When writing a post, you will see a section at the bottom of the screen entitled “Yoast SEO”. The purpose of this section is to help your poem or short story get listed on Google’s search results. It’s optional, but it is worth the effort as it may get you more readers – and it gets easier the more you use it.
Green, Amber or Red?
At the top of the section, you’ll see the word Content following by a coloured dot (a “traffic light”).
The first thing to understand is that it’s not essential to achieve a “green light”. The system is designed for non-fiction blogs and therefore, can give false results for creative writing pieces. Green means you’ve done very well – but Amber still means ‘OK’, and if that’s the best you can achieve, that’s fine.
1. Snippet Editor
Many writers skip this section, but it’s the most important! The “snippet” is what will appear on Google’s search results.
Before you complete this section though, first choose your “Focus Keyword” (see below).
WordPress creates a snippet automatically and you can see it in “snippet preview”. Consider it carefully – if you were a reader, would it entice you to click on the link and read more? If not, click on “edit snippet” and create your own by filling in the following:
SEO title: This is the title that will show on Google search results. Disregard the greyed-out text – start typing and it will disappear. It’s a good idea to expand your post title to include the type of piece (and the name of the site, IF there’s room). For example, if your post is a poem entitled, “Cat Come Home”, your SEO title could be “Cat Come Home, Poem, Creative Exiles”.
Slug: This is the URL of your post. If you have already shared your post anywhere, be aware that changing the slug will change your URL and your links will be broken – so think twice!
Meta Description: This is the description that will appear under the link on Google search results. This is your chance to engage your reader! The length is limited to 156 characters – if you type in too much, it will turn red. If you want the official Yoast instructions on how to write a good meta description, click here.
2. Focus Keyword
To understand what to enter in this section, you must first understand what a keyword is. I wish it was not called a keyword, because it is almost never just one word!
- A keyword is usually a phrase of two or three words.
- It is the phrase that encapsulates what your piece is about.
A post can have several keywords, but in the Yoast SEO section, you have to choose ONE – the best one. Again, you can read the Yoast guide to Finding the Perfect Focus Keyword if you’d like a more technical explanation.
To find the best Focus Keyword, ask yourself, “what would people be typing into Google, if they were looking for a poem or story like mine?”
For instance, say you wrote a poem entitled, “Cat Come Home”. What would people have to be looking for on Google, for my poem to show up in their search results? “Cats”, obviously – but try typing “cats” into Google and see how many results you get – your little poem has a snowball’s chance of being noticed amongst all those! You want to reach readers who are looking not just for cats, but for cats who are homeless or lost – so your keyword should reflect that.
Having chosen your best Focus Keyword and typed it in, now go to the Snippet Editor and try to incorporate it into your Snippet.
Here is where Yoast does not always work for creative writing: because having worked out the best phrase, Yoast will demand that you use it in several places. That may not be practical for a piece of poetry or fiction. You may not have used the phrase anywhere in the poem!
Be sensible: if it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense, so be prepared to ignore it.
Adding a LONG Introduction – many authors add an introduction so they can use their keyword. That’s great – however, consider your reader: will they have the patience to read an introduction, or will they want to dive straight into the story/poem? Your readers’ satisfaction is more important than getting a green light! If you decide to use an introduction, keep it short – and/or add an “author’s note” at the end of the piece.
Cheating on the Focus Keyword – Because Yoast wants you to use your Focus Keyword in the title and first paragraph, it’s tempting to do the process backwards. Instead of choosing the best possible phrase and then trying to find a way to include it in the right places, some writers simply pick a phrase that’s already in the title or post.
The whole point of choosing your Focus Keyword is to attract Google – so think about what phrase people will type into Google, not just what you can use to get a green light. Otherwise the entire exercise is a complete and utter waste of time.
There are several other things you can do to improve your Yoast rating – but the other elements of the Content Analysis are fairly self-explanatory. If you want to know more about SEO, there is also much, much more to SEO than what’s covered by the plugin. You can learn more about it by starting at the links I’ve given above and browing through the Yoast Academy, if you are interested.
Why Is This Worth Doing?
Think about how you use the internet: if you want to find something, what do you do? You may sometimes ask your friends on Facebook, or look at Pinterest – but even today, ask most people what they do and they’ll say “Google it!”
So like it or not, the best way to get readers for your poems or stories is if they appear on the search results when people “Google it”. The SEO in Yoast SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”. That sounds complicated, but it simply means setting up an article so it has the best chance of being found by people using Google or Yahoo or Bing. And that’s worth doing!