How To Choose Yoast Focus Keywords: A Guide To Keyword Research And Learning The Competition In Google Search Results

Need help finding better Yoast focus keywords?

Researching Yoast focus keywords is done by selecting specific, long-tail keywords in tools like Google Autocomplete which have a nice balance of monthly searches and low competition. Google the keyword and review the top results to see the content you’re competing with. After that, it’s all about creating a strong, optimized piece of content around that keyword and topic.

These should not be guessed. You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for, or rank for a keyword with no search volume. We need to know WHAT people are searching (keyword research) and whether your site is capable of ranking for it (keyword competition). A little research can easily get you on page 1, and should be done before writing content. Writing about how to get out of debt vs. how to get out of debt on one income can make the difference.

I wrote a definitive Yoast tutorial that shows you how to configure the ideal settings, verify Google Search Console and fix crawl errors, optimize content (there’s more to it than green lights), and add accelerated mobile pages (AMP). Be sure to check it out when you’re done.

At the end of the day, keywords are just topics. If the topic is being searched a lot and already has strong content in search results, it’s probably competitive (especially if your site has low authority without many backlinks). If two topics are different enough, create a page for each.

Yoast-Focus-Keywords

 

1. Keyword Research Tools

  • Answer The Public – visual keyword map broken down into questions, prepositions, and comparisons. Keywords are pulled from Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches the keyword has.
  • Keywords Everywhere – Chrome Extension that shows you the monthly volume, CPC, and organic competition when searching keywords in Google, Google Autocomplete, YouTube, Amazon, Moz, and other popular websites.
  • MozBar – Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) which are core indicators of how competitive a keyword is. Try competing with websites who have similar domain authority.
  • Google Autocomplete – cool tricks like using the underline character _ to have Google fill-in-the-blank. If you search Chicago _ Photographer, you will see wedding, newborn, photography, and other types of photography services.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer – similar to Google Keyword Planner (only better) as it’s designed specifically for SEO while Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords. Moz Keyword Planner shows you the competition for organic results based on each result’s links, domain authority, etc. While Keyword Planner mainly uses CPC (cost per click) based on their advertising data.
  • HubShout WebGrader – see all keywords you (and competitors) rank for. Includes other metrics like each website’s domain authority and # of backlinks.
  • Google Trends – shows history of keyword volume for Google, YouTube, other mediums. See trends for specific geographies, and questions people are asking.

 

1.1. Answer The Public

The coolest keyword research tool is definitely Answer The Public. Search a keyword and it generates a map of keywords being searched in Google Autocomplete. The greener the circle, the more searches that keyword has. It also breaks keywords down into specific categories (questions, prepositions, comparisons). Then it breaks them down even further (below is an example of “question keywords” about “Yoast” and I can see all the whats, hows, wheres, etc).

Question keywords (great way to make sure your content answers people’s questions)…

Yoast-Keywords-AnswerThePublic

Preposition keywords…

Preposition Keywords – Answer The Public

Comparison keywords…

Comparison Keywords – Answer The Public

 

1.2. Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere lets you Google any keyword (in Google, YouTube, Amazon, Etsy and other search engines), while showing each keyword’s monthly searches, cost-per-click (CPC) and competition. Combine this with MozBar (the next tool I cover) and it’s a killer combination.

Keywords Everywhere Autocomplete

YouTube Keyword Competition

Amazon Keywords

Etsy Keywords

 

1.3. MozBar

MozBar’s Chrome Extension lets you Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). Higher numbers = higher competition, and you want to try to compete with websites that have similar domain authority – check yours here. You can increase domain authority by getting more quality links (eg. by creating awesome content).

Mozbar Keyword Competition

MozBar Tips

  • Learn your DA using Link Explorer and compete for keywords in your range
  • Broad phrases usually have high DA + PA, long-tail phrases have low DA + PA
  • Build your DA by getting more links to your site (through awesome content)
  • Websites (especially new ones) will have low DA, so target very specific phrases
  • You can build PA by improving the content and pointing internal links to the page

Combine Keywords Everywhere with MozBar to see a nice glimpse of your competition…

Keyword Competition

Avoid Keywords That Show Strong Content
The best opportunities are when you Google a keyword, weak or irrelevant content appears in the top results. Just Google the keyword and skim through the top results to see if people cover the topic extensively. If not, that means it’s the perfect opportunity for you to rank high.

Weak Search Results

Avoid Competing With Authority Websites

  • amazon.com
  • wikipedia.com
  • yelp.com
  • credit.com
  • and so forth…

 

1.4. Google Autocomplete

Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method. If you don’t see the full dropdown menu with all the keywords, try using an Incognito tab.

