A detailed five step guide for beginners, on how to set up Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress
You may have designed a great looking website, but you might still fail to drive traffic to it if the site isn’t search engine optimized.
Well, you can find a plethora of sites over the web working in the same industry as yours. So to become a well-known brand in the market, you’ll need to ensure that your target audience will choose to visit your website over your competitor’s site. One best way to do so requires optimizing your site for search engines.
Making your site SEO-friendly will most likely help you attain higher ranks in the SERPs (aka Search Engine Result Pages). Needless to say, the more higher your page will rank in search results, the more users will notice your site.
Although, a WordPress powered site comes with built-in SEO ready features but, still you will have to find solutions to improve your website SEO. Thankfully, there are great SEO plugins available for free in the official WordPress Plugin Repository and third-party sources (such as CodeCanyon) – that will serve as a complete SEO solution for your WordPress site or blog.
One of the best SEO plugins that you shouldn’t miss using, to boost your website SEO rankings is the Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. With more than one million downloads, the SEO by Yoast plugin provides a rich set of features that are crucial for improving the search engine ranking of any WordPress site.
I’ve created this detailed, five step guide for installing and setting up the SEO by Yoast plugin on your WordPress site.
Installing the SEO by Yoast Plugin
Below are three simple steps that will help you install the SEO by Yoast plugin in your WordPress install in no time:
Step 1 – Log into the admin panel of your WordPress website. Once you’ve successfully logged in, you will be able to see your admin dashboard screen. From the dashboard screen, you’ll see a menu on the extreme left-hand side as shown in the following image:
Step 2 – From the menu, press ‘Plugins’ and then click on the ‘Add New’ option. This will open the Plugins screen containing the lost of plugins you’ve installed to date. Now, for installing the SEO by Yoast plugin, enter “Yoast SEO” in the search bar as follows:
Step 3 – As soon as you’ll find the plugin, click on the ‘Install Now’ button.
Step 4 – Once you’ve clicked on the Install Now button, you’ll be redirected to the Plugin screen, from where you just need to hit the ‘Activate Plugin’ link to complete the plugin installation and activation process.
That’s it, the SEO by Yoast plugin will get added to your Plugins menu.
Step 1 : Setting Up SEO by Yoast Plugin
After installing the plugin, you still need to do a lot of work to make the best possible of the SEO by Yoast plugin. For this purpose, you’ll have to set up and configure your plugin settings for different links provided under the SEO menu (once the SEO by Yoast gets installed on your site). For optimizing your site for search engines, I’ll make you explore how to configure all the sections of the Yoast plugin, including General, Titles & Meta, Social, XML Sitemaps, Advanced, Tools, and Console.
To start the process of configuring the WordPress SEO, you’ll first have to make changes to all the tabs in the SEO page as listed below:
- General Settings
The very first step you need to perform to setup the SEO by Yoast plugin is to click the SEO icon from your website dashboard, and it will take you to the General Settings page of the Yoast SEO plugin. All your plugin settings can be reset from this page.
- Your Info
Next, click on the ‘Your Info’ tab, wherein you need to provide critical information about your site such as the name of your website (you want search engines to consider). Secondly, select company if your site is run by some business organization or else enter the name of the person who owns the website.
- Webmaster Tools
This is one of the most important sections of the SEO by Yoast’s plugin. In case you’ve little knowledge about SEO, then you likely know how popular search engines such as Google, Bing and others provide webmaster tools that help get useful SEO insights about a site.
Simply put, those tools help site owners and webmasters know how their website performs on the search engines. Verifying your website and seeing such data will require adding a meta tag to the site. However, novices are usually afraid of adding meta tags, but once you have installed the plugin you can add the meta code received from search engines directly with ease in the Webmaster Tools page.
The last and the most important tab is Security. It contains only one option that helps in turning off the “advanced section of the WordPress SEO meta box”. However, it is recommended that you should keep the option checked, as it will avoid any problems caused because of the changes (like redirects or others) made by the theme authors.
