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

Connecting And Optimizing Your WordPress Website With Google Search Console (With Help From Yoast’s SEO Plugin)

Google Search Console Yoast WordPress SEO

Ready to optimize your WordPress site with Google Search Console and Yoast?

Steps 1, 5, 6, and 20 have to do with Yoast’s SEO plugin so I suggest using it, but it’s not mandatory if you’re using a different SEO plugin (does help though). If you haven’t verified your site with Search Console yet it can take several days for some data to populate, often several weeks if you want to effectively use some of these tools (eg. crawl errors and search analytics). But you can still optimize your site in many ways regardless if you just set this up.

*Asterisk items involve Yoast

Google Search Console

 

1. Verification

  • Sign up for Google Search Console and get to the verification process
  • Use the HTML Tag verification option
  • Copy the code
  • Paste code into Yoast (SEO → General → Webmaster Tools)
  • Delete everything outside the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click ‘verify’ in Google Search Console
  • It will take a few days for some data to populate in Search Console
  • Same HTML Tag verification process can be used for Bing + Yandex

HTML Tag Google Search Console Verification

Yoast Google Search Console Verification

If you’re not using Yoast they have plenty of alternative methods to verify your site.

 

2. Structured Data

The most common form of structured data are rich snippets which add “extra information” to your snippets in the form of review stars, recipe information, event information, and other data types. Here’s a gallery showcasing a few different types of rich snippets and rich cards.

Structured Data Review Stars

Popular Rich Snippet Plugins:

Checking For Errors
When you’re done adding rich snippets to content you can use the structured data section of Google Search Console to keep track of pages you markup, check for errors, and see ratings. You can also use Google’s structured data tool to test a single page, but this shows all pages…

Structured Data in Google Search Console

 

3. Rich Cards

Rich cards are an updated form of rich snippets. They are a left-to-right carousel display and can only be done with  recipes and movies in US English mobile search results. I don’t think there are any WordPress plugins that support rich cards as these are relatively new, so you would need to follow the markup from the gallery, but I’m hoping a plugin will come out soon.

Mobile Rich Cards

 

4. Data Highlighter

Data highlighter is an alternative to using a rich snippet plugin. It’s a “point and click” tool you can use to highlight page titles, dates, and other required fields needed to show rich snippets in search results. Once you do this with a couple pages or posts, Google will apply these patterns to your entire site… so you should only need to do this with a few pieces of content.

5. HTML Improvements

Tells you whether your snippets (SEO titles + meta descriptions) are too short, long, or contain duplicates. In Yoast there is “progress bar” that should turn orange (bad) or green (good) depending on the length so as long as you’re writing these long enough to be green you should be fine. If you haven’t been, the HTML improvements will tell you which pages need to be fixed.

HTML Improvements

To prevent errors in the future, make sure your ‘length progress bar’ in Yoast is green…

Yoast Snippet Editor

Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Fix These
You can bulk edit your SEO titles + meta descriptions in Yoast under SEO → Tools → Bulk Editor. Keep in mind the bulk editor doesn’t have the “length progress bar” or show you that page’s focus keyword like the content analysis… but you will still need to incorporate both.

Bulk Editor Yoast

 

6. Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP Pages are a Google project that make your mobile pages load faster while adding the AMP stamp to your mobile snippets. The AMP Plugin adds the AMP pages, the Glue For Yoast & AMP Plugin lets you make basic customizations to the design since it will alter the way your content looks on mobile. Try it out and if you don’t like it, you can always delete the plugins.

amp-pages

Adding AMP Pages To WordPress

  • Install the AMP plugin by Automattic (adds the AMP pages)
  • Install the Glue For Yoast SEO AMP plugin if using Yoast (customizes the design)
  • 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

The final step is to check Search Console’s accelerated mobile pages section for errors…

Accelerated Mobile Pages Google Search Console

 

7. Search Analytics

This will make you rethink how you measure SEO if you haven’t used it. You can measure rankings (position), keywords (queries), CTR (click-through rates) and more. There’s ton of cross referencing you can do but I listed 5 examples below which I found the most useful.

Navigate to search analytics and tweak the filters to what you see in each dashboard

Search Analytics Filter

1. See keywords (queries) you rank for…

Google Search Console Queries

2. Queries for specific products, services, or topics you blog about. Simply adjust the query filter to include all queries containing “SiteGround” (or whatever keyword you want to see)…

Search Analytics Query Filter

3. Queries used to find content in Google Images…

Search Analytics Google Image Queries

4. Learn which pages rank high but have a low CTR. This can mean you need to rewrite your snippet (SEO title + meta description) to be more enticing to click on, but sometimes it’s because your content isn’t as relevant as other results (in which case there is little you can do).

Search Analytics CTR vs Position

5. Compare your SEO (rankings, CTR, clicks) to a previous time period…

Date Comparison

 

From my experience, this is the easiest way to find low quality and irrelevant sites that link to you so you can remove them. This results in a cleaner link profile and will minimize risk of any Google penalty, and can even improve your rankings especially long-term. Go through your links and identify low quality or irrelevant sites who link to you. This may require a little research and judgement on determining which links are “authentic” and which ones are not. Moz has a great article on performing a link audit and removal if you want to read up on this.

Who Links To Your Most

Disavowing Bad Links
Once you have your list of URLs, contact the webmasters and ask them to remove it (definitely the preferred method). If for some reason you can’t get it removed, use the disavow tool. Even if you haven’t been hit with a penalty Matt Cutts recommends disavowing questionable links as a preventative measure. I try to go through my links about once every year to clean them up. Of course you only need to do this if you have a decent sized site with a good amount of links.

Disavow Links

 

See which pages you are linking to the most…

Internal Links Google Search Console

The more internal links a page has, the more likely it will show up as a sitelink…

Sitelinks

 

10. Manual Actions

A manual action is type of Google penalty. These are the 2 most common ones…

Manual Actions Google Search Console

Unnatural Links To Your Site – if you hired a link builder and they built a bunch of spammy links, this is probably the reason. Stop doing this right now and go through all links to your site (step 8) and try to get them removed by contacting the webmasters or using the disavow tool.

