This is a simple Yoast SEO plugin tutorial with explanations for those who aren’t professional SEO’s. What follows are basic instructions on using it while you are writing posts or pages. Setting the plugin up is covered in another tutorial.
Joost de Valk is a Dutch web developer and SEO expert who creates plugins for WordPress sites. He very generously shares his knowledge and expertise. His blog is excellent reading about everything from web design to SEO. Joost (pronounced ‘yoast’) developed the Yoast SEO plugin, which is beyond compare and beyond expectation for a free WordPress plugin. Without a doubt, the Yoast SEO plugin is the most sophisticated and necessary plugin for every WordPress site. Take advantage of his generosity and install it.
When you publish a Post, the search engines are ‘pinged’ or notified that there is fresh content to devour. They send out a bot to ‘read’ it. And every time you click that Update button, they are re-pinged. Don’t piss these bots off by making lots of live changes. Save your post as a Draft until you are completely satisfied with it and the SEO work is finished. Then publish.
How to Use the Yoast SEO Plugin
So you think you’re done writing and feel ready to tackle the optimization using the Yoast SEO plugin? When the plugin is installed, it automatically creates a settings box below your post editor. The first thing you notice is the Snippet Preview – this is what your post title and meta description look like in the search engines. As you modify the title and description in the Yoast SEO box, that will change.
The Yoast SEO plugin is built around the use of a Focus Keyword. Bear this in mind when you are conceiving your topic. Your post needs to be relevant to the focus keyword. A keyword is either a word or a phrase that your audience will use in the search engines to find your article. Most of the time people search using a phrase of 2 or 3 words.
When you initially enter the phrase into the Focus Keyword field, a list drops down that contains the most frequently used key phrases closest to your keyword. Choose one, add the SEO Title, and the Yoast SEO plugin will let you know right away how you have fallen short in optimizing your post or page. A nice little list appears starting with the phrase ‘Your focus keyword was found in…’
- the Article Heading – this is the WordPress title of your post. Put your Focus Keyword at the start of your title. No need to get all fancy with a catchy title no one will ever see. Get that Focus Keyword in there right away.
- the Page Title – this is the SEO Title you added in the Yoast SEO plugin editor. Same thing: get the keyword in at the beginning.
- the Page URL – Go to the Permalink under the Article Heading above your post and click the Edit button. Change the permalink to include the Focus Keyword. 5 words is more than enough. If you have another page/post using the same phrase, WordPress adds a number behind it.
- the Content – ah, yes, keyword repetition. You’ll frequently find that search terms are awkward to include in your content. They need to be written exactly as they are used in search. You want your page to rank for that term? Then get real creative.
- the Meta Description – this is a description of the page you’re writing that is entered into the plugin Meta Description field. This is what shows up as the description in the search engine ‘snippet’. The plugin tells you when you’ve under- or overdone the number of characters. Include your Focus Keyword.
Go ahead and save that draft now.
I just did. Hmmm…. that little ball next to ‘SEO’ right above the Publish button changed color from gray to yellow. We’re not quite done yet. So back to the Yoast SEO box to click on the “Page Analysis’ link at the top. What shows up is a list of what’s good and what’s missing, with a few suggestions.
Well, perhaps an image is needed – one that has an ‘Alt’ tag. Because bots cannot ‘see’ images they depend on you to tell them what they are. Including the Focus Keyword in the ‘Alt’ tag is a good idea.
Maybe the keyword density is ‘a bit low’. (I like the politeness of this plugin feedback.) Time to find a few more places to add that Focus Keyword. Easiest way? Could be one of the terms used in your Focus Keyword can be replaced with the entire Focus Keyword throughout your text. Or if you’re a rambling blowhard like me, delete some of the unnecessary text in your page.
‘No outbound links’? Don’t link to another page that already ranks for your Focus Keyword. Use a wikipedia link to some word in the text as a descriptor.
Flesch Reading Ease text a bit too low? Maybe your audience finished high school and can easily read sentences more than 12 words with words that have more than 2 syllables. If not, shorten your sentences and take out the big words, like ‘tutorial’.
Subheading? If you look back at the beginning of this article, you’ll see a subheading called ‘How to Use the Yoast SEO Plugin’. Type in a subheading using your Focus Keyword, highlight it, then click the dropdown arrow next to Paragraph and click on Heading 2 or 3. This makes it a sub-heading. Never use H1 – that’s reserved for your page title or your site title, depending on your theme setup.
And if your theme is using your site title as the H1, consider changing to the Genesis framework, which makes the page title your H1. Search engines place a lot of weight on the H1. It’s one of the highest page ranking factors. And because it’s your page that ranks, not your site, you want that H1 to tell them what your page is about. You did spend a lot of time writing and optimizing the page, didn’t you? So make it worth your effort.
You can find Yoast’s blog here