Yoast SEO – What It Does and What It Doesn’t

Person looking at SEO score

There are tons of things you need to do to be seen online these days–but great ads, digital tracking, and retargeting can only get you so far. For people to really be able to find you online, you have to have a solid SEO strategy. That’s right. You are going to have to work on your SEO strategy. But it’s easier than you think. 

SEO doesn’t have to be some mystical beast that only content marketing gurus can understand. There’s a tool available at your fingertips that can help teach you the ins and outs of SEO, develop a strategy for your content, and in turn improve your site’s ranking on search engines. 

The Yoast with the Most

Yoast is widely known across the WordPress community, and for good reason. 

  • It’s comprehensive: It tells you everything you need to know about optimizing posts and pages. 
  • It’s accessible: Although there is a paid, premium version there is a free version of the plugin available for anyone and everyone. 
  • It’s easy to use: Yoast’s user interface is simple. It takes the ‘mysticism’ out of the process and encourages anyone and everyone to take their SEO into their own hands. 

Although it’s widely known, there are a few misconceptions about this plugin and what it actually does for your site. Throughout this piece, we’re going to take a look at Yoast and how you can get the most out of the most popular SEO tool in WordPress. 

What Does Yoast Do? 

Yoast, more or less, is there to ensure you’re checking all the SEO boxes. There are tons of things Google takes into account when they rank pages for key terms or phrases. Google’s SEO ‘starter’ guide is 32 pages long. If you need something to help put you to sleep, go ahead and give it a read. 

Yoast boils that 32 pages down to a nifty, neat checklist. After you get your content uploaded into a page or post, Yoast will analyze it to see how many of the boxes it ticks. (We’ll get into what those boxes are later.) 

It also helps you easily set up a sitemap, allows you to control categories and tags, helps set robots.txt, .htaccess, and URLs, and is always updated with the latest algorithm changes from Google (so you don’t have to keep up with them yourself!).

What Doesn’t Yoast Do? 

Yoast doesn’t really do anything. It merely gives you the ability to easily edit and set different parameters of your site’s technical SEO. Although it does help you set a variety of technical SEO features, you still have to edit the different areas in the page or post itself. Next, let’s take a look at the different areas that Yoast allows you to edit.

Yoast Tick Boxes – Explained

After writing or pasting content into your page editor, you’ll see a variety of different buttons on the ‘Yoast’ module, each one either red, orange, or green. 

Keyphrase Length, Introduction, and Length

Although you can’t tell Google what the SEO keyword or keyphrase for your page is, this is an important step in getting Yoast to accurately gauge how optimized your page actually is. Type your desired keyword into the ‘Focus Keyphrase’ box and see if your content meets the specifications: Is your phrase long enough? Do you use it in the first paragraph of copy? 

Top Tip: Do your research first to find high-search / low-competition search terms. Use these terms in the first paragraph of copy and pepper it throughout your piece. But don’t use it too often! 

Keyphrase Density

Next, Yoast checks your page for keyword density. Although Google wants to ensure your page is about x, y, or z, it also wants to make sure you’re not trying to game the system. Blackhat SEO was a strategy used for years by sites wanting to rank higher. ‘Keyword stuffing’ was common practice in the early days of Google, and now they actually knock sites that use a keyword or phrase too often in content. 

Yoast does a check on each section of content to ensure you’re building links within your own website. Whenever you mention different features, posts, or other parts of your site, you should always add internal links to improve your site’s usability and reputation with search engines.

Edit Your Meta Description

Although meta descriptions don’t have any impact on SEO per se, it’s always a great idea to assign a meta description to every page you create. Make the description enticing, try to use your keyword/phrase if you can (although it’s not 100% necessary), and keep your description within the desired length specified by Google (160 characters). 

Assign Alt-Attributes for Images

Including images in your posts or pages is always a good idea. If you do, don’t forget to assign them a proper alt-tag. Since Google only sees the image as an <img>, the alt tag allows it to see what the image is actually of. Screen readers also use alt-tags to tell users when an image appears on a page. If possible, use your keyword/phrase in the alt-tag. This will help improve overall SEO and make your site more user-friendly.

Internal links aren’t the only types you should be putting into your pages and posts. Add outbound links, too. Depending on the trustworthiness of the site you’re linking to, Google will actually rank your page higher because it’s linking to a reputable source. 

Amount of Text

Do a quick search on how long the ideal blog post should be and you’ll get tons of different answers. Some say a post should be over 1,200 words. Others say your post should be at least 800. Yoast just wants your post to be at least 300 words. Go over? Great job! Go under, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t try to stuff your page full of content just to get a green light. If you’ve said all you can and need to, then that’s good enough for users. 

Readability Score

Yoast also has a feature that scans your content for readability. What does that mean? It just wants to know if your content is easy for users to read and understand. How it does it is another story. 

A long time ago in a century far, far away, a man named Rudolf Flesch wrote a series of books detailing how to write, read, and speak more effectively. Chances are you already know some of his tips: Don’t use passive voice. Don’t start sentences with the same word back to back. Don’t make your sentences or paragraphs too long. Yoast has taken the ‘Flesch Readability Scale’ (along with a few other parameters) and programmed it into their platform. 

Just like any other algorithm, this one has its faults. If you’re a good writer, you know how and when to use passive voice. If your audience is well versed and highly educated, they can probably stand a compound sentence or two. While the Flesch Readability Scale is a good tool for reference, don’t rely on it too heavily. Instead, keep this in mind: Don’t write for robots. Write for people. 

Yoast is one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-use SEO tools available for WordPress users. Although it doesn’t really do anything to help your SEO score, it is a valuable tool to help improve and optimize your pages and posts. Eventually, you’ll start thinking of each one of these different pieces while you’re writing content. You won’t need to go through and make sure all your boxes are green, because you know they will be anyway! 

If you want even more tools to help improve your SEO, Pressable offers Jetpack Security Daily for free with all Personal & higher plans, which comes with specialized SEO tools to help improve your site visibility, optimize your pages, and get more out of your managed WordPress hosting plans. Learn more about Jetpack and the other features that come standard with our hosting subscriptions, view WordPress hosting plans.

Amanda Nadhir

Amanda serves as the Head of Sales and Enablement for Pressable. She's worked in the tech space for well over a decade and has spent the majority of that time building/training/leading teams. She loves travel and adventure and when she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, lounging pool/beach-side, playing tennis, working out, and meeting people/making friends all along the way!

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