How to Use Yoast SEO Plugin on Your WordPress Website

Yoast SEO WordPress plugin tutorial

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In this Yoast SEO tutorial, you will learn not only how to install this WordPress plug, but how to configure and use it in order to maximize your chances of ranking organically in search results.

See below for a step-by-step Yoast tutorial and video explaining exactly what you need to do to become an expert Yoaster.

YouTube video

How to Install Yoast SEO Wordpress Plugin

From your WordPress dashboard, on the left side click on Plugins then Add New. On the resulting page in the upper right corner search box, type “yoast seo”.

Then in the upper left corner of the search results, click the Install Now button that’s associated with the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin by Team Yoast. When that’s finished, click on the blue Activate button.

You will be redirected to your WordPress plugins list. Scroll down to find the Yoast SEO plugin, and click Settings.

You’ll see right away Yoast SEO premium available for purchase, but we will only be working with the free version which is packed with a ton of SEO value.

Anyway, at this point Yoast is installed on your WordPress site. Let’s take a look at configuring some settings next.

Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard

From the Yoast SEO settings page, click on the link for the configuration wizard near the top. There are 9ish steps to the Yoast SEO configuration wizard. Let’s go through each one.

1. Environment

This first step in the configuration wizard is pretty straightforward. You have two options to specify the readiness of your WordPress site to be indexed by search engines.

  • Option A: My site is live and ready to be indexed
  • Option B: My site is under construction and should not be indexed

If you have content on your website and you think it’s ready for visitors, choose option A. Otherwise, if you need more time to get your website in order and write blog posts, choose option B.

In the video tutorial above, I chose option A because I had already written and published four blog posts.

After you are satisfied with your choice, click on Next.

2. Site Type

This step in the configuration wizard is simply asking you:  what does your WordPress website represent? Your choices are:

  • A blog
  • An online shop
  • A news channel
  • A small offline business
  • A corporation
  • A portfolio
  • Something else

In the the video tutorial for Cereal Guru, I chose a blog since my website is a blog about cereal.

If you plan to follow the entirety of this WordPress tutorial, I recommend you choose the blog option. Otherwise, pick the appropriate option for your website. When you’re satisfied, click on Next.

3. Organization or Person

The next step in the Yoast configuration wizard asks you if your blog represents an organization or a person. This may be a little tricky because many times a blog doesn’t represent a person, but still doesn’t necessarily represent an organization either.

The way you want to answer this question is simple… if your blog doesn’t represent a person then it represents an organization.

In the WordPress video tutorial, although the Cereal Guru is technically a pseudonym for me, the blog is not about me, but rather it’s about cereal. So for me, I chose an organization in this case.

Next, depending on what you chose above, fill in the name of the organization or person.

After that, you need to provide an image of the organization logo. Since we already uploaded a logo in the previous part of this WordPress tutorial series, you can simply select that image from your media library.

Finally, you can optionally provide URL links to you Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Wikipedia pages. If you don’t yet have these social media accounts setup for your website, don’t worry, you can leave these fields blank and come back later to fill them in.

Once everything looks good, go ahead and click on Next.

4. Search Engine Visibility

Next up, the Yoast SEO configuration wizard asks you if you want your posts and pages to show up in search engine results.

Unless you have a good reason not to, I highly recommend keeping both of these options selected with the default of Yes.

Click on Next to continue with the Yoast wizard.

5. Multiple Authors

Does or will your site have multiple authors? Pretty straightforward question. If you plan on being the only content creator on your blog, chose No here.

In other words, unless you are going to have multiple people publishing content on your blog under different names, keep the default choice of No selected.

When you’re satisfied, click on Next.

6. Title Settings

The next step in the Yoast configuration wizard has you select a title separator. The separator is a single character that will display between your title and website name in search results.

Yoast SEO title separator

While any of the title separator options are probably as good as the next, I recommend that you choose a narrow character vs a wide character. The reason for this is because Google search results are not truncated based on the character count, but rather the width of the text itself.

For example, notice how the first two (dash and bullet point) symbols are shorter in width than the last two (double greater-than sign and em dash) symbols.

