Yoast SEO, A tool for Everyone
As I promised in my WordPress Essentials post, I’m devoting a separate entry dedicated to Yoast SEO. It is by far the most essential WordPress plug-in on my site. Oddly enough, I don’t remember why I installed it. One of those top-10-plugins-you-must-intall lists probably recommended it.
Naturally, once it was installed, I didn’t take the time to learn how it works. I’m sure I’m not using it to its full capabilities, but I’m on board with what it can do. For a long time, I’d curse every red dot it threw at me. (Yoast has a checklist it compares against your blog. For every SEO mistake you make, a red dot appears next to the error. Once corrected, it turns yellow for acceptable and green for good).
Here’s an example of how I didn’t use Yoast SEO: Out of my 170 posts (!), 26 are OK (yellow), 47 are Good (green), and 97 don’t register at all BECAUSE I DIDN’T USE A KEYWORD. It’s like I told Google, “Nah, forget about ranking my blog. I don’t need the traffic.” How stupid is that? So now I have to go back and add keywords, meta descriptions, image descriptions, etc. to almost 100 blog posts. Give me a drink of Yoast SEO juice to strengthen me for the task.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s what Yoast SEO does for me (once I figured out what it was trying to tell me):
- It alerts me if my blog is too short. Not a problem, I’m a writer, and I usually go over the recommended minimum of 300 words. For the AtoZChallenge, my blog posts average between 800-1000 words.
- The use of focus keywords to tickle Google’s fancy. This includes:
- Choosing a keyword and entering it into a “focus keyword” box
- Using the keyword(s) in the blog title, preferably near the beginning
- Using the keyword(s) in at least one header or subheader
- How many times the keyword(s) appear in the text (also known as keyword density, which makes me think of George McFly’s “You are my density” line every time).
- Using the keyword(s) in the meta description, which is found under “Snippet preview->Snippet edit” for those, like me, who were clueless. This is a <150 word summary of your blog which must include the keyword(s). For this blog, my meta description is, “Yoast SEO plugin helps you focus on keywords, reminds you to write meta descriptions, subheadings and image descriptions with your focus keywords.” If you publish your blog, this is the description that follows it and is visible to viewers.
- Using the keyword(s) in the URL, otherwise known as a permalink, discussed in more detail here.
- Using the keyword(s) in the image Alt+text. Yeah, I didn’t know this was a thing, either, and completely ignored this field. Google likes to find keywords here as well.
- Whether you’ve used the keyword(s) before.
Wait, that’s not all Yoast SEO can do for you!
Yoast SEO also looks at readability. For ease of your reader, it collects data (and colored dots) on:
- The score of the copy on the Flesch Reading East test. The higher the score, the better, otherwise, chop those sentences in two or use simpler words.
- Anytime you have >300 words after a header, Yoast SEO readability asks you to insert a new header or subheader. Your reader can’t take too many words in a row, ya’ll.
- If your paragraphs are too long.
- If your sentences contain more than 20 words.
- How many transition words your copy contains. These are words like:
- because, while, since, less, rather, therefore, maybe, probably, almost
- Transition words send clues to your readers, which makes reading easier. Therefore (see how clever I am), use a minimum of 30%. Personally, I think this is too high and tend to ignore the transition word count report.
- The percentage of words written in the passive voice. Yoast SEO likes to keep it below 10%.
- Starting more than two sentences with the same word. Starting with repetitive words throws up a red dot. I’d do it again, but I don’t like pesky red dots. Besides, I think, in this case, Yoast lies. I’ve gone through many a blog post without finding what they see. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
There’s a bunch more technical, code stuff I don’t understand and probably need a few drinks to attempt to implement, but I’ll end with this:
If you haven’t installed Yoast SEO and you’re working on a WordPress platform, install this plug-in asap and get to know your new little SEO buddy. Your content will look cleaner and more professional. Most important, Google likes SEO, and Yoast SEO will serve up a hearty meal of it.
Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, our last one, and the only Sunday we blog on, will focus on the letter “Z”.
Blessings until then,
If you’d like to continue reading my entries in the AtoZChallenge* and to receive my blog posts, please use the entry form to the right. Also sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll receive a FREE copy of my short story, Mr. Right, Mr. Wrong, Mr. Alien.
If you know of someone who would enjoy learning knowing more about Yoast SEO, use the buttons on the left to share this post. Thank you.
*#AtoZChallenge is a blogging challenge that takes place in April (except on Sundays). Participants blog every day around a theme of their choosing, in alphabetical order. Throughout the month of April, I’ll share tips, links, and insights I’ve learned in my writing career.