NOTE: This article was written with local small business in mind, not someone selling nationally (for example, because page length requirements for your site are different depending on whether your focus is local or national).
Yoast SEO is a great tool to help you optimize your websites so you can get listed in Google, but it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type of plugin. To make each page of your website count, each page needs to be optimized.
On-Page Optimization Tips
- Add a focus keyword or phrase for each page or post. If you don’t put a focus keyword in the Yoast area for the page or post, Yoast can’t give you analysis and feedback for your chosen content for the page.
- What makes a good keyword? One that people are likely to use in a search, and make it specific. For example, for a roofing company, “contractor” would be too general, “roofing” would be a little better but also a bit too general. Using something more specific like “roofing contractor” or “skylight repair” would be much better.
- Think about adding at least one image (or at the very least a featured image) within the page or post. This makes the page more interesting and helps to make the content more understandable.
- Give each of your images “alt” text, something descriptive that explains what’s in the image and – if possible – includes your keyword phrase within the image. (Don’t abuse this, though – if you cram too many keyword phrases into your images, the search engines will start to count that against you.)
- Make sure you include enough content on the page. You want at least 300 words in your post or page or it won’t be enough for the search engines to know what your subject is. If you are wanting to compete for very popular phrases, you’ll need to write posts that are over 1000 words. But structure and readability come first! If people don’t like your post, it won’t end up ranking as well.
- Include links that take your visitor to helpful recommended sites. NOTE: Only provide links within your article if it adds value to the visitor, giving them more information & helpful resources. Padding your site with excess links will not boost your SEO, plus it frustrates the search engines and your visitors because it’s overwhelming and they’re left uncertain what to focus on.
- Set up your SEO title with the proper character count (not too short). This is key because the SEO title is what shows in the search engine results page and needs to illuminate clearly what’s being presented in the article. The keyword or phrase should be included in the title, preferably at the beginning for maximum search engine impact.
- Include your focus keyword within your post’s or page’s meta description. This helps the visitor see it bolded in the description and realize that your article may contain the specific info they need. Seeing that in the description encourages your visitor to click and read more.
- Use your meta description to thoroughly explain what you’re all about. The meta description allowance has been increased to 200+ characters instead of 160, so you have a little more room to describe what your content is for the page, to better articulate what your content is about. (But you don’t need to go back and change old descriptions or make them longer.)
- Set up your Facebook preview. Click on the icon with the three dots and lines on the left-side of the Yoast SEO admin box; that’s where you can set up a specific description and image that will show up when you share your articles with Facebook.
Most Common Mistakes with Yoast SEO
- Installing the plugin and forgetting to configure the core settings.
- Forgetting to connect XML sitemap with Google and Bing
- Confusing “focused keyword” with the old “meta keywords” – you can no longer include a long string of keywords separated by commas
- Adding a focused keyword and not viewing the Yoast SEO feedback / analysis (too broad of a keyword, didn’t use the keyword within the content itself, etc.)
- Chasing the green dot of approval from Yoast and over-optimizing rather than considering which green dots are important and which ones aren’t necessary to get a green dot for – this is probably the most common mistake of all. It’s great to use the Yoast plugin to help you apply basic SEO optimization to your posts and pages, but if you spend too much time trying to get a “perfect” analysis score from Yoast, you may end up over-doing it and cramming in too many keywords, which can get you penalized by the search engines. It’s best to keep a balance and only use keyword phrases and other SEO features where they’ll count the most.