WordPress is a heavenly piece of code. Where others feel the need to load their content management platform with features, WordPress gives you the bare minimum and lets the community dictate what kind of machine you can build with it through the use of plugins. One could make the comparison that WordPress is the Legos of the 21st century. This makes me want to sing "Everything is Awesome!".
Yoast SEO Guide for WordPress
But I'm not writing this article to talk about WordPress as a whole. I'm not writing it to talk about the Lego Movie either (although do expect some references to it). I want to focus on the Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin is arguably the best tool to help you optimize your website content for search engines next to making the jump to a marketing automation platform.
Are You a Master User?
The reason that I think so highly of Yoast SEO plugin is because it's so easy to use. There isn't a ton of overhead in terms of settings for new users, yet enough advanced settings to adjust if you're an intermediate user.
If you're a newbie, you can just activate it and, for the most part, set it and forget it. As you get familiar with the tools and different settings, you can always go back and make changes. Be sure you do know what you're doing though. It's stll possible to change a setting that may have a negative effect on your rankings, and you don't want to kick yourself for finding out a couple weeks later! (Darn! Darn! Darny! Darn!)
Follow the Instructions
Moving away from the plugin's settings page(s), the only thing you really need to worry about is the SEO panel that was added to every edit screen for pages and posts when you activated the plugin. When using this panel, I mainly focus on the "General" and "Page Analysis" tabs. Here's an overview of those tabs:
Snippet Preview: This isn't actually an editable field, but rather a preview of what your search result will look like on Google. Other plugins don't spend a lot of time on the details around how this looks, but Yoast's preview is an exact representation, so you know exactly what you're going to see.
Focus Keyword: This is the lifeblood of your article and your entire SEO strategy. While it's good to choose your phrase and then write your article with it, you should consider using a keyword planning tool to utlize this field correctly. You can use Google's Keyword Planner, or if you have a tool like HubSpot, you can use their Keywords app and have it suggest keyword phrases that are high in volume and low in competition for you.
Just below this field is a list of values that turn green as you include your entered keyword in your content, URL, title, meta description, and article heading.
SEO Title: This is a big one. A rule I hear over and over again is that you want to spend 50% of your time writing your article, and 50% of your time writing the title for that article. It needs to clearly define what you're offering and be attention grabbing.
At the same time, this field is optional because it's a field to help you shorten your article's title. If the page or post title is already a good length and optmized for your keyword, then there's no reason to fix what isn't broken.
For example, if your page title was "Honey, have you seen my favorite pants? I can't seem to locate them anywhere.", that is obviously too long and not necessarily quite to browse when viewing search results on Google. So to make that title better for Google, you can shorten it to something like "Honey, Where Are My Pants?". This is both shorter and possibly more attention grabbing. Both titles should be keyword optimized.
Meta Description: Last, but certainly not least, is the meta description field. Write a short and sweet summary of what your page is about and remember to include that keyword again!
PAGE ANALYSIS TAB
This tab is your personal grader. It will tell you where you content rocks and what content on your page is a bunch of hippy dippy baloney. For me, this acts as the official SEO bible or ultimate to-do checklist for the current page.
This tab gets activated when you set a focus keyword on the General tab and save the page as a draft (don't publish it yet!). After the page refreshes, you can click on this tab to see how your initial attempt went at writing an award winning article. Sometimes you'll get an immediate high-five of green indicators, and sometimes you'll be told you can't build a spaceship and leave you disappointed.
Hey, it's Green Lantern!
One other cool feature of this plugin is that each page gets a color indicator to measure its SEO quality. Red means poor, orange means ok, yellow means getting there, and green means awesome! It's a fantastic little gem when it comes to user experience and it's really easy to read.
Some people could argue that anyone can just manipulate the content in the plugin until the indicator is green. Once all the pages are green, the game is over. Everyone can live happily in Cloud Cuckoo Land!
While there may be some truth to that, I honestly believe that if your page isn't really thought through, you will never actually earn that green indicator. The page may say green, but Google will be the ulimate judge of how your page is setup.
Ah! The Kragle!
Despite all its ease of use, there is no true "set it and forget it" toolset when it comes to SEO. Your site will always need to be a living and breathing thing if it wants to retain its Google Juice. Things will need to constantly change and evolve. You may even find from keyword research that your focus words will need to change to accommodate the shift in phrases being used to search for your topics. Change is inevitable.
Yoast SEO Guide: All Of This Is True, Because It Rhymes
In the end, this plugin is what it is: a tool. It still requires you know something about search engine optimization, focus on best practices and stay informed on changes to Google's algorithm. But it should help when it comes to applying that knowledge to your website content's action item list. And for when you have to deal with laser sharks and overbearing assistants.
So what have we learned from all of this? Never place your rear end on a pirate's face.