When it comes to small business SEO, there are a lot of things to think about aside from keywords. Your audience, your message, your content – all of this is important. Nevertheless, after you’ve worked on your online marketing plan and are implementing it, you’ll be getting quite tactical. You’ll need to choose keywords for your blog posts and optimize around those keywords. Fortunately, there’s a great way to do this if you’re using WordPress for your business website because you’ll be able to use one of the best SEO plugins available.
WordPress uses plugins, which provide added functionality for your website; this is just a fancy way of saying that each plugin will add a specific feature to your site, such as displaying Facebook and Twitter buttons so that people can share your content on social networks.
About the WordPress SEO Plugin
The aptly-named WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast is widely considered to be the best SEO plugin. How popular is it? As of this writing, it has been downloaded more than 4 million times, placing it in the top 5 most popular plugins, with the vast majority of users giving it a 5-star rating.
This plugin is quite robust and can help you to change your link structure for pages, posts, categories, and tag archives, provide a sitemap for search engines, and verify your site with the major search engines. However, you don’t need to worry about those additional features right now. (If I’ve worked on your site, I’ve already set it up for you, and if I haven’t worked on your site, hopefully your web developer set it up for you.)
For our purposes right now, we’re going to focus on what you can do to optimize each and every blog post that you write. Just to be clear, when we’re optimizing a post we’re still writing for our audience, not for the search engines. However, we are taking the time to make sure that our blog post is properly set it up so that it clearly conveys to the search engines what the post is about.
The plugin helps you in two ways:
- It helps you to identify a focus keyword. Think of the focus keyword (or keywords, because you can have a focus keyword that is two or three words long) as the theme or main idea for your post. Every post should be focused on one topic, and your post should explain that topic clearly to your reader.
- It helps you to optimize your post for that keyword. SEO is not rocket science. There are certain widely recognized best practices, such as having your keyword in the page title, the URL (the page link), the meta description (the snippet of text that shows up in the search results), and of course, in the content itself. One of the things that makes the WordPress SEO plugin so useful is that once you’ve identified the focus keyword, the plugin will check to see if you’ve included it in all of these places and it will remind you if you’ve missed something. Beyond that, it will analyze your page and alert you to other opportunities to optimize your post.
Using the WordPress SEO Plugin to Optimize Your Posts
When you’re in the WordPress dashboard, you’ll see the WordPress SEO plugin in two different places. First, on the right-hand side in the “Publish” area, there will be an additional item that says “SEO: Check.”
The circle to the right of “SEO” will be gray at the beginning because you have not yet optimized your post. As you optimize your post, you’ll be able to click on the “check” link and the circle will turn yellow if your post is partially optimized and green when it’s fully optimized. Ideally, all of your posts will have a green circle next to “SEO.”
The second place where you’ll notice a difference is at the bottom of your post, where you’ll actually be able to optimize your post. You’ll want to do the following:
- Choose a focus keyword. This should be the topic of your post. Type your keyword in and the plugin will automatically provide more suggestions for you. Select the one that best captures your topic.
- Write a title for your post. Use the focus keyword in your title, preferably at the beginning. Make sure that your title is limited to the 70 characters (the plugin will tell you when it’s too long).
- Write a description for your post. This will be shown in the search results when someone searches for your focus keyword. It should be a sentence or two that explains what your post is about and encourages the reader to click on your link. Make sure your description is no longer than 156 characters (again, the plugin will let you know when it’s too long).
The snippet preview will show you what your post will look like in the search results. As you’re optimizing your post, the plugin will keep track of the places where you’ve included your keyword, marking them with a green “yes.” If you’ve missed something, the plugin will note that with a red “no” so that you can fix it. It can’t get much easier than that, can it? The fact that it helps you effectively optimize your post in such a straightforward manner is why many, myself included, consider this the best SEO plugin!
Once you’ve optimized your blog post, it will look like this sample from a post that I wrote previously about business blogging:
Finally, there’s one more thing to check before you’re done. In addition to making sure that you’ve selected a focus keyword and added it in all the important places, the plugin will analyze your page for you. Click on the “Page Analysis” tab. The page analysis will check a few additional optimization opportunities (such as having an image with a description that includes the keyword) and provide you with quick feedback: red for the high-priority items that you’ll want to fix, orange for strong recommendations, yellow for other recommendations, and green for the things you’re doing right!
Now, there is one important caveat to all this. The best keywords will have high search volume and low competition, meaning that a lot of people are using that search term but not a lot of other sites have optimized for that search term. For example, if a lot of people are searching for “sustainability consultants in Berkeley” (high search volume) and not a lot of sites have optimized for that (low competition), then it will be easier for you to rank higher and get more traffic for that search term. Conversely, if there’s low search volume or high competition, it will be harder to rank and get traffic. The WordPress SEO plugin is not set up for keyword research, but there are great SEO tools to help you evaluate potential keywords for search volume and competition; two of my favorites that I use on a regular basis are Scribe and Market Samurai. If you’re looking for a free research tool, you can use the Google Keyword Tool.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out The WordPress SEO Tutorial on the Yoast website. It’s a bit lengthy and quite detailed, but it will provide you with some useful information.
I hope this explains how to use this great SEO plugin, which will help you get the most out of your business blogging. Do you have any questions about how to use this plugin? If so, leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get an answer for you.
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