How to choose the perfect focus keyword

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A screenshot of the focus keyword being entered in the WordPress SEO pluginAdding quality content to your website on a regular basis is a very good SEO tactic. Google sees that your website is active because new pieces of information are added. On top of that, you increase the volume of your content. If your keyword strategy has been crafted properly and your content is nicely optimized for the right keywords, adding content will increase your findability. But how to choose the perfect focus keyword? Especially when you’re blogging and focussing on long tail keywords, it can be quite hard to decide which keywords to optimize for. In our view, there are at least three things you should do before writing an amazing (high quality) text.

Choose a focus keyword that is used to search

Your keyword strategy should have given you some idea what you want to write about. For blog posts, you will usually aim for a long tail keyword (containing multiple words). In our WP SEO plugin you will find a drop down menu which supplements your entry with suggestions. These suggestions are actually based on Google Suggest. This is exactly the same as what you’d see when you type the search term into a Google search box.

The terms you will find in the suggest drop down menu are thus terms and combinations of words that are logical and used by actual people to search on the web. This tool can be very helpful in giving you some first ideas about the search behavior of people in the area you want to write about. Our Yoast Suggest tool uses the same data to find the first 10 keywords and then expands on that. Also, Marieke has recently written about more keyword research tools.

When we searched for the term “focus keyword” in february of last year, this was the suggest output:

The suggest results for Focus keyword in Google Suggest

Right now, the output shows this:

focus keyword search november 2014

Suggest changes based on the problems people have, so monitoring it for important keywords makes sense. This particular new result gave us some extra input for this post.

Discover some information about search volume

Once you have found a long tail search term you would like to start ranking for, you should put some effort into discovering whether or not the search volume of your chosen focus keyword is high. We will be the first to admit, Google has made this really hard. The only way to know ‘for sure’ how often a search term is used, is by having an active and alive AdWords account and by bidding on the search term of your choice. We understand this is a bit too difficult and expensive for most of you (we honestly hardly ever do this).

Not to worry, using Google Trends should give at least some idea, in a creative way, about search volume. Google Trends allows you to compare the search volume between two search terms over time. This will give some insights in the volume of the search terms people use (always relative to another term).

If you already have some (blog)posts that rank well for good terms, you will know how many visitors these posts attract. Using Google Trends to compare the focus keywords of older posts (of which at least the number of visitors to your website is known) with the focus keyword you have in mind for your new post, could give you some idea about the potential of traffic this new focus keyword could have. Make sure to choose older posts that are as much similar to the post you are planning to write: if you are planning to choose a long tail keyword, compare posts with long tail focus keywords as well.

For instance, this post about focus keywords could be compared to a post about snippet previews, a very related feature of the WordPress SEO plugin we wrote about earlier this year:

Comparing "focus keyword" and "snippet preview" in Google Trends

As you can see the traffic is comparable, we know the search traffic to our snippet preview post is reasonably good, so we know it’s worth optimizing for.

Using Google Trends to compare between your old focus keywords and the one you would like to choose will give you some insights about the prospects for your focus keyword.

Another way to use Google Trends is when you are doubting between a number of (long tail) focus keywords. Google Trends will easily show you what search term will have the highest search volume (compared to another). Google Trends will help you decide which long tail keyword is most common in the search engines.

Google your proposed focus keyword!

Apart from knowing which search terms are actually used by people, you need to know whether or not your idea for your post or page fits the desires and expectations of the people who use the search terms. The best way to find out whether or not your content fits these desires is to Google your proposed (sets of) keywords yourself.

Take the time to look at the first two result pages. Are the articles Google shows of the same character that your article will be like? Does your website fit between the results shown in these result pages? If you decide to write your blogpost or page, while optimizing for this exact focus keyword, you are aiming for a display of your page amongst these.

For instance, when we wrote this post and Googled our chosen focus keyword, we saw we’d be competing with ourselves:

a search for "focus keyword" in Google

We also saw lots of questions on the WordPress forums, giving us all the more reason to write this post.

Note that we looked at the old post and decided it wasn’t good and complete enough, so we decided we would delete it and replace it with this one.

Make sure to use the content of the result pages as an inspiration for your blogpost. Are there any useful ideas (we are NOT encouraging to copy content, merely to see whether you perhaps missed some information or arguments for your own blogpost)? But more importantly: how can you make sure your post will stand out? In what way could your post be better, funnier, more original than the post presently displayed in the result pages. Try to think of content that will make the audience click and share!

