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Once you’ve gone through the Yoast configuration wizard on your website, it’s time to get familiar with how to use Yoast for effective WordPress SEO.

First, open a new post or page. Yoast SEO should be the same regardless of the theme being used on your WordPress website. In my screenshots, I’m just using the standard WordPress editor to add content to my post.

1. Make sure you see the Yoast SEO section where you add a new post, or edit an existing post or page.

It should be below the area where you add and edit content. If you see Yoast SEO but don’t see the form, just click the small arrow to the right of the Yoast SEO title to expand the box.

2. If you don’t see the Yoast SEO section on your post’s admin area, check your Screen Options tab in the upper right corner.

If you click the Screen options tab in the upper right, you should see some checkboxes. These checkboxes toggle your viewing options on the page.

3. If you see a Yoast SEO checkbox, make sure it is checked to have the Yoast features viewable on your page.

Once you’ve checked the box, then scroll down to see it on your editing page.

***IMPORTANT: Since Yoast evaluates the content on your page and scores for SEO best practices, you need to add content to your page to make Yoast work for you.

WordPress SEO and Yoast

Sample Yoast Window

In this image, you can see what the Yoast SEO window looks. Yoast popped in the information from my content into the SEO title and description. What you can see, though, is that there’s a character limit, so the description just trails off.

Also in the snippet preview window, you can see a mobile phone icon along with a desktop icon right next to the [ Edit Snippet ] button. When clicked, each of these icons show you what your post or page will look like in search engine results, like Google. I prefer to preview the snippet using the desktop icon because there’s a shorter character limit for the title in desktop mode. What this means is, if I’m not too long in desktop preview, it will work for both desktop and mobile results.

You’ll also see the Focus keyword field at this point even before you edit the snippet. You can certainly add a focus keyword at this point, although you may want to wait until you’ve added the content on the page. By waiting until after you’ve added content, you can ensure the Focus Keyword used is appropriate for your content. Also, the focus keyword is not limited to just one word and several words can be used in this spot. The most important thing to consider is that the focus keyword reflects the content on the page.

Again, after you’ve added the content to your page, click the [ Edit Snippet ] button to see the entire form and get started.

Update the Yoast SEO form

Update the SEO title

As the image shows, the SEO title is what is displayed as your page or post title in search engine results. Yoast SEO automatically adds your posts’ information according to how you set up Yoast during the configuration process. By default, what you see in the SEO title field is the code that represents your posts’ information. In my case, it’s the title, page, separator, and then site name. Even though I set up preferences in the configuration wizard, I always tweak the title so it’s not too long, or too short, but instead, just right.

Check your Slug

The Slug is used to link to your post or page. This is automatically set based on your WordPress website’s permalink settings. Generally speaking it’s best to keep these short and omit words like the, a, an, etc.

CAUTION: Be careful about changing the slug on posts or pages that are already live. If you change the slug on pages that are live, it could result in “page not found” errors. To avoid errors, the paid version of yoast offers page redirection or you can use another redirection method or plugin. To be safe, simply tweak the slug on newly created pages rather than already established pages.

Enter your Meta description

The Meta description is what search engines display just below your SEO title. Making changes to the Meta description is a good idea because you want your pages’ descriptions to accurately reflect what’s on the page. There’s a character limit to the meta description, so make sure you’re description is concise and accurate.

Focus Keyword

The focus keyword or keyword term should be just a couple of words that cover what the post or page is about. Keywords are what people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. So, when choosing your focus keyword, think about how people will find your page or post. In the case of this page I’m working on, I chose “wordpress seo” for my focus keyword. This is because my focus is using the Yoast plugin to help with WordPress SEO.

Here’s what my completed Yoast SEO form looks like:

After you’ve added your content, updated your form with the focus keyword, SEO title and meta description, save your post (either click Save draft draft or Publish if your post is live or ready to be live).

Yoast WordPress SEO ginny rogers | mohawk valley web design

Once you do, you’ll see “Readability” and “SEO” toward the bottom of the Publish box. Take a look at the Yoast icons to the left of “Readability” and “SEO” to see what color they are. Here, the Yoast icon acts as a score indicator for your content’s readability and SEO.

Green indicates that you’re good to go.

