You probably know how important it is to keep your website updated. When I talk with folks about their websites, I often ask how their site is working out and what could it do better for them. Sometimes, I get the response,

“I’m not sure, I haven’t done much to keep my website updated.”

Yup, we’re all busy.

At any given moment, we’re all probably juggling a half dozen things at the same time. But, not touching your website for months, or sometimes years, is never a good thing. Even when I’ve not posted on my blog or my other websites for a while, I still administer and maintain them pretty frequently. I’ll tell you why this is important.

Check on your website to keep it safe

I’ve seen some bad cases of website hacking with malicious code or malware. Finding the root of the problem and removing it effectively can be tricky and time consuming. Having said that, the sites that have had the worst-case scenarios were left for long periods of time without any administration or even site visits by the owner.

HTML Website Updates

If your site is an HTML site, checking the site and updating the pages can prevent or at least detect malicious activity early.

Keeping your WordPress site current

With a WordPress site, it’s just as important to check your website to ensure that you’re running the latest version, your plugins are current, and your theme is running the newest version. WordPress updates come out with security fixes to protect against known vulnerabilities. Keeping WordPress updated is essential for protecting all of the hard work you’ve put into your website. In addition to keeping WordPress updated, don’t forget about checking installed plugins and themes for the latest version.

Update your site to keep relevant

Google is in the business of delivering relevant results. When Google indexes, or checks out your website, it’s looking to see if there is any new or relevant content it can include in its search engine results.

Old and outdated pages or posts lose points when it comes to being relevant. When a website’s pages or posts are old, it goes down in ranking, especially when compared to similar sites with newer content. If you want your website to come up in search engine results, there has to be new pages and posts added or updated frequently.

Run performance checks to keep it optimized

In addition to keeping sites that I work on updated, I also check them to make sure they’re running smoothly. A couple of tools that I use are Google’s PageSpeed Insights and HubSpot’s Website Grader. Both tools give you information on mobile as well as desktop performance and offer hints on what you can do if your site has a low score. Also, here’s an article from Geekflare that lists some more testing tools.

Periodic performance testing lets you see if your site is running smoothly

With periodic performance testing, you will see if your site is running smoothly or if it’s time to make adjustments. By keeping an eye on a site’s performance, I was able to see that the server the site was hosted on wasn’t responding well. This led to the discovery that my client’s hosting was on a pretty old server that needed to be upgraded.

All in all, websites need to be checked and updated regularly to give you the best results.

What's your website's why?In a previous article, I talked about how my website started with “why”. It was a good opportunity to think about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Everything on my website should point to my “why” which is that I want to share what I know. Website visitors should be able to clearly see what a site is about and what visitors should do when they visit.

If you have a website, or are in the stages of creating one, you need to ask yourself a few questions that point to your own “why”.

  1. What is it that you want your website visitors know?
  2. What do you want your website visitors to do?
  3. Why is your website important to you?

What is it that you want your website visitors know?

Getting visitors to your website is one thing, but what do you want them to know when they get there? If your website is a service business, like landscaping, you want them to know the importance of what you do and why you do it. You might want to talk about the importance of landscaping with native plants and trees. The point here is to think and write about what you do and why it’s important to site visitors and potential customers.

If you have an informational blog, then you want everything on your site to point to the primary topic of your site whether it’s current events, home improvement or web design.

It’s good to keep the content on each page to around 300 words.

If you have more, that’s okay, too. Just break up the space so it’s easy to ready. Sometimes less can be more, so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to create tons of content for each post or page. Just write what you need to get your core message across. If you have a lot of content, break it up into sections.

Read what you write and put your most import information toward the top of the page.

It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to click off of your page. Make it easy for folks to get the most important information by putting it at the top of the page.

Make your content easy to read.

Even if you work in a highly technical field, you should make what you’re saying easy to understand. Plugins like Yoast for SEO can analyze your text and tell you how easy-to-read your content is.

Use images to break up content.

Just be sure to use images that are the right size for the page and content. Be careful not to have really large images as they can really slow down your website. Page load times matter to search engines, so they should matter to you. If a page takes too long to load it can effect your website’s ranking in search engines.

What do you want your website visitors to do?

If you have an online store, you want to make it easy for folks to buy your products. Make sure you have multiple ways of getting to your best sellers. Use menus, graphics, buttons, promotions, or anything else you can think of. The important thing here is to make a clear path for your website visitors to do what’s important.

Why is your website important to you?

You can think of this as your mission statement. For example, this website is all about me sharing what I do so that others can have websites that work for them. I just love sharing what I’ve learned over the years. Having said that, everything I do on this site is about sharing what I’ve learned.

The bottom line is that when website visitors land on your site, they should be able to see what your website is about and what they should do.

