Dirty little secret of Blog SEO

Secret of Blog SEOIt’s the time for sharing, so I thought I’d share a dirty little Blog SEO secret with you. The secret is that the technical part of Blog SEO is actually easy and doesn’t necessarily drive a high return. Some people might tell you it’s hard, but it’s really not. If the CMS you’re using is optimized properly, technical changes can win you a couple of percentages in traffic sometimes, but hardly ever the huge boost in ranking you’re looking for. To do that, you’ll need two things: great content and good links. And funnily enough, often the latter comes with the former.

Let’s say you run WordPress. You generate “friendly” titles for your posts, meaning titles of the format “Post Title – Blog Name” or even just “Post Title”. You’re also using a nice permalink setting with the post title in the permalink too and your theme doesn’t prevent a search engine from spidering your site, maybe even uses some semantic markup. You could, for instance, be using Genesis and one of its child themes, which does all of this beautifully. Of course, my WordPress SEO plugin can help tweak your site some more, and running it in a proper configuration, I’m certain, will get you some benefit, but the biggest benefit it can give you is not technical, it’s making you aware of how Google works, in a very simple way.

You see, in building my WordPress SEO plugin, I started with one person in mind: the user, the writer. Not the blog admin, although admittedly they’re often the same person, but the writer. Why? Because the writer has to do the SEO, not the admin. The single most important thing you can do on a page to improve its ranking when you’re on WordPress and have it properly set up, is write better copy, better article headings, and a better (SEO) title.

Blog SEO requirement: instant feedback

The reason people forget about this is because they do not get instant feedback on what their post will look like as a search result in Google, and don’t remember to care. That’s why I introduced the snippet preview. The snippet preview is only really what a lot of good SEO’s and SEO copy writers do in their head when they’re crafting a page. It looks like this:

snippet preview of Blog SEO Secret

I’m not the first person in the world to create a snippet preview like that. I am the first person in the world (as far as I know) to integrate it into the write panel of a content management system, and give you instant feedback while writing your post. I don’t want it to do things automatically, the only thing I really want it to do automatically is to remind you of possible actions to take.

This kind of thinking causes issues as well: there’s a lot of SEO plugins out there to remove so called “stop words” from your post slug and it is an often requested feature for my plugin. If you write a post with the title “Dirty little secret of blog SEO”, that would normally create a post “slug” (the term for the post name part of a URL) like this: dirty-little-secret-of-blog-seo. With a plugin that removes stop words from your slug, when you save the post for the first time, that would be changed to dirty-secret-blog-seo or dirty-little-secret-blog-seo.

Keeping in mind that the post slug should contain the focus keyword of the post, because that get’s bolded in the search results, but it’s also a readable part of your search result, let’s ask ourselves some questions:

  • Is that the best slug the post can have? No.
  • Does removing the stop word give the best readable post slug? No.
  • Would it be possible to generate the best slug for that post automatically? No.
  • So is removing stop words automatically the right solution? No, absolutely not.

So what I decided to do, and I’m developing this right now, it’s actually not even done yet as I type this, is add a notice, within the WordPress SEO box, that tells you you have stop words in your slug. It’s then up to the writer to change the slug to something better, or not to change it at all.

Missing piece of Blog SEO

This might actually be the most dirty secret of blog SEO: it’s work. Hard work in a lot of cases. But not hard work from my side, but from you. I hope that my WordPress SEO plugin will make it easier for you if you’re on WordPress, and that future iterations will help you even more, but you’ll have to do the work.

The missing piece in your SEO approach is not another plugin, it’s you, doing real optimization on your content, while thinking about what people search for. And yes, that’s hard work, and no, there’s no magic involved. Sorry.

But you sell Blog SEO Analyses, right?

Yes, I do sell site analyses, and they’re called site analyses and not just “SEO Site Analysis” or “Blog SEO Analysis” for a reason: I look at far more. You see, very often people who buy a site analysis from me say they need to rank for keyword X, often a highly competitive keyword or keyphrase. They want to rank there because they’re not seeing the return from the rankings they already have that they were hoping for. They think the solution is to strive for keywords with more searches. In most cases, this is the wrong approach. The reason? They’re already getting visitors, but those visitors are bouncing away at first sight, or at least not taking the action they wanted them to take.

