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Caroline's Corner: Optimize without spending all day optimizing

My very first blog post here on Yoast.com was about why you should focus on SEO as a blogger. That post was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, as I was not focussing on SEO at all back then. I honestly didn’t want to spend time doing keyword research and research my audience. Now, almost four months later, I’m having fun with optimizing my blog posts and am creating a routine in this. And with success, my average position in Google is rising, along with the total impressions and total clicks. Today, I will share why and how I’m optimizing my blog posts.

SEO for bloggers

In the beginning of June I was at a conference for Dutch speaking bloggers. I gave a talk about SEO for bloggers and attended several talks myself. One of the talks I saw was by the owner of a big mom blog in the Netherlands. When the audience asked her how she managed to grow, she explained it was a combination of writing a lot, using Google Search Console and using Yoast SEO Premium.

“Anyone could do it,” she told the audience.

Challenge accepted.

The day after the conference, I started optimizing my blog posts. And with success. Where my average organic growth was around 10 percent per month from the start of this year, it was a whopping 86% in June compared to May. Turns out that the SEO tips we give at Yoast, even work for bloggers! Who knew?

Well, probably everyone knew. At least at Yoast. But I’m stubborn and always used the ‘that won’t work for me’ card. But really, as I wrote before, I didn’t want to focus on SEO. I’m a blogger. Who needs SEO?

How to rise in Google

The process of rising to the first page or even the top three result is a long one. You need the right tools and you need the right plan. You need patience and you need to be able to analyze your current data.

To rise in Google, I use two tools:
Google Search Console and Yoast SEO Premium.

Google Search Console is a great tool to see what keywords people use, what the click through rate to your website is and what position you are. You can compare your data as well. The newest data unfortunately is 3 days old, so you need patience with growing.

While you can do this all without our SEO plugin, I can’t live without our premium plugin anymore. I use the premium plugin to check my internal linking structure and use the link suggestions to make sure I am linking to all relevant posts on my website.

It’s hard to decide which blog posts to optimize. I found out my blog post about a lipstick review I did last year, still generates a lot of traffic. I’m not a beauty blogger, but apparently the post hit home. But posts I wanted to rank, weren’t ranking at all. I picked one of those blog posts and started to optimize it. You can do this by completely rereading the text, checking the bullets of our content analysis and adding relevant links to other blog posts – the internal linking tool helps with that, and to link from other relevant posts to this post. Orphaned content – content that’s not linked to – is horrible and it’s something you need to fix as soon as possible if you want to rank.

How to optimize without spending all day optimizing

I want to write. I want to blog. The last thing I want to do, is work on optimizing my blog posts for Google, Pinterest  or Facebook.

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As I won’t go viral after I hit that publish button and I won’t get millions of hits after I shouted out that I blogged, I need to optimize the posts. I do this right after I finished a blog post. I reread it, go through all the bullets of the plugin and determine if I want to change its suggestions, or just ignore those stupid red and orange bullets that are out there to make my life miserable. The one thing I do check for every time, are internal links and a proper meta description. While writing meta descriptions are my nightmare, they are important in getting people to actually click that link.

Checklist

I’ve created my own checklist before I publish a post. While I sometimes go back to a blog post to create new links if I published new blogs, I make sure all my new posts at least check off the following:

  • There are at least 3 links to other blog posts I’ve written that are relevant to the topic. If there are no relevant links, I need to either create more content or perhaps remove the blog post altogether.
  • There is at least one relevant high quality image and it has the focus keyword in its alt description.
  • I’ve written a compelling meta description.
  • My readability is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • My SEO analysis is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • I’ve checked old blog posts to see if I can link to this new blog post.

Routine

It’s important to create your own routine in this. While in the beginning it might feel as if you’re messing around and it won’t have any use, if you continue to do the steps above, you will see improved results in Google and Google Search Console.

I’m curious how and if you are incorporating SEO tactics in your blogging. Please let me know, because I’m eager to learn from you too!

Read more: Site structure: the ultimate guide »


Caroline is a technical product specialist at Yoast. In her spare time she writes and maintains a blog about life as a mother. In September 2014 she joined the company as a software developer without any idea what the Yoast SEO plugin even did. Something with SEO, sure. But who needs that as a blogger? That’s for the big companies out there that are only in it for the money. O, how wrong she was. Read more about Caroline and find all of her posts »



30 Responses to How to optimize without spending all day optimizing

  1. Robert Wang
    Robert Wang  • 3 months ago

    Great Article for beginners.
    I use both the tools for my blogs and they are quite useful.
    I always make sure My SEO analysis is green and also if I can interlink any other related articles for link juice.
    Cheers
    Robert Wang

  2. Joseph
    Joseph  • 3 months ago

    Great info. Thanks for sharing. It is very useful for me like beginner bloggers.