Google-Autocomplete-Fill-In-The-Blank-1

Try using different variations, like plurals

Google-Autocomplete-Plural-Keywords

Or different word ordering

Google Autocomplete Keyword Ordering

Autocomplete works with most search engines including YouTube for video SEO

Video Keywords

Autocomplete Tips

  • Choose specific (long-tail) phrases which are less competitive
  • No need to include “best” and other non-descriptive adjectives
  • Synonyms can be targeted on the same page (as secondary keywords)
  • Most businesses have multiple keywords per service (I have WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit… all of which are different enough that I have a separate page for each and I’m ranked in the top 3 for all them… it works)
  • Being more specific can mean choosing Chicago WordPress Designer (instead of Chicago Web Designer) or WordPress SEO Consultant (instead of SEO Consultant)… targeting a geography or a specific type of ‘web design’ is one way to get more specific

 

1.5. Moz Keyword Explorer

To make sure you don’t miss keywords, use Moz Keyword Explorer. This is similar to Keyword Planner only it’s completely free (you don’t have to sign up for AdWords) plus you can group related keywords so you’re not browsing through the same ones. Start with a broad keyword.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Click on keyword suggestions –> see all suggestions.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Moz Keyword Explorer Tips

  • Group related keywords with low lexical similarity (use filter)
  • Start with a broad phrase, then look for specific, long-tail phrases

How Many Searches Should My Keywords Have?

Step 1: Check your domain authority in Moz Link Explorer.
Domain Authority

Step 2: Use this handy chart by Orbit Media.
Keyword Research Shortcut

But Can I Target More?
If you plan on creating strong content (ideally with 3,000+ words and lots of graphics/videos), you can target keywords with more monthly searches (my WordPress SEO tutorial will help as it has over 100 tips including 20 on content optimization). Use the chart as a general guideline.

 

1.6. HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)

HubShout WebGrader shows you:

  • All keywords you (and competitors) rank for
  • Each website’s estimated traffic value based on CPC
  • Top ranked content, domain authority, backlinks, and referring domains

HubShout WebGrader Report

See a full list of keywords you (and competitors rank for)…

My Keywords

 

Google Trends tells you whether a keyword is on the rise, or declining. It also filters for finding local keywords and YouTube keywords. This is especially helpful for finding what seasons are busiest, whether your market is declining, and where people are searching these keywords.

Ramen is on the rise!

Google Trends Keywords

Better publish that YouTube tutorial on gift wrapping before December :)

YouTube Keywords – Google Trends

 

1.8. Search Analytics

The Search Analytics feature in Google Search Console (which you can verify with Yoast) tells you your keywords, ranking position, CTR (click-through rate), top ranked pages, and the countries + devices of visitors. I hardly use Google Analytics for SEO – I use Search Analytics.

Cool Trick: find queries (keywords) where you already rank in the first 5 spots in Google, then improve those pages so you can get in the top 1-3 where all the traffic is.

Google Search Console Queries

 

1.9. Avoid Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is designed specifically for AdWords – don’t use it for SEO! The competition is not for organic results. Google Autocomplete, or keyword tools that pull keywords from Autocomplete (like Answer The Public) are better at categorizing keywords and showing you the organic competition. And for the record, no keyword tool is better at estimating a keyword’s competition than Googling the keyword yourself, and analyzing the top results to see what content is already out there – so you know what/who you’re up against.

Google Keyword Planner

 

2. Types Of Keywords

The following sections break down keywords into specific types.

 

2.1. Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for and usually have 3-7+ words in the phrase. They also attract a more targeted visitor. You can even target Chicago WordPress Design instead of Chicago Web Design since that is a more specific type of web design. As you saw in the chart by Orbit Media in section 1.5, websites with low domain authority (DA) should almost always target longer-tail keywords. As you build your DA, you can start targeting broader keywords.

Long-Tail Keywords

Examples Of When To Get More Specific

  • Chicago Painter is competitive, Chicago Interior Painter is better
  • Chicago Real Estate is competitive, Chicago Commercial Real Estate is better
  • Chicago Computer Repair is competitive, Chicago Macbook Pro Repair is better
  • Yoast SEO Plugin is competitive, Yoast SEO Plugin Settings is better
  • SEO Consultant is competitive, WordPress SEO Consultant is better
  • SiteGround Review is competitive, SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review is better

 

2.2. Date Keywords

Drive even more traffic by targeting date keywords (mainly for time sensitive content)…

Time Sensitive Keywords

When optimizing content, you should include the date (year) in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. Of course this requires me to keep the tutorial up to date, but this has already driven quite a bit of extra traffic during 2017 as I’m included as a featured snippet.

