Become a Yoast SEO pro:

The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

Let’s say you have a website but know little about SEO. But you’ve heard about Yoast SEO, and people have told you it’s a great tool to optimize your site for Google, Bing, and Yandex. So you install the Yoast SEO plugin. What’s next? Our plugin needs your input to help your pages rise to the top. In this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO, we’ll guide you through the first steps to get the most out of this plugin and your content!

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which means optimizing your pages to get them to a high position in the search results of Google or any other search engine. If you have a website and you want to attract more people to it, SEO should be a part of your marketing strategy. Our plugin, Yoast SEO, helps you with that by fixing a lot of the technical stuff. But also by giving you feedback on your content, optimizing it for SEO, and getting higher rankings.

In this beginner’s Yoast SEO guide, we assume that you have the plugin downloaded and installed. Not quite there yet? Check out how to install Yoast SEO Premium or our free Yoast SEO plugin before you read on. This guide will explain how to set up our plugin to get started with SEO basics.

Read more: What does Yoast SEO do? »

A beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO

Before we start, note that this isn’t a guide to every single detail of our plugin. This post will show you some important things we think you should use or configure. Because our plugin has quite a few settings, it’s good to know which you should configure first. If you have a site-specific question about a particular setting in the plugin, check out the Yoast help center.

In this post, we’ll cover the following:

The Yoast SEO configuration workout

When you’ve installed the plugin, our Yoast SEO first-time configuration is a great place to start configuring your plugin. You’ll find it in the backend of your WordPress website at Yoast SEO > General:

Start your Yoast SEO journey with the first-time configuration

The configuration workout guides you through several steps that help you configure our plugin to suit your site’s needs. Even if your website has already been around for a while, you can still do the configuration now and then. Just to make sure your settings are up to date. Each step of the workout includes options that will determine particular settings. If you want more help getting Yoast SEO configured correctly for your site, check out our help article.

Organization or person

In the first-time configuration, you’ll be asked if your website is about you or an organization you represent. We’re highlighting this because the information you fill in here is used in Google’s Knowledge Graph. What is a Knowledge Graph, you ask? It is the block of information you often see on the right-hand side of the search results when you search for a company or person. So make sure to fill in all the fields you can in this step to provide Google with this information and increase your chances of a Knowledge Graph.

Hidden features

There are many aspects to SEO and many more settings you could tweak in the plugin. But we set the first-time configuration so that it correctly configures the plugin’s general settings for your website. Helping you a lot with your more technical SEO. That way, you can choose to focus on your most important content!

To give you an idea, here are a few of the things Yoast SEO takes care of in the background. Our plugin:

  • Outputs structured data for your pages, helping Google understand them even better.
  • Creates an XML sitemap that search engines use to find and index your pages.
  • Yoast SEO Premium also avoids dead ends on your site by automatically creating redirects when you move or delete content.

There are lots more hidden features, but it comes down to this: Yoast SEO rolls out the red carpet for the search bots, making it easy for search engines to find and understand your content.

Using the Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box

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 day, you’d find these in the Yoast SEO meta box below your post editor. Nowadays, if you’re using the WordPress Block editor, you can also find them next to your content. On the right side of the editor, in the Yoast SEO sidebar.

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:

Click the Yoast SEO icon to open the sidebar

Here, we’ll highlight four essential elements you’ll find in both the Yoast SEO meta box and the Yoast SEO sidebar:

  • The Focus keyphrase
  • The SEO analysis
  • The Readability analysis
  • The Google preview

When you write a post or page for your website, checking these four elements should be the bare minimum before publishing a post. If you want to optimize a post fully, we’d advise following the steps described in this blog post checklist.

The focus keyphrase

The focus keyphrase field is the first in the Yoast SEO sidebar and the meta box. In your Yoast SEO sidebar, on the right side of your editor, you’ll find this field at the top:

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO sidebar

Below your post, you’ll find it in the SEO tab of the meta box:

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO meta box

In this field, you can enter the phrase you’d like this specific post or page to rank for in the search engines. You can add this keyphrase at any moment, but we suggest adding it immediately as a reminder to keep your content focused on this topic. Wondering how to choose the perfect focus keyphrase? Read our guide on choosing a focus keyphrase, as it will help you select the right keyphrase you want to (and can) rank for. You can select a keyphrase post-by-post, but if you’re serious about your rankings, you must conduct keyword research first.

Yoast SEO Premium allows you to set related keyphrases and synonyms too, which is great if you want to take your SEO copywriting to the next level. You need user-focused and high-quality content to rank high in a (competitive) market. Because Google is getting smarter, Yoast SEO Premium recognizes variations of your keyphrase and helps you write natural and user-friendly content.

SEO analysis

It’s time to look at its SEO-friendliness. The SEO analysis evaluates how well your content is optimized to rank for a specific keyphrase that you set.

For instance, it checks whether you’ve used the keyphrase enough and not too often. But also whether it’s in your SEO title, meta description, images, or subheadings. Moreover, it checks other SEO aspects of your content that are not related to your keyphrase, for instance, if you have any internal links to other articles on your website.

