In this unit, we’re going to learn more about optimizing the two most common forms of content on your blog: “Posts” and “pages”.
To help you decide which of these two content types to use in any given situation, here’s a quick recap of the difference between them:
Posts are usually used for content that’s time-related in some way. For example, a post could show some of the photographs from a recent session, or tell readers about a special offer you have coming up. Posts can also be collections of your own musings or ideas you want to share with your readers but that aren’t specifically connected to the core of your business. For example, thoughts on creative inspiration or reactions to topical events.
Pages, on the other hand are generally what you might think of as “static” content or material that’s “evergreen” – meaning that it will be just as relevant to the reader next month or next year as it is now. For example, your “about” page should be created as a page, rather than a post. Articles that help your readers overcome apprehensions or potential obstacles to hiring a photographer would also be set up as pages.
Posts tend to be related to the pulse and personality of you and your business, whereas pages are more informative in nature.
Why Worrying About SEO On Blog Posts Isn’t Always Necessary
One of the biggest concerns I hear from photographers about blogging is that they get stressed out trying to get their keywords right on their blog posts.
But this isn’t really necessary, and worrying about it too much wastes valuable time that could be better spent doing something else, like creating photography for clients!
On a normal blog, the posts usually outnumber pages by a very wide margin, but the problem is there’s only a finite number of keywords you can realistically target.
That means it’s not long before you run out of keywords to optimize for!
Many photographers either don’t worry about the downsides of keyword repetition, or they just don’t realize that it can cause real problems in the way their site is ranked in the search engines.
I believe there’s a widespread fundamental misunderstanding about how SEO works where many photographers think that adding the same keywords to multiple posts will somehow elevate the ranking for the whole website for those keywords.
However, that’s not how SEO works – while it’s not quite as simple as I’m about to make it sound because there are other domain-level factors involved, Google generally ranks web pages, not websites as a whole.
Therefore, repeating keywords across multiple posts on a blog can actually cause more confusion for Google because each of those posts is competing for attention against all the other posts that target the same keywords.
This is what we call keyword cannibalization.
You can avoid this problem for the most part by saving your SEO efforts for the pages that really matter – for example, your home page, landing pages, static pages, and resource pages.
So the good news is that, when it comes to blog posts, it’s just not necessary to worry about targeting your primary keywords.
So What Do You Need To Do For SEO On Posts?
With that said, we shouldn’t simply ignore SEO completely on blog posts – there are still a couple of things we need to do to get the best performance from them, but they’re very easy to do.
The WordPress SEO plugin (and most of the other SEO plugins too) will add a section to your posts and pages in the WordPress editor that has lots of options, but the key is knowing which ones are important, and which ones to ignore.
#1: Forget The “Focus Keyword”
Unless your blog post targets a specific keyword that you’ve researched and you’re not targeting it elsewhere on your website or blog, you can safely ignore this field.
Yes, it will mean that the SEO analysis for your post won’t give you any score or feedback, but you don’t actually need that since SEO is not the primary focus of your post, right?
#2: Create A Good SEO Title
The SEO plugin will show you a preview of what your listing might look like when it appears in the Google search results, with the SEO title shown in blue.
Google used to allow 70 characters for page titles before cutting them short with an ellipsis (…), but they’ve recently switched to using a fixed-width display of approximately 512px for some reason.
Because Google also uses a proportionally-spaced font (meaning that letters take up different amounts of space), the actual number of characters that will fit into 512px depends on which characters are used to make up the text, making it hard to recommend a finite maximum length.
However, the WordPress SEO plugin helps you with this too, letting your know if the title exceeds the recommended width.
Ideally, you will want to make your SEO title a compelling and meaningful version of your post title (which can be as long as you like, since that’s written purely for human readers).
TIP: Don’t use apostrophes or other weird characters in your titles, as these can cause problems with some social sharing plugins.
#3: Write A Compelling Meta Description
The meta description shows up as the black text in the Google search result, which appears below the URL, shown in green text.
Think about the meta description as a mini-ad for your post.
In other words, you should write the meta description with the goal of creating curiosity and interest, combined with some kind of call to action (for example, click here to see…)
The size limit for the meta description is 156 characters, so you might need to get creative here to find just the right text and tone.
#4: Create An Image For Facebook And Extended Social Descriptions
The WordPress SEO plugin also has a tab labeled “social”, which allows you to add specially-crafted descriptions as well as specify an image to be used whenever the post is shared via Facebook.
This is one of the most useful and overlooked features of the SEO plugin, so you can give yourself a major advantage by using it.
Unlike the meta description, there’s no size limit on the descriptions you can set for Facebook and Google+ social sharing, although you will probably want to keep them to a reasonable length.
This is your chance to create even more compelling descriptions that will help to spread your posts further on social media, so make the best of it.
You can also include hashtags in these descriptions, which may help to make your content get discovered more easily on the social platforms.
A separate image, created purely for sharing on Facebook, is also recommended, as this will allow you to have an image that makes the best use of the Facebook news feed.
The minimum recommended size for the Facebook image is 484 x 253px, but I would recommend using a slightly larger image of 600 x 314px.
You can either upload the image to a folder on your website and put the URL to the image in the appropriate field on the SEO tab, or you can use the “upload image” button to upload it to your WordPress site directly.
SEO For Pages
When dealing with your static pages, landing pages, and resource pages the same advice from above applies to these as it does to posts, with a few exceptions.
#1: Use The “Focus keyword” – If Appropriate
You may not need to target specific keywords on every page, but when you do, you can enter that keyword phrase into the “focus keyword” field in the SEO settings.
The plugin will then give you some metrics to let you know how well you’re using that keyword phrase in your page content.
Do remember, though, that you can only effectively target a single keyword phrase on any given page of your website or blog.
#2: Include Keywords In Titles
It can really help to include your keywords in both the post title and the SEO title, and the closer to the beginning you can position them the better.
However, bear in mind that this is something of a balancing act.
You need to consider your human readers first, and then worry about the search engines second, so this usually becomes a bit of a compromise.
Whatever you do, don’t write incomprehensible or awkward-sounding titles just to keep Google happy because that will eventually backfire on you when readers bounce away from your pages, resulting in lost leads.
#3: Include Keywords In The Page URL
You can control the URL (slug or permalink) of your page by editing it to include your keywords (using “-” as a word separator instead of spaces).
The WordPress SEO plugin helps you with this by creating a suggested URL, but you can change that to suit your specific needs.
Of course, the URL must be unique.
#4: Optimize Headlines And Sub-Headings
Headlines, headings, and sub-headings not only help to break up your page content into chunks that are more easily consumed by the reader, they also act as good signals for SEO.
Since headings usually indicate important content, it makes sense to include keywords – as long as you can do so without sacrificing readability for the user.
#5: Optimize Images
Don’t forget to optimize your photographs and images. You can do that in several ways:
- Include your keywords in the file name of the image (again using the “-” character instead of spaces).
- Add keywords to the “alt” and “title” tags on images, which you can do when you add an image to a page.
- Captions are important and very often read by your readers. You can include testimonials in your captions that have the location of the person giving the testimonial (good for localized SEO), and you can also add your own keywords to the caption.
When To Use The “noindex” Or “nofollow” Attributes
By default, your pages and posts are allowed to be indexed by Google (at least, I hope so, otherwise no one will ever find you!).
However, you can turn this feature off at the post or page level, and actually prevent some pages from being added to the search engine index by using the “noindex” meta tag.
The WordPress SEO plugin allows you to control this through the “advanced” tab in the page editor, and essentially gives you four options:
- “index, follow” – page is indexed and links on it are followed (the default).
- “index, nofollow” – page is indexed but links on it are not followed.
- “noindex, follow” – page is not indexed but links on it are followed.
- “noindex, nofollow” – page is not indexed and links on it are not followed.
Why would you want to do this?
Well, you might have the occasion to publish pages that you don’t want to appear in the Google index, such as a special promotion or other time-sensitive offer, or pages that you want to keep secret, such as thank-you pages for email sign-ups etc.
In those cases, be sure to use the “noindex” option. It really doesn’t matter in 99% of cases whether or not you choose “follow” or “nofollow”, so I usually recommend “nofollow” because it seems more in line with the “noindex” idea.