Red Light, Green Light, SEO: Yoast Plugin for WordPress Explained

What all is involved in boosting your website’s ranking on Google? For businesses that haven’t dealt with search engine optimization (SEO) before, the term alone can be intimidating. Afterall, SEO sounds very technical. Plus, you’ve probably heard how expensive paid advertising can get with a non-organic SEO plan. But with a good writer and good tools in place, it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. SEO tools, like the Yoast plugin for WordPress, simplifies all the technicalities of creating organic SEO content. But how does it work?

How Does the Yoast Plugin for WordPress Help with SEO?

Once you’re ready to enter your blog into WordPress, go to the ‘Add New Post’  tab found on the left side of the page. Enter the title in the title field. Copy and paste your content into the main window. This will activate the alerts in the Yoast plugin. Scroll to the bottom of your blog in WordPress and you’ll see the Yoast SEO window.

There are two main categoriesReadability Analysis and Focus Keyphrase—which should be marked with a red, orange, or green light. Let these lights serve as your guide to optimizing the content on your blog. Your goal is to get a green light for each of these categories. A red light means that section needs a lot of work. An orange light  means there are a few adjustments that need to be made.

Under these categories are subcategories also marked by a red, orange, or green light. These subcategories don’t necessarily have to all be green in order for you to score a green light in the two main categories. This means you have some wiggle room to write naturally and less like a robot.

The wonderful thing about Yoast is that it makes the rules of SEO pretty easy for writers to understand. Although the rules are pretty straightforward, there’s also the subjective part of content writing that Yoast doesn’t account for. It won’t tell you how to write a more effective title or meta description. It won’t tell you how to persuade the searcher to click through to your website. And it won’t tell you that you need a stronger intro paragraph to keep your audience interested. That’s where having a professional writer helps. But to get you started, let’s take a look at the SEO components Yoast does cover.


What SEO Components Does Yoast Watch For?

Readability Analysis

Sentence Length

If you tend to be wordy, Yoast will challenge you to write more concise sentences. It will alert you with an orange or red light if you have too many long sentences. Why? Studies show that readers tend to stop reading if there are too many long sentences, especially earlier in the copy. Shorter sentences help get your message across to a wider audience. Remember, not everyone who reads your blog is an avid reader.

Rule of thumb: Keep majority of your sentences under 20 words. But it’s okay to mix things up a bit and have a few longer sentences here and there.

Passive Voice

If you’re not a grammar buff, the concept of active vs. passive voice can be a hard one to grasp. But a good writer should be able to ensure that your blog contains mostly an active voice. This is important not only for SEO purposes but also to make your point crystal clear.


Active Voice: The man played a beautiful song.

Passive Voice: A beautiful song was played by the man.

The example above shows how using an active versus passive voice comes across more concise and natural. Notice how the subject of the sentence (the man) is clearly performing the action. When you change it to a passive voice, the man is no longer the focus of the sentence and the sentence becomes awkward and wordy. Yoast will alert you with an orange or red light if you have too many passive sentences.

Rule of thumb: Keep your passive voice to under 25% of your sentences.

Focus Keyphrase

Frequency, Length, Title, Subheadings, Meta Description

When writing your blog, decide what your keyphrase will be. The focus keyphrase is the word or phrase you want your website to rank the highest for. For instance, if you own a pet services company, your keyword phrase may include everything from “pet grooming” and “pet boarding” to “dog camps” and “dog training.” This keyword phrase should be repeated throughout your blog but in moderation. What Yoast doesn’t account for is how competitive your keyphrase is compared to other marketers. That’s where a good content strategist comes in handy.

Once you dump your blog into WordPress, enter your keyphrase in the Focus Keyphrase field. From there, Yoast will tell you exactly what needs work regarding your keyphrase. Does it show up enough or too much throughout your blog? Yoast triggers an alert if the keyphrase appears in more than 2.5% of your content. Anything above 2.5% appears unnatural. It will also trigger an alert if your keyword phrase is too long or if it doesn’t appear in the title and meta description. You also want to include subheadings (also known as H2, H3, H4) that help break the content up, making it easier to read. Subheadings should introduce the paragraph and be relevant to your keyphrase.

Text Length

Because longer posts outrank shorter posts, Yoast recommends blogs of at least 300 words. You’ll notice a red or orange light if your word count is too low. For a shorter blog, make sure the you optimize it to be useful and informative, not spammy. Use each and every sentence to drive your message home. Blogs of 1000 to 2500 words have a better chance of ranking higher on Google, but you probably want these longer form blogs written by a content writer who can produce professional content and can recommend images to go along with the blog.

Images are also important to make your content interesting. If you don’t include any images, Yoast will remind you with a red or orange light.


Last but certainly not least are internal and external links. The Yoast plugin for WordPress checks for both.

Internal links take the reader from one page on your website to another page on your website. For instance, if you’re talking about how to train your dog, you can link the words “how to train your dog” to your pet training webpage on your website.

External links take the reader from your website to another. These are typically used to validate the credibility of your blog. For instance, if you write about how long it takes to train a dog, you can link the words, “time it takes to train your dog,” to a specific study from a credible source, like the Humane Society.

As long as you adjust your content according to Yoast’s instructions, you should eventually get a green light in both the Readability and Keyphrase categories (you may need to hit the Save as Draft button to refresh the page to see if your adjustments helped or not).  Remember, you don’t need to get a green light in all the subcategories. Just aim for green in the two main categories, and you’re off to a good start.

Are your blogs not bringing enough traffic to your website even by using Yoast?  RedShift Writers provides consultation and writing services to generate more interest in your content. Connect with us today.


Cecile BaltazarRed Light, Green Light, SEO: Yoast Plugin for WordPress Explained
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