Getting that ranking is only step 1. Then getting that visitor to do what you want is step 2 (and 3, 4, 5 & 6), and actually good content for at least ten more articles. So you should subscribe, through RSS, or the newsletter, right now! ( And yes, that is the action I want you to take, so do it, now! )

Top image from Shutterstock.

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58 Responses

  1. EdBy Ed on 16 December, 2010

    Joost, I really like the snippet preview, but I’ve noticed it can freeze my browser, FireFox.

    Mainly because usually I already have quite a bit of open tabs and the snippet preview tool seems to add that little extra memory usage to make FireFox almost grind to a halt.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 16 December, 2010

      Which version have you tried that with? The last version actually improved the JS handling quite a bit, and should use a lot less memory in your browser…

  2. Jeff SebringBy Jeff Sebring on 16 December, 2010

    Really, it’s the post box that makes all the difference to me. I was already using Thesis, and your assortment of plugins that have been merged into WordPress SEO.

    The real difference is that WordPress SEO gives my clients the tools to create well optimized posts, from the snippet, to the focus keyword checking and ideas.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Rob McCanceBy Rob McCance on 12 January, 2011

      I use Thesis as well and 1.8 makes SEO plugins obsolete, even for category page SEO.

  3. SasaBy Sasa on 16 December, 2010

    How can i enable this preview and all this by your plugin only to admins, not to other authors ?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 16 December, 2010

      You can’t and I have no intention of adding it… You can disable the advanced stuff, and that I’m going to make filterable by user level, but disabling the preview box is… Sort of against the point.

      • SašaBy Saša on 16 December, 2010

        So there is no WAY to hide this to authors, and show only to admins. Im runing multi author blog and i`m admin there that need to aprove all posts writen by mine authors. I dont want to give them this “advance” options because they will be confused too much. All i want is to show only to me because i must edit/aprove all posts, so i will be adding those things in seo box by myself only.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 16 December, 2010

          Nope, sorry, there is no option to do that, and I’m not planning on adding it.

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 16 December, 2010

          BTW I really think you should show this to your authors and make them aware of this, that’s the whole point of both this post AND the plugin.

          • Kyle AlmBy Kyle Alm on 17 December, 2010

            I agree, if you are going to go through their writing anyway why not check what SEO title and snippets they are using?

  4. Dave from The Longest Way HomeBy Dave from The Longest Way Home on 16 December, 2010

    I’ve been testing WordPress SEO on a blog for a while now. It really does take the sting out of many things.

    Snippet preview is v nice feature. Though “&” keeps popping up. Resolves well, but on the preview looks strange.

    Only thing I cannot get to work is “Find Related Keywords”

    I click the button. Nothing happens. Any ideas?

    • Dave from The Longest Way HomeBy Dave from The Longest Way Home on 2 January, 2011

      Okay, my bad day. Find related keywords means one needs to enter one in first. Yea, duh to me :)

      I might suggest phrases also for this box?

      Also by “&” I had meant the code version of “&”.

  5. TrafficColemanBy TrafficColeman on 16 December, 2010

    Joost..I will honestly say I haven’t downloaded the plugin..because actually I missed it when it came out…but I do see the potential in it and how useful it will be for us bloggers..thanks bro.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  6. SilverMagpiesBy SilverMagpies on 16 December, 2010

    Joost -

    I’m a small (well-micro) business owner and I wear all the hats. Your SEO tools have made a huge difference to me 1) they have improved my visibility 2) you have written blogs, instructions, and the plugins themselves to make sense to the average person. Not only can I install and operate them, but I have gained some understanding of the underlying reasons and principles.

    This is very important to me. Ask about my product and I know what I’m doing, but ask me to modify a file and then a screen with the dreaded courier font comes up, its all over for me.

    Thanks.

    • SilverMagpiesBy SilverMagpies on 16 December, 2010

      I have inadvertently managed to demonstrate just how non-technical I am in the website details of the post above. Thanks for helping to save my blog from myself Joost.

  7. Clayton MillerBy Clayton Miller on 16 December, 2010

    I have currently been using the “All in one seo pack” plugin. Should i disable that one when using yours? Im assuming that i have to go back and edit all the seo info i have entered in using the all in one seo plugin? I have implemented a lot of your suggestions on seo. For the little i know i have had great results in return!

