Yoast is a WordPress plugin designed to help you with your on-page SEO. It analyzes your pages, giving you suggestions on how to edit your content to rank higher in search.
Yoast is a great tool for content creators, as it makes SEO approachable and simple. Plus, it’s a cinch to install and use, and its essential functions are free!
Let’s get you familiarized with Yoast, so you can start getting your content seen.
Side note: Yoast is a tried and tested tool that you should add to your toolbox, but its functions are limited. We’ve compiled an article on how to ‘Create a Suite of free SEO Tools: our Top Recommendations.’ You’ll need a whole toolbox when performing your next SEO Audit.
Yoast has a simple three-color grading system.
Green = Good result
Orange = Improvements
Red = Problems
You may receive a grey mark. Yoast is giving you something to consider, not a suggested improvement necessarily.
Your pages receive grades for smaller categories (bullets on left), which comprise the overall grades for SEO and readability (smiley at the top).
While most of Yoast’s results are accurate, you shouldn’t blindly trust its suggestions. You’ll find, as we walk you through Yoast, that exceptions to the rules exist.
It should go without saying, but you should be evaluating your content with Yoast’s help.
The plugin can’t replace you!
Yoast doesn’t do your keyword research for you.
Keywords are one of the major factors dictating your search ranking. For an in-depth guide on SEO and performing keyword research, check out our article on SEO, What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? A Starter Guide.
Yoast benefits you only after you’ve done your keyword research, and created your content. You input your target keyword phrase into the plugin, and it analyzes your page to see if you’ve followed SEO best practices.
|KEY TAKEAWAY||Don’t overload your pages with your target keywords. Search engine algorithms will drop your rank as a penalty for spamming.|
Internal links are opportunities to connect your pages with others you’ve made. These links serve as pathways for search engine crawlers. They travel to your page, log your keywords, and ultimately gather the stats that are inputted into search engine algorithms. Not only will you be creating a precious backlink for yourself, you will also increase your search rank because you’ve made your pages easily accessible and discoverable.
As you continue to create content for your website, contemplate how you can create links between your pages. You don’t want to misdirect your readers to something that has nothing to do with what the content they’re on. You only stand to benefit from creating more paths to your pages.
Outbound links develop your page’s credibility. Search engines tend to choose the safe option, and when you link to relevant, quality pages outside of your network, you demonstrate a commitment to delivering the best information to your audience. Obviously, you don’t want to link your competitors’ pages, so make sure you’re getting what you link
Meta descriptions work as previews of your content in search. Good meta descriptions entice people to click by conveying your content’s value proposition. In 155-160 characters, you need to give concise, relevant information so the person believes your content will satisfy their query.
Model your meta descriptions on some of these great examples.
Search engines last by serving the majority, from content type to writing style.
Google, for one, would fail if it ranks TV reviews written as epic poetry.
Ultimately, search engines want to give you what you want to see, how you want to see it.
The majority—regardless of education and reading level—scan web pages. We pick out phrases and gloss over the rest. So, leave the SAT vocab and Faulknerian run-on sentences at the door. You need to cater your content to the majority’s needs.
Yoast helps keep your writing in check so that it’s scannable yet still entertaining to read. Of course, we aren’t at a point where technology can truly evaluate the content’s quality and meaning. Nevertheless, Yoast can somewhat accurately track the stylistic elements of your writing.
|REMEMBER||Especially when it comes to readability, don’t obsess over the green bullets. Yoast reads for grammar, not meaning. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t follow most of Yoast’s suggestions, but you need to use your smarts to make executive decisions.|
Words like ‘also,’ ‘but,’ ‘therefore,’ ‘firstly’ are all examples of transition words.
Transition words link your sentences and paragraphs together. They make your writing easier to follow, creating clear connections between your ideas. If 30% of your text is transition words, Yoast will award your page with a much desired green bullet.
For those of you having difficulties thinking of transition words, here’s a handy list you can refer to while writing.
I woke up. I ate breakfast. I walked the dog. I went to class. I came home. I did the homework. I went to bed. I, I, I, again and again.