Thin Content With Little Or No Added Value – means you need to beef up your content. Short, non-useful, and duplicate content are all big no no’s in SEO. Notice how long this tutorial is? That’s why some of my articles get over 150 visitors a day. Go through your content (both pages and posts) and spruce them up. I remember when I spent 2 solid days revamping my Yoast tutorial and it went from 10 visitors/day to 100 visitors/day overnight (yes, true story).

More info about manual action penalties from Matt Cutts…


 

11. International Targeting

Target your website to a specific country. This does NOT completely exclude it from all other countries (it’s just a signal). If you are international, you should leave this option unchecked.

International Targeting Google Search Console

 

12. Mobile Usability

If you have ever used Google’s mobile testing tool this does the same thing only it shows mobile errors for your ENTIRE website. Just because you’re using a mobile responsive WordPress theme doesn’t mean you can’t have errors! Here’s how to fix your mobile errors.

Mobile Usability Errors Google Search Console

But ideally you would see this message…

Mobile Issues - Google Webmaster Tools

 

13. Index Status

Shows how many pages are being indexed by Google. Be sure to select the advanced option and enable “blocked by robots” and “removed” to see blocked resources and removed URLs.

Index Status

What To Look Out For

  • Graph should be a steady increase, which means you are consistently adding new content to your site that Google can index
  • Sudden drops should be investigated and can mean your server is down or overloaded (in which case you should upgrade your hosting or reduce CPU consumption)
  • Sudden spikes can be caused by duplicate content or even hacks

 

14. Blocked Resources

Tells you whether your robots.txt blocks Google from crawling certain resources. Also guides you in the unblocking process, however you may want to keep some resources blocked if you don’t want Google to crawl them. You can only unblock resources you host, own, or have access to the file’s robots.text (since this will need to be edited to unblock it). Otherwise you will need to contact the owner of the resource and see if they will edit the robots.txt for you.

Blocked URLs

After you have found the blocked resource you can use Fetch and Render to view the page as Google and decide whether this impacts your SEO. If you decide you want to change it, you will need to verify the host then update the robots.txt file to unblock it. Remember, if it’s a third party resource you will need to contact the owner of the resource and have them do it for you.

Blocked Resources

 

15. Removed URLs

The removed URLs tool temporarily blocks URL for 90 days… if you want to permanently block URLs from Google you should see that article. You can only remove URLs you own…

Removed URLs

 

16. Crawl Errors

Crawls errors are broken pages on your site and can happen if you:

  • Changed URLs
  • Redesigned your site
  • Failed to setup redirects
  • Deleted content from your site

If you just setup Search Console it can take at least 1 week to populate all crawl errors. When you see them, you’ll want to go through each tab (desktop, smartphone, server error, soft 404, not found, other). Each one will have different URLs that will need to be fixed with redirects…

Search Console Crawl Errors

Click each one to see the full URL of the broken page, which should be redirected to the correct page on your site. Of course this will take time to go through all of them, but it will make sure any links pointing to these old URLs are passing their “link juice” to your new pages.

Fixing these is basically like getting free links to your site.

Search Console Not Found URL

Redirect Crawl Errors To Their Appropriate Pages
You can use a free plugin like Quick Page/Post RedirectYoast SEO Premium, or do this through .htaccess. The method I will show you is Quick Page/Post Redirect. You want to redirect each URL to the new (correct) page on your site. Yes, you should do EACH one.

  • Install the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
  • Go to Quick Redirects → Quick Redirects
  • Add the broken URL in the left column and the new correct URL in the right column
  • Click “Add New Redirects” (can do 3 at a time)
  • Click “mark as fixed” in Search Console, or wait a few days for it to update

301 Redirect WordPress

View Crawl Errors Directly In Yoast
To see crawl errors in Yoast without having to login to Search Console, go to Yoast → SEO → Search Console then click “Get Google Authorization Code” and follow the instructions…

yoast-search-console-authentication

When you’re done authenticating Yoast with Search Console, it can take about 1 week to populate crawl errors. But this is where you would see them under SEO → Search Console.

yoast-search-console-crawl-errors

 

17. Crawl Stats

You ideally want a steady increase as you add content to your site…

Crawl Stats Google Search Console

Why Did My Crawl Rate Drop?

 

18. Fetch As Google

Fetch as Google tests whether Google can access a page, how it renders it, and any resources (eg. images or scripts) that are blocked from Googlebot. It can help debug crawl issues and make sure your page’s URLs are accessible to Googlebot. This Yoast tutorial does a great job of explaining the different errors including not founds, unreachable, redirected, and others.

Fetch As Google

 

19. Robots.txt Tester

Check if a URL is being blocked from Google and whether there are errors. The most common error is a crawl delay which may occurs if you limited your crawl rate in your site settings (should only be done if Googlebot is slowing down your server and causing CPU/bandwidth limits on your hosting account). But this rule is ignored by Googlebot, so no action is needed.

Robots.txt Tester

 

20. Sitemaps

Here’s how to submit your Yoast XML sitemap to Google…

  • In Yoast’s settings go to SEO → XML Sitemaps
  • Configure your sitemap to exclude tags, affiliate links, etc (see photo below)
  • Click the XML Sitemap button
  • Copy the last part of the URL: sitemap_index.xml
  • In Google Search Console go to Crawl → Sitemaps
  • Click Add/Test Sitemap
  • Paste the URL into Google Search Console
  • Test and submit
  • View common sitemap errors if you have any
  • Same sitemap submission process is be used for Bing + Yandex

Here are a few screenshots if you need them…

Yoast XML Sitemap Settings

xml-sitemap-post-types

Yoast Sitemap

Yoast Sitemap URL

Search Console Sitemap Submission

Sitemap Errors

 

21. URL Parameters

The high majority of you will not have issues with URL parameters and will see this message, but if Google shows a different message, you will need to follow their instructions. Here’s a Youtube tutorial by Google Webmasters that shows you what to do. Just be extra careful because improper actions can result in pages no longer appearing in Google’s search results.

URL Parameters

 

22. Security Issues

Bottom line… if you have issues here you should contact Sucuri who can help you fix these. But you should do this NOW since security issues can jeopardize your entire website and SEO. Often this means identifying malware that has been added to your site and deleting these files.