Dates In SEO Titles

 

2.3. Local Keywords (Small Town vs. Large City vs. National)

The larger the area, the more specific your keywords will be, and the more you will have. Smaller towns will have broad keywords while larger cities will have more specific phrases…

Local Keywords

Unless you’re targeting a small town and have 1 primary keyword like “Lake Forest Divorce Lawyer” you probably have other keywords you can target (find them using keyword tools).

Small towns have a small number of broad keywords…

Small Town Keywords

Large cities tend to have multiple specific keywords…

Large City Keywords

National keywords are even more specific, and there’s more of them…

National Keywords

Don’t forget to use Google Trends to see local keywords and their popularity…

Local Keywords – Google Trends

Multiple Locationseach location should have it’s own page (sometimes multiple pages) depending on whether multiple keywords are being searched in each area. Each location should also have it’s own citations (online directories like Google My Business, Facebook Page, Yelp, Bing Places…) which is exactly what my WordPress local SEO guide walks you through.

 

3.4. Blog Post Keywords

Post-Focus-Keywords

Getting traffic to your blog is fine and dandy, but how does this get you clients?

Here’s what I did…

I offer WordPress speed optimization as part of my SEO services. I wanted more of these projects so I learned what phrases people Google when they have a slow WordPress site. I looked at Google Autocomplete for “slow WordPress…” and saw some results. Then I really put myself in my searcher’s position when I Googled “why is wordpress” and saw it completed the phrase with “why is wordpress so slow” with that keyword on top. There are plenty of variations below it in Autocomplete, indicating that keyword has a good amount of searches. It’s also within my competition if you Google the keyword using MozBar. We have a winner!

And so my blog post was born: Why Is WordPress Slow (And 7 Ways To Fix It)

People read my guide, realize they don’t have the technical skill to do everything, and some inquire. Completely coincidental that this happened while I was writing this post (seriously, I haven’t gotten one of these for weeks) but I literally just got this comment 3 hours ago:

Inquiry

Update (2018): That guide is now one of the most popular tutorials on my website!

 

2.5. Multiple Keywords (Synonyms)

All you have to do is research a synonym of your primary keyword then incorporate both of these in your page title, SEO title, and meta description. This is by FAR the most important part but you can also sprinkle your secondary keyword 1-2 times in your content. You do NOT have to incorporate both as full keywords (exact matches) otherwise your headline will look spammy. Crafting a headline that sounds nice AND includes partial matches is the way to go.

Here’s an example:

Step 1: Research your primary keyword…

Secondary Keywords

Step 2: Research your secondary keyword…

Secondary Focus Keyword
Step 3: Write a headline that incorporates both and still sounds nice…

Headline

Step 4: Rank for both keywords…

focus-keyword-1

focus-keyword-2

You can use the same strategy in your meta description and (sparingly) in the content body.

 

3. Content Optimization

Now that you have your Yoast focus keywords, you can start optimizing content! Including your keyword in “all the right places” is just 1 small part of it, you should really read the content optimization section of my WordPress SEO guide. I promise you will learn a lot.

 

Remember: Only Target 1 Keyword Per Page (Unless Synonyms)

Only synonyms can be targeted on the same page. This is because Google wants to show the most relevant results so keywords that mean 2 different things should have their own page.

Single Keywords

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚦 How do you find good focus keywords?

The best keywords have a balance between monthly searches, low competition, and high profitability. You can usually only pick two. For example, if a highly profitable keyword doesn't have a lot of searches but has low competition, go for it.

🚦 How do I learn how competitive a keyword is?

Google the keyword and look at the top results. Do they do a good job at covering the topic? Is it from an authority website? Do they have high domain + page authority (you can check this in MozBar's Chrome Extension)? If yes, that keyword may be too competitive.

🚦 What are the best keyword research tools?

My top 4 keyword research tools are Google Autocomplete, MozBar Chrome extension (for checking competition using each search result's domain and page authority), HubShout WebGrader (for finding competitor keywords), and Keywords Everywhere to learn a keyword's monthly searches and estimated competition.

🚦 How do I learn how many searches a keyword has?

Keywords Everywhere and Ahrefs tell you how many monthly searches a keyword has.

🚦 Should I target broad or specific (long-tail) keywords?

I recommended targeting specific, long-tail keywords 95% of the time. They are much less competitive and bring a more targeted visitor to your site. New websites, or those having trouble with SEO, should always start by targeting specific, long-tail keywords.

🚦 How do I target multiple keywords (synonyms)?

