There are a seemingly endless number of tools that exist to help enhance your website's SEO.
Yoast SEO is one of those tools—it's one of the most popular SEO tools for people who use WordPress, touting itself as a user-friendly plugin that you download to your WordPress console. Once activated, Yoast SEO goes to work helping you structure your content around your main and secondary keywords.
With both free and paid versions, Yoast SEO has a lot to offer anyone who creates content on a WordPress website. But if you're not sure if it's the right plugin for you and your content goals, read on to learn more about its features for both versions.
Yoast SEO Pricing
- Free version allows you to optimize for 1 keyword
- Paid version costs $89/year + tax and contains all functionality
What is Yoast SEO and What Does It Do?
Yoast SEO is a search engine optimization plugin for WordPress users. It's currently the most-downloaded SEO plugin and has a near-perfect rating in the WordPress Plugins database.
The tool has several helpful features in both its free and paid versions for almost anyone who focuses on optimized content for search engines, from beginners to experts. Not only can you use Yoast SEO to optimize content you've written in WordPress, but you can also use it to get your pages noticed in Google and Bing with its simple configurations of sitemaps, suggestions for cleaning up your URLs, and more.
The following are some of the most beneficial features you'll find in the free version of Yoast SEO (I'll dig deeper into the paid version a bit later):
Using Yoast SEO for the technical stuff
Working with the technical aspects of SEO can be a little tricky, even for experts. Sitemaps, robots.txt, and other SEO factors are incredibly important for your pages to rank in search engines. But you probably don't want to spend a lot of time figuring them out and implementing them yourself.
Yoast SEO can create an XML sitemap for you, which tells search engines how to navigate the various pages on your website. The plugin will also handle the robots.txt file to instruct web crawlers how to crawl your site. With each piece of content that you create, Yoast will allow you to decide if you'd like search engine to be able to crawl this specific page or not. For example, you may want to tell search engines not to crawl your About Me, Contact, or login pages since they may not be so important to your search results.
You can also use this "don't crawl" feature if you create duplicate posts on different websites, and you only want Google to see that post on its original site. The plugin can also change your page's settings so that links you include in a blog post won't be followed by search engines, i.e. if you want all of the links on that page to be nofollow links.
Here's what these settings look like in your WordPress dashboard:
Optimizing your content
There are several elements to SEO beyond just keywords. The way you use your keywords and write your content will also affect how you rank in search engines. Yoast SEO paints a full picture of your content in a simple way that even beginners can understand.
One of the most helpful tools in the plugin is its Readability Analysis:
With this tool, you'll learn a few tricks for writing content that can improve its readability for your audience. Content that's easy to read, broken up by headings, and uses short paragraphs tend to be the ones people keep reading. Therefore, Google prefers them, and Yoast SEO can help you achieve optimal scores in each area.
The plugin will, of course, also focus on optimizing your page with the keywords you choose:
You'll see that this blog post I'm working on gets the green smiley face from Yoast SEO for its primary keyword, "stem for kids," but it could still use a little more optimization for the best results. Yoast SEO suggests that adding the keyword in a few more spots and using internal links could help this piece of content rank for that phrase.
Optimizing social media posts for your blog content
Some of the best content on the web is easily shareable, making it quick and convenient for people to send a link to the content to their Facebook or Twitter profiles. Yoast SEO can make your content a little more shareable with its social media optimization features.
Yoast SEO currently lets you optimize what audiences on Facebook and Twitter will see when someone shares your content. You can change the title and description if you want them to be different from what you have set in your meta tags, as well as the image that shows up in the feed. I like that the plugin gives you the recommended sizes for images in each platform.
This feature is a bit limited, though, because there are no settings for other networks you might want to optimize. You'll also need the premium version of Yoast SEO to preview your post before it starts getting shares.
Free vs Paid Version of Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO's free version is a comprehensive tool that helps you with all of the basic behind-the-scenes SEO stuff for your content. There is a paid version, though, that might be more beneficial for those who want to dig deeper into their on-site SEO. Some of the key features you'll get with the paid version include:
- Social media previews: See how your shared content will look on Twitter and Facebook from within the Yoast SEO tool.
- Optimize content for multiple keywords: While the free version lets you optimize your content around your main keyword, the premium version enables you to add synonyms, more keywords, and related keywords to create a more comprehensive SEO profile.
- Content update reminders: Yoast SEO Premium gives you reminders to upgrade your most important content pieces at least once every six months.
- Internal link suggestions: Find relevant pages on your site to place internal links to within your content, which helps build a strong SEO profile.
- 24/7 support: Get around-the-clock access to the Yoast SEO support team for one year (the length of your access to the paid plugin). Free members only have access to the knowledge base.
Is Yoast SEO's Paid Version Worth It?
Most people who upgrade to Yoast SEO Premium do so for the ability to optimize their content using more than one keyword. The other features can be beneficial, but they're not a necessity if you know the basics of SEO anyway.
The problem with using multiple keywords is that Yoast SEO Premium doesn't necessarily help your keywords work well with each other. Instead, you'll need to consider the optimization of each keyword separately, which is how the plugin gives you recommendations. It's not possible to add multiple keywords into a title with limited space, for example, which is what Yoast SEO suggests when you have more than one keyword.
Yoast SEO Premium currently costs $89 + tax for one year, which works out to about $8 a month. It's not a lot, but it's probably not a necessary cost for most.
The Verdict: Is Yoast SEO the Best Optimization Tool for WordPress?
It's difficult to argue that there's a better free plugin for SEO than Yoast's free version. It has several tools that make SEO less complicated for anyone, from beginners to experts.
Where Yoast SEO falls somewhat short is in its Premium version, which doesn't seem to have the functionality you'd expect for $89/year just for one site. Once you work with Yoast SEO for a while, you'll start to see optimization opportunities in your content for yourself, making it easier for you to add in more keywords and frame your content around them without paying for help.