Boring, right? The sentences above, while grammatically correct, obviously need improvement. While Yoast can’t help you improve on the dull content, it will notify you about repetitive sentence beginnings.
Try to diversify your sentences with transition words, for example. Worry less about composing complete sentences. Clip them. Create different rhythms. You can omit the subject sometimes, as long as the meaning remains clear.
|NOTE||As stated above, Yoast is fallible. You might get an orange or red bullet for the ‘consecutive sentences’ category because you created a list. Don’t change your content just to receive a green bullet!|
Active voice: The man loved the woman.
Passive voice can make writing needlessly wordy and difficult to understand. Granted, the sentences above aren’t trying to convey a complex idea, yet you still have to take an extra second to clarify who loves whom.
Again, search engines are looking for clarity and scannability. An active voice encourages progression, helping the reader follow your writing without having to double back. Plus, if you’re already creating heady content, you don’t want to lose readers because your writing impedes rather than facilitates learning.
|0.0-30.0||College Grad.||Very difficult to read.|
|30.0-50.0||College||Difficult to read.|
|50.0-60.0||10th-12th grade||Fairly difficult to read.|
|60.0-70.0||8th & 9th grade||Average. Easily understood by 13-15 y.o.|
|70.0-80.0||7th grade||Fairly easy to read.|
|80.0-90.0||6th grade||Easy to read.|
|90.0-100.0||5th grade||Very easy to read. Easily understood by 11.y.o.|
The average American reads at a 9th-grade level but prefers to read two grade levels lower (7th grade).
Meaning, to help the search engine cater to the majority, you should be shooting for a score between 70.0-80.0 (fairly easy to read).
What’s key for you to know is: many long sentences + many polysyllabic words = low score
Keep your paragraphs short!
Imagine we wrote this ‘how-to’ guide as one big block of text. It would be tiring to look at. Chances are, you’d look for a different guide, one that chunks the information into easily consumable morsels.
Depending on your writing background, you may find keeping your paragraphs short awkward at first. We’re all taught to begin and end paragraphs with slightly varied statements of the same idea. You’ve got to throw those rules away if you want to write for the internet.
Try thinking about paragraphs as units of information. If you have a particular sentence you want to highlight, put it in its own paragraph.
Don’t feel limited by what you learned in school.
People don’t want to re-read to understand what you mean when your sentence, for whatever reason, seems to go on and on, touching on the problems of verbosity and run-on sentences and the like, and how you could better communicate yourself if you stopped that bad habit you learned in the college of padding so you meet a word requirement.
Keep your sentences short, got it!
Yoast urges you to write short, concise sentences, and I’m sure you can see why from the example above.
Readers will often lose your point if your sentences go over twenty words.
Short sentences also create a feeling of progression. Advancement. You’re learning quickly, absorbing the info you want. Write the whole article like this, and a long read can somehow feel short.
In essence, short sentences allow the reader to scan through texts, without missing too much information.
|REMEMBER||Don’t fight the human tendency to scan. Cater to it! You aren’t writing a masterpiece (I think).|
You probably want to keep your subheadings short, too.
The idea, again, is to cater to the majority’s tendencies. If they’re looking for something in particular, you don’t want it buried in a bunch of paragraphs without any subheadings.
Yoast set its standard at no more than 300 words before you introduce another subheading. Again, to create that feeling of progression and approachability, you don’t want any section to drag on.
Backlinks are actually one of the two key components to achieving a high search rank and, in turn, increased search traffic.
Quality content ≠ High Search Rank
Quality content + Quality backlinks = High Search Rank
Simply put, backlinks work as upvotes in Google’s algorithm. Backlinks show Google that people are finding your page useful and relevant to their query. As Google is a people pleaser, it will usually rank pages with the most backlinks highest because they’ve likely delivered quality content.
So you want them. Your friends, siblings, and family members want them. Turns out, they are difficult and time-consuming to build.
For those who are willing to take the time and effort to DIY, check out this link building guide.
But many of you probably have your hand’s full juggling content creation, your social life, your job, and many other responsibilities.
We’ve developed an innovative WordPress plugin that automates the whole link-building process. Why work harder when you can work smarter?
We’d love to hear from you!