Yoast Plugin for SEO

How to Use the Yoast Plugin: A Guide for Publishers

Digital publishers have unique challenges when it comes to search engine optimization. The one-and-done approach to SEO doesn’t work when publishers are posting multiple articles or blog posts each day. In these cases, the Yoast plugin is a useful tool for webpage optimization.

While the Yoast plugin is often described as effortless, that description isn’t entirely accurate. In order to get the most juice out of Yoast, publishers need to do more than just install the plugin. They need to actually configure the plugin and adjust the settings based on their own goals and value metrics.

Choosing the right configurations and plugin settings can seem overwhelming to publishers who are unfamiliar with Yoast, and SEO in general. Thankfully, Yoast has done an excellent job of designing its WordPress SEO plugin in a way that everyone can use. When they put in the effort, digital publishers get similar results with the Yoast plugin as they would by hiring a professional SEO consultant.

In this tutorial, we will explain how to use the Yoast plugin to generate more website traffic. And because this is a guide for digital publishers, we’ll be highlighting key points that publishers with blogs, local news websites, and online magazines should pay particular attention to as they make their way through Yoast’s SEO plugin.

Let’s get started.

Installing the Yoast Plugin

In this section, we will explain how to install the Yoast plugin on a WordPress website.

Before you can start using Yoast on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install the plugin. Visit the Yoast website to download the Yoast SEO Premium plugin and download a zip file to your computer.

With the Yoast premium plugin downloaded, head back to your WordPress website and click over to the dashboard. Click on “plugins” and select “add new.” Upload the Yoast plugin and sit back patiently while it installs on your website. (The process can take a while.)

Once the plugin is installed, you’ll need to activate it. You may also need to connect your subscription to the activated plugin, depending on whether you’re upgrading from the free version or installing Yoast for the very first time.

Configuring the Yoast Plugin

In this section, you will learn how to configure your Yoast plugin using the SEO configuration wizard.

SEO Configuration

Use the Yoast SEO configuration wizard to ensure the right settings are selected for your WordPress website. The configuration wizard will ask you a series of questions about your website’s setup, structure, content, and social profiles. Based on your responses, Yoast will select the configurations most likely to help you generate traction on search engines.

SEO Configuration Wizard

Answering some questions is easy—for example, “What kind of website do you have?” and “How many people are publishing content on your site?” Other questions asked by the Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard will take a bit more time.

When going through the Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard, be prepared to answer these questions:

  • Is your website under construction or already active? The answer to this question will determine whether your website is ready to be indexed on major search engines like Google and Bing.
  • What kind of website do you have? Answers here could range from a blog to an online shop or even a professional portfolio. If your website doesn’t fit into any of the defined categories, then select “Something else.”
  • Does your website represent a person or company? The answer to this question will be included in the metadata on your website.
  • Which content types would you like to appear in search results? Do you want “posts” to show up in search results? How about “pages”? When you answer this question, Yoast will do all the work to ensure that the right types of content are being indexed.
  • Which social channels do you use? Include the links to your social profiles on a variety of channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  • Does your website have multiple authors? If you write all the content on your website yourself, you’ll want to define that on your WordPress author page. Doing this prevents duplicate content from being indexed, which is a big no-no on Google.
  • Do you want Yoast to fetch information from Google Search Console? Connecting Yoast to your Google Search Console makes it easier to keep an eye on page errors.

In addition to asking those basic questions, the Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard will also guide you through the process of optimizing page titles. Beyond the default page title template, you’ll want to add a brief sitename to help people recognize your pages in search engine results.

Taking the time to accurately answer all of the questions in the SEO Configuration Wizard will benefit you in the long-run, so make sure not to rush through this step.

Focus Keywords and Content Optimization

In this section, we will dig into the real meat of the Yoast SEO plugin, with details about how to pick a focus keyword and write a meta description that website visitors will love.

Yoast focus keyword

Yoast runs an SEO analysis of the content on each page of your website. Although the results of this analysis can be quickly viewed along the right-hand side of the screen in the WordPress dashboard, you’ll have to scroll down for a more detailed view of your on-page optimization.

Where does Yoast get the information it needs to score your pages? Some information comes from the content itself, but it’s even more important that you include the right details in the meta box. Here’s what that includes.

Focus Keyword

We’ve got multiple tabs to get through, but before we do that, let’s start by typing in the focus keyword that you want to optimize the page for. For example, in a blog post with the headline, “What Is a Membership Editor?,” the focus keyword would be “membership editor.”
Yoast will let you know if you’ve already used this focus keyword before, which is a no-no when it comes to search optimization.

Underneath the focus keyword is a space to put any keyword synonyms. It’s not required that you use this box every time, but it is a good idea to enter some synonyms for your focus keyword, if any come to mind.

