Search Engine Optimization with Yoast

This article is part of the WordPress Curriculum on

What is search engine optimization?

In this lesson we will learn how to use Yoast for Search Engine Optimization. If you prefer to read this content in a slideshow, you can find it in the second half of this slideshow: The WordPress Block Editor and SEO.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of making your website come to the top of search results. When you create a new website, the next step is to get website visitors. There are three ways to do that:

Option 1. Tell potential visitors about your website; for example, through social media or email.

Option 2. Purchase advertising to send visitors to your website, like through Google Search Ads (formerly AdWords)

Option 3. Create your website in such a way that your website is found in search results, like with Google or Bing searches. 

Many website owners do a mix of all three of these ways. This article is about using SEO to increase website traffic. 

In web development, “build it and they will come” just isn’t true. Website owners need to invest time into building up traffic to their website. Most website owners need ongoing support from their web developers to increase traffic.

Using Yoast for WordPress SEO

Not only does Google prefer WordPress for SEO, tools available only in WordPress makeke it easier to improve website SEO. The plugin that most WordPress users use for SEO is called Yoast. It is named after its developer Joost De Valk, who lives in Holland. There are other WordPress SEO plugins, but Yoast is the only one with a generous free level. 

The slogan of Yoast is “SEO for Everyone”. Yoast makes SEO copywriting accessible. 

This is why WordPress users choose Yoast:

  • It does the technical SEO, like creating a sitemap
  • It allows you to set your page title and page description meta data, without code. 
  • After you set the keywords for the page, Yoast scores your post on how well you have written to those keywords.
  • Yoast provides a readability score that helps you create a post that is easier to read. 
  • Yoast makes it easier to prepare posts with the OG metadata needed for sharing on social media. 

Yoast gamifies SEO by giving you an SEO score for your web page. In the list of posts at below, I can see how I am doing. Notice the green, orange, and red dots. The goal is to have green and green. 

Listing of posts in a WP dashboard, showing the Yoast SEO Scores.
Listing of posts in a WP dashboard, showing the Yoast SEO Scores.

If you are working through these lessons on your own, you need to install the Yoast plugin on your website. Navigate to the Dashboard -> Plugins -> Add Plugins. Search for the Yoast plugin. Follow the prompts to Add it and Activate it.

A Brief Tour of the Yoast Plugin on Edit Post

Navigate to your post from Lesson 4. Edit Post.

Yoast is on your editing page right underneath the blocks. Scroll down on the page to find it. If you don’t see it, open up the disclosure arrow for Yoast.

Screenshot of the Yoast SEO tools in the main section of Edit Post
Screenshot of the Yoast SEO tools in the main section of Edit Post

You can also access Yoast in the right sidebar by clicking the Y-shaped icon at the top of the sidebar. 

Toggle on the Yoast settings in the right sidebar of Edit Post
Toggle on the Yoast settings in the right sidebar of Edit Post

Yoast gives you two scores on your posts. One is for Readability and one is for SEO analysis. When you work on the lab this week, you will see your score as your write. Your goal is to have green and green. 

A screenshot of a webpage Yoast score.

The Yoast “Keyphrase” and SEO Analysis of the Post

In order to do the SEO analysis on your page, you need to set the key words. Yoast calls it a “Focus keyphrase”, because longer SEO phrases generally are better. 

A good key phrase for the page you made is probably your name or some key characteristics about yourself, since this assignment is to create a profile page. As you can see in my keyphrase below, I used my name and added “Instructor” behind it.

Add a key phrase now. 

Screenshot of where to enter your keyphrase to use the Yoast tools
Screenshot of where to enter your keyphrase to use the Yoast tools

Do not click the “Get related keyphrases” button, as that leads to an advertisement to purchase Yoast. You may want to purchase the Yoast Pro plugin at some point in time, but it isn’t necessary for this training.

Choosing Key Phrases is both an art and a science. For this particular lab, using your name in the key phrase is probably the best idea. 

Generally, the key phrase should have a “long tail”, which means that it’s long enough that it can be a niche. It’s hard to compete with one or two search words. 

If you have a need to work on SEO for a website, I have a keyword strategy tool post:

Now that you have a key phrase, Yoast will give you feedback on what you need to work on to improve your SEO. Your goal is to continue to make improvements until you have the website in Green.  As you work through the suggestions, you may decide to change your keyphrase.

Take a moment to find your list of suggestions. 

List of suggestions to improve SEO from the Yoast plugin.
List of suggestions to improve SEO from the Yoast plugin.

Don’t be concerned about a long list of suggestions. We’ll come back to working on those in a bit.

Readability Suggestions

Now click on over to your readability suggestions.

A list of Yoast readability suggestions.
A list of Yoast readability suggestions.

Don’t be concerned if you have a long list to work on. It’s normal for a new website to require some re-writing. We’ll do this re-writing for the lab.  Yoast not only gives you feedback on how well you have used the SEO keywords, but also gives you suggestions to make your article easier to read. Google will place articles that are easier to read higher in the search results.

SEO Page Title and Meta Description

Almost certainly, one of your SEO suggestions is to write the title and description for the page, and make sure your keywords are in the text. 

If you know HTML, this is the same as the <title> and <meta> description tags that we put into the website <head>. But with Yoast, you can see your title and description will look like in the search results. Yoast also gives you feedback about the length of the meta description. When the line below the text is green, it is the right length.

Yoast provides tools for editing the SEO title and meta description on a web page.
Yoast provides tools for editing the SEO title and meta description on a web page.

Scroll underneath the block editor and take a moment to find the Yoast title and description. Write a custom title for your page with the right length.

SEO Copywriting

Now that you have the basics on how to use Yoast to improve your web page SEO, it is time to try it out.

For the lab, do some SEO copywriting work to move your post to Green and Green. When I have taught this course in the past, all students have been able to make edits that resulted in green and green. Even so, it sometimes can be frustrating to move a post all the way to green, because it may require changes to the web page that you don’t want to make. Remember that Yoast is a tool…what works best for SEO is well-written content optimized for keywords. Yoast is trying to emulate how Google would interpret the website based on the words you chose for the key phrase. Always remember that Yoast is just a tool and what Google wants is well-written content.

Do you enjoy writing and editing? Some writers have made SEO Copywriting into a career. SEO is more closely related to marketing than web development. Bloggers are pros at SEO copywriting. 

What’s Next?

It’s possible that Lessons 4 and 5 provided the skills that you needed to assist on a blog or improve SEO for your company website. In fact, on most websites, most time is spend on Adding and Editing Content in the Block Editor (Lesson 4) and optimizing the content for SEO (Lesson 5). If that is the case, then more practice is what is most needed at this point. If you would like to take this further, the next WordPress Lessons on this website will teach you how to create a page with a page builder and/or how to create a product page on an e-commerce website.