Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of planning your online content around keywords and standards that will improve the chances of your content being found easily through search engines. The better your content meets these SEO standards, the more visitors you'll receive to your website.
Yoast SEO is a leading plugin designed to help you measure and improve the quality of your content around keywords that are defined by you. The plugin is so handy, we install their plugin on all of our sites.
If you contracted with us for Basic SEO Optimization or SEO Optimization Plus, you’ll find that this plugin is already installed, activated, and configured on your website to facilitate SEO performance… but SEO isn’t just a one-time thing! Maintaining your good standing with search engines requires constant monitoring and maintenance, which is one reason we’re providing you with this guide.
Key Features of Yoast
The plugin offers so many tools and features it’s hard to list them all, and it can be hard to know where to start! Here are what we consider the “Big Three” features:
1. Per-Page (and Per-Post) Appearance Controls
At the bottom of every Page and Post, and most custom post types, you’ll see a tabbed box labeled “Yoast SEO” that provides a bevy of options for controlling how that given URL will appear in Google’s search results. It’s the place to edit the SEO title and meta description, two of the most important components of SEO optimization for any page on the web.
From here you can also navigate to the “Social” tab, where you can adjust how this page will appear when shared on Facebook and Twitter. Cool, right?
2. XML Sitemaps
While Google (and other engines) have Bots that can crawl around your site to try to find all your content, it’s much better to provide those bots with a complete list of all the content on your site so they know what to crawl (and what to ignore!). That list of your site’s content for bots is called an “XML Sitemap,” and Yoast generates one for you — but you have control over which types of content appear in it! Check out Yoast’s guide on how to customize the sitemap index — though it’s worth noting that we do some of this for you even in our Basic SEO package!
3. Content Analysis
Yoast can actually “read” the content on your pages and posts and try to algorithmically assess how well that content is going to perform in search engines, in part based on the guidance you give it around what search terms or keyphrases you want your content appearing on. It can also assess the overall “readability” of your content and offer suggestions for how it could be improved, which can indirectly improve SEO. These analyses are strictly machine-based and don’t always do a very good job of understanding page layout, but they can be helpful!
What if I'm not seeing all the features I expect to see?
When Yoast is installed and activated on your website, you'll see something like this in the side navigation:
Sometimes we disable some of the more resource-intensive features of the Yoast plugin, since we have found that active but unused features may negatively impact and slow down the performance of some sites, and/or clutter up the WordPress admin so much that it can be hard to perform the basic tasks of updating your site.
The following advanced Yoast features may have been disabled to optimize the performance of your site, but you can activate them if you'd like to use these features:
A Yoast Admin Bar display may have also been disabled simply to remove screen clutter.
You can use the "General" menu option here to navigate to your list of features, where you can then easily toggle your preferred features on or off for your site:
Feel free to enable or disable whichever features you find most (or least) useful to you.
What We Do For You with Yoast
We generally install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin for all our client sites. If you signed up for our SEO Basic package, we’ve also:
- Enabled and configured the XML sitemap to include the appropriate post types, and exclude the ones that shouldn’t appear in search results
- Setup default SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions for all the post types included in your XML Sitemap
- Toggled on or off the features of Yoast we think are of the most value to you.
If you opted for our Plus package, we’ll actually work with you to identify (and then enter) appropriate search keywords and manually craft meta descriptions and other site content to specifically perform well on those targets, rather than just relying on auto-populated titles, descriptions, and content.
Note: There are plenty of other things we do as a part of these packages, such as crawl your site for 404 errors, review the HTML markup, optimize load performance, fine-tune analytics, and audit your site for potential issues — the above is just what we do with Yoast!
SEO is an entire industry with all the specialized expertise that implies — but when you’re armed with a site that’s amenable to SEO, an active copy of Yoast, and some time, there’s a lot you can accomplish yourself!
If you’re really interested in everything this plugin can do for you, Yoast’s official documentation can’t be beat. They offer great resources on their website, including this beginner's guide and how to choose perfect keywords.
Some of their best resources include:
- The main Yoast help center
- Using Yoast to optimize the display of your content on social media platforms.
- Enabling XML sitemaps so that Google can retrieve your pages more quickly.
- Using the text link counter to see how well you're using your links.
What about Yoast Premium?
You may have noticed that Yoast is very, well, assertive about encouraging you to upgrade to Premium to get all sorts of additional features and tools. For the most part, we find that the basic plugin provides enough tools and resources for SEO success that the gains to be had from the Premium edition are only worth it if you’ve truly mastered the basic plugin and are pushing it to the limit. However, some of the benefits of Premium, like automagically handling redirects, can be quite beneficial to clients.
You’re welcome to upgrade to Premium yourself if you think it would be valuable, of course. If you’re thinking about it but not sure if it’d be worthwhile, just ask us! We’re happy to guide you on this decision.