How to Use the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress (A Beginner’s Guide)

Vlado Pavlik

Mar 03, 20239 min read
yoast seo


What Is Yoast SEO?

With millions of active installations, Yoast SEO is one of the most widely used SEO plugins for WordPress. It provides a comprehensive set of tools for optimizing a website for search engines.

Its key features include the following:

  • Keyword analysis and optimization suggestions
  • XML sitemap generation
  • Meta description and title tag optimization
  • Content analysis and readability scores

How to Install the Yoast SEO Plugin

Here’s a step-by-step guide to install the Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress:

Log in to your WordPress dashboard. 

Go to “Plugins” > “Add New.”

navigate to plugins

Search for “Yoast SEO” in the plugin search bar. 

plugin search bar

Click “Install Now” and then “Activate” in the Yoast SEO plugin box. 

Yoast SEO plugin box install now button

That’s it! You have successfully installed Yoast SEO on your WordPress site.

Note: Always keep the plugin up to date. Yoast regularly releases new versions to ensure it remains compatible with the latest version of WordPress and changes to search engine algorithms.

How to Configure the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin

You can access the Yoast SEO configuration wizard by clicking on “Yoast SEO” in the left-side menu of your WordPress dashboard. 

Follow the instructions in “First-time configuration” to set up Yoast SEO for your site. If you don’t automatically get redirected, click on “Plugins” in the sidebar navigation menu.

Then look for Yoast SEO and click “Finish your first-time configuration.”

Finish your first-time configuration

First, Yoast will optimize your data and fix some technical issues. You don’t need to do anything in this step. Just click “Continue.”

click continue

In the following two steps, you’ll provide some information about your site. Like name, logo, and social profiles.

fill in information about your site

That’s it.

last step: register now button

Even if you do nothing else with the plugin from now on, it has already made a lot of optimizations at this point.

For example, it has created the following:

  • An XML sitemap
  • A robots.txt file
  • Basic schema markup (based on the information you provided in the configuration)

Now, let’s take a look at how Yoast SEO can help you with other areas of SEO.

How to Use Yoast SEO in the WordPress Editor

The WordPress editor is where you’ll interact with the Yoast SEO plugin most often. 

When editing a specific page or post in WordPress, you can either expand the plugin’s settings in the sidebar or use the “Yoast SEO” section at the bottom of the editor. 

Click the Yoast SEO symbol in the right corner of the top menu to expand the sidebar.

Yoast SEO symbol in the right corner of the top menu

Let’s take a closer look at the most important parts. 

Focus Keyphrase

The first section is the “Focus keyphrase.” Here, Yoast asks you to enter a word or phrase that you want to rank for in the search results.

enter focus keyphrase

Tip: To get the actual keyword suggestions with search volumes directly in your WordPress editor, we recommend using Yoast’s integration with Semrush (more on that in the next section).

Once you’ve entered your focus keyphrase, the “SEO Analysis” section will give you direct feedback on how well the keyword is implemented in your text.

SEO Analysis

In the SEO Analysis section, you’ll get an overview of your on-page SEO. The bullets are divided into three categories:

  1. Problems
  2. Improvements
  3. Good results 
SEO Analysis results

When your bullets are green, you’re good to go.

Just remember that these are just recommendations. 

Things like “Keyphrase density” and “Keyphrase length” are arbitrary metrics that may give you an idea about your optimization but shouldn’t be something to follow at all costs. Use your judgment and avoid keyword stuffing. 

Readability Analysis

Readability is essential to good SEO because poorly structured or unclear text can lose readers and confuse search engine crawlers. 

In the “Readability analysis” tab, Yoast analyzes your post to determine how easy it is to read. 

Readability analysis tab

Similar to the “SEO Analysis” section, it provides recommendations on how to improve various aspects of your content’s readability. Such as:

  • Using active voice
  • Short paragraphs and sentences
  • Using enough transition words
Analysis results section

When you click the little “eye” icon next to some of these recommendations, the plugin will highlight relevant passages in your text.

relevant passages in your text highlighted

Google Preview

The “Google preview” section allows you to edit your title tag, URL slug, and meta description. And shows you a preview of your page on the Google SERP (search engine results page).

