Outcomes for this lesson

  • Install WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • Learn basics of using the plugin
  • Set our preferred search display
  • Utilize the SEO evaluator to create better posts

Resources

Search Engine Optimization

So we’ve got our sites, they look good, and people who visit can subscribe to us. But how do people get to us in the first place? If someone say your organization at an event or heard about you from a friend, then odds are they’ll do a search for you in hopes of finding a website. We need to make our sites stand out in Google so that those people can get to you. We need to optimize our sites to be better noticed by search engines.

How does SEO Work?

How Do We Take Advantage of All This Without too Much Work?

We’ve evaluated the plugin “WordPress SEO by Yoast” to be an excellent, excellent SEO tool. It’s free, it’s intuitive, and it’s very well supported. There are other SEO packages out there and you’re certainly free to use them if you find Yoast lacking, but for purposes of this class, you’ll be using their plugin.

Go ahead and download and install Yoast. You can follow the above link to their website and download it there, or you can search for “WordPress SEO by Yoast” in the plugin search.

Configuring Yoast

The great thing about this program is that there’s not a whole lot you actually need to do to configure. Right out of the box it does things like create and submit site maps, create Facebook Open Graph tags, and ping Google and Bing.

The only thing you really need to worry about here is in the section called “Titles and Metas”, specifically in the tabs called “Home” and “Post Types”. The home section allows you to show what, by default people see when they search for your site. the post types section allows you to set the default things that people see in search engines when one of your blog posts comes up. These are good to set as fallbacks, but where Yoast really shines is the way it guides you in making a quality post.

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Enable OpenGraph Meta Data

We explain more about what OG meta data is and what it’s used for later in this lesson, but basically it just makes sure that when people share you posts and pages on Facebook or Twitter, the right title and description come up. For now, all you need to do is go to “SEO>Social” and check the box.

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Enable XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are text files that tell search engines about every single page and post on your website. We want Google to be able to index everything. If you’re creating blogposts often, then your sitemap will change. Yoast automatically generates a sitemap every time you make a new post and submits it to Google so it’s always up to date on your site’s structure. To enable XML sitemaps, go to “SEO>XML Sitemaps” and check the box.

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Check out this article from WP Beginner for more on what Sitemaps are and how they work.

SEO in Your Post Editor

SEO is a technical thing, but it also relates back to creating quality content. There is a certain way of structuring and writing your posts that leads to better search ranking. Using the SEO tools  that are now available in your post editor, you can make your post easier to read for your users and easier for Google to index.

The New Widget in the Post Editor

When you go to compose a new post, you’ll notice this new widget

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This is where you specify exactly what you want to show up in the search engine.

SEO Title– use this if you want the title that shows up in Google to be different from the thing you titled the page.

Meta Description- Very important. Use this to write the little blurb that shows up underneath the page title. It’s also what will show up when people share your post on Facebook. There is a 156 character limit so be concise.

Focus Keyword- Probably the most important aspect. Check out this post by the creator for a far better explanation of what the focus keyword is and why they base their tools around it. Basically, it is the word or phrase that is the topic of the post. Having a focus keyword or phrase helps you keep the post from going off topic and keep it about something. The focus keyword should appear several times in your post.

Optimizing Your Posts by Creating a Well Made Post

Other articles on this from WP Beginner

It’s fine to create your post content like usual, but consider creating your focus keyword first so that you can keep it in mind as the driving topic of the post. At any rate, before publishing the post complete the general SEO fields and the hit Save Draft. DO NOT PUBLISH THE POST. We want everything to be up to our high standard of quality before publishing. That way, the first version that the search engines index will be the best version.

After saving the draft, you will see a new feature in your “Publish” widget. It’s a little light that tells you how good your SEO is on that particular post. Before you save a draft, it shows up as grey:

SEO-level

Save your draft and see what you get. I used my final research project from SOCY 103B. It’s about why students don’t complete the FAFSA. I chose “financial aid” as my focus keyword and titled the page “Research Paper on Why Students do not Receive Financial Aid”, and gave it the meta description “Financial aid is crucial for many students to attend college, but many falter at the level of the FAFSA. This research proposal explores why this is.” Each of those has the focus keyword in it so let’s save draft and see the report that’s generated. Just click “Check” next to the SEO rating ball.

Page Analysis

Clicking “Check” takes you to the page analysis. Here’s what mine looked like,

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You’ll see that it displays green next to items that increased  the post’s optimization, yellow next to things that could be improved, and red next to things that are totally absent, but could enhance the page greatly. So how can my post be improved? It’s telling me to add images where appropriate, include the keyword in a subheading, increase the keyword density, make the page more readable, and include outbound links.

All of that is no problem except for a couple. There are 5,700 words in this paper so there’s no way to increase the keyword density. The readability is just going to have to remain difficult since this is a college paper. You don’t have to do everything the analysis tells you to. After all, I already got a green rating on the page. I’ll make some changes and see if that increases the rating.

Publishing

When you believe the quality of your post is good, then it’s time to share it. Hit publish like normal. Since you have an SEO program installed, it will send a little message to Google and Bing to let them know that your site has been updated. This helps you get found as well.

Sharing

Having made this sweet post, you want to try and get the word out to more people. If you’re dedicated, you already have a Facebook page associated with your organization. This is a good place to post links to your new articles. Not everyone uses RSS, some prefer to use Facebook for notifications. Paste the link of your post to Facebook and see what displays.

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You’ll notice that when you paste in a link, you get this preview. Why is that? When you paste a link into the status box, Facebook goes to that site and looks for things like the title, images, descriptions, etc. We are able to tell it exactly what we want because the SEO plugin adds “Meta Tags” to the <head> of your website based on what you entered  in the SEO widget. Here’s what the head looks like:

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That’s a lot of  kinda confusing stuff there, but you can kinda get what happened. og:title is our page title, og:description is the meta description we made.

If we didn’t specify these things, then Facebook would make some assumptions about what it should show in the preview. Usually it will just take the first 200 characters or so from the post content.

Homework Assignment

Set up the SEO plugin on your website and submit a screenshot of your completed configuration. (The page analysis tab, as seen here – the more green the better)

How to do screen shots with PC on a Mac

Submit Homework