Find 2 keywords that are very similar. These can be synonyms or even date keywords that include the current year if it's a time-sensitive topic. Use the primary keyword in your page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content. The secondary keyword should be sprinkled in these areas as a partial match - it does not have to be an exact match!

🚦 What about Google Keyword Planner?

Do not use Google Keyword Planner to research SEO keywords. It's designed specifically for AdWords and the competition is also reflected in Adwords, not organic search results.

See also: My Definitive Guide To Yoast SEO

If you found this post helpful, please share – I would appreciate it. And if you have any questions about Yoast focus keywords or Yoast in general, drop me a line in the comments.

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Settings: A Complete Guide To Optimizing WordPress With Yoast’s Plugin (Updated 2020, V. 14.9)

Yoast-SEO-Settings

Most people have Yoast, but few use it correctly.

This tutorial breaks Yoast down into 3 key steps: configuring the Yoast settings, researching long-tail focus keywords, and on-page SEO (beyond green lights). I will also show you a few other ways to improve SEO related to Yoast like adding publish dates to increase CTRs, submitting your Yoast XML sitemap to Search Console, fixing broken links, and adding schema.

Before reading this guide, install the Hide SEO bloat plugin which removes Yoast ads and update Yoast to the latest version. Finally, if you like this guide, be sure to check out my WordPress speed guide which has 450+ comments and helps improve your GTmetrix report.

Leave a comment if you have questions – I’m always listening!

 

Important Things To Know Before Using Yoast

People waste too much time trying to get green lights and not enough time on keyword research (or making their content better than whoever’s in the top results). Before you start, read these tips to avoid wasting your time which is seriously a big issue when people use Yoast.

  • Don’t obsess over green lights (use my on-page SEO checklist instead).
  • Don’t blindly select keywords – look for a long-tail (3+ word) phrase in Google Autocomplete, then Google it to see whether top results cover the topic extensively.
  • Don’t stuff keywords in your text (or image alt text) to get green lights, that’s spammy!
  • The most important places to use your focus keyword is in the page title, URL, SEO title, meta description, and once in the first couple sentences of the content body. That’s it!
  • Yoast (and all SEO plugins) do very little for on-page SEO – most of it is advice. Spend more time on content and start focusing on making your content as helpful as possible.

 

1. General

Dashboard
Yoast-General-Dashboard-Settings

Don’t click the button to enable Yoast indexables – there have been many complaints on their blog about this feature and it can really mess up your site. Keep an eye on their blog for updates.

Features
Yoast-Features

Below is a screenshot of each Yoast feature.

I disabled a few of them… I don’t use the Readability Analysis since I don’t need Yoast grading my content (eg. whether my sentences are too long). I use internal links naturally in my content and don’t need Yoast’s Text Link Counter reminding me to add them. I don’t need Ryte to constantly check whether my site is indexed in search engines (it obviously is), and I never use Yoast’s Admin Dropdown Menu. See what features you like, enable them, and disable the rest.

Yoast SEO Analysis
SEO Analysis
Yoast XML Sitemap Setting
XML Sitemap
Yoast Readability Analysis
Readability Analysis
Yoast Ryte Analysis 1
Ryte Integration
Cornerstone Content Filter
Cornerstone Content
Yoast Admin Bar Menu 1
Admin Bar Menu
Yoast Text Link Counter Feature
Text Link Counter
Yoast Advanced Settings
Security

Webmaster Tools
Sign up for Google Search Console (most important) and use the HTML verification method to copy/paste your verification code. Do the same thing for Bing/Yandex/Baidu. Search Console is incredibly helpful. I recommend using it to find technical errors and monitor rankings and CTRs.

Yoast-Webmaster-Tools

Verify Webmaster Tools

  • Sign up for Google Search Console
  • Select the HTML tag verification method
  • Copy the code and paste into the Google Search Console field
  • Delete everything outside of the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click “Verify” in Google Search Console
  • Repeat for Bing / Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine)
  • I do not use Baidu Webmaster Tools since it’s confusing as I don’t read Chinese, and you need a Chinese phone number, but you can read this tutorial if you want to try

Submit Your Yoast XML Sitemap To Google

  • In Yoast, go to General → Features → XML Sitemaps
  • Click the question mark icon by the XML Sitemaps option
  • Click your XML Sitemap link
  • Copy the last past of the URL: /sitemap_index.xml
  • Login to Google Search Console
  • On the left side of the dashboard, go to Sitemaps
  • Paste the last part of your sitemap URL into Google Search Console
  • Click “submit”
  • Repeat for Bing + Yandex

Yoast-XML-Sitemap-Setting

Submit-Yoast-XML-Sitemap-To-Google

 

2. Search Appearance

General
Yoast-Search-Appearance-General-Settings

Title Separator – when you’re using snippet variables, this is the dash (or other special character) usually between your page/post title and site name. Example: Page Title Site Name.

