WordPress is an excellent website creation tool. It’s a simple but effective CMS that makes it possible for just about anyone to make a website, whether you’ve got experience as a web developer or not. By streamlining the website design process, it cuts out a lot of work while still providing what marketers need for creating content.

WordPress gets even better when you throw plugins into the mix. Many of these plugins include a package of features that integrate seamlessly into the existing code of your WordPress site. There are tons of plugins out there, which means that there’s also a mix of good and bad options. This WordPress Plugin Snapshot will explore one of the most popular plugins out there: Yoast SEO. This plugin is bound to take your marketing to the next level.

What Is Yoast SEO?

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Yoast SEO is a free — though you can pay for an updated Premium package — WordPress plugin that includes a handful of features built to raise your site’s SEO and the overall quality of your site’s content. WordPress already does a decent job of helping you with your SEO, but Yoast helps you improve your SEO as you work through content, which makes the process easier than having to go back and change your work to fit keywords and optimize SEO.

The process starts when you input focus keywords that your marketing strategy has decided on for a particular piece of content. As you write the article and adjust it for better SEO, Yoast uses those focus keywords to ensure that you get the most out of this plugin. Yoast also gives you more overall control over how your site gains higher SEO. Here are a few specific ways that Yoast helps pump up your SEO.

Content Quality

Yoast improves your SEO not just by forcing keywords into content, which can often make copy feel awkward and redundant, but by helping you create content that becomes a natural, smooth source of SEO. As you write, Yoast analyzes the overall quality of the content, from the lengths of sentences and paragraphs, to how often and how effectively passive voice is used. It also checks to see if you’re using your focus keyword enough for the length of the content. The plugin will even check to see if you’ve used enough effective transition words to make your content flow smoothly.

But this plugin does more than just help you strengthen the content itself. Yoast further ensures that your content will boost SEO by analyzing your meta description for quality and length, and by checking to see if your meta includes the focus keyword. Yoast also creates a preview of how your content will appear in search results so you don’t have to go back and make changes once the content is already published.

Finally, Yoast’s Page Analysis will also check to see if the images embedded in your content contain an alt tag with the focus keyword. In essence, Yoast optimizes every facet of content for better SEO. And that’s not even all this plugin does.

Search Control

While you definitely want your website to be at the top of the search rankings, you want the path to the right pages to be clear. For example, why would you want a Google search to link to a blog post from five years ago when you could ensure that the link goes to a more recent post with updated information? SEO is not only intended to put you at the top of the stack, but also to direct website visitors to the most important content at that time. With Yoast, you can set which pages of your website Google places in search results. Without a setting, Yoast will work with search engines to link to index results according the categories you designate.

Speaking of categories, Yoast also allows you to set multiple categories for indexing, but just so you don’t get carried away, you must choose a Primary Category that’s given priority over the others. These search helpers give you more control over your SEO. You know your brand and content the best, so take advantage of that control.

Social Media Integration

Even if it doesn’t directly affect on-page SEO, social media is an effective way to direct traffic to your websites and increase page views. Yoast understands this, so it comes with Facebook’s OpenGraph, which helps you make the most of social meta tags. You can also preview how a Facebook or Twitter post will look when you share your content, ensuring that you’ll get the most out of your social media marketing. Before long, Yoast will also support Google+ tags, allowing you to share your content in even more places.

XML Sitemaps

Yoast boasts the most advanced XML sitemaps of all the many WordPress plugins. With a simple click of a box, Yoast generates a sleek, effective XML sitemap and notifies search engines like Google and Bing when that sitemap has been created. Yoast also includes images in the sitemap so they’re easier to find in search engines. And more image views drive even more traffic to your website.

Anti-Scraper RSS

Are you tired of scrapers using your content without linking back to your original work? Yoast will make it easier for you to get the credit you deserve by enhancing RSS feeds. Unlike many other RSS plugins, which generally only let you place content either before or after the post, Yoast allows you to post content both before and after the end of posts in your RSS feed, allowing you to link back to your website and the original content.

All of this only scratches the surface of what Yoast SEO is capable of. Plus, Yoast is constantly improving its plugin, so you can expect even more great features to come out over time. Out of the continuously growing pool of WordPress plugins, Yoast is one that you definitely can’t pass up, especially if you want to optimize your content for better SEO and overall quality. Stay tuned for more WordPress Plugin Snapshots from CopyPress!