How to use the Yoast plugin for WordPress

Optimising content for search is one of the biggest challenges that marketers face. Specifically, it can be difficult to know if enough has been done to send the right signals to search engines to get your content noticed. The good news is that there are plugins to help, and you don’t even have to know a lot about SEO to make the most of them.
Yoast is a plugin for WordPress that can help you to make the most of SEO opportunities. While it might not shoot your website to the top of Google’s search results in the first week, it can help you to improve your chances.

What is Yoast SEO plugin?

Yoast is a plugin built for the WordPress CMS. You have to have a self-hosted WordPress site and cannot use this plugin on a hosted blog. You can use a free version of the plugin or pay for additional premium features. Yoast works across your whole website to determine how your site appears in search. It also works on each individual page and post to give you an idea of the steps you need to take to help your content rank.

How do I install Yoast?

You can either download the Yoast plugin files directly from Yoast and upload them to your website, or you can head to “Plugins” and then “Add New” to search for the plugin.
After installing and activating your plugin, you will now see SEO in your WordPress sidebar. The easiest way to get your Yoast plugin up and running is to run the configuration wizard. This will take you through the steps required to get your site indexed and ranking. It will also make sure the Knowledge Graph and schema data for your website is correct.

Setting up your site with Yoast

Once you have completed the configuration wizard, there are a few other settings you may be interested in.

  • Change the default setting for your meta titles so that this section is always the same. Go to “search appearance” and then “content types” to update this.
  • Connect Yoast to Webmaster tools for multiple platforms, including Baidu, Bing, Google and Yandex. By connecting to Google Search Console, you can check that your website is indexing correctly and act on indexing problems sooner.
  • Connect to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to make the most of Open Graph meta data. This will allow you to take control over how your content appears when shared on social media.

Using the Yoast metabox

Once your site is set up and connected, you can start putting it to work on your posts and pages. When you open any post or page, you will now see the Yoast metabox. It might seem overwhelming at first, but it will soon become much clearer.
To see the metabox in action, the easiest thing you can do is to enter the target keyword or phrase for the page in the “Focus keyphrase” box.
You will then see the SEO analysis results appear below. You may need to click the down arrow to make this appear.
You should now see the results broken down into “Problems”, “Improvements” and “Good Results”. The Yoast plugin scans your page or post and assesses the level of optimisation in relation to your keyword. Yoast looks at the following SEO ranking signals:

  • Keyphrase length – the optimum length is up to 4 content words, which doesn’t include function words such as “in”, “do” and “are”.
  • Keyphrase in meta description
  • Keyphrase in introduction – the keyphrase should appear in the first paragraph of text
  • Keyphrase density – although more outdated, this looks as the frequency of your keyphrase
  • Kephrase in heading – this scans your H2 headings for the keyphrase
  • Keyphrase in title
  • Keyphrase in slug – to make sure your URL is set correctly
  • Meta description length
  • Previously used keyword – to make sure you haven’t used the keyword before
  • Image alt attributes – to make sure you have specified an alt description for your images
  • Text length
  • SEO title width – this looks at pixel width rather than characters
  • Outbound links
  • Internal links

The goal here is to turn all of the lights green by optimising your content for your target keyword. But remember that turning every light green might send the right signals to search engines, but there are no guarantees.
In addition to the SEO analysis, you will also see the readability tab. This will help you to clean up your writing and make sure everything is crystal clear.
The readability tab looks at the following factors:

  • Flesch reading ease, which is a score of how easy content is to read.
  • Passive voice – this can make your writing less engaging, and should therefore be avoided.
  • Consecutive sentences – keep it varied by avoiding starting your sentences the same way over and over again.
  • Subheading distribution – subheadings make it easier to scan your content and should therefore be distributed throughout the content.
  • Paragraph length – long paragraphs are difficult to read, particularly on a mobile device. This scans your post or page for long paragraphs which could be split up.
  • Sentence length – keeping sentences short helps the reader to understand. A long sentence is one longer than 20 words.
  • Transition words – transition words help to bring context to your content and should feature in at least 30% of your sentences to turn this light green.

When combined, these tools can help you to create content optimised for both humans and robots.

Should I upgrade to Yoast Premium?

Yoast Premium offers a few additional tools which you might find helpful. These include:

  • Internal link suggestions
  • Content insights – highlight the 5 most used phrases on the page or post to make sure you’re on the right track
  • Redirect manager – to help prevent 404 Not Found pages
  • Remove adverts
  • 24/7 support
  • Export your focus keywords for easier analysis
  • Multiple keyword focus on each page and post
  • Notifications when your content hasn’t been updated for more than 6 months

While these added features may be helpful, the free version should be more than enough to get you started. Premium costs £89 for 1 site, but you can enjoy discounts for multiple sites.

What are the alternatives to Yoast?

There are many different alternatives to Yoast. These include:

  • Rank Math
  • SEOPress
  • All in One SEO Pack
  • SEOPressor

At Auburn, we use Yoast for our own website and for client websites as we believe it offers a balance between insight and accessibility.
If you’re interested in learning more about our wider SEO services, get in touch today!