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 16 December, 2010

      Yes you should disable it, and there’s actually an import function for the AIOSEO data under “Import” in the SEO menu :)

      • Clayton MillerBy Clayton Miller on 17 December, 2010

        thanks, got that handled! how does it affect the seo when you fill out the “titles” section for the posts, page, and attachment template? what about when you write each individual post or page and fill it out there too? is this a general seo setting? or do you not do one or the other. from my minimal knowledge i always fill out seo keywords and description for each page and post specifically. I want to make sure i use your plugin to its potential! thanks for your help!

  8. David ColeBy David Cole on 16 December, 2010

    Joost, love the plugin, been using it for a few weeks. The Snippet Preview is especially handy!

    Thanks for sharing these points. So many people mistakenly believe exactly what you’ve written here, that SEO is all about programming and setting up a server in a certain way: it’s really about the content!

    I think that very few companies or individuals are willing to put in the (really) hard work of writing compelling, engaging copy & headlines that will speak to their desired keywords/keyphrases.

    And at the end of the day, even a plugin like WordPress SEO can’t turn limp copy into a winner.

    Great thoughts!

  9. TraceyBy Tracey on 17 December, 2010

    I’m glad you mentioned Genesis. I was wondering how necessary this plugin would be when a site is already using something so SEO-friendly as it is, but seeing the Snippets feature and giving authors the ability to search for their own keywords is a killer feature. My site is a multi-author knowledge site, and the founders and I have thought long and hard about exactly which features article authors can have access to. Thanks for the great explanation and features!

  10. fernando velosoBy fernando veloso on 17 December, 2010

    Hi Joost, first comment here to say:

    a) Hi there!
    b) Thanks for putting your blog live
    c) Thanks for the “basic” reminder on how SEO is way more then backlinks.

    Greetings from Portugal

  11. Best GPS ReviewsBy Best GPS Reviews on 17 December, 2010

    The snippet preview is handy in reminding us how important the title of our post and pages are. However, Google will display its own snippet for the description depending on the keywords used by the searcher. Hence, your site description can display different snippets of your page (after the date of the post).

    On posts I update I also include the Last Modified plugin and insert the updated date before the original post date. Therefore Google displays the latest post date in the search results. Let’s searchers know the date of the last update so the page will appear fresh.

    Cheers, Dave from Australia

  12. Gloucestershire Wedding PhotographerBy Gloucestershire Wedding Photographer on 17 December, 2010

    OK, Whilst a big fan of your work and your tools, I’ve been putting off making the switch from AIONSEO to your WordPress SEO tool. This post has finally tipped me over the edge….I’m going in this afternoon! Thanks Joost

  13. Tommy BusseyBy Tommy Bussey on 17 December, 2010

    My most favorite point of your article was near the beginning where you said, “To do that, you’ll need two things: great content and good links. And funnily enough, often the latter comes with the former.” Too many SEO’s overlook that fact. Thanks for bringing it up.

  14. Rock SaltBy Rock Salt on 18 December, 2010

    Every day I’m happier that I chose your plugin to run my new project. I hope it will end up even better.

  15. KevinBy Kevin on 19 December, 2010

    I don’t use a CMS for my site, and all of my urls are seo friendly, but I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to remove stop words. Thanks for the article.

  16. Lawrence S. MillerBy Lawrence S. Miller on 19 December, 2010

    Your WordPress SEO plugin nukes Apture on WordPress 3.0.3.
    (See my private note of a day or two ago.)

  17. John FlowerBy John Flower on 19 December, 2010

    Your SEO plugin is sweet. The snippet preview is sweet, even though I hardly use it. It’s like living by the ocean. You may not go to the beach every day, but if you look out your window, you see it there, ready for a visit. As for content and backlinks: one man’s gold may be another man’s two-week old bread. Finding the right crowd for your content is often tricky.

  18. Anjali SharmaBy Anjali Sharma on 22 December, 2010

    I have used ur plugin and it has been wonderful experience using it always when i write new post. There is something wrong wid the blog title which is displayed in the browser title. I am trying to solve it. Thanks for the plugin.

