How Yoast helped fix an SEO issue in Google

How Yoast WordPress SEO plugin fixed our description issue in Google

We noticed one of our new pages was not displaying correctly in Google Search results, after a little digging, & with the help of Yoast SEO , we fixed it.

The Issue

Not so long ago we unveiled our new pay as you go service – giving businesses an easier way to buy some of our expertise to help with smaller jobs.

As usual with new pages, especially when it’s a new concept like ‘pay as you go‘, the page was launched and then refined & reviewed – e.g. as we have a lot fo US clients, so we quickly added buttons in for USD as well.

I also made sure that Google was aware of the new page via the Google Search Console (I’ll share how to do that in another post).

Then when prepping a slide for our first WordPress Webinar, I noticed that the search results for the page was a little odd. See below:

 

Fig 1 – initial search results

In fact, the situation was worse than in fig 1 (I didn’t take the screenshot at the time), the screenshot above is actually from when I’d already fixed some of the issues (but not all).

The anatomy of a basic Google search result

However, before I drill into what was wrong, let’s go back a couple of steps and be clear as to what we are looking at here.

 

 

Image showing the three aspects of a Google Serps listing: url, title, description

Fig 2 – Image showing the three aspects of a Google Serps listing: url, title, description

 

In Fig 2, we see three elements:

  • URL (or ‘web page address‘ in simple terms)
  • Page Title
  • Page Description

In this case, the URL was:

www.glassmountains.co.uk > pay-as-you-go

(note: Google have formatted the URL nicely here – it would actually look like https://www.glassmountains.co.uk/pay-as-you-go/)

The Page Title was:

Pay as you go WordPress Experts - Glass Mountains

….and the description was:

If you would like to simply hire us to do some edits/updates/bug fixing etc on your WordPress site, then our 'pay as you go' model is for you. The team here at….

 

Note: When I first reviewed our Google listing for this page, the title was just “Pay as you go“.

 

Is it mouthwatering?

The key point here is this: those three elements are what we have to play with in terms of grabbing people’s attention in the Google search results.  Put simply, if it is not mouthwatering, if it does not do a good job of conveying the value of what your content will offer, then people simply will not click it & will pass us by.

Let’s take a look at how you control these various elements.

Page Title & URL

We’re actually going to discuss Page Title & URL at the same time for one very good reason:

By default in WordPress, what you set as the page title directly influences it chooses as your URL.

Fig 3 – here you can see the Page Title and the URL fields (permalink)

The upshot of that is this:

If you chose your page title wisely, WordPress will set your URL to something useful as well.

As it was, I had originally called my Page Title “Pay as you go“.

Which meant that WordPress suggested that the URL (called ‘Permalink’ in the above screenshot) would be:

/pay-as-you-go/

As you also see from Fig 3 I subsequently changed the title to “Pay as you go WordPress Experts‘ (but subsequent changes to the title after you have put the page live do not alter the URL – which is why you need to think carefully there).

When your page is in draft mode (i.e. not yet live), you can click the [edit] button and change the URL to your heart’s content. However, when the page is live, you need to be very careful about changing URLs (I’ll cover those issues in a separate post).

I may also like to consider changing the URL to:

/pay-as-you-go-wordpress-experts/

….and I’ll certainly mull that.

Why would I do that change?

Well, if we accept the premise that people are searching on ‘pay as you go WordPress experts‘, then having those keywords in page content, in the page title, in the description, and in the URL will all help with signalling to Google that this page is about ‘pay as you go WordPress experts“. It will also hopefully resonate better with the actual person searching in Google as they scan their eyes over the search results; encouraging them to click the link and landing on my page.

Fig 4 – bold words in Google search results description

If you search for ‘pay as you go WordPress experts‘, you’ll see our entry as above  – notice how Google automatically boldens the words in your description which match the search query. So, in my case, ‘WordPress’ and ‘WordPress experts’ are in bold  – as is ‘you‘; which seems odd at first until you remember that the search phrase here was ‘pay as you go‘.

