If you’re running WordPress, you should be using very simple WordPress SEO best practices.

These days, it’s unavoidable: people are Googling you and your business.

In fact, they might be doing it right now.

For some small businesses, traffic from search engines has become the single most important traction channel driving new customers their way.

See that orange part? That’s SEO.

But it’s not just about new users. Even existing users who have forgotten your website address will pop your name into the search bar to get to your site.

Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO,” is the practice of making your site play nicely with Google (and, to a lesser extent, other search engines like Bing). It can sound big and scary and complicated — and, fair warning, it can be, if have unlimited time and money to dump down the SEO pit. So, most small businesses ignore it completely.

But ignoring SEO is a tremendous missed opportunity.

The truth is, with 30 minutes of set-up and a small nugget of know-how, you can make a dramatic improvement in your WordPress website’s SEO, for free.

Here’s how to do it.

Part One: It's All About What It's All About

Have you gone to Google and seen a search snippet like this one?

Pic of google search results snippet that says "Just another WordPress site."

Thanks, website snippet — that gives me zero information. END SARCASM.

This snippet contains absolutely no useful information about what the site has to offer to me. Why would I click on that result?

These are websites that have put no thought into how their websites appear on search engines, and it shows.

Contrast this with the search snippet for a design and strategy firm serving nonprofits, which was created and supported by BFC Support (yes, that is a shameless plug):

Pic of a search snippet on Google for Free Range Studios.

Ah, that makes much more sense.

Users can immediately see what the company does, in plain English.

And that, friends, is what SEO is all about: your website telling Google what it’s all about, in a way that Google can understand (and then display to the world).

Part Two: Install the Yoast Plugin

We are going to totally ignore here the technical explanations about meta tags and descriptions and HTML header tags and all the rest, because who has time for that? Leave that to the coders, like your friendly BFC Support Dedicated Web Developer (another shameless plug).

What you need to know is that there is a free plugin for that.

It’s called “Yoast SEO,” which is a terrible name, but an excellent plugin, even if you only buy the free version.

The first step to fixing your SEO mistake is to cruise on over to the WordPress plugin directory and download the plugin to your desktop:

Animated gif showing how to download Yoast SEO plugin.

Go little download, go!

And then cruise over to your website, log into your WordPress backend, and install the plugin and activate it:

This step should take you about, oh, two minutes.

Part Three: Set Site-Wide Configurations Within Yoast

The plugin requires about five minutes worth of configurations in order to work correctly. This is where you tell the plugin who you are and what you’re about, so it can pass that info on correctly to the search engines of the world.

Before you start, you’ll want to think for a minute or two about the most basic of questions: who are you, anyway? And what is your site about?

If you haven’t done this already, come up with a short, simple, one- or two-sentence statement about your company and your site. Make it direct, and don’t waste words. And, please, don’t try to be strategic with keywords. Imagine you were speaking to an abnormally intelligent 12-year-old from Houston, Texas.

For example, if you make ballet shoes, this could be:

“We make high-quality ballet shoes for dancers of all ages.”

If you run a tennis camp, this could be:

“XYZ Tennis Camp offers award-winning instruction for semiprofessional teenagers. Our eight-week summer program starts June 1.”

For our company, BFC Support, we use:

“BFC Support offers website care and support plans for WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla sites. Get your own dedicated web developer who knows you and your site.”

Once you’ve written your description, you’ll need to gather two other pieces of information:

  1. A PNG or JPEG image file of your logo. Preferably this will be at least 200px by 200px in size.
  2. A list of your social profile URLs or usernames, if you have any. For instance, if your company has a page on Facebook, have the URL handy (it should look something like “https://www.facebook.com/{companyname}”).

With these items in hand, you are ready to set up the global configurations.

  1. In the WordPress administrator, navigate to SEO > Dashboard.
  2. Click on the “General” tab.
  3. Click on the “Open Configuration Wizard” button.
  4. Follow the steps.
  5. Ignore any suggestion that you should pay someone to help you or purchase a “premium” version.
  6. Skip any step you don’t understand or want to bother with. As long as your name, logo, and social links are there, you’re good.