Step 2: Controlling Your Website Titles and Metas
Till now we have discussed about the basic components of the Yoast SEO plugin. Next, we’ll be talking how to control titles and meta using our SEO plugin. Optimizing your website titles is a major factor that can help improve your search engine rankings. Here, the title is not just the one you use in the browser window but is also the first line that online surfers will see in the search results (as you can see in the following image).
In order to control your site titles and meta tags for SEO, you’ll need to make changes to the tabs that appear in the Titles & Metas menu provided under the SEO option in your site’s dashboard menu. Let’s have an overview of all the tabs of Titles & Metas:
This tab will help you in configuring the general settings of your site. Since WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin can identify whether there is a need to re-write titles or not automatically, you can leave this tab unchanged.
- Homepage Title
As the name implies, this tab is used for determining the title of your site’s homepage. The fields of this tab are filled with “title-template” by default. The title templates give the ability to define a way that helps in pulling and organizing the title and other meta information.
- Post Types
As you may know, any WordPress theme comes with different post types by default, such as the post, page, etc. Also, users are given the freedom to create their own custom post types. From the WordPress SEO by Yoast’s ‘Post Types’ tab, you can set your website titles or meta boxes for the standard posts/pages or your custom post types.
Next from the taxonomies tab, only configure your template titles as well as meta description for categories, post format archives, etc. You can choose to use the same default template variables in the Title template option. And for the description option, the Yoast SEO plugin selects the specifications provided in your categories and tags. But, in case description is not found for terms in your taxonomies (such as categories and tags) or custom taxonomies, then WordPress SEO won’t be adding meta description for those terms in archives.
Next on the list is the Archives tab that needs to be configured to include title, and for making changes to the meta settings for archives (such as author and date), 404 error and other special pages. Here you should make the “Disable the author archives” checked for single author blogs. This setting, basically, helps avert the use of duplicate content. Remember to keep the other settings the same.
The last is the other tab that contains several additional settings. To begin with, it allows to disable users from taking out descriptions from Dmoz or Yahoo directories and so on.
One of the most amazing feature I like about Yoast SEO is its powerful Title & Meta manager, it allows you to create automated post/pages descriptions and titles using the templates. By default, Yoast comes with support for a wide variety of basic and advanced variables. You can get a list of all the supported variables by selecting the “help” button on the Titles & Meta settings page under Yoast SEO. Suppose if you want to display, the post title, site name and current year in the title of all the posts of your site. Then you’ll use the following variables %%title%% %%sep%% %%sitename%% %%currentyear%% The output of the following template will be “My Post Title – Site name 2016” Whereas, if you want to display automatic description on the pages of your site like, title+excerpt+category+custom field value, use the below sample variable %%title%% %%excerpt%% %%category%% %%cf_<custom-field-name>%% The output of the following template will be “The sample post title with a good excerpt in the sample category with this custom field value.”
Bonus Yoast SEO Titles Tip
How to use variables?
One of the most amazing feature I like about Yoast SEO is its powerful Title & Meta manager, it allows you to create automated post/pages descriptions and titles using the templates. By default, Yoast comes with support for a wide variety of basic and advanced variables.
You can get a list of all the supported variables by selecting the “help” button on the Titles & Meta settings page under Yoast SEO.
Suppose if you want to display, the post title, site name and current year in the title of all the posts of your site.
Then you’ll use the following variables
%%title%% %%sep%% %%sitename%% %%currentyear%%
The output of the following template will be
“My Post Title – Site name 2016”
Whereas, if you want to display automatic description on the pages of your site like, title+excerpt+category+custom field value, use the below sample variable
%%title%% %%excerpt%% %%category%% %%cf_<custom-field-name>%%
The output of the following template will be
“The sample post title with a good excerpt in the sample category with this custom field value.”
Step 3: Social
Social media now drives more than 31% of all the referral traffic as according to Forbes, therefore it’s extremely important to optimize your site for social sharing. With Yoast SEO you can easily integrate your site with all popular social sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus.
Recently, Google has started displaying knowledge panel in search results for some million of known, people, places, and organization in the real world. Along with the data Google knowledge panel also shows links to their respective social media profiles. Similarly, you can also display your social profile information on Google results, using this panel, all you’ve to do is just update the fields with all social media profiles.