Security Issues Search Console

Strengthening Security In WordPress

  • Change generic “Admin” username
  • Use a strong password with numbers
  • Use the 2-factor authentication for login
  • Install a plugin like Wordfence, iThemes, or Sucuri
  • Keep your WordPress core, theme, and plugins updated
  • Make sure your site is on secure WordPress hosting (I use SiteGround)

 

23. Other Resources

Search Console Resources

Use PageSpeed Insights To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Here’s a cool trick. Run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights and check to see if reduce server response time is in your report. If yes, this means your server (hosting) is slow. You will see this a lot with Bluehost, Godaddy, HostGator, and other lower quality hosts…

Slow WordPress Hosting Bluehost

If you see this in your report want to fix it, you will either need to upgrade your hosting or switch to a faster host like SiteGround who was rated the #1 host in multiple Facebook polls…

You can read my full SiteGround review if you want to learn about them, but my site loads in <1s in GTmetrix, <1s in Pingdom, I have 100% uptimes, and they’ll even migrate you for free.

 

24. Site Settings

Site settings are in the gearbox option in the top right of your Search Console dashboard…

Search Console Main Options

Preferred Domain – it’s a preference whether you want to include www in your domain (there’s no ‘right’ way for SEO). Whichever one you chose in the site settings should be the same in WordPress (Settings → General → WordPress Address + Site Address). I would avoid changing this if you already have an established domain as this changes ALL links on your site.

WordPress WWW Non WWW

Crawl Rate – the most common use for this is if your website constantly goes down due to capacity, bandwidth, or CPU limitations on your hosting account. This means your hosting plan does not include enough resources to run your site so you either need to reduce these (eg. by deleting plugins that consume a lot of resources or enabling WordPress heartbeat control), or upgrade your hosting. Limiting the crawl rate will tell Googlebot not to crawl your site so fast which helps reduce the server resources it consumes. This is the only time you should do this.

Service Temporarily Unavailable

 

25. Change Of Address

If you ever decided to change domain names, this will help maintain rankings…

Change Of Address Search Console

 

26. Google Analytics Property

Enabling your Google Analytics property allows you to see Search Console data in your Google Analytics reports. Just select the analytics web property and save changes…

Google Analytics Property

Now login to Google Analytics and go to Acquisition → Search Console…

Google Analytics Search Console Integration

Here is the “landing pages” dashboard which shows similar data as Google Search Console’s search analytics, only you can cross reference even more metrics from Google Analytics…

Landing Pages Google Analytics

 

Get Help Fixing Errors In Search Console

Pronaya is a WordPress developer I found on freelancer.com who I’ve been working with for over 5 years. He’s helped me (and clients) fix errors related to virtually everything in Google Search Console (mobile, security, www, sitemaps, crawl errors). If you have a question about the SEO side of things you can leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to help you, but if you need help actually fixing errors, Pronaya is the man for that. He’s $40/hour and his email is bdkamol@gmail.com. You can also join freelancer and search his profile (username bdkamol).

BDkamol-Speed-Optimizer

 

Have Questions? Need Help? Drop Me A Line!

Check out the Search Console Help Center if you haven’t already – they have tons of documentation and troubleshooting articles on each of these topics. Or just leave me a comment below as I’m glad to help anyone who takes the time to read up on this stuff.

If you found this useful, a share is always appreciated :)

See Also: WordPress Speed Optimization Guide

Cheers,
Tom

20 Reasons Your WordPress Site Isn’t Ranking High In Google

It’s the #1 question I get…

Why isn’t my WordPress site ranker higher in Google?

The most common reasons WordPress sites don’t rank high in Google are: keywords are too competitive, lack of in-depth content, bad on-page SEO, click-through rates, or little to no links.

Whether you’re nowhere on the map, have a Google penalty, or wondering why competitors outrank you, this tutorial will help you identify what’s going on. These are the 20 most common reasons based on my last 5 years doing SEO consulting and writing these tutorials.

Go through the list and be sure to leave a comment if you found the problem or you need help. I’m glad to help anyone who takes the time to read my tutorials. Here are the main reasons why YOUR WordPress site isn’t ranking high in Google and exactly what you can do to fix it.

 

1. Lack Of Comprehensive Content

Beefing up articles to 3,000+ words is the #1 reason my blog grew to 3,000 visitors/day. Google your keyword, analyze top results, and include every important topic you can find. Use Answer The Public to find “questions keywords” and answer as many as you can. Backlinko suggests 3,000 words in many of his articles, especially if it’s cornerstone content. I beefed up my Yoast tutorial from 500 to 4,000 words and it went from 10 to 100 visitors/day in 1 week.

I don’t write 3 mediocre tutorials a week. I write 1 killer tutorial every 2 weeks.

Aim for 3,000+ words, especially if it’s a competitive keyword:

WordPress Word Count

You can get penalized for content with low word count (shallow pages), content that isn’t useful with bad bounce rates, affiliate content offering no value, and duplicate content. But even if you don’t have a penalty for thin content, that doesn’t mean some of your content doesn’t have low word count and is preventing you from ranking high.

Step 1: Identify Low Performing Content
In Google Analytics, head to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages. Look for pages with low average time on page + high bounce rates. Low average time on page likely means people aren’t finding the content useful. High bounce rates are a bit more complex and can be from poor design, load times, navigation, pop-ups/advertising, and bad (or no) internal linking.

Landing Pages – Google Analytics

Step 2: Add A Table Of Contents
table of contents helps people navigate long posts, but also encourages you to write long content (and gives you a better chance of being awarded jump-to links using named anchors).

Table of contents HTML looks like this…
<ul>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-one">Item One</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-two">Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href="/your-permalink/#item-three">Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

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

Step 3: Beef Up Content
Now that you’ve added a TOC with a good amount of topics, write your paragraphs. Your job is really not to just make it longer, but to make your content more valuable. That usually means adding more helpful graphics, videos, or infographics. Not just spewing out text to fill the page.

Step 4: Answer Question Keywords
Answer The Public lets you search any keyword and generates a visual map (and list) of the most popular questions people are searching about that keyword. It pulls keywords from Google Autocomplete, and the greener the circles are, the more searches those keyword have.

Yoast Keywords – AnswerThePublic

 

2. Keywords Are Too Competitive

Websites with low domain authority should not compete for broad, competitive keywords. As you build domain authority (by creating great content that gets links) you can start targeting keywords with more searches. But if you struggle to get on page 1, consider going longer-tail.

