Erik Wardell

Erik is an SEO coach that loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. He thrives on helping people do what it takes to see their businesses succeed in search. Stay in touch on Twitter — @wanderinwardell.

All Resources by Erik Wardell

page template

Individual Service Page Template

September 10, 2021

Want to do your business a massive disservice? We recommend throwing together a handful of half-baked service pages, dusting off your hands, and calling it a day. Mission accomplished.

But that's not you; you're interested in helping your website get found in the search results so that your business can generate more revenue.

Luckily, skillfully crafted individual service pages are some of the most powerful digital tools any service-based business can use. That's because they attract the right leads and gently help those leads realize that they're in desperate need of your offering(s).

Not only that, but service pages also make sure that unqualified leads leave you alone before you're asked to deal with all of their unwanted fact-finding questions.

The best part? Service pages are relatively easy to create if you have a solid template. Here's your playbook for crafting high-converting and SEO-friendly service pages that will get you more of the right leads and help you bolster your bottom line.

First, though…

What is an Individual Service Page?

It's a page dedicated to an individual service you offer. This isn't to be confused with your “services page,” which is an overview of the collective services you offer.

What You Need to Define Before You Create a Service Page

Without taking the time to gather this basic information, creating a great service page might be a struggle. Collect or define the following information before you start drafting anything:

  • A clear understanding of who your target audience is.
  • An idea of the problems or struggles your audience is looking to overcome.
  • A grasp of how your service helps them solve their problems and achieve their desired outcomes.
  • A focus keyword and two or three secondary keywords to target. If you aren't familiar with what keywords are and how to use them, you can learn the basics of keyword research here.
  • A singular call to action (CTA) that encourages people to take you up on your offer. You'll want to use this singular CTA, e.g. “Book a Free Consultation,” multiple times throughout your page. Don't forget to include verbs like “book,” “click,” or “learn.”

Once you have the above details gathered, you're ready to create your individual service page.

The Basic Structure of a Great Individual Service Page

The structure of your service page should accomplish the following goals (in order, from top to bottom):

  • Capture your customer's attention
  • Relate to your customer's pain/problems
  • Solve their pain/problems for them
  • Prove that your offering works
  • Explain how your offering works and how much it costs
  • Alleviate lingering concerns and inspire action

The service page for a $10/month lawn mowing service won't need to work nearly as hard as a service page for a $5,000/month graphic design service. As a result, your page length, and information depth can be adjusted accordingly. However, it's still worth making sure your service page achieves all the goals above.

While this may seem like a lot of content to pack into a single page, the amount of content can be expanded or collapsed, like an accordion.

An individual service page that achieves the goals above might be formatted something like this:

PLACEHOLDER FOR TEMPLATE IMAGE

Homepage Content Template

Keep reading to learn how to properly structure your individual service page based on this template.

Get 12 Free Webpage Content Templates

If you find this template useful, download it and 11 others that will help you skillfully craft the most important pages on your site.

Service Page Template Explained

1. Capture Your Customer's Attention 

  • Capture attention.
  • Use a page's focus keyword to communicate the service being offered. 

If you only capture attention, that's great; one out of two isn't bad. However, if you omit your focus keyword from your page title/H1, you aren't meeting SEO best practices. Why not go for two out of two by adding your focus keyword in your page title/H1? 

The top of your page is also a great place to include a call to action (CTA) button. 

You're probably thinking, “Nobody is going to click a call to action, having read nothing more than my page title.” And, you're mostly right. However, by having a CTA at the top of your page, you make it easy for returning visitors to take you up on your offer during a second, third, or fourth visit to your page. It's not a bad idea to add the button, just in case. 

Consider including these useful elements in your page title/H1:

  • Focus and secondary keywords 
  • Non-stock images that pique curiosity and make your page relatable
  • Non-stock images that visually depict your target audience
  • Mentions of prestigious awards or honors, e.g. “Voted Best _____ 2021”

Now that you've captured your audience's attention, it's time to relate to their struggles. 

2. Relate to Your Customer's Pain 

The best way to immediately gain a bit of your customers' trust is to let them know that you feel their pain. Use subheadings and/or intro text at the top of your page to call attention to your customer's most frustrating struggles

From a psychological standpoint, one of the most basic human needs is to be seen and understood. When you relate to your customer's pain, you automatically make them feel seen and understood. You begin to build rapport, and your visitors become far more likely to take you up on your offer.  

Consider Including These Useful Elements: 

  • Focus and secondary keywords 
  • Bulleted list of issues you can address and solve 
  • Non-stock imagery of people experiencing the same pain as your customers 

Now that your customer is starting to trust you, you'll tell them how you are going to help solve their problems. 

3. Solve Their Problems for Them 

After you empathize with your customer's struggles, it's time to introduce an alternate, better-than-ever reality. To do this, it's best to focus on the benefits or outcomes that your audience desires and your service provides. 

Paint a picture of a world in which your audience's problems have dissolved and an ideal situation has emerged, all thanks to your offering. 

The most surefire way to do this is to explain the benefits or outcomes people will experience when working with you

Consider Including These Useful Elements: 

  • Focus and secondary keywords 
  • Icons to illustrate each benefit 
  • Lists of specific benefits or outcomes 

Now that your audience sees an oasis in their desert of despair, it's time to prove that it's not just a mirage. 

4. Prove That Your Solution Works 

If you've properly painted a picture of your customer's ideal new reality, they're likely asking themselves, “Wait, really?”

You can prove that your service does what you say it does using social proof. Here are some of the best types of social proof to incorporate at this point:

  • Testimonials / Reviews 
  • Business performance stats
  • Media mentions 
  • Case studies 
  • Client logos 

Feel free to use a combination of the above elements. The bottom line is that you want to paint a compelling picture for people which proves you not only talk the talk, but you are walking the walk.

Add a CTA. If you've done your job right thus far, some customers will be ready for what you are offering, so this section is a great place for a CTA button or link. In a perfect world, this call to action will be identical to the first CTA on your page, e.g. they both say “Book Your Free Consultation” or something like that. Avoid mixing and matching CTA wording on your page; stick with one clear directive.  

Consider Including These Other Useful Elements: 

  • Focus and secondary keywords 
  • Video 
  • Customer/client photos 
  • Business credentials 
  • Awards and honors 

Now that you've proven your trustworthiness, provide your customer with a roadmap that will show them how to get from struggling to successful, and what it's going to require from them.

5. Explain (In Detail) How it Works & How Much it Costs 

Now that you've overcome almost all skepticism about whether or not your service can generate real-world benefits, it's time to answer the question of how it works and how much it costs.  

This is a great opportunity to eliminate any lingering doubts about your service. Provide a detailed explanation of how your service works, from start to finish

One of the best ways to do this is by diagramming your process. If you can't diagram it, try using a list to explain it using a sequence of steps. Don't forget to ditch the industry jargon, unless you are 110% sure your audience already speaks the same jargon as you. 

You'll also want to explain the pricing for your service. If you're worrying about scaring away potential customers, stop. A good service page should weed out unqualified customers; clear pricing information is one great way to do that. (On that note, don't be afraid to use this section to explain who this service is not for.)

Consider Including These Useful Elements: 

  • Keywords like “name of service cost” or “name of service pricing”
  • Flow charts 
  • Pricing tables 

At this point, what more could your customer want? 

6. Alleviate Lingering Concerns & Inspire Action 

Now, your prospect should have everything required to make an educated decision about whether or not they should work with you, it's time to bring it all home by alleviating any remaining concerns or objections they might have

You might want to consider adding a frequently asked question (FAQ) section to answer all the most common questions people ask about your service. 

You can also clearly define any guarantees or warranties that you offer.

Don't be afraid to show people that you are human by including a little “about us” section (with actual photos) explaining who you (or your team) are and what kind of experience and expertise you bring to the table. 

Add another CTA. Now that we're near the bottom of the page, give your audience one last opportunity to take the next step via another CTA button. Remember, the wording of this CTA should be the same as the two that came above. 

