: Research your primary keyword…

Secondary Keywords

Step 2: Research your secondary keyword…

Secondary Focus Keyword
Step 3: Write a headline that incorporates both and still sounds nice…

Headline

Step 4: Rank for both keywords…

focus-keyword-1

focus-keyword-2

You can use the same strategy in your meta description and (sparingly) in the content body.

 

3. Content Optimization

Now that you have your Yoast focus keywords, you can start optimizing content! Including your keyword in “all the right places” is just 1 small part of it, you should really read the content optimization section of my WordPress SEO guide. I promise you will learn a lot.

 

Remember: Only Target 1 Keyword Per Page (Unless Synonyms)

Only synonyms can be targeted on the same page. This is because Google wants to show the most relevant results so keywords that mean 2 different things should have their own page.

Single Keywords

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚦 How do you find good focus keywords?

The best keywords have a balance between monthly searches, low competition, and high profitability. You can usually only pick two. For example, if a highly profitable keyword doesn't have a lot of searches but has low competition, go for it.

🚦 How do I learn how competitive a keyword is?

Google the keyword and look at the top results. Do they do a good job at covering the topic? Is it from an authority website? Do they have high domain + page authority (you can check this in MozBar's Chrome Extension)? If yes, that keyword may be too competitive.

🚦 What are the best keyword research tools?

My top 4 keyword research tools are Google Autocomplete, MozBar Chrome extension (for checking competition using each search result's domain and page authority), HubShout WebGrader (for finding competitor keywords), and Keywords Everywhere to learn a keyword's monthly searches and estimated competition.

🚦 How do I learn how many searches a keyword has?

Keywords Everywhere and Ahrefs tell you how many monthly searches a keyword has.

🚦 Should I target broad or specific (long-tail) keywords?

I recommended targeting specific, long-tail keywords 95% of the time. They are much less competitive and bring a more targeted visitor to your site. New websites, or those having trouble with SEO, should always start by targeting specific, long-tail keywords.

🚦 How do I target multiple keywords (synonyms)?

Find 2 keywords that are very similar. These can be synonyms or even date keywords that include the current year if it's a time-sensitive topic. Use the primary keyword in your page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content. The secondary keyword should be sprinkled in these areas as a partial match - it does not have to be an exact match!

🚦 What about Google Keyword Planner?

Do not use Google Keyword Planner to research SEO keywords. It's designed specifically for AdWords and the competition is also reflected in Adwords, not organic search results.

See also: My Definitive Guide To Yoast SEO

If you found this post helpful, please share – I would appreciate it. And if you have any questions about Yoast focus keywords or Yoast in general, drop me a line in the comments.

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Settings: A Complete Guide To Optimizing WordPress With Yoast’s Plugin (Updated 2020, V. 14.9)

Yoast-SEO-Settings

Most people have Yoast, but few use it correctly.

This tutorial breaks Yoast down into 3 key steps: configuring the Yoast settings, researching long-tail focus keywords, and on-page SEO (beyond green lights). I will also show you a few other ways to improve SEO related to Yoast like adding publish dates to increase CTRs, submitting your Yoast XML sitemap to Search Console, fixing broken links, and adding schema.

Before reading this guide, install the Hide SEO bloat plugin which removes Yoast ads and update Yoast to the latest version. Finally, if you like this guide, be sure to check out my WordPress speed guide which has 450+ comments and helps improve your GTmetrix report.

Leave a comment if you have questions – I’m always listening!

 

Important Things To Know Before Using Yoast

People waste too much time trying to get green lights and not enough time on keyword research (or making their content better than whoever’s in the top results). Before you start, read these tips to avoid wasting your time which is seriously a big issue when people use Yoast.

  • Don’t obsess over green lights (use my on-page SEO checklist instead).
  • Don’t blindly select keywords – look for a long-tail (3+ word) phrase in Google Autocomplete, then Google it to see whether top results cover the topic extensively.
  • Don’t stuff keywords in your text (or image alt text) to get green lights, that’s spammy!
  • The most important places to use your focus keyword is in the page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and once in the first couple sentences of the content body. That’s it!
  • Yoast (and all SEO plugins) do very little for on-page SEO – most of it is advice. Spend more time on content and start focusing on making your content as helpful as possible.

 

1. General

Dashboard
Yoast-General-Dashboard-Settings

Don’t click the button to enable Yoast indexables – there have been many complaints on their blog about this feature and it can really mess up your site. Keep an eye on their blog for updates.

Features
Yoast-Features

Below is a screenshot of each Yoast feature.

I disabled a few of them… I don’t use the Readability Analysis since I don’t need Yoast grading my content (eg. whether my sentences are too long). I use internal links naturally in my content and don’t need Yoast’s Text Link Counter reminding me to add them. I don’t need Ryte to constantly check whether my site is indexed in search engines (it obviously is), and I never use Yoast’s Admin Dropdown Menu. See what features you like, enable them, and disable the rest.

Yoast SEO Analysis
SEO Analysis
Yoast XML Sitemap Setting
XML Sitemap
Yoast Readability Analysis
Readability Analysis
Yoast Ryte Analysis 1
Ryte Integration
Cornerstone Content Filter
Cornerstone Content
Yoast Admin Bar Menu 1
Admin Bar Menu
Yoast Text Link Counter Feature
Text Link Counter
Yoast Advanced Settings
Security

Webmaster Tools
Sign up for Google Search Console (most important) and use the HTML verification method to copy/paste your verification code. Do the same thing for Bing/Yandex/Baidu. Search Console is incredibly helpful. I recommend using it to find technical errors and monitor rankings and CTRs.

Yoast-Webmaster-Tools

Verify Webmaster Tools

  • Sign up for Google Search Console
  • Select the HTML tag verification method
  • Copy the code and paste into the Google Search Console field
  • Delete everything outside of the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click “Verify” in Google Search Console
  • Repeat for Bing / Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine)
  • I do not use Baidu Webmaster Tools since it’s confusing as I don’t read Chinese, and you need a Chinese phone number, but you can read this tutorial if you want to try

Submit Your Yoast XML Sitemap To Google

  • In Yoast, go to General → Features → XML Sitemaps
  • Click the question mark icon by the XML Sitemaps option
  • Click your XML Sitemap link
  • Copy the last past of the URL: /sitemap_index.xml
  • Login to Google Search Console
  • On the left side of the dashboard, go to Sitemaps
  • Paste the last part of your sitemap URL into Google Search Console
  • Click “submit”
  • Repeat for Bing + Yandex

Yoast-XML-Sitemap-Setting

Submit-Yoast-XML-Sitemap-To-Google

 

2. Search Appearance

General
Yoast-Search-Appearance-General-Settings

Title Separator – when you’re using snippet variables, this is the dash (or other special character) usually between your page/post title and site name. Example: Page Title Site Name.

Snippet Variables – templates used for SEO titles + meta descriptions only IF you forget to write them, which you should never forget to do. So as long as you’re writing these manually, they don’t matter. You should take the time to write them so they sound nicer than a template.

Yoast Basic Variables

Manually written snippets are always better than default snippet variables.

The title of this post you’re reading is 150+ characters long (well over the 60 character limit for SEO titles). If I relied on Yoast to create my SEO title using snippet variables, it would be longer than 60 characters and get cut off by Google, making my snippet look horrible. Instead, I wrote this myself so it reads nicely: The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Settings (2020 Updated).

Homepage – the homepage usually targets a broad keyword about your main product/service (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer). Use this in your homepage SEO title + meta description.

Homepage-Snippet

Content Types
Yoast-Content-Types-Settings

Show Posts In Search Results – control whether posts/pages are indexed in search engines. You obviously want pages and posts, but you usually don’t want tag, format, portfolio, and other pages to be shown in search results. These pages can often be thin or duplicate content which can cause warnings in Google Search Console. Category pages can be indexed if you have a decent amount of posts under each category and design them to look nice, optimize them, etc.

Show SEO Settings – this is the SEO analysis tool that gives you on-page SEO recommendations. You definitely want this for pages, posts, and possibly blog category pages.

Media
Yoast-Media-Settings

Taxonomies
Yoast-Taxonomies-Settings

Archives
Yoast-Archives-Settings

Breadcrumbs
Yoast-Breadcrumbs-Settings

Breadcrumbs – navigation text that appears at the top of your content:

Breadcrumbs

They help users and search engines learn your site structure. To enable breadcrumbs, add this code to Editor → Index.php by pasting it under get_header();

get_header(); ?>
<div id="primary">
<?php if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {
yoast_breadcrumb('<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>');
} ?>
<div id="content" role="main">

RSS
Yoast-RSS-Settings

 

3. Social

Fill out your social media profiles.

But the key thing is to enable each social network’s meta data under the Facebook and Twitter tab. This enables Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards which lets you upload properly sized images to each page/post to make the content look much nicer when shared on social media.

Accounts
Yoast-Social-Settings

Facebook
Yoast-Facebook-Settings

Facebook App ID – if you created a Facebook app, find your app ID and enter it here. Here’s a tutorial on how to create a Facebook app and what it does.

Twitter
Yoast-Twitter-Settings

Pinterest
Yoast-Pinterest-Settings

You will need to complete a few additional steps to verify your site with Pinterest.

Social Media Optimization – once meta data is enabled for each social network, edit a page or post, scroll down to the Yoast section, and click the Social tab. Here you can upload custom social media images to make the content’s image format properly when the page is shared on social media. Yes, this means you will need to create 2 separate graphics for each page and post.

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 630px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px

Upload a custom graphic for Facebook and Twitter:

Yoast-Social-Graphics

Now your content looks much nicer:

Yoast-Social-Sharing-Image

Controlling Facebook Ad Text With Yoast – if you’re boosting posts, Facebook won’t let you change the ad text. So before sharing your post on Facebook, give it the title you want using Yoast’s “Facebook Title” field (which can be different from the SEO title + meta description). If your Yoast Facebook title isn’t working right away, trying clearing your website’s cache. I have found it can sometimes take several days for it to update with new Facebook title and image.

