In the WordPress world today, the Yoast SEO plugin is all the rage. Why? Because there seems to be no better way to optimize your site for search engine visibility, apart from using the Genesis Framework (use them together, and you’re unstoppable 🙂 ).
Some benefits of using Yoast are:
- Defining keywords for posts and pages
- Writing specific descriptions for posts and pages to be read in search results
- Creating clean and appealing permalinks or URLs
- Providing your social media accounts to be indexed by search engines
- Auto generation of a reliable site map
The purpose of this guide is not to teach you everything there is to know about the plugin. Instead, I aim to help you understand the basics, and not dive into the advanced techie stuff. If you would like to know more about the parts of the plugin not mentioned here, I would recommend researching the actual Yoast website for in depth tutorials and answers.
Are you ready? Let’s begin!
YOAST SEO – FEATURES TAB
Once you have Yoast installed, you’ll notice on the left hand panel of the admin screen a tab that says SEO. Click on it, and you’ll be taken to the Yoast dashboard. At the top are several tabs, and one is the Features tab. Clicking on it reveals a series of options as shown left:
Because all of these options are explained in English and non-techie lingo (hooray!), I’ll simply give you my opinion on the necessity of some.
Notice how I have all enabled except for two: the Readability analysis and the Admin bar menu.
I chose to turn off the Readability suggestions for each post and page because honestly, I found them very unhelpful, and posts I considered very well written didn’t fit their particular guidelines. If you find their suggestions helpful, by all means, keep this option enabled (it is by default). However, if you find them annoying, you now know how to turn it off 🙂
Second, I have the Admin bar menu or icon disabled. It appears in the top menu in line with your site name, and because I already have a ton of things clogging up my screen, I was happy to disable it and have one last thing to look at. If you find yourself in the same position, simply disable it.
Third, you’re going to want to enable the Advanced settings pages option for the rest of this tutorial. That’s where we get into some of the “fun stuff,” which means making your site look super pro in search results 🙂
Lastly, Yoast has added a new feature called Cornerstone Content. This is HUGE because it allows you to mark specific posts and pages that are most crucial to the heart of your site. Make sure it is enabled and take the time to mark your most precious and meaningful pieces.
YOAST SEO – COMPANY INFO TAB
Although most of these options are already configured during the installation process, this where you can make changes later. What’s interesting is that you can add an alternate name for you site, so for instance–if you have a food blog titled “Tasty Treats Daily,” your alternate title could be you personal name, or vice versa.
In the other sections, you can choose whether to have Google see your site as a company or person, and you can upload your logo.
YOAST SEO TITLES & METAS – GENERAL TAB
This page is accessible when you enable the Advanced Settings Pages in the Features tab above. What your main concern is here is choosing what kind of divider you would like between the title of a post/page and the title of your site.
I’ve chosen the “|” mark, but you can choose what suits you best. Below is an example of how mine appears. Depending on what symbol you choose, yours will follow suit any place your information is shared or appears in search results.
YOAST SEO TITLES AND METAS – HOMEPAGE TAB
If you are using a static front page and a separate blog page with your theme, this tab will look like the above. Clicking the links will redirect you to those pages where you can find the Yoast SEO box beneath the text editor on the page. There, you can set a name and description for your home and blog page.
If your home page currently shows your latest posts, however, it will look something like this:
There might be different shortcodes in your Title template box, and I recommend simply keeping the %%sitename%% shortcode and deleting the others. Beneath it, enter your description of the home page. Follow this same pattern for the next couple tabs, in which you will define other pages of your site.
YOAST SEO – POST ANALYSIS
Scoring green for SEO isn’t as tricky as it may appear. Paying attention to a few key things will have your post fully optimized in no time!
Please note that this section will not cover scoring green for Readability, as I personally do not use that feature.
This is how an analysis can first appear right after entering the post keyword. Lots of red, orange, and hardly any green. Before we continue, let me say that it is entirely possible to get a “Good” score without being fully in the green. DON’T stress yourself out trying to do it, as I find it’s rarely possible for various reasons. There is no higher rank than “Good” anyhow, even if your post is entirely green lit.
Below is an examination of each of the analysis points and my thoughts:
TEXT CONTAINS: If your post/page is below 300 words, Yoast will point it out. This isn’t likely to happen with a post, but for a page, you may encounter this every time. My advice is to not detract from the point of the page if 300 words aren’t necessary. In other words–don’t ramble for the sake of getting out of the red.
NO META DESCRIPTION: This is a must and you should never leave it in the red. Information about this point is covered in the following section.
FOCUS KEYWORD DOESN’T APPEAR: This is a give or take. If you want to take Yoast’s advice and don’t mind restructuring your opening paragraph to put your keyword toward the beginning, go for it! But if you really love what you’ve written and don’t want to restructure, you can ignore it (I do).
NO IMAGES: If it’s not necessary to include an image in a given post or page, don’t stress on it.
LONG SLUG: It’s definitely a good idea to have a shortened slug, for the sake of cleanliness and appeal. When you first start a post, Yoast should shorten the link for you, but there are times this doesn’t happen. If you have a link like this: example.com/things-you-should-always-do-before-bed/, shorten it to this: example.com/things-before-bed/. The key is cutting out unnecessary words, and I’ll show you how to alter permalinks in the next section.
STOP WORDS: This is another give or take. By shortening your permalink, you should get rid of most of them, but here is the definition:
In computer search engines, a stop word is a commonly used word (such as “the”) that a search engine has been programmed to ignore, both when indexing entries for searching and when retrieving them as the result of a search query — TechTarget.com
Other words, such as “an, as, or, and” should be cut, as they would be considered stop words that don’t do anything for search engine rank.
NO LINKS: Give or take. If not necessary, don’t add.
SEO TITLE AND KEYWORD: As long as your keyword is in the title, don’t worry about moving it to the beginning.
KEYWORD USAGE: You always want this one to be in green, as you can see above (last green point). Yoast will allow you to use the same keyword twice for a post or page before recommending you switch one of them.
As always, determine what is best for your purposes and edit your post accordingly. Even if you have a few oranges and reds, you should have no problem getting a green score. Below is the analysis of my last post, Customize Your Genesis Child Theme. It has a green or “Good” score, yet it didn’t have “perfect” SEO:
As you can see, what I chose for my keyword wasn’t even in the post!–(or so it would seem). Sometimes, we encounter less than ideal situations where we might use multiple variations of a keyword, like custom, customization, and customize. In these instances, you might not be able to go back and use only one, but that’s OK! This is just an example of a rare occurrence.
But as pictured, you can still earn a passing score, so long as there is more green than red or orange.
YOAST SEO – SEARCH ENGINE SNIPPET
This part of the Yoast SEO box is actually positioned above the part I just discussed, and you’ll find it when you click the “Edit Snippet” button up top. The information you enter here is crucial, because it’s what other people will see when your post or page pops up in search results.
SLUG: This box is where you will shorten your permalink or URL if Yoast doesn’t automatically do it. Always keep one hyphen between words and you’ll be good to go. Please be aware that you should not go back to posts already published and change their permalinks, because more than likely your posts have been shared and changing the link will break the connection. ONLY do this to posts that have not yet been published.
META DESCRIPTION: This is where you will write a two sentence summary of your post/page and include the keyword. This part is always worth structuring to include the keyword, unlike the opening sentence of the post.
Once you have these two fields as you like them, Yoast then gives you a handy preview up top, with a laptop and cellular view. If after all this you now have a green rating, your post has been properly search engine optimized. Woohoo!
Thank you for reading through this tutorial. If you have other questions or need further assistance, please comment!