The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress provides a powerful toolkit to help you get your content discovered in organic search. You can use the Yost SEO plugin to configure data for the Google Knowledge Graph and the built-in Page Grader will help you optimise your content for your target keywords.
Yoast SEO for WordPress 101
First we’ll take a look at the Page Grader function of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Page Grade is an excellent tool that will help you to ensure your blog copy adheres to SEO best practice.
The Page Grader tool will score your content based on the Focus Keyword you provide. Before selecting your Focus Keyword, take a look at Keywordtool.io or Uber Suggest to give you some ideas for keywords relevant to your post. Save the suggested keywords in either a TXT or CSV file and then sign into the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Once there, select “Get search volume data and trends” and paste your keywords into the box (one per line) or upload your file if you have a lot of keywords. The targeting options let you see search volumes from specific countries, if you are running a site with a focus on a specific region or your site is not in English. Click on “Get search volume” and you will then be presented with the average monthly search volumes on Google for each keyword.
If you sort these by largest – smallest monthly search volume, you will get an idea for the popularity of each term. The cornerstone of SEO is to target high-volume keywords and long-tail keywords with lower competition. The logic behind this being, if you were to rank for a high volume keyword, your traffic will increase exponentially.
Configuring Social Cards
Setting up social cars with the Yoast SEO plugin is really easy. The Social settings look like this:
Simply enter the URLs of your social pages and hit save. Your blog posts will now feature the correct mark-up to enable social cards. This means that when you post links to your articles on social media, people will see the featured image, article title and summary below the link. Social cards have consistently been shown to improve the click through rate from social media and gives you more room to play with. The social tab within the WordPress post editor also lets you enter unique page titles, descriptions and photos for each social network. This way, you can have your regular SEO settings set up and a separate click bait title and description for social media.
Setting up an XML Sitemap
Yoast SEO for WordPress lets you configure an XML sitemap for your site, which you can then submit to Google using the Google Search Console. The XML sitemap functionality is enabled by default when you install the plugin. You can see what the main settings page looks like below:
Within each tab you can configure advanced settings for your XML sitemap, such as excluding tag archives etc. By default your sitemap will be accessible on [YOURURL.COM]/sitemap_index.xml. Once you have configured your desired settings, log into Google Search Console and submit your sitemap under Crawl > Sitemaps in the left sidebar.
If you haven’t already set up a Search Console property for your blog, do it now. This way you’ll have more data on how Google is handling your website in search and a larger chance of being included in competitive search results. The Google Search Console will provide you with a meta tag to add to your site, however with the Yoast SEO plugin you can simple paste this snippet into the plugin under General > Webmaster Tools and voila, your site is verified with Google.
You can repeat this process for the equivalent tools offered by the other major search engines, such as Bing and Yandex.
All in all, Yoast SEO is by far the best and most user friendly way to ensure your blog complies with SEO best practice, and even beginner bloggers will be able to understand the Page Grader interface. This doesn’t mean that Yoast SEO is the only SEO tool you should be using, but for writing meta data for your blog posts, it is ideal.
Other SEO Tools You Should Be Using
SEMrush – Excellent tool that lets you estimate your competitors’ traffic and shows you which keywords you are ranking for. Paid accounts have access to a rank checker, which monitors your rankings for your target keywords in an easy to understand report. Because it’s web-based, managing SEMrush is a lot easier than manually running a rank checker on your computer.
Moz Open Site Explorer – Moz is by far the best known SEO platform on the market. The Open Site Explorer is widely cited as one of the most accurate ways to check the quality of links to your site.
BuzzSumo – Not necessarily an SEO tool per se, however BuzzSumo is a great way to find content ideas for your blog posts. Type in your desired topic in the BuzzSumo search bar, and the tool will show you a list of articles and the number of times the article has been shared on social media. If you put your investigative hat on, this is a great way to find topics with lots of existing interest and developing ideas that the current available content does not cover.