Yoast Facebook Title

 

4. Tools

Yoast-Tools

Bulk Editor – edit SEO titles and meta descriptions in bulk (without having to go through each individual page/post). Making sure these ready nicely can significantly increase click-through rates by making your snippets more appealing to click on. Don’t forget to include that post’s focus keyword in both places. SNIPPETS ARE LITERALLY THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR SEO!

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

File Editor – edit robots.txt and .htaccess files.

Import And Exportimport my recommended Yoast SEO settings or export your own Yoast settings to use on other websites you manage. If you’re currently using another WordPress SEO Plugin, use the “Import From Other SEO Plugins” tab to migrate it’s SEO data to Yoast.

 

5. Yoast SEO Premium (Not Worth The Money)

Yoast SEO Premium is $89/year – I seriously only bought it because I write WordPress SEO tutorials for a living. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have it… setting multiple focus keywords isn’t useful, there are plenty of free redirect plugins, and internal link suggestions + content insights really don’t help me at all. Here’s an explanation of some of the highlighted features.

Yoast-SEO-Premium-Features

Optimize For Multiple Keywords – there is a specific strategy for this. Secondary keywords are often included as partial matches which means the SEO analysis checklist is virtually useless since Yoast rarely detects these, and therefore your lights will usually be red for secondary keywords. Targeting secondary keywords is more about crafting a nice SEO title + meta description to include individual words from both phrases rather than stuffing both keywords.

Yoast Multiple Focus Keywords

Preview Of Your Page – as long as you’re uploading custom images in Yoast’s “social sharing option” so your image formats properly Facebook and Twitter (step 3), you don’t need this. But if you like seeing how it looks directly in Yoast to make sure it looks good, that’s all this does.

yoast-social-previews

No Outdated Content – Yoast tells you if you haven’t updated a piece of content for 6+ months.

Link Suggestions – shows related content on your website/blog to use internal links to. I use internal links naturally when I think another article would be helpful, but I don’t help with this.

Yoast-Internal-Linking

Content Insights – again, Yoast is focusing too much on keyword usage and nothing about content quality or user experience. Another keyword usage feature that is not very helpful.

Yoast Content Insights

Redirect Manager – the Redirection Plugin plugin is free or you can create redirects in .htaccess. Yoast’s redirect manager automatically adds a redirect if you ever change a permalink while other plugins don’t. That’s the only benefit, otherwise free redirect plugins will do the job.

yoast-automatic-redirect

Premium Support – I have never used their support, but I heard they just refer you to articles.

Ad-Free – the Hide SEO Bloat plugin is free and removes Yoast ads.

 

6. AMP

Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are a Google project that make mobile pages load faster and adds an “AMP” sign to your mobile snippets. While this sounds good, you should usually avoid AMP. Take a look at Kinsta’s study on how mobile conversions dropped 59% after adding AMP. After reading that article, I decided to disable AMP on my own website (and I’m glad I did). The design isn’t nearly as nice and it’s a pain in the ass. Save yourself the trouble – I would avoid it.

amp-pages

AMP Instructions

  • Install the AMP Plugin by Automattic
  • Install the Glue For Yoast SEO AMP Plugin if using Yoast
  • Add /amp/ to any page on your website to see how it looks and make sure it works
  • Go to Yoast’s Settings → AMP to change your design and enable custom post types
  • Wait for Google to recrawl your site and add the AMP sign in mobile search results
  • Visit the Accelerated Mobile Pages section in Google Search Console to see errors

 

7. Import My Yoast Settings

To use my Yoast settings, download the zip file and upload it under SEO → Tools → Import And Export → Import. This configures the settings, it does not delete focus keywords or meta data.

Download My Yoast Settings (Updated 3/9/2018)

Things You Still Need To Do:

  • General → Webmaster Tools (verify your site with Google/Bing/Yandex)
  • Search Appearance → General (check if you have duplicate sitenames by hovering over your homepage’s browser tab, and if so, leave Force Rewrite Titles as enabled)
  • Search Appearance → General (fill out your homepage SEO title + meta description, and specify whether you’re a person or company)
  • Search Appearance → Content Types (choose which content you want shown in search results, and add publish dates to snippets on time-sensitive posts)
  • Search Appearance → Taxonomies (choose which content you want in search results)
  • Search Appearance → Breadcrumbs (add your website name as the “Anchor Text For Homepage” and follow Yoast’s tutorial to add breadcrumbs)
  • Search Console → Settings (authenticate Yoast with Google Search Console, wait a few days for the data to populate, then fix crawl errors (visit section). See my Google Search Console tutorial for even more tips on optimizing your website with Search Console)
  • Social → Enter URLs of your social profiles, upload your logo in the Facebook tab, enable Facebook Insights, and verify your site with Pinterest
  • Add AMP Pages (visit section)

 

8. Focus Keywords

Research a keyword’s monthly searches and competition is super important.

  • Find long-tail (specific) keywords in Autocomplete + Keyword Explorer
  • Write down all relevant phrases so you have a robust keyword list
  • Avoid keywords where strong content/websites are in the top results
  • Target keywords where search results contain weak/irrelevant content
  • Google each keyword using MozBar to learn each one’s estimated competition
  • Check OSE for your DA (domain authority), then Google your keyword using MozBar and check the top results to see what their DA is. Compete within your own DA range and if yours is low, target even more specific keywords which are less competitive.
  • You should be left with high opportunity keywords where you can get on page 1

Google Autocomplete
Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method.

google-autocomplete-keywords

To see even more keywords in the dropdown, use plurals or different word ordering.

autocomplete-keywords

Each service (and location) should be targeted on separate pages on your website.

multiple-localized-keywords

For competitive blog post topics, always select a very specific (long-tail) keyword.

Long-Tail Keywords

You can do the same thing for YouTube video keywords.

youtube-autocomplete-keywords

How I found my keyword for this tutorial (which helped me optimize my content).

Yoast-Keyword-Research

Yoast-Keyword

Moz Keyword Explorer (Better Than Keyword Planner)
To make sure you don’t miss any keywords from Google Autocomplete, use Moz Keyword Explorer which is similar to Google Keyword Planner only better (and free). Start with a broad phrase, run the tool, then under Group Keywords select “yes, with low lexical similarity.” This prevents you from having to scroll through similar keyword variations over and over again.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)
To see a full keyword list for competitor websites, run them through HubShout WebGrader

My Keywords

MozBar (Keyword Competition)
Now you should have a robust keyword list. The final step is to install the MozBar Google Chrome Extension and Google each keyword. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the more competitive the keyword. Try to select keywords within your own DA/PA range. You can increase these by creating awesome content to get links. The best keywords are those that if you Google, weak (or irrelevant) content exists in the top results.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

 

9. On-Page SEO With Yoast

The first step to optimizing content is researching focus keywords – make sure you do step 8 first. Then you can start creating content (or optimizing existing content) for those keywords.

What Yoast should say…

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy! Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTRs? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, SEO title, and meta description… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights in Yoast. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… start thinking about adding a helpful TOC to long posts, videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beefing up content to make it better (more detailed) than everyone else’s.

Basic Rules Of Yoast:
The green light obsession – if you’re copying/pasting focus keywords throughout your content to make Yoast happy, stop it right now. This article you’re reading is well optimized (it’s super useful and organized) and half my bullets are red. Stop obsessing over green lights and start obsessing over your content. Add an infographic and video to a page and see what happens.

You can only set 1 focus keyword – Yoast premium allows up to 5, but if you don’t have success with 1 keyword then don’t try 2. However it’s not that hard (just make sure the secondary keyword is very similar to your primary) and sprinkle partial matches throughout the content. Generally, each unique keyword should have it’s own page with content reflecting that phrase. Each of your services will have it’s own page – sometimes multiple pages. I have separates pages for WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit, and others.

Yoast doesn’t always detect keywords – sometimes it won’t pick up on synonyms or partial matches. If my focus keyword is SEO Consultant and I use SEO Consulting in the content, Yoast may not count this keyword. But I can assume keyword density is higher than Yoast says.

Find a balance between keywords and using a nice page title, SEO title, and meta description – there’s a fine line between writing a headline that sounds good, and writing a headline so it includes your keyword. Find the right balance. Crafting a headline that people will actually click on is a huge part of content optimization.

Yoast only detects keywords in the main content body and search engine snippet – not the sidebars, not the footer, just those two areas. This is also good since search engines analyze content in blocks and your content body/search engine snippets are the important areas.

Focus keyword for homepage – your homepage should usually target your primary keyword. If you have a widgetized homepage you won’t have Yoast’s SEO analysis checklist (since you’re using widgets). But that’s OK, just use the same on-page SEO strategies as the other pages.

You usually do want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Homepage
  • Product/service pages
  • Location pages
  • Blog posts (non-promotional keywords)

You usually don’t want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Contact page
  • Team pages (unless their names are being searched for)
  • Testimonials
  • Work/portfolio
  • Main blog page

Now create a page, set your focus keyword, write some content, and see my suggestions:

Yoast-SEO-Analysis

Focus Keyword – use Google Autocomplete to find long-tail (specific) phrases, then Google the keyword and analyze the search results with MozBar’s Chrome Extension. Look for keywords with weak content in the top results and avoid competing with authority websites.

Never Target The Same Keyword On 2 Pages – if you’re going to spend time creating 2 pages targeting the same keyword, you might as well spend all that time on 1 page and make the content awesome. I would rather have 1 amazing piece of content than 2 mediocre articles.

Page Title – include your keyword here. If it’s a blog post make sure you write a kick-ass headline preferably with your focus keyword in the beginning of the title. Posts usually have a longer, more descriptive title, page titles are usually shorter and just list a product/service.

URL – shorten URLs to not include stop words (and put emphasis on your focus keyword) UNLESS this makes the URL ready funny. I shortened mine to /yoast-wordpress-seo-settings/

SEO Title – these are the blue links in search results and are the FIRST thing people see. They should be 50-60 characters (length bar in Yoast should be green). If it’s a page, don’t just use “Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” Use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on it… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” SEO titles for posts can be similar to the title, but adjust it to read nicely in those 50-60 characters.

Meta Description – 150-160 character description of your content, primarily used to increase CTR and get people clicking your link, but should also include your focus keyword.

