I recently had a client ask me if we should switch to a different WordPress SEO plugin. They had come across a comment on social media where someone through the recommendation of Perry Belcher had switched from using the Yoast plugin to SEOProcessor. For those of you who don’t know, Perry Belcher is actually kind of a ‘somebody’ in the digital marketing industry, so it makes sense my client would be bringing this concern to me.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, SEO plugins are generally nothing more than a graphical user interface to input some targeted keywords that will be placed in the <title> and <meta> tags of a HTML document’s <head> section. Sure, an SEO plugin can also scan over your text inside paragraph and heading tags to provide recommendations around keyword density and overall readability of the content. But an SEO plugin on its own is not going to drastically improve your website’s ranking.
Understanding how and why websites rank the way they do in search engines is fundamentally so much more than just activating a WordPress plugin and inputing keywords.
The nature of the internet is human-centered
It’s every search engine’s mandate to serve users with high-quality, relevant information to ensure a good user experience. (Google literally says so in their Webmaster Guidelines.)
And that is exactly what you and every other website creator should be doing too.
Sure, search engines run on artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithmic codes, but what is all this stuff trying to do? It’s trying to replicate human thought, human communication and human connection.
Some people may not be aware of this but the nature of the internet is human-centered. Meaning that everything you do online should be for the betterment of humans.
When creating content, creators should be creating for humans rather than creating for search engines. If your ultimate goal in content creation is to rank higher, you’ll fail in the long run. Your goal should be to create the most valuable content for humans as you possibly can. There’s a simple logical reason for this. Search algorithms are being updated all the time to better serve humans. White hat and black hat SEO practises have been around since the beginning of WEB 2.0 but it’s the black hat practises that are becoming obsolete over time. The majority of the white hat SEO practices from 10+ years ago are still the tried and true practises of today. Essentially, white hat SEO hasn’t changed much, certainly not like black hat has changed. White hat SEO practises are human-centered.
The purpose of a SEO plugin
An SEO plugin is a tool to help you rank better in search engines. It’s not the solution for ranking better. The solution to ranking better is layered and complex but I’m going to layout some key points you should know.
In order to really get SEO you’ll need to study up on concepts like search intent, information architecture, content hubs/silos, backlinks etc. All these concepts will inform aspects of your keyword research and ultimately your content marketing strategy. Once you start executing your strategy a SEO plugin will help you keep track of the keywords you’ve already targeted, it will help you generate and submit sitemaps to search engines and it will help monitor both your internal and external links, or broken links.
How to actually rank well in search engines
Let’s say you’ve had a website for a few years, you’ve been publishing quality content on a weekly basis and maybe you even rank in the top spot for a few targeted keywords. How do you improve from here?
- Get your business listed on Google My Business and it’s equivalent for the other search engines.
- Set up schema markup and structured data for your website with schema.org
- Expand your online presence and reach by guest posting and creating high quality content for other websites that are related to yours. This should help grow your online followers and increase your authority.
- If you’re not doing it already, use more rich media (videos, audio, infographics, slides/galleries etc.)
- Make sure all your website’s content is mobile responsive as search engines provide different results for mobile search versus desktop search. Make your website as mobile-friendly as possible.
- Implement Google’s AMP
- Make your website support HTTPS/SSL, basically, purchase and install an SSL certificate from your web hosting provider.
- And make sure your website remains fast to load. Although, page load speed is dependant on so many different things, from how your website is developed to what web server configuration you’re using.
Notice anything about that list? None of the tasks listed above can be executed using an SEO plugin. Or at least, most of the SEO plugin developers haven’t implemented all these things as features into their software plugins yet. Meaning that you as a website owner will have to set SEO project goals and manage their execution yourself.
If you’re interested in learning more about basic seo tips you can check out my other post.