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In today’s post, I want to go over all of the different functions and sections of the YOAST SEO Plugin. I’ll mostly be going over the free version of the plugin since that’s the only version I have and the one most people recommend you need.
What does the YOAST SEO Plugin do?
YOAST has a few features in it. It gives you a readability score and SEO analysis. Basically what you do is type in your “focus keyphrase” that you want it to look for and it goes throughout your post analyzing it.
You can also add a snippet preview (which is the META description Google will see), label a post be considered “Cornerstone content” and with the paid version, you can add additional related keyphrases you want YOAST to search your post for.
I’ll be going over all of these in detail later, but that is the basic functionality of the plugin!
P.S. All of the things I am referencing can be found on the right-hand side of the screen or at the very bottom of your blog post!
What is SEO?
SEO, if you don’t know, stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically, when someone searches for something on Google, whatever they search is considered a “keyword”. And you want to put those same keywords in your post so you can help Google give out your post to relevant people.
Let’s say someone types in “How to start a garden for beginners”. Google will then search all of the posts on the web and give them the most relevant blog posts for that search.
And how does Google determine the most relevant searches? There is a lot more to it that goes on behind the scenes, but part of it is through the words (keywords) you put in your blog posts! This is obviously a brief overview of SEO!
Recommend – The Beginner Guide to SEO Keyword Research
So how does YOAST SEO help with this? In quite a few ways actually.
This is the first box you need to fill in once you download the plugin. This will help the plugin know what to look for inside your post. The “focus keyphrase” is the same thing as a “keyword”.
This word or phrase will be what people lookup in search engines like Google to find your post, so it is the most important part.
This is the next section down the line, but I generally do this part last after the post is already written.
If you click on it, this is what you will see:
First, you’ll see a snippet preview. This is what your post description will look like in Google. You can choose to see what it looks like on both a phone or on a computer by clicking on the computer icon right below it (The phone option is already selected by default).
After that, you’ll see the SEO title option. (NOTE: if you just started writing and haven’t saved the post yet, nothing will show up!)
This section will change how the title looks in Google. I usually leave it as is, but you can play around with how it looks for yourself!
The next section is the slug. This is the part of the website link that will direct people to your blog post. So for example, https://www.sarahmarie.blog/ will send you to my home page but https://www.sarahmarie.blog/how-to-use-yoast-seo-plugin/ will direct you to this page.
It’s important for SEO to have your focus keyphrase in the slug. I generally try to keep mine pretty short but it will default to whatever the full name of the post is.
You can either leave it as is or change it to keep only the most important words. That is the strategy I use and recommend, that way your website link isn’t super long! They don’t need to be full sentences, as long as your focus keyphrase is in there for SEO purposes!
Next, we have the metadata which is the description people will see of your blog post from Google! At the bottom, as you are typing out your description, you’ll notice a bar filling up. This is to tell you roughly how many characters you have left before your description starts to run off of Google’s page.
You only have about 150-160 characters to work within a Google description! So once the bar turns green, you’re in the clear! But after it turns red, anything after that will not be shown by Google, so keep that in mind!
Once that section is filled out, I usually like to go to the excerpt in the document tab so I also have a description for my website as well. And then I check to make sure the URL slug has changed over as well.
There is a bunch to go through in this section! But first, why is this important to SEO?
You want to make sure your post has a nice flow and is easy for users to read. People read content different online than they would elsewhere, such as a book. The online world is a fast-moving place, and that’s how people tend to want to digest content on the internet!
Most people go to the internet because they have one or two specific things they need answeres. They want to find those answers as quickly as possible. So it is best to have lots of headings to allow people to scan through your post, and create short paragraphs. No one wants to read a big wall of text!
This is what this section helps you with getting just right.
As you can see here, YOAST will highlight the problems with my post, along with how to fix it and even the things I am doing right! The more things you are doing right, the better your score will be!
Now we are finally down to the SEO analysis. This is based heavily on the keyphrase you entered at the top, so make sure you’ve done your research and made it a good keyword!
In this example post I have typed up (which is not even a paragraph long) you can see all of the problems YOAST found with my post.
All of these are pretty self-explanatory, and if they aren’t for some reason, you can use the links they provide in the plugin to read more information about them!
At the bottom, you can see all of the things I have done right with the post! These also include links to ways to improve your score with links explaining each section, if you’d like.
You’ll know when you’ve improved one of the bad things because it will appear down here once the requirements are met!
Below that, you’ll find the related keyphrase which is a paid option. It might be useful, but I don’t think it’s worth paying for just yet! You can figure out this section on your own by just doing your own keyword research and adding them to the post!
To be honest, I never really use this feature and I’m not sure what the benefits of it are. What I take from it is, this is the content that you most reference to on your site. If you’d like to learn more about everything YOAST SEO, check out their website here!
My Take on YOAST and SEO
Now, while the YOAST SEO plugin is a great tool to help you better your posts for Google ranking, “green-lighting” every post isn’t a guarantee that your post will have the best SEO it can. You’ll need to do more of your own research to make it the best it can be!
Getting your posts to rank and bring organic traffic to your site is a long-term game and not something that will happen overnight. But, in my opinion, it is worth investing time into. Most bloggers will tell you that over half their traffic will come from Pinterest or some other social media platform. Which is great! Social media can be a great way to bring lots of traffic to your site.
But what happens if Pinterest shuts down?
What if Instagram decided to change their algorithm and now none of your followers end up seeing your post? Or you get accidentally flagged for spam on Facebook and now your page is gone? All of those followers go with it!
I’m sure you’ve heard that you don’t own your social media followers, which is true! So I don’t want to bank on traffic coming from a platform I have no control over!
Paying for an email list like Convertkit can help solve the problem because “you own your followers” some people like to say. And… to an extent you do. You pay for the service.
Owning an email list is the best way to grow your followers and your business (a.k.a your income!!). If you’re thinking about starting an email list, I really recommend trying Convertkit. Using my link, you get a 15-day free trial! After I used it, I was hooked!
Having an email list and gaining organic traffic are long-term strategies, but, done right, they also have a long term pay off! Social media is a good strategy, but it can go away as quickly as it appeared!
Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how to best use this plugin! Interested in downloading? Check it out here!
What are your SEO strategies? Have you downloaded the plugin? Let me know in the comments below!