Conclusion: picking a focus keyword is not easy

Choosing a perfect focus keyword is not an exact science. You should aim for a combination of words that are actually used by a search audience. Aim for a focus keyword that is relatively high on volume and aim for one that will fit your audience.

In the past weeks, we have written quite a few posts about keyword research and content writing. We have decided to combine all this writing and add some more and deeper info and are currently working on a new ebook. In this ebook we will focus purely on content SEO. We will discuss keyword strategy, site structure and content writing and give in depth information about what you can do with your content in order to improve your ranking in search engines. If you want to make sure not to miss it, subscribe to our newsletter!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

November 12th 2014 SEO, wordpress

5 WordPress Plugins to Ensure Your Pages are SEO-Optimized

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by Jayson DeMers

A variety of factors impact how well a page ranks in search engines, including quality of content, page meta descriptions, and the URL name. But for a busy professional, keeping up with algorithms and making sure every page on a business website is optimized can be complicated. In light of the results of recent Google search ranking correlation studies conducted by Moz and SearchMetrics, businesses realize certain factors are more important than others when creating content with the intention of ranking well.
Since many businesses use WordPress for their websites and blogs, several plugins can be a big help. In minutes, a professional can have the WordPress installed on a WordPress site, creating a form that walks content creators through the process of adding optimized information like tags, descriptions, and search engine-friendly URLs. Here are some of my favorite WordPress plugins to assist with SEO meta elements.
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
Developed by Yoast, a firm that specializes in creating plugins that use “the art and science of website operation,” WordPress SEO makes it easy to create optimized content. Simply type in the focus keyword for a piece of content and the plugin will count the number of times it appears in the headline, page title, page URL, content, and meta description. Users can also type in a meta description that replaces the default description captured by Google, allowing for a more concise description of the content to attract readers to the page.
2. WordPress Social Sharing Optimization
Abbreviated WPSSO, WordPress Social Sharing Optimization gives you greater control over the descriptions your page is given when it’s shared on social media. It’s one thing to add buttons to a page to encourage visitors to tweet, like, share, pin, or +1 an item, but if a sharer’s post is merely a link, users are less likely to click it. WPSSO creates the code necessary to ensure that a site is optimized to take care of all of the latest sharing features of each supported social network. The plugin allows the user to check off all desired options, as well as create descriptions to be used when the item is shared on each social network.
3. All in One SEO Pack
With the All in One SEO Pack, WordPress users enjoy automatic meta-tag generation, XML sitemap generation and management, title and description editing, and more. A performance feature reviews a site and makes recommendations as to how it can be improved to better rank with search engines, as well as provide a better experience for those visiting the site. A free version of All in One SEO Pack has limited features. The pro version with advanced features is available for $39.99 plus $10 per month.
4. SEOPressor5
While it isn’t free, SEOPressor5 conducts LSI keyword analysis on your content as you create it. You simply type in the keywords you want to optimize a page for, and the analysis tool monitors how well you’re using it. If you want to change one of the keywords, you can change it throughout the content by only changing it within the plugin. Best of all, if you’ve overused a keyword, SEOPressor5 gives an over-optimization warning. In addition to ensuring your page content and descriptions are SEO optimized, SEOPressor5 helps with your link-building strategy by automatically linking relevant cross-linking content.
5. SEO Ultimate
With more than 20 modules available for free, SEO Ultimate has a dedicated meta description editor, designed to help create description tags for posts, pages, attachments, categories, tags, post format archives, and homepages. The tool also searches an entire page’s content for anchor texts specified by the user, automatically linking the ones it finds to the destination the user chooses. Businesses can avoid penalties for over-optimization with SEO Ultimate’s autolink control feature, which limits the number of times a post or page can link to the same destination.
Conclusion
Learning the different techniques to keep a business on track with its SEO marketing strategies can be time-consuming and frustrating, since algorithms change from year to year. These WordPress solutions equip businesses with the tools they need to create successful marketing campaigns through their WordPress sites quickly and easily. Because they’re so affordable, even free in some cases, these plugins are the perfect addition to any business’s WordPress CMS. Take a look at the infographic below to see how on-page elements correlate with organic search rankings, and you’ll have a clearer idea of how and why SEO WordPress plugins give websites an advantage when it comes to search visibility.


Via: AudienceBloom.com

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

plugin-deploy.sh

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plugin-deploy.sh

A pair of scripts that make it easier to manage the development of a WordPress plugin in Github, and then periodically deploy to the WP.org plugin repo (SVN).

