Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) assists in making your content searchable by web search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others through the use of keywords, Search Engine Results Page (SERPs), categories and tags.
WordPress makes it easy to write and edit your site’s SEO for each post and page you create. For this tutorial, let’s go through the SEO steps for a post:
- Log in to your WordPress site.
- Create a new post, or open an existing post.
Step One: Categories and Tags
Categories and tags are created by you to sort and classify content; this makes it easier for visitors to your site to find the content they really want to see.
Categories describe the topic at hand in a very broad and general sense, whereas tags describe the specific aspects of the topic – often mirroring language used in the post.
For example, if you were creating a blog post about renovating or redecorating your bathroom, your blog post might look like this:
The above example shows that “bathroom” is the category (the broad and general topic of discussion) and the tags show the specifics of the topic: cute dinosaur toilet roll holders for the guest bathroom. The tags “funny” and “unusual” – were also added so anyone searching for funny or unusual toilet roll holders would be more likely to end seeing this post as a search result.
If you want to learn more about categories and tags, read our Create categories and tags post.
Step Two: WordPress SEO by Yoast – the widget
Beneath the WYSIWYG editor (the big white box you typed all your content into) is the WordPress SEO by Yoast widget. This where the rest of the SEO magic happens:
You’ll notice there are two main tabs for the Yoast widget, Readability and Keyword.
The Readability Tab:
The readability tab gives you suggestions on how to improve the readability of your content. It checks things like sentence length, paragraph length, use of subheadings, use of passive voice, use of transition words, and calculates your Flesch Reading Ease score. The widget lists its findings with colour-coded bullet points; Red is bad and must be improved, Orange is not the best and you should improve it if you can, and Green is perfect. In the example above, there are several issues the analysis has found. Clicking the eye logo will highlight the sentences where the analysis found the problem.
The Keyword Tab:
There are three main components to the keyword tab: Snippet editor, Focus keyword, and Analysis. Each of these components work together to help search engines serve up search results to users.
The snippet editor has a snippet preview, which shows what the post might look like in Google’s search results. The snippet preview in the example above is the default “out of the box” SEO for the post you are reading right now. You can see that this version uses the title of the post, the URL, and the opening lines of the content. This is what your search result would look like to users when Google (or other search engines) return results based on what the user searched for.
It’s not inaccurate, but it’s not as helpful or as interesting as it could be, either – we’ll change that right now. Click the Edit snippet button to start improving your snippet by editing the SEO Title and Meta Description.
By default, the SEO Title is the title of your post or page, and then the name of your site. (that’s what the %%title%% and %%sitename%% placeholders are doing in the text box initially) The title here is reflected in that Snippet Preview from earlier, but you can change it. For this tutorial, my titles follow standard technical writing guides which leaves out phrases like, “how to”. But, a user searching on Google might type in “how to create good SEO”, and I can change the SEO Title to reflect that without losing any clarity or meaning (i.e., the user will still understand from the title what this post is about). As you type in your own title, pay attention to the Orange bar underneath. There is a maximum number of characters you can have in an SEO title before search engines like Google cut it off. When the bar is Orange, it’s telling you that you can make the title longer. When it turns Green you’re in the optimum size range. If it turns Red, your title is too long, and will be cut off on search results pages.
By default, the Meta Description is taken from the first 156 characters of your post or page (so, your opening lines of content) and that is what will appear in the search result a user gets back (see the text in the Snippet Preview). There are two ways of dealing with this:
1. Re-write your opening to better reflect the purpose of the post or page. So, this post could have started differently, for example: “Learning how to create good SEO doesn’t have to be hard…” That opening line incorporates the title of the post itself, the SEO Title, and the Focus Keyword based on the above examples of how I could have altered these things.
2. Leave your post or page content as is, and write a new Meta Description for search engines to serve up to users.
Both methods are valid, but be aware that re-writing your opening content can lead to “keyword stuffing” (putting as many keywords in a post/page/opening sentence as humanly possible) which often leads to nonsense sentences that look good from a keyword point of view, but are hard for an actual person to read. Also, sites that use “keyword stuffing” as a tactic are penalised by all the major search engines – it’s considered unethical and sites have been banned for this practise. It’s far better that you write your posts, pages, and meta descriptions as natural speech that include keywords rather than stuffing keywords in all willy-nilly.
Completed, the SEO for this post looks like this:
The focus keyword is exactly what it sounds like: the main keyword or keyphrase that your post or page is about. In the case of this post, I might type “how to create good SEO”.
Once you enter in your keyword or keyphrase, the widget will start a content analysis, looking for your keyword in the title, any headings, the URL, the content of the post, the meta description, and the alt tag of any images in the post. Underneath the focus keyword you’ll see the results of this analysis.
Just like the Readability tab, the Keyword tab analysis gives you a list of its findings with colour-coded bullets; Red is bad and must be fixed, Orange is not as good as it could be and you should try and fix it if you can, and Green is perfect. While it is nice to have all the bullets as Green, it’s more important to have content that makes sense to your audience, so if you have a few bullets that are not Green, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have bad SEO. Don’t make changes to your content just to get a Green bullet if it doesn’t actually make sense to change it. If you have an overall Green bullet at the top of the widget, you’re doing well.
There’s one more area you can optimize for: how this post appears when shared on a social media network like Facebook. Click the social settings button on the left, underneath the icon that looks like a traffic light. (the traffic light is where the readability and keyword sections live). Here you can give your post a completely different title and description if it’s shared on social media, and even specify a unique image to be used on social media sites.
Once you’ve finished adding content and good SEO, publish or update your post or page and let the users come to you.