SEO Tutorial: Learn WordPress SEO Using Yoast SEO Plugin

(Welcome to the eleventh article of the series ‘how to start a blog’. This article is an outrageously simple SEO tutorial for beginners to learn WordPress SEO using Yoast SEO Plugin.)

In one of my previous articles, I explained how to write a blog post.  On-page SEO is an important part of creating user-friendly and search engine’s favorite blog posts and pages.

This SEO tutorial is the complete step by step on-page SEO guide for beginners. It will help you rank your blog posts for your keywords.

This step by step tutorial is based on visual screenshots, so I’ve tried to keep the text part limited. Focus your attention on visual images which explain step by step procedure of doing WordPress SEO.

WordPress comes with a free plugin for doing on-site and on-page SEO with insane ease. And that plugin is…

Step 1: Install Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is a free SEO plugin with the option of going premium. There’s no need to go premium as the free version does the job quite well.

This SEO tutorial is for WordPress users, and I’ll be using Yoast SEO plugin in the entire article. If you don’t have Yoast installed, you can download it from here.

Or you can simply follow the following steps to install and activate it.

Installing Yoast SEO Plugin from WordPress directory

Go to Dashboard>Plugins>Add New>Search (Yoast SEO). Install and activate this plugin.

The plugin will appear in the list of active plugins (Dashboard>Plugins).

Step 2: Register Your Blog With Search Engines

This is vital information. Most people don’t know it, but Yoast SEO comes with everything you need to configure your website for search engines. It even registers your website with Google Search Console (explained a few steps later).

The first thing you need to do after installing Yoast is…

Part-I: Update Your Info

The alternate name helps Google understand what your site is about, so give a suitable alternate name. See the image below.

Image shows how to update your info in Yoast

Update your info as shown. When done, save changes.

Save changes when done and move to the next step.

Part-II: Verify Your Site With Google Search Console

Click Webmaster Tools. You’ll see links to three Webmaster tools (Google, Bing, Yandex) with three blank boxes. That’s where you need to enter verification codes.

We’re going with Google Search Console only because Bing and Yandex hardly matter. Google gets more than 80 % share in worldwide online searches. Enough reason to focus on Google? I think yes.

See the image below.

Webmaster Tools Screenshot

Click Webmaster Tools and then click Google Search Console.

The page in the image below will appear.

Google Search Console Verification Methods

Follow the instructions.

For HTML tag verification method, see the procedure below.

How to verify by HTML Tag method

Clicking HTML tag method will bring this in view. Follow the instructions.

Do not forget to go to Webmaster Tools tab in Yoast Dashboard, paste the code there, and save changes. After saving changes, come back to Google Search Console page and click VERIFY.

Important: – Verifying with Google search console: –

  • Verifies that your Google account (means you!) is the owner of the site.
  • Registers your website with Google to crawl and index.
  • Enables ranking if Googlebots think high of your website while crawling.

You can click Bing Webmaster Tools and do a similar procedure too if you want.

Let’s move to the next part, which contains ten easy steps.

Part-III: Configure Your Site SEO

Do you know most people do not know about this most important feature of Yoast SEO? Yoast configuration wizard configures your website for Google in just 5 minutes.

You’ll need to do this only once.

Let me walk you through the procedure.

Go to General tab in Yoast Dashboard and click configuration wizard

Go to General tab in Yoast Dashboard and click configuration wizard.

What follows is the step by step procedure of configuring your site SEO. Follow the steps until the end.

Step 1 of Yoast Configuration Wizard

Step 1 – Sign Up for Newsletter (Optional). Click next.

Select your site environment. For blogs, it is always production.

Step 2 of Yoast Configuration Wizard - Select Environment

Step 2 – Select your site environment. Select production.

Choose your site’s type. It would most probably be a blog.

Step Choose site type

Step 3 – Choose site type. Choose Blog.

Choose company or person.

Step 4 - Choose company or person

Step 4 – Choose company or person

Add links to your social profile.

Step 5 - Add your social profiles

Step 5 – Add your social profiles

Decide post type visibility for posts, pages, and media.

