Using Yoast SEO

This post is a bit of a deviation from focusing on data and analysis. However, I thought I would cover something that is very important if you have a website and want to drive traffic to it (and I do work in Marketing Analytics, so…). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing the content on your site so that you have the best chance of being picked up by search engines (mainly Google).

If you are wondering how to begin with SEO, Yoast SEO could be the answer.  Yoast SEO is known for its WordPress plugin.  However, their plugin is available for other platforms, like Magento.  But, I will focus on the WordPress plugin in this post.  Once activated, there will be a Yoast SEO section for each page, post, category & tag.  

Also, each page, post, category & tag will have a green, yellow or red dot for SEO and Readability when looking at them in list view.  They will also have a green, yellow or red “y” in the Publish section in edit mode.  

Green represents good, yellow represents ok, and red represents needs improvement.  This is a quick way to look at all your pages, posts, categories & tags and have a sense of how much work needs to be done on your website to improve your search results.
Each Yoast SEO section for posts & pages contain the following subsections:

  • Snippet Preview
  • Readability Analysis
  • Focus Keyphrase
  • Add Related Keyphrase
  • Cornerstone Content

Snippet Preview

The snippet is how search engines will represent your content on the search results pages.  In this section, you can view how the snippet will look on either desktop or mobile.  Clicking on “Edit Snippet” opens the Snippet Editor.

In the Snippet Editor., you can update, delete or add to the snippet title in the SEO title textbox.  For example, if I have a blog post named A/B Testing Done Right.  The snippet title would be A/B Testing Done Right | Daran J. Johnson.  If I wanted to, I could change the snippet title by updating the the title in the textbox.

Below the SEO title textbox is a textbox for the slug.  The slug is what the page is called in the URL link in the search results page.  If you don’t like the default, you can update it.  However, there cannot be any spaces.  So, A/B Testing Done Right would be updated to A/B-Testing-Done-Right, where A/ would be a separate URL fragment.  By default, it is a-b-testing-done-right. 

The last textbox is for the meta-description.  The meta-description is the description that is shown in the search results page for your page. If there is not a meta-description, then a sample of text from the page is used.  I would strongly advise adding a meta-description to your page.

For both the SEO title and meta-description, snippet variables can be added. Variables are text that may change, like the page title or category.  Using a variable instead of the actual text allows the text to change automatically if you update the page title or category.

Readability Analysis

The readability analysis analyzes how easy/difficult it is to read your page.  It evaluates how often a passive voice is used, whether you’re using enough subheadings, and length of sentences.  It also evaluates the length of paragraphs, use of transition words, variety of sentences and the Flesch score for reading ease.

These are divided into good and problem results.  To fix the problem results, you need to update the text in your page or post.  Sometimes there is little you can do, but sometimes it can point to issues in the writing (yours or someone else’s) that should be addressed.

Focus Keyphrase

With this section, you need to add the focus keyphrase for the page.  Once you have done that, Yoast SEO will evaluate not only the keyphrase, but whether you have added internal links to your page, meta description length, SEO title width, slug stop words, outbound links, image alt attributes and text length.

For the focus keyphrase, Yoast SEO will evaluate if it is in the slug, if it is in the introduction, the length of the focus keyphrase, density, whether it has been used on other pages or posts, and if it is in the meta-description. If you purchase the premium version of Yoast SEO, you can also add related keyphrases.

Finally, you can select the page or post as Cornerstone Content.  Cornerstone content are pages with the most important and extensive content. The only the difference for categories & tags is they cannot be selected as cornerstone content and you cannot add related keyphrases. 

Other Tabs

There are two other tabs – one for Facebook and one for page settings.  The Facebook tab allows you to change the title of the page for Facebook, if you don’t want to use the page title.  It also allows you to change the meta-description for Facebook.  You can add an image as well, which will override the image used on Facebook for the page.

The last tab is for settings, such as whether this page should show up in search engines, whether search engines should follow the links on the page, advanced meta-robots settings and the canonical URL.  

The canonical URL is the URL to be used if there are multiple URLs for the page.  This can happen in the case that the page shows up under more than one URL fragment: 

  • /sedans/sonata.html
  • /hybrid/sonata.html  

In this case, you will want to choose which is the canonical URL.  If you do not have this issue, you can leave the textbox empty and the permalink for the page will be used as the canonical URL.

After working with Yoast SEO for a while, your pages, posts, categories, and tags should all have little green and yellow dots next them and few or none of the red dots. 

That should help you get started using Yoast SEO.  Even if you are not on a platform that you can use Yoast SEO, this post should give you some ideas of what you need to do to start optimizing your search engine results.