When someone searches for your business on the web, if your listing doesn’t appear near the top of the results page, it’s likely that you’ll be overlooked. After briefly reviewing the available links, 67% of the time, a user will click one of the top five sites listed.
Stats like that make it clear that SEO is important, nevertheless, many site owners don’t give it the attention it deserves. Ensuring site-wide optimization manually is a demanding task and SEO never seems to drop off the To-Do list, which can be discouraging and lead site owners to reduce or even abandon their SEO efforts.
But no need to worry! There is a plugin for WordPress websites that can be part of the solution. It’s called Yoast SEO and it’s one of the most popular SEO plugins available.
This article will introduce Yoast SEO, provide a quick refresher on basic optimization principles, and then do a deep dive into how this popular plugin can transform your approach to SEO. It will cover installation and setup, walk you through the plugin’s features, and wrap up with a comparison between the free and paid versions.
What Is Yoast SEO?
Yoast SEO is a comprehensive SEO tool that helps users ensure their site is optimized to rank as high as possible in search results. With an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, this plugin gives site owners the ability to take a hands-on approach to SEO and control a wide range of important ranking factors that are often overlooked.
We’ll describe all the features of Yoast SEO later, but here are some of its highlights:
- Keyword Optimization—Yoast SEO helps users put their keywords to work in the most effective way possible.
- Site Map Creation—This plugin automates the creation of your sitemap, an SEO element that can improve indexing and result in richer listing content.
- Content Age Monitoring—Yoast SEO tracks the age of your content to help ensure that old content won’t damage your ranking.
- Readability Assessment—The plugin scores your content based on readability to help your site better satisfy search engines’ preference for easy-to-read content.
Yoast SEO is an incredibly powerful plugin. Even the general view presented above proves that it’s an indispensable tool you should be using if you want to increase the performance of your WordPress website.
How Yoast SEO Can Help Your Website
The Yoast SEO plugin can help you improve your site’s SEO, but before we explain how it does that, let’s take a quick look at what SEO is. It stands for search engine optimization and it involves increasing website traffic by making the site more visible in search results.
The importance of visibility in search results cannot be overstated.
In over 71% of searches, the user clicks a link on the first page of search results.
That fact alone should convince skeptics as to the importance of SEO. Following basic SEO best practices is a must, and Yoast SEO goes much further than basic SEO. It offers a site-wide solution that accounts for numerous SEO factors.
That’s huge, because, for many site owners, ensuring their content contains relevant keywords is, despite good intentions, as far as they ever really take their SEO efforts.
And there’s way more to SEO than just keywords.
Search engines look at many things about your site when determining where it should be ranked in search results. Meta descriptions and title tags have a major impact on SEO, for example. Your site structure, the age of your content, and other factors are all part of the algorithms that search engines use to judge the relevance and quality of a website.
Trying to manage all these elements without a tool has killed a lot of well-planned SEO strategies, and even when tools are employed, many SEO-focused plugins fail to address all the important ranking factors.
With Yoast SEO, you can easily optimize your site and make sure that your SEO strategy capitalizes on all critical aspects of how search engines rank websites.
How to Configure the Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO is a mature software product; the process for installation and setup has been refined and perfected, resulting in a pain-free experience for users.
From the admin dashboard of your WordPress site, follow the standard procedures to search for the Yoast SEO plugin and install it. Once the plugin is activated, an “SEO” option will appear in your admin dashboard menu.
Configuring Yoast SEO is easy. Use the SEO menu to select the General option where you can access the Yoast configuration wizard, which will help you set up your site with optimal SEO settings.
In the first part of the process, you will be asked whether you want your site to be indexed. If your site development is in progress and you don’t want Google to index your site yet, this step of the wizard allows you to choose that option.
After determining the type of site you have (a distinction that’s used for later configuration steps), the wizard will ask if the site represents an organization or an individual. It will gather different metadata based on the answers you give.
We’re about halfway through the wizard now. The fourth step allows you to specify whether posts and pages should be visible to search engines.
Next, the wizard asks if multiple people publish content on your site. WordPress creates author pages, which are great for sites with multiple authors, but it does that for single-author sites too, and the result can be unwanted duplicate content, which Yoast SEO can help you eliminate.
The sixth step allows you to specify how your page titles should appear, with the name and separator details being used on the tool’s default page title template.
The remaining steps of the wizard focus on highlighting the Yoast newsletter, other helpful Yoast plugins, and the added features you’ll get if you opt for Yoast SEO Premium.
Yoast SEO in Action
In WordPress, Yoast adds an “SEO” menu item on the left that contains the following choices:
- General—Here you’ll see a section with notifications or alerts if your site has any SEO problems. There’s also a dashboard to control the plugin’s features and a place to manage integration with webmaster tools.
- Search Appearance—This option presents a wide range of control points that let you manage crucial SEO factors. You can define titles and meta descriptions, specify how different content types should be handled, and configure the behavior of download and media links. You can also define categories and other site structure details that impact how search engines see your site.
- Social—Here you can define a range of options that optimize your content for social media, enabling you to improve how your content will appear on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Tools—Helpful options include the ability to import and export settings and SEO data, plus there’s a file editor, a bulk editor, and a text link counter.
Pretty powerful stuff, right? Wait, the best part is the Yoast SEO metabox!