Step 6 - Choose post type visibility

Step 6 – Choose post type visibility for posts, pages, and media.

Choose yes or no for multiple authors. If you’re alone, select no. If you guys are a team, select yes.

Step 7 - Choose Multiple Authors

Step 7 – Choose Multiple Authors

Authenticate with Google Search Console. We’ve done this via Webmaster Tools tab already. No need to repeat.

Step 8 - Authenticate with Google Search Console

Step 8 – Authenticate with Google Search Console

Choose title separator. Instructions are available on the screen.

Step 9 - Choose title separator

Step 9 – Choose title separator

Congrats! Because…

Step 10 - Configuration is successful

Step 10 – Configuration is successful. Do watch the video for more insights.

Congratulations! Your site SEO is configured. The configuration will enable another great SEO tool for you. Which is…

Part-IV: Enable XML Sitemap

When you finish site SEO configuration, you’ll notice that a new option has appeared under the Yoast SEO icon in your dashboard. It is called XML sitemap. Here’s what I’m talking about.

XML Sitemaps option appears.

This option will appear. Click XML Sitemaps for next steps.

Clicking XML Sitemaps will open Sitemaps dashboard. Click User Sitemap tab and select options as shown in the picture below. Save changes.

Enable User Sitemaps

Enable User Sitemap as shown

Then go to General tab and see your XML Sitemap.

View your XML sitemap

View your XML sitemap

Part-V: Enable Yoast SEO Features

Do as shown in the picture below.

Enable Advanced Features

Enable Advanced Features

Step 3: On-page WordPress SEO Tutorial

If you’ve followed the above-mentioned procedure, your site is ready for search engines. However, the real SEO which, combined with off-page factors, leads to ranking in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) is done on the page.

It is called on-page SEO. It is entirely in your control so do it well.

Great content having good on-page SEO has the potential to attract off-page factors like backlinks from related sites/blogs, social shares, and anchor text mentions.

In the beginning, on-page SEO is what you should focus on doing well. Off-page SEO is much more complex and is not covered in this SEO tutorial.

Let’s begin with on-page SEO.

Complete On-Page SEO Guide Using Yoast

I’ll be using my previous post (What Is SEO? Understand SEO In 15 Minutes) as an example to do on-page SEO.

Part-I: Do Keyword Research

Keyword research is the most important step in the whole process of on-page SEO. Yoast is not used for this purpose, but we use it to apply our keyword in our posts/pages.

If no one is searching for your keyword, it doesn’t matter how many green lights Yoast shows you; your page will not receive any traffic from search engines.

Therefore, spend some time researching your keyword before you write your post. Here are some factors to keep in mind while researching your keywords.

  • The average number of searches per month for your keyword.
  • Competition: High means it will be an uphill task to rank for that keyword. Look for low competition keywords, which are relatively easier to rank.
  • Some keyword research tools use terms like difficulty, opportunity, and potential to describe keyword’s suitability. Less difficulty, more opportunity and potential are positive signs. The maximum score for each is 100.

Now let’s do keyword research using top three keyword research tools available online. The keyword I used for the example post was ‘what is SEO.’ Let’s research it.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Google’s keyword planner is an entirely free tool which you can use to research your keyword.

It not only gives data for your keyword but also suggests related keywords which may have a higher number of searches and lower competition than your typed keyword.

Go to Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool. Then follow the process below.

Sign in to AdWords with your Google account. If you don’t have one, create an account.

Sign in to Google AdWords

Sign in to Google AdWords

After signing in, click the option of searching for a new keyword, as shown below.

Search for new keywords

Click ‘search for new keywords.’

Type in your keyword to get ideas

Type in your keyword as shown and click get ideas.

After clicking get ideas, following screen will appear.

Keyword search data including number of searches and competition.

Keyword search data including the number of searches and competition.

As per Google AdWords, 10k-100k average monthly searches are performed each month worldwide for my keyword. This is confusing data as the number can be 11k, 53k, or 99k. But, 10k-100k is a good range.

Some experts do not trust Google AdWords competition indicator as well. That’s why I’ve included two more tools for keyword research.