So, you could argue further that you might want to include the whole phrase ‘pay as you go WordPress experts’ in my description as it would be all in bold. That would certainly be worth considering – a potential downside though is that you are then (in this case) just repeating the actual site title. And, if we repeat that, are we telling enough story to get people to click? Maybe. Maybe not.

This leads neatly on to talking about the Page Description….

The mystery of the Page Description

If you remember from Fig 1, our first page description was this:

If you would like to simply hire us to do some edits/updates/bug fixing etc on your WordPress site, then our 'pay as you go' model is for you. The team here at….

This wasn’t very mouthwatering, and quite wordy. So wordy that notice the ‘….’ at the very end? That’s because Google wasn’t sure how to cut the text off. I don’t feel this is very neat – and not just because I like things tidy – again I am considering how things will look when people search in Google as ultimately if there are people out there who need some on-demand WordPress expertise, I want them to be able to find us, click to our page, and buy our service.

Changing the description

This is where the plot thickens a little….

You now know that changing the PAGE TITLE or URL is possible (ok, we need to be careful changing the URL but you can at least see where to do this in Fig 3).

However, what about the description?

So, the thing is this: if you don’t explicitly tell Google what description you would like to use for a page, it will guess.

And it won’t always guess the very first line or paragraph in the article. Nope. I know because it didn’t in this case! I had an opening line in my page before what it actually chose.

I didn’t like what Google chose but, then again, I hadn’t really given Google much help to start with.

The original opening to my ‘pay as you go‘ page was a little wishy-washy. I don’t have the exact text here but you get the idea.

IF I had written the start to our ‘pay as you go‘ page in a much stronger, more direct, more focussed manner – Google may well have chosen differently, as I would have laid a clearer trail for them to follow (which would also be a clearer trail for my human visitors -after all, this is about them).

So how do you override Google?

Yoast saves the day

Yoast is pretty much the defacto plugin for SEO on WordPress.

It covers a lot of things but today I just want to focus on one aspect. The ‘Google preview‘:

Note: I’ll cover the installation of Yoast and a deeper dive of all its facilities in a future post.

Fig 5 – Yoast Google Preview

When you have Yoast installed,  you can then use it to preview how your page will appear in Google.

Now click the ‘Edit snippet’ button and you’ll see this….

Yoast example - editing the Google snippet

Fig 6 – Yoast example – editing the Google snippet

 

Notice that you can alter all three items and, better still, see a live preview of how this will look in Google.

I describe how to do this in the following video:

So, by using Yoast you can salvage the situation where your description (especially) is not right.

By updating it in Yoast, you are signalling to Google the text you would prefer to use.

Two things though:

  1. Google won’t see your change immediately, it’ll take them a day or so to notice your changes, and then to update their index
  2. They still may not like your update, and still may prefer to use their own version. Sorry, it’s their ball and they can do with it what they like.

 

Closing Thoughts

I amended my page description in Yoast, helping fine-tune it in the Google preview tool. I also copied the text I had created in the preview tool and placed it pretty much at the start of the document. I did this not because it was some neat trick to fool Google but because I had just written some concise snappy text which introduced the new Glass Mountains Pay as you Go service – so what better place for that text to go but at the top of my document?

If I had written a more succinct and mouthwatering opening section of text to begin with, I probably wouldn’t have needed to fine tune so much. Lesson learned

So, key takeaways:

Yes YOAST can help you fine-tune but I would also recommend that you spend time planning what your:

  • Title
  • Url
  • Description

….would ideally be to begin with, and then write your content with that in mind. Doing so may well mean Google will guess smarter to begin with.

 

Hope that helps

 

Joel

 

p.s. a few other resources for you:

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2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Simon Cox says:

    Good write up Joel! I will add that Google will create a SERP description based on the search term based on what it thinks is the user intent. This might not be the one you target or even expect, so the best we can do is hope that our carefully crafted meta description is the one Google chooses to use. 😀

    • Glass Mountains Glass Mountains says:

      Yes – good point! That starts to get at the boundary of my knowledge and more into your specialist SEO land 🙂

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