Image Alt Text – do not stuff keywords here, just describe the image! As long as you’re writing descriptive file names before uploading, you can use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin to automatically use the file name as the alt text, so you don’t have to do this manually.

Keyword Density – Yoast exaggerates the importance of keyword density when it’s actually not very important. Use it once in the first couple sentences, then forget about it.

Keyword In Subheading (H2) – you don’t need to use your keyword here – it looks spammy.

Internal / External Links – use a few links on your page. Google likes this and as long as you’re actually linking to helpful resources (I’m not talking about Wikipedia), then visitors will also find this helpful. Internal links are good because they keep people on your site and are a natural way to build links, but you will need a good amount of content for this. External links are good because they’re like citing sources for the article, which Google likes. Both are good.

Post Long Content – short, crappy content doesn’t rank. Long content that covers the topic extensively (especially content that includes a video or infographic), will. Google measures “average time on page” so your primary goal is to increase the “dwell time” of your visitor. Yoast recommends 300+ words, but try 3,000 words (or more) and you will see way better results.

WordPress Word Count

Rich Snippets – these enhance your snippets with review stars, videos, and information about products, events, recipes, and other types of data. This isn’t part of Yoast but it obviously helps your SEO and click-through rates. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin (here’s my review of it) which has way more options and looks better than free plugins like All In One Schema.org. If you would like to add rich snippets to your WordPress site, follow that tutorial.

rich-snippets

Image Speed Optimization – I have a full tutorial for image optimization. Run a page through GTmetrix to see all unoptimized images on the page. Large images need to be resized to fit the correct dimensions. If your content body is 680(w) you should be using images that are resized to 680(w). Use a plugin like Imagify for lossless compression. Images with the “specify image dimensions” error means you need to specify a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Why-Is-WordPress-So-Slow.jpg” alt=”Why Is WordPress So Slow” width=”680” height=”380” />

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Targeting Multiple Keywords – I touched on this in the Yoast SEO Premium section, but here’s an example. You’ll want to craft your SEO title/meta description to include elements of both…

Primary Keyword: SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes
Secondary Keyword: SEO-Optimized WordPress Themes

Page Title / SEO Title: 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes For Everyone
Meta Description: Browse over 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes which have mobile responsive and HTML5 design, all of which are SEO optimized via the Genesis Framework.

Now sprinkle your secondary keyword (or a partial match of it) in your content. Your permalink should usually just include your primary keyword: /seo-friendly-wordpress-themes/. You do not need to purchase Yoast SEO Premium to target secondary keywords – just use tools like Google Autocomplete to find a secondary keyword, then sprinkle it.

 

12. Anatomy Of A Perfectly Optimized Page

I borrowed this from Backlinko which emphasizes why content optimization is more than “green lights.” It’s more about creating damn good content using infographics, videos, and creating “the ultimate guide” with a table of contents (like this post). Stop worrying so much about green lights, get off the “text and photos” route and start doing something different.

on-page-seo

I also created a version for WordPress (a little outdated but still good)…

WordPress-Content-Optimization

 

13. Remove Yoast Advertisements

The Hide SEO Bloat plugin removes all advertisements in Yoast, making it easier to configure the Yoast settings. Simply install it and it will automatically remove all Yoast ads, which are a lot.

Hide-SEO-Bloat

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚦 What are the 3 main steps to Yoast?

Configuring the settings, researching focus keywords, and content optimization are the 3 main steps to using Yoast's SEO plugin. Setting up Google Search Console is important too.

🚦 How do I choose focus keywords?

Google Autocomplete is a great tool for finding keywords, especially when using the fill-in-the-blank method from this guide. MozBar and Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension helps you learn each keyword's competition - which is a critical part to keyword research.

🚦 How important are green lights?

They're not. The 5 most important places to use your keyword are in the page title, permalink, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content body. Nearly all other ranking factors have nothing to do with Yoast, regardless of what other people say.

🚦 What other on-page SEO factors are there besides green lights?

FAQ rich snippets (like the ones you're reading now), adding an HTML table of contents to long posts, optimizing site speed, carefully crafting SEO titles + meta descriptions, and in-depth content are all major factors that can improve both rankings + click-through rates.

🚦 How did I get these emojis in search results?

They're called FAQ rich snippets and I have a tutorial for that. You simply install the Structured Content plugin and add FAQs (with the emoji of your choice) to pages/posts.

 

Whaddaya Think?

Hit me up in the comments if you have questions :)

See Also:
How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix

Cheers,
Tom

Stop Obsessing Over Green Lights In Yoast’s SEO Analysis

Content optimization does NOT mean getting green lights in Yoast – and I think it’s time someone drops the bomb on Yoast’s SEO analysis when it tells you to use your focus keyword.

The problem is, Yoast’s SEO analysis only detects exact matches of your focus keyword in the visual and HTML editor (not page builders). It does not detect plurals, synonyms, or partial matches of your keyword. So when you’re writing a nice page title and snippet (SEO title + meta description) people will actually click in search results, don’t just use your exact focus keyword to get green lights in Yoast’s SEO analysis. Consider click-through rates (CTR) as well.

The solution is, to find a balance between using your focus keyword AND make your content + snippets read nicely. If my focus keyword is “Yoast Focus Keywords” my SEO title could be: How To Choose Focus Keywords In Yoast (You Can Actually Rank For). It’s not an exact match, and I don’t use the keyword in the beginning of the SEO title like Yoast wants, so 2 bullets will be red in Yoast’s SEO analysis. But it’s a nice headline and I rank #5 for this keyword (Yoast has the top 4 results). So it’s perfectly OK to not include exact matches and get red lights in Yoast.

  1. What Yoast’s SEO Analysis SHOULD Say
  2. Optimized Post (Example)
  3. Writing Headlines For Pages vs. Posts
  4. Keyword Density Barely Matters
  5. When To Shorten URLs (And Remove Stop Words)
  6. Image Alt Text Should Just Describe The Image
  7. Yoast Doesn’t Analyze Content In Page Builders
  8. When To Use Exact Keyword Matches (Examples)
  9. Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite Your Snippets
  10. Don’t Target The Same Keyword On Multiple Pages
  11. Most People Don’t Choose The Right Focus Keywords

 

1. What Yoast’s SEO Analysis SHOULD Say

WARNING: injecting your focus keyword in the content body/snippets can make them look spammy! Have you thought about writing a nice SEO title to increase your CTR instead? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, SEO title, and meta description… but you don’t have to use an exact match just to make your lights turn green. Just sprinkle it’s individual words throughout the text! Keywords and nice headline… find the balance. Forget about keyword density and using your keyword in the H2… we all know these barely matter in on-page SEO. Mention it in the first couple sentences and get back to creating awesome content (that is better than whoever’s in the top results for your keyword). Ps. if you’re using a page builder, Yoast won’t detect anything in your content, since it only analyzes content in the visual/HTML editor. Do not force yourself to get green lights.

Now go to Yoast’s bulk editor (SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor) and rewrite your SEO titles + meta descriptions so people actually want to click them!

Importance Of Yoast Green Lights

 

2. Optimized Post (Example)

Here’s a post where I rank #1 for these keywords: yoast settings, yoast settings 2018, yoast wordpress seo settings, best yoast settings, among other keywords about configuring Yoast.

Yoast-SEO-Analysis

How I selected my focus keyword…

Yoast-Keyword-Research

Yoast-Keyword

 

3. Writing Headlines For Pages vs. Posts

Post titles are usually much longer than page titles… this is the only major difference in how I optimize pages vs. posts. My page on WordPress SEO Consulting has a simple page title of “WordPress SEO Consulting.” But my post title for this tutorial you’re reading is… way longer.

Page-Title

Post-Titles

 

4. Keyword Density Barely Matters

Google is giving less and less importance on keyword density and more weight on quality content. Yes, you should still mention your focus keyword (or a partial match of it) a few times in the content, and most importantly, once in the first couple sentences. But to go through all your pages/posts and inject your focus keyword… it’s not a good investment of time. You’re better off improving content. My keyword density % in Yoast is usually red, anywhere from 0-1% especially since I don’t always use exact matches, which is the only thing Yoast will detect.

Keyword-Density-Yoast

 

5. When To Shorten URLs (And Remove Stop Words)

Yoast’s SEO analysis prompts you to remove stop words (common words most search engines skip over) like the, a, and, in, etc. Sometimes you SHOULD shorten URLs to only include your focus keyword. WordPress automatically uses the page/post title for your URL, so the URL for this post you’re reading now would have been VERY LONG. So to emphasize my keywords, I shortened it to be https://onlinemediamasters.com/yoast-green-lights-in-seo-analysis/

Yoast-Stop-Words

But sometimes it’s not a good idea to remove stop words since this makes URLs confusing on what the topic is actually about. Here are examples when you shouldn’t remove stop words:

Stop-Words-SEO

See how they don’t even make sense? Yes, you should shorten URLs and include your focus keyword. But if stop words make it read funny like in the examples above, don’t remove them.

 

6. Image Alt Text Should Just Describe The Image

If you have an image that describes your focus keyword, by all means use it as the alt text. But there is absolutely no reason to go hunting for images and change their alt text just to get another green light in Yoast. As long as you’re uploading images with a file name that actually describes the image, and use the file name as the alt text, you will be FINE (and you will probably have some nice partial matches of your keyword)! This tutorial has images for Yoast’s SEO analysis, focus keywords, bulk editor… so I will name them just like that. Keep it simple.

Yoast-Focus-Keyword-In-Alt-Text

 

7. Yoast Doesn’t Analyze Content In Page Builders

If you’re using a page builder, Yoast’s SEO analysis won’t detect anything here, so you will need to do the on-page SEO manually. Just do it how you would on any content, you just won’t be able to tell when your lights turn green in Yoast. The SEO analysis doesn’t analyze content outside the WordPress Visual/HTML Editor, so this also applies to widgetized homepages.

 

8. When To Use Exact Keyword Matches (Examples)

The only time you should use your exact focus keyword is if it sounds natural (no injecting spammy keywords, no injecting them into SEO titles + meta descriptions at the cost of lower CTRs). But if you can still write a nice headline with your exact keyword, go ahead and do it.