Nonetheless, Google has data of almost all web pages, so we need to trust it a bit. No other tool can (have the capacity to) crawl as many web pages as Google.

SEMRush Keyword Analytics

SEMRush isn’t free but gives you a chance to research a few keywords without having to log in. Also, note that SEMRush returns only country-wise data. So, choose your target country or just choose the USA for an idea.

Go to SEMRush and type your keyword.

Here’s how the result looks.

SEMRush Keyword Research Tool

SEMRush Keyword Research Tool result looks like this.

Another important tool within SEMRush is the Keyword Difficulty tool. Click it. You’ll see following data.

SEMRush Keyword Difficulty Tool

SEMRush Keyword Difficulty Tool. Higher the percentage, more the difficulty. You can export the data as well.

Now let’s try another tool.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz’s Keyword is a popular tool but it is not free. However, it gives two daily searches without membership. It would be best to use these two searches after you’ve tried AdWords and SEMRush.

Go to Moz’s Keyword Planner tool. Type your keyword and select target country (similar to SEMRush).

Here’s the data that appears.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz Keyword Explorer shows keyword searches, difficulty, etc., suggestions, and SERP Analysis.

Note that all these tools show slightly different data points and numbers vary too. It’s because they use different algorithms and metrics to calculate numbers.

My Analysis: – Here’s what my analysis of this research is.

  • Numbers shown for my keyword are encouraging.
  • But the difficulty is much higher than Google suggests.
  • It has a significant number of monthly searches but not an easy keyword to rank in Google’s top 10 results.
  • There’s a chance to outrank already ranking pages by building authority and getting off-page SEO metrics right.
  • Overall, I should not expect to rank easily.

The keyword research part ends here. Let’s go back to Yoast and apply our research.

Part-II: Set Focus Keyword

The keyword we’ve researched using above tools must be set as focus keyword. The option to do that is available below the editor.

Look at the image below.

Set Focus Keyword

Set focus keyword in the given field. Note the other places the keyword appears.

Keyword placement is explained under a separate heading later. Let’s see what we need to do to create this snippet preview.

Part-III: Edit Snippet For Search Results

It’s simple. Click the Edit Snippet button and follow instructions in the image below.

Edit Snippet

Edit Snippet as shown.

Part-IV: See Keyword Analysis & Make Corrections

Set focus keyword before you start writing, so that Yoast starts analyzing it and gives feedback. You can do it at the end too, but why delay when you have found a keyword already.

Let’s see what Yoast suggested me on that post.

Keyword based and general SEO analysis. Grey is harmless. Ignore it. Red means bad. Orange means just ok and may be improved. Green means good.

Note that I didn’t bother correcting keyword density. There’s a strong argument that keyword stuffing in an unnatural way hurts SEO.

This article is long (2379 words) so to increase the percentage of my keyword, I should have used it too many times and stuff it unnaturally. It was best to avoid that. Keyword placement guidelines (below) will clarify it for you.

I did correct the ‘alt attribute missing error’ in the image, though. Here’s the revised analysis.

The orange is now green because I added alt attribute containing the keyword.

Part-V: Place Keywords at Important Places

The crux of on-page SEO is keyword placement. Why do we do keyword research, set focus keyword, and edit snippet? Why is it necessary? What would happen if we don’t do it?

The answer is in the term SEO. SEO means Search Engine Optimization. We place keywords at different locations so that search engines can know what our content is about.

It helps these engines to index our content in the database for that keyword. If our content is great and has good on-page and off-page SEO, the search engines will rank it higher in search results.

So, Why do We Use Keywords?

So we basically tell search engines, mainly Google, that I have written content about ‘what is seo’,  so if any searcher types that query, show him/her my page.

If Google agrees that our content is the most suitable for that keyword, it shows it to searchers. They come to our website, and we get traffic and conversions.

It increases our reach and fills our pockets. That’s the whole point of SEO; ranking higher to earn more.

Ok, But Where to Place Keywords?

SEO experts have different opinions about it. But almost all experts and Google advise us to place keywords at following locations.