  19. Christian StoehrBy Christian Stoehr on 22 December, 2010

    I love the SEO plugin, I just converted from the HeadSpace2 plugin. My question is that I originaly installed my blog in a subfolder called /blog so I have a splash page that forwards the viewer to the actual blog within 2 seconds. Does that create issues with SEO`s, and should I try to move the installation straight under the root directory ?
    Thanks for all the info on your site.

  20. Dave DoolinBy Dave Doolin on 23 December, 2010

    Joost, thanks again for relevant and useful material. I’ve been preaching this to my readers, but I don’t have nearly your authority. Now, I can refer them here to get schooled. Win/win for everyone.

    I’m also thankful you’re sharing this because I don’t have the temperament for mastering nitpicky, fiddly SEO bits. I’ll settle for competence over expertise.

  21. Toon StruyfBy Toon Struyf on 23 December, 2010

    Thanks for this post! ( and even more thanks for the plugin). I had a discussion with a co-worker who stated your ‘snippet view’ isn’t that innovative at all. He can read this! For developers it’s easy to understand how SEO works. But for writers and entrepreneurs it isn’t. The snippet view makes my work a lot easier!!

  22. KristaBy Krista on 23 December, 2010

    I switched to yours from All in One SEO and noticed that the keywords were not there on posts any longer. Do I have to go back and re-enter all of those?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 23 December, 2010

      It should import them, if it doesn’t, let me know and then wait for the next version to come out. Please do keep in mind that no big search engine uses meta keywords tags anymore for ranking. Seriously, none of them.

      • KristaBy Krista on 23 December, 2010

        It didn’t import them, but most of the posts on my site are written by others. I can go back and touch up the ones I really care about – which aren’t that many. Your plugin is great!

  23. LeoBy Leo on 23 December, 2010

    It’s a great plugin, but please see my post on the WordPress forum about the small bug with the Page Title Numbering, because right now it’s creating unsightly results when there’s only one page ;)

  24. gregBy greg on 24 December, 2010

    great post. cant wait to use info.

  25. Atul@OceanOfWebBy Atul@OceanOfWeb on 25 December, 2010

    Could you please suggest something for my blog. Is there something wrong with the SEO. I am blogging since 2 years and still I get only 2-3 hundred visitrs only daily

    I would be waiting for ur mail

    Thanks’
    ATUL

  26. Jeff YablonBy Jeff Yablon on 28 December, 2010

    Right On, Joost.

    I use your WordPress plug-in, and I’m really glad to see you reviewing your own work so honestly. It’s a great plug-in, but just filling in those blanks without an understanding of excellent copy and topic expertise. Isn’t enough.

    As I tell clients all the time, SEO isn’t rocket science, but there’s a lot to it.

  27. jamBy jam on 30 December, 2010

    oah ! that’s what i am looking ! specially the infomation about SEO blog that i missed !

  28. Orange County ElectricianBy Orange County Electrician on 30 December, 2010

    Joost, I have used multiple SEO plugins for a variety of sites, and I have to say, I will recommend this one highly. Very Simple, very powerful. Most people don’t know how to do the basics and often SEO plugins are cumbersome. Your preview feature will change SEO plugins forever. I like the way you think! Great Job.

  29. sgtmacBy sgtmac on 31 December, 2010

    Just installed your plug-in, as saw it advertised on another site. It’s more complicated than I thought, being new to this game, but found the instructions encouraging.

    I still have a lot of questions, but those will come later. A little over a week, (The holidays) I see the hits of increased, but no comments. That’s expected over this Christmas, but at least it seems to show some results.

    As for the Snippet View, I really like it. Look forward to learning how to tweak it. ;)

  30. BourgyBy Bourgy on 2 January, 2011

    I have visited this site over a hundred times over the last month or so, read a few articles and I think I have finally decided to shelve AIOSEO and give this a shot.

    I am a bit worried by that comment up there that said the import wasn’t perfect but I’ll let you know how things go.’
    Thanks Joost.

  31. Andrew PhillipsBy Andrew Phillips on 2 January, 2011

    I love the instant Google snippet preview from the WordPress SEO plugin, it makes it so much easier for beginners to do a quick SEO review of each post before submitting. It’s pretty much a requirement now for any blog I set up for clients — thanks Joost for making an awesome AND free product! Great SEO tips too.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 2 January, 2011

      Hey Andrew, thanks for stopping by, next time, please use your own name for your comments, and not your keywords. I’ve changed it for now, next time I’ll delete it.