SEO Titles Where I Use An Exact Match:

 

9. Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite Your Snippets

If you want to rewrite your SEO titles + meta descriptions to sound nice (and I would definitely recommend doing this), Yoast’s bulk editor lets you do it without going through individual pages/posts (it’s under SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor). The bulk editor doesn’t tell you each page’s focus keyword, and it does not measure the length of SEO titles + meta descriptions. SEO titles should be 50-60 characters, meta descriptions should be 150-160 (however in 2018, Google extended meta description length in many results and Moz now recommends 300 characters).

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

 

10. Don’t Target The Same Keyword On Multiple Pages

It’s counterproductive. You’re better off spending time improving content on 1 single page than creating a bunch of pages with mediocre content targeting the same focus keyword.

Duplicate-Focus-Keywords

 

11. Most People Don’t Choose The Right Focus Keywords

The biggest problem I see with people using Yoast is choosing broad, competitive keywords they will never rank for. If you’re not ranking on the TOP of page 1 for many of your keywords, start choosing more specific (long-tail) phrases in Google Autocomplete. And if you’re still not ranking, get even more specific. Usually only websites with high domain authority (you can check this in OSE) can rank for broad, competitive keywords. Until then, always go long-tail.

Long-Tail Keywords

Always Google your keyword and analyze the search results. Avoid competing with strong content (that covers the topic extensively) and authority websites like credit.com, amazon.com, etc. If you can create better content than the top results, you have a chance.

Keyword Competition

Use MozBar to Google your keyword and see each result’s PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority). Try to only compete with websites in your domain authority range.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

Moz Keyword Explorer is also a great place to find keywords (it’s much better than Google Keyword Planner). Once you’ve narrowed down a list of long-tail keywords and analyzed search results to avoid strong content and authority websites, you’ll have a nice keyword list.

 

Conclusion: Yoast’s SEO Analysis Isn’t Perfect (Because…)

  • Yoast doesn’t take into account good headlines/CTRs
  • They only detect exact keyword matches, no partial matches
  • They prompt you to increase keyword density which barley matters
  • They prompt your to remove stop words, which can make URLs read funny
  • They prompt your to use your exact keyword in H2’s (causes spammy subheadings)
  • They prompt you to use your exact keyword in image alt text (even if it doesn’t describe the image)

These are all situational on the page/post, whether you actually have an image that describes your focus keyword, and whether you can write headlines/snippets that include your keyword AND still sound nice. Yoast is still a great SEO plugin, but I think they need to incorporate my warning to prevent people from injecting their focus keyword at the cost of spammy content.

Do you agree?

Cheers,
Tom

Local SEO For WordPress: How To Optimize Your Website (And Citations) To Rank Higher In Google Maps & Local Search Results

Ready to rank higher in Google Maps and local search results?

We’ll follow Google’s local search ranking factors which Moz reports every 2 years. I broke these down into factors on and off your WordPress site. Citations (online directories like Yelp, Superpages, and Axciom) are about 11% of local SEO, so it wouldn’t be fair to leave these out.

This guide assumes you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin. If you don’t have Yoast, I suggest installing it then configuring my recommended Yoast settings. It also assumes you have a physical address in your targeted city which is not mandatory, but is the #1 factor in Maps.

 

1. Local Search Ranking Factors

Here are Google’s 2018 local ranking factors. The main factors are Google My Business, citations (directories), reviews, geo-targeted pages, mobile optimization, and of course – links.

2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

Top 50 factors for local pack and localized organic…

Top 50 Local SEO Factors

Google your primary local keywords and see which results you want to target…

Local-Search-Results

 

2. Localized Keywords

Google Autocomplete
I have a separate tutorial on choosing Yoast focus keywords + green light optimization but I’ll go over this briefly. Go to google.com and use the underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase to have Google fill-in-the-blank and learn keywords people are searching in your city…

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

To find even more keywords, try using different variations of the keyword, like plurals

Google-Autocomplete-Plural-Keywords

Use different word ordering to get even more ideas…

Word Ordering Keywords

Target Specific Services – if “Chicago Wedding Photographer” is your primary keyword, try also targeting Indian and Gay Wedding Photographer. Same thing with web design… you can target both Chicago Web Design and Chicago WordPress Design which both show up in Autocomplete. For dentists, you may have Chicago Dentist, Chicago Dental Implants, Chicago Emergency Dentist, etc. Relying on 1 single keyword for ALL your traffic is never a good idea. You need to research Google Autocomplete for all your services, then create a page for each.

Moz Keyword Explorer
Next, use Moz Keyword Explorer to make sure you’re not missing keywords. This is similar to Google Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords), plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the exact same ones.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Once it runs, click keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions. You should see a nice list of keywords and the volume (monthly searches). Note phrases you DIDN’T find in Autocomplete.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Estimating Local Keyword Competition
More Autocomplete results + broad phrases = more competitive…
Broad-Local-Keyword-Competition

Less Autocomplete results + specific phrases = less competitive…
Specific-Local-Keyword-Competition

You can also use the MozBar Chrome Extension to Google any keyword and learn it’s competition. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the higher the competition and the more effort needed to rank for it. Try to stay within your own DA range.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

 

3. Blog Post Keywords

Blog posts usually attract the most links to your site (a huge ranking factor) since people naturally link to USEFUL content (not promotional service pages) which benefit the rankings of your entire WordPress site. Just like we researched keywords for pages, find as many informational, non-promotional blog keywords as you can, then write a post for each topic.

Local SEO Keywords
Local SEO Keywords

 

4. Geo-Targeted Pages

Create a page for each keyword – target your primary keyword on your homepage, then create a separate page for Chicago Indian Wedding Photographer and other specific services. Average Cost Of Wedding Photographer In Chicago would be a good article on your blog.

Optimize content with Yoast – you can get green lights all you want, but designing a nice (ideally lengthy) page with awesome photos, testimonials, video and other useful content – is the heart of content optimization. Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so if you use “Wedding Photographer in Chicago” instead of “Chicago Wedding Photographer” in your content… that counts as a keyword. So even if that specific light isn’t green (eg. keyword density), you can ignore it as long as a variation is present. Synonyms are actually encouraged.

Yoast Content Analysis

Presence of NAP – each location page should have your business name, address, and phone somewhere on the page. If you only have 1 location you can add this in a footer widget or your copyright area at the very bottom of your website (like I do) so it’s present on every page. For multiple locations you’ll usually want to add it somewhere in the actual content body.

Short Permalinks  – use short permalinks with your keyword in it.

Keyword Density – include your keyword in the first couple sentences and a few times in your content body (naturally). Sprinkle LSI keywords (synonyms) in your content instead of using the same keyword over and over. These can be secondary keywords you want to rank for.

Alt Text – label your images before uploading them to WordPress since the visual editor automatically uses the image file name as the alt text. This should simply describe the image – don’t stuff keywords. Images in widgets and page builders may not do this so check the HTML:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/chicago-wedding-photographer.jpg” alt=”Chicago Wedding Photographer” width=”680” height=”380” />

Internal / External Links – Google follows links on your page to learn what your content is about. The important thing is linking to useful content your visitors will actually find helpful (like a blog tutorial). Interlinking blog articles/pages is also a natural way to build links to your own website but outbound links are good too since it’s kind of like citing sources to Google. Finally, always use descriptive link text (called anchor text)… never use words like “click here.”

SEO Title – use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on your link in search results… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis” is a good example. Also make sure your SEO title has a decent length (the bars in Yoast should be green).

Meta Description – the main purpose of the meta description to entice people to click on your link. This and the SEO title are the first thing people see in search results so spend time writing these. It should include your Yoast focus keyword, plus a secondary keyword if you have one.

Post Long Content – Google measures “average time on page” which is why videos and other engaging content is key. Long, organized content generally ranks higher than short content.

Social Media Optimization – this ensures your page will display a properly formatted image when shared on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “share” link in Yoast and upload custom images where it tells you to. If you don’t see the tabs, check your Yoast social settings to enable Facebook and Twitter meta data. Yes, this means you need to design 2 separate images for Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). I leave the other fields blank which let you write a custom headline and description when it’s shared on Facebook/Twitter.

yoast-social-media-optimization

Rich Snippets – make your snippets stand out in search results by adding rich snippets to your content. You can do this with events, reviews, recipes, articles, products, organizations, restaurants, and videos. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin which supports all rich snippet types except for events (use All In One Schema.org) and videos (use Schema plugin. However if you’re doing any other type of rich snippets, WP Rich Snippets looks way better and has more options, plus they have awesome add-ons. Here’s my WP Rich Snippets review which is definitely worth the money if you have content on your site that can be marked up.

Rich Snippets

Example Geo-Targeted Landing Page…

Localized Landing Page

 

5. Google My Business

Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

*Google is increasingly taking into consideration activate business owners who: post on Google Posts, respond to reviews, keep special hours updated, answer questions, make it convenient for customers to take direct actions on GMB using business URLs.

Google My Business Logo

 

6. Moz Local

Since citations are 11% of local SEO, this step will help you create and fix your top 15 citations. Just like you did with Google My Business you will make sure profiles are 100% complete, duplicates are deleted, and ensure consistent information is present. Run your website + zip code through Moz Local and look under “choose the most accurate listing.” Go through each one and see their recommendations. Yes, you will need each profile’s login info.

Moz Local Profiles

Correct Incomplete, Inconsistent, Duplicate Citations
Once you click your listing you will see incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate tabs. Go through each one and fix all items. Incomplete profiles are often fixed by uploading more photos or adding categories. Inconsistencies can be as easy as correcting the www website version or using “st” instead of “street” in the address. Duplicates are fixed by deleting them. Moz Local includes links to your profiles which makes it easy to fix, delete, and report profiles.

Sometimes you will only have 1-2 categories (eg. photographer + wedding photographer) so it’s not always possible to get your profiles 100% complete. Just do everything you can.

