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 the 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. However there are some fundamentals to SEO that rarely change and will help you rank better with Google. 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 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.
Yoast ACF Extension
Now that you’ve added the Yoast SEO plugin, if you are using Flothemes latest themes, you’ll want to add the Yoast ACF Extension so that Yoast can read the page content to give you recommendations for the pages.
Add the ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO plugin activate it, and then you’ll be able to review and analyse all the page content built with our layout builder.
Setting Up 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.
Note that you can either go through all of these manually, to better understand your plugin, or opt for the Yoast SEO Configuration wizard. Here’s InMotion explaining how to run the wizard.
Go to SEO on the left sidebar, into your General tab. You’ll land on your Yoast SEO Dashboard. Here you’ll find notifications about various updates and issues that may require your immediate attention. Do check this out from time to time for a quick overview.
This tab includes a list of options and functionalities that you can enable or disable, depending on the result you’re interested in. Let’s quickly go over each:
SEO analysis – we recommend keeping this option On, as it allows Yoast to make suggestions on ways you can improve your website copy for SEO.
Readability analysis – another option we suggest keeping on, as it offers improvement recommendations for your content structure.
Cornerstone content – Yoast will allow you to mark certain pages & posts as “cornerstone content” for your site, meaning emphasizing the importance of certain information on your site. We’ll speak about it more in the Yoast SEO Toolbox section of this article.
Text link counter – this option allows Yoast to count your internal links in posts. It counts both, the links inside your posts, and the links that come to your post. Having this option enabled will allow you to instantly see which posts are hardly linked to. If it’s an important post, you’ll know you need some work done, to improve its structure.
XML Sitemaps – keep it enabled. Also check out section below for more information about sitemaps.
Ryte integration – keep this enabled if you want Yoast to do a free indexability check (see if it’s indexable) for your site, and notify you when it’s not.
Admin bar menu – this option adds a menu with shortcuts to various important Yoast settings to your admin bar.
Security: no advanced settings for authors – Yoast explains this nicely inside your dashboard: The advanced section of the Yoast SEO meta box allows a user to remove posts from the search results or change the canonical. These are things you might not want any author to do. That’s why, by default, only editors and administrators can do this. Setting to “Off” allows all users to change these settings.
Next step. 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!
You’ll want to start with filling some of the basic, important info about your business, such as name, logo, etc. You can do that by accessing SEO >> Search Appearance >> General. Check out the section called Knowledge Graph, all the details you fill out in this section will have an impact on your Google ranking score. If you’re registering your website as a company, you can even add your logo to it, which is great.
Now let’s focus on how your site appears in Search Engine Result pages (SERP). Inside your Search Appearance section, click on the tab called Content Type. This will bring you to a whole new section full of options and boxes.
Posts, Pages, etc- here’s where the real fun begins. These indicators you will be able to set for your pages, posts, photos and video, etc.
SEO title – 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 – 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.
Show Post/Page/etc in search results? – If you set it to No, it will block your pages or posts from Google index by applying a meta robots tag. Keep it on Yes, if you want everything indexed.
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.
When you upload an image to your WordPress website, it creates a separate page with that image. So, if you upload hundreds of images on your site, you will have hundreds of poor pages (SEO wise) with no unique content on them. This is bad for your SEO. That’s why Yoast redirects all these pages to the images themselves, getting rid of those poor pages. To make sure this feature works properly, go to your SEO >> Search Appearance >> Media tab, and see if the Media & attachment URLs are set to Yes.
If you’ve had this set to No for a while, please check this article about the Yoast SEO bug with version 7.0, as it may negatively impact your SEO.
Use this tab 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 Content Types tab. Just be aware, if you use the same structure as in the Content Types tab, you’ll need to enable the noindex, follow option, to not get penalized by Google for duplicate content.
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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.
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.
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.
Still with us? Need a coffee break? Go ahead and treat yourself with one, as we’ve covered the basic crucial settings.
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. 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, such as broken links or 404 pages. 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!
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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 enable 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.
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. Go to SEO >> General >> Features, and make sure the XML Sitemap is set to ON.
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.
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 SEO 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, as your SEO text has not been added yet (you haven’t added your Focus Keyword or tweaked the Snippet Preview).
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. It’s helpful (even necessary) to include your 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 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.
If you want a specific image, title or description showing up on Facebook or Twitter, when you share your page/post there, you can do so by overriding the default settings via the Social tab here (shown on image). Also, if you’re having issues with the image that appears on social media, or have updated it, but the new one doesn’t show up, check out this article on How to fix the wrong Facebook image thumbnail using Yoast.
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.