  32. Jonas LejonBy Jonas Lejon on 3 January, 2011

    Would it be possible to automatically rewrite the title/slug to be more SEO-friendly?

  33. TraceyBy Tracey on 4 January, 2011

    I really appreciate this plugin. I have a multi-author site and it helps to have them each able to set their own SEO.

    One question: when people upload media files, a new page is created for that file. Is there any way to change the settings to noindex for those pages? And we’d like to keep them out of the sitemap either way (visual or XTML).

  34. Vee SweeneyBy Vee Sweeney on 4 January, 2011

    So glad to see that you brought up the writer in the equation and how the writer does the SEO (at least part of it). If the writing was not properly optimized, then nothing else really matters.

  35. JosephBy Joseph on 4 January, 2011

    Thanks for the seo plugin. I am two months in Newbie with 4 sites. 1 site hit the 4th page! Still working on better results. Your plugin is a blessing! There will be some paypal stuff coming real quick.

  36. Pinter TamasBy Pinter Tamas on 5 January, 2011

    Sorry I’m posting here, I KNOW my problem not actually fits in this theme, but i heard from YOAST and now i can’t find a more realted post …

    My problem/confusion is …
    Let’s say I wan’t to target a WordPress site for let’s say “car repair”
    My problem is … I write posts dailey, weekly … on my domain – car-repair.com – I can’t control the headings and texts strictly to get the keyword density ‘right’… I can’t write ‘car repear’ in posts which are not on car repair, but they are releated

    I used to make static websites and there this wasn’t a problem

    Today I’m made my first wordpress theme … and this is the problem i stumbled upon right after that …

    How people do this? I thought of a category description which have the keywords and one h1 tag … than the post have h2 or h3 with the titles …

    big help – big thanks! :)

  37. Stuart LaverickBy Stuart Laverick on 5 January, 2011

    Oh Joy! sorry this is a little late in the comment stream, but I had to say how happy this post made me. I do a lot of whitebox contrator work for SEO companies who come to me saying ‘our client wants to rank for keyword XYZ, can you optimise his site so it will do better’, and just as you say often the issue is not a lack of ranking for the keyword, it’s that the site is not compelling, the copy is dull and mechanical and obviously written for SEO, the usability is sub-optimal and off putting, and quite often even the keyword they are after is not one that will convert well. Rather it is a trophy keyphrase, or worse an achievable compromise that has been suggested by the SEO company because they know with their approach they cannot get good rankings on the high ROI keyphrases, so they aim for ones where they can send glowing monthly traffic reports. (sorry /rant)
    Anyway, sometimes I feel I’m shouting in the dark when I try to suggest that a natural growth in quality links through good copy and interaction with the visitor sphere would be better than trying to game Google with spam links from comment streams. So it’s great to hear someone like yourself express similar ideas, just makes me feel like it might be me that’s got it right after all. Thanks.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 5 January, 2011

      Glad to see more people feel the same way Stuart :)

      • TraceyBy Tracey on 5 January, 2011

        I feel the same way too, and so do the founders of the site I run (long story…disgruntled writers got tired of being jerked around with exactly that poor kind of SEO you mention, Stuart, and decided to make our own site with well-written content, d the search engines and full steam ahead, requiring one of us to volunteer to design the site). But after using a couple of Joost’s other plugins and getting your newsletter, I realized we could be doing some whitehat SEO. This is a great plugin, and a donation will be coming your way!

  38. CynthiaBy Cynthia on 7 January, 2011

    Hey!

    How do you change one’s site description? The one I have right now isn’t very good.

    Thanks!

    C

  39. Ankit SainiBy Ankit Saini on 11 January, 2011

    It is necessary to do off-site optimization for SEO.
    Thanks.

  40. SteupzBy Steupz on 15 January, 2011

    Yoast, thanks for the SEO plugin. I notice there are many issues with the sitemap slowing down posting and today I found out it is deleting my sitemap generated by my XML sitemap plugin.

    This is weird because I never authorised your plugin to create a sitemap for me.
    Is there a workaround?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] What you blog about matters. Some subjects are much
    more popular than others and there are already many established
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    have the same blogging philosophy, but we seem to be largely on the
    same page on just what search engine optimization can accomplish.
    [...]