When you’re in content-creation mode on one of your pages, Yoast adds a page-level control panel below your content. It’s called the metabox and it contains the following tabs:
- SEO—This tab provides access to a snippet preview and SEO analysis that display green, yellow, or red indicators to reflect how effective your SEO will be based on a wide range of factors like keyword distribution and the use of inbound and outbound links. You can also manage a related key phrase, specify if the page is cornerstone content, and define other advanced SEO-related options.
- Readability—The Yoast SEO plugin also provides a readability analysis. The accessibility of your content is a major SEO factor and following certain readability guidelines will improve your rankings. This part of the tool will help you avoid SEO-negative writing factors like the use of passive voice, repetitive sentences, and overly long paragraphs and sentences. It also helps you implement SEO-positive readability factors like headings and subheadings.
- Social—This tab allows you to control how your title, description, and image will appear on Facebook and Twitter, giving you the chance to take advantage of optimization that pertains specifically to social media platforms.
There are more tabs and additional functionality in Yoast SEO Premium, which we’ll discuss later.
Getting the Most Out of Yoast SEO
The free version of the Yoast SEO plugin can get you well on your way to improved search rankings, but Yoast SEO Premium and the company’s other plugins can take your SEO to an even higher level.
Let’s start with a look at the free version.
Basic SEO for Free
Especially if you’re new to website management and SEO, the free version of Yoast SEO is the perfect place to start from. As you use the tool, you’ll also be learning about which elements of your web content have the largest impact on SEO.
Yoast SEO helps users put their keywords to work in the most effective way possible. It won’t help you decide which keywords to use, but it will make sure you use them effectively. The tool will assess how well your content is optimized to rank for the keyword or key phrase you provide. Bear in mind that in the free version you can only test one keyword at a time.
Another major feature of the ad-supported version of Yoast SEO is site map creation. Having an optimized sitemap results in improved indexing and richer listing content. Yoast SEO automates the creation of your sitemap. Search engines will always know exactly what your content is and how it’s organized, and Yoast SEO ensures your site map will be updated as necessary to keep up with changes in Google’s algorithm.
While we’re discussing sitemaps…one of the great things about Yoast SEO is that it removes the need to manually manage your schema.org file and other technical site elements related to SEO, like robots.txt, and .htaccess files. The plugin takes care of all the details in these files to ensure they’re optimized for search engines.
Content age monitoring is yet another free feature. The plugin will warn you if your content grows stale. Anything six or more months old can hurt your ranking, and this plugin will remind you of that fact as soon as it detects outdated content.
The ability to preview your page comes free, but only in Google. If you want to see how it looks on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll have to upgrade.
Site structure is important to search engines and Yoast SEO lets you manage your categories with ease. It will also help you avoid the negative impact that duplicate content can have on your ranking.
You’ll be able to take advantage of a proven readability assessment. Yoast SEO assigns your content a grade based on its Flesch Reading Ease score. Search engines rank easy-to-read sites higher which is why readability matters.
Finally, one of the major pains of SEO is keeping up with changes. Yoast SEO is always on top of updates to Google’s algorithm and also responds immediately to changes in how social media platforms view your content.
That’s a lot of SEO help for free, but what you get with Yoast SEO Premium is even more impressive. In the next section, we’ll look at the paid version of this popular plugin and also touch on other Yoast plugins that satisfy niche SEO requirements.
Extended SEO Capabilities
To maximize your SEO, you can pay a fee to gain access to the advanced features available in Yoast SEO Premium, and, if you want to improve your video, local, news, or e-commerce rankings, there’s a dedicated Yoast plugin for you.
Yoast SEO Premium is ad-free, and you get a year of access to 24/7 support. Here’s what else you get when you upgrade:
- Unlimited keyword analysis—Where the free version limits you to one keyword or phrase, Yoast SEO Premium allows you to analyze as many as you want.
- Facebook and Twitter previews—You can see a preview of your page, not just as it will appear in Google, but on social media platforms as well.
- Internal linking suggestions—The plugin will provide input about creating links to other pages on your website.
- Content focus assessment—Yoast SEO Premium will show you the words you use most to help you keep the content focused on the right keywords.
- Help with redirects—The plugin will make it simple to redirect old URLs so you don’t have to manually handle that every time you remove a page from your site.
- Flexibility to work with your SEO data—Yoast SEO Premium will export an overview report covering your focus keywords and related SEO scores.
For those wishing to boost their SEO for video, local listings, news, and online stores, Yoast offers these specialized plugins:
- Video SEO for WordPress—You can draw attention to your videos by making sure they appear in Google video results and every other place that Google displays video links, plus you can improve how your users share video posts.
- Local SEO for WordPress—This plugin will help your site show up in local search results and jump out at users from their Google Maps results. Does this matter? Yes! Google has unofficially stated that 46% of all Google searches are local!
- News SEO for WordPress—You’ll be able to easily generate a News XML sitemap, include stock ticker information, and more, all to maximize your content’s effectiveness in Google News.
- Yoast WooCommerce SEO—This plugin can help you attract more visitors to your e-commerce site and improve how they find and buy products on your site.
Yoast SEO: Ready Help to Improve Your Ranking Fast
If you want more traffic on your blog or business website, SEO will have to be part of your approach.
While you can optimize a WordPress site manually, with a tool like the Yoast SEO plugin available, that would be hard to justify, even for an experienced web developer. The plugin makes it easy to manage your site for all basic SEO factors and some more advanced aspects of optimization that are sometimes overlooked.
Whether you’re already following some SEO best practices or the whole concept is completely foreign to you, we recommend you take advantage of the powerful, easy-to-use Yoast SEO plugin to improve where and how your site appears in search results.