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How to optimise WordPress using Yoast SEO. 

Getting your on-page content just right for Search Engine Optimisation is a fiddly business, because there are so many factors to think about. We all want our websites to rank as high as possible in Google searches, but knowing where to begin can be incredibly daunting. If your website is built in WordPress however, there is no need to fear! Thanks to a fantastic WordPress plugin that goes by the curious name of Yoast, fixing your SEO can now be a walk in the park.

Yoast SEO offers a host of handy tools and generates a live-action checklist that you can work through in order to keep Google happy. Not only can you tick all of the on-page SEO boxes for search engines, but you can also optimise your pages for Social Media sharing and improve your reader engagement. It’s no wonder that Yoast SEO has more than 5 million users.

How to install yoast on your website.

To find and install Yoast, from your WordPress dashboard, on the menu bar on the left, hover over “Plugins” and click on “Add New”. Use the search box in the top right corner of the page to search for “Yoast SEO”, and then click on “Install” and then click Activate. Once you have installed your new favourite plugin, (and I’m confident that you’ll feel this way), you will see that there is now a Yoast section to be explored on your WordPress menu bar. Select “General”, and then click to activate the Yoast SEO configuration wizard, which will walk you through the necessary steps to customise your Yoast plugin.

Pay close attention when the wizard asks you to set visibility for your website. You will want to make sure that your Posts and Pages are set to visible, so that search engines will index them. If your website is an eCommerce shop, make your Products visible too! As a step of this process, the Yoast wizard will also prompt you to connect your Google Search Console account with the Yoast SEO plugin. If you haven’t signed up for this useful Google tool yet, I strongly recommend doing so now. Google Search Console will allow you to check up on how Google sees your website, alerting you to issues that may be holding you back from SEO success.

Yoast SEO is ready to go.

With Yoast added to your WordPress site, prepare to add another step to your process, as you make new posts to your blog, create new pages, or add new products to your online shop. Perfecting your SEO requires a little time investment, but you will discover that there are few things more satisfying than watching the Yoast SEO indicator transition from red to green! For ease of use, Yoast will give you a red, orange or green mark on each aspect of your SEO. This traffic light system will allow you to instantly identify where improvement is required.

To begin playing with the tool, open one of your posts or pages, and scroll down below the WordPress editor. Whether you are using the new Gutenberg editor, or the classic WordPress editor, Yoast SEO will work in exactly the same way. You will notice that you now have a large health indicator for your on-page SEO, which will be red, orange or green. Below your post, you will now find the opportunity to tell Yoast what your intended focus keyword is, and a preview of how your page will show up in Google search results. With Yoast SEO, you can tweak your snippet, and make your page far more appealing to those searching online, but before we begin with that, let’s address keywords!

Why are keywords so important to your site success?

A keyword, which can in fact be a word, or a whole phrase, is a term that relates to something people might search for on the internet. For example, in this article, ‘Yoast SEO’ marks an obvious keyword, as people looking for information about this plugin would be happy to end up here! For each post, page or product that you create within your WordPress site, you can strategically weave an on-topic keyword through your text to let Google know what the page is about. Armed with knowledge of your intended keyword, Yoast will check the density of that keyword’s presence, and tell you if it is enough for Google to register it.

Keep in mind that keywords need to be introduced organically into your text. Google also looks for readability, so if you just write the same word again and again or drop your keyword into a sentence in a way that doesn’t make sense, it will ultimately do more harm than good. Your keyword choice might be obvious, or you might need to use a keyword tool to find the perfect option, but the effort will be worthwhile. Remember not to recycle your keywords, as this will entrench your pages into competition against each other in the eyes of Google, which is an unnecessary evil!

Editing your snippet.

Your Yoast snippet editor will allow you to tweak and hone the way your page will appear in search results, helping you make your content more appealing. From a Google search results page, a great preview of your page content will make clicking through to your website irresistible! This tool allows you to play with your page title, making sure that the length is appropriate and your keyword features.

Next comes your page slug, which is the last part of the page’s web address, as it appears in the address bar of a browser. For example, www.mybusinessblog.com/12345 is far less appealing than www.mybusinessblog.com/perfect-your-seo-today. Do keep in mind that you can sculpt the slug of a new post – but changing old ones can create dead links on your website, which is a rabbit hole of problems to dive into, meaning that this is best avoided!

Lastly comes the meta description, which is the little chunk of text that appears under a search result on a user’s search page. If you don’t enter a meta description, Google will pick one for you, which doesn’t always offer the greatest titbit to tempt the searching individual. Try to come up with a catchy, enticing sentence that includes your keyword and captures what your content is about. An ideal meta description length is 120 characters, but rather than counting, you can easily find free meta description tools online to speed things along. Yoast even indicates good and bad lengths for these!

Addressing issues for each of your pages.

Under your snippet editor, you will find a list of action points of technical issues that will impact your SEO. If your snippet isn’t up to scratch, you will find a list of what still needs to be done. Here Yoast will also prompt you to fix things like dropping images into your post and adding some links. Google, and other search engines, look for two kinds of links within any web page; inbound links, linking to other pages of the same site, and outbound links, that go to elsewhere on the web. In this article, an obvious outbound link choice would be to the Yoast website.

In this list, you will also see if your keyword density is high enough, and learn whether you have added sufficient text to your page. Kindly, Yoast also praises you for what you’ve done right, which can be a real boost as you progress, getting better at creating SEO friendly content over time!

Polishing your content, using Yoast content assessment.

Under your page-related to-do list, you will find your content assessment. Yoast uses an internationally recognised scale known as the Flesch Reading Ease test to determine if your text is reader friendly or not. In this endeavour it will be reviewing things like paragraph length, use of subheadings to create easy-reading chunks of text, overuse of long and complex words, and sentence length. For enticing content, Yoast encourages you to favour the use of transition words, and to minimise writing in the passive voice.

You will discover links that take you to in-depth explanations of what each term means, easily identifying areas of text that may be holding you back by clicking on the rectangular button next to each list item. This will scroll you up to your content, with the problematic piece highlighted for easy identification. Once you have worked through each item to a satisfactory level, your overall SEO indicator will change to green, and you know your content is SEO ready!

Optimising your images for social media.

Have you ever shared one of your blog posts on your social media account, to find that Facebook or Twitter chose a terrible image to feature, or distorted the image beyond recognition? This can be hugely frustrating! Fix this in mere minutes by going back to your WordPress Dashboard, going to the Yoast menu, and clicking on “Social”. Here, you can enter your associated social media pages, and adjust the settings your website holds for each one.

For social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, enabling “open graph meta data” will allow Yoast to ensure that the featured image you have selected for each page is the one the social media site selects, rather than any other. Just like that, your social media posts will instantly look far more appealing!

What else Yoast SEO can offer.

Generously, Yoast is free to anyone with a WordPress site, but you can choose to upgrade to Yoast SEO Premium for bonus features such multiple keywords per page/post, internal link suggestions, a far more in-depth content review, and a redirect manager that makes sure dead links don’t leave your visitors lost. If you aren’t a WordPress customer, and are devastated to be missing out, you will be glad to know that you can analyse your web content for free on the Yoast website.

Yoast SEO is a plugin with a shining halo. Enjoy.

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