What is Yoast?
It’s a plugin for WordPress sites that helps you attend to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That means it’s easier for search engines to find and categorise your content when people put in keywords which ought to bring them to you. I got the free version.
Do I need SEO?
I don’t know, but if I look at ‘search terms’ in my stats, which tells me what people look for when they land on my site, there are two common ones. Maybe there should be more, given the number of books I review. Reviews of A Christmas Carol and of Black Beauty are my top terms.
So I hope that by using the ‘improvements’ to my blog posts as analysed through Yoast, more people might find that I am just what they are looking for.
How does it work?
The plug-in was easy and painless to download and set up. There is a useful ‘getting started’ video, which (amazingly) I watched. There were some things to do (like authorise my site with Google) that I’d seen elsewhere and never known how to do. Three buttons to click were provided and worked!
The main difference to my blogging is that I now have a little panel below my edit post panel which analyses my post in two separate ways – readability and SEO.
What does the SEO do?
This gets you to look at the ‘snippet’ which is what you’d see in a search engine. At this point in writing this post it looks like this:
The guidance on the SEO makes you select a ‘Focus keyword’, which for this will be Yoast, although it could also be Yoast SEO. I haven’t finished the post yet, and may amend it.
The SEO then analyses your post against your Focus keyword(s), and suggests areas that could be improved. The purpose of this improvement is to make it easier for search engines to display your snippet more prominently when someone searches on your keywords. It suggests you put your keyword in your post title–so if my keyword was Yoast SEO, I’d need to put the SEO in the title. It encourages you to start the post with the focus keyword (I have it as word three, which will do for me). It’s also telling me my title is too short; I could use keyword variations in the title; my images need ‘alt-attributes’; and the text is long enough to meet the recommended minimum. With many posts I need to use the keywords more in the text.
Some of these issues I fix, and some I can leave and still get a ‘good’ rating.
What does the readability do?
The readability analysis irritates me, but then readability things always do. It wants me to shorten my sentences. I have too many in passive voice – and it can highlight both of those complaints, and some I disagree with! It gives a Flesch Reading Ease score, which is useful, assesses lengths of my paragraphs (my book reviews generally fail this), and also counts sentences with ‘transition words or phrases’, which I’m finding mystifying. My flash fiction and reviews need work to get anywhere near its criteria on these. Other complaints I can live with: they don’t have enough subheadings, and I need to use the keywords more in the text.
What do I think of Yoast so far?
My initial responses? The readability stuff irritates me, but I consider what it says and amend where I agree, much like any editorial feedback. I get extremely irritated by specification of sentence length no more than twenty words.
I’ve been making the suggested amendments to the SEO as far as possible. I find that I struggle to make reviews and flash fiction meet the guidelines, but that may partly be the style of website I’ve set it up as. As usual, I think the guidelines are wrong 😉
It does take a little longer to write and complete the posts, but maybe they are better as a result. That’s where I’d welcome some feedback; have you noticed any style changes? Do you like them or not?
So, for me, it’s so far, so good. It’ll take a while longer to see if I get more people finding my blog via the keywords; I know there is more for me to learn about keywords to attract readers. The question is whether the ‘right’ keywords attract the right readers–I don’t just want readers for the sake of numbers.
Finally, there are little green lights given to readability and SEO in my post summaries. This post gets green for Good on both. Success!