Yoast Made Easy: My Guide to On-site Search Engine Optimization

For many of us, SEO, or search engine optimization can feel daunting. This is even more so when it comes to doing on-site optimization for your website. If you’re like me, when you first began using WordPress, it seemed overwhelming. Something you wanted to pass off to a professional like a hot potato. Once you get into the realm of optimizing pages and posts for SEO purposes, the temptation to be hands-off is even stronger.

Here’s the thing about on-site optimization: It’s much easier than you think!

If you’ve been exposed to the world of SEO at all, then chances are you’ve heard about something called Yoast. Most likely it’s been mentioned in the same sentence as “Wordpress” and “On-site optimization”. Yoast is just a plug-in like any other, so don’t let the fact that it helps with SEO trip you up.

Step One: Get the Plugin

The first step on the road to optimizing your website is downloading the Yoast Plugin band then going to the plugins section on your WordPress dashboard to upload the zipped file.

After that’s done it’s time to activate Yoast!

Simple. Right? Well now it’s time to begin optimizing all of your pages and posts so you can get the most SEO bang for your buck!

The World of Meta Tags

Now that your plugin is activated, it’s time to get to the real meat of the optimization, and the purpose of Yoast is to help you identify your weakest areas of SEO. By using a color system: Red, Yellow and Green, the idea is to show you which pages need more work, and which are good to go. A Green Yoast symbol under SEO means that you have done as great job.

Here is where you can see if your Yoast SEO score is acceptable

So let’s say you are working on a page that needs improvement. The first step is to scroll down to the section that says “Yoast SEO” on you page editor. Once you’re there, click “edit snippet” and you can begin the real fun stuff.

This is where you access the meta tags

All of the information and boxes you see need to be filled in. The completed sections are referred to as “meta descriptions” and “meta tags”. These are what help you pages gain SEO benefits by assisting Google in ranking your site based on the information you provide. If you want your site to turn up in a search for “Window Installer”, then you better make that the key word!

Keywords

If you’ve been using keywords in your website’s content then you’re off to a great start, if not, check out this out, and then come back to this article after you have placed a few!

If you know your page or article’s keywords, the next step is easy:

In the section titled “focus keyword”, you guessed it, fill in the main keyword you want your page to rank for! I also recommend filling in the “slug” box with a keyword that can also be used to sum up the purpose of the page. This “slug” will show up in the page’s URL. You will also get a chance to create the “meta title” and this is again a good chance to get a keyword in, since this will show up as the page’s title in a Google search.

The final and arguably most important step is filling in a meta description.

This is possibly the most complicated step since there are rules that need to be followed when making a meta description:

  1. A meta description should use the focus keyword 2-3 times.
  2. It should not exceed 180 characters in total
  3. This should be engaging and make a reader want to click on your link to see more
  4. A format of 2 sentences works best.

You may be wondering, why does it matter if my meta description is more than 180 characters, isn’t longer better?

Longer is not better here, since this will be the page or post’s description when it shows up on a Google search. Anything longer than 180 characters will just get cut off.

Here’s an example of a well filled out Yoast meta box

Now that you’ve done these steps, you have learned the basics of on-site optimization using Yoast. While there are other smaller details, such as URL length, H! Headers, etc, if you can master the metas, you’re in good shape!

Morgan Taylor is Director of SEO at Jolly Content. He has worked with clients on a wide variety of SEO issues, including on-site optimization. If you or your company is looking for an SEO professional, contact him at Morgan@JollyContent.com

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