Imagine you have a website but know nothing about SEO. But you’ve heard about Yoast SEO and people have told you it’s a great tool for effortlessly optimizing your site and its pages for Google, Bing, and Yandex. So you install the Yoast SEO plugin. What’s next? To help your pages rise to the top, our plugin needs your input. In this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO, we’ll guide you through the essential first steps to get the most out of Yoast SEO and your content!
This beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO explains the basics of SEO as covered by our plugin. Let’s go through the steps every user should take when trying the Yoast plugin, and take the first steps in optimizing your site.
Do you need more guidance, to use all the great features of Yoast SEO to their full potential? Look no further and check out our free Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin training! It’ll teach you how to make optimum use of your Yoast SEO plugin, so you can take your SEO to the next level!
A beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO
Before we start, take note that this isn’t a guide to every single detail of our plugin. In this post, we’ll show you some important things we think you should use or configure. Our plugin has quite a few settings, so it’s good to know which you should configure first. If you have a site-specific question about a particular setting in the plugin, you could also check out the Yoast help center.
In this post, we’ll cover:
Table of contents
The Yoast SEO configuration wizard
Our Yoast SEO configuration wizard is a great place to start configuring your plugin. You’ll find it at Yoast SEO > General > Dashboard:
The configuration wizard guides you through several steps that help you configure our plugin to suit the needs of your site. Even if your website has already been around for a while, you can still run the wizard every now and then. Just to make sure your settings are up to date. Each step of the wizard includes questions, the answers to which will determine particular settings.
Of course, there are many aspects to SEO, and many more settings you could tweak in the plugin. But we set the configuration wizard in such a way that it already configures the plugin’s general settings correctly for your website. So you can focus on what’s most important – your content!
Curious to find out what the plugin does for your site without you even having to think about it? Read up on Yoast SEO’s hidden features that secretly level up your SEO!
Using the Yoast SEO sidebar or metabox
Yoast SEO is most famous for its green, orange, and red bullets, giving you feedback on the SEO friendliness of your content. Back in the days, you’d just find these in the Yoast SEO meta box below your post editor. Nowadays, you’ll also find them on the right side of the editor, in the Yoast SEO sidebar. That is if you’re using the WordPress Block editor.
Using the block editor, but can’t see the sidebar? Make sure to click on the Yoast SEO sidebar icon on the top right of your screen:
Here, we’ll highlight 4 essential elements you’ll find in both the Yoast SEO meta box and the Yoast SEO sidebar:
- The focus keyphrase
- The readability analysis
- The SEO analysis
- The Google preview
When you write a post or page for your website, checking these 4 elements should be the bare minimum you do before you publish a post. If you want to fully optimize a post, we’d advise following the steps as described in this blog post checklist.
The focus keyphrase
The first field in the Yoast SEO sidebar and the meta box is the focus keyphrase field. You’ll find it in the SEO tab of the meta box:
Or, completely on top of the Yoast SEO sidebar:
In this field, you can enter the phrase you’d like your post to rank for in the search engines. Do you wonder how to choose the perfect focus keyphrase? Read our focus keyphrase guide, as it will help you select the keywords you actually want and could be ranking for. You can select a keyphrase on a post-by-post basis, but if you’re serious about your rankings you’d best carry out keyword research first.
Yoast SEO Premium allows you to set related keyphrases and synonyms too, which is great if you want to take your content creation to the next level. Nowadays, you really need user-focused and high-quality content to rank high in a (competitive) market. Yoast SEO Premium recognizes grammatical variations of your keyphrase and helps you write naturally and create user-friendly text!
The readability analysis
After setting a focus keyphrase and writing your text it’s best to first check the readability of your copy. We provide a convenient readability analysis for you. It helps you check: Aren’t my sentences or paragraphs too long? Do I use a lot of passive voice in my text? Do I use enough subheadings? These are all elements that make or break the readability of your copy! And readability is crucial for SEO!
If a bullet is green you’re doing great on that subject. Is it orange or red? Please follow the instructions placed along with the bullet. You can use the eye icon to see where you could improve! Of course, we offer a full guide to help you use the Yoast SEO readability analysis.
If you want more insight into how we decided on all these criteria, see Content analysis: methodological choices explained. By the way, our readability analysis works for many languages! Here’s an overview of which features are available per language.
