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Does your WordPress website have the Yoast SEO plugin installed but you’re not sure what to do with it?

Yoast is a popular and powerful SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugin that can be a huge resource for WordPress websites. Here’s a quick overview of where to start, and how to focus your efforts going forward.

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Yoast SEO configuration workout

After installing the plugin this is definitely the first step, and should already have been taken care of. You can double check that it’s been done in your WordPress backend under Yoast SEO > General. There will be an alert under Notifications asking you to complete the configuration if needed. The process is  pretty self explanatory but if you get stuck let me know.

Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box

Here’s where you get the most out of the plugin. On each page or post of your website Yoast has an area dedicated to optimizing that particular content. If you are using the Classic editor you’ll find the Yoast SEO meta box below your post editor. Or, in the WordPress Block editor it will be on the right side of the editor, in its own Yoast SEO sidebar. These are its 4 crucial components.

Focus keyphrase

Here is where you enter the key word or phrase you think people might search for that would bring them to this particular page on your website. This is what you’re shooting for. We could fill volumes on keywords… If I had to sum it up I’d say ”The more specific the better”. There are many searches for the word “dog”, but there is also a TON of existing content on dogs that you are going to have a real hard time competing against. If your web page is about “donna the good brown dog” though, you have a much better chance of getting found. Note that search engines will have already taken the name of your website into account so you don’t need to repeat that here.

Google preview

This shows a preview of how your page will appear in search results. It’s also where you can easily edit the SEO title, Slug and Meta description for that page. You are going to update these 3 fields to make the SEO analysis section below as happy as possible. Note that Google is constantly changing the exact length it wants for these fields so if you haven’t checked in a while it may be time to adjust these.

Readability analysis

This may not be next in order in the Yoast section but it’s where I’d look next. Now, I am not the greatest writer, so I can’t speak to how much better your content will read to humans if you follow Yoast’s guidance here. However, it will help how search engines read your content. So as long as it doesn’t come off as unnatural, do your best to get these green.

SEO analysis

Once your content is readable to both Yoast and humans this is where it all comes together.  See my caveats below, but try and get as many of the items here green as possible. They should all be pretty self explanatory and straight forward. Your content can still rank in search engines if you don’t make Yoast completely happy, and getting all greens doesn’t guarantee you will rank high, but it is the best way for you to optimize that content.


A HUGE caveat

Much more important than anything Yoast says or does is making sure your website is doing what you need it to. For instance, if you really only need 30 words on a page, tell Yoast to cram the other 270 it’s asking for. However, if you only felt like writing 30 words for that page, know that it is much more likely people will find it if you write at least 300.

One way Yoast definitely sags is insisting on the exact order of the words in your keyphrase. For instance if you entered “Subaru car repair” as your keyphrase, and your meta description starts with “Repair your Subaru car…” Google is going to treat that as almost the same thing, while Yoast might start freaking out. As long as you’ve logically included all of the important words in your keyphrase you can ignore Yoast in these instances.


There’s so much more you can do with Yoast but these are the most important. I hope you take advantage of it!