The SEO analysis in the Yoast SEO sidebar

Getting orange or red bullets? Look at the feedback the analysis gives and try to make improvements where possible. To dive deeper into this, read our article on how to use Yoast SEO’s content analysis.

The readability analysis

Below the focus keyphrase field, you can find the Readability analysis tab (in the Yoast SEO sidebar). It’s best to look at this tab after you’ve written the first version of your post or page. It gives you a red, orange, or green bullet, which reflects your text’s readability score. This analysis contains a few different checks that our plugin automatically does on your content. Open the tab to find out how you score on all the individual checks and what you can improve. You may wonder why you should look at this tab, but trust us: readability is crucial for SEO!

The Yoast SEO readability checks in the sidebar

If a bullet is green, you’re doing great in that field. Is it orange or red? You can follow the instructions along with the bullet to improve on this front. If there’s an eye icon, you can click that to see what part of the text still needs some checking. Now you don’t need to get every bullet green, but try to get the overall bullet green to end up with readable text. That way, the readability analysis helps you write easy-to-read content that your readers will love!

Our readability analysis works for many languages, and our team is working hard to add more languages as we go. If you’re interested in finding more about the logic behind this analysis, you can read more on how to use this analysis in Yoast SEO or how we decided on all of these criteria.

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 and bullets ‘all-green’ in no way guarantees that it will rank. While it’s tempting to aim for all-green bullets on every post or page without working on other aspects of your SEO, this 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 analyzing your content, we provide an editable snippet or Google preview. In the meta box below your post, it’s in the SEO tab, and in the sidebar, you can find it here:

You can find all the features of Yoast SEO in the sidebar in the block editor

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 can appear in the search results:

The Google preview makes it easy to optimize your post for the search results

In the Google preview, you can set an SEO title and meta description. Make an effort and write a title and meta description that reflects 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 page. There’s no guarantee that Google will display your meta description in the results pages. But if the meta description you add here is good, you’ll increase the odds of using it.

Other items in the sidebar and meta box

As said before, we believe this is the minimum investment you should make before publishing a page or post. You may have noticed more items in the Yoast SEO sidebar and meta box, like the internal linking suggestions, social previews, Schema, cornerstone content, insights, and advanced section. It’s worth looking at those, as these can help your SEO efforts!

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 new to SEO, it’s wise to stick to the settings you set with the first-time configuration. But let’s quickly look around to give you an idea of the options.

Site basics

If you go to Yoast SEO > Site basics 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. 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.

Simply pick what you want, but the default option is usually the best one

In the section Search Appearance, you can also change how our plugin sets up your titles and meta descriptions. Go to the Content Types tab, where you will find the default template we use for your post titles. Set up by using snippet variables that tell the plugin what the title of your post is or the separator of your choice. It’s good to know it’s there and realize what you can configure.

Change the variables in any way you like

This simply means we will use the title of your page or post as the page title. Then we add a title separator (which we discussed in the first paragraph of this section) and the site name you set when creating your site. So, for example, the title for this Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO post would look like this:

Beginner's guide to Yoast SEO: Page titles

Feel free to change this setup, but this is the one we recommend. It’s focused on the page title (Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO) and has proper branding at the end (Yoast). This setting is mentioned here so that you know it’s there and that it is why your titles are shown like this in Google searches.

Keep reading: Things we don’t do in Yoast SEO and why »

That’s it for our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. With Yoast SEO properly installed, your website is ready for SEO, and your pages can be optimized to get ranking. You can now get on track by adding content and optimizing it with the Yoast readability and SEO analysis!

If you want to become a pro user of the Yoast SEO plugin, here are a few more reading recommendations:

Or some more general SEO guides for beginners:

If you want all this information more neatly structured in one place and with helpful videos, check out our free Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin training! It helps you master our plugin and take the first few practical steps into SEO!

Read on: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

Become a Yoast SEO pro series

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8 Responses to The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

  1. Rishabh Jain
    Rishabh Jain  • 2 years ago

    I have gone through this posting and can say that its a great insight for Yoast SEO which is an important tool in the world of digital marketing. Strongly recommended everyone to go through above information at least once if you really want to know how Yoast SEO can help you out. Thank you so much for the information.

    • Camille Cunningham

      Thank you, Rishabh! Great to hear that :)

  2. Diginomixs
    Diginomixs  • 2 years ago

    Valuable content. Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy Lees
      Amy Lees  • 2 years ago

      You’re welcome!

  3. ritika jain
    ritika jain  • 2 years ago

    thanks for sharing this information with us it would be very helpful for every beginner

  4. sufiaarsala
    sufiaarsala  • 2 years ago

    Wonderful article!!! this article contains complete guidance for beginners who wish to learn about SEO. I am also a professional SEO and I recommend all the newcomers to take guidance from this article if you want to become a professional SEO

    • Amy Lees
      Amy Lees  • 2 years ago

      Thank you for the positive feedback, and keep up the good work!