  3. Jane Littlewood
    Jane Littlewood  • 3 months ago

    I’m with you on this! I’ve been publishing http://www.visitFyldeCoast.info for 8 years. When we switched to WordPress earlier this year – and Yoast – I felt like everything suddenly became clear. I’m plodding through thousands of pages of content, reviewing and optimizing them all, and what a difference it makes. I’m now Yoast’s biggest fan, I couldn’t be without it, and also use the Premium version. My product covers 8 sites so I have also created a spreadsheet where I table each page, when it was updated, the Focus Keyword and the page link. Makes it SO easy to cross reference material.

  4. Pete McPherson
    Pete McPherson  • 3 months ago

    I’ve totally struggled with whether or not I should optimize first and foremost vs creating high-quality content FIRST (and then optimizing).
    I’ve definitely shifted to the 2nd, and I’ve also created my own smaller checklist like yours. Definitely keeps me moving in the right direction without an “over-emphasis” on on-page analysis, etc.

    Good post :)

  5. Willam
    Willam  • 3 months ago

    Caroline, nice post and you have well explained it with proper images. I am trying to figure out the feathers of a new version of the search console.

  6. Laurel Bern
    Laurel Bern  • 3 months ago

    Thanks for the terrific post Caroline. I love your Yoast checklist!

    But, OMG! I love Yoast SEO and have been using it steadily for five years. And no, nobody is paying me to say that. lol And yes, it WORKS! And yes, I’m a blogger, full-time now because I’m earning six times what I was as an interior designer and I get to work in my jammies if I want to. :]

    And, oh dear, I just used “And” four times in a row and I’m going to get a nasty slap just now from the writing police. haha

    One thing I did recently was to explore why one of my top posts IS one of my top posts. That is an exercise that I very much recommend. I learned a lot doing that.

    Depending on the keywords, it ranged from #1 to #16 in search results. But what I discovered is that when it ranked high, it often ranked high for a word that was related but NOT my primary keyword! What an epiphany! So, what that tells me is to certainly use the primary keyword several times, but also use related words, like the singular if it’s a plural, or if it’s a sofa, say couch. That sort of thing. But I think that google knows that people use sofa and couch interchangeably.

    One interesting thing I discovered was that when I was in the #3 position for the primary keyword, the #1 position didn’t even HAVE that keyword, their slug was a big bloody mess and some other things that Yoast would’ve given red lights for. Maybe reputation was a factor there? Not sure.

    Happy blogging everyone!

    • Caroline Geven

      Haha, you made me laugh out loud with your comment! Thank you!

      Trust me, there’s no writing police here who will slap you for using *and* three times in a row. I can say that, because I went into the office of the person who built this to complain a few times already about the readability analysis. She explained to me that as long as you do it on purpose, it’s fine. For example: when it’s a writing style. It’s more of a: ‘hey, watch it!’ for people who aren’t that comfortable writing or might have the habit to do this a lot!

      Google definitely knows about context! That’s why in Yoast SEO Premium you can now add synonyms to see how you score for example on sofa and couch, if you don’t already have Premium, I’d recommend you check this out. And though you’re not being paid to said this, I am ;) Just kidding, I love that new feature and definitely think it’ll save the lives of a lot of bloggers who think they have to rank green with their focus keyword.

      The reason that site could be ranking #1 could indeed be reputation, maybe it was an ad?

      Thanks for your reply! :)

      • Laurel Bern
        Laurel Bern  • 3 months ago

        Hi Caroline,

        I do have Yoast Premium. :] No, it wasn’t a paid ad, but good idea. I know that it drives some people crazy not to get all green lights. (the over achieving types. lol) I have a quirky thing because of my optin box. It is one line too close to the copy, so, as a workaround, I start all blog posts off with a bit of code to make a space:

         

        and I get that the focus keyword isn’t in the first paragraph. haha

  7. Hans van Zanten
    Hans van Zanten  • 3 months ago

    Hi Caroline,
    I use Thrive Architect to build my pages. First I have to make a page with the page title. Then I go further in the page builder.
    It seems to me that Yoast Premium doesn’t analyze the written text and images in that page builder page/post.
    How can I fix that?
    BTW: thanks for the awesome articles you write for us, the users.
    I am still a bit struggling with my routine and with understanding the whole SEO-system, but I like it much.