Consider Including These Useful Elements: 

  • Certifications 
  • Awards and honors 
  • Additional social proof 

Additional Individual Service Page Guidance

  • Make sure your page is scannable and well-structured.
  • Your copy shouldn't be about you and your service, it should be about your client, their problems, and how they can benefit from the solution you provide.
  • Your page must look good and load fast.

The Icing on the Cake 

If you've followed our advice so far, your page should be ready to convert visitors into customers; however, you can't convert visitors into customers without first having visitors. 

You'll need to follow on-site SEO best practices and make sure that your page is fully optimized for the search engines. This article about using keywords in SEO will walk you through the places you'll need to add keywords to your service page content.

Now What? 

You can use this template to determine whether your current service pages are meeting the needs of visitors, giving them everything they need to convert

If your service pages aren't following this (or a similar) structure, then it might be time to redesign them. 

When adding new services in the future, you can use this framework to guide the content plan and format for those pages

If you do, the outcome will be more traffic and conversions. And while we can't say that won't generate new issues, we can be certain that those issues will be positive ones.

Get 12 Free Webpage Content Templates

If you find this template useful, download it and 11 others that will help you skillfully craft the most important pages on your site.

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page template

Homepage Content Template

September 8, 2021

An amazing homepage is the foundation of your website. It introduces people to your website, your brand, what you offer, and is often one of the most frequently visited pages. If not, the most visited page on your site.

That's why it's important to make sure your homepage has all the right content in all the right places.

In this homepage content best practices primer, you'll:

  • Learn what a homepage is and why it's so important,
  • Get access to a free homepage content template,
  • Learn the best practices that lead to a high-quality homepage,
  • Discover how to take action and improve your homepage.

Let's jump in.

What is a Homepage?

Your homepage is the introductory page of your website. It serves three key purposes:

  1. Grabs people's attention and introduces them to your brand or business,
  2. Tells your audience who you are and how you help people solve their problems,
  3. Guides people to the products, services, and solutions they are looking for.

It's also can be an encapsulation of your website into a single page. While every other page on your site is likely to be specialized in one way or another, your homepage speaks to what your site is as a whole.

Template for a Great Homepage

While you have a ton of flexibility in what content you include on your homepage and how it's designed, a great homepage accomplishes these goals:

  1. Captures attention and conveys benefits with a compelling headline,
  2. Identifies with your audience and their pain or problems,
  3. Establishes who you are and how you can solve problems,
  4. Shows what you have to offer,
  5. Proves your offering or solutions work,
  6. Tells people how to get started.

Using homepage content best practices that help you achieve these goals, can result in a homepage that is structured something like this:

Homepage-Template

Keep reading to learn what goes into properly structuring each element to meet, or exceed, homepage content best practices.

Get 12 Free Webpage Content Templates

If you find this template useful, download it and 11 others that will help you skillfully craft the most important pages on your site.

How to Structure a Homepage

1. Capture Attention & Convey Benefits With a Compelling Headline (H1)

The internet is a noisy place full of shiny objects. If your homepage doesn't capture your audience's attention, someone else's will. Your first opportunity to capture attention is at the top of your homepage, with a compelling headline that tells people the key benefit your website provides.

A good headline should include:

  • Attention-grabbing copy your audience can relate to in heading 1 (h1) format
  • An allusion to the benefits your company creates for people
  • Your homepage's focus keyword

Optionally, you can follow your headline with a subheading and a call to action for returning visitors

2. Identify With Your Audience & Their Pain/Problems

Once you have people's attention, you need to show them you understand who they are and the reason they are on your site. You can build this rapport by acknowledging the pain or problems they are experiencing that drove them to your site. Do this by using the same words in your copy that they would use to express their pain or problems to you in a conversation.

This section of content should include:

  • Copy that clearly communicates the pain points/problems your audience is experiencing
  • A mention of who your audience is and is not in their own words
  • Your homepage's focus and/or secondary keywords

The goal of this section of content is to foster trust in your audience by showing them that you understand who they are and the needs they have. You can also use this content to filter out unqualified visitors who aren't a good fit for your offering.

3. Establish Who You Are & How You Help

Now that your audience sees that you understand them, tell them who you are, how you can help them, and what kind of benefits your solution(s) will provide.

This content section may include:

  • An introduction to you and/or your business
  • Your unique value proposition
  • An explanation of the benefits and outcomes people experience when working with you
  • A call to action telling people how to connect with you or take you up on what you offer

This is your opportunity to put your best foot forward with your audience. Show them what differentiates you from the competition in a way that doesn't feel pushy or salesy. Most importantly, don't forget to communicate the value people will get from taking you up on your offer.

4. Show What You Have to Offer

Get more specific about how your solutions work. Typically, this means detailing the products or services that you offer. And, mentioning the real-world outcomes each can create for your audience. Use this content to guide people to where they can learn more about each offering.

This section may include:

  • An overview of top products, services, or solutions
  • Graphics or images that represent each individual offering
  • A brief description of the kind of benefits each product or service generates
  • Links to learn more about each product or service

This is a navigational element of your homepage that helps people understand the different offerings you provide and gently nudges them toward a place where they can learn more about the offerings that are going to create the most value for them. If this is a navigational element on your homepage, make sure it's serving that purpose.

5. Prove That Your Solution Works

After people know who you are and what you offer, show them that your business is trustworthy and that you can actually generate the kind of outcomes you claim to. Social proof and examples of your previously completed work are great tools for the job.

Examples of social proof include:

  • Recognizable client logos
  • Testimonials from real customers with headshots and bio information
  • Impressive business statistics
  • Case studies
  • Portfolio examples

When it comes to selecting a type of social proof to put in this section of your homepage, think about what is going to be the most beneficial to your audience and help instill the most trust in your business. Product reviews may be great for e-commerce websites, while case studies may be more appropriate for service-based businesses.

6. Tell People How to Take Advantage of Your Offer

Finally, give folks a final chance to take advantage of your offer, or contact you with a specific call to action. Your call to action should match a key goal you have for your business. Whether it's more demos, subscriptions, product sales, social follows, etc., your final CTA should help people take a critical next step toward becoming a customer, client, subscriber, or supporter.

Your call to action may include:

  • A button to a contact page, online store, etc.
  • A form to get started
  • Other contact info like your email and phone number

One great rule of thumb for this CTA, and all the others on your homepage, is that they need to be distinctive and stand out from the rest of the content on the page. Notice how the CTAs in the homepage content template above are bright orange, that's because orange makes them jump off the page. Stay consistent with your CTA color throughout the page and make sure it stands out.

Other Homepage Content Best Practices to Consider

These homepage content best practices are just the beginning. Depending on your business, your homepage may include other elements such as:

  • Videos, diagrams, or images of how your products or services work
  • Information about your business and the people behind it
  • Featured blog posts or news
  • A pricing table
  • Additional trust symbols and social proof

Additional Tips for a Great Homepage Content

Now that you have a framework in mind for your homepage, here are a few final tips:

  • Make sure your page and website design is dialed in and not outdated.
  • Include cohesive branding throughout the page.
  • Set up a useful information flow so that people don't have to choose what to look at.
  • Make it easy to scan.
  • Ensure your content is readable and speaks to a single person in a conversational tone.

Next Step

You now understand why a homepage is so important and the key component to include.

It's time to take action. Evaluate your current homepage and see what elements of it are in agreement with these homepage content best practices. If you find that many of the recommended elements above are missing, make the necessary improvements to your site until your homepage is truly reflective of your business and the value it provides.

If you need help strategizing your homepage content, or content on any of your other pages, consider using Pathfinder SEO's guided approach to SEO. As part of guided SEO, you get access to coaches who can help you identify the best types of content to put on your pages. Schedule a demo to learn more.

Get 12 Free Webpage Content Templates

If you find this template useful, download it and 11 others that will help you skillfully craft the most important pages on your site.

Read More
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How to Create a Yoast Sitemap

June 14, 2021

One of the many great things about the Yoast SEO plugin is that it automatically generates an XML sitemap for your website. This file acts as a resume for your website. It tells the search engines how to crawl and index the pages of your website.