Snippet Variables – templates used for SEO titles + meta descriptions only IF you forget to write them, which you should never forget to do. So as long as you’re writing these manually, they don’t matter. You should take the time to write them so they sound nicer than a template.

Yoast Basic Variables

Manually written snippets are always better than default snippet variables.

The title of this post you’re reading is 150+ characters long (well over the 60 character limit for SEO titles). If I relied on Yoast to create my SEO title using snippet variables, it would be longer than 60 characters and get cut off by Google, making my snippet look horrible. Instead, I wrote this myself so it reads nicely: The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Settings (2020 Updated).

Homepage – the homepage usually targets a broad keyword about your main product/service (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer). Use this in your homepage SEO title + meta description.

Homepage-Snippet

Content Types
Yoast-Content-Types-Settings

Show Posts In Search Results – control whether posts/pages are indexed in search engines. You obviously want pages and posts, but you usually don’t want tag, format, portfolio, and other pages to be shown in search results. These pages can often be thin or duplicate content which can cause warnings in Google Search Console. Category pages can be indexed if you have a decent amount of posts under each category and design them to look nice, optimize them, etc.

Show SEO Settings – this is the SEO analysis tool that gives you on-page SEO recommendations. You definitely want this for pages, posts, and possibly blog category pages.

Media
Yoast-Media-Settings

Taxonomies
Yoast-Taxonomies-Settings

Archives
Yoast-Archives-Settings

Breadcrumbs
Yoast-Breadcrumbs-Settings

Breadcrumbs – navigation text that appears at the top of your content:

Breadcrumbs

They help users and search engines learn your site structure. To enable breadcrumbs, add this code to Editor → Index.php by pasting it under get_header();

get_header(); ?>
<div id="primary">
<?php if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {
yoast_breadcrumb('<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>');
} ?>
<div id="content" role="main">

RSS
Yoast-RSS-Settings

 

3. Social

Fill out your social media profiles.

But the key thing is to enable each social network’s meta data under the Facebook and Twitter tab. This enables Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards which lets you upload properly sized images to each page/post to make the content look much nicer when shared on social media.

Accounts
Yoast-Social-Settings

Facebook
Yoast-Facebook-Settings

Facebook App ID – if you created a Facebook app, find your app ID and enter it here. Here’s a tutorial on how to create a Facebook app and what it does.

Twitter
Yoast-Twitter-Settings

Pinterest
Yoast-Pinterest-Settings

You will need to complete a few additional steps to verify your site with Pinterest.

Social Media Optimization – once meta data is enabled for each social network, edit a page or post, scroll down to the Yoast section, and click the Social tab. Here you can upload custom social media images to make the content’s image format properly when the page is shared on social media. Yes, this means you will need to create 2 separate graphics for each page and post.

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 630px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px

Upload a custom graphic for Facebook and Twitter:

Yoast-Social-Graphics

Now your content looks much nicer:

Yoast-Social-Sharing-Image

Controlling Facebook Ad Text With Yoast – if you’re boosting posts, Facebook won’t let you change the ad text. So before sharing your post on Facebook, give it the title you want using Yoast’s “Facebook Title” field (which can be different from the SEO title + meta description). If your Yoast Facebook title isn’t working right away, trying clearing your website’s cache. I have found it can sometimes take several days for it to update with new Facebook title and image.

Yoast Facebook Title

 

4. Tools

Yoast-Tools

Bulk Editor – edit SEO titles and meta descriptions in bulk (without having to go through each individual page/post). Making sure these ready nicely can significantly increase click-through rates by making your snippets more appealing to click on. Don’t forget to include that post’s focus keyword in both places. SNIPPETS ARE LITERALLY THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR SEO!

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

File Editor – edit robots.txt and .htaccess files.

Import And Exportimport my recommended Yoast SEO settings or export your own Yoast settings to use on other websites you manage. If you’re currently using another WordPress SEO Plugin, use the “Import From Other SEO Plugins” tab to migrate it’s SEO data to Yoast.

 

5. Yoast SEO Premium (Not Worth The Money)

Yoast SEO Premium is $89/year – I seriously only bought it because I write WordPress SEO tutorials for a living. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have it… setting multiple focus keywords isn’t useful, there are plenty of free redirect plugins, and internal link suggestions + content insights really don’t help me at all. Here’s an explanation of some of the highlighted features.

