How to use Yoast SEO for WordPress

Yoast SEO for WordPress is the number 1 SEO plugin for WordPress. It has over 1 million active dowloads and has an overall 5* rating. I’ll be honest, I don’t know any serious blogger who doesn’t use this plugin. Whenever the subject of SEO comes up this is the plugin everyone recommends.

What is SEO and why is it Important?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s important if you want people to be able to find your blog posts when they use a search engine. You need to work out what people are searching for and then make sure that you have keywords in all the right places to help your post get found. Yoast SEO for WordPress is a great tool in helping you work out where you need to put your keywords.

I’m no expert on SEO but you should check out the wonderful Aby Moore’s resources over at especially this video. There is also thi spost on how to do keyword research.

What makes Yoast SEO for WordPress such a great plugin?

Yoast checks your post for all the places where you need to have keywords. It uses a traffic light system, so as you implement it’s suggestions the lights will turn from red, to amber to green. The aim is to make all the lights green

Along with SEO it also checks readability. Things like a how many sentences there are with more than 20 words, whether you have more than 2 consecutive sentences beginning with the same word and the length of your paragraphs.

How to use Yoast SEO for WordPress

The Yoast window is displayed below the WordPress post editor. You’ll also notice in the publish panel, normally the top right of the screen next to the post editor, that there is an overall RAG rating for readability and SEO.

As you type your post, it will check it and update the overall RAG rating as well as individual recommendations in the main window below the post editor. If it doesn’t update automatically, save the draft and it should then pick up your changes. The aim is to make both the readibility and SEO ratings turn green.

So you’ve Installed Yoast, but what do the SEO Recommendations mean?

The suggestions that Yoast gives you might seem a bit cryptic at first but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’ve gone through each of the SEO suggestions that it gives below, so that you know where to focus your efforts.

No meta description has been specified. Search engines will display copy from the page instead

The meta description is the snippet of text that appears below the title of a page/blog post that is returned as part of search results.

How to set the meta description

  1. Scroll down to the Yoast SEO window below.
  2. Click the Edit Snippet button.
  3. Write your description in the meta description box.

Make sure that your keyword phrase appears as part of this description.

The focus keyword doesn’t appear in the first paragraph of the copy

Your keyword phrase should appear in the first paragraph of text. Personally, I like to start a post with a header and then include my keyword phrase in the first paragraph.

The keyword density is 0%, which is too low; the focus keyword was found 0 times

Keyword density is just a fancy way of saying how much of your text includes your keywords. Yoast turns green when your keyword density is about 0.5% I think. Equally, Yoast will tell you if your keyword density is too high too.

The images on this page do not have alt attributes containing the focus keyword

Search engines look for your keywords in the alt attributes on your pictures.

The original purpose of alt attributes on pictures is so that visually impaired users have a text description of the picture, but depending on your picture it might not necessarily warrant your keywords in the description.

For example, someone writing a post on SEO might use a stock picture of a laptop on a desk next to a notepad and pen to break up the text in the post. SEO doesn’t come anywhere near that description really. It’s up to you how you decide to deal with this recommendation.

To set the alternative text on a picture you’ve added to a post, click the image and a toolbar will appear. Click the button that looks like a pencil and then write your text in the alternative text text box.

No outbound links appear in this page, consider adding some as appropriate

I’m not going to go into the details of why you should include outbound links from your blog, but I will say that you need to make sure that any outbound links are relevant to your niche and the topic you’re writing about. Adding them for the sake of adding them may irritate your readers.

No internal links appear in this page, consider adding some as appropriate

Linking to other pages and posts on your blog is not only good for SEO but will help your bounce rate. (Don’t know what a bounce rate is? Check out The A-Z of Blogging Terms for Beginners). Adding links to other blog posts will keep users on your blog for longer.

At the bottom of every post I write is a ‘You may also enjoy:’ and I list 3-5 other links on my site. Depending on the post they may be similar posts, a link to an opt-in freebie or my Resources page.

What I will say is be very careful about using plugins to display related pages *could* make your site run more slowly.

The SEO title is too short. Use the space to add keyword variations or create compelling call-to-action copy

When it says SEO title it just means you post title. I don’t always follow this one to the letter because I can’t always get my titles short enough. When it tells you that your title is too long or short it wants your title to fit the available space in the snippet preview space. Again it’s up to you how tightly you stick to Yoast’s recommendations.

No images appear in this page, consider adding some as appropriate

This one does what it says on the tin – add some photos to your post.

The slug for this page contains stop words, consider removing them

Again, I’m no expert, but stop words are the most commonly used words in a language. For example the, and, for etc. Yoast’s own guidance on usign stop words is a bit confusing though. What I take away from their article is to do your keyword research thoroughly to work out which keyphrases are being searched for most often – with and without stop words.

You have not used the focus keyword in any subheading (such as an H2) in your copy

Make sure you try to use your keywords in at least one subheading.

The text contains 0 words. This is far below the recommended minimum of 300 words. Add more content that is relevant for the topic

Yoast recommends that your posts are at least 300 words long, but personally I think that 300 isn’t enough. I very rarely write a post on either of my blogs with less than 800 words and generally my aim is to write at least 1500. You decide how long your posts should/need to be, just make sure that anything you write is high quality.

The focus keyword does not appear in the URL for this page

Right at the top of the screen, under the text box where you put your title is the permalink to your post (not sure what a permalink is? Check out this glossary). To the right is an edit button, if you click it you can change the permalink for your post to include your keywords.

You’ve never used this focus keyword before, very good

Yoast knows what your focus keywords have been in the other posts you’ve used with it. You don’t really want to be using the same keywords in more than one post because then your posts will be competing to rank with each other.


So that’s a basic guide to using Yoast SEO for WordPress. If you follow the suggestions you won’t go too far wrong as far as SEO is concerned, as long as you get your keywords right.

As always if you have any questions leave me a comment or send me an email at

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