It’s no secret that placing a heavy emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO) is a key factor in growing your business. For companies that use WordPress as their managed hosting for their website’s hosting platform, Yoast is a tool with plenty of utility that can’t be ignored.
But, most entrepreneurs don’t know nearly as much as they need to about it. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about the benefits of the Yoast SEO Plugin.
Using The Yoast SEO Module for On-Page Optimizations
The most-used functionality of Yoast is by far the SEO tab in the Yoast module, found on the blog or page editor in the WordPress backend. Once you’ve identified the right keyword for your article or page, this is where the Yoast magic happens. As soon as you add your keyword to the “Focus Keyphrase” box, Yoast will automatically start to make suggestions on how you can improve the SEO on your page:
The Yoast Meta Box
One of the first things you’ll notice when you see the Yoast module is a preview of how your page will appear in search results. By clicking on this preview, you will be able to adjust both the meta title (or SEO title) and the meta description for your page.
The meta title, or SEO title as it’s called in Yoast, is one of the most important components for your SEO optimization, as this is the headline that will appear in the search results, and is a primary consideration when Google’s crawl bots are trying to understand what your page is about. It is best practice to include the exact keyphrase you’re optimizing for in the SEO title.
The meta description refers to the short text summary that appears underneath your page’s title when people find it on search results. While this is not a factor in how well your page ranks in search engines, it is an important part of getting users to actually click on your search result. You’ll notice that when you do a Google search, the keywords you search for will automatically be bolded in the meta description. You likely use this bolding all the time to determine which result to click on. In order to be as effective as possible at generating clicks on your search result, you’ll want to provide an enticing description of your page that includes your keyphrase, and possibly other related keyphrases as well.
If you don’t specify a meta description, the first lines of text of your article will automatically be added by default. Because those first few lines aren’t always the best representation of the content of your article, it’s important to update your meta description here.
The Yoast SEO Analysis and Optimization Suggestions
By clicking on the “SEO Analysis” tab under the Meta Box, you can find a whole list of suggestions on how to properly optimize your page or article. Yoast will even provide a “face” indicator for how well the tool thinks your page is optimized, with the goal to work your article up to a “green happy face” level of optimization.
Yoast analyzes your page for a number of different SEO factors, and will specify with a red dot, an orange dot, or a green dot how optimized each factor is in your page. These factors are are outlined here:
Yoast SEO Optimization Factors
Keyphrase Length: First, Yoast will analyze your keyphrase length. This is mostly to ensure you’re not trying to optimize for a keyphrase that is way too long. Most super-long keywords are very rarely searched, and likely won’t provide you much SEO value at all in the search results.
Text Length: When it comes to SEO, the length of your article matters. Generally, longer and more detailed articles do a better job of answering the question that the user is searching for. It’s in Google’s best interest to provide the best possible search results, so articles or pages that have enough wordcount to properly answer the search query have a better chance of ranking highly. In general, Yoast will flag your article as having too little text if you have less than 300 words.
Keyphrase Placement: Yoast will analyze where your target keyword has been placed in your article. This is where the bulk of your SEO optimization will occur. For best SEO results, Yoast will suggest you place your keyword in these areas:
- Meta Title: The focus keyphrase should always be included in your meta title. Yoast will also suggest that you place it at the beginning of your meta title rather than at the end.
- Meta Description: If your focus keyphrase isn’t included in your meta description, Yoast will remind you to update it in the Meta Box.
- Slug: The “slug” is the part of the page’s URL that is specific to that page. For instance, the slug of this article is /getting-most-yoast/. It’s best practice to utilize the focus keyphrase in the slug, and Yoast will suggest removing “stop” words like “for”, “to”, “have”, etc.
- Introduction: It is best practice to include your focus keyphrase in the first paragraph of your page or article. Sometimes the design of your page makes this impossible, but for the most part you should always strive to have your keyphrase front-and-center in the first paragraph of your copy.
- H1 Heading: Including your keyphrase in the H1 heading of your page is the single most important factor in your SEO optimization. Most blog posts utilize the title of your article as the H1 heading. As the primary heading of your page, the H1 heading indicates to Google’s crawl bots what the overall topic of your page is. Note: Your page should only have one H1 heading. Subtopics should be outlined in lower-level headings, such as H2s and H3s and so on.
- Subheadings: Yoast will also evaluate the use of your keyphrase in your subheadings, if you have them (and you should). For longer articles with a larger number of subheadings, Yoast will also notify you if you’re over-using your keyphrase in these subheadings. For best results, use a mixture of your focus keyphrase and variants of that keyphrase in your subheadings.
- Image Alt Attributes: Because Google’s search bots can’t “see” images, they rely on the page editor to specify what images are about in what’s called “alternate text”, or alt text. Utilizing the focus keyphrase in image alt text is a great way to let Google know that you are supporting your topic with relevant images. For pages with large numbers of images, Yoast will also notify you if you are over-optimizing your images, just like with subheadings. Using different variations of your keywords here is great for SEO.