Once you’ve gone through the Yoast configuration wizard on your website, it’s time to get familiar with how to use Yoast for effective WordPress SEO.

First, open a new post or page. Yoast SEO should be the same regardless of the theme being used on your WordPress website. In my screenshots, I’m just using the standard WordPress editor to add content to my post.

1. Make sure you see the Yoast SEO section where you add a new post, or edit an existing post or page.

It should be below the area where you add and edit content. If you see Yoast SEO but don’t see the form, just click the small arrow to the right of the Yoast SEO title to expand the box.

2. If you don’t see the Yoast SEO section on your post’s admin area, check your Screen Options tab in the upper right corner.

If you click the Screen options tab in the upper right, you should see some checkboxes. These checkboxes toggle your viewing options on the page.

3. If you see a Yoast SEO checkbox, make sure it is checked to have the Yoast features viewable on your page.

Once you’ve checked the box, then scroll down to see it on your editing page.

***IMPORTANT: Since Yoast evaluates the content on your page and scores for SEO best practices, you need to add content to your page to make Yoast work for you.

WordPress SEO and Yoast

Sample Yoast Window

In this image, you can see what the Yoast SEO window looks. Yoast popped in the information from my content into the SEO title and description. What you can see, though, is that there’s a character limit, so the description just trails off.

Also in the snippet preview window, you can see a mobile phone icon along with a desktop icon right next to the [ Edit Snippet ] button. When clicked, each of these icons show you what your post or page will look like in search engine results, like Google. I prefer to preview the snippet using the desktop icon because there’s a shorter character limit for the title in desktop mode. What this means is, if I’m not too long in desktop preview, it will work for both desktop and mobile results.

You’ll also see the Focus keyword field at this point even before you edit the snippet. You can certainly add a focus keyword at this point, although you may want to wait until you’ve added the content on the page. By waiting until after you’ve added content, you can ensure the Focus Keyword used is appropriate for your content. Also, the focus keyword is not limited to just one word and several words can be used in this spot. The most important thing to consider is that the focus keyword reflects the content on the page.

Again, after you’ve added the content to your page, click the [ Edit Snippet ] button to see the entire form and get started.

Update the Yoast SEO form

Update the SEO title

As the image shows, the SEO title is what is displayed as your page or post title in search engine results. Yoast SEO automatically adds your posts’ information according to how you set up Yoast during the configuration process. By default, what you see in the SEO title field is the code that represents your posts’ information. In my case, it’s the title, page, separator, and then site name. Even though I set up preferences in the configuration wizard, I always tweak the title so it’s not too long, or too short, but instead, just right.

Check your Slug

The Slug is used to link to your post or page. This is automatically set based on your WordPress website’s permalink settings. Generally speaking it’s best to keep these short and omit words like the, a, an, etc.

CAUTION: Be careful about changing the slug on posts or pages that are already live. If you change the slug on pages that are live, it could result in “page not found” errors. To avoid errors, the paid version of yoast offers page redirection or you can use another redirection method or plugin. To be safe, simply tweak the slug on newly created pages rather than already established pages.

Enter your Meta description

The Meta description is what search engines display just below your SEO title. Making changes to the Meta description is a good idea because you want your pages’ descriptions to accurately reflect what’s on the page. There’s a character limit to the meta description, so make sure you’re description is concise and accurate.

Focus Keyword

The focus keyword or keyword term should be just a couple of words that cover what the post or page is about. Keywords are what people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. So, when choosing your focus keyword, think about how people will find your page or post. In the case of this page I’m working on, I chose “wordpress seo” for my focus keyword. This is because my focus is using the Yoast plugin to help with WordPress SEO.

Here’s what my completed Yoast SEO form looks like:

After you’ve added your content, updated your form with the focus keyword, SEO title and meta description, save your post (either click Save draft draft or Publish if your post is live or ready to be live).

Yoast WordPress SEO ginny rogers | mohawk valley web design

Once you do, you’ll see “Readability” and “SEO” toward the bottom of the Publish box. Take a look at the Yoast icons to the left of “Readability” and “SEO” to see what color they are. Here, the Yoast icon acts as a score indicator for your content’s readability and SEO.

Green indicates that you’re good to go.

Orange indicates that your post is okay, although you can improve it, if you want.

Red indicates that your scores are low and should be improved so your post is effective in terms of SEO.

We’ve talked a lot about SEO, but what about readability?

The content on posts and pages should be clear, well formatted, and easy to read. Click on the Readability tab in Yoast, to get a breakdown of your content’s readability.  Take a look at how things like the sentence and paragraph lengths, use of headings, and passive voice figures into the score.

Here are a couple of screenshots of the readability and focus keyword analysis from another post I wrote. As you can see, I’m okay with a few issues if my overall score is good while maintaining a voice that’s authentic for me.