October 31st 2014 wordpress

Google Analytics by Yoast Premium

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Google Analytics Premium by YoastWe’ve just released the first version of our Google Analytics Premium plugin! It contains custom dimension tracking, which allows you to track pageviews per author, per category, per post type and more and of course, comes with our first-class support. You can read a bit about what the plugin does below or buy it right now.

“Custom dimensions”? What’s that?

Custom dimensions allow you to track extra parameters with each pageview. For instance, you can track the author of each post or page that receives a pageview and based on that see how many pageviews specific authors get. Or you can track the category or post type and see page views split out by those. Or you can track all of those. We’ve got five custom dimensions you can track right now:

  • Author
    Tracks pageviews per author, so you can compare authors or even pay authors based on the number of pageviews their articles received.
  • Category
    Tracks the posts category, this allows you to easily see which categories are doing best on your blog and you might want to publish more in.
  • Post Type
    Tracks whether the page viewed is a post, page or any custom post type. We use it for instance to have custom reports for our plugins pages (which are a separate post type).
  • Logged In
    Tracks whether the viewer is logged in or not, this is especially useful on BBPress / BuddyPress type sites where you have a lot of logged in users.
  • Published at
    This tracks the publication time of the post or page, allowing you to compare not just months, but for instance check in december whether the posts you wrote in january or those you wrote in february did better in december.

In the “old” Google Analytics there was a feature called custom variables, which allowed tracking of these things. This was replaced by custom dimensions in Universal Analytics, which are more powerful but in truth most people won’t notice the difference. The tracking code and logic changed though and you now have to create every custom dimension you want to track in the Google Analytics admin.

Because you have to create custom dimensions in the Google Analytics admin, we knew we’d get a lot of support questions if we just released this into the wild. We’ve already created two help docs that should assist you, one on setting up custom dimensions, and one on where to find the custom dimension reports in Google Analytics.

We’ve got a couple more custom dimensions planned already, but if you’ve got suggestions for metadata you’d like to track, by all means share it in the comments.

Support for our Google Analytics plugin

The fact that we now have a premium version of our analytics plugin also means that we’re now, for the first time ever, offering support for this plugin. Our support team has grown steadily in the last few months, now covering all time zones and even answering emails on the weekend. We now solve 95% of customers issues within one day!

Want great support and custom dimensions? Buy GA Premium now!

Check out the updated page for the Google Analytics plugin and buy it right now:

Google Analytics Premium »

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

October 31st 2014 wordpress

Made a quick plugin to…

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Made a quick plugin to allow for some simple operators within the native search of #WordPress: http://dntd.cc/j1m

October 17th 2014 personal, wordpress

Simple Search Operators

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I’ve long wanted to be able to do some simple, operated-powered searches within WordPress (especially relevant in a project I’m working on at Automattic). After a conversation with Allen, where he wanted to do the same thing, I figured I’d just whip up a quick plugin to see how hard it’d be. Turns out the answer is “not very”.

Simple Search Operators is a quick plugin that expands the functionality of the default search system in WordPress so that you can use a few useful operators (might look at adding some more at some point) [all links in the following list go to live searches on this site, using that operator]:

  • author:beau will limit results to posts written by the author with the username/slug ‘beau’
  • tag:burrito will only return posts which are tagged with ‘burrito’
  • category:posts (or cat:posts) to search for posts categorized as ‘posts’
  • tag:burritofriday cancun author:beau to search for posts containing ‘cancun’, written by ‘beau’, tagged as ‘burritofriday’

Some caveats:

  • Not heavily tested! May well be capable of generating server-melting queries
  • Only supports one of each operator for now
  • Operators and freeform searches may be combined (e.g.: “tag:burrito cancun”)
  • Does not support spaced strings for operators, so you can only do things where a no-space string attached to an operator will get you what you want
  • Because of the way it manipulates query variables, might mess with other plugins or themes in adverse ways. Like I said, not heavily tested.
  • Not available via the WP Plugin Repo yet; will get it up there once it’s baked a little bit

If you’d like to give it a shot, please do. If you’d like to add more operators; shoot me a pull request and we can expand this out a bit.

