How to optimise your business blog content with the Yoast SEO plugin
I’m a big fan of the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress as it provides an easy, straightforward way to optimise the content you publish on your website. I say ‘straightforward’, but you have to know how to use the plugin, or you may be left scratching your head wondering why the Yoast SEO bullets are red or amber (a sign you need to up your optimisation efforts), rather than green. If you create content while keeping some easy principles in mind, I promise you won’t tear your hair out. But I can guarantee you that if you have a lot of content, and you haven’t optimised it, going back to turn all those bullets into green won’t be a fun task at all. (That’s why a lot of my clients pay ME to it for them. And I honestly don’t blame them!) So if you’re looking to optimise your business blog content with the Yoast SEO plugin, here are some simple tips you may find useful.
Don’t use H1 for anything else than your blog post titles
When you create a new blog post, the post title is treated as an H1 (heading one) by the search engine bots. More than one H1 associated with a blog post can create a bit of a mess when it comes to SEO. In other words, don’t do it. By all means, use sub-headings in your text to break it up and make it easy to read (more on that later), but don’t use any additional H1’s. There should only be one H1 per blog post, and that’s the main title. Once you populate the blog post title under the heading ‘Add a New Post’ the text you put in there is automatically picked up as an H1, so you don’t need to do anything else.
Aim for longer posts
If you want your blog posts to do well when it comes to SEO, you need to make sure your text is over a certain length. According to the plugin, 300 words is the minimum. But if you can, you should aim for at least 1,000-1,500 words per blog post. Writing longer content allows you to go deeper into a topic and write more informative and valuable content. Better content provides a better customer experience to the user, and Google knows it. They want to return only the best content, and because longer posts have a better chance of providing a more comprehensive answer to the question the user asked, Google will prefer it to shorter content on a similar topic. So dig deep. Do some research beforehand if you need to, but try to aim for longer posts.
Use sub-headings (H2s, H3s, and H4s) to break your text up
When you’re writing longer content, this becomes especially important. The truth is that people nowadays are short on time. When we’re looking for information and answers, we want them fast. So as much as we would all like to think that our readers hang on to every word we type, they don’t. People skim and scan text looking for answers. You need to give them those answers, or they’ll go elsewhere, and quick. So make sure you guide your readers through your text by adding sub-headings.
Use bullet points and bold text
In the spirit of helping your readers finding their answers quickly, you should add bullet points or highlight some key words, phrases or sentences in bold. Once again, this helps your audience direct their attention to the most important and relevant parts of your blog posts. Do it right, and they’ll thank you for it. But don’t overdo it. If most of your text is in bold, how will your potential customers and clients know what’s really important? Think of it this way – if there’s ONE thing per sub-heading or section of your blog post that you’d like your reader to learn or do, what would it be?
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short
The Yoast SEO plugin has two separate tabs and scores your blog posts according to a set of ‘Readability’ criteria and a set of ‘Keyword’ criteria. If you want your ‘Readability’ bullet to be green, you need to keep your sentences short. By ‘short’, I mean under 20 words. If more than 25% (or 20% for longer content) of your text is made up of longer sentences, you’ll be alerted. This may not be an issue if you have met other criteria for readability. But if you haven’t, you’ll see an amber or a red bullet under your Readability tab. And you’ll have a few things to fix if you want that bullet to turn green again. Plus, don’t forget that alternating long and short sentences in your blog post adds rhythm to your content, and that can only be a good thing!
Similarly, you want to keep your paragraphs under 150 words, and the sections under each of your sub-headings under 300 words. You can have a couple of longer paragraphs (although those can often be easily split into two or more), but you should really try not to have more than 300 words of text under each sub-heading. If you’ve used an H2 and you have more to say, consider adding one or more sub-sections (an H3, for example) under your original H2.
Use active language
Without going into a grammar lesson here, let’s just say that the Yoast SEO plugin prefers it when you use active language. Why? Because active language is easier to read and understand. To write a sentence using active language you pick the subject (or ‘actor’) of your sentence, and you make it perform the action. So (excuse the typical language class example), you’ll want to write: “I parked the car outside the shops”, rather than “The car was parked outside the shop”. That’s if you know who parked the car, of course! If you really really don’t, then it’s okay to use the passive language.
The problem is that if we’re not careful we fall into the trap of using the passive voice (where the object of our sentence has the action performed on them). Just like in that sentence I just shared with you. We do this without thinking too much about it, even when we could easily choose the active voice instead. Once again, the plugin gives you a little leeway. But if you use the passive voice for more than 10% of your text, you’ll start to see that amber (or red) bullet popping up.
Use transition words
Transition words are essentially connectives. They’re another cool tool that helps your reader navigate through your text. If your sentences aren’t sequentially or logically connected to each other, it may be harder for someone to understand the point you’re making. This is why the Yoast SEO plugin bots reward you for using lots of transition words. The more the better. If you don’t have enough, you’ll be encouraged to add some more to make sure the meaning of the text is super-clear. Think of words and phrases like ‘so’, ‘therefore’, ‘then’, ‘since’, etc.
Write in plain English
What’s the point of writing and publishing content on your website that no one can understand? The Yoast SEO plugin checks how easy your text is to understand through the ‘Flesch Reading Test’. Based on the results, it assigns a score to your content. The higher the score, the better. It means that a young child could understand your writing. But if you use big, complicated words or acronyms you start to lose on your overall score. And that’s because your content becomes harder to understand. Remember that you’re not writing academic papers here. You’re writing blog posts to entertain, educate, or inform your reader. To give them value and solve their problems. You can only really do that if they understand you. So don’t be afraid of using simple, plain words.
