Understanding the basics of WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast

In our previous post we outlined why you should implement search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques into your web page, and the importance of meta tags so it displays correctly on a search engine result page (SERP).

If you use WordPress for your website, and want to improve your SEO, then we highly recommend you install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. This plugin can be a little bit confusing at a glance, but once you've got your head around some of its key features then it's a great tool. In this article we will focus on post and page features of the WordPress SEO plugin, and how settings under the 'general' tab can affect your SEO.

You will notice that the post and page editor section in the WordPress admin looks slightly different after installing the Yoast plugin. Below your main content area you will see a new section titled 'WordPress SEO by Yoast'.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

The 'general' tab is selected by default and should be completed once you've written the content for your post or page. On this tab you'll notice settings for a focus keyword, SEO title and meta description. Let's take an individual look at these settings and find out how they can affect how you look on a SERP.

Snippet Preview - this gives you a preview of how your posts and pages look on a SERP. The Snippet Preview will update automatically when you start typing in the SEO title or meta description fields.

Snippet Preview Yoast

Focus Keyword - this is a keyword or phrase you most expect your page to rank for on a SERP and best describes the content of that page. Focus keyword’s are optional, and don’t directly affect your SEO. However, it should be used as a tool to help align content with the relevant keywords you expect people to be searching for. A list of suggestions will appear as you start typing in the focus keyword field. These suggestions are based on ‘real-world’ keyword and phrase searches from Google. You should only enter one focus keyword or phrase for your page. Saving changes to your post or page will generate a checklist of where your keywords are found.

Focus Keyword Yoast

SEO Title - often the title of your page will be ‘keyword-rich’ and descriptive already, so you may not need to customise your SEO Title. Filling out this field will overwrite your page title in the title tag. However, it will not change the title of the post or page displayed in the content area of your web page.

SEO Title Yoast

Make sure your SEO title is written in human-friendly English, using keywords from your page. The SEO title should always be descriptive, and not a simple list of keywords. Take a look at our recent blog post on title tags for more tips on creating the perfect SEO title.

Meta Description - this field allows you to write a descriptive two line ‘advertisement’ for your content. The main aim here is to encourage people to click on your website when it appears on a SERP. Any queried keywords that appear in the meta description will be highlighted (bolded) to stand out in results. Take a look at our recent blog post on meta descriptions for more tips.

Meta Description Yoast

Make sure you save your post or page after completing the above fields, otherwise you'll find yourself typing it again. The changes made in the Yoast plugin will be effective as soon as your content is published. However, it might take some experimenting with the above settings to really make an impact on real-world SERP.