Yoast's automatically-generated sitemap needs customization. In this video and post, learn how to customize your WordPress XML sitemap using Yoast.

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a list of pages on your website you want search engines to crawl and index. Sitemaps provide valuable information such as how many images are included on each page, when each page was last updated, and each page's relative importance. In short, the XML sitemap says, “Search engine crawlers, please follow this path.”

An XML sitemap generated by Yoast SEO looks like this:

As you can tell by the look and feel, an XML sitemap isn't user-oriented; it's meant to communicate with the search engines.

When you look closely at a Yoast-generated sitemap, you'll see that it's actually an index of additional sitemaps based on content type. Each content type sitemap organizes all URLs associated with that particular type of content. Starting at the top of the sitemap index above, you'll see it includes a sitemap each for posts, pages, categories, post_tags, and authors.

You can click on any one of the individual sitemaps to see all the pages/URLs on the site associated with that particular type of content.

What to Include/Exclude in Your Sitemap

Yoast SEO automatically creates a sitemap for your website. It's your job to customize it so that it includes a URL for each page you want to have a chance of appearing in the search results.

You'll want to exclude any URLs that point to pages with:

  • Thin content – Content with little to no added value for users.
  • Duplicate content – Content that appears at more than one URL.

What is your Yoast Sitemap URL?

Let's locate your XML sitemap. Yoast plugin users will find it at www.mydomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.

How to Create a Yoast Sitemap

The steps outlined below will show you how to customize it for your unique website. We'll start by deciding which sitemaps you want your XML sitemap index to include. Then, we'll look at individual content within each sitemap.

2. Customize the Yoast settings relating to content types. In the left-hand menu of your WordPress website, hover over the Yoast SEO plugin, then click on Search Appearance. Click through the tabs at the top to get an idea of how Yoast organizes the controls for your various kinds of content.

Notice the dropdowns on the content type, taxonomies, and archives tabs. Each dropdown opens a control panel to help you optimize the way a particular kind of content will appear in the search results.

Each dropdown also includes a toggle that allows us to add or remove a particular kind of content from the XML sitemap. Yoast asks a simple question: “Show (individual sitemap) in search results?”

The default setting is usually Yes – for good reason. You generally want search engines to see all of your content unless you have a good reason for them not to.

Go through each content type listed and ask yourself if you want that type of content to appear in the search results. For most content types (like pages and posts), your answer should be Yes, unless those pages contain thin or duplicate content.

By leaving a particular content type set to Yes, Yoast will make sure to include that individual sitemap in your XML sitemap index.

If you set a content type sitemap to No, Yoast will remove that entire sitemap – along with all associated URLs – from your sitemap index. Yoast will also apply noindex robots meta directives to each piece of content in that sitemap, further ensuring robots won't find and index them. Make sure you're positive you don't want search engines seeing any of that content before setting it to No.

It's likely that you do want the search engines to show your Categories and Tags. We will optimize these taxonomies so they're even more valuable to the search engines in an upcoming monthly task.

4. Customize individual sitemaps. Open your XML sitemap index. Click on the individual sitemaps so that each opens in a new tab.

Our goal is to evaluate the pages included in each individual sitemap. Go through each sitemap, URL by URL, asking yourself if each piece of content will benefit users.

If you find pages such as /hello-world or /testing-123 that signal they may be of low value to the search engines, open each in a new tab for evaluation at the page level. If they don't contain content that could be valuable to users, you want to exclude those pages from your sitemap.

To exclude individual URLs from your XML sitemap, click on “Edit Page” at the top of each page or post you want to exclude.

In the page editor, scroll down to the Yoast SEO metabox. Click on the “Advanced Settings” gear icon and set “Allow search engines to show this Page in search results?” to “No.”

You can still allow search engines to follow the links on that page – even if it's hidden – by leaving “Should search engines follow links on this Page?” set to “Yes.”

Leave this set to Yes unless there's a reason you don't want crawlers following the links that live on that page.

Finally, click “Update” in the top right corner of the page to save these settings. Repeat this process for each page you wish to exclude from each individual sitemap.

What's Next?

Nice work! You've customized your XML sitemap! Your final step is to submit this customized sitemap to Google via the Google Search Console.

STILL HAVE A QUESTION?

If you have more questions about this, feel free to reach out.

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super helpful sign

3 Keys to Creating Quality Content for a WordPress Site

May 28, 2021
,

If you own or manage a WordPress site, you have the privilege of competing for the top spot in Google with dozens – if not hundreds or even thousands – of sites similar to yours. Lucky you!

With more product, service, and content saturation than ever before, getting your web pages to the top of the search results is nothing short of an uphill battle. It's a battle which is only getting tougher to fight and win. Which begs the question:

Q: “What is the most direct, least painful, surefire way to get to the top of search results?”

A: Your path to search results success isn't the latest SEO plugin, an SEO-friendly theme, a new keyword research tool, or a better CDN. It's high-quality content that's unique, user-friendly, and useful.

Don't believe me? Here's what Google has to say about creating Google-friendly sites:

Google on what makes a friendly site.

We're going to break down Google's advice into the three Us of creating quality content: Unique, Useful, and User-Friendly, which will help you reframe your approach to WordPress content creation on each page of your website.

But before we do that, let's officially define content.

Content is the combination of text, images, sounds, videos, and animations that make up the pages and posts of your WordPress site.

So, how can you apply each of the three Us to your content?

1. Unique Content

First and foremost, your content needs to be unique. It should be original and provide a different perspective, take, or offering than any other page on your site – or, ideally, on the internet. For example, a WordPress web design service page should not look or sound like any of your competitors' pages. If it does, rethink it. People love contrast, so give them some. Put your own unique spin on it.

It is critical for your content to provide unique value or insights that only you can deliver. Your content needs to be reflective of your expertise and original thinking; it can't just imitate what others have already done. So forget about spinning your competitor's existing content and instead, create something completely new.

Your content should be compelling. It should tell a story, use images and video, use language your audience can relate to, and make your readers want to take action in the real world.

2. User-Friendly Content

Content must be user-friendly and that means enjoyable. You can provide users with plenty of solutions in a 3,000-word snoozer of a whitepaper or a hard-to-read how-to post, but if your content isn't enjoyable to interact with, it's going to have a hard time ranking well. Not only that, but people will be far less likely to share it, bookmark it, or return to it in the future.

First and foremost, your content needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability. That means each image or graphic needs to include alt text that actually describes it. Video and audio files need to have captions and/or transcripts. Your copy needs to be structured using heading tags to provide clear meaning and hierarchy. And, your paragraph copy needs to be clear and concise, i.e. readable.

It also needs to be properly optimized for keywords your audience is typing into search engines. Your content is surely not user-friendly if its intended audience can't find it in the first place.

Lastly, you need to ensure that your content doesn't look like it was thrown together; random content isn't user-friendly. Your content must also avoid factual inaccuracies as well as spelling, formatting, or grammar errors. Make sure your content is both professionally composed and well-edited to guarantee users the best experience possible.

3. Useful Content

While I love the other two Us of creating quality content – Unique & User-Friendly – neither is quite as important as Useful.

That's because no one jumps on the internet without a reason. Users – i.e. people – visit websites because they want their needs fulfilled. Whether they need to eliminate boredom, purchase a new pair of tube socks, or find a chihuahua groomer, people are actively seeking websites like yours for a specific reason.

Your content can become highly useful when you base it on your audience's interests and needs. It is typically not useful when you create it based on what you think their interests and needs are.

But how do you find out what your visitors actually want so that you can create truly useful content? By listening to them. Make your content undeniably helpful. Craft pages into relevant, comprehensive, and actionable resources. Then, you won't have to convince people to share them, link to them, or bookmark them – they just will (but you should still promote it).

Useful content is:

  • Relevant – It speaks to the precise issues your audience is experiencing and solves those issues for them.
  • Comprehensive – It covers, in complete detail, the ins and outs of a particular topic and proactively answers a user's potential questions. If it doesn't answer these questions on its own, it should link to resources that do.
  • Actionable – It doesn't just address a topic, problem, or issue; it also provides clear direction, enabling users to take practical action in the real world.

