If you use WordPress I’m betting you also have the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s super popular and a great tool to help you optimize your website for Google and co, so folks can find you when they are searching the wild wide web. This is called search engine optimization btw, or SEO. From my coaching and website clients I know that Yoast can be a bit confusing, so I wrote this post to help you use it efficiently and make the most out of it.
How the Yoast SEO plugin works
For Yoast SEO to do its job you first need to decide on a keyword for your page/post. The key word is what you want to rank for in Google. It’s normally not one word but a phrase of a few words. For example, if you offer private yoga classes in your town, your keyword for that page could be “private yoga in xyz”.
Once you’ve entered your keyword, the SEO analysis checks the presence of your focus keyword in places such as:
- The title of the page
- The headline and subheadline
- The content of the article
- The meta description
- Image alt tags
Yoast also calculates the number of words and the density of usage of the focus keyword. Finally, the plugin checks whether you’ve been using the same keyword on other pages already. This should prevent you from competing with yourself.
If you’ve done well and included your keyword everywhere, Yoast will indicate this with a green bullet.
Yoast SEO now also offers a Readability Check. The readability analysis consists of readability checks such as sentence length, paragraph length, use of subheadings, use of passive voice. If you write a readable text, the plugin will indicate this with another green bullet.
A green bullet doesn’t mean that your content will be in the top results on Google
You’ve done everything right, all your bullets are green, but still your page doesn’t show up in the top results on Google? Unfortunately, it’s not so easy anymore. Google has only so much space for top results and you can bet that all those pages have optimized their keywords.
There are a lot of other things that Google is looking for when determining how to rank your page, such as the age of your domain, links from other websites to your page (those are called backlinks) and engagement.
Stop being obsessed by the green bullets
If you’re copy/pasting keywords throughout your content to make Yoast happy, I want you to stop it right now.
A lot of my posts are well optimized (they are super useful and organized) and half my bullets are red. Stop obsessing over green bullets and start obsessing over your content instead. Yes, you want to include your keyword in the right places, but if your content is short and doesn’t bring real value it won’t be enough to get a high ranking on Google.
Don’t be a slave to your chosen keyword
Yoast is a tool and only detects exact keyword matches. If you’re using synonyms, your Yoast SEO bullets will be red (which is what happens to me and I’m totally okay with it). Even if Yoast tells you so, it doesn’t always have to be an exact match.
For example, if your focus keyword is “Private Yoga in London“ and you use “Private Yoga Lessons in London” in your content, Yoast will not pick it up. But Google is smart enough (and actually prefers it) and your readers will thank you for a text that is much nicer to read.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a fine line between writing a headline that sounds good, and writing a headline so it includes your keyword. You need to find the right balance. Crafting a headline that people will actually click on is more important than a green bullet from Yoast.
Use Yoast SEO to define your meta data
One of the most important functions of Yoast SEO is the possibility to edit your page title and meta description. They are shown on Google and when you share your page on social media, so you want to be sure that they are informative and inviting people to click.
Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of determining whether you’re a good result. If more people click your page, Google moves you up. This is why optimizing the meta description is so important, as is optimizing your titles. If you’re unsure how to do this have a look at the top results for some keywords in your niche and learn from those. Think of your title and description as an invitation for people to click.
To sum it up, use Yoast for direction but don’t treat it like a magic SEO bullet. I can’t say this enough: your content should always come first. That means that first and foremost, you have to write an awesome article full of value that people are happy to read. That’s where your efforts should go. Click here to learn 3 things you can do right now to get better results in Google. SEO copywriting remains hard work.