The process should look like this:

Animated gif showing process of running Yoast configuration wizard.

Run the wizard, but just skip any steps you don’t understand, and don’t purchase any “premium” services — you’re not ready yet. No offense.

Part Four: Use Your Short Description as Your Homepage Snippet

Remember the simple, no-B.S. description of you and your site that you created above? We’re going to use it here to set up the SEO description of the homepage.

Your homepage, of course, is the most important page on your site, and and search engines read the homepage snippet as main determinator of what you do and who you do.

To set this up, navigate to your homepage in the WordPress administrator. If you’re still in the SEO Dashboard area, you can do this by clicking on the”Titles and Metas” menu item and then the “Homepage” tab. You’ll see a small link that says “You can determine a description for the front page by editing the front page itself.” Click it.

Animated gif showing how to get to the front page in the WordPress admin.

Get to your front page in the WordPress administrator, so you can edit it.

Now that you’ve installed the SEO plugin, you”ll notice that on the classic page editing interface, there’s a new settings box below the main text.

This box is pure magic.

It’s labelled “Yoast SEO.” Open it and check it out.

The first thing you’ll notice is a section called “Snippet Preview.” This shows you what search engines will display in default search results — and also gives you a hint about how the understand what the page is about. This, of course, is what you want to change.

Click on the “Snippet Preview” itself, and watch as a few editing boxes slide out. Scroll down to the “Meta Description” box. Here, you’ll paste in the short, simple description from above, and hit the update button.

Like so:

Animated gif showing how to edit WordPress SEO settings to improve snippet for homepage.

Channel yourself telling an abnormally intelligent 12-year-old what your site is about, and then slap that into your homepage snippet.

And take a deep breath. You have done it. You are amazing and successful.

Extra Credit: Use the Snippet Box On Other Content

If you’re ready to stop — then stop. There’s no shame in it. You have already made tremendous strides by getting this far, and you deserve a coffee (or beer) break.

However, if you still have energy and time, you can earn a gold star by spending a few minutes going back through your top 10 or so most important pages and improving the description that shows in the snippet.

If you look back at your old pages, you’ll find that, on occasion, the snippet will look funky, like this page on our site:

Image showing an example of a janky-looking WordPress SEO page snippet that the plugin auto-generated.

This page was clearly written for a robot. A robot who’s very interested in WordPress SEO.

This is because the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin attempts to create snippets automatically, based on the first couple sentences of the copy.

But, in this case, the copy includes an embedded form on it, and the plugin doesn’t now how to interpret the form’s shortcode. So it presents it as part of the snippet. So, this page is less likely to come up in search results, and if it did, users wouldn’t know what do with it.

This is easily fixed, however, using the procedure above:

Animated gif showing BFC Support changing the snippet for a funky looking page.

Our prototypical 12-year-old Houstonian will understand this much better.

Go through this process for your next 9 most important pages, and you’re golden.

And If You Need Any Help ...

This one’s easy.

Helping small businesses with their WordPress sites is what we love to do.

So, reach out! Call us (646-389-0563), email us (hello@bfcsupport.com), our fill out the contact form on our website.

Even better, sign up for a free trial of our WordPress support package, and you’ll get your own dedicated web developer who can help you with SEO — and everything else.

Congratulations!

I’ll say it again: congratulations! You’ve just fixed one of the top 20 minutes we see small businesses make with their WordPress sites.

And when you’re ready, check out the other 19. 😉

One comment on “20 Silly WordPress Mistakes #1: Ignoring Basic SEO

  1. Shivam Sahu on

    Great article, and while I knew most of these tips there are a still a few I didn’t know about. One thing I see on some new (and maybe even older) WordPress site is people don’t disable/remove the meta admin widget from their sidebar. No reader/viewer/client/customer, etc needs to see a link for you to log into your WordPress dashboard when they got to your site. That tab is completely useless (just go to yoursite.com/wp-admin) and should be removed as soon as your site is active.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.