Moz Loca

 

7. Whitespark

To conquer those #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors in Google Maps (citation consistency, quantity, and quality), we need to build even more citations. The more competitive your keywords are (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) the more citations you should build.

local-seo-citation-ranking-factors
citations-by-city

Whitespark has lists of top citations by city, country, and category, or use their citation building service for $4-5 per citation which saves a LOT of time. Google ‘Whitespark Canada‘ and you’ll see they have over 120 reviews with a 4.9 star rating. I’ve invested over $2,000 in their citation building service and have jumped from #8 to #3 in Google Maps. Read my Whitespark citation building review to learn the process, but you basically fill out an intake then wait 2-3 weeks for them to send a report of the new citation URLs and 1 universal login.

Free citations can cause spam emails and sometimes spammy phone calls. They improve rankings, but it’s a tradeoff. Here’s a response I got from Darren Shaw, owner of Whitespark:

 

8. Mobile Responsiveness

The best way to check for mobile errors is to setup Google Search Console and use the mobile usability section. This checks for ALL errors on your WordPress site (instead of just 1 page) which is only what Google’s mobile testing tool does. Even if you’re using a responsive WordPress theme you can still have mobile errors! So it’s definitely a good idea to check.

google-mobile-usability-errors

 

9. Mobile Speed Optimization

Most businesses doing local SEO have a good amount of mobile visitors (you can check in Google Analytics under Audience –> Mobile –> Overview). If you haven’t read my W3 Total Cache tutorial which shows you how to configure the performance tabs, Cloudflare, and MaxCDN, I would start with that. Then you can optimize images and make other optimizations from my WordPress speed guide. This helps you fix items in your GTmetrix report (the speed testing tool I recommend using) and improves page load times for both desktop and mobile.

To make your WordPress site load faster specifically on mobile, you can use AMP pages (accelerated mobile pages) using the AMP plugin and Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP. You can read Yoast’s AMP tutorial but this will basically add an “AMP” sign to your mobile search results…

amp-pages

Hosting
I use SiteGround and have 200ms response times with 100% GTmetrix scores and .4s Pingdom load times. Do a hosting check, run your own tests, or click through my pages to see how fast they load. They were rated the #1 host in 26 Facebook polls and are worlds better than EIG (Bluehost, HostGator), Godaddy, and bad hosts who pack too many people on the same server. They’re recommended by WordPress, do free migrations, and I use their semi-dedicated plan.

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

 

10. Reviews

You’ve heard this before so I’m not going to state the obvious. But you should know that Google My Business is usually the best place to get reviews since these appear directly in search results, and you need about 5 of them for the review stars to start showing up…

Google Reviews For SEO

Avoiding The Yelp Review Filter – Yelp reviews can get filtered even if they’re legitimate. You can avoid this by doing a Google search of “business name Yelp” and sending them that link. If you send them the direct link to your Yelp profile, Yelp will know and could filter it. Ideally you would ask existing Yelpers since they are more likely to get their review posted (another factor is if their profile is filled out and Facebook is connected). You should friend your reviewers too.

 

You know links are super important for your rankings, and it doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass. But yes, you WILL need to reach out to people to get these links. Here are some tips…

  • Ask partners to link to you
  • Ask sponsors to link to you
  • Ask suppliers to link to you
  • Get published by local newspapers
  • Get included in list articles (eg. best pizza in Chicago)
  • Make sure these articles include a link to your site
  • Find business directories and organizations who promote green businesses
  • Turn your business relationships into links, that’s what it’s all about

 

12. Targeting Multiple Locations

Create Multiple Location Pages On Your Site – sometimes you should create 1 page per city (if only 1 keyword is being search in that city), or multiple pages per city (if multiple keywords are being searched). It depends on how many keywords people search and whether you need content about different services (miami dentist vs. miami dental implants is a separate page).

Add Location-Specific Content To These Pages – your Chicago page might have photos of your Chicago office. Or testimonials from your Chicago customers. Or a Google Map showcasing your Chicago location. Avoid creating ‘search and replace’ pages (identical pages only you simply change the city name) since these are duplicate content and will not rank.

If you want to check out a great example of localized landing pages, check out Seda Dental.

local-landing-pages-multiple-locations

Create Citations For Each Location – each location should have it’s own Google My Business page, Yelp, Facebook, and other citation profiles you can use Moz Local and Whitespark to create (see steps 4, 5, and 6). Whitespark’s citation building service will save you a LOT of time. If you do this yourself, list the specific location page (website.com/locations/chicago) when listing your website. Photos and business information should be unique to that location.

 

13. Measure Keyword Rankings

Google Search Console’s Search Analytics – see keywords (queries) you rank for. This ONLY measures Google’s organic rankings, not Google Maps or other search engines. So if Google Maps appear when you search your keywords, you need to measure those too (see below). You can still get very helpful data in Search Analytics using filters: click-through rates, impressions, top pages, devices used, countries, and compare your rankings to the last 28 previous days.

google-search-console-search-analytics-queries

Whitespark Local Rank Tracker – track rankings in Google Maps, Bing pack, Google organic, Bing organic, etc. Sort by city names across multiple locations. User-friendly design and starts at $20/month for measuring up to 100 local keywords. Easiest way to measure local keywords.

whitespark-local-rank-tracker

 

14. Bonus Tips

Google Search Console – I mentioned this a couple times in this WordPress local SEO guide, but you really should take advantage of this tool. My video and Google Search Console tutorial show you how to set it up, submit your Yoast XML sitemap to Google, fix crawl errors (broken URLs), and quite a few other site optimizations. You can use it to test AMP pages, rich snippets, and find indexing, mobile, and security issues. Once signed you will need to wait around 1 week for the data to populate. But definitely revisit it and take advantage of it’s features.

Mobile Click-To-Call Button – if you’re running a website where many people call you (eg. a pizza business), adding a mobile click-to-call plugin can improve conversions but is also a ranking factor if you look at “Behavior/Mobile Signals” in Google’s local ranking factors.

Security – run your site through Sucuri security checker and the security section of Google Search Console to make sure you have no errors. Either way the best 2 things you can do is change the generic “Admin” username in the your WordPress login, then install WordFence.

Sucuri Security Scan

Social Media – just make sure you’re active on social media, it’s 2.8% of local SEO.

 

Time To Get To Work

Hopefully this WordPress local SEO guide gives you some ideas! Just remember it’s not all about optimizing your WordPress site – there are many off-page factors that are just as important like Google My Business, citations, and reviews. Start cranking some of this out and within a couple months hopefully your organic searches go up (let me know in the comments)!

SEO Google Analytics

Need help? Drop me a line. Looking to hire someone who actually knows what they’re doing? Check out my WordPress SEO consulting services. I love when people read my tutorials so if you have a question about regarding WordPress and local SEO, I’m glad clarify your questions.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What are Google's local search ranking factors?

Moz reports Google's local search ranking factors every 2 years. They emphasize geo-targeted pages, directories (citations), links, and reviews.

✅ How do you optimize websites for local SEO?

Research local keywords using tools like Google Autocomplete, create geo-targeted content around those keywords, make your mobile site load fast, get relevant links, and show NAP on localized pages.

✅ What is NAP and why is it important?

NAP stands for business name, address, and phone number. This should be consistent throughout your website and citations. Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking factor.

✅ Where should I build more directories (citations)?

Moz Local analyzes 15 top citations and shows you which ones are incomplete, inconsistent, or duplicates. Whitespark also has lists of top citations for different industries and locations. Google My Busienss, Yelp, and Facebook are some of the most important, but you should built more using Moz Local or Whitespark.

✅ How do I optimize my GMB Page?

Fill out everything including including NAP, categories, descriptions, photos, categories, attributes, hours, menu, services, etc. Verify your page and answer customer questions + respond to reviews. Get a custom URL and post updates on your GMB page.

See Also:
How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In .2s (100% GTmetrix/Pingdom Scores)

Cheers,
Tom

12 Ways To “SEO” Your New WordPress Website

You have a new WordPress site, now you want it optimized for search engines.

My 12 step WordPress SEO checklist will help you do that. I’ll walk you through keywords, Yoast’s SEO plugin, Google Search Console and other ways you can optimize your site. There’s a lot of good stuff here (and I know it can be overwhelming) but take it step-by-step and please do NOT hesitate to leave me a comment if you have a question… I’m here to help.

I’ll keep my intro short and sweet because I know  you will find something you didn’t know before, and I’d rather you spend time working on improving your own Google rankings.

Here’s what to do…

 

1. Research Your Keywords – this should ideally be done before building your website so you can align the content with your keywords – though you can always go back and make changes. Start by using Google Autocomplete (see that article to learn the “complete the phrase” and “fill in the blank” tricks I use)… to find long-tail keywords. These are very specific phrases with 3+ individual words and have lower competition + higher conversion rates. Use Autocomplete to create a list of long-tail keywords for all phrases you want to rank for… if you’re a photographer in Chicago your keyword list might include: Chicago wedding photographer, Chicago newborn photographer, Chicago family photographer, etc.

2. Configure Your Permalinks – a few common examples are /services/website-design, /team/john-doe, /locations/chicago. It depends on your pages but consider doing this if you have multiple items under a category. Use permalink settings and parent pages to do this.

3. Configure Yoast WordPress SEO – Yoast can be broken down into 3 steps: configuring the settings, researching keywords, and optimizing content. This will be a core part of your SEO and I suggest anyone writing content on your site be knowledgeable on Yoast. For $295 you can do a training session with me and know it like the back of your hand – or just read those articles. Just be aware that any SEO plugin does not magically shoot up your rankings.

4. Write (And Design) The Content – only target 1 keyword per page and focus on the type of content  people want to see when they search a keyword (testimonials, videos, etc). This can be SUPER beneficial for both SEO and website design. For ideas, check out these 21 ways to spruce up your WordPress content. Seriously, doing this has helped me sooo much.

5. Optimize The Content – go to a page you want to optimize. Scroll down and use Yoast to set a focus keyword. Refresh the page and scroll down again to Yoast. Now use the keyword where it tells you to. Writing descriptive SEO titles and meta descriptions is a big part of this since these appear in Google’s search results. Don’t forget to use the “page analysis” tab to see more content optimization tips… getting green lights means you’re on the right track.