Google preview section

This is definitely one of the most useful features of Yoast SEO.

Google preview feature overview

To learn more about optimization of these SEO elements, read our detailed guides: 


Schema data helps search engines understand the type of content they’re interacting with.

Schema section

The Yoast default for a post is “article.” But you can customize this setting in the “Schema” tab for your individual posts and pages.

If your content is specific to another category, choose an option that is more accurate.

For example, you can use schema to define your:

  • About page
  • FAQ page
  • Contact page
  • Checkout page
  • And more

Read more on this topic in our guide to schema and structured data.


The next two sections allow you to review and edit how your post will appear once shared to Facebook or Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter preview sections highlighted

It includes the following:

  • Uploading your featured image 
  • Changing your title 
  • Changing your meta description
Facebook preview overview

Side note: If you do not define any of these, social media platforms will use your default WordPress featured image you select elsewhere in the WordPress editor, as well as your title tag and meta description. 


In the “Advanced” section, you can do the following:

  • Prevent search engines from indexing the page
  • Prevent search engines from following links on the page
  • Set up advanced meta robots parameters (such as noarchive or nosnippet)
  • Provide a title for the page’s breadcrumb (more on breadcrumbs later)
  • Set up a canonical URL for the page
Advanced section

The rule of thumb here is simple: 

In 99% of cases, the default settings by Yoast will be sufficient for you. If you don’t know what these settings mean, you probably don’t have to worry about them. 

Yoast SEO and Semrush

The Yoast SEO “Focus keyphrase” is a popular and useful feature that can help you optimize your pages for your target keywords and achieve better Google rankings. 

But you need to carefully select your keyphrase first. 

That’s why Semrush has created a Yoast SEO integration that will allow you to get keyword suggestions directly in the WordPress editor.

To activate the integration, go to the “Integrations” section of the “Yoast SEO” settings in the WordPress menu. 

Then, click “Enable integration.”

Integrations Yoast SEO and Semrush

To use this feature, connect your Semrush account to your Yoast SEO. 

(If you don’t have a Semrush account yet, create a free one. It lets you make up to 10 requests in 24 hours.)

Now go back to your editor and enter your selected keyphrase in the focus keyphrase field in the sidebar. Then click the “Get related keyphrases” button.

Get related keyphrases button highlighted

After connecting to your Semrush account, you can select your target location and get a list of related keyphrases. With search volumes and trend graphs. 

select your target location

(If you have a Yoast SEO Premium account, you’ll also be able to add these keywords to your analysis from here. You can have more focus keyphrases with Premium.)

If you click the “Get more insights at Semrush” link at the bottom of the keyword list, you’ll be redirected to the Keyword Overview tool.

Get more insights at Semrush

Here, you’ll get an extensive overview of your target keyword, including things like:

  • Keyword difficulty
  • Search intent
  • SERP analysis

Plus, you’ll get thousands of keyword suggestions in three categories:

  1. Keyword Variations
  2. Questions
  3. Related Keywords 
Keyword overview tool

If you click the “View all…” buttons found at the bottom of any of these categories, you’ll see the full list of keyword suggestions in Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool.

View all… buttons highlighted

For example, we clicked on the “View all 395,411 keywords” button under “Keyword Variations.” That showed us all the key metrics for all the keywords in the list.

View all 395,411 keywords results page

Here, you can use filters to find the best keywords for you.

different filters shown

Follow our detailed keyword research guide to learn how to find the best and most effective keywords for your website. 

Yoast SEO Settings 

To access Yoast SEO’s sitewide settings, just click the “Settings” link under the “Yoast SEO” section in your WordPress menu. 

Yoast SEO Settings 

Let’s take a look at the four sections of Yoast SEO settings and what you can do in them.

The ‘General’ Section

The “General” section contains various settings in four subsections.

In the “Site features” subsection, you can enable or disable various features (such as the SEO Analysis or Readability analysis features we mentioned earlier).

Site features subsection

You can also see your Yoast SEO sitemap here—just scroll down to the APIs section and click the “View the XML Sitemap” button. (Read our guide to WordPress sitemaps to learn more.)

