I’ll be honest. I stumbled upon Yoast SEO a very long time ago. It was the first SEO plugin I installed when I was determined to learn SEO and get good at it. I was so impressed with it that I haven’t looked back, and I haven’t committed any serious time to other SEO plugins either.
The thing I really like about Yoast SEO is that it teaches you to be better at SEO. Now, you can set it up to do automated titles and descriptions, but you get out of it what you put into it. So, if you don’t put some effort into your SEO then you won’t get much out of it. I learned this the hard way.
In this review I’ll go over the features of Yoast SEO to give you an idea of what it’s capable of. And honestly, it can do quite a bit!
These are the basic features of Yoast SEO, but basic doesn’t mean they aren’t useful either. I’ll focus on the key ones that everyone should be using. So, each of these listed below should be turned on.
- SEO Analysis – This is the bread and butter of the plugin. This is the box that will appear on posts, pages, even categroies and tags, to tell you how good the SEO is for the keyword you’ve entered.
- Readability Analysis – This also appears on posts, pages, etc, and it tells you the readability score of what you’re writing. This is super useful to make sure what you’re writing is easy to read.
- Cornerstone Content – I use the free version of Yoast SEO, and I know this has more value in the premium version, but it’s still useful for free users. Cornerstone Content is a checkbox on a post or page that flags it as such, really valuable content. Checking this will let you see how many links point to the post or page.
- Text Link Counter – The sister feature of Cornerstone Content. This will let Yoast SEO count the links on your site to see how many point to what you’ve selected as Cornerstone Content.
- XML Sitemaps – Pretty straight forward, an XML sitemap that you can then use to submit to Google, Bing, etc.
Posts & Pages
Here’s the features, many of those mentioned above, that you will find on every post and page you have. You will find a Yoast SEO box below the article or page with the following features.
This is a new’ish feature to Yoast SEO. I don’t recall how long it’s been around, but it wasn’t a feature when I began using it many moons ago. This feature does what it sounds like, it helps you with the readability of your article, and we all want to write great articles.
There’s quite a few things the readability feature covers, like passive voice, Flesch Reading Ease score, length of paragraphs, use of subheadings, length of sentences, and more.
The idea is to get those little lights to green to indicate you’ve passed that test. An orange light is a warning, and a red light is complete failure. This is a recurring theme throughout the Yoast SEO plugin, the use of color indicators to show results.
You’ll also note that the tab has a color indicator. So, you don’t have to get everything green below to be considered passing in that section. You can have some warnings, and even some failures, and still be in good shape overall.
Some people aim to make everything green, it becomes a game of sorts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Becoming a better writer and getting more readers is the goal after all.
Here Yoast SEO will give you an analysis of your content. As with Readability, you’ll have little lights to let you know how you’re doing.
To start you’ll want to enter a keyword. From there Yoast SEO will analyze your content and give you suggestions based on the keyword.
The suggestions will cover things like keyword density, images, headings, links, meta title and description, and more.
Also, this is the area where you will check off if what you’re writing is Cornerstone Content.
I could probably ramble on and on about this area, but suffice to say it’s where you’re going to spend a lot of time when working on an article or page. Most people aim to get all those little lights green, and it’s a great pursuit, but it’s also one that shouldn’t consume you.
As with Readability, there’s an overall indication of how well it’s rating. Aim for green overall and you’re in good shape. You can lose a lot of time chasing those green lights on every single element.
Also, when you’re working on your SEO Title for something, you might want to consider checking out the headline analyzer tool I found. It’s super useful.
This is that simple checkbox that flags your content as Cornerstone Content with Yoast SEO. It’s all there is to it on this screen.
You probably aren’t going to use this on every article you write either; I know I don’t. Reserve using this for the foundational content you write, the stuff your pour everything into and are trying to really rank for. Not all articles are created equally, so don’t check this off unless it’s a big piece you’re working on.
If you’re using the free version like me then there’s one area you’ll make use of this, and that’s on the posts or pages list.
