How to Get the Most out of the Yoast SEO Plugin
There’s only one requirement to using the Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress – you must have the self-hosted version vs. the free version. Most WordPress themes come out of the box with Jet. Every now and then I work with a partner that users Jet and it works for them. But the majority use Yoast and it’s not hard to understand why. There’s a reason that something like 35% of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress. It’s a user friendly CMS with ways to build that don’t involve hard coding a site. WordPress is largely made up of plugins that provide easy ways for non-developers to add functionality to their blogs. Yoast is a plugin that helps users easily optimize their blog for search.
Yoast makes it easy to cover both the SEO basics for content as well as the technical best practices that makes your site smoother for both users and Google.
Setting up the yoast Basics
Once you’ve uploaded the plugin, you will find it in the left side rail of your WP admin dashboard. It’s a Y logo and says SEO next to it. Under the Y SEO, there are several important sections you will need to go into. There is General, Search Appearance, Search Console, Social and Tools.
The General Section
Starting with the General section, there is a tab on that screen called Features. The most important element to enable on this screen is the XML sitemaps. Once this is enabled, every time you publish a post, the link will automatically feed to the XML sitemap. This helps Google’s efficiency in crawling and indexing your blog pages.
Why XML sitemaps are important for your site
The SEO analysis and the Readability analysis functions are nice to have, especially as you’re learning the basics of SEO, but they should be used directionally. Using natural variations of key phrases may cause your readability score to be lower, but that’s actually the better strategy for SEO.
There is another tab under the General section that says Webmaster Tools. Under this tab, you can use the boxes to verify your Webmaster Tools accounts from Google Search Console, Bing, Baidu and Yandex. Most necessary is Google Search Console, but if you already have a GSC account set up, you don’t need to add anything to these fields.
If you do use this area, this feature will add a verification meta tag on your homepage, which basically gets your data tracking. If your site is already verified, you can just forget about these.
The Search Appearance Section
On the first screen under this section, you can add your homepage SEO title and your homepage meta description. For the best practices on how to write those, check out our BlogHer U post on how to optimize your pages for SEO.
You can also select whether your website represents an organization or a person. This is related to your organization schema and potentially your future knowledge graph. If you choose Organization, you’ll be asked to also enter the name of the organization, your organization’s logo (112x112px, at minimum, square is best.) And if you choose Person, you’ll just need to enter the name of the person. You only want this schema to be on one page of your site, typically the homepage.
Another important tab in Search Appearance section is breadcrumbs. On this tab, make sure to mark them as enabled. Breadcrumbs help your users better navigate your site. You’ll often see breadcrumbs at the top of posts that show the trail of clicks you made to get to that landing page.
It might look something like: Home -> Food -> Breakfast Recipes -> Sausage Frittata
Each of those phrases give signals to Google as to what content your webpage covers. Whenever you can add structured data markup to your pages to help Google
Breadcrumbs can also be shown in Google for a better user experience. Instead of exposing the URL in the search results, which may or may not be helpful depending on the level of slug optimization, Google will now sometimes show the breadcrumbs.
Examples of breadcrumbs in Google search results:
Yoast SEO Meta Box
The Yoast SEO Meta Box is where you will optimize the SEO for each blog post. This box will appear on each new post page. This is where you complete many of the on-page SEO elements for each individual blog post.
In this box, the most important fields are:
SEO title – this is where you can differentiate your article headline from your SEO optimized headline.
If you need to modify the canonical tag, this is where you can find that field. One example of when you might need to do this is if you’re syndicating content from another site. Here is more information on canonical tag best practices for publishers.
If you ever need to noindex a piece of content, you can do that here
You can optimize your URL slug in this area, as well as at the top of the WP post template. You don’t need to modify in both areas.
adds self-referencing canonical tags to your blog posts (read more on canonical tags)
adds open graph tags to each post (OG tags are similar to meta tags but designed for Facebook)
on the post template, there will now be an SEO box for you to add an HTML title and meta description
auto generates XML sitemaps
easy to update robots.txt file
comes with an easy redirect manager for you to clean up your old content (this is the only feature that’s not offered on the free version)
advanced yoast functionality
easy ways to set your blog up with schema.org code, which helps enhance your search results
easily enable breadcrumbs which helps users navigate the site easier + added SEO signals
you can set templates for posts, pages, custom post types, taxonomies and archived pages
Download the Yoast plugin here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
Yoast blog: https://yoast.com/seo-blog/