I’ve never cared much for all the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) machinations that many of the top bloggers say everyone must do to become really popular. So I’m not going to talk about those. There are some basic things that we should all do to grab a reasonable amount of search engine spider attention. And if you want a really quick way to learn to improve your blogs SEO – and if you have a self-hosted WordPress blog – snag the WordPress SEO by Yoast plug-in and install it. If you have a WordPress.com blog, it appears you can not use plugins at all.
Plug It In
No, no… don’t panic, it’s really easy to do. Make sure you make a back-up of your blog before making any major changes to it – that’s just common sense. Right?
From your blog’s Dashboard, look down the menu on the left to find “Plugins”, hover over it (put your cursor/mouse pointer over the title but don’t click) and a menu pops up. Click “Add New”. If you get all excited and click on Plugins, that’s OK, there’s an Add New button at the top of that page too. Then:
- Near the top of the screen is a small input window, type “WordPress SEO by Yoast” in that window and click the Search Plugins button.
- The search results screen should show the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin right up at the top of the list. If you misspelled something it may be the second or third down.
- Click the Install Now link on the proper plug-in listing.
- An “Are You Sure?” box opens up, click OK.
The installer script does all the work for you. Nibble on a cookie for a few moments and it’s all done. It’s a piece of cake! Oh, that sounds good too! But I digress.
Set It Up
Click on the Activate Plugin link at the bottom of the report and it’s installed and turned on.
Now, scroll down the menu on the left of the screen and you’ll see a big “CONGRATULATIONS” followed by, “You’ve just installed WordPress SEO by Yoast! Click ‘Start Tour’ to view a quick introduction of this plugins core functionality.”
The tour tells you about the functions this plugin will handle and how to set them up. Anything that is not hidden under the tour window can be configured and saved – don’t forget to save, the button is at the bottom of each page – anything hidden will need to be done later. Yoast’s instructions are quite clear, and he does say that if you don’t understand something, leave it blank. The plugin will configure the most important things automatically unless you over-ride them with your own input.
If you have a Google account you can hook into the Webmaster Tools through this plugin, same for Bing Webmaster Tools and Alexa.
Setting up templates is a bit tricky because you use variables (listed at the bottom of the page) to pull in variable data like the date, post category, the description from the post page, etc. If you’re not sure how to set these up, the support forums are linked to from this page – or leave them blank. Yoast does say that the plug-in will automatically configure the most important stuff on the fly. Templates are used to over-ride the plug-in and force it to format the way you want it to.
Be sure to tick the box to enable XML sitemaps so an XML sitemap will be generated each time you publish a new post, page or custom post and Google and Bing will be automatically notified. This is a very good thing, trust me. The site map is spider candy.
There are a couple of spots where he says “This is for advanced users only” if you don’t know what you’re doing, hands off. That’s good advice, take it.
Yoast SEO says it will import your meta data from your previous SEO plug-in, if you use one of the plug-ins he lists on the Import & Export page. I didn’t, so I did not use this function. Renee Pawlish used All in One SEO and tried to import to Yoast and had troubles. Read her comments below for details.
On the Settings/RSS page you have the ability to add a static line of code above, below, or both for each entry posted to your RSS feed. Yoast recommends doing this to get back-links from dumb scrapers who swipe your content. By embedding “Source: <a href=”http://allandouglas.com/blog/”>The Write Stuff</a>” after each entry when someone steals my RSS content and posts it somewhere else (you think they don’t?) their post will end with “Source: The Write Stuff” and the blog title is a link back to my blog. If you don’t want to mess with HTML you can use “Source: %%BLOGLINK%%” which uses a variable (those are listed at the bottom of the page) to do the same thing. Other variables allow you to reference the post tile and URL, date posted, etc. Craft it to suit your needs. Mine ends up looking like this:
Yesterday, January 30, 2012, 6:00:30 AM | Allan Douglas
I’ve never cared much for all the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) machinations that many of the top bloggers say everyone must do to become really popular. So I’m not going to talk about those. There are some basic things that we should all do to grab a reasonable amount of search engine spider attention. And [...]
Source: The Write Stuff
Thursday, January 26, 2012, 4:00:57 AM | Allan Douglas
Recently there has been a good deal of discussion going on about creativity: what it is, where it comes from, how it works, and how to get it to work better for you. Many articles have been written on how to encourage your imagination, how to feed your muse. As writers we depend on our [...]
Source: The Write Stuff
If your head is spinning and your palms sweating, fear not! Just remember that you can leave most of the stuff in this section blank and the plugin will automatically configure it. If you want to customize and tweak, use these Settings screens to override the automatic stuff and force it to serve up meta data the way you want it. Tour’s over, time to put it to use.
Go write a blog post.
Under your blog post is the Yoast SEO area. There are three tabs: General, Page Analysis and Advanced. This is the part I really like!
On this screen you enter your title, description, and keywords. Most of this will be very familiar if you’ve used any SEO enhancing plug in. Some of it can be automatically generated. Type in the information requested, save your post as a draft and check what Yoast has flagged. It will guide you to getting the most out of your content. Ready for the next step? Click the Page analysis tab.
This gets deeper into the nitty-gritty of optimizing your page. It looks at how and where your keywords and meta data are used and suggests improvements – if any are needed. Make any changes you need to and save the file as a draft. When you get all green check marks you’re an SEO Superstar!
My only gripe here is that the plug-in does not recognize uppercase/lowercase variants as the same keyword. I discovered this while writing the post about Bethany Lopez. The plug-in refuses to accept her name in proper case as an instance of the main keyword, and it quashes the use of capital letters in keywords.
Most of this, you will want to leave alone unless you have an advanced degree in Geekdom. The top section allows you to tell search spiders to go away for posts that you don’t want spread around. Click the box to not index and Googlebot will not put this page into Google’s database of articles. Click the box to not follow and Slurp will not follow links from this page to others. Of course these instructions apply to all obedient spiders, not just these two. Disobedient spiders… well… what are you going to do? Use these options for keeping folks out of members only or private pages.
Remember to save the file as a draft each time you make changes so the plugin will rescan your work and update its report.
By following Yoast’s suggestions for improving your work, you will be learning what you need to do as you write the posts and put them on your blog. The plug-in makes your work as irresistible to spiders as a chocolate cake is to a five year old, and it will continually update the site map and notify the search engines that you have new content to offer. And he does it all for free – though if you find it useful, please make a donation; that too is built right into the page for your convenience.
For the record, I am not in any way affiliated with Yoast, he has not paid me to write this, and I do not expect to get a box of brownies for doing so. Although… I wouldn’t turn them down if he did. I wrote this because I’m impressed with his work and feel you too can benefit from his efforts.
\\\/// Write long and prosper.