Orange indicates that your post is okay, although you can improve it, if you want.

Red indicates that your scores are low and should be improved so your post is effective in terms of SEO.

We’ve talked a lot about SEO, but what about readability?

The content on posts and pages should be clear, well formatted, and easy to read. Click on the Readability tab in Yoast, to get a breakdown of your content’s readability.  Take a look at how things like the sentence and paragraph lengths, use of headings, and passive voice figures into the score.

Here are a couple of screenshots of the readability and focus keyword analysis from another post I wrote. As you can see, I’m okay with a few issues if my overall score is good while maintaining a voice that’s authentic for me.

Five Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Questions Answered

As part of an ongoing conversation about websites and web design, I was asked some questions about search engine optimization (SEO) and have done my best to give some straightforward answers. Here we go!

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of working on web pages and websites in such a way so that without paid ads, they come up in search engines, like Google and Bing. SEO is also referred to as organic or natural optimization because it’s seen as a natural way to increase visibility in search engines by using the content that’s on web pages throughout a website.

How does it help?

Generally speaking, SEO helps websites get seen by coming up in search engine results. Sometimes, people I work with want their websites built and then kind of stop there. Often, they wonder why they’re not getting leads from their website. In order to get leads from your website, it has to come up in search engine results, like Google. The thing of it is that SEO is an ongoing process; it’s more than putting a few words on a page. SEO work is just as important as adding new content. Whenever new content is added, SEO should be part of the page or post work. SEO incorporates quality content and page optimization to help websites appear in search engine results.

What is a keyword?

Keywords, or keyword terms, are an essential part of the SEO process. Keywords are terms that people might google to find your website. In fact, SEO work should focus on keyword terms that describes the content on each page. For example, if you’re a building contractor that specializes in metal building construction and you just created a page featuring your most recently completed project, you may want to include content that details or expands on “metal building construction” in addition to the location of the construction project in your content.

What makes a good keyword?

Effective keywords are often a combination of commonly used words used to search for something along with additional context to narrow down the results.

From a search perspective, let’s say you’re looking to find a manual for your computer. You wouldn’t just search for computers. You’d probably include your computer’s model and the year you purchased it. This would give you more accurate results. So, you’d probably search using a keyword term something like “MacBook Pro 2017 manual”.

Similarly, when you’re implementing keywords or keyword terms on your website, you want to include as much additional context as possible. For example, if you’re a photographer based in a specific location and focus on documentary photography, you may want to consider a keyword term like “Clovis documentary photography”.

How do I optimize my site to rank higher in Google searches?

There’s so much to consider with this question.

The first step is keyword term research

The first step is to do keyword term research to determine what keywords will be the most productive for your website. Keyword terms should not be too broad and too competitive; they need to have context. Also, depending on your target audience, keyword terms should be easy enough for people to google keeping in mind they may not be as knowledgeable as you are in what you do. I’ve known folks who use industry-specific terms that people in their target market would not know or understand.

Once you have your keyword terms sorted out for each page, then it’s time to include them in your pages’ content.

A word of caution here: the content needs to be quality content, not just stuffed with a lot of keyword terms, or your website may be dinged by search engines like Google. Quality content doesn’t employ “SEO tricks” to trick site visitors just to increase ranking. Google doesn’t like this. And if Google doesn’t like it, you’re less likely to come up in Google’s results. Quality content is informational with a clear understanding of what the page is about, what it offers, and how it can help site visitors.

One thing that’s often overlooked when it comes to ranking in Google searches is page loading or page speed optimization.

This is really very important, especially to Google, because the majority of access on the web is with mobile devices. Google even created it’s own code AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to highlight how important it is. If a page takes to long to load, it can mean that the page’s images may be too large, there are too many scripts on a page, or there’s a lot of code to process. You can test your website’s page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This will give you a breakdown of what you need to address on your web pages to ensure the pages are optimized.

Web pages should be mobile friendly and optimized for mobile devices in order to rank well. WordPress is great on mobile devices, just make sure the theme used on your website works well on mobile devices.

Finally, SEO work should be considered for the site as a whole, as well as each page. Pages and posts should always point to the website’s overall focus and message. A website’s overall message should be given additional context throughout pages and posts.