Yoast-SEO-Premium-Features

Optimize For Multiple Keywords – there is a specific strategy for this. Secondary keywords are often included as partial matches which means the SEO analysis checklist is virtually useless since Yoast rarely detects these, and therefore your lights will usually be red for secondary keywords. Targeting secondary keywords is more about crafting a nice SEO title + meta description to include individual words from both phrases rather than stuffing both keywords.

Yoast Multiple Focus Keywords

Preview Of Your Page – as long as you’re uploading custom images in Yoast’s “social sharing option” so your image formats properly Facebook and Twitter (step 3), you don’t need this. But if you like seeing how it looks directly in Yoast to make sure it looks good, that’s all this does.

yoast-social-previews

No Outdated Content – Yoast tells you if you haven’t updated a piece of content for 6+ months.

Link Suggestions – shows related content on your website/blog to use internal links to. I use internal links naturally when I think another article would be helpful, but I don’t help with this.

Yoast-Internal-Linking

Content Insights – again, Yoast is focusing too much on keyword usage and nothing about content quality or user experience. Another keyword usage feature that is not very helpful.

Yoast Content Insights

Redirect Manager – the Redirection Plugin plugin is free or you can create redirects in .htaccess. Yoast’s redirect manager automatically adds a redirect if you ever change a permalink while other plugins don’t. That’s the only benefit, otherwise free redirect plugins will do the job.

yoast-automatic-redirect

Premium Support – I have never used their support, but I heard they just refer you to articles.

Ad-Free – the Hide SEO Bloat plugin is free and removes Yoast ads.

 

6. AMP

Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are a Google project that make mobile pages load faster and adds an “AMP” sign to your mobile snippets. While this sounds good, you should usually avoid AMP. Take a look at Kinsta’s study on how mobile conversions dropped 59% after adding AMP. After reading that article, I decided to disable AMP on my own website (and I’m glad I did). The design isn’t nearly as nice and it’s a pain in the ass. Save yourself the trouble – I would avoid it.

amp-pages

AMP Instructions

  • Install the AMP Plugin by Automattic
  • Install the Glue For Yoast SEO AMP Plugin if using Yoast
  • Add /amp/ to any page on your website to see how it looks and make sure it works
  • Go to Yoast’s Settings → AMP to change your design and enable custom post types
  • Wait for Google to recrawl your site and add the AMP sign in mobile search results
  • Visit the Accelerated Mobile Pages section in Google Search Console to see errors

 

7. Import My Yoast Settings

To use my Yoast settings, download the zip file and upload it under SEO → Tools → Import And Export → Import. This configures the settings, it does not delete focus keywords or meta data.

Download My Yoast Settings (Updated 3/9/2018)

Things You Still Need To Do:

  • General → Webmaster Tools (verify your site with Google/Bing/Yandex)
  • Search Appearance → General (check if you have duplicate sitenames by hovering over your homepage’s browser tab, and if so, leave Force Rewrite Titles as enabled)
  • Search Appearance → General (fill out your homepage SEO title + meta description, and specify whether you’re a person or company)
  • Search Appearance → Content Types (choose which content you want shown in search results, and add publish dates to snippets on time-sensitive posts)
  • Search Appearance → Taxonomies (choose which content you want in search results)
  • Search Appearance → Breadcrumbs (add your website name as the “Anchor Text For Homepage” and follow Yoast’s tutorial to add breadcrumbs)
  • Search Console → Settings (authenticate Yoast with Google Search Console, wait a few days for the data to populate, then fix crawl errors (visit section). See my Google Search Console tutorial for even more tips on optimizing your website with Search Console)
  • Social → Enter URLs of your social profiles, upload your logo in the Facebook tab, enable Facebook Insights, and verify your site with Pinterest
  • Add AMP Pages (visit section)

 

8. Focus Keywords

Research a keyword’s monthly searches and competition is super important.

  • Find long-tail (specific) keywords in Autocomplete + Keyword Explorer
  • Write down all relevant phrases so you have a robust keyword list
  • Avoid keywords where strong content/websites are in the top results
  • Target keywords where search results contain weak/irrelevant content
  • Google each keyword using MozBar to learn each one’s estimated competition
  • Check OSE for your DA (domain authority), then Google your keyword using MozBar and check the top results to see what their DA is. Compete within your own DA range and if yours is low, target even more specific keywords which are less competitive.
  • You should be left with high opportunity keywords where you can get on page 1

Google Autocomplete
Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method.

google-autocomplete-keywords

To see even more keywords in the dropdown, use plurals or different word ordering.

autocomplete-keywords

Each service (and location) should be targeted on separate pages on your website.

multiple-localized-keywords

For competitive blog post topics, always select a very specific (long-tail) keyword.

