WordPress SEO Tips for using the Yoast SEO plugin
Some might lead you to believe “SEO is dead.” Google that search term and what comes back in return is over 800,000 search results. However, just because SEO has changed drastically over the past decade doesn’t mean it is dead, it simply means it has changed. Businesses now have to take new and unique approaches to SEO to win the never-ending game in SERPs. Many bootstrap companies and blogs build their entire business from the beginning off of organic search. While this may be risky, it still is a sign that organic search is alive and well. In this post, we are going to share with you 5 WordPress SEO tips that we use here at AfriSEO. These will help skyrocket your traffic and dominate your competition. There will be follow up posts with more tips so keep an eye out for them.
1. www vs non-www Domain
If you are just launching your website the very first question you might have is whether not you should go with www or not, and how this affects your WordPress SEO. It is very simple, there is no benefit SEO wise to having www in your domain. It will not affect your rankings in any way. But that is not to say you should always go with non-www. So why do websites still use www? There are a couple reasons:
- Using www as part of your domain used to be the standard back in the day. But that is not necessarily true anymore. Even we don’t use www here at AfriSEO. One reason you still might see www being used a lot is simply because changing it after using it for years can be complex and cause issues. So a lot of older brands simply continue to use it.
- Another reason large companies with a lot of traffic might want to use www is due to DNS. Naked domains (non-www) technically can’t have a CNAME record used in order to redirect traffic for failover. However, there are workarounds to this issue.
So when it comes down to www vs non-www it is more a matter of personal preference. Perhaps you prefer shorter URLs in which case you could go with the non-www. Remember, no matter which version you choose you can setup redirects so that each is accessible. For example, if you visit www.afriseo.co.za, it simply redirects to afriseo.co.za.
In Google Search Console you can set your preferred domain to appear in Google as www or non-www. We recommend setting this option, however, if you are running a WordPress plugin such as Yoast SEO (which we will go into more below) this is not technically required as the plugin automatically adds canonical tags to let Google know which version to index.
2. Install a WordPress SEO Plugin
WordPress out of the box is pretty good already when it comes to SEO. However, we always recommend that people install an SEO plugin when they are working with their WordPress site. This allows you to have full control over optimizing what Google can see from your website. In terms of popularity, the free Yoast SEO and All-In-One SEO Pack plugins steal the show with their end-to-end optimization capabilities. We highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin and in fact, a lot of this WordPress SEO checklist will have examples using this plugin.
The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to write better content with page and keyword analysis, automatically generate XML sitemaps, enable breadcrumbs, add social and schema markup, as well as a multitude of other optimizations. As of writing this it has over 1 million installs with an impressive 5 out of 5-star rating. You can download their free WordPress plugin from the WordPress repository or follow the steps below to install it from within your WordPress dashboard.
Under the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard click on “Add New.” Search for yoast seo and click on “Install Now.”
Then click on “Activate.”
You now have an “SEO” menu in which you can access the settings of the plugin. We will be digging into more of the Yoast plugin options further below.
And remember, the plugin doesn’t do SEO for you. It simply offers recommendations for you to make more data-driven optimizations.
3. Setup Friendly Permalinks
By default, WordPress provides creates weird permalinks (URL structure) that simply are not very clean. The default structure currently inserts the day and name into the URL, such as seen below.
Google likes URLs that contain your title and or keywords in the post, but shorter URLs are generally better. We recommend using the “Post name” permalink setting as this is both clean and still can benefit you by using the title or your keyword in the URL. The format then appears like this:
You can change to a “Post name” permalink structure by clicking into “Permalinks” under the settings menu in your WordPress dashboard. Select “Post name” and click on “Save Changes.”
It is important to note though that changing the permalink structure after the posts go live can render all previous links useless and people sharing these links on social networks will remain unable to direct traffic to your site. If you are changing the permalink structure on an older site, make sure to redirect previous URLs to the new permalink by editing the .htaccess file or leveraging a third party plugin such as Change Permalink Helper.
4. Always Use a Focus Keyword
When it comes to WordPress SEO, it is important to remember that Google is still a computer algorithm, and that is why keywords still matter in 2018. You definitely should be writing for your visitors and customers as Google recommends, but write smart. You can easily write for your audience as well as keeping the best SEO optimizations in mind. And remember, other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo rely sometimes even more on what some may call outdated SEO practices.
Whenever you write a blog post or post a page on your WordPress site you should always have a focus keyword in mind. Don’t just publish a post for the sake of pushing out more content. We will go more into keyword research further below. Using the Yoast SEO plugin you can easily set the focus keyword that you want to write about. For example, for this post we are using the focus keyword “WordPress SEO.” You can see that Yoast SEO actually analyzes the keyword density and it is reporting that it is a little low for this post. Generally, a 0.5% or more is a good amount to aim for. So we should figure out a way to include our keyword a few more times, naturally of course, within our content.
5. Importance of Title Tags
It is important that you have your main “focus keyword” that you want to rank for in your blog post or page title tag. Brian Dean, an SEO expert recommends to even place your keyword at the beginning of the title if possible as this will have more weight in search engines. For example, the title of this blog post is “WordPress SEO Checklist – 50 Tips for 2018.” We are placing our keyword, “WordPress SEO” at the very beginning. This might not always be possible, but can help give you a little boost.
You can manually set a title tag in the Yoast SEO plugin, as seen below. Remember that Google has a viewable limit of 65 characters, so if you go over that it might not appear. They are really limited by pixels now, but Yoast SEO uses characters which is a close approximation. And remember that title tags not only affect SEO but also your clickthrough rate (CTR). Some have reported seeing 20% increases in CTR simply by making small tweaks to their titles.
article originally by K.