Measuring the Quality of Your Content

In the words of famed American computer scientist Grace Hopper, “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.” Take Grace's advice and measure the performance of your individual pages and posts in Google Analytics.

Go into Google Analytics, and set your date range to cover the previous three months. Then navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. From there, you can enter the path portion of a page or post's URL to see its performance based on that filter.

Measure content Performance in Googl Analytics

Pay attention to these metrics:

Pageviews – How many times a page has been viewed by users. If this number is low, you may need to improve its overall quality or hone in on your keyword optimization, because Google probably isn't presenting it in search results the way you'd like.

Unique Page Views – How many times a page has been viewed by an individual user. If your pageviews number is greater than your unique pageviews number, it's a good sign that you have quality content, because people are returning more than once.

Avg. Time on Page – How long (on average) users stay on a page or post. If the time listed is far less than it takes to read that entire page or post, it's a good indicator that your content isn't resonating with your audience. Think about how you can incorporate more of the three Us to improve it.

Bounce Rate – How often users leave your site after visiting only that page or post. If users value the insights and offerings your content provides, they'll typically visit additional pages on your site, either in search of more goodies or to learn more about your business or website. A high bounce rate indicates your content might not be compelling enough, or it's doing a poor job driving users deeper into your site.

Once you gather your insights, come up with an actionable plan to address any underperforming content.

The Takeaway

Creating great WordPress content isn't just a matter of slapping together some ideas just to get something out there. It's the result of your ability to intentionally craft high-quality solutions to real-world problems your audience is experiencing. 

Use the three Us of creating quality content as a litmus test to determine if your content is worthy of appearing in the search results. If you do, you'll never again waste your time creating content that doesn't get the job done. 

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How to Use Header Tags for SEO

April 15, 2021

Have you ever tried to quickly skim a web page that is nothing but text-heavy paragraphs devoid of header tags? Well, next time you do, you'll likely ended up clicking the back button in search of a resource that is easier to interact with.

Let's look at how header tags benefit both your users and search engines, and how you can properly optimize them.

What Are Header Tags?

Header tags add structure to your web pages and create valuable hierarchy within your content. The rank in order of importance from H1 to H6.

When you properly order header tags on a page, the content on that page becomes much easier to understand and interact with for both search engines and users.

Here is the preferred hierarchy for header tags on a page:

header structure

H1 is typically the title of a page or post.

H2 is a sub-header and is used to signify the main ideas or sections of a page or post.

H3-H6 further tag content and create an organizational hierarchy. Often, these are used in bullet-pointed lists.

Why are Header Tags Important?

Readability and usability are two key measures that search engines pay attention to when deciding how well to rank a page.

Headers play a major roll in not only adding context to your content, but also making a page more engaging and enjoyable to interact with.

Header Tag SEO Best Practices

  • Sequence tags in a logical order from H1-H6.
  • Ensure the H1 includes the page's focus keyword and comes first in the sequence.
  • Only use one H1 tag per page. For blog posts, the H1 should be the title of the post. For product/service pages, the H1 should be the name of the product/service.
  • Integrate the focus and secondary keywords in lower-order tags where possible.
  • Use header tags to pose common questions about a topic. Then, immediately answers those questions with paragraph copy.

What to Avoid

  • Placing lower-order headers before higher-order headers, i.e. H3 before H1.
  • Using non-sequential headers i.e. H5, H2, H4.
  • Using headers to visually style (versus organize) text.

Take Action

Add structure to your pages and posts by properly formatting header tags. You can apply this on-site SEO tactic to your existing pages and posts. Start with your most important content and ensure those pages meet the best practices described above. Then, continue to use keyword-optimized headers in your blog posts and any new pages you create.

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How to Create SEO Friendly URLs

April 15, 2021

Properly formatted URLs are useful for both your website visitors and search engines. Well-formatted URLs give your pages a better chance of ranking in search results and also encourage users to click on them across the web.

Learn how to create SEO-friendly URLs in this quick guide.

What is URL SEO?

When we talk about formatting URLs properly for SEO, we are more specifically talking about formatting the “path” or “slug” portion of a URL.

For example, in pathfinderseo.com/guided-seo, the term guided-seo occupies the slug or path portion of our URL. Optimizing this element of a page's URL with relevant keywords is URL SEO.

Why is URL SEO Important?

Search engines look at this text in a URL to figure out what that page is about. More importantly, users look to it when deciding whether or not to click a particular URL when they discover it in search results or on other web pages.

If a URL is too long, poorly structured, or contains a jumble of letters and numbers, search engines will have a hard time deriving context from it. Not only that, but users are less likely to click on it when they come across it across the web.

How to Optimize URLs for SEO

  • Make your URLs concise and human-friendly.
  • Communicate the core topic of a page in the “slug” or “path” portion of your URL.
  • Include your focus keyword, if possible.

What to Avoid

  • Long URLs.
  • Strings of ambiguous numbers and letters.
  • Text that doesn't provide useful context.
  • Unnecessary words like in, and, the.

Should I Update an Existing URL?

As your build awareness around what makes a URL good for users and the search engines, you'll likely discover existing URLs that are in need of a refresh.

The concern with changing an existing URL is that the search engines are already familiar with the current URL. The current URL is in the search engine's index and likely there are links from other websites pointing to that page.

Changing an existing URL risks rocking the boat, so to speak. To minimize the impact, utilize a 301 redirect. The 301 redirect sends the search engines crawlers and users from the old URL to the new URL. 301 redirects pass 95-99% of the original value of the page to the new page so they are an effective SEO tactic.

That being said, tread lightly when it comes to changing existing URLs. If the change is subtle, then it's best to leave the URL as is. If the change, however, takes a URL from bad to great, then it is likely worth it.

URLs for a New Website

If you are designing and developing a new website, it is the perfect time to perfect your URLs. There is a lot of change that comes naturally with a new website. Ensuring that the URLs on your new website meet SEO best practices is recommended. Just be sure to redirect the old URLs to the applicable new URL so that the search engines and users don't get lost in the shuffle when the new website launches.

SEO is Incremental

Start applying these URL SEO best practices to all new pages and posts on your website. Review your current URLs to see if any pages warrant an update.

SEO is a series of small, step-by-step changes that lead to big results. URL SEO is just one piece of the process.

TAKE A GUIDED APPROACH

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Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Title Tags & Meta Descriptions — A Beginners Guide

April 15, 2021

Knowing title tag and meta description best practices is essential knowledge for those wanting to optimize pages to rank better.

Let's get into how to make the most out of these two key on-site SEO elements.

What are Title Tags & Meta Descriptions?

Title tags (also known as page titles or SEO titles) and meta descriptions are two HTML tags that live in a page's header. They tell search engines what a page is about and are one of the first things crawlers look at on a page.

title tag and meta description code

As a result, title tags and meta descriptions need to clearly explain what a page is about and use the focus keyword that page is targeting, if possible.

Why are Title Tags and Meta Descriptions Useful?

Well-crafted title tags and meta descriptions send signals to search engines that clearly tell them what keywords you want a page to rank for.

title tag and meta description example

Not only that, title tags and meta descriptions are what show up in front of users in search results as search snippets. Great search snippets attract clicks. Clicks that can end up turning searchers into customers or clients.

Title Tag Best Practices

Search engines use the content of title tags as a ranking factor. That means how well, or how poorly, we craft a page's title tag will impact that page's ability to rank.

A quality title tag is well-written and engaging. It should always include a page's focus keyword and compel people to click.

An example of a good title tag for our “fly fishing in Aspen” page might be something like:

How to Optimize Title Tags

  • Draft title tag copy that is unique, descriptive, and compelling.
  • Write for humans, not search engines.
  • Include the page's focus keyword at the front of the copy and your brand at the end.
  • Keep title tags under 60 characters if possible.
  • Use separators like the pipe, hyphen, or colon to separate different elements.
  • Place your brand name after the title separator, except for on the homepage, where it typically goes first.
  • Capitalize like a blog title.

