WordPress is a fantastic content management system. In fact, I think it is by far the best content management system out there. However, if you want your WordPress site to perform well in search engines, you will need an additional SEO plugin and Yoast SEO should be at the top of your list. So, in this article, I will show you how to use Yoast SEO in WordPress.
How To Setup Yoast VS How To Use Yoast
If you Google ‘how to use Yoast SEO in WordPress’ you will find some great guides on how to set up the plugin. This Yoast SEO tutorial from Kinsta explains things rather well, giving both a guide for beginners and another for advanced users: https://kinsta.com/blog/yoast-seo/.
However, this is not what this article is about. When we build WordPress sites for clients, or do any kind of SEO work on a WordPress website, we always install the Yoast SEO plugin and set this up correctly for them. So, many clients will not need to know how to set up the Yoast SEO plugin; they will just need to know how to use it.
So, if this sounds like you, then read on.
What Is The Yoast SEO Plugin?
In short, Yoast SEO is the world’s number 1 SEO plugin…in our view, no other SEO plugin comes close. I love the plugin so much that I even studied and passed their Yoast SEO For WordPress Certification.
Out of the box, WordPress is SEO friendly, however, when you get into the technical aspects of SEO, you will realise that there are many aspects of the system that needs perfecting in order to get the best search visibility for your website.
One of the main advantages of WordPress is the fact that you can add third-party WordPress plugins to extend its capabilities, and the same applies to website optimisation.
By running the Yoast SEO plugin on your website, you will be able to control how your pages and posts appear in search results, as well as control other vital aspects such as which pages search engines should display in search results, and those that they shouldn’t.
You can download a copy of the plugin from the ‘add plugins’ section of your WordPress admin, or visit their website: https://yoast.com.
How To Use Yoast SEO In WordPress
So, you have the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin installed and set up correctly on your site, but what can you actually do with it?
Well, it all starts with the Yoast SEO box that you will find on the edit screen of your page or post:
From this box, you can control all the aspects of your page or post in regards to how that page is optimised and how it will display in search engine results pages.
You will find the settings split into 3 tabs:
- Content Optimisation – this tab includes a screenshot of your pages title, URL and meta description showing how it will appear in search engine results (snippet preview). There is a readability analysis score, which shows you how easy or difficult it is for people to understand your text. A focus keyword box where you can tell the plugin what keyword you want that page to be found for, as well as an option to mark the page or post as cornerstone content. If you have the premium version of Yoast SEO installed, you will also see an insights box, which will show you the prominent words within that page.
- Social – this tab enables you to view and edit how your page will look in a news feed when shared on Facebook or Twitter.
- Advanced – this tab allows you to change some of the more advanced settings for the page, including whether that page should be displayed in search results, whether search engines should follow the links within your page text, how a search engine should crawl your page, the title that should be displayed if your site uses breadcrumbs and the canonical URL that should be set for that page.
Below, I will take you through each of these 3 tabs in detail and the steps to take, if you want to get the most out of the settings available. For the sake of this article, I will only cover the features of the free version of Yoast SEO.
Step 1: Choose The Right Focus Keyword
The first step is to decide whether the page or post you are uploading will have a focus keyword associated with it. This basically means, are you writing this page in order for people to find it in the likes of Google? If so, which keywords do you want that page to come up for in search results?
Not all pages of your website need to have a focus keyword. You have to have a clear intent for your page. For example, you may be writing a case study that people can read, once they have already landed on your site. In this situation, you are not relying on that page as a means of ‘pulling people in’ from the search results and therefore, having a focus keyword is not relevant.
However, if your aim is to attract new visitors to your page via a search engine, you should have a focus keyword in mind.
Once you have decided that your page should have a focus keyword, do you actually know what a keyword is? This sounds like a silly thing to ask, but I continuously see clients use this box to put words in that describes the page…this is not a keyword!
A keyword is a search phrase that is used by people in a search engine to find content just like yours. This means you need to get into the mindset of your target audience and imagine what they would type into the likes of Google to find your page.
So, let’s take this article as an example. If I was trying to apply a focus keyword to this post, the following words would NOT be suitable:
- ‘yoast seo’ – this is too generic and would probably be used by someone looking for the Yoast SEO plugin itself, rather than advice on how to use it.
- ‘yoast seo advice’ – again, this is too generic…advice on what exactly?
- ‘yoast seo guide’ – although this is relevant to the topic of this article, this would still be too generic as a guide could cover anything.
I know that I want this article to be found by people who have the Yoast SEO plugin already set up, but they are not sure how to use it and looking for a step by step guide on how to adjust the plugin settings. Therefore, I may want to optimise for keywords such as:
- ‘how to use yoast seo in wordpress’ – this keyword is good as it’s relevant, very specific to the problem I am trying to solve and due to it being a long-tail keyword, it will probably be a lot easier to rank for.
- ‘how to use yoast seo plugin’ – again, this is a long-tail keyword that people would type in and my article solves this exact problem.
