Regularly writing SEO friendly WordPress blog posts is an important skill to hone if you want your WordPress blog to be successful. Google and other search engines are looking for particular attributes when indexing your blog for their result pages. Therefore by adhering to SEO best practices, your website will perform optimally against the competition.
Another fact to consider is that you’ll want your posts to be user-friendly so that once someone starts reading your blog post, they want to stay on your site and click around to other posts and pages (retention).
Described in this article are the most effective tactics and tools you can utilize to ensure your WordPress blog posts are SEO and user-friendly.
Note: This post assumes you have a WordPress blog set up properly, you know the difference between a page and a post, how to add a new post, and finally how to install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin. If you don’t know how to do one or more of these things, please contact me so we can set you up.
Don’t even have a website yet? Read my article “10 key steps to building a great small business website” which was also published on Forbes.com.
Jump to article section:
- Identify your point
- Structure your post
- SEO your images
- Include a CTA
- Capture Leads
- Use categories and tags
- Write a post excerpt
- Write a meta description
- Create a good “slug”
- Publish frequently
- Use Yoast SEO plugin
- Make your post shareable
- Get authentic comments
- Submit to Webmaster Tools
What’s the point?
Before you begin writing your post, think about the message you want to send to your target audience. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of your blog post? How do you want your readers to feel when reading it, and what is the desired action you want your readers to take upon completion? Gear your writing towards the answer to those questions.
Viral content is online material that is shared at a rapid pace across the world wide web. It can be a meme, news article, video, tweet, Facebook post, or any other type of online content.
In order to go viral, your content needs to be good–so good in fact that everyone wants to share it with people that are close to them. It should essentially create a strong emotion in the reader’s mind. In this case, positive is better than negative as people will be more willing to share something if it creates happiness. The content should be short and sweet; for copy-written content, 500 to 1000 words is best. The headline should be catchy, clearly describe the content, and use a power word (see below). It is important to note that the more visuals you use, the better. Include attractive and relevant images to connect visually with your readers.
The more often you create posts, the better the odds will be that something you make will hit. Check your analytics data to see which posts do better than others for a sense of what works best. Always give credit where credit is due, too. Post your content on a day of the week and at a certain time when it will most likely be seen by your target. You may need to do some homework to figure out when that is. And finally, it is critical that the reader can take away something that adds value to their life after viewing your content; whether it be knowledge, humor, or a new perspective.
Choose and research your keyphrase(s)
You’ll want to come up with some ideas for keywords (also called keyphrases since they can be multiple words such as “WordPress Blog” or “SEO Friendly WordPress Site”–we’ll use the term keyphrases going forward) that people will use to find your post in search engines. Then, research the keyphrases in the Google Keyword Planner. Normally the keyword planner is for paid ad campaigns, but you can use it for organic search engine research purposes as well.
SEO your keyphrase(s)
Once you research your keyphrase(s) in the keyword planner, review the data: is anyone searching for your chosen keyphrase? Are there similar or better keyphrases you can use instead that get more searches? Are there similar keyphrases you can also include in your post as related keywords? Pick one keyphrase as your focal point, and perhaps a few more as additional keyphrases. You’ll need to put your focus keyphrase in your post title, as well as strategically throughout the article.
Structure your post
Your post should be structured to have a title, introduction, body, headers throughout the body, and conclusion. The very first introductory paragraph in your post should always contain the focus keyphrase that you decided upon after your research. You should use your focus and additional keyphrases as often as possible in the body of the post, but only as long as it makes sense. Keyphrase stuffing is frowned upon by search engine algorithms and you will be penalized for doing so.
Create your post title
Your post title will be the only
H1 tag in your post (H standing for Header). A well-coded WordPress theme should automatically make your blog post title the
H1 tag. Don’t use this tag again in your post or you will be penalized as that is considered bad form in the SEO world. The post title should include the keyphrase you chose, and shouldn’t exceed 60 characters.
Write your copy
Now the fun part : ) To begin, create copy that illustrates the points you are making. Your posts should be detailed and of high quality. You should have at least 300 words in your post body. Each post should be lengthy but not too long as that might scare your readers away. Finally, your paragraphs should be short and sweet so they are easy to digest.
Always include internal links to different posts and/or pages
Internal links keep users on your site and should be used as frequently as possible. While writing new posts, link to your old ones. Pro tip: link more often to special content within your site as it will draw attention to the best content you have, which will provide the reader with the highest quality of experience on your site.
Use anchor texts, or “Page Jumping,” to jump to different parts of your post. Click here to learn how. You can see how I incorporated this tactic at the top of this article.
Link to external sites of high quality to increase your digital footprint. Use
rel=“nofollow” on external links if they are for paid ads, press releases, or links that users are able to add themselves, like in comments or forums.
You’ll want to create headers within the copy to break it up with section descriptions and emphasize the focus and secondary keyphrases within them. They should be tagged as
H4 in a hierarchical manner. Use the focus and additional keyphrases in these titles as often as possible, but only as it makes sense. It’s always a good idea to use power words in your headers, as described below, as well.
Incorporate signal/transition words
Using signal words, also known as transition words, is very beneficial from a usability standpoint. Usability is important because it keeps users on your site and also encourages them to return. Signal words help users get the gist of your article even if they scan it quickly. Some examples of signal words are:
- First of all
- In conclusion
- A key feature
- For instance
- A significant factor
- As a result
- A primary concern
- For this reason
- Important to note
- Most of all
- Especially valuable
- A vital force
- A distinctive quality
Leverage power words
Word choice matters. Power words trigger emotional/psychological responses, and smart writers use them. As a result, these intelligent writers persuade readers to feel a certain kind of way when reading your content, which encourages them to take action. Power words play on loss aversion and scarcity and pump up the perceived value of the subject. The bottom line is, power words convert searchers into readers, leads and customers. Some examples of power words are:
- Don’t miss out
SEO your images
Rule #1 about images is to use them. They should be original if possible, and not cheesy stock photos.
Make your images load quickly
If your image requires transparency and/or translucency, you’ll need to use the .png or .webp file types. If not, .jpg will do, but .webp will work as well in that case. You can use tools like Squoosh to compress your images into .webp file format, which will be a smaller file size than .png or .jpg. If you are aware of your audience’s preferred browser (check your site analytics!), you can check CanIUse.com to see what image file format is optimal for it to give your readers the best experience possible.
Make sure your images are 72dpi and compressed, and as small as possible in terms of pixel width and height. TinyPNG has a great compression tool for .jpg and .png images that don’t make your them look grainy. Once your images are optimized, check your post on Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom to ensure it loads quickly. Your site needs to be fast for search engines to rank it well.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to deliver your image files quickly to users in different parts of the world. The faster your site loads, the better ranking Google will give you.
Use keyphrases in the filename and meta data
Make sure to include a keyphrase in the image filename, preferably the focus keyphrase. You’ll want to place the image close to related text content and add an appropriate caption. The
alt text and
title text is important to include too and should include descriptions of the image using at least one keyphrase.
Code your images correctly
srcset attribute so that your image is responsive and will show different file sizes depending on the device size (WordPress does this automatically already as of version 4.4).
If your image is a product, video or recipe, use structured data so that it stands out more as a rich content type in Google Image Search. This will result in extra attention and clicks.
Make sure that OpenGraph is enabled in your Yoast SEO plugin settings under Social > Facebook so that an image is shared when you post your content to Facebook or Pinterest.
Finally, Google encourages image XML sitemaps. This is not something Yoast creates, so you’ll have to have a developer create it.
Include a Call-To-Action (CTA)
After illustrating and expanding on the point of your blog, your post should encourage users to take action in a way that facilitates your goal. Examples of CTAs are subscribing to something, buying a product, or trying a service for free.
You should always capture email addresses for marketing purposes. This can be your CTA or it could be in addition to your CTA.
Use categories and tags appropriately
Although similar, categories and tags serve slightly different purposes. Categories are for more broad groupings of topics, and tags are for more specific topic groups. You should typically have a lot more tags than categories in your posts. Use both to help organize your posts and increase Click-Through Rates to additional content.
Search engines see
rel=”author” in the author’s name link tag as a trust signal for both users and the algorithm that can also improve Click-Through Rates. Therefore, make sure your theme uses it when crediting the author of the post.
Write a post excerpt
Create a descriptive copy snippet of your post that is a few sentences long to display on the pages of your site that link to your post but aren’t supposed to show the entirety of the post. Technically that should be everywhere on your site except the single post page. The excerpt should include the focus keyphrase so all the pages that link to your post and show the excerpt are SEO friendly. Click here for more information about the excerpt.
Write a meta description
The meta description is like an excerpt that is specifically crafted for search engine indexing and result page display purposes. Again it should contain the focus keyphrase and should be ~155–160 characters. This will be inserted into the Yoast module at the bottom of your post editing page.
Create an SEO-friendly “slug”
The slug is the URL you choose for your post. Make it descriptive, short and contains the focus keyphrase. For this post, I chose the slug “wordpress-blog-seo-tips”. If you’re reading this article on my site, you can see it at the end of the URL in your browser right now. Again, this will be inserted into the Yoast module at the bottom of your post editing page.
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Seriously. Proofread at least three times, and try to have one or two other people who are verbally gifted look it over as well. Browser plugins like Grammarly are helpful too (and free)!
The more you publish, the better you’ll get at it, and the more Google and other search engines will index and favor your content.
Install and activate the Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO is the WordPress industry-standard SEO plugin. It will add a section to the bottom of each post editing admin page. Begin filling it out and it will basically hold your hand and tell you the best way to optimize your post content for search engine indexing and result page display. The goal is to get the green smiley face score as seen below in the center of the screenshot.
Make sure your post is shareable
Encourage sharing of your post on social media with sharing icons to get referral traffic from your readers’ accounts.
Encourage real comments and filter spam comments
Valuable content and status are added to your blog when you have real comments from real people on it. Therefore it is in your best interest to facilitate genuine conversation at the end of each post. Here are some ways to spark discussion:
- Make commenting easy with design
- Ask a question related to the post topic at the end of your blog for your readers to answer
- Discuss a controversial topic in your post
- If you created a list, ask your readers to add to it
- Reply to comments to keep the discussion rolling
- Leave comments on other blogs to get noticed and hopefully the favor will be reciprocated
- Ask for feedback via social media
Submit your post to your Webmaster Tools
As you can see, ensuring that your WordPress blog post is SEO friendly can be quite the process and involves a lot of technical knowledge, research, and application. Here is a list to quickly summarize all that is involved:
- Define your point
- Go viral
- Pick a keyphrase
- Optimize your keyphrase
- User power words throughout, and especially in your title
- Create a catchy title
- Write and structure your post body
- Use internal links strategically
- Use signal words throughout the post body
- Create descriptive headers
- Optimize your images
- Include a CTA
- Capture leads
- Use categories and tags appropriately
- Tag the author
- Write an excerpt
- Write a meta description
- Create a good URL
- Publish often
- Use the Yoast SEO plugin
- Make your post shareable
- Spark a discussion in the comments
If you have any comments or questions about optimizing your WordPress blog posts for search engines using Yoast, or if I missed anything, please leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as possible.
If you’re interested in conducting a WordPress blog SEO audit and consultation, please contact me.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com.