As a result of Google’s recent policy changes, the importance of off-page SEO is gradually decreasing. Things like content quality, user experience, mobile-friendliness, etc. have become major factors in getting better search engine rankings.
However, that does not mean that you should not follow any of the traditional SEO methods. On the contrary, you should try to keep a balance between the traditional SEO and the user-centric tasks. Just make sure that you are not spending too much time thinking about SEO.
In WordPress, most of the traditional SEO operations could be performed by using third-party SEO plugins. While there are lots of free SEO plugins, all of them are not worthy of your time. You need to find out a reliable SEO plugin with a successful track record.
WordPress SEO by Yoast is one such plugin. Having more than a million active installs and an impressive rating, you could rely on this excellent free plugin for your SEO tasks.
In today’s post, I will show you how to set up this SEO plugin for your WordPress site.
First of all, download and install WordPress SEO by Yoast on your WordPress site. Once you activate the plugin, it will create a new menu item titled ‘SEO’ in your website dashboard.
Setting up the Plugin
Click on the SEO menu item to go to the settings page of the plugin. The page is divided into several tabs. Let’s go through them one by one.
‘General’, the first tab of the page includes a tracking checkbox, an introduction tour button and another button for resetting the settings. These options are pretty much self-explanatory. If you want to send anonymous usage data, click the tracking checkbox.
In the ‘Your Info’ tab, you will find separate fields to customize your website information. If you don’t provide any site name here, the plugin will automatically use the default values provided in the Settings -> General page.
Below, you can define whether your website is run by a company or a person. If it is a company, you can provide the business name and upload a logo. For a person, you can provide the person name.
In this tab, you can add verification ID for different webmaster services including Google, Bing, Alexa and Yandex. Once you verify, you will be able to track your website performance and access other relevant data and statistics from the relevant search engines.
The last tab of the page has only a checkbox. By enabling this checkbox, you can make sure that the authors and editors cannot change the redirect, index and other settings for the posts. It is suggested to keep this option checked.
With this checkbox, you have completed setting up the basic options for the plugin. Let’s dig deeper into the plugin now.
Setting up Titles & Metas
Titles are a crucial factor for on-page SEO. A correctly set title will be useful for the visitors too.WordPress SEO by Yoast comes with all the necessary options for customizing your website’s titles.
To view the title settings, go to SEO -> Titles & Metas from your site dashboard. Like the general settings page, this page is also divided into several tabs. I will introduce you to all of them. Let’s start with the first one.
Here, the first check box could be used to rewrite post titles forcefully. Unless you know what you are doing, it is recommended to keep this box unchecked.
Then, in the ‘Title Separator’ field, you can choose the separator that should be placed between the site name and the post title.
As the name suggests, this options lets you customize the home page title. WordPress SEO by Yoast uses an intuitive template system for the titles. Unlike the static titles, the title templates will collect information from the variables employed in the template.
For each title field, the plugin provides a default title template. In most cases, the template works perfectly. That is the case with the homepage title template too. I am sure this will work correctly for most of you.
As you know, WordPress has different post types like posts, pages, media, custom post types, etc. You can set the title and description for all of these post types in this section. For the title field, keep the title only and remove the other variables. You can also choose to hide the SEO meta box for any post type.
This tab allows you to set the title and description for various taxonomies including categories and tags. Like the post types, you can also choose to hide the SEO meta box for any taxonomy.
In the ‘Archives’ tab, you can customize the title and description on the author and date archive pages. However, if your blog has only one author, you should disable the author archive by checking the appropriate checkbox. The date archives also look like the blog section of your site. To avoid the potential duplicate penalty, disable this file too.
Below, in the ‘Special Pages’ section, you can define the titles for the search and 404 pages.
Lastly, in the ‘Other’ tab, you will find some miscellaneous options. These options are not very important. That means you can skip them for now.
Configuring Social Options
Being a very powerful SEO plugin, WordPress SEO by Yoast also lets you connect your website with various social media platforms and use their advanced features. Go to the SEO -> Social page to view the social settings options.
At this point, you should be in the ‘Accounts’ tab. Here, you will find separate fields to provide your social media accounts. Provide the URL of your main profile in respective areas.