6. Create Internal Links – this is an item you’ll see in Yoast’s page analysis tab but I want to put some emphases on it since links to a page are 20% of a page’s SEO. Using internal links in your content means you’re linking to relevant pages/posts on your website/blog and is the best way to create natural links. Some people don’t like using links for styling purposes (even though you can style them in the CSS) but 20% makes this very, very important.

7. Focus On Site Speed – website speed is a sitewide optimization which can benefit your entire website’s SEO and conversion rates. Setting up the W3 Total Cache plugin, optimizing images to load faster and deleting unnecessary plugins are just a few ways to do this. See my WordPress speed guide for a full tutorial which thousands of people have used.

8. Use Rich Snippets – these make your site have “enhanced” information in search results. You see these with reviews, recipes, even event times. If you have pages that include certain data types you can use my WordPress rich snippets tutorial to markup those pages/posts. Aside from having the best content, these may be the best way to stand out in Google.

9. Configure Google Search Console – setting www vs. non-www, submitting your Yoast sitemap, and checking for HTML improvements in SEO titles/meta descriptions are just a few ways to improve SEO with Search Console. Also check for mobile and security issues.

10. Setup Google Analytics Dashboards – taking 5 minutes to install these 7 Google Analytics dashboards helps you measure traffic from SEO, social media, mobile, referral websites and more. Use these to find specific improvements to make in your website and content. It’s one of those things that is super easy, yet helps a ton. Google’s Page Analysis Chrome extension can also help you see where  people are clicking on a page.

11. Local SEO – Local SEO has different ranking factors so optimizing for a town/city is also different. Your keyword(s) should include the town/city name and your landing pages should be optimized to reflect those. The main different though, is that you want to build citationsget reviews, and make sure you’re using a mobile responsive WordPress theme.

12. Setup Redirects (If You Migrated Your Site) – if you recently redesigned your site and your permalinks (URLs) have changed, you want to do this ASAP. Setting up 301 redirects will direct visitors and search engines from each page’s old URL to the new one. You can do this with the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin then go to quick redirects –> quick redirects. Add both the old and new URL and this plugin will take care of the rest. Easier than it sounds.

 

Ongoing SEO Maintenance
These are the core parts of your WordPress SEO so before you move forward, spend some time making sure everything is setup correctly and that you’re knowledgeable about each section. I linked to a ton of articles which break down these topics quite nicely, but if you’re stuck you can hire me for a couple hours of SEO consulting and I can work with you 1 on 1 to get your SEO on track – or just leave a comment and I’ll answer them fo’ free!

For ongoing maintenance you’ll want to continuously add new, keyword-targeted content to your website/blog. Use your keyword list for your content development strategy and remember, you’re better off writing 1 AMAZING piece of content than writing 3 mediocre pages. Give people something to share and link to because that is what SEO is all about.

If you need help, leave me a comment and I’ll usually respond within 2 days.

Cheers,

Tom Signature

WordPress SEO For Photographers: How To Optimize Your Images, Citations, And WordPress Website For Higher Google Map Rankings

WordPress SEO For Photographers

If you’re a photographer, have a WordPress site, and you want to use local SEO to rank higher in Google Maps + localized results for photography-related keywords, this tutorial is for you.

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local search ranking factors to improve rankings by optimizing your Google My Business Page, citations, photos, and how to use Yoast’s SEO plugin for content optimization. No matter what kind of photography you do, it’s actually easy to do WordPress SEO for photographers (local SEO is usually much easier than national SEO). It can take 3-6 weeks to see results (Google takes time to update) but you can use Google Search Console’s search analytics to track your rankings, clicks, and overall traffic from SEO.

SEO For Photographers

Now let’s jump into it…

 

Understanding Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re doing local SEO these are the ranking factors associated with Google. They are taken from Moz who does a survey of Google’s ranking factors every 2 years. This tells us which core ranking factors we should be focusing on.

Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

 

These are from 2015’s local search ranking factors, but most of them have not changed…

Top-20-Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

I go over these in my tutorial (drop me a comment if you need clarification on anything), but here is a translation with more practical tips:

  • Complete Your Google My Business Page (complete and verify your profile)
  • Sign up for generic citations (Yelp), local (COC), and photography directories
  • Get reviews on your Google My Business Page, Yelp, others
  • Use a mobile responsive and SEO-friendly WordPress photography theme
  • Use your primary keyword on your homepage (using Yoast’s SEO Plugin)
  • Get links from customers, directories, local websites, relevant photography websites
  • Complete your social media profiles, get followers, post updates

 

Complete Your Google My Business Page

This is the easiest way to improve your Google Maps rankings. In fact you HAVE to have a Google My Business Page to even show up in Google Maps. Make your profile 100% complete.

Add your website, hours, and list “photographers” as the category. If you’re a wedding photographer, list this as your primary category then list “photographer” as the secondary category. Now write a thorough introduction, verify your page, and complete your profile. If you already have a Google My Business page, do not create a duplicate listing.

Google My Business Page

 

Improve Directory Listings With Moz Local

Moz Local Dashboard

Run your website and zip code through Moz Local to get a report on your directories. You will get a score and recommendations to improve some of the most important directories…

Moz Local

Click on the different tabs, view the red notifications to see what items need fixing, then use the “update listing” links to improve those directories. Notice how consistency of information (business name, address, phone, categories) and not having duplicates are important. If you don’t want to do this, you can pay Moz $84/year. However, it’s usually a matter of adding photos and making sure your profile is consistent and 100% complete.

Moz Local Incomplete Listings

 

Build More Directories With Whitespark

Now that you have your core directories down, let’s build more. This will further improve your rankings so please don’t think this is a waste of time – it most certainly is not. These are the kind of extra steps that will help you outrank competitors. Notice “citation volume” is a direct ranking factor in the local SEO pie chart (yellow section) – so the more the merrier.

Top Online Directories

Do It Yourselfuse Whitespark’s list of top 50 directories
Hire Whitesparkpay Whitespark one-time fee of $4-5 per directory (worth it)

 

Ask Customers For Reviews

Online Reviews On Google My Business

Google My Business and Yelp are most important. Simply follow-up with customers after the work and ask for a review (leave them instructions with a link to your Google My Business and Yelp page). Make this a priority since reviews are good for both branding and SEO. Sometimes legitimate Yelp reviews get filtered out, so read this post to learn how to avoid it.

 

Use An SEO-Friendly Photography Theme

Let’s talk about optimizing your website – which starts with your WordPress theme. You want a theme that is SEO-friendly, responsive, secure, and loads fast. At the same time your theme should be built by a reliable developer so it won’t crap out on you down the road.

Djazz WordPress Photographer Theme

My list of photography themes is a good place to start. They all have the SEO-friendly features listed above, and they’re all built in the Genesis Framework which is recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and the founder of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg. If you don’t know what Genesis is then you can read about it on StudioPress’ website. But it is the best way to build a WordPress photography website that is SEO-friendly.

 

Learn Your Keywords

If you haven’t learned your photography-related keywords, here’s how to do that…

Photography SEO Keywords

Just go to google.com and type in your keywords using this format. Google Autocomplete will fill-in-the-blank with the most common phrases people are searching, with higher phrases having more searches than the lower ones. Just be sure the last character you type is an underscore “_” so Google will fill-in-the-blank. You can try other combinations too.

Keep in mind your 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) should be targeted on the homepage. If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) you will need to create a new page for each of those for better keyword-targeting.

This leads me to the next step…

 

Target Keywords Using Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast WordPress SEOf Plugin

You will use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to target keyword(s) on your website. This is where a lot of photographers get overwhelmed. Don’t though, because I made this very easy.

Step 1 – Configure The Yoast Settings
Once you install Yoast, go ahead and download this zip file below which includes the Yoast settings I use. Upload this to your WordPress site using the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard. You will go to Tools –> Import And Export –> Import. Upload the zip file.

DOWNLOAD MY YOAST SETTINGS (ZIP FILE)

You will need to navigate through the Yoast settings and change a few things…

  • General –> Company Info (fill this out with your info, and upload a default logo which should be at least 200 x 200 pixels)
  • General –> Webmaster Tools (see video below)
  • Social Settings –> fill this out with your own social media links
  • Advanced –> Breadcrumbs –> use your own company name

 

Step 2 – Target Keyword(s) On Your Website
As I mentioned earlier, you want to target your 1 primary keyword on your homepage. To do this, go to Yoast’s SEO tab on the left of your dashboard –> Titles & Metas –> Homepage. You should be able to fill out your SEO title and meta description here (this is the text that appears in Google’s search results), or click the link to view the page where you can edit this.

Targeting Keywords With Yoast

Use the same format in the photo. Write a unique meta description summarizing what you offer while including your keyword in a way that sounds natural. This is very important as it’s the forefront of your SEO. Also make sure you don’t go over the character limit of 156.

This might be all you need to do. You can’t include the keyword in the URL (this applies to any website’s homepage) so that’s OK. Most photographers prefer to have no text on the homepage (in the photo the article heading and content is red with “no”). I understand most photographers prefer let the photos do the talking, but it WILL benefit your SEO if you include text on your homepage. Otherwise Google will only have your photos to go by.

I suggest adding “Chicago Wedding Photographer” (or whatever your primary keyword is) as your title. Then include a short paragraph of what you want to tell your audience, while also including the keyword here. With all the different typography and layouts, you should be able to make this look nice. Here’s a good example of a website that uses text in the design.

How To Target Multiple Keywords
If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) then target the main keyword (eg. Chicago Photographer) on your homepage. Now create a new page for each different type of photography. This gives you a better chance of ranking high for those specific types of photography since searchers will find THAT page in Google – not your homepage. Make sure each page contains unique content since duplicate content is an SEO no-no.

To optimize those pages for their keywords, use the same strategies described above only set “Chicago Baby Photographer” (or whatever type of photography it is) as your focus keyword. Then optimize that page using Yoast’s SEO Plugin. If you need help using Yoast to optimize your content for green lights, here’s a video…

 

Optimize Images For Keywords

Before uploading an image to your WordPress site, make sure it has a descriptive file name. Instead of using “DSC27272” a better file name would be “willow trees blowing in the wind.”

Willow trees blowing in the wind

 

Optimize Images To Load Faster

A common issue with photography websites is that the images are so large, they take forever to load. Since website speed is a ranking factor in Google, you don’t want this.