After you’ve checked the readability of your copy it’s time to look at the SEO-friendliness of it. Remember the focus keyphrase you’ve set? The SEO analysis evaluates how well your content is optimized to rank for that specific keyphrase.
For instance, it checks whether you’ve used the keyphrase enough, but not too often. But also, if it’s present in your title, meta description, images, and subheadings. Moreover, it checks other SEO aspects of your content that are not related to your keyphrase, for instance, if you have internal links to other articles.
Getting orange or red bullets? Have a look at the instructions we give and try to get your main bullet green! Want to have a closer look at our content analysis? Here’s a full guide on how to use The SEO and readability analysis in Yoast SEO.
If you have Yoast SEO Premium, the plugin will recognize word forms, and allows you to optimize for related keywords and keyword synonyms as well. Our premium analysis is as smart as Google, why not give it a spin?
Does every bullet need to be green?
No, not every bullet in the SEO analysis has to be green for your post or page to rank. Similarly, getting your post ‘all-green’ in no way guarantees that it will rank. While it’s tempting to simply aim for all-green bullets on every post or page without working on other aspects of your SEO, that isn’t the best SEO strategy. Proper keyword research and site structure always come before getting green bullets. Read more about properly using the colored bullet system in Yoast SEO.
The Google preview
In addition to the checks, we provide an editable snippet or Google preview. In the meta box, it’s in the SEO tab and in the Block Editor, you can find it here:
The snippet preview shows you how the Yoast plugin displays your page to Google and other search engines. In other words, it gives an idea of how your site would appear in the search results:
In the snippet preview, you can set an SEO title and meta description. Make an effort and write a title and meta description that clearly reflect what your post or page is about. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site and entice them to visit your site. There’s no guarantee that Google will display your meta description in the results pages. But if the meta description you add here is very good, you’ll increase the odds.
Other items in the sidebar and meta box
As we said, we believe this is the minimum investment you should make when publishing a post! As you can see there are some more items in the sidebar and meta box, like the internal linking suggestions, social previews, schema, cornerstone content, insights, and advanced section. It’s worth taking a look at those too!
A bit more advanced: the Yoast Dashboard
Of course, there is so much more you can do with Yoast SEO. You can access and change many settings of the plugin in the Yoast Dashboard. There’s usually no need to change anything. Especially if you’re an inexperienced user, it’s wise to stick to the settings you set in the configuration wizard. But let’s have a quick look around to give you an idea of what the options are.
If you go to SEO > Search Appearance in the left-hand side navigation in your WordPress dashboard, you can adjust how your site appears in search engines.
Take the ‘Title Separator’, for instance. In the configuration wizard, you can choose whether you want a dash, asterisk, or something else. But, if you change your mind later, you can always change it here.
In ‘Search Appearance’, you can change, among other things, how our plugin sets up your titles and metas. Go to the tab ‘Content Types’, where you will find the default template we use for your post titles. It’s good to know it’s there and realize what you can configure.
This simply means we will use the title of your page or post as the page title, and add the page number if your post is divided over multiple pages. Then we add a title separator (which we discussed in the first paragraph on this section) and then the site name you have set when creating your site. So, following this setup, the title for this Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO post looks like this:
Note that this example doesn’t include a page number after the page title, as this post is just one page.
This is the setup we recommend. It’s focused on the page title (“Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO”) and has proper branding at the end (“Yoast”).
The reason why I’ve drawn your attention to this setting, is that you should know it’s there, so you don’t have to look for it in the future. This is why your titles are shown like this in Google searches.
Keep reading: Snippet variables in Yoast SEO »
Other guides for (Yoast) SEO beginners
That’s it for our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. With Yoast SEO properly installed, your website is ready for Google. You now can get on track adding and optimizing your content with the Yoast readability analysis and SEO analysis!
Here’s a few more reading recommendations, if you really want to become a pro user of the Yoast SEO plugin:
- How to use the Yoast SEO readability analysis tool
- How to use the Yoast SEO content analysis tool
- Why and how to use the Yoast SEO text link counter
- How to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description
- Snippet variables in Yoast SEO
- Yoast SEO: don’t set it and forget it!
Or some more general SEO guides for beginners:
If you want all this information and more, neatly structured in one place, and with helpful videos, check out our Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin training, it’s free!
Read on: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »