Improve your search engine ranking with Yoast SEO (free)
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If you want to grow your website’s traffic and start ranking on search engines, you will need to work on your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you are just starting, this may not be on the top of your priority list. However, I think that it’s far easier to set things up from the beginning and look at each post’s SEO when you write it rather than trying to go back and “fix” everything once you have a lot of content.
One of the most popular WordPress plugins to improve SEO is Yoast SEO.
Why Yoast SEO?
Yoast SEO checks your website content, looking at keyword optimization, links, readability, titles, URL names, and meta descriptions. A traffic light system is used to display areas that are working well in green and problem areas in orange or red. The visual aspect of the tool makes it easy to identify issues quickly. There is a paid version of the plugin, but I only use the free version.
These are some of Yoast SEO’s key features:
1 – Yoast SEO Helps you easily edit titles and meta descriptions
When you run a search online, the search results include the title of the article listed, the link and description of the content.
Both titles and meta descriptions are essential to improve your SEO ranking. Yoast SEO shows you a “preview” of how your blog post is likely to appear in search engine results within the post page:
It also provides a “bulk editor” (under Y SEO > Tools in the WP dashboard) that allows you to edit all your blog post titles and meta descriptions without having to go into each of them one by one.
2 – Yoast SEO Provides readability analysis.
I don’t always follow Yoast’s suggestions on readability (and neither should you!), but it can give you hints on where your writing could be improved to make it more readable. I still use an external grammar checking tool like Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid.
3 – Yoast SEO provides keyword analysis.
In the free version, you can enter one primary keyword (the paid version allows you additional keywords), and Yoast performs some analysis and provides recommendations to improve your SEO ranking for that keyword. Again, I don’t always follow the tool’s suggestions, and I think that sometimes it tries to add the main keyword too many times.
4 – Yoast SEO provides link counters.
For each blog post, Yost SEO provides two link counters, one with the number of internal links included in the post and one with the number of internal links referencing this post. This is a good aid to make sure that you are including internal links in your content.
5 – Yoast SEO makes it easy to submit your content and sitemap to search engines.
If your site is new, it may take some time for the content to be indexed by search engines, especially if your content is not linked from other websites that are already indexed. One way to try to make the indexing process quicker is to submit your content and sitemap to search engines. Yoast allows you to do this easily.
In summary, Yoast SEO provides a number of tools that make it easy to perform specific SEO tasks and increase your SEO ranking. It is not a miracle tool, and you may need to do a lot of other work to get your content on the first page of search engines, but if you don’t know that much about SEO, it is a good and quick way to start looking at SEO.
How to install Yoast SEO
1 – In your WP dashboard, go to Plugins > Add new
2 – Search for Yoast SEO and click on “Install Now” (the pic below shows “Update Now”, as I’ve already installed the plugin, but your screen should show “Install now” if you don’t have it installed).
3 – Activate the plugin.
Once you’ve activated the plugin, a new “SEO” item appears in the dashboard:
How to configure Yoast SEO
1 – Follow the configuration wizard:
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, a configuration wizard will walk you through some of the settings: (You can find screenshots of all the steps here).
– Is your website live and ready to be indexed?
– Select site type: blog, shop, portfolio site, etc.
– Is your website owned by a company or person? Select the name and site logo.
– Enter social media profiles.
– Search engine visibility: index all pages and posts?
– Does the website have multiple authors?
– Connect to Google search console. For detailed instructions to do this go to this post.
– Title settings: enter website name and separator to appear in search results. I have chosen the separator “|”.
– The last couple of screens suggest that you sign up to their newsletter and consider the Premium version as well as some paid training. The free version of the plugin should be ok at least initially, and I haven’t tried the training, but the tool is very straight forward to use.
Once you’ve run through the configuration wizard, you can go through some of the features and select which ones to leave on/off and also register your website with some of the leading search engines. If you are unsure, leave them as they are and come back to this later once you have a clear picture of what you are using within the tool.
2 – Select the right Features
To enable/disable features:
1 – Go to the Yoast SEO menu in the WP dashboard.
2 – Click on General.
3 – Select the Features tab.
Here, you can easily enable and disable all the key features. All features are active by default.
I’ve included below a quick summary of each feature, but you can access more detailed information clicking on the question mark “?” next to each feature:
SEO analysis: this is really the core of the plugin and looks mainly at keyword analysis, providing suggestions to improve your SEO ranking.
Readability analysis: provides some guidance about sentence and paragraph length and other general grammatical improvements. Remember that you don’t have to “fix” everything highlighted by the tool. I have this option enabled as it can provide some useful guidance. I always use Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid to check my blog posts before publishing them.
Cornerstone content: this allows you to select specific content in your website that you consider the most important. You can then filter on cornerstone content, and Yoast will then help you optimise that content.
Text link counter: shows you how many internal links you have in your posts (both linking out and linking in). Your most important content should have a higher number of links so if you find articles/posts with a lower number of links you can go back to them and try to link them from other relevant content within your site to try to help them rank higher. This can highlight blog posts where you need to think about adding more internal links. The link counters are automatically added when you display your posts or pages. If you don’t see the link counters, you can go to the dashboard > Y SEO > Tools and click on the “text link counter” option. This will prompt the tool to update all your link data.
XML Site map: an XML site map is like a map of your website. It is used by search engines to help them find content. Yoast SEO automatically creates an XML sitemap for your site if the XML sitemap feature is on. You can see the sitemap/s created clicking on the “?” next to XML sitemaps above.
Ryte integration: allows you to check if your site is being indexed by search engines. To use Ryte you need to register for a free account with them. Google Search Console provides similar functionality for Google, so I have switched this off.
Admin bar menu: this displays an additional menu for the plugin on the top of the dashboard. I had this on for a while and never used it, so I’ve switched it off.
Security: this feature limits who can perform specific changes on your blog if you have more than one person writing content.
3 – Register with Webmaster tools
You can register your website with some of the leading search engines. The list includes Baidu (Chinese), Bing, Google and Yandex (Russian search engine).
Registering with these websites allows you to see the information that they have about your website. Once you’ve registered, you can upload your sitemaps. Uploading your site map helps search engines find the content on your website and can be helpful if your site is quite big or if your site doesn’t have many external links that could help search engines find your site. Sitemaps also help search engines identify what content is important on your site.
If you want to know more about SEO, check out my articles “Introduction to SEO” and “6 easy actions to improve SEO”.