As I mentioned in a previous post, I use Yoast SEO anytime I am working on SEO for a client that has a site or blog hosted on WordPress. I’ve been using it for a few years and can honestly say it’s been helpful for very small scale clients just trying to get their toes wet, and also when I was doing SEO for Microsoft. It’s scalable and that’s what I love. If you’re a blogger that wants to figure out how to configure each post to make sure it’s SEO-friendly, read on, because I’m going to show you!
Go ahead and install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin (instructions on how to do that here) and then open up the post you want to start optimizing. You’ll need to scroll past the actual post editing area to find it. You should see something that looks like this:
Before I dive into what options are in each section, I want to explain the purpose of SEO Yoast. SEO Yoast is a really, really comprehensive plugin with tons of options that could create amazing SEO results, including technical SEO settings, sitemaps, and a lot more. I am going to be using this post to just run through these post options (for on-page SEO)
“On-Page factors are the aspects of a given web page that influence search engine ranking.” Moz.com
Snippet Preview: This is what your search engine result will look like on Google. As you change some of the other tabs, this will adapt to reflect those changes. Remember that the goal of showing up in search engines is for the user to ultimately click-through, so when you’re creating the content that goes into this, try to make it as enticing as possible. This is your first, and possibly only, chance to make an impression.
Focus Keyword: For some reason a lot of people think that keywords don’t matter anymore…and they’re very, very wrong. But- the use of keywords in SEO has changed to encourage more authentic, engaging content, not keyword stuffing BS. In this field you need to pick the keyword, or key phrase, that sums up this post or page. It is important to be fairly specific, as Yoast recommends not using the same focus keyword more than one or two times. If I can’t think of one right away, I use a keyword density checker, this is a great free option, to help me out. This will show me what words and phrases I used the most frequently- most of the time, that’s a good place to start. In the page analysis tab, the Yoast plugin does show you the density of your target keyword.
SEO Yoast is going to check to see if your Focus Keyword is in all the right places, in the example I’m using, I didn’t incorporate it into my meta desciption as a phrase, but both words were used. Yoast calls that a “no” but for me, creating a metadescription that sounded natural was more important in this case.
SEO Title: The SEO title is generated based on the title of your post. If your title is too long, the Yoast plugin will give you a warning so you can fix it. It’s important to remember that title tags are fixed width in search engines so anything too long will not rendered in the SERPs (search engine result pages).
Meta description: You have 156 characters to convince a searcher to click-through to your page. The meta description is the preview snippet on the results page, and since Google limits the characters, you need to be compelling, consider, and keyword-centered. So look back at the “focus keyword” you put in- now incorporate that into a sentence that is going to drive searchers to become users.
TMYK- this snippet is entirely for the searcher, Google doesn’t use it as a ranking factor.
For the sake of seeing a full range of colors on this section, I picked a blog post that was neither great nor awful in regards to SEO. So once you’ve completed the post and filled out the “general” section, save the draft and come check out the page analysis. This section is going to show you where you’re doing awesome and where you could use a little (or a lot) of improvement.
It’s important to remember that the page analysis section is grading on search engine best practices. I’ve never gotten “all green” and if I did, I’m sure the content would sound clunky and weird. Writing for your readers instead of for search engines is always the way to go. I use the Page Analysis tool as a guide, not as the “end all be all” and I recommend you do too.
I want to keep this post strictly the easy-stuff, so you can start implemeting today with no prior experience with Yoast SEO. The only thing in advanced that I want to highlight is the 301 redirect section. This is really great for if you’ve written a newer post (this happens a lot in tech, as things move quickly) and want to just redirect the old post to a newer one without losing the link integrity. Also if for some reason you don’t want a specific article indexed in search engines, you can put in a no-follow link here. If you have private blog posts, this is where you would want to change that. The rest of the stuff in the advanced section, I’d suggest just leaving as the default.
It’s true that social media plays a big part in SEO now. When your readers see something they want to share, they are both a) showing it to their network and b) boosting your social authority. The social section of Yoast SEO gives you the ability to add unique titles, images, and descriptions for when someone shares your post. I like to make these personable and try things like “I just read this awesome post about _____, go check it out!” instead of just putting the blog title and meta description.
Okay so you didn’t read all of that for nothing, so now what? Go install the plugin and activate it. If you already have been posting on WordPress for awhile, it might not make sense to go back through and do these on all of your old posts – but try to start doing it from here on out. It’s an easy way to see some quick results. Not sure where to start with keyword research? Try looking through some of our toolkit, there’s some great free resources.