Don’t be too repetitive
When you start three consecutive sentences with the same word, the Yoast SEO plugin detects a repetition and flags this up for you. You can fix this by joining two of the sentences together or by changing the first word of one or more of the three sentences. It’s really as simple as this! Generally, though, it’s a great idea to try and vary your vocabulary a little. Edit your work before publishing and replace repetitions with synonyms.
Fill in the Focus keyword
When you click on the ‘Keyword’ tab under the Yoast SEO section at the bottom of your blog post, you’ll see the icon of a key right next to the text ‘Focus keyword’. This is the keyword (or key phrase) you’d like to optimise your blog post for. You’re encouraged to use the focus keyword in the following places:
- Your blog post title – the earlier your focus keyword appears in your title, the better.
- The first paragraph of your blog post.
- Other sub-headings in your blog post (optional).
- Elsewhere in your blog post (optional) – the more you use your keyword (without forcing it), the more you increase the ‘keyword density’ in your content, which is a good thing.
- The name and the ALT Description of the images that accompany your blog post.
- Your blog post URL (more on that later).
- The SEO title of your blog post (more on that later).
- The Meta Description of your blog post (more on that later).
It’s very important that you only use a focus keyword once. No two blog posts or pages on your website should have the same ‘Focus keyword’. If they do, this will affect your ranking. It’s called ‘cannibalisation’. And in a nutshell, it means that various pieces of content on your website are competing against each other. Not a good thing.
Fill in the SEO title
Under the ‘Keyword’ tab (above the key icon), you’ll see a button called ‘Edit snippet’. When you click on that, a few extra sections will appear for you:
- SEO title
- Meta description
Go and fill in the SEO title section with your blog post title. The SEO title doesn’t have to match your blog post title exactly though. If your SEO title is too short, you may see an amber line appearing underneath it. When that happens, feel free to add a few more words or a phrase that will help someone doing a Google search find your content. Make sure you add your focus keyword to the SEO title.
Fill in the Slug
Next, under the ‘Edit snippet’ section of the ‘Keyword’ tab under the Yoast SEO section at the bottom of your post, fill in the slug. This is part of your URL, i.e. the long address of your blog post. Depending on the structure of your links (also called ‘permalinks’) your URL will be made up of your website name + your category (if you use them) and then your slug.
So an example of this may be www.sarabussandri.com/writing/improve-your-writing.
‘www.sarabussandri.com’ is the website name. ‘Writing’ is the category. ‘Improve-your-writing’ is the slug. If you don’t populate this yourself, WordPress will use all the words that make up your title. It then adds a hyphen in between them and creates the slug. If you leave it like that, the slug may be very long. It’s always best to shorten it and keep it focused. When choosing your slug, make sure you include your focus keyword.
Fill in the Meta Description
The Meta Description is that little snippet of text that appears under a link when you do a Google search. It gives you a little preview of what the content is all about. And often, you’ll notice that the words or phrase you searched for are highlighted in bold. This should tell you that it’s a great idea (and the Yoast SEO plugin encourages you to) to include your focus keyword in your Meta Description. Your Meta Description doesn’t need to be long. You have 156 characters to say what you want to say. So make an impact! This is your chance to get the reader to click on that link and come to your website.
Avoid using stop words
Another thing that the Yoast SEO plugin may flag up to you is that you have used ‘stop words’ in your focus keyword or URL. Stop words (like ‘a’, ‘the’, or ‘of’, for example) used to be filtered out from search queries. But search engines have come a long way to reflect people’s habits. When we run a search, we often type (or speak) the stop words in. So if it’s easier for you to optimise your content by using a phrase that contains stop words, do it.
As I mentioned earlier, Google only wants the best for its users. It’s the biggest, most-famous search engine in the world. And it wants to serve its customers in the best possible way. The guys at Google know that great content can’t exist in a vacuum. Surely, something that’s useful and valuable must point to other content. That’s why the Yoast SEO plugin encourages you to include both internal and external links.
Think about it. From a user perspective, you’re giving your customer additional information, which is great. From a search engine optimisation perspective, internal links help the Google bots know how to navigate your website. They know how to hop from one piece of content to the next, like in an intricate web. External links show that you’re committed to providing additional information (and great service) to your users. And when it comes to Google ranking your website, these things matter. So make sure you link out to authoritative, informative websites. Ideally though, for obvious reasons, you don’t want these to be your direct competitors!
Would you like me to optimise your business blog content with the Yoast SEO plugin?
If you’re new to this, I understand that this may seem like a lot to take in. And that’s especially true if you’ve already produced a lot of content that you haven’t optimised! Trying to get all the Yoast SEO bullets to turn green can be hard, and it certainly will be unless you kept all the above recommendations in mind when writing. But optimising your content does pay off. While there’s more to SEO than just content optimisation, optimising your business blog content will definitely help you appear in the first page of Google for the search terms that matter to you and your business.
The following blog posts I published on my lifestyle blog, Mind your Mamma, appear on the first page of Google for the search terms I optimised them for:
I know how to it, and you can do it too. Follow the advice in this post, and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work for you. But if the whole thing feels a little overwhelming, or right now you just can’t spare the time, get in touch. Let’s have a FREE discovery call and talk about how I can help you.