Long-Tail Keywords

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer (or another tool).

Domain-Authority

Step 2: Use this chart from Orbit Media. I mostly target 3-word phrases, but I spend a LOT of time on content. More competitive keywords = more time you should invest in your content. The chart is more of a rule of thumb and doesn’t have to be taken literally, but it’s a reminder that websites with high domain authority can (in general) target more competitive keywords.

Keyword Research Shortcut

Step 3: Download MozBar and Keywords Everywhere. These let you Google any keyword and see a keyword’s competition: monthly searches, each search results’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority), etc. Of course, the most important step is clicking on top results and checking how “good” the content is, and make sure you can write better content than theirs.

Keyword-Competition

A keyword is more competitive if:

  • It’s broad
  • It has a high DA + PA in MozBar
  • The keyword is obviously profitable
  • Strong content ranks in the top results
  • Authority websites rank in the top results
  • The keyword has a high number of monthly searches

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for

  • Instead of SEO Consultant, target WordPress SEO Consultant
  • Instead of Chicago Web Designer, target Chicago WordPress Designer
  • Instead of Get Out Of Debt, target Get Out Of Debt Without Bankruptcy
  • Instead of SiteGround Reviews, target SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review

 

3. Too Much Focus On 1 Single Keyword

Many businesses get obsessed with ranking for 1 keyword, when this is actually a horrible strategy. I rank for thousands of keywords, and even though I rank #1 for keywords like “WordPress SEO Consultant,” I get way more inquiries through my blog than my service pages.

If you’re a photographer in Chicago, here are some ideas:

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

 

4. Too Much Focus On Yoast Green Lights

Obsessing over Yoast’s green lights can lead to keyword stuffing and make pages look spammy. Stop thinking SEO is so much about “keyword usage” and start thinking about keeping people engaged with your site through videos, tutorials, and things that people actually would actually want to learn/share/link to. The only time I think about keywords is when I do keyword research, write a keyword-rich (but nice sounding) headline, and craft an enticing meta description so people click my link. I rely on my kick-ass content to do the rest.

What’s Yoast’s SEO Analysis 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 CTR? 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, URL, SEO title, and meta description (the most important places)… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… add a table of contents to organize longer posts, use videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beef up thin content to make it better (more detailed) than the top search results.

 

5. You’re Using Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords, not SEO! The competition is for AdWords, and I have personally found the keywords don’t reflect what people are actually searching. Google Autocomplete, or any keyword tool that pulls from Google Autocomplete, is more accurate.

Google-Keyword-Planner

 

6. Slow Load Times

My WordPress speed guide shows you how I got <1s load times with 100% scores in GTmetrix, but I listed the most important factors below. You probably know Google rewards fast sites.

This video should help (timestamps are in the video description):

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

My GTmetrix report

2019-GTmetrix-Report

My Pingdom report

2019-Pingdom-Report

 

7. Low Click-Through Rates

Everyone knows click-through rates are important (and are used as a ranking factor), but how do you get people clicking on your link? Below are 4 easy ways to increase click-through rates.

Click-Through-Rates

Step 1: Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions
Yoast’s bulk editor lets you edit your SEO titles + meta description in bulk so you don’t have to go through each individual page/post. Rewriting these to sound nicer (and of course, include your keyword) is an easy way to increase CTR. Just remember the bulk editor doesn’t detect keywords or character length, so be sure you’re keeping these in mind (length is around 55 characters for SEO titles, 155 characters for meta descriptions). Everyone is going to include the keyword in their snippet – why would anyone click on your link? Your tutorial is current, you have a video tutorial, infographic? Tell them why! Try using numbers and clever adjectives.

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

Step 2: Add Rich Snippets
I use the WP Review Pro plugin by MyThemeShop (see a demo or a page I use it on). I was using WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned his plugin, and All In One Schema looks way too plain with virtually no customization options. I’ve been happy with WP Review Pro.

Structured Data Review Stars

Step 3: Add Post Modified Date To Search Results
Make time-sensitive content look fresh. First, enable “date in snippet preview” in Yoast’s settings. Next, add “post modified date” to the top of blog posts (this is in a different location for everybody, but for me it’s in the Genesis Simple Edits plugin). Now, whenever you update a post, the date will refresh in search results. You can use the Republish Old Posts plugin to refresh all posts to current day, but it’s a little cheap since you actually didn’t update the posts.

Publish Date

Entry-Meta

Step 4: Get In Google’s Featured Snippets

  • Create an HTML table of contents (if targeting lists)
  • Make each item in the TOC concise and actionable to solving the problem
  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Featured Snippets

Optimial-Featured-Snippets-Length

 

8. Not Optimizing For Social Sharing

Customize how your content looks when shared on Facebook/Twitter…

facebook-share

In Yoast go to SEO → Social, then enable meta data under the Facebook/Twitter tab. While you’re here, don’t forget to verify your site with Pinterest and add your Google+ page to Yoast.

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Now edit a page/post, scroll down to the Yoast section, click the share link (shown below) and you will be able to upload images to Facebook (1200 x 630px) and Twitter (1024 x 512px). Yes, this means you need to create 2 graphics for each piece of content if you want it to look nice.

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

There is no perfect number, but I usually have 50+ links in my 3,000 word tutorials.

Internal links – a natural way to build links to your own website, keep people on your site longer, and reduce bounce rates by getting people clicking on other stuff you’ve written.

External Links – these are like citing sources to Google. Linking to credible, useful content that your readers would find helpful (not just Wikipedia) develops trust with Google.

 

10. Lack Of Cornerstone Content

Here’s a tip… instead of blogging just to blog how about writing “the ultimate guide” on a key topic your audience wants to learn about? Yoast and WP Rocket are 2 of mine… people aren’t going to link to my WordPress SEO Consulting page, but by attracting links through my tutorials… the “link juice” will benefit my entire site by increasing my domain authority. So if you run your site through Link Explorer and don’t have many links, write some ultimate guides.

WordPress-SEO-Series

 

11. Not Using SSL

I added SSL in 2018 and surprisingly, my rankings went up (and so did my affiliate sales). Google is further penalizing websites that don’t use SSL (and that insecure padlock doesn’t look good either), so don’t be scared – just do it. Here’s a guide on adding SSL to WordPress.

