Checklist: How To Improve SEO And Readability With The Yoast Plug-In For WordPress
This is where I am coming from: I love to write articles for my blogs. I do that for many years.
And I have never cared much about whether or not other people actually read what I write.
But this has changed since I realized that I am running out of my time and I need to get my message out: what is important is substance and not appearance and style. That applies to all areas of life.
One of my next projects is to provide a ranking of online IP blogs. And I want to be prepared for that because we use public tools for measuring that ranking.
That is how I got into SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and into methods of pushing web pages to a higher rank on search engines organically (non-paid).
I am using WordPress and that is how I found the Yoast plug-in to check 2 things: SEO and Readability.
Here comes my personal checklist for improving my articles with Yoast.
Yoast appears at the bottom of each post editor. By default, in this screenshot, the preview has been auto-generated. We often don’t want that as we can do better by customising it.
1. Meta Title (SEO Title)
A meta title or title tag, is the text displayed on search engine result pages and browser tabs, ideally indicating the topic or subject of a page. If the red bar appears, it is too long or short. Always try to keep it green.
The Yoast plug-in has a Google preview, and you can toggle between Mobile and Desktop result for how the SEO title will look on the browser.
In the “SEO title” section, you can insert variables as shown above, or type custom words/phrases into the bar as shown with “TEST” in the image below:
Ideally, the bar should not be red as shown above. It should be green after correction from the pointers of the SEO analysis.
2. Focus Key-phrase
The keyword that we want this article to be optimised for. Yoast free only allows one focus phrase, hence, choose the one that matches the content of the page. It should not be too wide (e.g. lawyers in Singapore) or too narrow (e.g. IP lawyers handling litigation in Singapore and Germany). It should also balance the top 50 keywords which we have previously researched. The keyword should also be present in the article’s main body and meta description.
Learn more about choosing the right key-phrases here: https://yoast.com/focus-keyword/
For an article about improving SEO and readability with the Yoast plug-in, a focus key-phrase could be “improve SEO and readability with Yoast”.
3. Slug (URL Slug)
The slug is displayed at the back of a URL after “/”, and helps the audience to identify the page and its content in an easily readable form.
If your slug is the title of your article just like in this case,
then, your URL will look like this:
4. Meta Description
The main content of the Google preview below the title. It is preferable to write from a user’s perspective rather than the author’s perspective. It should not sound overly like an advertisement, but more like a personal recount on the relevant topic/issue of the page. The focus keyword should also be included in the meta description.
Learn more about writing meta descriptions here: https://yoast.com/meta-descriptions/
Here’s an example for a meta description regarding a post on how to improve SEO and readability. Ideally, the bar at the bottom of the “Meta description” section should be green, orange is fair, red is undesirable.
Below the tab for the SEO parameters, you will find the section for SEO analysis. If the circle indicator beside “SEO analysis” is:
Grey: No action has been taken.
Red: SEO is poor. Problems indicated below must be fixed.
Orange: SEO can be improved.
Green: SEO is good to go, this is the goal!
For more SEO tips, see the PDF guide that your SEO master made for IPLT here: IPLT SEO Guide
The “Readability” tab in the Yoast plug-in helps you to improve the reader’s experience, i.e. to make it easy to read.
Tip: Use the “Eyeball” Tool – you can click the eyeball beside each line to see specific parts of the text that have readability problems. The text will be highlighted in the Editor.
For more information on Readability, click here: https://yoast.com/yoast-seo-readability-analysis/
SEO Check List
1. Choose a “Focus Key-phrase”
This is a search term that you want the post/page to rank for, i.e. what people search for. You/your SEO master should have a list based on prior keyword research. You should check with your SEO master in case he has a specific keyword strategy.
Steps to choose your key-phrase:
- Look for keywords that people search for – is it a popular search term?
- Check the search volume – is it high for the region you’re targeting?
- Google it – are the articles that show up similar to yours?
In short, pick a phrase that best explains your article. This might be in your title, and your best guess of what people might search for.
See what I did for the Book Review – Serial Innovators here: https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=10679&action=edit
(See “2) Focus key-phrase” above for an example.)
2. Write a good Meta Description
A good meta description should have:
- About 150-160 characters. Anything more gets cut off; anything less than 100 is not maximising your space.
