How To Use Yoast's SEO Plugin For WordPress
One of the world's most installed but underused WordPress plugins is SEO for WordPress by Yoast.
Almost everyone who starts a self-hosted WordPress site will quickly find this plugin to be amongst the many essential plugins they will need.
The reason it is essential is because it comprehensively deals with your on-page search engine optimisation. It is well designed, well laid out and covers pretty much everything that even a professional SEO company would do for you.
But as I said, it is often underused. This is because many people can see it as a bit complex, especially as a beginner.
On top of that, I think there is a misconception that you just install it, activate it and it will magically do everything for you. That's not the case, and in this guide I'm going to explain the major things you will need to do to get the most out of the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.
Installing And Understanding The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin
You install the plugin in exactly the same way as for any other WordPress plugin.
Once installed and activated, there are two main areas you need to understand if you want to get the most out of the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.
The first area is the actual initial configuration of the plugin. Your initial configuration will dictate the power you get out of using the plugin.
The second area is around understanding the ongoing use of the plugin when you create and publish content.
How To Configure The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin
I can't cover everything in a short blog post, but I am going to whizz through the main things you need to do to configure the plugin so that it benefits your on-page SEO and site visibility.
First you should verify your Google Search Console account. You can do this very quickly and easily, and by doing this you link your Google Search Console account to your website. If you don’t have an account, set one up here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/
The second key thing you should do is to go to the Titles & Meta tab and click on other settings. From there you should make sure that the following boxes are checked:
- Noindex subpages of archives
- Add noodp and noydir to meta robots tag sitewide
Thirdly, you should click on the archives tab and make sure the duplicate content prevention boxes are ticked. This will stop archive pages from being crawled, which could create a duplicate content issue.
The next thing I would do, although it's not essential, is to go to the social tab and fill in all the details for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in order to maximise the integration between your site and your social media presence. You should always make sure if you do fill in these details that the add open graph meta data box is ticked as this is especially useful for Facebook.
One really great feature of the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin which you must make sure you configure is the XML sitemaps options.
A sitemap is great for telling search engines about your site and helping them to crawl the site more easily.
The configurations for sitemaps are quite straightforward, but I would consider ticking the tags tick box under exclude taxonomies.
I can't go into this topic in detail here, but basically if you don't exclude tags and categories then you can run into duplicate content problems. You can also Noindex and Nofollow tags and categories within the Titles & Metas section of the plugin.
Some people like to exclude categories and tags entirely from being crawled, where as other people only exclude tags. It's entirely up to you, and you should do your own research, but I would usually exclude both categories and tags, so that only the actual content pages are indexed and followed.
The final configuration option you should take a look at is the permalink settings. Before you touch anything, you should make sure you are using “Pretty Permalinks”. Pretty Permalinks basically strip unwanted information from your URL, making it more user and search engine friendly.
The permalink settings can then mostly be ticked, apart from those highlighted by the plugin as not recommended.
Using The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin When Creating Content
Once activated, when you are creating a new blog post, you will notice a new meta box has appeared underneath the main WordPress editor.
This contains vital information about your writing quality.
It will show you what the title will look like in a search engine, what the URL will look like and what the meta description will look like.
You can also fill in a focus keyword. This is the main keyword you want to your blog post to rank for. By filling in this keyword it will allow the plugin to run a check to make sure it's been used to an appropriate density.
You can also fill in an SEO title form field. Sometimes your blog post won't have the most descriptive title for a human beings, if you are writing for search engine visibility. By completing this option, the plugin will display the post title for visitors on your site, but will use the search engine friendly title within the <title> tags within your HTML markup.
Once you have written your content you can view the content analysis recommendations from the plugin.
Remember that these are not always to be followed 100%, as you should be writing for human beings not search engines. But they are a great way of seeing how close to an “ideal” structure your content is in relation to search engine optimisation.
The key here is the balance between readability and ranking. However, there are fundamentals that you should always follow, if for example content analysis says you do not have image alt tags written for images you have embedded in your post, then it's critical that basics like this are corrected. When they are, the plugin will show a green icon rather than a red.
Take a look at the Yoast SEO plugin today
If you run a self hosted WordPress site and you are not using this plugin then you really should be installing it and configuring the basics today.
Not only will it allow your future content to be much better optimised for search, but it will also allow you to go through your old content and tweak it to get a few more of those content analysis options turning green. Going back over your old content will also allow you to look at building internal links between relevant content you have added since, which will help with visitor retention and lower your bounce rate.
Once you have started to optimise your content, and activated the main global options in the plugin I have outlined in this guide, you can be confident your site is far more focused on search engine optimisation and visibility. As long as you are focused on that content also delivering readability and value to human visitors, then you could go a long way to boosting your rankings very quickly.
Seems too complicated? Ask us about WordPress SEO packages and we’ll do the hard work for you.
Want to learn about WordPress sites and hosting for yourself? Why not check out the beginners resources at firstsiteguide.com (Opens in a new tab).