WordPress is SEO friendly, but not by default. Anyone who starts a WordPress website and starts looking for useful plugins will come across the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. It’s the most comprehensive, well-thought out SEO plugin for WordPress out on the market so far. It can do basically anything a professional SEO Specialist could wish for (and more).
The main task you have to do is, install & configure a WordPress SEO plugin and trust me there are a lot of SEO plugins out there, but Yoast SEO is the best of all of them. With more than 1 million installs, it has become the best SEO solution for WordPress.
In this post, I will show you how to install and configure Yoast SEO. Even if you are using Yoast plugin for a while, this tutorial will help you to get the full benefit of the plugin.
Before going further, let’s take a look of some of the SEO features offered by Yoast.
- Setting Meta Title and Description for Posts/Pages including Homepage.
- Verifying sites on webmaster tools.
- Configuring Breadcrumbs, Permalinks, and RSS.
- Meta Robots for Different Post Types.
- Integrating Social Profiles with Your Site.
- Creating & Configuring XML Sitemaps.
- Editing Robots.txt and .htaccess file.
- Connecting WordPress site with Google Search Console and much more.
First Installing YOAST SEO
Getting started is easy and simple, you have to install and active Yoast SEO plugin from WordPress dashboard. Once you’ve activated the plugin, you will notice a new option named “SEO” in your WordPress Admin panel.
Setting up the Yoast SEO Plugin
Once you install the Yoast SEO plugin, it’s time to do the setup and select the best options that suit you for better exposure of your blog. Most of the settings I will be selecting here are based on my personal recommendation. Every time you make a change, click on “Save Changes” button to save the setting.
i. Dashboard (General – Yoast SEO)
Click on “Dashboard” from “SEO” option. Here you will find several tabs – General, Features, Your Info, Webmaster Tools, & Security. Let’s start with a General tab.
The most important setting of this tab is enabling “Advanced settings pages”. Make sure that this setting is enabled. You can keep other settings enabled too.
Select “Your Info” tab in this tab you need to provide your website name and the company or person behind it.
Your website name is generally your site’s title and in case If you don’t provide any name, Yoast SEO will automatically use your site’s title as the name. You can also provide an alternative name and if you’ve just changed brand name, you can use this here.
Then you need to choose whether the website is run by a company or a person. If you choose ‘Company’, it will ask you to provide company name and logo else if you choose “Person” simply enter your name only.
After updating this tab, don’t forget to click “Save Changes“.
Webmaster Tools Tab
The next tab is “Webmaster Tools” in this section you can verify different webmaster tools like Google, Bing. Webmaster tools provide detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on different search engines.
Verifying your site on webmaster tools is a bit difficult. If you want to do it manually, you have to add a meta tag or upload a file to your site. But Yoast plugin makes it insanely easy. All you have to do is, enter the meta code provided by search engines.
Again, don’t forget to click “Save Changes“.
ii. Titles & Meta
“Titles and Meta” section is the most important part of this plugin. It has several tabs under in it. I will cover all of them one by one.
The first tab is “General” you can set “Title Separator” from here. Yoast SEO can auto-detect whether it needs to rewrite the titles of your pages. By default it is disabled. I’d suggest you go with the default setting.
You can choose “Title Separator” from here. Title Separator is the symbol that separates post title and site name. This symbol is shown in the search results.
The next tab is “Homepage”, you can configure the Meta title and meta description which will be shown on search engines. While you can use variables to generate title and meta description of the site.
Google shows up 70 characters in title and 156 characters on meta description. So it’s recommended to keep your title and description within these characters.
Then move to “Post Types” WordPress has several post types like posts, pages, media etc. Yoast SEO allows you to set meta titles for these post types. Just keep this as it is.
Yoast SEO also allows you to set title and meta for each post/page separately. It adds a Yoast SEO Meta Box under post editor. It is recommended for SEO to set meta title and description manually for each post/page.
The next tab is “Taxonomies”. You can set meta titles for categories, tags, format etc from here. I prefer going with the default setting. But it depends on your SEO plan. It’s a good practice for SEO to keep tags and categories as no index.
On the next tab “Archives” you can set meta titles for author archives, date archives, search pages and 404 pages. If you are running a multi-author blog, you can set a meta title for Author archives. Otherwise, don’t change anything here.
If you are running a single author blog, you should check disable author archive as it will be same as your homepage. It will prevent duplicate content problems.
The last tab on “Titles & Metas” section is “Other”. The most important thing of this tab is no indexing the “Subpages of archives”. Other settings are fine.
Yoast SEO has added this feature recently. This allows you to integrate your site with your social profiles.
The first tab under social setting is “Accounts”. You need to provide your available social profiles’ URLs to inform Google about your social profiles.
iv. XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap contains all URLs of pages/posts on your site. It helps search engine bots to crawl your URLs and index them quickly. There used to be a time when we need to use several plugins to create XML sitemap in WordPress. But Yoast SEO makes it super easy.
1. General Tab
Here you need to make sure that “XML sitemap functionality” is enabled. Then it will automatically generate a sitemap for your site.
The “Advanced” section allows you to configure breadcrumbs, permalinks, and RSS.
1. Breadcrumbs Tab
The first tab is “Breadcrumbs”. A breadcrumb is a series of connected links based on navigation of a website. If you enable breadcrumbs, it will be shown on your site as well as Google search results. Having breadcrumbs is very important for an eCommerce site. Here’s how it looks in Google search.
Yoast SEO has 4 built-in tools – Bulk editor, File editor, Import and Export and Recalculate SEO Scores. All of these tools are for advanced users. Only use these tools if you know what you are doing. Here are some details of these tools.
- Bulk editor: This editor allows you change the titles and descriptions of your posts in bulk. I don’t suggest this because it will create a lot of duplicate titles and descriptions.
- File editor: This tool allows you to change files like Robots.txt and .htaccess file. Always take a backup of your WordPress blog before editing these files. Don’t do anything here if you aren’t sure what you are doing.
- Import and Export: This tool helps you import SEO settings from other plugins and export SEO setting for re-use on other blogs.
- Recalculate SEO scores: This tool allows you to recalculate your SEO scores for all pieces of content with a focus keyword.
vii. Search Console
Search Console connects your WordPress site with Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster tools).
Once you’ve added your WordPress site to Google Webmaster tools, you can verify it from Yoast SEO Search Console. Just click on “Get Google Authorization Code” and a box will be popped up. Copy and Paste the code into the box and click on “Authenticate”.