View the XML Sitemap button highlighted

The “Site basics” subsection allows you to provide basic information about your site.

You can also pick your title separator here.

Site basics subsection

A title separator is a symbol that separates your page title and site name in the title tag.

It looks like this in a SERP snippet:

title separator in SERP snippet

The “Site representation” subsection contains the same information you’ve entered during the initial plugin configuration. It is intended to feed Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Site representation subsection

Finally, the “Site connections” subsection allows you to verify your site in various tools, such as Google Search Console. 

Site connections subsection

The ‘Content Types’ Section

The “Content types” section allows you to decide how various types of content will be displayed in search engines and social media platforms.

The content types include the following:

  • Homepage
  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Landing pages
Content types section - homepage

These are the global settings for individual content types. You can specify them or set them up differently for individual pages in the content editor. 

For example, you can set the default SEO title here, but change it for each page in the “Google Preview” part of the Yoast SEO section in the editor. 

The ‘Categories and Tags’ Section

In the next section, you can set the search appearance and social media appearance for the so-called taxonomies: categories and tags. 

You can also exclude these taxonomies from being indexed by search engines here.

Categories and Tags section

Whether you should do so or not will depend on how actively you use these taxonomies. You can read more about this topic in the “Noindex Unimportant Pages” section of our ultimate WordPress SEO guide. 

The ‘Advanced’ Section

The “Advanced” section of Yoast’s settings has multiple subsections.

Advanced section - breadcrumbs

For example, you can configure your breadcrumbs here. 

Breadcrumb navigation is a text path with links to various folders and subfolders of your website’s structure. It can significantly improve your site's navigation and internal linking.

Yoast will create a code that allows search engines to show your URL in the search results in a breadcrumb format. 

This is what breadcrumbs look like on the SERP:

breadcrumbs on the SERP

Additionally, you’ll be able to enable breadcrumbs for your theme and configure their appearance.

breadcrumbs appearance configuration section

On your site, you can implement breadcrumbs for individual pages or sitewide. The latter will depend on your theme’s or website builder’s compatibility with Yoast. 

In the “Advanced” section, you can also enable or disable and manage various types of archives—namely “Author archives,” “Date archives,” and “Format archives.” 

various types of archives

Whether you’ll use these archives and will have them indexed by Google depends on the nature and purpose of your site. Our WordPress SEO guide can help you decide what’s best for you. 


Can You Use the Yoast SEO Plugin for Free?

Yes, the Yoast SEO plugin has a free version that provides basic SEO functionality for WordPress sites.

There is a premium version of the Yoast SEO plugin. It offers additional features compared to the free version. The Yoast SEO premium version includes the following:

  • Synonyms and related keyphrases
  • Internal linking suggestions
  • Redirect manager
  • Social media previews
  • 24/7 support

Is Yoast SEO Available Only for WordPress?

No, Yoast SEO is not limited to WordPress only. 

Although it’s most well-known for its WordPress version, Yoast SEO offers extensions for other content management systems. Such as Shopify, Neos CMS, TYPO3, and Drupal.

What Are Some Yoast SEO Alternatives?

Here are some popular alternatives to Yoast SEO:

  • All in One SEO: This plugin provides a comprehensive set of features for SEO. When it comes to features, it is very similar to Yoast SEO.
  • Rank Math SEO: This is a relatively new SEO plugin that offers a wide range of features for optimizing a website. 

Both All in One SEO and Rank Math SEO are popular alternatives to Yoast SEO, although not as popular in terms of active installations. 

Do You Really Need an SEO Plugin? 

Using a WordPress SEO plugin provides several advantages over not using one. 

For example, without a plugin, you wouldn’t be able to do some things in WordPress—like editing title tags or noindexing specific pages—without touching the code. 

That being said, having an SEO plugin does not mean your website is 100% SEO-friendly.

To make sure your WordPress site runs smoothly, you can start by conducting a technical SEO audit with a website auditing tool like Semrush’s Site Audit

Author Photo
Vlado has over 8 years of experience in SEO, content strategy, and inbound marketing. He’s the former Head of Content at Mangools, and the owner of several websites. He enjoys explaining complex SEO topics in an easy-to-understand way.
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