Stumbled on a post at Naked Capitalism (economics, politics and finance blog) called Do Not Hire SEO Firm Yoast: Our Terrible Experience With Yoast SEO Review regarding the Yoast Website Review Service.
I came to the article a few days too late to see the Yoast website report (it was taken down after Yoast gave a full refund), so can’t comment on the contents of the website SEO report.
The Yoast review service Naked Capitalism purchased was the Full Review for $2,499 which offers:
Get an in-depth review of all the aspects of your website. All checks of Quick Review plus:
- SEO visibility analysis
- Backlinks analysis
- Google Webmaster Tools analysis
- Google Analytics insights
- Site specific optimization for e-commerce sites, publisher sites, etc.
Time/money would be better spent by publishers like Yves Smith (owner of Naked Capitalism) learning the basics of SEO by reading my Awesome WordPress SEO Tutorial Series.
The Naked Capitalism site is ideal for significantly increasing Google search engine traffic with relatively minor changes to the blog author(s) content creation habits that the current readership (a lot of whom will be regulars, NOT new search engine visitors) won’t even notice.
The Politics of Search Engine Optimization
I have experience with this type of blog (the politics part anyway) via my old UK general election blog. I registered the domain in 2009 in preparation for the UK 2010 general election, I have an interest in politics, watch everything there is on TV about UK politics (Daily Politics, Sunday Politics, Question Time, This Week and piss my self laughing at the US politics discussed on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show: US politics is nuts!!!), and if it wasn’t for my health problems would get involved in local politics.
I really enjoyed managing a politics blog during the run up to the UK 2010 general election, it’s addictive despite the BNP weirdos.
Being an SEO I approached my politics blog with SEO in mind, what I found is with this sort of site the readership is looking for the very latest news (with politics if a site isn’t regularly updated it dies), so the sort of SEO techniques that work well for your average ecommerce or information site doesn’t fit as well. Which is why despite being the top site in 2010 on Google for relevant UK general election SERPs**, today it’s practically dead because I stopped posting after the 2010 election (thinking about reviving the site for the 2015 general election).
** My politics site was top 5 for SERPs like General Election and it crashed the very powerful dedicated server (most expensive dedicated server the server company had) over a dozen times due to massive traffic spikes, must have generated over a million visitors during the election month alone: lost traffic data due to a major server crash on election day, couldn’t even log into the server control panel! Can only imagine how much ad revenue I lost while it was down :-(
SEO vs User Experience
Looking at the Naked Capitalism recent items widget on the home page I see:
We’ll ignore the links posts (which have awful SEO), one of the posts is titled:
Democracy Now Discusses Wells Fargo Foreclosure Document Fabrication Manual
From a user perspective this is ideal, it tells us the blog post is discussing something posted at Democracy Now (another political blog) followed by the subject matter.
And the BBC post:
Journalist Schools BBC on Russian Intervention in Crimea
Again ideal for the current readership, from the BBC and the subject is about Russia/Crimea.
Yves Smith knows how to write relevant and engaging titles for the sites readership. This is generally how blogs in this niche post their articles, where they got the info from followed by what it’s about. They tend to be quite long titles.
When search engine optimization specialists write an article we don’t start from a user perspective, we deal with Google’s needs first and the title tag is extremely important. For the two articles above we’d first decide what’s the main keyword phrases this article is targeting?
The first article is about the “Wells Fargo Foreclosure Document Fabrication Manual” and so the ideal SEO title is “Wells Fargo Foreclosure Document Fabrication Manual”. And the second article is about “Russian Intervention in Crimea” and the ideal SEO title is “Russian Intervention in Crimea”.
SEO isn’t rocket science :-)
Best Title Tags for Search Engine Users NOT Blog Readers
When I say “ideal SEO title” I’m talking about a title that targets relevant Google SERPs, not current blog readers clicking internal links or other politics type blogs deciding if to link to an article.
I don’t go in for the old SEO theory there’s a maximum title length of 60-70 characters, Google indexes beyond the 70 characters limit it shows within the SERPs (easily proved with basic SEO tests) if they fit, just doesn’t show characters beyond a particular length based on an absolute pixel length (which Google is likely to change from time to time). What this means is if your title is made of thin characters like the letter i more characters will be shown by Google (seen an SEO test that indexed 100+ characters) than if you use wide characters like capitalized H’s, so aiming for an exact title length of below 70 (as advised by WordPress plugins like Yoast and All in One SEO) is problematic.
