Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must if you want your blog to succeed. But most writers have no idea how to put keywords to use and gain traffic. Nor do they have the time or desire to figure it out or the money to hire someone to do it for them. But SEO doesn’t have to be hard, time-consuming, or expensive. Today, Jay Artale (@BirdsOAFpress) provides a primer on one of the best free SEO tools for bloggers with WordPress sites.
As a blogger, you need to understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basics so you can target and attract unpaid traffic to your website. But like many bloggers, you probably find it hard to plan and write the content needed to maintain a regular blogging schedule, let alone try to master SEO. However, using a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO offers an obvious solution to help improve the quality of your content and increase the volume of website traffic—without wasting too much time or spending any money.
How Yoast SEO Helps
If you’re running your blog on WordPress, there are plenty of free and paid plugins to help you streamline your SEO. Yet, Yoast SEO is the most popular and deservedly so. It has a paid version, but the options available with the free version are more than sufficient to get you started.
Without getting too technical, SEO is split into on-page and off-page factors. Using the Yoast SEO plugin is like adding a quality control inspector for your on-page content before you publish.
None of us have time to write content that doesn’t get discovered. The goal for any blogger needs to be to implement basic SEO techniques to help us create content that search engines love. If you work on nothing else, ensuring the quality of your content should be at the forefront of your mind before you publish your blog posts.
I use the free version of the Yoast plugin on all of my websites. One of the most effective and easy-to-understand features is the Quality Control check of your keyword content to ensure it’s optimized for search engines. I never publish a post without going through this evaluation process.
Each time people use a search engine, like Google, they type in a single keyword or a phrase to find the content they’re seeking. A single word could return billions of search results, whereas a more specific phrase will likely have less competition. For instance:
- Blogging returned ~7,800,000,000 results
- Blogging+nonfiction returned ~23,100,000 results
- Nonfiction+blogging+techniques returned ~10,100,000 results
- Nonfiction+blogging+advice returned ~844,000 results
- Nonfiction+blogging+advice+women+entrepreneurs returned ~620,000 results
When there’s less competition for a keyword or keyword phrase, it will be easier for you to rank for it. This means your content has the potential to appear higher in the search results. This is especially relevant when you’re writing on a niche subject. There is so much content on the internet that people only drill down through a few pages of search results. Often, they don’t get past the first search engine results page before entering a more specific keyword string and trying again.
Therefore, the best approach when writing content is to use broad keywords from your niche. But always ensure your content focuses on using the niche keyword strings that are less competitive.
Looking for optimal keywords can be time-consuming, and there are plenty of free and paid services to help you find the niche keywords. This is obviously the best option. But if you don’t have the time or money to invest in keyword research, you can use your common sense to choose target keywords for each blog post.
If you’re familiar with your niche and knowledgeable about your audience, focus on writing for them without doing extensive keyword research. You will still see increased traffic to your website as a result.
I took this approach for one of my location-specific travel websites. It was one of my first websites. I found SEO too overwhelming to contemplate, so I focused on creating quality content for my audience. I wrote for them, not for me, focusing on creating useful and narrowly targeted content I hoped they’d find helpful. As a result, my site visitors grew organically, and I frequently appeared within the top 20 search results for my niche and micro-niche keyword phrases.
Yoast Keyword/Keyphrase Checks
After each blog post, Yoast does the following keyword assessments before you publish.
- Checks your keyphase is an optimal length. (Keyphrase length)
- Checks the keyphrase is used in your title. (Keyphrase in title)
- Checks that words for your keyphrase appear in the first paragraph. (Keyphrase in Introduction)
- Checks your subheadings support the content’s topic. (Keyphrase in Sub-headings)
- Checks keyphrase density based on all content words appearing in a single sentence. (Keyphrase Density)
- Checks your meta description includes your keyphrase. (Meta Description)
- Checks there are links using the keyphrase. (Link Focus Keyphrase)
- Checks the key phrase appears in alt attributes of your images. (Keyphrase in Image Alt Attributes)
- Checks that your URL includes the keyphrase (Keyphrase in Slug)
- Checks if you’ve used the same keyphrase in previous posts. (Previously Used Keyphrase)
Click on the links above to visit the Yoast site for more information about each of these SEO checks.
Auto-Check the SEO of Every Blog Post
All these checks are done automatically if you have installed the Yoast plugin. You need only review the information provided and make the necessary changes before hitting “publish.”
Yoast uses a simple traffic light notification (green, amber, red) to let you know whether you’ve optimized the SEO of a post for each aspect or whether you need to tweak content to improve its ranking potential.
The beauty of the Yoast keyword review is that it immediately highlights the areas you need to improve and takes the guesswork out of the SEO process. Plus, it’s easy to understand and use.
I’ve only highlighted the basics of this plugin’s free functionality, and it provides many more premium (paid) features. But if you start with the basic (free) version—and follow its suggestions—you’ll see an increase in your website traffic.
Share your favorite keyword tools and WordPress plugins in the comments below, and let us know their positive impact on your website. Also, please share this post with a friend or on social media.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of msgrafixx.