Really-Simple-SSL

 

12. Bad Bounce Rate + Time On Site

Bounce rates (the % of people who leave your site without clicking anywhere) and average time on site are metrics used by Google to determine the value of each page and it’s rankings (you can find these out in Google Analytics). So if your web design, mobile design, lack of internal links, call to actions… and other parts of your website don’t encourage people to click around… this will hurt your rankings. Making your website “sticky” is what SEO is all about.

Bounce Rate

 

Every time you change a permalink (even if you setup a 301 redirect) you will lose MOST your rankings temporarily, and only some of your rankings long-term. It’s been said about 1-10% of link juice is lost when you setup a 301 redirect. Bottom line… I would avoid changing these all together unless your permalinks use the ugly ?p=123 format. This includes during a redesign.

 

14. Terrible “About Me” Page

I never knew how important this was until I wrote an awesome about page.

I instantly had people emailing me… relating to my story and sharing their own story. It was really cool, opening myself up and watching that grow into relationships/opportunities. From an SEO perspective, it’s one of my most viewed pages and keeps people on my site longer.

About Me Page

 

15. Citations Errors (Local SEO)

If you’re targeting local keywords (especially where Google Maps appear), you need citations. They’re about 10% of local SEO. My 3-step process of Google My Business > Moz Local > Whitespark gets awesome results and is the same process I used to get multiple clients #1 rankings in Google Maps. Everything is free besides Whitespark’s citation building service ($4-5/citation). The more competitive your keywords are, the more citations you should order.

Moz Local Citation Score

How To Create Citations

How To Check For Duplicate Citations

  • Run your site through Moz Local and fix items in the duplicates tab
  • Search “Your Business Name Google+” and look for duplicate GMB pages

 

16. Google Search Console Errors

Most people don’t use Google Search Console as much as they should. I use it 10x more than Google Analytics for finding crawl errors, mobile errors, AMP errors, sitemap errors, security issues, manual actions, HTML improvements, and many others. I recommend you do the same.

Mobile Usability Errors Google Search Console

I also use the Performance Report religiously to measure my keywords, CTRs, rankings, and most popular pages. For me, this is much better at measuring SEO than Google Analytics.

Google Search Console Queries

View My Google Search Console Tutorial

 

17. Duplicate Content + Search/Replace Pages

Use Siteliner to check for duplicate content…

Siteliner Duplicate Content

Search and replace pages are probably the most common form of duplicate content (where you duplicate the same page over and over but only swap out a few words on each page). You see this a lot in local SEO when businesses create geo-targeted landing pages for multiple locations… but this doesn’t work. Each page should ideally have unique content about each location like photos, reviews, team members, etc. Rand Fishkin made a nice video about this:

 

18. Discouraging Search Engines From Indexing Site

Make sure “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is NOT selected in your dashboard under Settings > Reading. This makes your site completely disappear in Google.

Discourage Search Engine From Indexing This Site

 

19. Affiliate Website Mistakes

Affiliate sites are prone to Google penalties. This can either be a penalty in your manual actions report in Google Search Console, or it can be an algorithmic penalty (in which case you have to compare the time your traffic dropped and look at Google’s algorithm changes).

Trust me, you don’t want an affiliate penalty…

Affiliate Link Google Penalty

Tips For Affiliate Sites:

  • Don’t stuff posts with affiliate links
  • Add value! I spend a ton of time making sure my tutorials are helpful
  • Don’t always list affiliate products first (Google knows what you’re doing)
  • Consider writing review pages for affiliate products, and linking to those instead
  • Always nofollow affiliate links

 

20. You Have A Google Penalty

Go to your manual actions report in Search Console to check for penalties. There are many types (thin content, keyword stuffing, spam content), but unnatural links is the most common.

Unnatural Links To Your Site – early on, I hired a link builder and got a Google penalty for unnatural links which took 1 full year to recover. My rankings plummeted, and so did my client inquiries and income. It was dark times for me. Think twice before hiring a link builder on Fiver, Upwork, or any of those freelancer sites… unless you really, really know what you’re doing.

How To Clean Up Bad Links

  • Check to see if you have one in the manual actions tab
  • Go to the links to your site section of Search Console
  • Write down all spammy, irrelevant, and suspicious links
  • Reach out to these websites and ask them to take it down
  • Be persistent… Google wants to see you have made an effort
  • For any links you can’t get taken down, use the disavow tool
  • Submit a reconsideration request with all proper information
  • Fire your link builder and never hire a sketchy link builder again

Unnatural Links To Your Site - Google Search Console

 

Still Not Sure If These Are The Reason?

Kiss Metrics has an awesome article on 50 Reasons Your Website Deserves to Be Penalized By Google, but I think I covered the main reasons here. If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below and I’ll be glad to answer your question. Otherwise, good luck with your SEO!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do I rank my WordPress website higher in Google?

The easiest way to rank a WordPress website on Google is to find specific, long-tail keywords which aren't too competitive, then write in-depth content about each topic. Engagement, click-through rates, and on-page SEO all help improve Google rankings.

✅ Are my keywords are too competitive?

New websites or those with low authority (backlinks) should always target long-tail, specific keywords. It's hugely important to Google each keyword and analyze the search results to make sure you're not competing with strong content and authority websites.

✅ How can I check for SEO errors on my site?

Google Search Console tells you if you have mobile, security, and indexing errors. It also tell you structured content errors on FAQs and reviews. However, you should really get an SEO audit if you want to learn exactly what's going on with your SEO.

✅ Will getting green lights in Yoast help rankings?

Not exactly. Yoast only does a good job at detecting keyword usage and there's much more to on-page SEO than this. Try adding FAQ rich snippets, adding an HTML table of contents to long posts, and creating in-depth content with videos. Optimize click-through rates!

✅ Is my Yoast plugin configured correctly?

Check my Yoast configuration tutorial to make sure your Yoast is setup correctly, especially the Search Appearance tab. Don't forget to setup Google Search Console.

See Also: How I Optimized My Site To Load In <1s With 100% GTmetrix Reports

Or: my WordPress SEO Guide is even more helpful than this and includes 101 actionable tips.

Cheers,
Tom

11 Simple Ways To Increase Click-Through Rates (In SEO) By Enhancing Snippets To Stand Out In Google’s Search Results

Search engine snippets are the forefront of your SEO.