What to Avoid

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Not including a focus keyword
  • Sloppy formatting

Meta Description Best Practices

Unlike the title tag, a page's meta description is not a ranking factor. However, we still want to craft it in a way that encourages people to click on that page's snippet in search results. You can think of a meta description as an abbreviated sales pitch for a page.

A quality meta description for the fly fishing in Aspen page could read:

How to Optimize Meta Descriptions

  • Draft in sentence format so they can be easily read.
  • Tell users how a page will help solve their problems or provide a solution they are in search of.
  • Write meta descriptions in an active voice.
  • Include your focus keyword if possible.
  • Have a clear call to action like “learn more” or “buy now”.
  • Make sure the meta description is less than 160 characters long.

What to Avoid

  • Boring meta descriptions.
  • Using passive voice.
  • Including a phone number instead of a call to action.

Take Action

Crafting great title tags and meta descriptions is part art and part science. Start with a spreadsheet. List your top 10-20 pages along with the focus keyword for each page. Then, follow the best practices above to write the first draft.

Title tags and meta descriptions in hand, it's time to get feedback. This is where SEO coaching comes into play. Pathfinder subscribers schedule a one-on-one call to review their title tags and meta descriptions before implementing them on their website.

Take a Step-by-Step Approach to SEO

The key to growing your organic search traffic is taking a steady, step-by-step approach. SEO is a series of small actions that accumulate and lead to great results.

Customizing title tags and meta descriptions is one of those steps. Rely on our process and work with an SEO coach to take your website further, faster. Schedule a demo to learn how guided SEO works.

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Follow our step-by-step process and grow your business.

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Scrabble Keywords

Where to Use Keywords for SEO

April 15, 2021

One of the strongest on-page (also referred to as on-site) signals we can provide search engines and users is the proper use of keywords that are highly relevant to the content on a particular page. 

As a reminder, there are two categories of keywords you want to use in your on-page optimization:

This is the keyword you want a page to target and rank well for, above all others.

Since search engines rank individual pages instead of websites as a whole, it's important to pair each page on your site with its own unique focus keyword. In other words, no two pages should have the same focus keyword.

A page's focus keyword should first and foremost be highly relevant to the content on that page. People searching that focus keyword should also have their search intent satisfied by the content on that page.

For example, if we pick the focus keyword “fly fishing in Aspen,” the content on our page better be all about fly fishing in Aspen (relevant) and tell visitors everything they might want to know about it (fulfills search intent).

Other, slightly less important, relevant keywords that you want a page to rank for.

While pairing a page with just one focus keyword was a useful approach back in the day, it no longer works terribly well. Instead, we want to compliment our focus keyword with two or three secondary keywords on the same page. These are keywords that are highly relevant to that page and similar to the focus keyword.

To complement our focus keyword above “fly fishing in Aspen,” we might use secondary keywords like “Aspen Colorado fly fishing,” “Colorado's best fly fishing,” and “fly fishing around Aspen.”

We call the process of selecting one focus keyword and a few secondary keywords to be paired with a page “keyword mapping.” Once you've mapped keywords to a particular page, it's time to integrate them into the content on that page.

Where to Use Keywords for SEO

Now that you have a fresh understanding of the two main types of keywords (focus and secondary) we need to integrate into our on-page SEO, let's talk about where to integrate keywords on a page.

Your focus keyword should appear at least once on a page's:

  • Title tag and meta description
  • URL (optional)
  • H1 and H2 headers
  • Paragraph copy
  • Image alt text and file names

Secondary keywords can supplement your focus keyword in all those places where it makes sense. However, we recommend making sure you sprinkle them throughout your:

  • Subheaders
  • Paragraph copy
  • Image alt text and file names

One thing you want to avoid is using the exact same, or very similar, keywords on multiple pages. When you do, your pages might end up competing against each other. This is sometimes referred to as “keyword cannibalization.”

If you find that you have pages competing for the same keywords, it might be worth combining the content on those pages into one. If that's not an option, you may want to find distinct keywords to pair with each of the pages.

Learn more about how to use keywords for SEO in our comprehensive guide.

Step-by-Step Approach

SEO is a series of small actions that when combined lead to growth. Like all things, it's a process.

At Pathfinder SEO, we share the process we developed over the past 10-years and break SEO into a series of easy-to-follow lessons. You don't have to be an SEO expert to get found on Google. Instead, take a guided approach with Pathfinder SEO. Schedule a demo to learn more.

TAKE A GUIDED APPROACH

Follow our step-by-step process and grow your business.

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wordpress

The Best SEO Plugin for WordPress — Yoast vs. Rank Math vs. AIl in One SEO

January 11, 2021

There are hundreds of plugins available to WordPress users looking to grow their website traffic via SEO. This makes the process of picking one overwhelming. Which WordPress SEO plugin is the best? How do you choose?

In this post, we'll compare three of the best multifunction SEO plugins available: Yoast SEO, RankMath, and All in One SEO.

Yoast SEO is the largest player in the space with 5+ million active installs. All in One SEO has been around the longest and has 2+ million active installs. Rank Math is relatively new to the space but it offers some amazing features and is rapidly eating up market share.

Over the past few years, the feature set of each of these plugins has multiplied, as each plugin competes for dominance. This comparison will help you find the SEO plugin that will drive the greatest growth for your website.

Who is This Comparison For?

This comparison of Yoast, Rank Math, and All in One is for power users – freelancers and agencies who offer SEO services and site owners serious about their SEO.

You may still find value in this comparison if you manage a small brochure site, occasionally blog, or are looking for a “set it and forget it” SEO solution (note: we don't really think that's an effective solution when it comes to SEO).

WordPress SEO Plugin Comparison Criteria

These plugins have enormous numbers of features. Instead of focusing on comparing each and every feature, we'll look at the features we consider most essential to a holistic SEO strategy. These are the comparison criteria we'll use for our feature analysis:

Technical SEO – Which plugins help search engines find, index, and properly display your site's content in the search results?

Content & UX – Which plugins help you optimize the text, images, videos, and other media on your website? And, will they help make your site easily accessible and highly useful to your audience?

On-Site SEO – Will these plugins ensure all the elements of your website are properly optimized so that they send the right signals to search engines and users?

Off-Site SEO – Do these plugins improve your site's authority and increase trust in the eyes of the search engines and your audience?

Plugin User Experience – How easy is it to use these plugins and what kinds of resources are required to get the most out of them? (While this has little to do with your site's ability to rank in the search results, it's still important, because you'll need to dedicate time and resources to configure and maintain these plugins.)

Now that you know our comparison criteria, let's start our actual comparison by tackling Technical SEO, the foundation of any comprehensive SEO strategy.

Technical SEO

If search engines can't find and index your site, it can't show up in the search results the way you want it to. Dialing in your technical SEO is the first step to getting found by your audience via the search results. Here's how each plugin stacks up when it comes to technical SEO features, followed by descriptions of what each feature can do:

✓ – Included in Free Version 

X – Not in Free Version 

$ – Pro/Premium Subscription Required

XML Sitemap
Basic Structured Data
Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster Tools Verification
Robots.txt Editing
htaccess File Editing
Permalink / Slug Control X
Redirect Manager $ X $
Canonical URL Control
Advanced Link Options X X $
AMP-Friendly
Ping Google & Bing
Robots Meta Control
Fix Crawl Errors X X
Site Speed X X $

XML Sitemap Support – XML sitemaps are files that tell search engines which pages you want appearing in the search results. All three plugins allow you to generate high-quality XML sitemaps. 

Basic Structured Data – Structured data is code that gives search engines more context about the content you have on your site. Schema markup is the type of structured data all three plugins use. All three let you specify whether your site is for a person or an organization, and each provides basic markup for your website as a whole, as well as for the most common content types. The Rank Math plugin offers more advanced schema markup options in its paid versions. 

Search Engine Verification – Making sure that the various search engines know about your website is essential if you want to increase your organic traffic. All three plugins help you verify your site with Google, Bing, Baidu, and Yandex. All in One and Rank Math both allow you to verify with Pinterest, and Rank Math additionally provides Alexa and Norton Safe Web verifications.

