WordPress is probably the best platform out there when it comes to SEO. Its design, options and features have been built in a way to make it easy for search engines to navigate through each page and post of your website and index it all. So, since you’ve already spent time and energy to get to know your WordPress site and learn how to manage and edit it – why not go the extra mile and make all those efforts worthwhile? In this article we’ll cover details on how to use Yoast SEO plugin with your WordPress site.
If you start reading and learning about SEO, you will soon find yourself overwhelmed by its fast moving trends and the continuously changing Google algorithms. Therefore, getting help from a third party SEO plugin is the best thing that can happen to you.
The Yoast SEO plugin is probably one of the most valuable and powerful tools out there, that any WordPress user should know about and use. It makes it fairly easy to control your meta description, keywords and titles, manage your sitemap and decide how each page will look like when shared on your social media platforms. Though it comes in both, a Free and Premium package, all the crucial features and options are included in the Free version, yay!
So, let’s dive right into it. We’ll be mentioning where to get it from, how to set it up and get the most out of its settings.
Installing Your Yoast SEO Plugin
If you haven’t heard of the Yoast plugin before no need to worry, we’ll get you in the cool kids zone in no time. If you do have it installed and running this could be an opportunity to learn more about all its secret tabs and functions (described in the following sections).
Now, go to your WordPress dashboard, access your Plugins tab and click on the Add New option. Search for Yoast SEO, install it then activate it. Alright, easy part done, let’s get to the fun one.
Note: If you have been using a different plugin for SEO purposes before, you can go ahead and import your settings. To do this, got to the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard, choose Tools then Import and Export. There is a special section for those who use HeadSpace2, All-in-One SEO, WooThemes SEO or wpSEO. With all other plugins, you can export the settings in a zip file on your desktop and upload it to Yoast.
Setting Up Your Yoast SEO Plugin
No matter whether you are starting from scratch or have your SEO settings imported, there is no harm in going through all of the steps and checking/adjusting certain settings.
Enable Advanced Options
First things first, lets make sure that the advanced settings are enabled, as it will offer more features that can be used for your site. To do so, go to SEO > General (or dashboard), then to the features tab. In here find the option for advanced settings, enable it, and then update settings. You’ll now have all the options showing under the SEO tab.
From your SEO tab choose General. Here, you will find the Introductory Tour, if you need one, more information about the updates as well as the option to restore the plugin’s default settings – if you ever need to.
Moving to the Your Info tab. Take the time to fill this in, as all this information will be included in the Knowledge Graph results and contribute to your Google ranking score. If you’re registering your website as a company, you can even add your logo to it, which is great.
Next step, Webmaster Tools. This section asks and encourages you to prove your site ownership. Why is this important you ask? Well, Google cares much about privacy, and in order to grant you access to stats and data about your website – you need to prove that you are the owner of it. To verify your site, you can go ahead and use one the listed options: Alexa, Bing Webmaster, Google Search Console or Yandex Webmaster. Here’s a great example and detailed guide from MOZ on how to verify your site with Google Search Console as well as one from Google’s Support Team.
Select the Google Search Console option, which will take you to the Webmaster Central page. Enter your website url, then from the Alternate methods choose the “HTML Tag” option. This will generate a meta tag for you. Copy the code inside the quotation marks (including the quotation marks) and paste it into your Google Search Console box. Hit Save Changes. Now, you can go back to the Google Webmaster Central page and hit Verify there too, and you’re done!
Lastly, the Security tab. This might be relevant only if you have multiple users with access to your dashboard, blog posts and pages and you don’t want them to be able to tweak SEO options randomly. So you can skip this!
Titles and Metas
Now let’s focus on how your site appears in Search Engine Result pages (SERP). From your SEO tab choose Titles and Metas, this will bring you to a whole new section full of options and boxes.
General – most of us go with the standard title separator (the first, default choice), but know you can always change that if you want to. The “Force Rewrite Titles” option is there for cases when your site name appears multiple times in the title, or you have random words (built-in your WordPress theme) messing up your own titles.
Homepage – To get a snippet of how your Homepage looks now when you search for it, just press on “edit the front page itself” and scroll way down to your Yoast SEO section. Don’t like how it looks? Go ahead and edit the snippet, but we’ll get back to this later in this article.
Post Types – here’s where the real fun begins. These indicators you will be able to set for your pages, posts, photos and video, etc.
Title template – if you want all your blog posts to appear in a consistent format, this is where you set the rules and the information will fill in automatically for each new post. Take a look here at the full list of variables you can use.
Meta description template – You can fill this in with a standard short description of your business, otherwise if left blank and not adjusted manually for each post – the search engines will add an excerpt from your page content.
Meta Robots – Unless you have pages that you don’t want to be indexed by the search engines leave this box disabled.
Date in snippet preview – This depends on how often you blog, and whether your content has any time relevance. If it does, you can enable this box (usually suggested to news or update type of stories, otherwise keep it off).
Yoast SEO Meta Box – again, if you have multiple users on your site, and you don’t want them to be able to manipulate the SEO Meta Box for each page and post, you can hide it. Otherwise, we suggest keeping it.
Taxonomies – this is in case you have a large blog, with categories and tags to keep all the posts organized. In this section you can set a certain format for those pages, similar to what you did in your Post Types tab. Just be aware, if you use the same structure as in the Post Types tab, you’ll need to enable the noindex, follow option, to not get penalized by Google for duplicate content.