- Keyphrase Density: It’s best practice to utilize your focus keyphrase enough, but not too much, in the body of your page. Depending on your word count, Yoast will suggest a range of how many times you should use your focus keyphrase, and will notify you if you’re using it too little, or too often.
Linking from Your Page: Yoast will always suggest that you link to other pages from your page, and with good reason. Interlinking between the pages on your site will help Google understand how your different pages fit together, and can specify which pages might be a more authoritative post for a certain topic.
In addition, linking to pages outside of your website can sometimes be beneficial for readers. However, if your page is meant to keep readers on your site, as in the case with converting landing pages, your home page, or a reviews page, it’s best not to link to outside sources unless there’s a specific reason.
Length of SEO Title and Meta Description: Yoast will also notify you if the length of your SEO title and meta description is too long or too short. The biggest consideration is if these components are too long, as they will get truncated in search results and the searcher won’t be able to read the entire title or meta description. While this doesn’t directly affect your SEO ranking, it can affect click-through rates if an important part of either is cut off.
Previously Used Keyphrase: One of the coolest aspects of Yoast is that it will keep track of what focus keyphrases you’ve used across your site (as long as you’ve used Yoast to optimize those pages as well). If you’ve already used a focus keyphrase elsewhere, Yoast will notify you so that your page doesn’t compete with another page on your site for the same keyphrase. If you’ve already used a keyphrase, consider combining content to have one super-page that targets that keyphrase.
Other Notable Features of the Yoast SEO Tab
Related Keyphrases – Under the SEO Analysis section there is a place to add related keyphrases. While your page will mainly be optimized for a single keyword, there are often related or similar keywords you’d also like to rank for. By putting your related keywords here, Yoast can make additional suggestions on how to optimize for those phrases without compromising the optimization for the main focus keyphrase.
Cornerstone Content – You also have the option to mark your article as “cornerstone content”. This comes in handy when you have an article on a more general topic that will also reference and link to pages or articles that discuss sub-topics that fit under that overarching topic.
Advanced Items – At the very bottom of the SEO tab is an “Advanced” section, which allows you to allow or block search engines from indexing your page, alter how your page appears in your robots.txt file, or add a canonical URL, which will be discussed later.
The second tab of the Yoast module is for “Readability”. Those who are at least somewhat familiar with Yoast understand the ‘traffic light’ mechanic that it incorporates. When something needs improvement, a red-colored bullet or “frowny face” will appear. When everything’s good to go, this will be replaced by a green bullet or “smiley face”.
Yoast also makes use of integrated readability analysis in order to help you optimize your content. It will check for attributes like paragraph length, transition words, how easy the text is to read, and whether or not your content extensively uses the passive voice. To elaborate on this last point, there’s nothing inherently wrong with passive voice in literature. When it comes to writing content for the website, though, you always want to use an active voice to make things easier for your audience to understand, and to lead them to take certain actions. This utility is also available in multiple languages, including German, Spanish, French, and Russian. So, those who run companies with an international audience can highly benefit.
The end result is having published content on your website that your audience can easily scan and understand. After all, scannability plays a large role in how engaged your audience will be while reading your content.
In contrast, websites that have large blocks of text tend to drive users away. If people only spend a few seconds on your website before navigating away due to its formatting, this will affect a metric known as your site’s bounce rate.
Google uses this to help determine whether or not your site has high-quality, relevant content. When people quickly navigate away, it tells Google that the content on your website is poor, thus reducing your site’s ranking and overall traffic.
Specifying a Canonical URL to Avoid Duplicate Content
Why You Should Use Canonical Tags
Generally speaking, every page on your website should have totally unique content. Copying large sections of text from one page to another can be confusing to Google’s crawl bots, making it difficult to know which page should be shown for a specific search query.
Similarly, you may have a good reason to focus on the same topic on multiple pages or articles on your site. For instance, if you own a company that employs contractors to complete home remodeling projects, you may have multiple pages dedicated to roofing in different sections of your website.
The trouble with this is that these pages may be targeting the same keyword, and search engines may have difficulty knowing which page is “the best page” to show for a search query.
As another example, let’s say you have created a solid, SEO-optimized landing page that describes your products or services. But for better tracking purposes, you want to have multiple copies of this page to use for different marketing tactics: one for paid search, one for social advertising, one for email marketing, etc. At this point, all of these pages have the same content and the same keywords. If you do nothing, these pages will compete with each other, and none of them may be shown in search results.
The workaround for this is called a canonical tag. The canonical tag specifies to Google which of these pages you would like to be the one that shows up in search results. The pages that you don’t want to be indexed would include a canonical URL tag that specifies the URL of the page that you do want to have shown in search results, which resolves the possible confusion.