Anything you can do to make them stand out will increase click-through rates and get you more SEO traffic. There are plenty of ways to enhance them (some less obvious than others).

I will show you how to get featured in Google’s Answer Box (featured snippets), add rich snippets, AMP Pages, and display your blog post’s publish date to make content look newer. You should follow all 11 steps if you want to significantly increase click-through rates, which can be measured in Google Search Console’s search analytics and for finding low CTR content.

Google uses click-through rates (CTR) as a ranking factor so this can also improve your actual rankings. There have been numerous studies supporting this. I highly recommend identifying lower performing CTR content and rewriting your SEO titles + meta descriptions in Yoast’s bulk editor, which is step 1. Comment if you have questions – it’s worth the time doing this!

A snapshot of just a few things I’ll cover…

Click-through Rates

 

1. Identify Low CTR Content

Go to Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report and turn on the CTR filter. Look for pages with a high position (ranking) but low CTR – this means even though a page ranks high, nobody is clicking your snippet. Improving these snippets can easily result in more traffic. If you recently setup Search Console (using Yoast), wait a few weeks so you have enough data.

Click-Through-Rates-Search-Console

HTML Improvements
You can also use Google Search Console’s HTML Improvements to find SEO titles + meta descriptions that are too short, long, and whether you have duplicates. Be sure to fix these.

HTML-Improvements

Why Aren’t People Clicking?

  • Does the page/post rank high?
  • Does your content match their query?
  • Is your content better than the top results?
  • Does the post show an outdated publish date?
  • Does your Yoast SEO title entice people to click?
  • Does your Yoast meta description entice people to click?
  • Can you add rich snippets to show extra information like review stars?

 

2. Improve SEO Titles/Meta Descriptions In Yoast’s Bulk Editor

Go to Yoast > SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor. Here you can bulk edit SEO titles + meta descriptions without going through each individual page. Rewriting these to sound nicer is literally one of the easiest ways to increase CTRs. You can also fix HTML improvements here (from Search Console). The bulk editor doesn’t show the page’s focus keyword or have the “length bar” that tells you whether your SEO title/meta description is too short or long… so keep that in mind.

Yoast Bulk Editor

 

3. Craft The Perfect SEO Title (In Yoast)

Here’s how I write most headlines…

  1. Research 1 primary keyword
  2. Research 1 secondary keyword
  3. Craft a headline that includes elements of both, and stills sounds good
  4. Google your keyword and mention what makes your content different

I wanted to rank for keywords related to “WordPress Theme Packs” since people who search this are probably willing to drop $400, and as an affiliate I would get about $125 from the sale.

Step 1: Research a primary keyword…

Secondary Keywords

Step 2: Research a secondary keyword which be close to your primary (a synonym)…

Secondary Focus Keyword

Step 3: Craft a headline that includes both but still sounds nice. You do NOT always have to include both keywords as exact matches otherwise you will find yourself turning your headline into a keyword list which looks spammy and results in a low CTR. Try using partial matches…

Headline

Good Headline > Keywords – you do not always have to target 2 keywords… sometimes targeting 1 keyword and writing a creative headline is the better option. The main thing is to Google your keyword and ask why people should click on YOUR link and not everyone else’s. Can you include the fact that you have a video, infographic, or tons of people used your guide?

Some of my highest CTR snippets…

High-Click-Through-Rate-Snippet

Notice how my headline for my W3 Total Cache includes 2018 (because people are looking for the most recent plugin settings, AND because “W3 Total Cache Settings 2018” is a keyword that shows up in Google Autocomplete) and how it’s been used by over 100,000 people? I changed that just recently and that post now has 57% CTR!

Click-Through-Rates

This is called a featured snippet which I’ll cover in step 9

High-CTR-Featured-Snippet

High-CTR-Snippet

High-CTR-Page-Google-Snippet

High-CTR-Search-Engine-Snippet

 

4. Craft The Perfect Meta Description

This is your chance to tell people WHY they should click on your link and no one else’s. Here I say I have a pre-configured zip of my Yoast settings which they can import to their site. Small things like this help. You can edit meta descriptions in Yoast’s snippet editor or the bulk editor.

Yoast Meta Descriptions

Tips On Writing Meta Descriptions

  • Entice people to click on your link (situational to the topic)
  • Include your keyword, and ideally a partial match of a secondary keyword
  • Length should be between 150-160 characters (bar in Yoast should be green)

 

5. Include Dates In Your Snippets

By including a date (year) in the SEO title + meta description of time sensitive articles, you can rank higher for date keywords and increase CTR because people see your tutorial is current.

First, learn if people are searching date keywords…

Time Sensitive Keywords

Then include the date (year) in your SEO title + meta description…

Dates In SEO Titles

 

6. Add Rich Snippets

You’ve probably seen these for reviews, recipes, and other supported data types

Structured Data Review Stars

There are 3 primary ways to do this:

I use WP Rich Snippets when writing reviews, here’s an example of how they look…

wp-rich-snippets-for-wordpress

You can see a side-by-side comparison of WP Rich Snippets vs. All In One Schema on my WordPress rich snippets tutorial but I would definitely use WP Rich Snippets if you have an affiliate or recipe site where they’re a key part of your SEO. You can see my SiteGround GrowBig review to see a preview of WP Rich Snippets which includes more settings, markup options, and tons of add-ons (this and the nicer design are the main benefits of this plugin).

 

7. Add Publish Dates To Blog Posts

Adding dates to snippets makes your content look new and increases click-through rates…

Publish Date

In your Yoast settings enable ‘date in snippet preview’ under SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types. I only have this enabled for posts since are more time sensitive than pages.

Date In Snippet Preview

Now find the entry meta section of your blog (the part that shows up on the very top of posts) which for me is in the Genesis Simple Edits settings. You’ll want to add post modified date…

Entry Meta

This is what it looks like…

Entry Post Modified Date

Republish Content To Look New – now that dates are in your snippets, you can reset publish dates to current day by editing a post and clicking the update button. Yes, you can go through ALL posts and keep doing this. Just don’t abuse it, I try to only do it when I’m making an update.