  • Kix Cereal Ingredients, Nutrition, and Slogan History – Cereal Guru
  • Kix Cereal Ingredients, Nutrition, and Slogan History • Cereal Guru
  • Kix Cereal Ingredients, Nutrition, and Slogan History ≫ Cereal Guru
  • Kix Cereal Ingredients, Nutrition, and Slogan History — Cereal Guru

Knowing this, your best bet is to avoid theses wider title separators and stick with the narrow ones instead.

When you’re happy with your choice, click on Next.

7. Newsletter

If you would like to sign up for the Yoast SEO for WordPress newsletter, you can click the SIGN UP button. Otherwise, click Next to skip this step.

8. You Might Like

The next page on the Yoast configuration wizard is a mix of tutorial videos, some of which are lead magnets that try to get you to sign up for the premium version of Yoast.

Is Yoast premium worth it? Maybe, but this WordPress tutorial teaches you how to take full advantage of the free feature of Yoast while leveraging the premium SEO features of SEMrush.

If interested, definitely watch some of the videos. Otherwise, click on Next.

9. Success

The last step in the configuration wizard for Yoast SEO isn’t much of a step at all, but rather a page to let you know that you have successfully configured the WordPress plugin. You can go ahead and click on Close to finish the wizard.

Yoast Sitemap for WordPress

After finishing the configuration wizard, switch from the Dashboard tab to the Features tab of the Yoast SEO plugin settings page. Here you can enable and disable individual features of the Yoast SEO plugin.

While you want to keep all of these features enabled, it’s worth pointing out the Yoast SEO sitemap feature here. Yoast generates an XML sitemap of all the pages on your website or blog.

An XML sitemap is basically an organized list of all the posts and pages on your website. While search engines are certainly capable of crawling from one page to another on your website by following all subsequent links, a sitemap makes this process a whole lot easier.

By creating and submitting a sitemap to search engines like Google, all of your webpages are explicitly made known. A Yoast XML sitemap essentially guarantees that search engines will know exactly what pages exist on your website.

You can see your XML sitemap in action by navigating to your site’s URL followed by sitemap.xml like this:

The Yoast SEO sitemap is actually a hierarchy of sitemaps where the highest level sitemap has links to other sitemaps. For example, the main sitemap contains a link to a sitemap with all of your posts and another sitemap with all of your pages.

  • Yoast post sitemap:
  • Yoast page sitemap:

You can dive down into a sitemap and see links to individual posts and pages by clicking any one of the links.

Yoast SEO Search Appearance Settings

The Yoast SEO configuration wizard is a great start to optimizing your website SEO, but there are a few other settings that we want to take care of.

1. Yoast SEO Title and Meta Description

From your WordPress dashboard, click on SEO on the left then Search Appearance. The SEO link on the left will take you directly to the Yoast SEO plugin settings page.

On the search appearance page, you can modify the SEO title for your homepage. In order to just have your website title show up when someone searches for the name of your blog, you can remove the Page, Separator, and Tagline options from this box. On the other hand, if you want your site’s tagline to appear in search results, you can modify the Yoast SEO title to your liking here.

Yoast SEO title and meta description

Below that, I recommend that you type a solid meta description for your website or blog. The meta description will show up below your website title when someone searches for your website or blog on Google.

After taking care of that, click on Save changes.

2. Yoast Blog Post Publish Date in Search Results

Move on over to the Content Types tab and enable the Date in Snippet Preview option under the posts section. By enabling this option, your posts will also include the published date in search results.

Seeing the published date of a blog post can be super beneficial to your potential website visitors, especially when they are searching for up-to-date and time-relevant contents.

Yoast SEO post publish date in snippet search results

Feel free to modify anything else on the Yoast content types settings page. Otherwise, the defaults will be just fine.

Click on Save changes.

3. Hide Category Page in Yoast SEO Taxonomies

Next, move on over to the Taxonomies tab. Here, you can optionally hide category pages from search results. I personally hide my category pages from search results because, at this point, I don’t see it offering any value to my website visitors since the meat of my content is in my posts and pages.

To hide the category page from search results, simply switch the toggle from Yes to No under Show categories in search results.

Click on Save changes.

How to Use Yoast SEO in WordPress

Now that you have configured the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin, let’s take a look at how to use it.

From your WordPress dashboard, click on Posts then All Posts. Either choose a post that you have already written, or click on Add New if you don’t yet have any posts.