October 17th 2014 Search, wordpress

Google’s Search in Sitelinks and WordPress SEO

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Recently, Google introduced the new “search in sitelinks” box for a lot more sites. In the past this used to be restricted to YouTube and a few other sites. If your site is eligible, you’ll see it by Googling your brand, or receiving an email like this from Google Webmaster Tools:

Sitelinks with searchbox email from Google Webmaster Tools

So let’s run through steps 1 to 3:

1 Verify you have a functioning search engine

For 99.5% of WordPress sites, this one is very easy: you type example.com/?s=query (replacing example.com with your site’s URL) and you should be seeing search results. If not; you’ve either made a conscious decision to move your search engine elsewhere or you need to fix your theme.

If you see search results but you don’t like them, read my post on how to make WordPress search suck a little bit less.

2 Add the necessary markup

Another very easy step, assuming that A, you found your search engine under step 1 and it’s the default WordPress one and B, you’re using our free or premium WordPress SEO plugin. Update to the latest version of our plugin and you’ve got the code right on your site.

If your search engine is not the default, you’ll need to change the URL using the built-in filter. If you don’t have a search engine, get one.

3 Set up a preferred canonical URL for your homepage

Step 3, and yet again, this one’s easy. If you’ve got WordPress SEO installed, this’ll have already been done for you. If you don’t have it installed, you’ll realize after reading this that now is as good a time as any to get it done.

If all is done and your site is eligible, you should be seeing something like this in the search results:

emerce search in sitelinks

Conclusion: we’ve got your back

As I said in my post about Google moving back to 10 blue links:

When we were discussing these changes with some SEO friends, one of them said “it’s awesome, it’s a chance to be the first movers on another new thing”. That’s one thing you can be sure of: we’ll be there helping you make the most of it!

That’s what we’re doing. Thanks for using our WordPress SEO plugin!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

September 24th 2014 SEO, wordpress

The temptation of the green bullet in WP SEO!

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This post starts with a confession: up until recently, I always asked my husband to do the page analyses of my blog posts. I have known about SEO for many years now, as Joost never stops talking about it. I just never used the plugin to check my own writings myself, I simply asked him to do that. Being married to Joost de Valk just has it benefits and this was one of them. But, as I started to read more and more about SEO and my interest in blogging increased, I decided to do some search engine optimization on my own.

The first time I used the plugin I was amazed by the ease of use and by the many features it contains. It made me fall in love with Joost all over again. I genuinely believe that the page analysis features in WP SEO can help you make your text SEO proof in a very, very easy way. The checks the plugin does are really amazing! But I also discovered a caveat: you should be aware of the temptation of the green bullet!

I want a green bullet in WP SEO by Yoast

Page Analysis and the green bullet in WP SEO by Yoast

The gamification of the page analysis within our WordPress SEO plugin helps you to upgrade the SEO-friendliness of your post. And it’s great fun! It can be a game to get as many green bullets as possible! However, the gamification also increases the likelihood that you cheat your own search engine optimization process in order to get that green bullet in WP SEO. And you should NOT do that!

Example of misuse of the Page Analysis Tool

In one of my first attempts to use the page analysis tool, I found myself cheating the tool in order to receive a green bullet: next to writing blogs for Yoast.com, I also blog for a new mom blog. One of my posts is about my favorite brands of newborn clothes. Of course, being the wife of Joost de Valk, I had done some extensive keyword research in advance. And I wanted this post to rank for baby clothes.

While starting my optimization with entering my focus keyword – baby clothes, I discovered that my blog did not contain the word baby clothes once. Not in the body of the text, not in the title, not in one of the headings. I simply had written about newborn clothes, instead of baby clothes. So, my bullet did not get green. And I felt agitated: I am Mrs Yoast and my bullet was orange. So, this is what I did: I changed my focus keyword from baby clothes to newborn clothes. And.. my bullet turned green instantly. It didn’t feel good, however… My keyword research had been an in depth and solid one. I had chosen, rather consciously, to attempt to rank for baby clothes.

Never change your focus keyword to receive a green bullet!

Changing your focus keyword in order to receive a green bullet is just plain nonsense. According to my keyword research, baby clothes is what people search for in Google. My post, however, was not optimized for baby clothes at all. Changing my focus keyword will not change the search behavior of people. A green bullet does not lead to findability if the terms you optimize for are not the terms people use to search in the search engines.

Fortunately, I came to my senses before my husband detected my cheating. It did make me wonder: if I am that susceptible to cheating the page analysis tool in order to get a green bullet in WP SEO, wouldn’t other people suffer from the same?