Robots.txt – A Robots.txt file tells search engines which pages you want them to avoid crawling and indexing. All three plugins allow you to edit your robots.txt file, in the event you need to make changes. 

.Htaccess File Editing – An .htaccess file is a configuration file that modifies how a website works on a server. All three plugins allow you to edit this file as needed. 

Permalink/Slug Control – All in One is the only plugin that doesn't allow you to edit your permalinks. However, since these edits are already easy with WordPress, this feature is largely unnecessary. 

Redirect Manager – 301 redirects are incredibly useful if you don't want search engines getting lost when they crawl your site, or if pages occasionally get moved and/or deleted. If you want to manage your redirects using your SEO plugin, you will need either the premium version of Yoast or the free version of Rank Math. 

Canonicalization – If you have duplicate pages of content, you can tell search engines which is the master version of that content with rel=canonical tags. All three plugins allow you to easily add these tags at the individual page level. 

Link Control – Rank Math is the only plugin that has advanced link control settings, allowing you to add default actions for all of your links, such as the useful “open internal links in new tab” and the less useful “nofollow all external links.” 

AMP-friendly – Want your pages to load quickly on mobile? You might want to use the AMP for WordPress plugin. All three of these SEO plugins play nicely with the Amp for WordPress plugin. 

Ping Google and Bing – All three plugins let Google and Bing know every time your sitemap gets updated, so the search engines prioritize the latest version of your site. 

Robots Meta Controls – Want to control how each individual page gets crawled and Indexed? Then you need control over your robots meta tags. All three plugins give you advanced control over these tags. 

Crawl Errors – Rank Math is the only one of our three plugins that automatically flags crawl errors so that you can fix them right away.

Content and UX Considerations

Content is (still) king/queen in the world of SEO. You need to be providing highly useful content to your users, answering their questions and providing them with the solutions they seek. 

✓ – Included in Free Version 

X – Not in Free Version 

$ – Pro/Premium Subscription Required

SEO Content Analysis
Breadcrumb Control X
Readability Check
Cornerstone/Pillar Content ID X

SEO Content Analysis – While none of these tools will tell you how useful your content is, they will tell you if it's optimized around the right keyword(s), as well as if it's user-friendly.

Breadcrumbs – From a user standpoint, breadcrumbs can be an incredibly helpful tool for navigating a site. Rank Math & Yoast SEO allow for the most breadcrumb customization. At the time of this review, we couldn't find any breadcrumb controls in All in One.

Readability Check – Nine times out of ten, your audience isn't willing to suffer through content that isn't readable. All three plugins have readability checks to ensure you're providing users with a high-quality experience. 

Cornerstone/Pillar Content ID – Both Yoast and Rank Math allow you to identify your most important pieces of content, i.e. your “pillar” or “cornerstone” content, so that they can help you improve that content's visibility.

On-site Optimization Considerations

On-site optimization often makes the difference between getting found in the search results and wasting away on page two (or below). Fortunately, on-site optimization is the sweet spot for all three plugins.

✓ – Included in Free Version 

X – Not in Free Version 

$ – Pro/Premium Subscription Required

Individual Page SEO
SEO for Custom Post Types
Keyword Research $ X X
Focus Keyword ID
Secondary Keyword ID $ X $
Keyword Implementation Direction X
Keyword Counter $
Focus Keyword List X $
Automate Title Tags
Automate Meta Descriptions
Automation Variables
Title Tag Separator Select
SEO for Categories, Tags, Taxonomies
Internal Linking Guidance $ X
Snippet Preview
Image SEO X $ $
News SEO $ $
Advanced Local Business SEO $ $ $
Advanced WooCommerce SEO $ $ $
Search Analytics X X $
Bulk Editor X

Individual Page On-site SEO – One of the best things about all three of these plugins is that each gives you a heap of on-site optimization options at the page level, in addition to having robust on-site automation at the global level. 

SEO for Custom Post Types – If your site is using custom post types, fear not. All page-level optimization options apply to that content, as well.  

Keyword Research – Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. After all, how can you provide your audience with value if you don't know what they're looking for? Yoast is the only plugin that has a keyword research tool at this time and it requires a SEMRush account. Yoast users get up to ten free keywords per day without having to upgrade plans. 

Focus Keyword Identification – All three plugins allow you to identify a focus keyword. Yoast and Rank Math use that information to provide content and optimization recommendations. It is unclear what All in One currently does with that information. 

Secondary Keyword Identification – Want to optimize your content around secondary keywords? Yoast will help you do this in a clever way if you pay for the premium version of the plugin. Rank Math will provide secondary keyword optimization tips, but the way it does so is currently a bit clunky. 

Keyword Implementation Direction – After you've identified your keyword(s), you need feedback to make sure you're using them correctly. Yoast and Rank Math will provide many of the insights you need at the page level. All in One has nothing for you in terms of keyword advice at this time. 

Keyword Counter – The need to have specific keyword density on your pages is gone; once upon a time it made sense, but no longer. It's still useful to know how many times you've used your keywords in your content, though – be sure to shoot for that sweet spot between too many and too few. 

Focus Keyword List – The paid version of Rank Math will give you a tidy list of all the keywords you're targeting in one place. Not only that, but it will also tell you how well you're ranking for each. Yoast is the only plugin that will allow you to export a CSV of your keywords. 

Automate Title Tags & Meta Descriptions – All of these tools will allow you to automatically assign title tags and meta descriptions sitewide. They all also allow you to customize your title tags and meta descriptions

VariablesVariables allow you to automatically pull specific values into your title tags and meta descriptions. Say you have 100 products and don't want to write custom tags for all of them. You can use variables to create great title tags and meta descriptions for all those pages with little more than a few clicks. All three plugins allow this. 

Title Tag Separators – Title tag separators break up search snippet titles and make them more user friendly. For example, the “pipe” or “bar” in our homepage's title tag “Pathfinder SEO | Guided SEO” is the separator we prefer. Whether you prefer the pipe, a colon, arrows, dashes, bullets, etc., each of these plugins will allow you to select a default separator. All in One and Rank Math will even let you customize yours. 

SEO for Archive Pages – Archive pages can be some of your greatest assets if you have a ton of useful content. Fortunately, all three of these plugins allow you to optimize archive pages the same way you would a blog post or a page. 

Internal Linking Guidance – A solid internal link network is critical to spreading link equity throughout your site. Rank Math is the only plugin that provides this option for free, although Yoast includes it with their premium subscription. 

Snippet Preview – All three of these tools will show you what your meta tags will look like in the search results when Google and Bing display them. 

Image SEO – All in One SEO and Rank Math will automate image alternative text and title text for you. You have to pay extra for this feature in All in One, but it's free in Rank Math. All three plugins provide image information in their XML sitemaps as well as the ability to set a default image for each page. Unfortunately, though, none of these plugins will optimize your image file sizes. 

Advanced News, Local Business SEO – Both Yoast and Rank Math are going to be the best tools if you need advanced news or local business SEO support. 

WooCommerce SEO – All three plugins offer advanced WooCommerce features if you are willing to fork it over for the paid versions. If you are running WooCommerce site, it's definitely worth investing in the paid versions of these plugins. Afterall, you have to spend money to make money. 

Search Analytics – If you want your plugin to connect to Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC) data, expect to pay for that option in Rank Math. They're worth it, though: Rank Math's single post SEO reports are truly impressive.  Neither Yoast nor All in One have search analytics integrations. 

Bulk Editor – Yoast and Rank Math will allow you to bulk edit your title tags and meta descriptions. All in One currently lacks this capability.

Off-site Optimization Considerations

Off-site SEO means everything you do outside of your own website to gain the trust of search engines. This includes link building, Local SEO, citations, and more. It's safe to say that off-site SEO is not the focus of any of these plugins, but there are a few features that will assist your off-site SEO efforts here and there.