    • Caroline Geven

      Hi Hans,

      We can’t always analyze page builders such as Thrive Architect. The reason for this is because many page builders use their own short codes, which are very difficult for us to process. We’re progressing as we continue to develop, but we unfortunately cannot guarantee a smooth operation with page builders.
      As Pedro said, you can write your draft, check your SEO and then paste the text into the builder. Good luck!

    • Pedro
      Pedro  • 3 months ago

      Maybe you’re already doing this but you can write your draft with the visual composer, check Yoast, and then paste the text to the builder.
      Cheers

  8. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way  • 3 months ago

    I strive for all green also. And I’m successful until I add my recipe. Then it goes amber. Why? Because it says I’m starting my sentence with the same word. Well, if you have 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of shortening, 1 cup of sugar, you see what I mean? Until Yoast can separate it’s reading of the recipe card as part of the narrative it will continue to switch to anything other than green. This is not only my complaint but also other food bloggers.

    • Lisa Clarke
      Lisa Clarke  • 3 months ago

      I second this. I don’t usually write recipes, but when I do, I put the ingredients in an unordered list. I use lists in a lot of other contexts, too, and those often make sense to start with the same word. I usually just ignore the warning, but it sure would be nice if I didn’t have to… I’m a little competitive with myself about getting those readability greens!

      An exemption from the 3 rule for unordered (and ordered) lists would be nice :-)

    • Caroline Geven

      Yep, that’s something I often come across as well. I’ll write this down and discuss this with the lingual team, they might have ideas to improve this!

  9. Martin
    Martin  • 3 months ago

    Thanks for the tips.
    The 3-links is something i will work on. And read old posts again. I hope it Will give more readers.

    • Caroline Geven

      Yes, definitely. I’ve noticed that my page views go up and older posts are indexed as well by Google.

  10. Filipe Morato Gomes
    Filipe Morato Gomes  • 3 months ago

    Same here. I love Yoast but after one of the last updates I noticed that I started to ignore the Readability Analisys, mostly because the importance given to the transition words. I might be wrong, of course. (I have a travel blog in Portuguese, by the way)

    • Caroline Geven

      We have several lingual scientists working on the readability analysis, so the importance of transition words we are giving, is scientifically researched and proven. It’s improved every time, but I know the transition words is something that’s important to create a readable text.

  11. Yvette
    Yvette  • 3 months ago

    This is super useful, thank you so much! I’m glad to see that I’m doing a good job optimizing my posts, but I still have a long way to go! Your checklist will come in handy!

    • Caroline Geven

      Thanks! I’m curious to know how long it’ll take for you to see progress!

  12. Joost
    Joost  • 3 months ago

    I like your tips except for one: the readability score. Somehow it seems that Yoast dislikes my receipe posts. Maybe because of the long lists of bullets with Ingredients? Ayway: maybe I really should pay more attention to them.
    Keep up te good work!

    • Caroline Geven

      Yep, the readability score is one that gets me from time to time too. Especially when I start three sentences in a row with the same word – whenever I do this, it’s because I chose so. And I think bullet points score low as well. If you know what causes them, then it’s safe to say you choose this style of writing.

  13. Kenya Tanzania Safari
    Kenya Tanzania Safari  • 3 months ago

    SEO is work in progress. I actually see it as a bottomless pit where once you fall in, the fall never breaks. Great information there. Let me find out more in regards to the Google Console

    • Caroline Geven

      SEO sounds quite daunting when put like that, doesn’t it? You’re right, it never ends. But it’s key to understand and have fun with it!

  14. Spinman
    Spinman  • 3 months ago

    I couldn’t agree more adding google console to help your posts get ranked. I am also using Bing Webmaster Tools and i submit the post i just published manually. In google Console i do the same, i go to Crawl>Fetch as Google>and then i “Fetch And Render” the new published post in desktop and in mobile.

    • Caroline Geven

      Do you see faster progress by doing this versus not doing this? I’ve never looked into that and just wait until Google crawls my site again.

  15. Ayk Balouch
    Ayk Balouch  • 3 months ago

    Great Post. I I Loved It.

    • Caroline Geven

      Thank you!

  16. Gali
    Gali  • 3 months ago

    Hey Caroline!
    I am pretty new to SEO but really, after doing what you explained in this post, my blog started to have visitors coming! I dont know my ranks in google though since i only urge my self to keep posting stuff and put less attention to what rank i have.
    Thanks, this really helped me.

    • Caroline Geven

      Hi Gali,
      That’s great to hear! I used to not focus on it at all, but as soon as I did, I started to improve rankings.


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