That being said when writing titles for Google the 60-70 characters should be kept in mind for what search engine users (your potential new readership) will likely see from a Google SERP.
Take the title of the post reviewing the Yoast review service:
Do Not Hire SEO Firm Yoast: Our Terrible Experience With Yoast SEO Review
Another good title for current readers and other blogs that might reference the post, it’s engaging.
That’s 74 characters and Google shows:
Do Not Hire SEO Firm Yoast: Our Terrible Experience Wit…
Note: that’s only 56 characters from the long title plus 3 …s if a title is below the length that fits the full title is shown with no …s. So for the above title had it ended at “With” the entire tile would be shown. See what I mean by problematic, 60 characters with the above text would be too long and be truncated, 59 would be shown in full.
From a search engine user perspective that’s not too bad, it covers the main gist of the article for relevant Google SERPs, but could be better to include “Review” in the SERPs title since it is a review of the Yoast service. By luck it’s an OK SERP result. Yves wrote a second article which does show Review:
But let’s look at one of the recent blog posts I looked at earlier.
Note I haven’t gone out of my way to find the best/worst title tags, it’s as I found them, I’m sure there will be some great and awful title tags for Google SEO on the site.
Democracy Now Discusses Wells Fargo Foreclosure Docu…
That’s not so good truncated after 53 characters, we’ve lost “Document Fabrication Manual” which means search engine users are less likely to click the link if they are looking for the fabrication manual document.
And the Journalist Schools BBC on Russian Intervention in Crimea article
Truncated at 56 characters, that suggests the article is about “Russian Intervention in Crime” NOT “Russian Intervention in Crimea”, so the truncated title tag has the potential of loosing Google traffic because when seen on Google it’s less engaging.
Yves is doing a great job of writing engaging titles for the Naked Capitalism readers, but not so good for search engine users who see truncated titles.
WordPress SEO Title Tags for Google Users
Fortunately there are solutions to supplying a better (shorter) SEO title for Google SERPs and a long title for regular readers. There’s also the option of adjusting titles to include the most important part of the title first, for example a small change to the format from “Journalist Schools BBC on Russian Intervention in Crimea” to “Russian Intervention in Crimea by Journalist Schools BBC” would likely truncate the title at
Russian Intervention in Crimea by Journalist Schools B…
Journalist Schools BBC on Russian Intervention in Crime…
Which IMO has little impact on current readers, but a major improvement for search engine users viewing a SERP.
WordPress by default uses the post title (as added on the Post edit screen) for both the title tag (the title Google shows for it’s results) and for the anchor text for links within recent posts widgets etc…
The WordPress SEO theme I develop (Stallion Responsive) can add a title tag for Google SERPs that’s different (shorter) to the default WordPress title. This is NOT black hat SEO, nothing is hidden from Google or your readers, your users can see the shorter title in Firefox and Google Chrome for example by hovering over the Firefox tab or Google Chrome tab or by viewing source.
For example this blog post you are reading now has a long (70 characters) default WordPress title:
How to Search Engine Optimize an Economics, Politics and Finance Blog
And a shorter (46 characters) title tag that Google will likely show in full:
How to Search Engine Optimize a Politics Blog
View Source Output:
<title>How to Search Engine Optimize Political Blogs</title>
Stallion Responsive is an SEO theme and does a lot more with the titles (there’s 6 in total, but it’s not important for this SEO discussion). By setting the two different titles your internal links (recent posts widget for example) will show the long title and Google will show the short title tag for SERPs.
This separate long title for readers and shorter title tag for Google SERPs can also be achieved with the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and the All In One SEO plugin, so it’s possible to achieve this basic SEO without buying an SEO theme.
So it is possible to both offer long titles the regular readers of politics, finance and economic type blogs tend to offer while still providing Google with good SEO’d titles for it’s search results output without current readers noticing a change.
There’s loads more I could discuss about search engine optimization of politics type blogs, but most of it is already covered in the SEO tutorial.