Luckily there are a few ways to prevent this…

Serve Scaled Images
If a featured image calls for 150 x 150 dimensions but you use an image that is 300 x 300, you are not using the correct featured image dimensions. This will cause slower like times by 200%. To solve this, learn the correct dimensions of your featured images (or even images in your slider) and resize them in the media section with the correct dimensions.

Another example of not serving scaled images, is when you drag to resize an image in the visual editor. This resizes the displayed image but not the actual image file (this is what “serve scaled images” means). The correct way to resize images is in the media library:

Serve Scaled Images

Optimize Images
Install the WP Smush.it plugin and go to Media –> Bulk Smush.it –> Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now (screenshot below). That’s it! You can automatically smush images once uploaded under Settings –> Media. I like to also run EWWW Image Optimizer which can catch images missed by WP Smush.it.

Bulk Image Smushit

If you don’t want to mess with images or you just want more tips on making your site load faster, see my WordPress speed optimization guide. There’s tons of good tips there.

 

Use Your Business Name, Address, And Phone # In Your Footer

I know, I love easy tips too… and this one doesn’t get easier. This helps with the whole consistency of information thing that Google looks for. In WordPress, you usually find this under Theme Options (look for the copyright area) or in the Editor –> Footer.

Here’s how I list mine:
Online Media Masters | 1324 West Byron Street, Chicago IL 60613 | 847-271-2422

 

Get Links To Your Website

Looking good so far! You’ve got your directories in place, your website optimized for your keyword(s), and you’ve make some other optimizations to improve your photography SEO. But let’s not forget about links to your website since they are essential! When people link to you, it’s a strong signal that tells Google your website is important and to rank it higher.

So how do you get links?

  • Asking customers to link to you
  • Asking partners to link to you (eg. you’re someone’s preferred photographer)
  • Local directories like the ones from Moz Local and Whitespark
  • Chamber Of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Getting published in articles (eg. in the Huffington Post)
  • Creating useful content on your blog (videos are good for this)
  • Making sure you have a nice website design
  • Sharing your photography on social media
  • Sharing your photography through an email list
  • Add social media sharing buttons to your website
  • Other publicity/marketing to get your website “out there”

 

Kick Your Social Media Into Gear

You know that awesome picture you took the other week? Did you post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram account? You SHOULD! Spend some time creating nice social media profiles and cover images. Add your pictures, write an introduction, and so forth. Now keep updating those profiles with new photos. Then you’re golden.

 

Ongoing SEO Maintenance

The main “maintenance” involves asking more customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business and Yelp page. It can also mean creating more directories, adding useful content to your blog, and posting on social media. But once you’re setup with all the WordPress SEO tools and tweaks, local SEO should be pretty low maintenance.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share :) or if you have a question about your photography’s WordPress SEO, drop me a line in the comments. Glad to help you out.

Cheers,

Tom Signature

9 Easy Ways To Make Your WordPress Site SEO-Friendly

Make Your WordPress Site SEO-Friendly

Want some quick and easy tips to make your WordPress site SEO-friendly?

I’ll show you how to do this using different tools/strategies including Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin, Google Webmaster Tools, and keyword optimization. There is more to SEO than 9 items (there’s over 200 factors in Google) but my tips will get you on the right track – and I’m sure you will learn something new especially with the resources I mention in this guide.

Here’s what to do…

 

1. Get Your SEO Foundation Down

Domain – having keywords in the domain helps SEO, but according to Matt Cutts it’s better to choose something brandable. More people will remember your site, trust it, link to it, etc.

Hosting – site speed, uptimes, and security all affect SEO – and hosting is the best place to start. I use SiteGround’s semi-dedicated GoGeek plan ($14.95/month) but they also have other shared hosting for as low as $6.99/month as well as Cloud hosting for $54/month. You don’t want hosting issues affecting your SEO because trust me, it can. Choose a good host!

Theme – some WordPress themes are more SEO-friendly than others, since your theme affects site speed, security, support for rich snippets and other SEO factors. Here’s my list of 25 themes which are SEO-friendly and built in the Genesis Framework (Genesis is SEO-friendly in itself and recommended by the Founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg.

 

2. Leverage The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast is the most robust SEO Plugin, but it must be setup and utilized properly if you want the best results for your WordPress SEO. To do this, I broke Yoast down into 3 steps:

Configuring The Settings – see my tutorial which includes a zip file of the Yoast settings I use (you can upload it directly to your WordPress site). There are some fields you will need to change in the Yoast settings for YOUR website – which I’ve listed in that tutorial.

Researching Keywords – see the video…

 

Optimizing Content For Keywords – see the video…

 

3. Use Yoast’s Other WordPress SEO Plugins

 

4. Organize Your Permalinks

Structuring your permalinks around your different product/service/location keywords is part of “site structure” and making your site user-friendly. Below are some common examples of ways to do this, which you would do in WordPress using parent pages.

Common Permalink Structures

To do this, create the parent page (eg. /services) then create the other page (eg. /web-design). When editing the web design page you will see an option on the right of your dashboard to set the parent page which in this case would be “services” (photo below). This will make the web design page’s permalink read: website.com/services/web-design/

WordPress Parent Pages

 

5. Make Your WordPress Site Load Faster

 

6. Interlink Related Content

In step #2 I talked about configuring the Yoast settings. I already wrote an extensive article on how to do that, so I simply linked to that article. This helps you, my readers, find additional information about Yoast. At the same time it creates a link to that article which improve it’s SEO. Interlinking pages/posts like this is the easiest way to build natural links!

 

7. Create Videos

Videos improve engagement, reduce bounce rates, increase conversions, and the videos themselves can even appear in search results (photo below). You can also use Yoast’s Video SEO Plugin to better optimize your videos. Just make sure you follow the same basic SEO strategies as you do your pages/posts (research a keyword, then use it in the file name before you upload it, video tile, description, then promote it to get views/likes/comments.

Video Search Results

 

8. Check For Google Webmaster Tools Errors

Fixing mobile issues, security issues, bad meta descriptions, and other errors will improve SEO. Once you’ve verified Google Webmaster with Yoast, go through my list…

HTML Improvements
Find this in your Google Webmaster Tools account under search appearance –> HTML Improvements. This tells you which SEO titles and meta descriptions are too long, short, are missing, or where it’s a duplicates. Click the links in GWT to go to each page and fix it.

HTML Improvements - Google Webmaster Tools

 

Mobile Issues
Find under search traffic –> mobile usability (or check here).

Mobile Issues - Google Webmaster Tools

 

Security Issues
Find under security issues (a main tab on the left).

Google Webmaster Tools Security

 

9. Yes, Content Is Still King

You know content is king, but what have you done about it? Other than checking for typos and making sure your copy reads well, what else can you do?

Well I’ll tell you – you should spruce it up! Use videos, columns, add an HTML table of contents, embed Twitter statuses and make your content shine! I wrote a nice list on how to spruce up your WordPress content which includes 21 ideas – it’s worth checking out.

TinyMCE-Spellcheck

That’s all I got for now! I have tons of resources on my sidebar widgets/footer if you want more tips on making your WordPress site SEO-friendly. Other than that, please share this article if you found it helpful! Or drop me a line if you need help with anything SEO-related.

Cheers,

Tom Signature

21 Ways To Create Better Content In WordPress

21 Ways To Create Better Content In WordPress

We’re always being told to create “good” content but besides being a skilled writer, what else can we do? Well I’ll tell you. We need to spruce it up! We need to focus on aesthetics, user-friendliness, optimization, and leveraging all those tools/plugins we have available.

You probably know that from an SEO perspective, good content naturally ranks high and is the best strategy for getting links, social shares, and all those nice SEO signals. I use every strategy in this list and it has helped me tremendously (with SEO, since that’s what I do).

I hope it can help you too.

 

1. Use A Table Of Contents

Use a table of contents to organize key topics (often your subheadings). This can also help you outline your articles. It only takes a few minutes and will make your readers happy.

 

How to do it…
Table Of Contents HTML should look like this…
<ul class=”listSquare”>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-one”>Item One</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-two”>Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-three”>Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

Each subheading’s HTML should look like this…
<h3 id=”item-one”>Item One</h3>
<h3 id=”item-two”>Item Two</h3>
<h3 id=”item-three”>Item Three</h3>

You can also use a jump to table of contents link…
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#table-of-contents</li>

 

2. Columns

Column 1

Column 2

How to do it…

 

3. Tables

tablepress-plugin

I created this table using the TablePress Plugin which has over 1,500 downloads and a solid 5 star review. You can also customize the CSS to your branding.

 

4. Buttons!

CONTACT US SIGN UP DOWNLOAD OUR FREE EBOOK SEE OUR PORTFOLIO

How to do it…

 

5. Shortcodes

shortcodes

Shortcodes allow you to easily add video, audio, image galleries, and other content with a simple line of code. Here’s a shortcode example for an embedded YouTube video…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaNH5?Vpg-A]

Some WordPress themes come with built-in shortcodes that are pre-styled to match your theme. There’s also plugins like Shortcodes Ultimate if your theme doesn’t come with them.

 

6. Embedded Social Status

Share what other people have to say by embedding their social media statuses in your content. Notify them once it’s published and maybe they’ll share it with their audience.

Twitter Statuses

 

How to do it…
Use Advanced Twitter Search to find a tweet, then click More –> Embed Tweet. Copy the code and paste it in your content’s HTML. The example above uses 2 tweets into 2 columns.

Embedded Tweet

Facebook Statuses

Embed Facebook Post

Google+ Statuses

Google+ Embedded Post

 

7. Embedded Videos

Option 1: Copy the Youtube link and paste it to your content (WordPress will do the rest).

Option 2: Go to the YouTube video you want to embed, then copy and paste the embed code into your HTML. This method allows you to specify the video’s width and height:

Embed a YouTube Video

Option 3: Open a video when you click a link using the WP Video Lightbox Plugin.