Long-Tail Keywords

You can do the same thing for YouTube video keywords.

youtube-autocomplete-keywords

How I found my keyword for this tutorial (which helped me optimize my content).

Yoast-Keyword-Research

Yoast-Keyword

Moz Keyword Explorer (Better Than Keyword Planner)
To make sure you don’t miss any keywords from Google Autocomplete, use Moz Keyword Explorer which is similar to Google Keyword Planner only better (and free). Start with a broad phrase, run the tool, then under Group Keywords select “yes, with low lexical similarity.” This prevents you from having to scroll through similar keyword variations over and over again.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)
To see a full keyword list for competitor websites, run them through HubShout WebGrader

My Keywords

MozBar (Keyword Competition)
Now you should have a robust keyword list. The final step is to install the MozBar Google Chrome Extension and Google each keyword. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the more competitive the keyword. Try to select keywords within your own DA/PA range. You can increase these by creating awesome content to get links. The best keywords are those that if you Google, weak (or irrelevant) content exists in the top results.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

 

9. On-Page SEO With Yoast

The first step to optimizing content is researching focus keywords – make sure you do step 8 first. Then you can start creating content (or optimizing existing content) for those keywords.

What Yoast should say…

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy! Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTRs? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, SEO title, and meta description… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights in Yoast. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… start thinking about adding a helpful TOC to long posts, videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beefing up content to make it better (more detailed) than everyone else’s.

Basic Rules Of Yoast:
The green light obsession – if you’re copying/pasting focus keywords throughout your content to make Yoast happy, stop it right now. This article you’re reading is well optimized (it’s super useful and organized) and half my bullets are red. Stop obsessing over green lights and start obsessing over your content. Add an infographic and video to a page and see what happens.

You can only set 1 focus keyword – Yoast premium allows up to 5, but if you don’t have success with 1 keyword then don’t try 2. However it’s not that hard (just make sure the secondary keyword is very similar to your primary) and sprinkle partial matches throughout the content. Generally, each unique keyword should have it’s own page with content reflecting that phrase. Each of your services will have it’s own page – sometimes multiple pages. I have separates pages for WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit, and others.

Yoast doesn’t always detect keywords – sometimes it won’t pick up on synonyms or partial matches. If my focus keyword is SEO Consultant and I use SEO Consulting in the content, Yoast may not count this keyword. But I can assume keyword density is higher than Yoast says.

Find a balance between keywords and using a nice page title, SEO title, and meta description – there’s a fine line between writing a headline that sounds good, and writing a headline so it includes your keyword. Find the right balance. Crafting a headline that people will actually click on is a huge part of content optimization.

Yoast only detects keywords in the main content body and search engine snippet – not the sidebars, not the footer, just those two areas. This is also good since search engines analyze content in blocks and your content body/search engine snippets are the important areas.

Focus keyword for homepage – your homepage should usually target your primary keyword. If you have a widgetized homepage you won’t have Yoast’s SEO analysis checklist (since you’re using widgets). But that’s OK, just use the same on-page SEO strategies as the other pages.

You usually do want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Homepage
  • Product/service pages
  • Location pages
  • Blog posts (non-promotional keywords)

You usually don’t want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Contact page
  • Team pages (unless their names are being searched for)
  • Testimonials
  • Work/portfolio
  • Main blog page

Now create a page, set your focus keyword, write some content, and see my suggestions:

Yoast-SEO-Analysis

Focus Keyword – use Google Autocomplete to find long-tail (specific) phrases, then Google the keyword and analyze the search results with MozBar’s Chrome Extension. Look for keywords with weak content in the top results and avoid competing with authority websites.

Never Target The Same Keyword On 2 Pages – if you’re going to spend time creating 2 pages targeting the same keyword, you might as well spend all that time on 1 page and make the content awesome. I would rather have 1 amazing piece of content than 2 mediocre articles.

Page Title – include your keyword here. If it’s a blog post make sure you write a kick-ass headline preferably with your focus keyword in the beginning of the title. Posts usually have a longer, more descriptive title, page titles are usually shorter and just list a product/service.

URL – shorten URLs to not include stop words (and put emphasis on your focus keyword) UNLESS this makes the URL ready funny. I shortened mine to /yoast-wordpress-seo-settings/

SEO Title – these are the blue links in search results and are the FIRST thing people see. They should be 50-60 characters (length bar in Yoast should be green). If it’s a page, don’t just use “Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” Use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on it… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” SEO titles for posts can be similar to the title, but adjust it to read nicely in those 50-60 characters.

