Today we’re going to talk about two different things that can actually be very connected. WordPress search engine optimization and getting the right images to show up when your content is shared to social media.
The first thing we’ll discuss is the best free plugin available to make your WordPress site SEO friendly. Then we’ll discuss how this plugin will also help ensure the right image is showing when you or someone else shares your content to Facebook and/or other social platforms.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
With more and more content being published online every day the search engines are constantly becoming more picky with how they rank content. A good search engine optimization strategy doesn’t mean you have to pay an SEO firm tons of cash to help you be seen by the search giants.
While some assert SEO is very complex, it really isn’t in our view. Of course, you can always get more complex with it all, but following a few rules of thumb are really all that’s necessary to ensure your site is optimized for search engine indexing.
Here are some basics you always want to pay attention to.
- Page/post title and the keywords it contains
- The URL structure and the keywords it contains
- The body of your content and they keywords it contains
- The title tag of your images and the keywords used in the title tag
- The original authentic nature of your content (Not re-posted from somewhere else but unique and original to your site only)
- Organic inbound links (search engines consider links as “votes” in many cases, but this part of their algorithm has decreased in importance in recent years)
And here you were thinking it was already time consuming enough to just create the content itself, right? It certainly is. But thanks to open source code and free WordPress plugins getting your content SEO optimized is now easier than ever and only requires an additional five minutes or so for each piece of content you put out.
Let’s take a look at one particular plugin that does wonders in helping your content be SEO friendly.
YOAST SEO FOR WORDPRESS
Yoast SEO for WordPress comes in two versions. Free and paid. The paid version certainly has more features and analytics for your website, but at $89 per site can be a little spendy. Not to worry, however, because the free version does plenty and will work magic when it comes to the search engine friendliness of your site.
Yoast has two primary functions. The basic overall website SEO management and a per post/page management system. Upon installation there is a setup wizard that guides you through the first part and gets your overall site ready to rock. The second part requires you to take some additional steps for every post/page you create.
But trust me… it’s worth the effort.
Once installed, activated and setup is complete, you’ll notice a new area appears in your post editor in the WordPress dashboard.
The above image shows the Yoast control panel for the post you’re reading. This post you’re reading has a very long title. Too long for what the search engines normally like, but I wanted and needed a longer title.
By default WordPress uses your page title in the code title tags, the tags that the search engine crawlers read when they come scan your site. The first thing Yoast does is let you set a different, shorter and more focused title tag that will instead be read by search engines as the title tag vs what you actually have as your post title. And Yoast will help you know the sweet spot for your title tag by giving you a green, orange or red bar depending on length. Red is bad, green is good.
Also by default WordPress uses your post title as the URL. In the case of this post that URL would have been far too long. So I shortened it using Yoast while keeping the longer title intact for potential readers to see.
Next up is your meta tag. This is the part of the post header code that tells search engines a brief summary of what the page content is about. The post description, if you will. By default WordPress is going to pull an excerpt from your post and place this in the meta tag. But in terms of SEO, that chunk of content may not be that great.
Yoast allows you to dictate what will be in the meta tag and shows you the recommended length.
Finally, Yoast let’s you determine your focus keywords to include in the keyword tag for search engines.
After that’s all done you’ll want to click on over to the Facebook and Twitter tab.
What I typically do is just copy over the title and description from the main Yoast tab. I then select the featured image I used for the post and upload it into the image box. The settings are the same for Twitter.
What this does is it tells Facebook and Twitter what image to use when this unique URL is shared to one of their platforms.
Preview the post to ensure it all looks good and hit publish. That’s it, that’s all! Your content is now optimized.
NOW LET’S FIX THOSE PESKY WRONG IMAGES SHOWING UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The Yoast plugin will tell Facebook and Twitter what information to use when your URL is shared. The problem is, Facebook and Twitter can be a little slow in coming to crawl/index your new content. Sometimes it happens within minutes, sometimes hours or days and sometimes even weeks!
If the social platforms haven’t indexed your post yet they don’t understand how it should be displayed when shared. So without proper indexing Facebook will simply pull the first image file it can find in your page code, or even worse… show the post with no image or preview at all.
The simplest, fastest and best way to force Facebook to change the way it previews your content is to bookmark and use the Facebook debugger. To use this tool you simply paste your URL, hit the debug button then tell Facebook to fetch your post information again.
Upon refresh Facebook should now have the proper preview information in its index.
This first image shows that Facebook didn’t know what to show right after I published this post.
I simply clicked the “Fetch new information” button and BAM! This is what came up.
Now the information shown above is what will show when I or anyone else shares this post.
SEO ready and good to go on the social sharing.
I hope this post helps!