✓ – Included in Free Version 

X – Not in Free Version 

$ – Pro/Premium Subscription Required

Open Graph Optimization
Social Previews $
Link Building Tools X X X
Local SEO $ $ $

Open Graph Optimization & Social Preview – If you want your content to have maximum impact when it gets shared across social media, you need to optimize its open graph appearance. All three plugins allow you to do this – Rank Math will even automate it for you. If you're serious about your social presence, the free version of Rank Math will give you the most bang for your buck, while the paid versions have extra perks such as branded watermarks on your social images.

Link Building Tools – While Yoast Premium and Rank Math have internal linking suggestions, neither do much when it comes to helping you build external links.

Local SEO – If you want to hand search engines your basic local business information in a tidy little package, all of these plugins will help you do that with their structured data features. However, if you want advanced local SEO features, all three plugins will make up pay for upgrades.

WordPress SEO Plugin User Experience & Cost

The cost and usability of these plugins won't directly impact your ability to rank. However, you are doing to dedicate a bunch of time setting up, configuring, and learning how to use the plugin of your choice. As a result, you want to pick one that's going to be a fit for your business for the long-haul. These considerations might tips the scales one way or the other as a result.

✓ – Included in Free Version 

X – Not in Free Version 

$ – Pro/Premium Subscription Required

Cost per year Free / $89 Free / $99 / $199 / 299 Free / $59 / $199
Average Update Timing 2 Weeks 1 Month 2 Weeks
Setup Wizard
Basic Support
Premium Support $ $ $
Documentation ★★★★★ ★★ ★★★★★
Ease of Use ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
Free Educational Support Blog / Courses X Blog
Warnings & Notices
Multisite Compatible
Bloat Heavy Light Medium
Toggle Features On/Off
Keyword Ranking X X $
SEO Score/Analysis X
User Control

Cost – One of the most important factors when comparing plugins is obviously cost. If cost is a major factor, Rank Math's free version will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Rank Math also gives you more useful features with the Pro and Business plans when compared to the cost of Yoast Premium.

However, Yoast bundles its courses into premium subscriptions, which is a massive value add! Afterall, these tools are only as good as the SEO knowledge that underpins them. Yoast's awesome courses are an amazing resource for growing your SEO knowledge.

Average Update Time – Updates are important. Without regular updates, these plugins can create security vulnerabilities and other issues on your site.

Yoast and Rank Math are the best at updating their plugins; they update roughly every two weeks. We don't see updates to All in One happen nearly as often, but that might change soon, since they just launched a new version of the plugin.

Updates shouldn't break your site. Since Yoast is the most widely used plugin, its team does a ton to make sure each update is reliable. Rank Math's updates happen just about as regularly as Yoast's, but the updates aren't as reliable – it's more likely to accidentally break something on your site.

Wizard – Properly configuring your plugins is key if you want to get the most out of them. All three plugins have setup wizards to get you on the right track from the beginning.

Support – If you run into an issue with any of these plugins, you'll either need to rely on forums or pay extra for premium support. All three offer premium support plans to help you solve your problems. If you don't want to pay for support, you will have to take a ticket and jump in a long queue, waiting to hear back from customer service.

It's also important to note that support won't assist you with SEO strategy related questions, they merely help with technical support issues. If you need assistance with SEO strategy, you might want to consider a guided approach to SEO.

Ease of Use – When it comes to usability, all three plugins are great. That being said, the most user-friendly interfaces belong to All in One and Rank Math.  Yoast's user interface, although relatively intuitive and user-friendly, feels more dated by comparison.

Free Educational Support – Yoast's blog is a wellspring of free SEO knowledge. They also offer paid SEO courses that come free with a Yoast premium subscription. All in One and Rank Math leave a lot to be desired in terms of educational SEO material; however, a tool like Pathfinder SEO can help you make up for those deficiencies.

Warnings & Notices – All three plugins provide warnings and notices about your site's SEO in addition to offering recommendations about improving the function of whichever plugin you're using.

Multisite Compatible – All three plugins are multisite compatible, allowing you to use the plugin across the various sites in your multisite setup.

Bloat – Both Rank Math and Yoast have more features than most plugin users will ever need. That's why they include the ability to toggle features on and off. 

Toggle Features On/Off – If you have every available feature running in your SEO plugin, your site's speed is likely to take a hit. Fortunately, all three plugins allow you to control which features you want to activate and which you want to remain inactive. We highly recommend that you only activate those that you need. 

Keyword Rankings – Rank Math is the only one of these plugins that provides keyword ranking information to keep track of page performance without needing a third-party tool like Pathfinder SEO. You will need to pay for a Pro version to access keyword rankings, though. 

SEO Score/Analysis – All three plugins provide SEO score analysis. While you'll get some helpful nuggets, we don't find them to be quite as useful as expected. Rank Math and All in One focus on an overall SEO analysis, while Yoast focuses more on content analysis. 

User Control – Don't want to give everyone who has access to your site control over your SEO? No problem. All three plugins allow you to limit the interaction of various types of users. If this function is important to you, we recommend you look closely at the capabilities of each plugin.

What is the Best WordPress SEO Plugin?

Ultimately, it's you who chooses the winner. The best WordPress plugin depends on what you value most.

Yoast

Yoast SEO continues to be the leader in the WordPress SEO plugin space. It's the plugin our team uses and recommends most often.

The team at Yoast is made of as SEO professionals and continues to stay on the cutting edge of what's going on in the world of SEO. That makes them more focused on adding features that will help generate real-world SEO results. A perfect example is the keyword research tool they recently added to the plugin.

In addition, let's not forget that SEO plugins are merely tools. They're only as good as the SEO knowledge that underpins them. 

The Yoast team's unparalleled dedication to WordPress SEO education is another reason why we love the plugin. They have assuredly done more to advance the WordPress community's knowledge of SEO than any of the three plugin creators on this list. This means you'll get online SEO training for beginners through advanced practitioners to pair directly with the plugin, and for free when you have a Yoast Premium subscription. 

The biggest drawback when it comes to using Yoast is the fact that you have to upgrade to paid versions of the plugin if you want valuable features like the redirect manager, social previews,  advanced local SEO, and advanced WooCommerce.

Rank Math

Rank Math is really shaking things up. It offers the most advanced features of the three plugins. Many of them at no additional cost. If you're shopping based on price, this plugin gives you the most for free. 

The Pro and Business versions of the plugin are exceptionally innovative with great new features such as the integration of Google Search Console and Google Analytics data. Having this SEO performance data right in your WordPress dashboard can be a game-changer. After all, you can't improve what you don't measure. 

The only downside when it comes to Rank Math is its number of features. If you're relatively new to WordPress SEO, you may not know whether or not a certain feature matters. This plugin is most helpful to WordPress users with more advanced SEO knowledge and skills.

All in One SEO

As for All in One SEO, the new version of the plugin is a welcome improvement compared to the old version. You'll find all the necessary features one would expect in a multifunction SEO plugin. It's also easy to use.

That said, the future is bright for this plugin.  It was acquired by Awesome Motive (WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, etc.) in early 2020. If you know anything about the Awesome Motive team, you know they transform software, making it more brilliant and easy to use. We'd bet that this will be the easiest SEO plugin to use in the next year or so.

Don't Forget, SEO Plugins Are Only Tools

Choosing a WordPress SEO plugin is a big decision. No matter which you choose, rest assured that all three of these multi-function SEO plugins are great! They give you the infrastructure you need to excel in the search results.

Pathfinder SEO's guided approach to SEO pairs well with all three of these plugins. The plugins provide the infrastructure; we provide the process, tools, and coaching.

Your website's ultimate success in organic search comes from following a holistic strategy and steadily taking action. This means measurable growth for your website and your business.

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Yoast SEO Variables

Yoast SEO Variables Explained

August 21, 2020

Variables in the Yoast SEO plugin give you the power to autogenerate page titles and meta descriptions for your entire website based on a set of rules defined by content type. This is one of the many powerful tools in WordPress that make it a search engine friendly content management system.

Variables help you automate the process of creating page titles and meta descriptions that are properly formatted and information-rich. A few commonly used variables include:

%%title%% – Title of the post or page.
%%sitename%% – Name of the website.
%%excerpt%% – Excerpt of the post or page.
%%date%% – Date of the post or page.