When you scroll down past the content of your blog post, you’ll see the Yoast SEO plugin. There are two main aspects to the Yoast SEO plugin:  Readability and SEO analysis. A Yoast readability or SEO analysis score can either be good, okay, needs improvement, or not available. You’ll see one of the corresponding smiley faces depending on the state of your content.

Yoast SEO and readability score
Yoast readability and SEO analysis score possibilities

Yoast Readability Score and Analysis

The Yoast readability score is based on the analysis of a series of individual factors. Currently, Yoast checks for the following factors to come up with the readability score.

  • Passive voice: Active voice is preferred over passive voice and makes your content easier to read. In real-time, Yoast analyzes your text to make sure you only sporadically use passive voice.
  • Flesh reading ease score: Determines the reading difficulty of your text on a scale from 1 (very difficult) to 100 (very easy). Depending on your audience, a good general target is between 60 and 70.
  • Consecutive sentences: A check for multiple sentences in a row starting with the same word. You typically want to avoid repetition like this so you don’t bore the reader.
  • Subheadings distribution: Ensures you don’t have too much content under a single section heading. The cutoff for this is 300 words max under each heading.
  • Paragraph length: Makes sure your paragraphs aren’t too long. Huge blobs of text are intimidating and not fun for your readers. Shorter paragraphs keep your reader engaged in your content.
  • Sentence length: Long sentences can be hard to read. Yoast checks your text to make sure only a small portion of your sentences are longer than 20 words.
  • Transition words: Makes sure you use enough transition words to ensure your blog post has a good flow. I frequently refer to this list of transition words when writing my blog posts.

Behind the scenes, Yoast analyzes your blog content in real-time, tallies up these individual factors, and gives your your overall readability score.

Yoast SEO Score and Analysis

By default, the Yoast SEO score is not available until you enter a focus keyword. The overall SEO score for Yoast is based on the following factors:

  • SEO title width: Makes sure that your title is within the viewable limit allowed by most search engines like Google.
  • Keyphrase in title: Makes sure the exact match of the keyphrase appears in the SEO title near the beginning.
  • Outbound links: Ensures that you have at least one outbound link to an external website.
  • Internal links: Ensures that you have at least one internal link to another page on your website.
  • Keyphrase in introduction: Makes sure that your chosen focus keyword appears in the first paragraph of your post.
  • Keyphrase length: Checks to see if your focus keyword phrase is four words or less.
  • Keyphrase density: Based on the length of your blog post, Yoast determines if you overuse or underuse your focus keyword.
  • Keyphrase in meta description: Yoast checks that you used your focus keyword phrase in your meta description.
  • Meta description length: Makes sure your meta description is at least 120 characters but less than 160 characters to avoid getting truncated in the snippet search result.
  • Previously used keyphrase: Yoast makes sure that you aren’t targeting the same keyphrase in multiple blog posts or pages.
  • Keyphrase in subheading: Makes sure that your keyphrase appears in enough subheading, but not too many subheadings.
  • Image alt attributes: A check to see if at least some of the images associated with this blog post has alt attributes with your target keyword phrase.
  • Text length: In general, this check makes sure your blog post is at least 300 words long.
  • Keyphrase in slug: A check to ensure that your focus keyword phrase appears in slug of your URL.

Yoast SEO Score and Analysis

A somewhat tricky part of the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin is the meta description. In order to edit the Yoast meta description for your blog post, you need click on the Edit snippet button near the top of the plugin.

As mentioned above, it’s critical for SEO purposes to have a meta description for your blog post that is of appropriate length. You can type the meta description for your blog post or page within the meta description text box.

UP NEXT: Best SEO Plugin for WordPress

Now that you have installed and learned how to use Yoast for WordPress, let’s dive even further into the world of SEO and learn how the SEMrush plugin can help you target and rank for keywords on search engines.

In the next part of this WordPress tutorial series, we’ll be looking at how to organically grow your blog or website by using the WordPress plugin by SEMrush. By the end of the tutorial, you’ll know exactly what you need to do in order to write a perfectly crafted and SEO-optimized blog post.

As always, if you have any questions about the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin for your website or blog, let me know in the comment’s below. I’ll be more than happy to help you out.


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With a strong software engineering background, Tony is determined to demystify the web. Discover why Tony quit his job to pursue this mission. You can join the Tony Teaches Tech community here.

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