- ‘how to use yoast’ – although I would imagine this keyword to be a little harder to rank for, due to it being shorter in length, it is still relevant and indicates that the searcher is looking for an answer that I can provide.
If you are still not sure how to implement keywords correctly, then I would suggest that you have an SEO professional carry out research and devise a keyword strategy for you. This is something Improve Position can help you with – simply take a look at our SEO services page for more information.
Step 2: Optimise For Your Focus Keyword
Now that you have decided on the keyword you want your page to rank for, you need to enter it into the focus keyword box. You can also add in alternative keywords that are similar to your main keyword, by using the synonyms box.
Once you do this, the plugin will come back with various analysis results, which are broken down into a traffic light system:
- Red icon items are things that are important to do if you want that page to rank well for the keyword.
- Orange icon items are not as important as red items, but are still advisable, if you want your page to perform well in search engines.
- Green icon items indicate those things that you have done well and no longer need to be concerned about.
I will stress that it is not vital that you have everything 100% green. This isn’t always possible to achieve and you need to remember that the system is still based off of an algorithm. You should read the results, fix whatever you can and use common sense for the rest. At the end of the day, everything that the plugin recommends is for guidance only.
To edit your search snippet preview (the title, URL and description that shows in search results), make sure you click on the ‘edit snippet’ button, which will then display editable boxes for each:
As you make on page SEO improvements to your page and search snippet, the analysis results will automatically update, so keep an eye on the score and watch the fruits of your labour. If your page or post has been set to have the date in snippet preview, then the allowed word count of your meta description will be a little less.
Step 3: Check The Readability Analysis
Once you have completed the on-page optimisation work, I would advise checking the readability analysis section:
Again, my advice is to take this section with a pinch of salt, as it is only an algorithm after all. But, it is worth reading through the analysis to see if you can improve the readability of your content.
As with the focus keyword, this section works off of a traffic light system and it may not always be possible to get a 100% green score. But, using the plugin’s advice with a little of your own common sense should allow you to improve things enough to make an impact.
Step 4: Set Cornerstone Content
The final part of the content optimisation tab is cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is any page on your website that you deem of vital importance. So, if the page or post you are working on is more important than most other pages on your site, you should mark it as cornerstone content.
When you mark your page or post as cornerstone content, Yoast SEO will do two main things:
- The focus keyword analysis will become a little stricter with a few additional suggestions that you should implement to make your page stand out more than others.
- For Yoast SEO Premium users, it will give more ‘weight’ to the page in the internal linking suggestion tool.
Step 5: Facebook Editor
If someone shares your page or post on social media, the network in question will usually take the title and description from your snippet metadata (that we set in step 2 above) along with the featured image, and use this in the news feed. If the page has no featured image, they will use the first image that they can find elsewhere on the page.
The problem with this is the text and image may not look the best or even be appropriate. You want the text and image to be eye-catching enough to entice readers to click-through and visit your website.
To overcome this issue, Facebook developed their own protocol called Open Graph, which when inputted into a web page, allows the user to dictate their own text and image to be used in social news feeds.
But, open graph is not just used by Facebook. Although originally introduced by Facebook, many other social networks now adopt this protocol. This includes the likes of Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many others.
By inputting a bespoke title, description and image in the Facebook editor dialogue box, you can implement open graph metadata into your page and override the default information that gets displayed both on Facebook, and any other network that supports the protocol.
Step 6: Twitter Editor
Although Twitter will recognise open graph metadata and use that information to distinguish how to display a page in their feed, they also have their own metadata protocol that you can use for their network.
This is handy as Twitter differs slightly to other social networks, such as their news feed moves at a faster pace and is narrower, causing some open graph images to become cropped.
So, if Twitter is a network that is important to you, you may want to consider completing the dialogue boxes on this tab.
Step 7: Indexation Settings
Under the advanced tab, I am only going to run you through one main setting – whether to allow search engines to show your page or post in search results.
Although this tab includes a variety of advanced settings, including meta robots settings, as a basic user, you will only really need to concern yourself with the first option.
Although in most situations, it doesn’t hurt to have these pages show in search results, it can be a waste of crawl budget if you do. Search engines, like Google, allocate a certain ‘budget’ to your website when crawling its content.
You want to make sure that the search engines can crawl the content as quickly and easily as possible, without wasting any of this budget. Adjusting the index settings of your pages ensures that the crawl budget is used efficiently and that traffic from organic search is directed only to the pages that are the most profitable for your business.
As a non-SEO professional user of WordPress, this covers everything that you need to know about optimising your pages and blog posts using Yoast SEO.
If you feel confident enough to explore the more advanced settings of the plugin itself, take a look at the options under ‘SEO’ in the left column within your site’s admin.
If you are a client of ours, you shouldn’t need to touch anything in here as we would of set everything up correctly for you. However, if you want to take your knowledge of the plugin to the next level, it is well worth having a look around. This includes SEO settings for webmaster tools (Google Search Console), local SEO, knowledge graph, site structure and many others.
If you have any questions or comments in general, do leave them below and I will get back to you personally.