How to use the page analysis tool correctly

Your keyword research is always essential and should be leading. You should really analyze in depth on what terms you want people to find you. Your articles should be a reflection of these keywords. Changing your keywords according to the content of your articles, will lead to an ad hoc SEO strategy. You don’t want that! A strategy should never be ad hoc.

Without altering the core of the content of your blog or making too many concessions to readability and structure of your text, you can finetune your blog using the page analysis tool of the WP SEO plugin. Your SEO strategy should never be more important than the actual content and structure of your blog (read my post from last week), but minor changes in text and headings are perfectly acceptable!

I eventually made some alterations in my blog in order to fit it more nicely in my search engine strategy. I decided to change newborn clothes into baby clothes a few times and made some alterations in headings and titles. I did not change the core of my blog.

My bullet turned green and my husband was very proud…

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

September 24th 2014 wordpress

Google Analytics eCommerce tracking

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We’ve rebuilt our Google Analytics eCommerce tracking plugin and added support for WooCommerce! Read on to learn why you should buy it today. If you want to optimize your shops sales, you need to make sure you connect your visitor data to your transaction data. This plugin does just that. We’ve made transaction tracking so reliable that we can now confidently say our plugin should not miss a single sale.

eCommerce tracking allows you to do all sorts of nice reporting in Google Analytics, on which Thijs will be writing a few posts in the coming months, but let me show you the sort of reports you can get just by enabling the plugin and enabling eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics:

eCommerce overview - Google Analytics

99.9% reliable eCommerce tracking

Google introduce a new feature with Universal: a collections API that allows us to send calls on the server side instead of with JavaScript. This means that when a customer finishes a transaction, the plugin can immediately track it, instead of hoping the customer will reach the thank you page. The plugin can do this while still connecting the sale to the customers session. Because of that, your Google Analytics eCommerce tracking becomes almost 100% reliable. Almost, because there might be the odd occasion where your server errors in sending the request and we don’t want you suing us ;)

This new tracking method also means that when you refund a transaction, the transaction gets reversed in Google Analytics. This makes your Analytics data even more reliable and therefore much more useful.

This Google Analytics eCommerce tracking extension is the first premium extension specifically made for the new version 5 of our free Google Analytics plugin. From $49 for a single site, you can have the best e-commerce reports available.

Super simple installation

The plugin has no settings. You install, activate, enter your license key and activate the license so updates will flow in and you’re done:

installed analytics ecommerce tracking

 

WooCommerce bundle

woocommerce logoAs some of you might have noticed, this is our second WooCommerce offering; we also have our WooCommerce SEO plugin. We’ve bundled the two together in a new Yoast WooCommerce bundle for our most loyal users! If you use both our WordPress SEO plugin as well as our Google Analytics plugin this bundle will save you a lot of money.

Check out the Yoast WooCommerce bundle here or read more about the GA eCommerce tracking plugin!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

September 18th 2014 Analytics, wordpress

Savvii: Expanding our local WordPress hosting options

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We often get questions from people asking about what is “good” WordPress hosting. One of the things we tend to find hard is tell people which hosting company they should use in Europe. Some of the managed WordPress hosting companies out there offer servers in Europe, but their support is primarily American and it almost always shows.

Savvii LogoAbout a year ago, we were approached by a very local (to us) new managed WordPress hosting company, Savvii. They’re based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, which is about 10 km away and they’d started to offer managed WordPress hosting. As Savvii is part of a larger company I already knew, we started talking immediately. As things go those were rather technical conversations: how should we do this, where should our servers be, etc.

Moving yoast.nl over to Savvii

Earlier this week, after quite some testing, we moved yoast.nl over. Now yoast.nl is not exactly “vital” to our business, but if something is wrong with it, I almost always get a tweet or 5 within the next few minutes, so people do still visit it :) .

The new hosting is fast. We ran some tests and the yoast.nl is now actually twice as fast on the frontend. Now the frontend is nice, but the real test is always the admin, and this admin is screaming fast. Savvii’s servers are in England, which of course is a lot closer than our .com servers which are in the US, but the difference is more than “just” a bit of latency.

Savvii rocks all the things you’d expect from a managed hosting party, including 24 hour support and much more. We’ve been very happy to work with them and if you’re looking for high-end WordPress hosting in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe, I’d certainly check them out!

PS: we’re hosting a WP Meetup together with Savvii in Nijmegen tonight. The one for tonight is fully booked, but if you follow the WPM024 twitter account or check wpmeetup.nl we’ll tell you all about new meetings.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

September 12th 2014 wordpress