In this tab, make sure that the ‘Add Open Graph metadata’ box is checked. By enabling this option, you are allowing Yoast SEO to add the relevant metadata into your site. As a result, Facebook will be able to use the correct information and images when a visitor shares anything from your website.
If you have a Facebook app for your website, enter the ID in the next field. Doing this will let you access the Facebook Insights data.
From the ‘Frontpage settings’ section, you can define the image, title and description to be used when a visitor shares your website in Facebook. Lastly, in the ‘Default Settings’ section, you can specify a custom image for the posts that don’t have any picture(s) in them.
Here, you can allow the plugin to Add Twitter card meta data on your site. You can also choose the default card type. Select ‘Summary with large image’ here.
Like Facebook, Pinterest also uses Open Graph metadata. Therefore, you need to enable Open Graph in Facebook to get verified by Pinterest. You will find the verification code in your Pinterest profile.
In this tab, check the first box to add related meta data for your posts. Then, if you have created a Google+ page for your website, provide the page URL in the ‘Google Publisher Page’ field add the site URL in the Google+ profile about section.
Sitemaps are the most simple and easiest way to notify search engines about your content. An appropriate sitemap helps the search engine crawlers to index the website data correctly. To view the sitemap settings, go to SEO -> XML Sitemaps.
Make sure that the checkbox on top is checked. Then, go to the ‘User sitemap’ tab. There, check the ‘Disable author/user sitemap’ box.
In the ‘Post Types’ tab, check any post type that you do not want to include in the sitemap. Media will be selected by default. From the ‘Taxonomies’ tab, you can specify whether you wish to exclude any taxonomy from the sitemap.
Setting up the Advanced Options
To view the advanced settings options, head towards the SEO -> Advanced page.
The first tab is titled ‘Breadcrumbs’. A breadcrumb shows a complete path of how the visitor landed in the current page. Enable breadcrumbs by checking the checkbox. Your breadcrumbs will be displayed in the search results too.
In the ‘Permalinks’ tab, you will find a handful of options. First of all, in the ‘Change URL’s section, you will find separate options to remove the word ‘category’ from category archive pages and to redirect the media files to the parent post.
Then, in the ‘Clean up permalinks’ section, you will find options to remove common stop words from the URL, enforce a trailing slash and allow search engine crawlers to skip comments. Unless you are confident, you should leave the other options as they are.
Lastly, in the ‘RSS’ tab, you will find options to add custom backlinks in your feed content. By doing this, you will get backlinks from your content and search engines will also know the source of the content. You can add custom text before or after the feed entry.
Using the Tools
So far, you have made lots of changes in the plugin settings. If you want to export these settings to another website that also uses the same SEO plugin, you can do it by using the ‘Import and Export’ tool available in the SEO -> Tools page.
To export your settings, open the tool and go to the ‘Export’ tab. Click the export button and you will be provided with a downloadable settings file.
The ‘Bulk Editor’ tool lets you change the titles and descriptions of several posts at once. Keep in mind that doing this might impose a duplicate content penalty on your site.
By using the ‘File Editor’ tool, you can edit the Robots.txt and .htaccess files for your website.
Configuring SEO for Posts
If you go to the post editor, you will find a new meta box titled ‘WordPress SEO by Yoast’ right after the content box. In the meta box, you will find separate options to provide SEO title, meta description and focus keyword.
If you don’t provide the title and description, the plugin will use the post title and the first paragraph of the title and description respectively. While this could be okay for titles, this is not the way for descriptions. For each post, you should write an attractive, concise SEO description.
After you have saved the draft or published the post, take a look at the ‘Page Analysis’ tab too. Here, you will find specific information and guidelines about your post or page.
Phew! That was quite a long read. However, if you were with me throughout the post, you have got a clear idea about using WordPress SEO by Yoast by now. Luckily, once you have taken care of the necessary things, you don’t have to set them anymore. And apparently, you can export the settings to any other website.
Let me know if you have any question about using the plugin. And if you are using any other SEO plugin, don’t forget to share your experience with us by leaving a comment below.