In order to prevent complications that result from the Google search algorithm, it’s imperative that you use canonical URL tags for the pages on your website. Otherwise, Google may incorrectly analyze duplicate content on your website and assume that you are fluffing your site by reposting content over and over again.
Using Yoast for Canonical URL Tags
Luckily, Yoast makes it simple to add a canonical URL to any page or post on your WordPress site.
Navigate to the Yoast module on your page or post editor, and make sure you are on the “SEO” tab (by default, this tab is already selected when you load the editor). At the very bottom under the “Advanced” section, you’ll see a text box with the label “Canonical URL”. Simply add the URL of the page that you want to be the “preferred” page, and Yoast will automatically add the proper canonical URL tag into your post. Just make sure you “Update” the page when you’re done!
Analyzing and Improving Text Links
The quality of the links on your website plays a large role when it comes to how Google ranks your content. The internal linking tool that Yoast provides is one of the most useful when it comes to boosting your WordPress SEO value. While you’re writing a post on your website, this tool will automatically suggest relevant internal links for you to incorporate.
Using the aforementioned example involving the home remodeling company, let’s assume that you’re writing a post about the best home improvement projects you can undertake to add value to your home.
This tool, which typically appears on the right-hand side of your WordPress editor, will scan your website for any posts you’ve made in the past that would be relevant to the post that you’re currently writing. It will then provide a list of posts that would be suitable for you to incorporate as internal links and your content. In this case, it will likely provide content like home remodeling ideas, the benefits of upgrading your kitchen hardware, etc.
This nifty tool will eliminate the need for you to spend time extensively searching through your past post history. Businesses that publish a high volume of content each week or month will find this to be an invaluable asset.
Additionally, you will only need to use this tool to analyze particular content once, allowing you to make this process even faster. If your content is relatively long, though, it may take a few moments for the analysis to complete.
Incorporating Schema and Structured Data
In recent years, Google has placed a heavy emphasis on structured data, or schema, in order to show the right search results within the various modules they’ve placed on the search engine results pages. You may have noticed an increased number of “answer boxes”, frequently asked questions, star reviews, and other enhancements to Google search results. Although schema and structured data is just one of a large number of factors that calculate site ranking, it’s one of the most important to keep in mind, especially as new changes and updates are made to the search results pages.
This means that websites with structured data are far more likely to appear higher on Google search results. This is achieved by providing Google with insight into your website’s architecture and how you describe the content on your website.
The more Google is able to immediately understand the website, the more accurately it can determine its ranking. Google may interpret a typical website structure in the following manner:
If the aforementioned construction business publishes content on its website, Google views this post as an article. This particular article is a smaller component of a webpage, which is part of a website. The publisher of the content is known as an organization and its writer is known as an author.
Any social profiles that are attached to the author or organization are also taken into consideration. Using all of this information together, Google is able to determine the architecture of the website and have a much better idea of the content that’s present on it.
As you can tell, this immediately makes your site more ‘valid’ in the eyes of the Google search algorithm.
Over time, information that is collected from websites can be used to develop a knowledge graph, which can then be used to help machines better understand organic content.
In the future, this will catapult developments related to user accessibility and artificial learning to new Heights. Additionally, this will help push the limits of the possibilities associated with web development.
How Can Yoast Help?
In the past, properly incorporating structure data into your website was notoriously difficult. This was exacerbated by the fact that only a handful of reliable resources were available.
To help resolve this issue, Yoast allows users to incorporate data content blocks into their WordPress website. This will automatically add the necessary code to any content that you add to a content block. Since not every entrepreneur has an extensive background in web development, this will allow these individuals to forego hiring a professional.
In fact, this process has become so streamlined that all you’ll need to do is fill in the required fields. You can also make use of the Schema tab in the WordPress editor to add structure data directly to your site’s pages without modifying the code.
Afterward, you can use Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool to determine how your content block appears in the search results. For those unfamiliar, ‘rich results’ are known as auxiliary results that Google uses to help users understand more about the results they get for their queries.
Images, for example, are considered rich results in this scenario. Similarly, corporate contact info, logos, and social profile data also function as rich results.
Although the incorporation of data blocks is not always guaranteed to lead to rich search results, it will objectively provide Google with more information about how your website is structured. This factor in itself can help boost your site’s overall ranking.
Get The Most Out of Yoast
With the above information about the utility that Yoast provides, you’ll be able to use the plugin to its fullest potential and reach metrics like never before.
Want to learn more about how we can help? Feel free to get in touch with us today to see what we can do.
I am a growth marketer with diverse experience across startups. A researcher by training, and an avid reader of science fiction, I take a special interest in all things tech. I have been involved with WordPress for the last 8 years, and currently lead growth marketing at Pressable.