Update WordPress Post

 

8. Add AMP Pages

AMP (accelerated mobile pages) are a Google project that make your mobile pages load faster while adding that nice AMP stamp next to your mobile snippets. This will not only increase click-through rates but will also improve mobile speed and potentially your SEO / conversions. Adding AMP Pages effects the design of your mobile site so I suggest trying it out, and if you don’t like it you can uninstall the plugins and revert back to your old, non-AMP mobile pages.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Yoast AMP

Adding AMP Pages In WordPress

  • Install the AMP plugin (adds the actual AMP pages)
  • Install the Glue For Yoast & AMP (lets you customize the design)
  • Add /amp/ to any page 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
  • Be sure the tweak your featured image on the top of your pages (see Yoast’s tutorial)

Fixing AMP Errors
Make sure you don’t have AMP errors in Search Console or your AMP stamp won’t show up on these pages. Errors are usually caused by older plugins that are not AMP compatible, for example, AMP doesn’t support JavaScript – so plugins that inject script tags will cause errors.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Google Search Console

 

If you have content that quickly answers a question in paragraph, list, or table format, Google might reward you with a featured snippet. Google ultimately decides who and what shows up in the featured snippet but they will pull an answer from ANY 1st page result. You can influence this by targeting ‘question keywords’ and creating accurate, authority, structured content that is organized with a table of contents and subheadings as described in step 10.

Featured Snippets

If you want these snippets I would DEFINITELY watch Rand Fishkin’s video…

There Are 3 Types Of Featured Snippets:

  • Paragraphs (about 63% of answers)
  • Lists (about 19% of answers)
  • Tables (about 16% of answers)

Tips For Getting Featured Snippets:

  • Target queries that already have an answer box (but do a poor job)
  • Identify question keywords (Keyword Explorer has an answers filter)
  • Be literal with your keywords (eg. use an exact keyword match in your title)
  • You must be on the 1st page of Google to show up in the answers box
  • Make sure your content is as accurate as possible with references/links
  • About 15% of queries have an answer box, there are plenty of opportunities

 

Jump To Links

Once again, Google ultimately determines who gets these. The best thing you can do is create long, structured content with a table of contents, anchored subheadings, and organize your post in a logical way according to the topic. When I say long content (or “authority content”) I mean a solid article usually with 3,000+ words, accurately referenced with links.

Google says this is how you get them…

… ensure that long, multi-topic pages on your site are well-structured and broken into distinct logical sections. Second, ensure that each section has an associated anchor with a descriptive name (i.e., not just “Section 2.1”), and that your page includes a “table of contents” which links to the individual anchors… you won’t see it on the results all the time — only when we think that a link to a section would be highly useful for a particular query.

How To Create A Table Of Contents With Anchored Subheadings
Table Of Contents HTML looks like this…
<ul>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-one”>Item One</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-two”>Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-three”>Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

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

You should ALWAYS include a TOC when creating longer content.

 

11. Use Descriptive URLs

If your permalinks have this format: http://www.sample.com/?p=123 then you need should change these to be more SEO-friendly. They’re ugly, bad for SEO, and cause low click-through rates. I recommend using the “post name” format in WordPress under Settings > Permalinks…

Post Name Permalink Settings

 

A Few Words From Rand Fishkin About CTRs And SEO

A great video from Rand Fishkin on queries and CTR (best to start at 1:45)…

Video Summary

  • Google uses “average time on site” and “bounce rate” as a ranking factor
  • Attaching a keyword to your brand (StudioPress Genesis Themes) increases rankings
  • Target keywords that bring people who will likely spend a lot of time on your website

I put 110% into these tutorials so I hope you find it helpful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or need help with your click-through rates or SEO, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to help out.

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

How To Get Natural, Internal Links To Your WordPress Site

Research a keyword, write the content, optimize it, publish.

This seems like a good on-page SEO process but it’s missing one critical step… after you publish the content you’re not done optimizing it until you’ve built a few internal links to it. This is the easiest way to get links to your site and you’re going to miss out? Not anymore…

Links to a page are about 20% of how it ranks and what better way to build them than to use existing content you’ve already written. All you have to do is find related content on your website/blog and link to that new page. This can improve the page’s ranking and helps it get indexed faster in search engines. And the best part is… it only takes about 3 minutes to do.

So next time you publish a page or post, don’t stop there. Read this article then spend the extra 3 minutes to build some internal links. Your pages could start ranking 20% higher…

Page Level Link Features
Google Ranking Factors – Moz

 

Link From Relevant Pages/Posts

Search WordPress – search your existing pages/posts for relevant content about the topic. You may not find everything (WordPress only shows content that includes the exact keyword), but it’s a good start. Go to those pages and find the section where you mention the topic, then create an internal link to your new page. You can probably think of a few pages and posts off the top of your head IF you have enough content… just don’t cram the page with links since it only gives off a certain amount of link juice. Here I use Yoast as the topic:

WordPress Search

Search Google – search Google for: site:yourwebsite.com “your keyword” and you will see pages on your site related to that keyword. This is one of the best ways to find a more extensive list of relevant content where you can get internal links from.

Search Google For Internal Links

Use Google Search Console – if you want links from your highest authority pages, head to Google Search Console and go to Search Traffic –> Links To Your Website. Go to your “most linked to content” (you’ll see this on the right-hand side) and look through any relevant pages you can get a link from. Pages that have more links tend to have more link authority.

Most LinkedIn To Pages - Google Search Console

 

Internal Linking Best Practices

Now that you where where to get internal links, here’s how to do it…

Diversify Your Anchor Text – multiple internal links that point to the same page should have varying anchor text (the link’s displayed text) so do not use the same anchor text over and over again. Each anchor text should be unique, descriptive, and NOT keyword rich. Linking to the same page with repetitive keyword-rich anchor text links used to work, but since Google Penguin this looks spammy and could risk a penalty. Make it long and descriptive.

Use Deep Links – instead of linking to your home or contact page, linking to deeper (not so obvious) pages will help readers find more specific information about certain topics, plus these are the pages that need links the most. You want you link juice to be spread out… think of your website as an ecosystem where everything needs to be linked together.

Know The Best Structure – a “perfect” internal link structure does exist, but take it with a grain of salt. It’s unrealistic every website would follow this but knowing the concept helps.

