I HATE Red Lights! Not the ones at intersections designed to keep everyone safe. I mean – the ones on my website that tell me I don’t have my Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – optimised.
I’m certainly not an expert on SEO, but it did my head in until I had a reasonable handle on it.
Do I need to worry about Search Engine Optimisation?
A couple of years ago, a friend and I were comparing Plugins on our websites. Since we both have WordPress sites, the discussion focused on plugins that are compatible with WordPress.
Di, being more technologically advanced than me, mentioned a plugin that helped with Search Engine Optimisation. Since it was on the ‘f-r-e-e’ list of plugins, it was a no-brainer. I ‘plugged it in‘ and started learning how to use it.
There are probably hundreds of SEO plugins, and I’m sure they’re all fantastic, but the one Di recommended was Yoast. Yoast has a basic plugin that is f-r-e-e, and a more advanced Premium plugin that you pay for. I still use the basic one.
Like a lot of plugins, there is plenty of online support. But that didn’t protect me from a few sleepless nights while I grappled with the many aspects of the new plugin. It was a bit overwhelming, but starting small and learning one thing at a time, made it achievable.
It was those Red Lights that did my head in!
Well, they’re not really red lights – they’re more like red-dots. But the ones you need to see are the green smiley faces. If you get the red (or amber) dot – you have a bit more work to do before hitting the Publish button. That’s if you want your SEO to be really optimised.
Yoast uses simple red, amber and green icons. I’m only describing Yoast because it is the only one I’m familiar with. But I’m sure there are other plugins that would provide the same support.
Yoast works on two key elements:
- Readability Analysis
- SEO Analysis
Like most things, the more you use it, the easier it is.
Using a plugin, like Yoast, can provide a visual cue to help you optimise your website so that search engines will find your content. When someone types a word into a search engine – you want your site to be at the top of the response list – or at least somewhere close to the top. Paying attention to SEO helps.
The Readability of your content is fundamental. The easier your content is to read, the more likely potential customers will stay on, and come back to your site. Writing for a website is different to other types of writing – it’s all about the white-space.
A lot of people use their portable iDevices – like Smart Phones and Tablets to browse the Internet. The more white space around the text, the easier it is to read on small devices. By white spaces, I mean breaking text up into smaller chunks than you would for writing on other mediums.
Your content needs to be readable by a wide range of readers with varying levels of ability. Younger readers skim – so lots of headings helps them navigate a large chunk of content.
The Flesch Reading Ease score gives you an indication of the level of skill needed to read (and comprehend) your content.
300 words or less between sub-headings is optimal. When I go over that amount, the plugin lets me know. I can then go back and add a few more sub-headings and I’m good to go.
You also need to stay focused on sentence beginnings. Starting consecutive sentences with the same word will result in a sad face.
You don’t need a green icon for each individual element to achieve an overall green smiley face – you just need most. But don’t worry, the plugin will let you know if you’ve got it right – or not.
When I first started using the plugin, my biggest problem was using too much Passive Voice – and believe me, I still fall off the wagon sometimes.
Passive Voice, Sentence Length and Transition Words show an ‘eye’ icon on the right side of the description. If you click on the ‘eye’, the text that needs attention will be highlighted, making it easier for you to identify where the trouble-spots are.
Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to edit the text until the highlighting disappears and the green smiley face lights up.
And guess what – the more you do that, the more easily your writing automatically slips into that style. And that’s why it is easier to achieve the green icons, the more you use the plugin.
This is probably the most serious side of the plugin. And is possibly a little harder to achieve – at first.
I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but a few basics might help you get started.
Outbound Links are simply links to another website. A few hyperlinks in your text to the source of a quote or definition of a word – and you’ve got this covered.
I rarely use Internal Links and I’m not even sure why this is important – but it’s something I will devote time to learning – soon. I’ve managed to clear all the hurdles and get the overall Green Light on my posts without worrying too much about it – so far.
The Keyphrase is an important element. This is the word that you hope people will be searching for that will lead them to your site. The Keyphrase needs to reflect the content of your text.
The Metadescription is a brief outline of what your content is about. And Yoast keeps me accountable by not letting me go over a specific length on my description.
If you are marketing Sofa Beds, your keyphrase needs to include the words Sofa Beds. You also need to include the phrase throughout your text – not too much – but often enough to keep the search engines happy.
SEO Title Length needs to be long enough, but not too long. My SEO plugin lets me know by putting a green line under the SEO title length when I’ve got it right.
Image Alt Attributes is another area I have been a bit slack in, but, as long as I can get the overall green smiley without it, I’ll keep that bit of learning on the back-burner for a while longer.
With a little bit of tweaking I achieved the following results, which were enough to give me the go-ahead to Publish, knowing my SEO was okay. Not brilliant and far from the professional standards of experts, but good enough for me.
If all that seems like hard work – trust me – it isn’t. The online support provided by good Search Engine Optimisation plugins, like Yoast, will have you up and running in no time.
And guess what? Even Yoast says it’s okay not to have all green lights – all the time.
But for me it has become a bit of a personal challenge. As you can see, I don’t get all green faces, but I do get as many as I can. And I promise myself to learn more so that one day, I can actually tick all the boxes.
all most of the ducks line up, and SEO has become second-nature – almost…
My disclaimer: There is still a lot I have to learn about SEO. I am definitely not an expert.