Archive – Though having archived content, based on the date you’ve published makes it a lot easier for your readers to navigate through older posts, it may create troubles to your SEO. Sometimes search engines consider them duplicate content, so this section allows you to disable their indexation all together or create a special format of their display on SERPs. Also in this section you can set certain titles/text to appear on your special pages, such as 404 for example.
Other – this section is pretty self explanatory, as it provides a description for each box.
Still with us? Need a coffee break? Go ahead and treat yourself with one, as we’ve covered the basic crucial settings.
The next part is taking care of your Social Media Sharing looks. From your SEO tab in your dashboard choose the Social option, which will lead you to a section where you can fill in all the info about your social media presence. By completing the Accounts part, your social profiles will be linked to your site for all search engines.
Now, go through each social tab separately and add the specifics on how and what you want to appear on that platform when your site is shared. In the Facebook tab for example, you can also add Open Graph meta data to your site which will control what type of text and image is used when one of your pages or posts is shared on Facebook. Do upload a default Image for pages and posts which do not include a featured one. You can also link your Facebook Page Admin to your site. This will give you access to your Facebook Insights for your site, through which you can track the traffic you get from Facebook, how often your pages get shared, liked and a lot of other useful insights. A quick guide on how to do it properly.
Similar settings go for your Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ accounts. What is great about the Yoast SEO plugin, is that it guides you through the process and always provides an extra description for the tabs/features that sound unfamiliar.
An XML sitemap is a type of document that helps Google and other search engines better understand your site, your urls, pages and everything that needs to be indexed. Yoast makes this part a lot easier for you, it automatically generates and updates your sitemap whenever you add new content to your site and informs Google about it. Here, you also get to decide what type of content you want to be included in your sitemap and indexed by Google. Yoast even allows you to exclude specific posts from your sitemap (you would need to specify their ID numbers).
Breadcrumbs – though breadcrumbs will not impact significantly your Google ranking, it’s useful to have them enabled if you have a more complex site structure, with multiple categories and hidden pages – as it helps the user navigate and understand how to find things on your site (i.e. www.flothemes/themes/porto). Unfortunately this is not as easy as clicking enable in the Yoast settings box. You will need to edit your theme and add some special code to it, as described the following tutorial.
Permalinks – This section allows you to choose whether you want to keep the clean and organized structure of your links, clean up your links from all the weird variables which have been added at the end of it, etc.
RSS – these options are here for extra protection of your content and copyrights. If you’ve had situations in the past when your posts have been copy pasted on other websites, without giving you any credit or linking the content to its source, and you want to avoid this in the future – you can fill in this section with your content and links which will appear in the RSS feeds and link readers back to your site. This does not prevent scrapers from stealing your information, but it does give you credit and additional site traffic.
This section gives you a few powerful and neat shortcuts, such as the Bulk Editor and File Editor. If you realize at some point that you need to go over a huge stack of posts and pages, changing their titles and descriptions – this can be a pain, having to open each page and post editor at a time and make the edit. Well, the Bulk Editor is here to make things easy for you.
The File Editor allows you to easily edit your robots.txt file as well as your .htaccess file.
Also here you will find the option to import / export your SEO settings, which we recommend doing, just to have a backup file, as well as Recalculate Your SEO scores.
We’ve been over this slightly at the beginning of this article, while proving ownership of your site in the Webmaster Tools section under General Settings. Well, you must also know that having your website connected to Google Search Console, lets you track how Google is indexing your pages and whether there are any errors that your site visitors have encountered. Once you know about them it’s easy to fix them right from your admin area, by creating a redirect for your broken links. So better get this done too!
And this is it. You are done with setting up your Yoast SEO plugin. Time to open that champagne bottle! Well, almost, let’s just go through a quick overview of how to use Yoast.
Yoast SEO Toolbox
Open any page or blog post that you have on your site and scroll to the bottom of it. That’s where you’ll find your Yoast SEO toolbox, which is fairly easy to edit and guides your though the process of improving your posts and making them see friendly. The Green dot means that your post is doing good, the orange one means you can work on some things to improve your post/page, while the red dot means it’s a poorly written/structured SEO wise. If you see a grey dot, that means you need to add more info.
So, the Snippet preview shows exactly what this page/post will look like on a SERP. Editing will directly influence your score (red, orange or green) as well as catch more attention among users who scroll through from the results page. So make it catchy but also relevant. There’s nothing more disappointing then opening a link, and not finding the content you were promised to find. Next is the Focus Keyword box. We find it helpful to include our Focus Keyword in the title too, and thorough out the post.
Another wonderful thing about Yoast is that it shows you what you are doing well and what you need to improve. The Content Analysis section will very thoroughly point out each mistake or strength and provide recommendations. SEO just got a lot easier at this point, don’t you think?
If you don’t know where to start, we suggest you open your All Posts page first and analyze those green, yellow, red and gray dots. That will guide you to the posts that need most of your attention. Then do the same for your All Pages section.
Though Yoast is a very powerful and useful tool to use and help you improve your SEO scores, don’t let it put you in a box. Having all those dots green may seem to be the ultimate staircase to the first page of Google Search – but it’s not. While most of the recommendations and limits set by the Yoast plugin are helpful, not all of them will be logical and necessary for you to apply. Keep it in the Green – Orange range, and focus more on making your content entertaining, informative, relatable and sharable. After all, your main asset is your personality and creativity, so add some humor and uniqueness to your content and we promise, it will give fruitful results.
Note: If you have an older version then Yaost SEO v3.2.4, we highly urge you to get that updated as it has been recently announced that the earlier versions have a security vulnerability which may give other people access to your SEO settings. More here.