Internal Linking Structure

Avoid Automatic Internal Linking Plugins – when you use a certain keyword, these plugins will trigger an internal link to be created to a specific page which you set. Sounds like a good shortcut but these are not as personalized as if you were to insert the links manually. Plus many of these plugins do not allow varying anchor text (like I mentioned earlier) so they could also risk a penalty. “Related Post” plugins aren’t personalized either. Just avoid these.

 

Conclusion

As I write this article I’m in the middle of a large internal linking project for a client which prompted me to write this. It definitely IS worth spending some time on especially if you already have hundreds of articles which you can add internal links to. If you only have 20 or so pages you may need to create more content to do it effectively, but I would start now so you can get in the habit of internal linking and optimizing your content.

Many SEO tasks take a lot of time, but internal links don’t compared to how much value you get out of them. So if you haven’t done this yet, either go back and add them to your existing content or at least start next time you write your next piece. Seriously, it only takes 3 minutes. As always, leave me a comment if you have any questions – I’m here to help out!

Cheers,

Tom Signature

How To Improve SEO Through Sitewide Optimizations (Things That Affect The Performance Of Your Entire Site)

Sitewide Optimizations SEO

Sitewide optimizations are factors that improve SEO for every page/post on your website.

They can be especially helpful for large websites, for example, improving your page load time by 3 seconds (for 100 pages) can cause a noticeable traffic increase in your Google Analytics. These are basically scalable ways you can improve your website and search engine rankings.

I listed helpful links and resources for each item but if you have any questions, I’m glad to answer them in the comments. I hope you find my list helpful and please share if you did!

 

1. Website Speed
Website speed is both a ranking factor in Google and it improves conversions. It’s a great way to hit 2 birds with 1 stone. Some speed optimizations are sitewide, some only help individual pages load faster. Below are the speed optimizations that are sitewide. For full instructions on making your WordPress site load faster, see my speed optimization guide.

  • Upgrade to faster hosting (I use SiteGround)
  • Configure the W3 Total Cache plugin with Cloudflare + MaxCDN
  • Bulk image optimization
  • Optimize images that appear on multiple pages
  • Clean up database using WP-Optimize
  • Delete unused plugins
  • Find and delete largest plugins using P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

 

2. Mobile Responsiveness
If your theme isn’t responsive, it’s probably time to find a new one since Google’s recent Mobilegeddon update now uses responsiveness as a ranking factor. Your site can still have mobile issues even IF you’re using a responsive theme. That’s why it’s a good idea to run your site through Google’s mobile test as well as check your website on major devices.

Google Mobile Test

 

3. Security Issues
If you’re signed up for Google Search Console they would have already sent you a message informing you of security issues. You can double check this by running your site through Sucuri. WordPress sites have become a major target for malware so it’s a good idea to at least get the basics down. Change the generic “Admin” username, use a strong password, and install the iThemes Security Plugin to run the one-click security optimization button.

Sucuri Website Security Checker

 

4. Google Search Console Optimizations
When you first sign up for Google Search Console they provide you with a list of sitewide optimizations (numbers 1, 2, 3, 5). Find instructions for each Search Console item below…

Google Search Console Recommendations

Add all your website versions – you’ll want to verify both your www and non-www version, as well as the HTTPs version if applicable. You’ll want to do numbers 2-5 for each version.

Select your preferred version – choose whether you want the www to appear in your domain, or not. This is preference and it doesn’t matter for SEO, just make sure the version you set in Google Search Console is the same version as the one set in WordPress (find this under Settings –> General –> “WordPress Address URL” and “Site Address URL”).

Select target country – if your website is targeted to a specific country, set that here.

Submit a sitemap file – Yoast automatically generates a sitemap for you, but you’ll still need to submit it to Google. In WordPress go to SEO –> XML Sitemaps. Click the XML Sitemap button and copy the last part of the URL (https://x7r6b9v3.rocketcdn.me/sitemap_index.xml). Paste into Google Search Console, test, and submit. If you see errors, check Yoast’s post on common sitemap errors.

 

5. SEO Plugin Settings
I assume you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin since it’s the best out there, but have you gone through it’s different SEO tabs on the left of your dashboard? These are where you configure sitewide SEO settings by filling out information about your website. There’s a lot to it, but you can use my Yoast tutorial to download the same settings I use and import them to your Yoast plugin, or use the instructions from my tutorial to learn how each field affects SEO.

Yoast SEO Settings

 

6. HTTPS + SSL
HTTPS should be used for all websites (I’m currently in the middle of doing this for my site) which makes the communication between a website and a browser secure through encryption. SSL should be used for all eCommerce websites. Both HTTPS and SSL are used as ranking factors in Google, and you can use this tutorial by WP Beginner to setup each one.

 

7. Permalink Structure
Permalinks (URLs) should be used to organize content. Here are some common ways to setup a “pretty” permalink structure which not only helps people navigate your content, but helps search engines learn the architecture of your website (site architecture affects SEO)…

  • website.com/services/web-design/
  • website.com/products/skateboards/
  • website.com/locations/chicago/
  • website.com/team/tom-dupuis/
  • website.com/reviews/macbook-pro/

 

8. Keyword List
The content on your website (and blog) should align with keywords people are searching in Google. While keyword research isn’t an “optimization” it does help you build out your site with those phrases in mind – making keyword research a critical part of sitewide SEO.

I like to start by writing down each product, service, and topic I want to rank for. Use Google Autocomplete to learn what people are actually searching. If you’re a Chicago Photographer you might have Chicago wedding photography, Chicago newborn photography, etc. You would simply research a keyword and create a page for each photography service you offer.

Google Autocomplete Keywords

 

Other “Kind Of” Sitewide Optimizations
Rich snippets – this is what gets videos, review stars, and other “extra information” appearing in search results. This can make you stand out in Google and get more click-throughs and traffic. You can add rich snippets with All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets (free) or WP Rich Snippets (premium plugin but has more customization and design options). View my tutorial on adding rich snippets to WordPress for the premium method.

Internal links – when writing your content, it’s a good idea to link to related pages/posts you have already written. This is a natural way to build links while at the same time, providing helpful resources for readers who want more information about a specific topic. Just remember to use descriptive anchor text for your link text… never use “click here.”

 

That’s all I got for now! If you have questions about sitewide SEO or SEO in general, leave me a comment – I’m here to help. And if you thought this was useful, please share.

Cheers,

Tom Signature