The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

Suppose you know nothing about SEO but have heard about this little gem called Yoast SEO. People told you that it is a very convenient tool to optimize your site and its pages for Google, Bing, and Yandex. It’s effortless. You want to use it. You install the Yoast SEO plugin or the Yoast SEO extension and simply follow the advice given in that plugin. Within a week, your website will be topping the charts in Google. Or not? No, to be honest. It’s not that simple.

Our plugin helps you to optimize your website for search engines. And it does that well, but it needs your input. In this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO, I’ll try to explain the basics of SEO that our plugin guides you in. I’ll take you through the steps that every user, who tries our plugin for the first time takes, and help you optimize your site in the process.

It’s a beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO

Before we start, I should point out that this isn’t a beginner’s guide to every single detail of our plugin. I’d just like to show you some things I think you should use or configure. As our plugin has quite some settings, it’s good to know which features to configure first.

The Yoast SEO configuration wizard

Our Yoast SEO configuration wizard is a great place to start. You can find the configuration wizard at SEO > Dashboard:

In that configuration wizard, we will guide you through twelve steps that help you configure our plugin, specifically for your site. Even if you have a website that is already a year or so old, I encourage you to use the wizard and see if there are some things that you might have missed. Each step includes some questions; your answers will determine specific settings. In the wizard, we have also included video material to show you even more options.

Read more: ‘The Yoast SEO configuration wizard and why you should use it’ »

But there is so much more in this SEO section of Yoast SEO!?

Unquestionably, as there are many aspects to SEO. With the help of your answers in the configuration wizard and our own SEO knowledge, we can configure most of the general settings of our plugin for you. As a result of this, you can focus on your content!

SEO analysis

When you start writing a post or page, you will find our analyses. In WordPress, our so-called meta box is right below the larger text area where you write your content:

For you, as a user, this Yoast SEO box will prove very valuable. As you can see, there are a couple of tabs here.

On the tab where you can insert that focus keyword, we’ll tell you if you have used that focus keyword the right way in that specific post.

What we analyze in our SEO analysis

At present, we perform these checks in our SEO analysis:

In the image above you can see the different characteristics of your text we analyze:

What’s more: Cornerstone content and snippet preview

If your page is the main page for a topic/keyword in a group of pages you plan to write, you could mark it as cornerstone content here. Not sure if that is a subject for a beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO, by the way. It might be wise to take our basic SEO course first :)

Besides all the checks, we provide an editable snippet preview, which tells you how our plugin displays your website to Google and other search engines.

Readability analysis

Since SEO is one of those areas where content is indeed king, we also provide a convenient readability analysis for you. The thing is: not all people have the same skills to process certain texts. I laughed out loud when I found out someone thought it would be wise to use our readability analysis to analyze the readability of books like Hamlet’s First Soliloquy by William Shakespeare. Oh, the time wasted! If Hemingway would have a blog, he’d probably love our readability analysis. It would allow him to translate his offline writing to a nice readable online text. We have a post called “Yoast SEO hates my writing style” that goes into these common misconceptions.

Online vs. offline

Please understand that online and offline writing are two different stories. While we take the time to read, digest and daydream about all the great stories we read in books, we tend to scan, process and use (in any way) the things we read online. Where we follow the old man on his journey over sea, struggling with that marlin for days, feel his frustration, motivation, you probably scanned this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO to see if there’s something here you didn’t know already.

This post isn’t a page in a book. It’s information for you to process like most online pages are. With that purpose in mind, we wrote our readability analysis.

Government rulings

Our Dutch government has ruled that the text on all government websites should be at B2: Upper intermediate level. It’s a rule that makes sure that every citizen, regardless of the level of education, can read and understand the information on these websites. We aim to help them with that. Our readability analysis works for websites in English, Spanish, Dutch, French, German, and Italian by the way.

The readability analysis itself

Let’s see what’s in our readability analysis:


We analyze these things:

If you want more insight into how we decided on all these target numbers, please read the article Content analysis: methodological choices explained.

The last step of this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO is an advanced one

Of course, there is so much more you can do with Yoast SEO. In the Search Appearance menu you can determine how your site appears in search engines. And in the Search Console section, you can connect your Google Search Console account to Yoast SEO so it can find and fix errors.

Search Appearance

In Search Appearance, you’ll have access to the way we set up, for instance, your titles and metas for you. I want you to check that section for me. No need to alter anything, by the way. I just want you to know it’s there and realize what you can configure here.

At “Content Types,” you will find the default template we use for your post titles:
%%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%

This simply means we will use the page/post title you use when writing posts, and add the page number if your post is divided over multiple pages. Then we add a separator, like a dash, and then the site name you have set when creating your site. The outcome for this Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO could be:
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 purpose of me showing you this is that I want you to know it’s there, so you don’t have to look for it in the future. It explains why your titles are shown this way in Google.

Keep reading: ‘Search appearance variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Google Search Console

You can find the Search Console settings a bit further down the SEO menu. Now if you have completed our configuration wizard, you most probably connected Google Search Console to our plugin already. If you haven’t done that yet, you can do it at any time using the Search Console section here.

Yoast SEO for beginners

That concludes our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. I trust your website is ready for Google now, so please add awesome content!

Read on: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »