Blogs and content framework software like WordPress are by nature SEO friendly. Each post has its own title which becomes the title tag. The keyword tag in the meta section of the head area of the code isn’t very important any more. If your opening paragraph is keyword rich and aimed for a human reader, your description will be pretty good as well. (If there is no description tag used, search spiders index the first bit of page text they find.) So do you need to go to the trouble of adding a SEO plugin for your WordPress site?
The short answer is yes. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, the plugin will remind you to think of SEO when you’re writing. Not every writer does that and a little reminder can go a long way.
Secondly, a SEO plugin can give a writer greater flexibility and creativity with their articles. For the best SEO results, a writer will need to repeat their optimized keyword phrase as early in the first paragraph as they can. That’s limiting. I didn’t do it in this article, but I can remedy that later by optimizing my description tag.
Let’s take a look real quick at an example:
This was an article I wrote last week on another site. I wanted to optimize for the keywords “co-working salt lake city.” But I didn’t begin the article with those words. I wanted to put a more creative spin on it. In the screen shot you can see a field for “meta description.” That’s the language that shows up in the search engines.
The SEO plugin also provides statistics and allows alternate titles to be used for publishing on social media sites. I don’t think it matters which SEO plugin you choose so long as it has a custom description tag.
WordPress.com doesn’t use plugins, so how do you create a custom description tag there?
A feature called “excerpts” creates the description tag. If you like your first paragraph, leaving the excerpt tag blank will force the spiders to display the first text they come to. I don’t like to leave things like that to chance, so worst case I’ll quickly cut and paste my first paragraph as the excerpt.
I believe SEO plugins are so important, they’re usually the first type I install. In the next article for WordPress week, I’ll discuss some other useful plugins that are “must haves” for any WordPress site.
For small businesses wanting a website, WordPress is a cheap and easy to set up choice. With an open development language, it inspires themes and plugins that will do just about anything and look great straight out of the box. Please be aware this article is referencing the self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Unfortunately, this can create lots of problems too. Since there is no standard to adhere to, anyone can upload a theme or plugin and sometimes they don’t work. Or they don’t work like you imagine they will.
For this reason I don’t like to play around with WordPress very much. I can do a lot of coding, but I don’t do it enough for it not to be frustrating every time I try. This past week, I did get the chance and I discovered a pretty good way to find themes and plugins that work the first time.
I’ve been working on an idea for over a year. WordPress is great for startups to put together a workable prototype without having to sink a lot of funds into development. So I chose WordPress as my platform. I still don’t have a product. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest one being I didn’t find a workable theme.
Contrast that with another startup idea I had. I began work on it last week, finished a workable prototype last Sunday and am ready for a full launch now. The difference? I found a theme right away that did everything I wanted and was easy to use. I also found a plugin that provided the critical piece of functionality I wanted. Here’s how I did it.
Do a Google search for what you want the plugin to do. You’ll get names of plugins in your search results. What you want the plugin to do may have a widely accepted industry name you’re unaware of. Now do a search for that product and include “review.” What you’re hoping to get here is an article with a five to ten plugin comparison. (Be careful of affiliate review sites that don’t offer any real value in the comparison.) Read that article and you should come up with two or three that really interest you. Now, go to the WordPress plugin finder and search for those plugins.
You’ll see an option to install or to read more. Click on read more. Take a look at the description on the main page, then look at the FAQ page. If everything looks like what you want, check out the review tab. If it doesn’t get consistently good reviews, don’t install it. You’re welcome. I just saved you hours of torment.
There are a million themes available for WordPress. The screenshots you’ll see for them will show them in their best light. You may have to do custom coding in the CSS to get it to look like the screen shot. Again, I recommend searching for the type of theme you want (two column, three column, responsive) and reading the reviews on them. You’ll get a better idea of what the actual work will be like from previous users when you install it.
I did find a theme editor plug-in, on a review site, that looks like it will solve some of the issues with setting up themes. I haven’t used it, but I will definitely try it on my next project.
Some plugins conflict with some themes, so you may have your theme setup exactly the way you want it, install a plugin, and have the whole thing break. That’s why it’s important to know the names of your theme and plugins. Again, do a search for the issue and some kind soul will probably already have a solution.
Be sure to check the last time the plugin or theme was updated and how well the developer responds to questions. I found the more active the developer is, the better the product is.
Sometimes I make the mistake of assuming everyone has the same understanding of basic online marketing concepts I do. I’ll mention a phrase like “key words” and get an affirmative yet questioning nod. That’s when I realize I need to take it down a notch and explain a little better.
Simply stated, keywords are the foundation of everything you do online. They’re that important. In online marketing we say “content is king.” Content is made up of keywords. Even images and videos have keyword tags.
We use keywords every day, but sometimes don’t realize it. Every online search you do is composed of keywords. Everything you write is full of keywords. Resumes are sorted by the keywords stated in the document.
Knowing that keywords are the foundation, I always ask clients if they have a list of keywords. They rarely do. Even if they do, I always do new keyword research and provide that list to them for review.
What is a keyword?
Let’s explain this first. Keywords are words used to find or categorize content. When you search for a name on Facebook or LinkedIn, those are the keywords. When you search for a product on Amazon, that is your keyword. When you look for an address on Google, those are your keywords or key phrases. Keywords are how visitors find you online.
What gets ignored?
Short words, letters or plurals. A, as, the and all get ignored by the search spiders. I’ll sometimes do keyword research and find an odd phrase with no modifiers. It’s because they have been stripped out. Using word modifiers can spice up headlines while still maintaining keyword focus. For example, the title “How to do Keyword Research” would get indexed as “Keyword Research.”
I’ll sometimes have business owners tell me they have 500,000 (or some other ridiculous number) keywords they manage. Why? Search engines look at root words. Search spiders look at what comes first in a phrase when establishing what is the root. I focus on core root words for my clients. The long-tail results will follow.
Speaking of long tails… What are they? A root keyword phrase could be “real estate.” A long-tail could be “find real estate in salt lake city.” See the difference? Web search has been around long enough that most users are sophisticated enough to add modifiers in their search. Modifiers reveal intent.
The most popular search term for real estate in Utah is “Utah real estate.” No surprises there. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the searchers intent. People search for two reasons; to purchase or to research. “Utah real estate statistics” reveals a much different goal than “Utah real estate for sale.” The more specific a search is, the more likely a consumer is ready to buy. A search like “Holladay townhouses for sale 84124″ is very insightful.
All of these are considerations when I perform keyword research and they’re very helpful in weeding out non-relevant terms. It’s even more critical when running paid search campaigns. Keyword research provides market research as well. Google’s keyword research tool tells me how many searches are made each month, what the competition pays for those keywords and how competitive that keyword is in the marketplace.
Research needs to be updated as searches change depending on season, product life cycle and market trends. Keyword research helps determine your site structure and content. That research translates to offline marketing as well. Keyword research tells you what your videos, brochures, Facebook posts, white papers, tweets and blog posts need to be about. Because that’s what people are searching for. That is what interests your prospects and customers. Provide the content they seek and sales will follow.