Search Engine Optimization with Yoast

What is search engine optimization?

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. 

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.

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.

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

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. 

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. Knowing how to pick out the best keywords is an art and a science. 

A good key phrase for the page you made is probably your name or some key characteristics. 

Add a key phrase now. 

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.  

Take a moment to find your list of suggestions. 

Now click on over to your 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.  

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

This is the same as the <title> and <meta> description tags that we put into the website <head>. But with Yoast, you can see what it 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.

SEO Copywriting

Now you have an understanding of how SEO copywriting works. In this class we will just use the Yoast fields to improve our readability and SEO. 

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. 

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. Google doesn’t know that keyphrase and will look at the overall topic.