Meta Description – 150-160 character description of your content, primarily used to increase CTR and get people clicking your link, but should also include your focus keyword.

Image Alt Text – do not stuff keywords here, just describe the image! As long as you’re writing descriptive file names before uploading, you can use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin to automatically use the file name as the alt text, so you don’t have to do this manually.

Keyword Density – Yoast exaggerates the importance of keyword density when it’s actually not very important. Use it once in the first couple sentences, then forget about it.

Keyword In Subheading (H2) – you don’t need to use your keyword here – it looks spammy.

Internal / External Links – use a few links on your page. Google likes this and as long as you’re actually linking to helpful resources (I’m not talking about Wikipedia), then visitors will also find this helpful. Internal links are good because they keep people on your site and are a natural way to build links, but you will need a good amount of content for this. External links are good because they’re like citing sources for the article, which Google likes. Both are good.

Post Long Content – short, crappy content doesn’t rank. Long content that covers the topic extensively (especially content that includes a video or infographic), will. Google measures “average time on page” so your primary goal is to increase the “dwell time” of your visitor. Yoast recommends 300+ words, but try 3,000 words (or more) and you will see way better results.

WordPress Word Count

Rich Snippets – these enhance your snippets with review stars, videos, and information about products, events, recipes, and other types of data. This isn’t part of Yoast but it obviously helps your SEO and click-through rates. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin (here’s my review of it) which has way more options and looks better than free plugins like All In One Schema.org. If you would like to add rich snippets to your WordPress site, follow that tutorial.

rich-snippets

Image Speed Optimization – I have a full tutorial for image optimization. Run a page through GTmetrix to see all unoptimized images on the page. Large images need to be resized to fit the correct dimensions. If your content body is 680(w) you should be using images that are resized to 680(w). Use a plugin like Imagify for lossless compression. Images with the “specify image dimensions” error means you need to specify a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Why-Is-WordPress-So-Slow.jpg” alt=”Why Is WordPress So Slow” width=”680” height=”380” />

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Targeting Multiple Keywords – I touched on this in the Yoast SEO Premium section, but here’s an example. You’ll want to craft your SEO title/meta description to include elements of both…

Primary Keyword: SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes
Secondary Keyword: SEO-Optimized WordPress Themes

Page Title / SEO Title: 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes For Everyone
Meta Description: Browse over 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes which have mobile responsive and HTML5 design, all of which are SEO optimized via the Genesis Framework.

Now sprinkle your secondary keyword (or a partial match of it) in your content. Your permalink should usually just include your primary keyword: /seo-friendly-wordpress-themes/. You do not need to purchase Yoast SEO Premium to target secondary keywords – just use tools like Google Autocomplete to find a secondary keyword, then sprinkle it.

 

12. Anatomy Of A Perfectly Optimized Page

I borrowed this from Backlinko which emphasizes why content optimization is more than “green lights.” It’s more about creating damn good content using infographics, videos, and creating “the ultimate guide” with a table of contents (like this post). Stop worrying so much about green lights, get off the “text and photos” route and start doing something different.

on-page-seo

I also created a version for WordPress (a little outdated but still good)…

WordPress-Content-Optimization

 

13. Remove Yoast Advertisements

The Hide SEO Bloat plugin removes all advertisements in Yoast, making it easier to configure the Yoast settings. Simply install it and it will automatically remove all Yoast ads, which are a lot.

Hide-SEO-Bloat

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚦 What are the 3 main steps to Yoast?

Configuring the settings, researching focus keywords, and content optimization are the 3 main steps to using Yoast's SEO plugin. Setting up Google Search Console is important too.

🚦 How do I choose focus keywords?

Google Autocomplete is a great tool for finding keywords, especially when using the fill-in-the-blank method from this guide. MozBar and Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension helps you learn each keyword's competition - which is a critical part to keyword research.

🚦 How important are green lights?

They're not. The 5 most important places to use your keyword are in the page title, permalink, SEO title, meta description, and a couple times in the content body. Nearly all other ranking factors have nothing to do with Yoast, regardless of what other people say.

🚦 What other on-page SEO factors are there besides green lights?

FAQ rich snippets (like the ones you're reading now), adding an HTML table of contents to long posts, optimizing site speed, carefully crafting SEO titles + meta descriptions, and in-depth content are all major factors that can improve both rankings + click-through rates.

🚦 How did I get these emojis in search results?

They're called FAQ rich snippets and I have a tutorial for that. You simply install the Structured Content plugin and add FAQs (with the emoji of your choice) to pages/posts.

 

Whaddaya Think?

Hit me up in the comments if you have questions :)

See Also:
How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix

Cheers,
Tom