When you hear the words “WordPress” and “SEO,” the next word you’re sure to hear is “Yoast.” With 5+ million active installs at the time of this writing, it’s easily the most popular WordPress tool for SEO, and likely one of the first plugins you installed on your blog.
But do you actually know how to use it? If you’re like many bloggers, you might’ve installed it assuming it adds magical SEO properties automatically. And while that’s only slightly true, the truth is, it’s not doing much if you’re not actually optimizing it on the majority of your posts. So today, we’re giving you a tour of the Yoast SEO plugin and how you can make the most of its features as a style or lifestyle blogger.
Installing and setting up Yoast SEO Plugin
The Yoast SEO plugin is available for free in the WordPress directory, so to install it, simply go to Plugins > Add New, then search for Yoast. As of this writing, it’s the first listing in the results and has 5+ million active installs. Here’s what it should look like:
Once activated, you should see a new tab in your WordPress dashboard that says SEO. It typically appears somewhere below the Settings tab, depending on other plugins you have installed. Click on the new SEO tab.
The first thing you’ll see is the General – Yoast SEO page, which will load the Dashboard by default, Here, there should be a prompt to complete the SEO Configuration Wizard. It looks like this:
This is a helpful step that takes care of a few important settings for you! However, there are a couple things to note:
- If you’re working on a new site, there’s an option to prevent your site from being indexed until it’s live. However, you have to remember to update this option when you go live, otherwise Yoast will continue to prevent your site from being indexed by search engines, even after launch. Once you complete the configuration wizard, you have the option to repeat it and change any of the settings.
- There’s an option to authenticate with Google Search Console. While Google Search Console is a topic for another day, we want to give you a heads up to sign up for an account first, before completing the wizard, if you want to use this feature. And of course, you can skip this option and set it up later.
Finally, just be aware of the Features tab, also located in this main area. It’s where you can enable or disable any features of the plugin. For a short period of time, the plugin authors tried to simplify things for new users and disabled some of the features by default. If anything disappears after updating your plugin in the future, or if there are any features you simply don’t use, this is where you can turn them on or off again. Here’s a quick visual of the Features tab, so you can make sure you’re in the right place:
Next, we’ll head into the Social tab. You can access it by hovering over the SEO tab from your WordPress dashboard, then selecting Social. This is an important and often overlooked tab! While the configuration wizard will help you fill in the social profiles in this section (viewable by clicking on the Accounts tab), the other tabs address important tasks for social media platforms, like setting up rich pins and verifying your site with Pinterest. Here’s what you need to do:
- In the Facebook tab, enable Open Graph meta data. Not only does this send preview information to Facebook when people share your links, it also adds the data Pinterest needs for rich pins (check out our Help Desk article to learn how to enable Rich Pins on your site).
- In the Twitter tab, enable Twitter card meta data. Again, this sends preview information to Twitter when people share your links.
- In the Pinterest tab, you can confirm your site with Pinterest by adding the meta tag in the box provided. This is the meta tag Pinterest tells you to add to your site. Yoast will add it in the proper spot so that you don’t have to dig into theme files.
Here’s what the Social tab looks like, so you can ensure you’re in the right place:
Next, we’ll go back to hovering over the SEO tab, then selecting Search Appearance. This is where the automatic, magical SEO properties come into play. Here, you can set the default meta titles and descriptions for any type of content on your site. The goal is to ensure all of your content has decent meta titles and descriptions, even if you don’t optimize before publishing, or go back and edit all the content you wrote prior to installing the plugin.
Just keep in mind that this isn’t a magic SEO spell for your site — it’s simply one small step above doing nothing. By default, Yoast will set your post title as the meta title and your WordPress excerpt as the meta description. This is more descriptive and helpful than, say, your site title or tagline.
But take a blog post titled “Weekly Faves,” as an example. Maybe this week you share your top five liquid lipsticks that aren’t drying, but you have an intro about how your week went. If you don’t use the plugin to edit your meta title and description, it will default to “Weekly Faves” and a description of your week, which will not help you rank for “non-drying liquid lipsticks.” In this case, the defaults really only help you if you’re already using descriptive titles and introductions.
How to use the Yoast SEO plugin for blog post editing
On to the good stuff! This is the bulk of how you’ll be using the Yoast SEO plugin — to edit your blog posts and optimize them for keywords—or as Yoast refers to them, your “focus keyphrase.” The easiest way to show you the tools in the post editor is to walk you through our process of optimizing a blog post. Let’s get started!
1. Write the post.
Ok, so our first step actually has nothing to do with the Yoast SEO plugin. When it comes to SEO, we want you to remember that it’s a long game. Write for humans first, and Google will follow. We write our blog posts first, then we turn our attention to the Yoast SEO plugin and look for ways to optimize the post.
2. Enter your focus keyphrase.
Choosing a focus keyphrase is a topic in and of itself — we love this post from Yoast on how to choose the perfect focus keyword. (We’ll also be chatting about this more in a few weeks, here on our own blog!) In this example, let’s say we’re optimizing this post for they keyphrase “Yoast SEO for style bloggers.”
Our quick and easy method to picking a keyphrase? Google what you’re writing about! As you type, pay attention to what Google suggests — these suggestions come directly from search histories. Also, on the search results page, check out the questions that people also ask, and scroll down the page to find the related searches. This can give you keyword ideas that may be a better fit for your blog post.
3. Change the red and orange dots to green.
Once you add a focus keyphrase, Yoast makes the process of optimizing your post simple — it literally gives you a checklist. Work your way down the checklist correcting problems as you are able. Save your post draft periodically so the plugin can reanalyze your post and turn some of those red dots to green! Here’s a visual guide to show you what to play with within each post:
4. Keep humans first.
Occasionally, you’ll have trouble turning some of the red dots green without sounding like a robot. Remember that the Yoast plugin is simply a tool to help you improve your blog posts. A final green light isn’t going to guarantee you a top ranking, and a red or orange light isn’t going to prevent you from a top ranking either. When in doubt, make sure your content is useful for humans first and foremost.
Whew — that was a lot of information! Remember that SEO should be a part of the long-term strategy for driving traffic to your blog. Keep testing things out and see what works! We hope you found this post helpful, and as always, let us know if you have questions in the comments.