It can be easy to ignore excellent plugins on WordPress. Sometimes you just want to write a damn blog post and move on with your day. But Yoast isn’t something to overlook. WordPress SEO by Yoast is a fantastic tool, yet it won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use it well. Here’s an SEO tutorial that should help you with that: First, the WHY: Yoast is a plugin that makes sure you have your SEO ducks in a row. Having your SEO ducks in a row means that your post, with all the work you put into it, is worth your while. Optimized content is what will help drive traffic to your website and therefore your product/service/message. The time you spend with Yoast will absolutely be rewarded. So let’s get started!
Finding a keyword
The first step to using Yoast for a blog post is finding a keyword that fits. You can use a phrase, too, so you could say “toothbrush” or “toothbrush best practices,” and they would both work. To choose a good keyword, read over your blog post. What message are you trying to get across? Think of a couple of reasons why you wrote it. If your blog post is about flossing your teeth, you might come up with the following ideas:
- Oral care
- Gingivitis prevention
You may not even mention gingivitis in your post, but as the writer of a post like this, you know that flossing’s greater purpose isn’t to make your gums bleed–it’s to promote oral care. Beginning to think like this will help with your keyword-finding endeavors. If you need help searching for ideas, you can also use a word cloud tool for your post. After you have these ideas written down, go to Google Adwords. Sign in and under the Tools tab on the far right, select “Keyword Planner” from the dropdown menu. With this planning tool, you can type in some of the ideas you’ve already written down. Google will tell you what people are searching for related to that keyword. You want to try to find a balance between Low competition and a High number of monthly searches.
TIP: While sometimes unavoidable, try to steer clear of keywords that have apostrophes in them or other similar punctuation. If your keyword is “Alzheimer’s”, that apostrophe may goof up the optimization. If you can go with something like “dementia” instead, you might be more successful.
When coming up with your keyword, remember that this word or phrase will have to be used with some frequency in your post. If you think the keyword sounds starchy or something you don’t think works for your post, don’t use it! It may take some time to come up with a good keyword, and this is okay. This is probably the hardest part of using Yoast–the prep beforehand.
The circle of SEO
Yoast makes it easy to tell if you’re doing it right. After installing the plugin, you will begin noticing a small circle indicating how well optimized the post is for your keyword. You want that circle to be green. Right now this circle is gray because I have not typed in my keyword yet. If I type in a keyword and the dot turns red, that means I’ve not very well optimized the post. If it turns yellow, it’s “meh” and finally, green is gold!
TIP: If your circle isn’t changing color even as you make changes, go ahead and save the draft of your post to get it to refresh.
For this post, I’ve decided to use the keyword “SEO tutorial.” Although this post is about Yoast, its greater purpose is to optimize your blog post or article, so this keyword fits well. Be sure to not mislead your readers by using a keyword that isn’t really relevant to your content. This is considered a grave sin in the land of Google, and you SHALL be penalized.
Yoast it up
Scrolling down in WordPress past the main copy of your blog post, you will find your Yoast plugin. This is where the magic happens. Below is my plugin all filled in with my keyword. You can do as much or as little of it as you want, but I usually choose to do all of them. The snippet preview here is what will come up on the Google results list. The meta description is a little summary or hook that shows up on the snippet. If you do not put in a meta description, it will default to the first 156 characters of the beginning of your post. Refreshing my post now as I write this draft, my circle is green! Yay! I’m all done, right? I could be, especially if I’m in a rush. But there is more to Yoast. And that’s the “Page Analysis” tab. There are many tips on here, but for the sake of your time and mine, I’ve boxed three tips that help your SEO but have nothing to do with your keyword. The first box, the one about the slug, is referring to your URL. Yoast thinks my slug is too long. Yoast can bug off–I like my slug! That’s another thing–Yoast has tips and suggestions for you, but you do not have to make sure all the dots are green. You can take or leave any advice given to you. The second box there is about the Flesch Reading Ease test. I will not claim expertise on this test, but it basically determines if your copy is hard to read or not. If it’s hard to read, that doesn’t mean nobody will read it, but that definitely means fewer people will read it. Ease of reading comes with shorter sentences, non-jargon or non-pretentious vocabulary and shorter paragraphs. And finally, I have two outbound links in my post. This tells Google that I’m referencing other articles, which encourages engagement and interaction online. This practice has nothing to do with my keyword, but Google has the power to reward certain behaviors while writing a post, outbound links being one of them!