We’ve been using the Yoast SEO plugin for our clients’ blogs for some years now. It’s easy, when you use something every day, to forget that its use and value aren’t as obvious to people who aren’t using it every day. I was reminded of this while participating in the Help Desk time at WordCamp Omaha. I was helping a website owner make a plan to improve her SEO, and we were looking at a blog post in the Admin area of her website.
She noticed the Yoast SEO plugin and stared at it, bemused. “I don’t know what he does with this,” she said, referring to her blogger.
“Not much,” would be the honest answer. Few posts had any information in the Yoast area. We usually install Yoast when we build a website, and that might have been true for this business owner’s web team, too. But it’s not immediately obvious what to do with the plugin. An experienced SEO blogger might not bother to use the plugin, and an inexperienced one might not know how. But the Yoast plugin offers some benefits to site owners.
What’s the Yoast SEO plugin?
The Yoast SEO plugin does some nice techie things like helping to clean up your permalinks and connecting to your Google Search Console. If you don’t know what that means, you’re in good company, and it really doesn’t matter. Whoever installed the plugin for you should have configured it to do some basic out of the box things that are a lot more trouble to do without the plugin.
Once it’s installed, Yoast adds a special form to each post. Your blogger can use this form to specify a focus keyword for the page. A keyword is the word or phrase a searcher would put into the search box at Google or bing when they want to find information in the blog post.
For the example below, the focus keyword is “medical packaging automation.” We expect that people who are looking for information about medical packaging automation will find this post useful.
Once you’ve specified your keyword, the plugin will analyze the blog post and give you a green light, an orange light, or a red light. You can see that this post has a green light.
Directly below the focus keyword is a list of good (green) or not so good (orange or red) things to do for SEO for your blog post. For example, this post doesn’t contain any outbound links, so we have one orange dot. We could add an outbound link for a perfect row of green dots.
The plugin doesn’t optimize your blog posts for you, but it does remind your blogger of best practices for blogging. It also allows your writer to add the meta description easily.
What can the Yoast plugin tell website owners?
One of the reasons we use the Yoast plugin, frankly, is because we know that clients like to see that cheery line of green dots. Installing Yoast allows you as the website owner to make sure that your blogger is following best practices, just by looking at the “All Posts” screen in the admin area of your website.
The same screen allows you to see the meta descriptions (the words that will show up on the search engine results page) and the focus keyword. This can give you a better overview of the kinds of topics your blog is covering than skimming through the titles.
These dashboards look different because WordPress allows you to set them up to suit your own needs.
In addition to SEO scores, Yoast also checks readability. We write blogs for some specialized audiences. Readability is not always an issue. But most of the time, for most websites, you want your blogs to be easy to read. It can be hard for an expert to tell what might be hard to read, so this feature can be very helpful. The screenshot above shows the double rows of green lights — for SEO and readability — that most website owners will want to see.
Yoast also lets your blogger add a special introductory line for Facebook posts, if you want to post your blog posts to Facebook automatically. Click on the “share” icon and you will see a form like this one:
In our experience, this doesn’t always work — it depends on your theme. If it works for your website, though, it can streamline your social media by letting your writer create the introduction and having that well-crafted intro show up no matter who posts on Facebook.
Bottom line, the Yoast SEO plugin is a good choice for a business website. It’s free, and while it’s not magic, it does help you feel confident about your blogger.