In a word, “Yes”, it is worth using the Yoast plugin and here’s why.
WordPress is the go to content management system for bloggers, small business owners and entrepreneurs alike. Its very design is built to embrace search engine optimisation (SEO), even without the use of plugins. If you structure your site correctly and add really good content you can build yourself a powerhouse in your niche without even breaking a sweat.
If you want to take your SEO to the next level, you’re gonna need a helping hand by way of plugins. With the right ones like Yoast (also known as Yoast WordPress SEO) you can effortlessly craft a site that is inline with Google’s rules and regulations about how the structure of your website should be.
This won’t really be a review of the plugin, rather an answer to your question.
If you are at the start of your SEO journey, before you install Yoast why not check out Google’s SEO starter guide and Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO. Both of these articles are probably the best resources your can use to ensure you’re on the right path. No matter how many articles you read, alwways refer back to Google best practices.
So What Exactly Is Yoast & Is It Worth Using?
Before we get started, let me tell you what Yoast isn’t.
Yoast is not a magic plugin that just works as soon as it is installed. You still need to know how to structure your content in the right way. It basically aides your SEO efforts by ensuring that you are ticking the boxes in order to optimise your website for search.
Yoast Colour System
Yoast uses a great system that guides you in optimising your website. Green is the the colour you’ll want to target for each category within the plugin. For example:
The excerpt above is from my Local SEO Audit page and as you can see, the vast majority of my categories are green. However, they are not all green. One is amber and the other one is red.
The way you use the plugin is entirely up to you. I try to get as many of the categories to go green by following the Yoast suggestions, but not to the detriment of my content on how I want to structure my pages and posts.
Keyword density used to be really important for SEO in the the 1990’s and early 2000’s. However, it’s not as important as it used to be.
Back in the day we would craft each page to have (what we thought) was the right keyword density in any piece of content we published. We also used to make sure that is was in 3 key places, the start, the middle and the end of the article. However, others took this to the next level and over-used their keywords (this is now known as keyword stuffing). Thankfully, there’s no need to do this anymore.
Google and other search engines have changed their algorithm and they can get a sense of what the article is about by looking at the title, content, description and synonyms used within your content. That’s why I don’t really pay too much attention to certain metric in Yoast.
Here’s the colour palette that Yoast presents to you for every page and post throughout your website:
- Grey – This means you haven’t selected a keyword yet.
- Red – Bad – needs major work.
- Orange/Yellow – You may want to improve this, but only if it doesn’t hurt your overall post.
- Green – Everything looks good!
Yoast Premium vs Free
Here’s a list of Yoast SEO features that come with the free plugin:
Focus keyword and content analysis
Post titles and meta descriptions
Robots meta configuration
Yoast SEO Premium features:
A redirect manager (create & manage redirect. It can also generate a redirect file that you can include in your Apache or NGINX server config)
Multiple focus keywords (allows you to optimise your page/post for two keywords instead of one)
Internal linking (add related links with the editor)
Insights ( Insights shows you the 5 words or word combinations that appear most often in your text)
Social previews (check what your Facebook or Twitter post will look like when you share your post)
Premium support (gives you access to the Yoast support team)
This is a simple one really. If you feel you need the extra premium features for your site, then go ahead and go premium. However, the vast majority people get on just fine without upgrading (me included).
Redirection and internal linking are elements that come natural to those used to writing content on WordPress, so I don’t really see a need for this service. The others are just filler in my opinion.
One handy feature with Yoast is the XML Sitemaps feature. Sitemaps are the best way for webmasters and site owners to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. It also presents a nice summary of both the content and way you have structured the site to the search engines. This feature already comes prepackaged with the plugin and it’s your choice whether you decide to implement this feature or not.
I personally use Arne Brachhold’s Google XML Sitemaps and have been for many years. I don’t really think that one is better than the other, it’s just what I’m used to.
Yoast Plugin Alternatives
I have only used the “All In One SEO Pack” and there’s a great review here if you need to make an informed decision of which one to use.
Things to focus on:
Title – Make sure your title includes your keyword and is written to describe exactly what the article or post is about. Yoast will want you to match the keyword in the description box in order to turn green. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the content I’m writing. It is not necessary to write a description for each page or post. Google will actually use your content to craft its own description to display in the search engine results.
Keyword – There are pages that rank without even having the main keyword anywhere within the content. This is honorable but not something I would advise. In fact, I think it’s quite hard to write about something without even mentioning it once.
Page/Post Length – I try to write a minimum of 1000 words (most of your competition will probably write anywhere between 500-800 words depending on the niche). To be honest, the longer the better.
Do a search for the keyword you’re trying to rank for and see what the average length of the content is for the first few pages. I simply copy all of the content and then paste into Wordcounter. This should show you how many words have been used on a competitior’s page. Where possible, try to exceed the page with the most words.
Yoast’s recommendation is 300 words. I would personally ignore that recommendation and write way more content than that. Back in the early 1990’s and 2000’s this was OK to do. Unfortunately, not anymore.
Use Headers – Seperate the sections of your content with headers. It doesn’t really matter if you use H1, H2, H3, H4 tags etc, just make sure you use them. This not only helps the reader of your content, it will also aide the search engines when presenting your content.
Yoast will ask you to place your main keyword in the first header on your page. In my opinion this isn’t necessary. Again, in the good old days this would help the overall SEO of the page if you did this. Not so important these days.
I try not to use too many plugins on the sites we build as having too many will ultimately slow them down. However, the first plugin we install on a new site is Yoast.
When it comes to SEO, you need all of the help you can get and Yoast should be top of your list.