  • Page Title: Place your keyword as near the start as possible. Keep the title below 56 characters. Yoast will advise you. Nice length is what you should look for.
  • URL/Slug: URL is the unique web address of your post/page. Slug is what you write after your domain (domain.com/this-is-slug).  Google only considers first 4-5 words in the slug so insert your keywords there. Keep the slug short.
  • First Paragraph: Remember, Google doesn’t read the whole post. You need to tell Google what you’ve written about. A good way to do it is to place your keyword (naturally) in the first paragraph. Some experts say that you should place it as early as possible. The first paragraph is the earliest.
  • Image Alt Attribute: What is image alt attribute? Sometimes, due to the slow internet of some other issue, images don’t load. The text we enter in Alt Attribute appears in this case, explaining what the image contains. But the main benefit in SEO is that this text tells search engines what the image is about. Google can’t see and understand a picture as we do.
  • Heading: Not all the headings but one heading should contain your keyword in a natural way. Headings indicate what the content is about.

If you place the keyword at these places, your content will have better chances of being indexed and ranked for that keyword.

You can find more about SEO in Moz’s Beginners SEO Guide and this (pdf)  SEO Guide for Starter by Google.

Continuing my example, let me show you how I have placed my keyword.

Keyword placemet in the post

See how I placed the keyword in my post.

And let’s talk about tags too.

Add relevant tags

Add relevant tags. Including keyword enhances SEO.

Now let me tell you how to add Alt Attribute in the images.

Adding Alt Text

That’s where you add Alt Text for SEO. Include your keyword in at least one.

Part-VI: Analyze Readability

Web pages these days need to be user-friendly to have a better chance to rank. Users are Google’s top priority. Readability is one of the most important user-friendliness factors.

Yoast knows that. That’s why it analyzes the whole post/page and gives suggestions. Improve readability to have better SEO. Green is good again.

Readability analysis by Yoast SEO

Readability analysis by Yoast SEO

Follow the instructions provided by Yoast until you achieve overall green.

Part-VII: Edit Social Title, Description, and Image

If you don’t want to use the snippet and featured image that you created using Yoast on social media (Facebook) shares, you can edit here. I don’t feel the need of doing it, though.

Edit Social Title, Description & Image

Edit Social Title, Description & Image

One last option we still have is…

Part-VIII: Yoast Advanced Options

I don’t edit them, neither feel the need of it because default settings are enough. But, for the sake of discovering this hidden option, here’s what it looks like.

Yoast SEO Advanced options

Yoast SEO Advanced options

Just another small thing is remaining…

Part-XI: View Live Feedback

I just love Yoast. When you’re creating a post or a page, Yoast gives you live feedback. You change anything in the content, feedback changes accordingly.

Here’s a look at the Yoast feedback options available at the top side of WordPress editor page. Rest of the feedback is found below the post/page editor.

Yoast SEO Live Feedback

Yoast SEO Live Feedback. I got the green lights!

That’s it! You’re done with on-page SEO. Remember, keywords hold the key. Research them well otherwise the whole activity will prove to be futile.

Conclusion

The whole concept of SEO revolves around keywords. Searchers go to Google and type the keyword. Google goes to its indexed data and looks for results containing that keyword.

It shows the top ten results for that keyword on the first page. One of them can be your post or page. It can happen if you have done the SEO right and placed keywords at important places without stuffing it unnaturally.

Yoast SEO, which is used for WordPress SEO is an excellent and yet FREE tool. In this SEO tutorial, we have solved following problems.

  • How to install Yoast SEO plugin.
  • Registering the site with Google Search Console.
  • How to configure website SEO with Yoast Configuration Wizard.
  • How to do keyword research using Google AdWords, SEMRush, and Moz keyword research tools.
  • Doing on-page SEO using Yoast
  • How and where to place keywords in the page
  • How to improve readability of text using Yoast plugin

That’s it for this ridiculously simple SEO tutorial for beginners, as well as some bloggers who’re doing it not so well. Please do not forget share this valuable information on your social media profiles.

Ilyas Tarar
 

My mission is to ‘make a positive difference in lives of people’. I love writing content which helps beginners start a blog. Blogging and content writing is something I love doing.

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