“Why is he talking about Yoast?” I hear you ask. Well, since that first website, Yoast SEO was the first plugin I installed, on every single website I developed, …until now. It’s been replaced with Rank Math SEO. In this post I’ll explain why. Plus this will also be a guide, on using the plugin to optimise your posts.
In this post we’re not going to cover very much about installing Rank Math SEO, they have a great guide themselves, click here for that; there is an excellent set-up wizard that launches when the plugin is activated, and in most cases the default settings will do just fine. What we will cover though is how you can use Rank Math SEO to drive more of the traffic you need to your website.
It’s almost a cliché now, but it’s as true now as it ever was… “Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks we pages.” As far as SEO is concerned, you start fresh with each new page; pick a search term to target, optimise the page for that term, and hopefully rank on page 1 for that term.
So what we’re going to do is this; look at draft post on the Irish Explorer website, one of current clients. It’s a perfect example because content is currency of this website, it’s what will draw the traffic, so organic search will be super important. We will go through the Rank Math SEO suggestions one by one, what they mean, why it’s important, and how to tailor your content to meet best practice SEO requirements. You could say that each item on the list only provides a tiny SEO/ranking benefit, but taken as a whole, and over the long term, the benefits are huge. Let’s jump in…
Rank Math SEO Post Panel
If you are new to SEO, let me make a suggestion; write your content first, then open the Rank Math SEO panels. What you will find is that many of the items listed already have a green tick, and as you create more and more content, you will commit a lot of this to memory, it will become part of your natural writing style.
The first 3 items are the SEO Title, permalink, and SEO description, but we’ll return to these in a moment, they are covered by the recommendations below.
For any of this work, you must first select a “Focus Keyword.” This is the search term that you would like this post to rank for. The title of this piece is “Classic Irish Road Trip for Under €1000,” so I decided to target the search term “classic Irish road trip.” Click here to view the SERP (search engine results page) for this term, this is where we want this post to feature.
Focus Keyword in SEO Title
Once the “Focus Keyword” is entered, the job becomes easy; work through the list making small changes to the post. Up first, SEO Title. Make sure that the title features the keyword, in this case “Classic Irish Road Trip” which it does. Other factors to consider; the title should be no more than 60 characters in length, or Google will trim it, and if your title is short enough include the website/company name.
Focus Keyword in SEO Meta Description
The meta description is similar, just a little longer. Make sure that the keyword is included here as well. There is also a character limit of 160, but that is plenty for a sentence or two about what the reader can expect to find when they click.
Your “Focus Keyword” should be 3-5 words long, so sometimes it might not be possible to stick to the 75 character limit (this also included your domain name, and any preceding URL parameters). But in most cases there should be no issue. Here, the URL is /classic-irish-road-trip/ perfect!
The first 10% of the content
In posts that 300 words or more, and the majority of your posts should be, it’s important to have your keyword target in the first 10% of the copy, it’s easiest to do this in your introduction/first paragraph. For posts less that this word count it must appear anywhere in the copy.
The first 10% of the content
If you have the green tick for the 10% requirement above then this will go green as well (I can’t explain why these are separate requirements to be honest).
This is a big deal. Research into what ranks, using 10s of thousands of search term has identified that the optimum word count for a post is between 2,100 and 2,400 words. Having said that not all of your posts need to be that length, and this is dependant on the industry you’re in. You will get a green Rank Math SEO tick if your post is above 600 words.
That’s the Basic SEO done. Next we’ll look at the “Additional” panel. These are less important overall, but some of them are super easy, and every little helps.
Rank Math SEO - Additional (more green ticks)
Keyword in Sub-Headings
As you can see above, I don’t have a green tick for this. I use a lot of custom fields on my client sites, so the heading tags are often pre-populated. The Rank Math SEO plugin doesn’t seem to pick this up all the time, maybe that’s a glitch they’ll address at some stage. Your H1 tag is the title of the page, there should be only one of these, and it should always contain your keyword. After that you should use the keyword(s) in a natural way throughout the sub-headings, H2, H3 and so on.
Image Alt. Attributes
The alt. attribute is the text that displays if the image fails to load (this was an issue in the past, believe it or not). Search engines look at this text because it should describe what is in the image, and the images should be relevant to the content. Make sure that at least one image on the page has an alt. attribute containing your “Focus Keyword.”
While we’re talking about images, there’s a huge SEO practice that I think should be included in Rank Math Math SEO, and that’s file size. The image seen here, this posts features image, is less than 100 kb in size, it’s original size was over 1 Mb. When adding images to your posts, you should always run them through image compression first. I use this one… https://imagecompressor.com/
The size of your image files plays a big role in the loading time of your page. If a page loads too slowly people will click away or “bounce.” The bounce rate of a page (the percentage of visitors that click away) is a ranking factor. Google also measure the speed of a page, which is also included in the ranking calculation.
How many times does your keyword appear in the content? It’s that simple. Not enough is bad, but equally bad is having it appear too many times. Rank Math SEO will give you a green tick if the density is above 1%, and below 2.5%. If you have finished writing your post and the keyword doesn’t feature enough, go back and add one or two, until the green tick appears and visa-versa.
By default, WordPress uses the complete title of the post in the URL , but this may be way too long, and Google will trim it, just like they do with the title and meta description. Start with your keyword, and see what else you have room for, there’s a 75 character limit, and this includes your domain name, and any sub-domains or sub-folders included in your URL structure, what I’m saying is… get to the point !!
Internal & External Links
We’ll cover the next three items in one go. Internal linking is just a good idea. What I do is to link to service pages from blog posts and project pages, for example; this post links to my Search Engine Optimisation service page. It passes ranking equity around your website, and it offers your readers, and prospective customers, the opportunity to take in more of your content. External linking is tricky, and it doesn’t offer much in the way of a ranking factor, but it does a little. Link out to more information on a topic, but make sure it’s not a competitor, or a low quality website… Google knows.
Duplicate Target Keywords
There’s a big SEO rule, and that’s why Rank Math SEO includes it; don’t target the same set of search results with more than one piece of content, page, post, archive, even products. It’s simple really, there’s only a maximum of 10 spots available on a results page, don’t complete with yourself.
With the first two panels complete you are well on the way to a fully optimised post, or page.
Rank Math SEO - Title Readability
The Title Readability panel is concerned entirely with the title of the post as it appears in the search results, and getting as many searchers to click your result as possible. There are four green ticks on offer in the section. You already have the keyword in the title from a previous panel, for the first green tick Rank Math SEO want you to have it right at the start. The remaining three ticks, sentiment, power words and numbers, I would see as optional, as they won’t be applicable to all titles, product titles especially. Click here to read more…
The final three green ticks are not about the search engines, they’re about the reader. It’s advisable to have a table of contents for longer posts, a way for your readers to skip ahead to the information they are looking. Your paragraphs shouldn’t be to longer, it makes them harder to read, and visitors are more likely to click away if they see a layout they don’t like. If you have one of more paragraphs with more than 120 words in it Rank Math SEO will give a red X. And lastly… IMAGES. Humans are visual creatures, if you can add images to your posts (and remember the instructions about images above) then people are far more likely to keep reading.
We got there !! I know this might seem like a lot to do every time you want to publish a post, but you write it because you want people to read it, and if they never see it in the search results, they can’t read it. If you follow the first piece of advice, right at the top and create the post first, after a few goes 90% of the ticks will be green before you start optimising. The best of luck getting your next post to the top of the search results.