Search engine optimization is one of the great cottage industries of the last decade. Often confusing and arcane, SEO is also absolutely indispensable. Fortunately, WordPress plug-in developers have created a number of tools to assist everyday users in search-optimizing their sites. One great SEO tool for WordPress (as well as one of our favourite plugins overall!) is Yoast.
But let’s step back for a second. Many people have asked me whether SEO is really worth the time and effort. Why bother?
SEO and the Virtual Storefront
Let’s say there are two pizza joints on your block. One sits on a busy street corner, with an attractive storefront, prominent outdoor sign, and a large ad in the Yellow Pages. The other is located on the third floor of a gray, nondescript office complex. There is no outdoor sign, and you can find it in the white pages – provided that you already know the name of the place. Both restaurants serve excellent pizza, but there aren’t enough customers in the neighbourhood for both of them.
Which pizza place is going to succeed? Which one will fail? Obviously, the restaurant that is virtually invisible will fail – because nobody can find it!
You can have a perfectly good website, advertising an excellent business, but it won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you throw open the doors and draw people into the site. Search engine optimization (SEO) is more than a buzzword – it’s a fundamental part of doing business online in the 21st century. We’ve already gone over the basics of tags and categories – so let’s talk about how you can search-optimize your WordPress posts with Yoast.
Before installing Yoast, you should be aware of the basics about WordPress plugins. Once you’ve installed the Yoast plug-in (which can be downloaded here) you will notice a range of new options in your posts. Once you know the basics, you can search-optimize your posts in seconds, and lead potential customers to your site. Here’s a breakdown of basic Yoast options and how they work.
This displays how your post will appear in Google search results, including the title, URL, and description. Potential readers will only glance at your Google search result for about a second, so make sure that it looks like something you would want to read.
What is the key word or phrase that you want to focus on with this post? For my article about monkeying with WordPress captions, the answer was easy – WordPress captions! As you can see in the image to the right, Yoast is quite happy with my consistent use of this key phrase. It appears in the:
- article heading
- page title (described below)
- page URL
- content of the post
- meta description (described below)
Most search engines will limit the title display of your post to 70 characters. If your post title is longer than 70 characters, too bad – Google will simply cut it off. This isn’t very attractive for people who are looking for your content. Yoast allows you to enter an SEO-friendly title that will appear in search engine results. You can click “Generate SEO title” to make this fast and easy.
By default, search engines will display the first 156 characters in your post as the meta description. But this is usually a bad way to introduce people to your post. Using Yoast, you can control how the meta-description will appear in search engine results. You have only 156 characters to summarize your post – make it interesting! Include your keyword and give people a good reason to read your post.
Next week: diving deeper into Yoast, with page analysis, advanced options, and social media integration!