Page Title

Directly above the space where you entered the focus keyword is a place to edit “snippets.” This is the place where you’ll see a preview of the page title that will appear in the first line when the post shows up in search results. If this automatically-generated page title isn’t keyword optimized, then you should manually adjust it now.

Meta Description

A meta description is an HTML tag. Meta descriptions serve the purpose of getting people to click on a link from search engines.

Writing up your own meta description with the focus keyword will make it easier for people searching online to understand what your article is about. Creating the perfect meta description is both an art and a science. Meta descriptions should be written in a way that makes people want to click on the link to learn more.

The best meta descriptions have the following characteristics:

  • Under 156 characters
  • Include the focus keyword
  • Written in an active voice
  • Written with a call-to-action
  • Match the content

Check to make sure the title, the URL, and the meta description are optimized with the focus keyword in mind. Once you have a strong focus keyword and meta description in place, the Yoast plugin will score your content.

Images with ALT Text

The Yoast plugin keeps track of the ALT text in any images on your page. To maximize search engine rankings, make sure to include the focus keyword near the beginning of the ALT text on any images that appear on the page.

Cornerstone Content

Yoast encourages you to mark main topic pages as “cornerstone content.” Optimizing the main page for a particular topic or keyword requires a few extra steps, but it’s still easy enough for a novice to handle.

Cornerstone content should be optimized for the most competitive keywords. Cornerstone content should also be designed with plenty of internal links, since search engines view content with the most links pointing towards them as the most important content on the site.

Analyzing SEO

Now that you’ve chosen the focus keyword, written an enticing meta description, and marked your page as cornerstone content, if applicable, it’s time to see what Yoast thinks of the content on your page.

Yoast plugin

Revisit the Analysis box to see the results of Yoast’s content analysis. A few of the dozens of factors the Yoast plugin includes in its analysis are:

  • Having the focus keyword in the SEO title
  • Having the focus keyword used inside the SEO meta description
  • Having the focus keyword used in the URL
  • Having the focus keyword in the first 10% of the content
  • Having the focus keyword in the content
  • Content being at least 600 words

Advanced SEO

Thankfully, the Yoast plugin doesn’t stop at the basic elements of SEO. Advanced users can go beyond the basics by looking at the more nuanced elements of proper SEO.

Examples of the factors that Yoast is evaluating in this section include:

  • URL length
  • Focus keyword in subheadings
  • Focus keyword in image attributes
  • Linking to external resources
  • Keyword density
  • Whether the focus keyword has been used before

Yoast lists these factors based on how well they’ve been completed. Under the heading, you’ll see a list of “Problems,” “Improvements,” “Considerations,” and “Good Results.” The goal here is clearly to get as many “Good Results” as possible. While we’d like to see nothing listed in the “Problems” category, that isn’t always realistic for publishers who are creating newsworthy content. Nonetheless, if you see more than one or two issues listed, it’s a good idea to attempt to fix those problems before publishing the content.

Readability

Search engines are getting smarter, and they’re evaluating content based on readability. Here’s what the search engines are looking for.

Readability

Search engines aren’t interested in fluffy prose. Yoast understands what search engines like Google and Bing are looking for in the content they promote, and it uses content readability measurements to help publishers understand how to put together web-friendly articles and blog posts.

Content readability scores takes the following metrics into account:

  • Flesch Readability score
  • Use of the Table of Contents plugin
  • Length of paragraphs
  • Whether content contains images or videos
  • Focus keywords used at the beginning of the SEO title
  • Title containing “power words”

There are a number of misconceptions about what it takes to achieve a good readability score. Yoast has delved into them on the company’s own blog, which you can read here.

The most important fundamental to remember is that Google believes that quality content improves the user experience. The days when keyword stuffing would help boost search engine rankings are gone. Google recognizes when a certain keyword has been mentioned too frequently in an article, and it will actually lower the ranking for that content as a result. Additionally, Google now recognizes synonyms.

If your content is put together in a way that readers can quickly scan and process, it will achieve a high readability score. If not, you may want to revise the content and try writing shorter sentences that are easier to understand.

Yoast for Social Media

This section will help you understand how to use Yoast to gain more control over how people on social media view your content.

Social media SEO

The Yoast plugin is primarily for SEO, but the Social tab is where you will go to configure how your content shows up when it’s shared on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Yoast gives digital publishers complete control over the title, description, and images that automatically appear when readers share their articles on their own social media pages. If social sharing is important to your publication, then you should not overlook this feature in the Yoast plugin whenever you publish new content.

If you have configured this feature, but you forget to manually configure the information for a particular post, don’t worry. Yoast will automatically generate the title, description, and images for articles based on the SEO title and the featured image.

Although Yoast has dozens of advanced features, most publishers do not need to go beyond the basics in order to start seeing a major improvement in how their articles rank on Google and Bing.

To learn even more about how to get your content onto the first page of Google results, reach out to our digital publishing team and schedule a virtual consultation.

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