When you view all posts or pages, you’ll notice a link at the top for Cornerstone Content. That will filter only what you’ve flagged as such.
You will notice there’s 4 icons on the top right, and those are: internal links, links to this article, SEO score, and Readability score.
The internal links are how many links in this article link out to other content of yours. So, if you have a link on an article that points to another article you wrote then that would be 1 internal link. Likewise, links to the article are how many links from other articles and pages that point to this article.
Those are two very important SEO elements. Having links to your other content is a great way to spread link juice, and of course you want lots of internal links to an article to help it rank better. So, knowing this info is extremely useful.
Of course the SEO and Readability score are what you work on inside the article, and this area gives you an overview of how each of your Cornerstone Content pieces is doing in those areas.
I use this area quite a bit to see what articles need more links to them. The more links I can aim at a Cornerstone Content piece the better it will rank.
The Search Appearance area is where you setup your meta titles, descriptions, as well as indexability. It’s broken out into the following sections.
If the front page of your blog is your articles, or something other than a page, then this is where you’ll setup the title and description for your homepage.
There’s also a Knowledge Graph section here where you define the type of site this is: business or person. This is a flag to Google to know who is producing the content it’s seeing.
Content Types covers the major elements: posts, pages, and any custom post types you have. Again, you will setup your meta title and description setup in this area.
Now, you can use an automated setup by providing variables in these fields. If you don’t want to do on page SEO for everything you write then this section will define what does show up in searches without you having to manually do it.
While doing this type of automation works, and it’s better than nothing, I’d highly recommend doing it manually on every post and page. Automation is never as effective as putting in the time and effort.
You will also see something that asks if you want an item to show in search results. This should be set to yes on post and pages. If this were set to no then it would add a noindex directive to those, telling search engines to effectively ignore it. That’s probably not something you want to do on posts and pages, however, you may use it on some custom post types. The choice is there either way.
This small area can have a big impact. There’s a setting to redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself.
So, every time you upload something to the Media Library, WordPress creates a page for it. It’s not a page that shows up in your pages list though. That page only contains the title of the media item and the media item itself. Basically, it’s useless to have. By selecting yes on the media redirect, what Yoast SEO will do is redirect anyone trying to reach that page to the item itself.
So, if you had an image and someone tried to reach the media page for it, they would instead be redirected to the image itself. I always set this to yes. If you choose no then there’s a few options there, like the other sections, for title, description, and whether to appear in search results.
Taxonomies are your categories, tags, and potentially custom post type taxonomies. As you guessed, you setup titles and descriptions here. Also, whether or not these should appear in search results.
This contains the settings for author archives, date archives, the search page, and 404 page.
More of the same here.
Yoast SEO has a built-in breadcrumb feature. The breadcrumb it creates is geared for SEO, something that’s oft
If you aren’t sure what a breadcrumb is, it’s that list of links that includes the home page, category, and article/page name often at the top of the article/page.
To use the one that Yoast SEO offers you will have to edit your theme to include it. However, some themes offer this as an option you can enable as well.
There’s a few simple options here to add things to your RSS feed. It’s nothing critical but still useful.
The Search Console lets you connect your Google Webmaster account to Yoast SEO. So, this will save you from having to visit Google Webmaster Tools to track down any 404 errors that occur.
Another nice yet not overly critical feature.
This is really handy. You can add in your social networking profiles so that Yoast SEO can output that info. This lets search engines know your site is associated with those accounts.
You will find tabs for the major networks: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+. In those tabs you can define network specific features.
This is a small area but offers a lot of value.
From here you have a few tools like importing/exporting settings, a file editor, and a bulk editor. It’s an area you probably won’t use often, but it’s great when you need it. Like the bulk editor will let you quickly update SEO title and descriptions without having to edit each page.
Yoast SEO is a must-have for me on any site I use. There are other SEO plugins out there, and I’m sure many of them do a great job, but I’ve never had a reason to deviate.
Also, it’s an extremely feature rich plugin for being free. I haven’t felt the need to go premium with it, which says a lot about it.