Hide Youtube Video Title

<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ymdkFIHsTBA?showinfo=0" width="680" height="380" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>

Hide Youtube Video Controls

<iframe width="680" height="380" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ymdkFIHsTBA?showinfo=0&controls=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

8. Working The Dimensions

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

Knowing your content dimensions (in pixels) helps you create graphics or find images that fit within those dimensions. I’m specifically referring to your content body and sidebar width. Since my content body is 680 width (pixels), I know that if I’m using 2 columns, each graphic should be around 340 width. I also know my sidebar widgets are 295 width.

 

9. Better Graphics

Start by redesigning graphics that appear in the most places (sitewide graphics): logo, footer images, sidebar images. Then move to individual pieces of content (content design graphics).

Sitewide Graphics

Content Design Graphics

 

10. After Entry Widgets

After Entry WordPress

These are the widgets people see after the end of your articles (located between the content body and comments section). They usually have a call to action. For me I’ve included a newsletter box and my author profile. “Related articles” is also a popular one.

In most WordPress themes you can find these under (Appearance –> Widgets –> After Entry). Decide what widgets you want to show here. But there should be something.

 

11. Image Styling

Image Styling WordPress

Style your images by adding borders, margins, padding, captions or other customizations. There’s 4 different places to edit images, all of which have different styling options…

  • Media section
  • Clicking on an image and finding the “edit” option
  • Finding the insert/edit image icon in your visual editor
  • The CSS editor

 

12. Font Styling

Are you getting any ideas yet?

 

13. Killer Headlines

It all starts with writing a great headline. The “perfect” headline includes:

  • A number
  • An adjective
  • Your keyword

Here is a tutorial by Neil Patel that explains the formula for a perfect headline. He says 8/10 people will read your headline, but only 2/10 will read the rest of your post. Choose wisely.

 

14. Snippets

SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions

Search Engine Snippets

Your SEO title and meta descriptions are the forefront of your SEO – they’re the first thing people see in search results and on social networks. Writing descriptive, compelling snippets will increase your clickthrough rate and drive more visitors to your content.

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets enhance your search engine snippets with additional information about your content. It’s one of the best ways to stand out in search results and get more clicks.

Popular forms of rich snippets…

  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • Audio

How to do it…

 

15. Social Optimization

Each social network formats your content differently, so you’ll want it optimized to format properly across the main social networks (your thumbnail image is the correct size and your titles and descriptions are tailored for each social network if you choose). The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin does a fantastic job with this and I will assume you’re using it.

Step 1: Go to the “Users” section in WordPress and make sure each person fills out their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ fields.

Step 2: Configure the Social Tab in Yoast:

Yoast Social Tab

Facebook OpenGraph

Yoast Facebook Opengraph

Twitter Cards (Remember To Validate Your Twitter Cards)

Yoast Twitter Cards

Google+ Meta Data

Yoast Google+ Meta Data

Pinterest (Located In Yoast’s “Dashboard” Settings)

Yoast Pinterest

You will need to verify your site with Pinterest and enter the code in this field.

Step 3: Optimize Content For Social Sharing

Once you’ve configured Yoast’s social settings, edit the page or post you want to optimize for social. Scroll down to the Yoast section and hit the “Social” tab…

Yoast Social Media Optimization

Yoast gives you the option to display custom titles, descriptions, and properly formatted images for these main social networks. If you leave these blank then your SEO title, meta description, and your main content image (or featured image) will be used. It’s a good idea to at least upload an image for Facebook / Twitter / Google+ so the image formats properly when shared across these main social networks. Here are the correct dimensions…

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 630px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px
  • Google+ Image: 800 x 1200px

 

16. Show Yourself

Tom Dupuis

That’s me!

You’ll see a cropped version in my right sidebar where I introduce myself. That’s where I would add your bio since people can immediately see you.

Add sidebar widget for single author…

First create your bio in HTML. You can create it in the Visual Editor which is easier. When you’re done, go to the Text Editor and copy your bio’s HTML. Now go to (Appearance –> Widgets) then add a “Text” widget to your blog sidebar. Paste the HTML and save.

Add sidebar widgets for multiple authors…

  • Make sure each person has their own user profile
  • Install the widget logic plugin so each person’s bio only shows on their posts
  • If there’s 5 people, add 5 text widgets to your blog sidebar
  • Paste each person’s bio HTML in their widget
  • Locate the Widget Logic field at the bottom of each person’s widget
  • Add this code, only replace my name with theirs: is_author( ‘tom-dupuis’ )
  • Or use other conditional tags to control where each widget appears

Widget Logic Field

If you use the Genesis Framework and have a newsletter like me, you can use the Genesis eNews Extended Plugin to create a widget with both your introduction and newsletter.

 

17. Signatures

You’ll see my signature at the bottom of each article I write. Adds a personal touch.

Tom Signature

How to do it…

  • Get a blank piece of computer paper
  • Write your signature
  • Take a close picture of it
  • Crop your signature
  • Add it to the end of your articles

 

18. Load Times

Page Load Times

The easiest way to improve load times is through sitewide optimizations that affect your entire website (getting faster hosting, lightweight themes, cache plugins…). I cover all this in my WordPress speed guide. You can also improve load times for individual pages by using less videos, large photos, and code. Run the URL through GTmetrix for recommendations.

 

19. TinyMCE Advanced

TinyMCE Advanced

Ever feel like you don’t have enough options in your visual editor? Install the TinyMCE Advanced Plugin to style your content with more advanced options.

 

20. TinyMCE Spellcheck

TinyMCE-Spellcheck

Before publishing an article, try running the TinyMCE Spellcheck Plugin. Select what type of errors it scans for in the “Users” section or add words to ignore…

TinyMCE-Spellcheck Options

 

21. Testing

Before you promote your content, it’s a good idea to do some testing…

Mobile Responsiveness – even if your WordPress theme is responsive, some content doesn’t always format correctly. Pull up it up on your phone/tablet to double check.

Table Of Contents (Step 1) – if you’ve setup a table of contents, always test each link.

Rich Snippets (step 14) – if your content includes rich snippets, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure it’s working.

Social Responsiveness (step 15) – to test whether the main social networks will format your content properly, share the link to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Load Times (step 18) – once it’s published, run the URL through GTmetrix to get recommendations on improving the content’s load time.

Well I hope this was helpful! I know it’s a lot so if you have any questions at all, drop me a line in the comments section. And if you found my article helpful, please share. I appreciate it!

Cheers,

Tom Signature

8 Top SEO Mistakes Made By Noobies

SEO Mistakes

Homer could have saved so much time if he had just learned some SEO basics.

Long gone are the days where keyword stuffing (and even keyword density) work in SEO. Google has gotten smarter and there’s over 200 ranking factors but with that being said, getting the fundamentals down isn’t hard. I have made plenty of SEO mistakes and spent months “figuring it out” when learning a few principals was all I needed to know. 4 years later and being the top WordPress SEO Expert in Google, I’ve learned a lot since I started.

Here are some of the top SEO mistakes I see…

 

#1. Not Selecting The Right Keywords

Guessing keywords doesn’t work. Doing a little keyword research tells you which phrases people are searching. I like to use Google Autocomplete for this to select long-tail keywords (ones that are very specific) since they have better conversion rates and lower competition.

Google Autocomplete Fill In The Blank

Use Google Keyword Planner to learn the actual # of searches a keyword is getting per month. Before you start optimizing your website, creating a keyword list is a good idea since this will help you align your content/site structure with well-research keywords.

 

#2. Not Separating Product/Service Pages

Once you know your keywords, instead of having 1 page outlining all your different products/services, creating a designated page for each product/service will help you better target each keyword. When people search “Chicago Engagement Photographer” they want to see a page about engagement photography (which should be optimized for that keyword). They don’t want a page outlining ALL your photography services. Google wants relevancy!

 

#3. Not Targeting Keywords In Content (Correctly)

Use your keyword in these places:

  • Page title
  • Content body (2-3 times)
  • URL
  • SEO title
  • Meta description
  • Image alt tag

If you’re on WordPress, install Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin and use the page analysis tab to optimize your content for green lights. However, the SAME content optimization strategies can be applied to any website, so just follow the items in this SEO checklist:

Yoast Page Analysis Tab

 

#4. Spending Time On Meta Keywords

Meta keywords are obsolete in SEO, so don’t spend time using these in your website.

 

#5. Ignoring Sitewide Optimizations

Sitewide optimizations are things that affect your entire website’s SEO. This can also be issues related to your domain name, sitemap, redirects, indexing, structural and usability issues, and other factors that affects your entire website. Here are the common ones:

 

#6. Not Knowing How To Get Links

If your website is optimized and you’re still not ranking high, you probably don’t have enough links to your website. You can see how many links you have using Open Site Explorer. I’m sure you’ve heard this and might ask, well, how do I get these damn links?

90% of my links come from my blog tutorials. People find there useful, so they’re more likely to reference them on their own website/blog/social media. Researching a long-tail keyword for each blog article (#1 in this list) will help you drive additional traffic. Then it’s just a matter of optimizing the content and making article “better” than whoever’s in the top results for that keyword. Longer, more thorough articles usually outrank shorter articles.

Going out and “building links” isn’t as effective anymore. Most links should be earned through good content as well as content marketing (eg. participating in groups, discussions, and forums and linking to your article when it’s appropriate and relevant to the discussion.

Link Building

5 easy ways to get links:

  • List your website in your social profiles and online directories
  • Use links in your pages/posts to link to your other pages/posts (internal linking)
  • Write blog articles about FAQs or topics your customers frequently talk about
  • Share that article with customers and on social media, email, etc
  • Mention people in your article through status embeds, interviews, etc

 

#7. Not Reading The Right SEO Guides

 

#8. Hiring Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

SEO Joke

Your SEO person should know what works and what doesn’t. More importantly, they’ll be honest and not try to take your money for services that won’t yield results. They will help you get your keywords and strategy down, not run your website through an automated SEO tool and send you a laundry list of 100 things to do. This is all too common in the industry.

That’s the difference between an SEO pro and an SEO shmo. I offer a variety of WordPress SEO services but I will NEVER suggest a client pay for something they don’t need.

 

Well those are the top SEO mistakes I see! If you enjoyed my article and found it helpful, please share it with a friend who might like it too. I would really appreciate that.

Cheers,

Tom Signature e1367146208251