Yoast variables act like placeholders. When a variable goes into action, it finds a piece of information, like the title of the page and it shows that instead of the naked variable…because no one wants to see %%title%%.

To Automate or Not? It Depends.

Automating page titles and meta descriptions is a powerful way to optimize WordPress websites at scale. The downside is that customization of page titles and meta descriptions typically leads to better results via on-page optimization specifically targeted to a well-researched keyword.

We recommend an optimization process that blends automation and customization. Start with automation by configuring the Yoast SEO plugin Titles & Metas at the content type level. Then, customize for top-level pages and any content ripe for driving traffic to the website.

Automation is also great for larger organizations with multiple players adding content to the website. For example, if you have multiple authors of a blog. In this instance, blog posts instantly are assigned page titles and meta descriptions which is pretty good. And then you, as the SEO expert, can jump in and overwrite them with custom page titles and meta descriptions on an as-needed basis.

Identify Important Pages

One strategy for when and how to use Yoast variables is to identify the most important pages on your website. This strategy is especially helpful for your blog.

Do you have a blog post that’s really important to you, and you really want that blog post to rank for a keyword or phrase? If so, write a unique page title and meta description for these important blog posts.

Say you have another blog post about a winter sale from 5 years ago and it’s really short, just describing the sale details. That’s a blog post that doesn’t need the special attention of an optimized page title and meta description. Leave that one to autogeneration.

Sift through the pages on your website to identify where you should devote your time, and where you can automate meta descriptions with Yoast variables.

Another Opinion – What Yoast Says about Automation

Autogenerating page titles is all good. What’s open to question, though, is whether or not to autogenerate meta descriptions using the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast’s founder, Joost de Valk, doesn’t recommend using the Titles & Metas section to automate meta descriptions.

Why not?

According to Joost, “if you’re thinking of auto-generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything and let the search engine control the snippet.”

When you leave your meta description field empty, the search engines are more likely to pull a sentence or two from your page containing something close to the searcher’s query, if not the exact query itself. When search engines locate words or phrases similar to the searcher’s query, they display those words or phrases in bold text. This improves your visibility on the search engine results page (SERP) because not all of the results will have bold text.

Joost says depend on the search engines because autogenerated meta descriptions in the Yoast SEO plugin don’t have the intelligence (yet) to pull sentences from your page containing the searcher’s query.

When you autogenerate meta descriptions using the Yoast SEO plugin, you’re telling the search engines to grab the first 160 characters (give or take) of text on your page. Now, what’s in that first 160 characters? Probably not a keyword matching a search query, unless you’re in the habit of starting off your page copy with your keyword…not always the best idea.

But, what if you don’t want to autogenerate your meta descriptions or depend on the search engines? Well, what’s left is manually writing each of your meta descriptions. Still, depending on your website’s size, writing unique meta descriptions for every page can be time-consuming and not the best use of your time.

Here Is How to Automate Page Titles & Meta Descriptions in WordPress with the Yoast SEO Plugin

Now, how do you go about automating page titles and meta descriptions in the Yoast SEO plugin? It’s easy. But first, you need to have the Yoast SEO plugin installed.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, then we’re ready to go.

  • First, log into your WordPress website.
  • Hover over the Yoast SEO plugin in the left-hand menu, and click on Search Appearance.
  • In the first tab, General, select your title separator. The vertical line, or pipe, is most commonly used.
  • Next, click on the “Content Types” tab. This is where we’ll finally get into the variables.
  • The first content type you’ll see at the top of the page is Posts, meaning your blog posts. There are 2 fields for you to complete, SEO title and Meta description template.
    For the majority of your post types, we recommend using something like this for the Title template: %%title%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%. When these variables go to work, they’ll pull the title (%%title%%) of the page, your chosen separator (%%sep%%), and the name of your site (%%sitename%%). This is a basic variable construction, and it gets the job done.
  • To automate your meta descriptions, in the Meta description template field, type %%excerpt%%. The excerpt variable pulls the first 160 characters (give or take) of text from the page copy.
Yoast SEO content type variables

Those are some of the most basic Yoast variables. Though basic, they’re powerful and help you autogenerate page titles and meta descriptions across every page on your website. However, if the variables above don’t work with your site configuration, Yoast lets you create custom variables and variables specific to WooCommerce.

Check out all of Yoast’s variable options by visiting the Help center in the Titles & Metas section. Go to Help center > Basic Variables and Advanced Variables.

In Closing

Variables do a great job of taking lots of repetitive work off your plate. Use them to make your job easier and ensure a consistent appearance for your pages in the search results.

If you need human help getting your variables dialed in, learn about Pathfinder SEO's guided approach to SEO.

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WordPress Robots.txt & Robots Meta Directives Explained

August 21, 2020

What is a robots.txt file?

Before search engines crawl your website, they check the robots.txt file for instructions. Robots.txt is a very powerful file, so tread lightly when updating it. Double-check that you are indeed communicating your intended goals.

You can view your robots.txt file at www.mywebsite.com/robots.txt.

WordPress & Robots.txt

WordPress websites in development typically use the robots.txt file to block crawlers from indexing the website. The code looks like:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

“User-agent:” followed by an asterisk addresses all crawlers. “Disallow:” followed by a forward slash instructs crawlers to not index any page on the website.

To update your robots.txt file, navigate to the Reading settings in your WordPress website. When you’re ready for search engines and people to visit your website, go to Settings > Reading in the left-hand menu, and uncheck the box for “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.

robots.txt

Then, your robots.txt file will read:

User-Agent: *
Disallow:

We recommend a very clean robots.txt file since, in addition to its pages, search engines also like to crawl your website’s JavaScript, CSS, and Ajax.

Should I add my XML sitemap to the robots.txt file?

Rather than adding your XML sitemap to the robots.txt file, submit it directly to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

How do I update my robots.txt in WordPress?

An easy way to update your robots.txt in WordPress is in the Yoast SEO plugin.

  • Log into your WordPress website.
  • In the left-hand navigation, go to Yoast > Tools and click on File Editor.
  • Update the robots.txt file.

What are robots meta directives?

Robots meta directives provide firm, detailed instructions on how search engines should crawl and index an individual page’s content.

<meta name=“robots” content=“[parameters]”>

The most common content values are:

  • Nofollow – Don’t follow the links in the page’s content.
  • Follow – Follow the links in the page’s content.
  • Noindex – Don’t index the page.
  • Index – Index the page, please.

If you want to exclude a page from search engine results, but you want crawlers to follow the links on that page, use:

<meta name=“robots” content=“noindex,follow”>

How do you add a robots meta directive in WordPress?

Yoast SEO makes it easy to update the robots meta directives at the content type and taxonomy levels.

  • Log into your WordPress website and go to the Yoast SEO plugin in the left-hand navigation.
  • Select Search Appearance.
  • To change a content type’s meta directive, slide the bar from Yes to No in the “Show [content type] in search results?” section. Save your changes.
Yoast No Index

In Closing

Robots meta directives can be a powerful SEO tool. Learn how to use them properly and you will be able to better manage how Google and Bing interact with your site.

Want to learn more about WordPress SEO, check out our Field Guide to SEO.

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WordPress Website Not in Search

Why Is My WordPress Website Not Appearing in the Search Engines?

August 21, 2020

By default, a WordPress website includes a robots.txt directive that prevents search engines from crawling and indexing it.

This is helpful while the website is in development, as it prevents the development website from appearing in the search engine results. However, after launching your website, the first thing you should do is to update your robots.txt file to allow the search engines to crawl and index your website.

It’s easy. Log into your WordPress website and go to Settings > Reading. Uncheck the box that discourages the search engines from indexing the website and click save.

Discourage search engines from indexing

Allow 24-48 hours for the search engines to respond to this update.

Still not indexed? If you have a brand new domain and website, the search engines may not pick up on its existence. As a start, verify the website with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. You will also want to gain high-quality links that point to your new website. Explore our tips on link building to get started.

Want more help figuring out the complex world of WordPress SEO, check out our field guide to WordPress SEO. Or, learn how we help people get their websites found in search results with Guided SEO.

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