The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

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 or the Yoast SEO extension and follow the instructions. Within a week, your website will be right at the top of Google – or will it? No. To be honest, it’s not that simple.

Our plugin helps you to optimize your website for search engines, and while it does that well, it still needs your input. This beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO explains the basics of SEO as covered by our plugin. I’ll take you through the steps taken by every user trying our plugin for the first time, 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 guide to every single detail of our plugin. I’d just like to show you some important things I think you should use or configure. As our plugin has quite a lot of settings, it’s good to know which you should configure first.

The Yoast SEO configuration wizard

Our Yoast SEO configuration wizard is a great place to start and you’ll find it at SEO > Dashboard:

The configuration wizard guides you through 12 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 should still use the wizard to make sure you don’t miss anything. Each step includes questions, the answers to which will determine particular settings. There are also videos included in the wizard to explain even more options.

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

But there are so many more settings in our plugin’s SEO controls!

Of course there are many aspects to SEO and a lot more to take control of within the plugin. But the configuration wizard, combined with our SEO knowledge, means that we can configure most of the plugin’s general settings for you, so, you can focus on what’s most important – your content!

SEO analysis

You’ll see our content analysis controls when you start writing a post or page. In WordPress, you’ll find the Yoast meta box right below the text area where you write your content:

You’re going to find the Yoast SEO box very useful. As you can see, there are a couple of tabs here.

Under 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.

Our SEO analysis

Our SEO analysis currently includes the following checks:

More features: Cornerstone content and snippet preview

If your page is the main page for a particular topic or keyword in a group of pages you plan to write, you can mark it as cornerstone content. But then this probably isn’t a subject for a beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO! It might be wise to take our basic SEO course first :)

As well as all the checks, we provide an editable snippet preview, which shows you how our plugin displays your page to Google and other search engines.

Readability analysis

Even better SEO with Yoast SEO Premium!

  • Optimize your site for the right keywords
  • Never a dead link in your site again
  • Previews for Twitter and Facebook
  • Get suggestions for links as you write
More info
Since SEO is one of those areas where content is indeed king, we also provide a convenient readability analysis for you. That’s because we understand not everyone has the skills to easily create readable content. I laughed out loud when I heard that someone thought it would be a good idea to use our readability analysis to analyze the readability of books and even Hamlet’s first soliloquy by William Shakespeare. Oh, the time wasted! If Hemingway was around today and writing a blog, he’d probably love our readability analysis. It would allow him to translate his offline writing into nice readable web-friendly content. We have a post called “Yoast SEO hates my writing style” that goes into these common misconceptions.

Online vs. offline

If you’re going to write website content, you need to understand that online and offline writing are two different things. 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 the things we read online. Reading a book like Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, we feel the man’s frustration and motivation as he struggles with a marlin for days in his tiny boat on the lonely sea. But, as this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO is on a website, you probably just scanned it 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 and we wrote our readability analysis with that purpose in mind.

Government rulings

As you may know, Yoast is based in the Netherlands, where the law requires 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

Now let’s see what’s in our readability analysis:

We analyze:

If you want more insight into how we decided on all these criteria, see 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. For example, in the Search Appearance menu you can adjust 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 can change how our plugin sets up, among other things, your titles and metas. I want you to have a look at that section. There’s no need to change anything, but I just want you to know it’s there and realize what you can configure.

In “Content Types,” you will find the default template we use for your post titles:

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 separator, like a dash, and then the site name you have set when creating your site. So, 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 is that I want you to 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: 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 set things up with our configuration wizard, you have probably already connected Google Search Console to our plugin. If you haven’t done that yet, you can do so at any time using the Search Console section.

Yoast SEO for beginners

That’s it for our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. Now your website is ready for Google, you can get on with adding awesome content!

Read on: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »