Have you heard of the Yoast SEO plug-in?
I recommend it to all my WordPress clients, because it does a great job of walking users through SEO best practices.
Every time you complete one of these tasks, you get a little green light saying that you’re doing a great job. It’s a great little dopamine hit to get your post to go from red through yellow and eventually earn yourself all the green lights.
The SEO best practices that Yoast encourages include:
- Choosing one target keyword or phrase per page
- Including that phrase in specific locations throughout the content
- Encouraging a long word count
- Recommending relevant links
If you’re not familiar with the plugin …
And I love the way that it reminds me of useful tasks. Even though I do content optimization for a living, I still rely on Yoast to double-checks my work and make sure I don’t miss anything.
Yoast is like a big fuzzy friend, giving me a big SEO hug & telling me I’m doing great:
However, Yoast has two huge blind spots: technical factors & keyword quality.
Here are some SEO Tactics Beyond Yoast’s prompts:
Yoast doesn’t review any site-wide technical factors in their green light checklist
There are 3 HUGE indicators of how trustworthy Google considers your page that massively impact your SEO:
- Your site loads quickly (3 seconds or less is best)
- Your site is secure (has an SSL certificate)
- Your site is mobile responsive (looks great on phones & tablets)
If you’re not sure if you can check off those boxes (fast, secure, mobile responsive), here’s how to find out:
1 | How to check your page speed
If you’re not sure of your page speed, use Pingdom Tools’ speed test. If your page loads in less than 3 seconds, you’re good to go. If it’s 3-5 seconds, there are a few things you can do yourself to speed it up, like decreasing image file sizes or
2 | How to know if your website is secure
Open your website in a browser. Does your URL start with http:// or https://?
If it starts with https://, that means your site is secure and Google knows that you can safely collect e-mail addresses and even payments without as much fear of being hacked. If it starts with http://, you need an SSL certificate. You can purchase it from your hosting company and ask for help installing it on your site.
3 | How to know if your site is mobile-responsive
The easiest way to check is to open your website on your phone or tablet; if it looks good, you’re probably ok. (If you want to be super sure, check it on different devices in different browsers.)
But a more thorough solution is to use the Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool, which looks at the code behind the site to make sure that it will look great on phones & tablets using different browsers and software systems.
Yoast doesn’t tell you how good your keyword is
You could be wasting time using a crappy keyword, and still think you’re golden
Here’s an embarrassing story: A few years ago, before I really understood SEO, I wrote this post: WordPress or Squarespace: Which is a Better Fit for My Business?
It breaks down how the two platforms are different and who would benefit from each, by the metaphors of playing with Legos or Crayons to explain why your business would work with either of these options. And I chose the word “legos” for my focus keyword.
Guys … “Legos” is a TERRIBLE keyword.
Not only is it an internationally recognized brand, and searching for “legos” results in 140 million results … but it’s not even a little bit relevant to my topic. If somebody were actually searching for Legos and found this page? They’d be annoyed, and they’d click away immediately.
And yet: Yoast gave me a green light for it! It guided me to include the word “legos” more frequently and to include it in my title and URL.
Looking back now, I wince at the missed opportunity to get this post found for what it’s really about.
Once I changed the target keyword to what the post is REALLY about — “Wordpress or Squarespace” — more traffic started rolling in. And because those people wanted to hear more about my website design recommendations, they joined my list. Because they were searching for “Wordpress or Squarespace” — they didn’t care about LEGOS.
Cool story bro, but how do I fix it?
There are two tactics I recommend to find amazing keywords
1 | Know Your Audience
Think to yourself: “If I were looking for this information, what would I search?”
I know, I know, it seems obvious … but sometimes we get so caught up in a title that sounds catchy or clickable that we forget the whole point of SEO: to be found by people that are searching for our content.
So put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes: What would she be searching for if this were the blog post she wanted to read? And work backwards from there to choose your keyword.
2 | Research Great Keywords
I use SEMRush to look at the keyword data: How many people are searching for that phrase? How competitive are the search results? Are there any other relevant phrases that are a better fit?
(Note: I use SEMRush for pretty much everrrrything I do, which is why I included it as an affiliate link — because I think it’s an awesome tool for a million reasons. Even if you don’t have the budget for a monthly subscription, you can still use it for some keyword research, you’re just limited in the number of search results & related keywords you can see.)