- Includes the Focus Key-phrase above
- Addresses the reader
- Includes a Call-To-Action e.g. “click to find out….”, “read on…”, or action words like “How to…”, “Understand why…”
- Here’s a good explanation: https://neilpatel.com/blog/meta-description-magic/
Speak with your SEO master to do the above, or you can outsource it.
Readability Check List
If you want to publish a post immediately, it is better to focus on readability while you’re writing. It will save you time compared to editing later. It will also make you a better writer.
If you have no time, or are just drafting ideas, then readability is less important at this stage. But you will spend more effort on editing when you’re ready to publish. Alternatively, you can just write as usual, and I can edit for you.
1. Sentence Length
Keep your sentences short. Avoid having more than 1 idea per sentence. This makes it harder for the reader to keep track of the point.
Yoast “Green” Criteria: <20% of sentences of over 20 words
2. Cut Unnecessary Words
Before: The book also presents means for Identifying them, for hiring them, and for keeping them engaged.
After: It also shows how to identify, hire, and keep them engaged.
3. Keep to One Subject/Idea per Sentence
Before: That owner makes the decisions to innovate and they delegate its implementation to a number of employees, with specific orders and powers when it comes to their individual shares of the innovation workload.
After: Such an owner makes the decisions to innovate. He then delegates its implementation to a number of employees. These employees have specific orders and powers about their individual shares of the innovation workload.
4. Split the Clauses in a Sentence
Before: And that is why I am not recommending joining an existing structure if you are a innovator with the urge to change the world, unless you have super-natural powers as described in Bruce Vojak´s book “Serial Innovators”.
After: And that is why, if you are an innovator with an urge to change the world, I do not recommend joining an existing company structure.
5. Use a More Active Voice, Avoid Passive Voice
- Use subjects like “You” and “I”
- Use more verbsRecommendations:
Great examples here: https://yoast.com/the-passive-voice-what-is-it-and-how-to-avoid-it/
6. Subheadings Formatting
Making use of bold and pre-formatted Headings may look the same visually, but it is not the same in the html code, i.e. search engines see it as one whole chunk of text.
- Instead of <bold>, use <H2> <H3> etc. You can find this under the Editor.
- Instead of sentence case (“Sentence Case is When You Capitalise Every First Word”) or full caps (“CONCLUSION”), just use a heading.
- Tip: You can use nested headings to organise your points.
- Tip: Keep text length per subheading to about ~250-350 words.
H2: Is this book worth reading?
- H3: Pros of reading this book
- H3: Cons of reading this book
H2: Who this book is for
- H3: Innovators will find it boring
- H3: Lawyers will find it useful, etc.
7. Use the Flesch Reading Scale
- Use shorter/simpler words. e.g 2-syllable vs 4-syllable words
- Use shorter sentences
- Explain the concept. e.g. “in other words”, or add footnotes or glossary to the bottom and link in the text.
More info on the scale here: https://yoast.com/flesch-reading-ease-score/
Test your readability here: https://www.perrymarshall.com/grade/
8. Paragraph Length
Short paragraphs allow reader to skim text for the main ideas. It also structures them better.
Yoast “Green” Criteria:
Keep the length of your paragraphs below 150 words. If you do that, you’ll score a green feedback bullet.
You’ll get an orange bullet if your paragraphs contain more than 150 but less than 200 words. With the bullet comes the advice to shorten your paragraph(s). If you exceed 200 words, your feedback bullet will be red.
9. Consecutive Sentences
Do not start sentences with the same words over and over. This keeps it interesting for the reader.
Yoast “Green” Criteria:
The consecutive sentences check assesses whether your text contains three or more sentences in a row all starting with the same word. If that is the case, you’ll get a red bullet and the advice to have variations.
10. Transition Words
These are words that link different ideas, e.g. Because, Therefore, However, On one hand, In spite of, etc
Yoast “Green” Criteria:
If at least 30% of the sentences in your text contain a transition word, the bullet will be green.
You get an orange bullet if you use them in more than 20%, or in less than 30% of your sentences. The bullet will be red if less than 20% of the sentences of your text contain a transition word. That’s less than 1 in 5 sentences.
Use Grammarly to ensure perfect grammar, and suggestions for better sentence structure: www.grammarly.com
More transition word examples here: https://yoast.com/transition-words-why-and-how-to-use-them/