You can add Open Graph meta to your site, social sites use this data when your content is shared. If you want to access Facebook insights for your site, then you can do it by specifying a Facebook admin.
Don’t forget to check “Add Twitter card meta data”, it could be only summary or summary with an image.
This section can be used to verify your site with Pinterest.
5. Google Plus
Did you have a Google Plus page for your business? if yes then specify the link to that page and further link it on your Google Plus page’s about page.
Step 4: XML Sitemaps
Adding sitemaps in the site helps in getting your web pages indexed by the search engine bots quickly and easily. Another great benefit of sitemaps is that it enables you to make search engines know how they should prioritize your content. Thankfully, WordPress SEO by Yoast helps in adding XML sitemaps to the WordPress site without any hassle. After completing this step, you’ll need to work on the XML Sitemaps tabs as listed below:
In the General settings page of XML Sitemaps, make sure to check the box labeled “Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality.”
- User Sitemap
In the second tab, make the “disable author/user sitemap” box checked.
- Post Types
Next, in the post type tabs, simply disable “Media (attachments)” option from sitemaps.
Note: In case there’s a taxonomy that you wouldn’t want to be included into sitemaps, then just repeat the above step again under Taxonomies tab.
- Excluded Posts
Here you’re required to get rid of any individual posts, pages, or CPTs (aka Custom Post Types) from XML sitemap. To do so, you only need to enter the IDs of the post in the field provided in the following image:
Step 5: Advanced Settings
Finally, we’ll talking the changes you should make in the Advanced Settings page for the SEO by Yoast plugin. In this page, you’ll have to change three important settings such as Breadcrumbs, Permalinks and RSS.
Breadcrumbs are crucial for SEO as they help user’s follow a clear path to navigate to one page to another in a hassle-free manner. Also, breadcrumbs are visible in search results as highlighted in the image below:
The SEO by Yoast advanced settings page allows to add breadcrumbs by simply making the “Enable Breadcrumbs” box checked, which displays several settings as you can see in the following image:
The URLs of your site (also referred to as permalinks) are important for making a WordPress site SEO-friendly. You can make your site’s permalinks optimized for search engines by making changes to the Permalink settings in the WordPress SEO by Yoast tab. This is how the Permalinks Settings page looks like:
The Yoast SEO plugin contains an RSS Feeds section. This section lets users add backlinks to their feed content. That’s because, the majority of use your feeds to copy the content of your website. This eventually will help you fetch backlinks from the content scrapers website, and the Google search engine will identify your site as the original source.
In the RSS section of the advanced settings page of the Yoast SEO tab, there are several options that helps add author link, blog link, blog description and a few other important links to your website content. You can even choose to add ads to your RSS feed.
Yoast SEO Tools
- Bulk Editor – Bulk editor is a handy yet powerful tool, that enables you to quickly edit the title and descriptions for your posts and pages.
- File Editor – Want to edit server files like robots.txt and .htaccess files for your WordPress? this is an easy option.
- Import and Export – It allows you to import settings from your other SEO plugins such as HeadSpace, All-in-one SEO, wpSEO etc.
- Recalculate SEO scores – A powerful option to recalculate SEO scores of all your content, that has a focus keyword.
The latest version of Yoast, now allows you to integrate Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console in your WordPress Dashboard. This way you can quickly find search crawler errors, and you can also fix them right from your WordPress area. This eliminates the need to login separately to the Google Webmaster Tools, and manually fixing the errors.
In order to configure Google Search Console information, you must get the Google Authorization code and authenticate the code.
WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the most widely used plugins that acts as a complete package needed for making a WordPress site search engine optimized. But, once you have installed and activated the plugin, you will have to set it up in the right way. This requires you to configure the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin in terms of General Settings, Titles and Metas, XML Sitemaps, and Permalinks to name a few.
Lastly, in this Yoast SEO guide I’ve tried to cover all the features of Yoast SEO plugin, however if you find something is missing or you’ve some useful tip about optimizing WordPress for SEO, then please don’t forget to add your words in the comments.
Cover Image credit: WordPress.org
Sophia Phillips has been working as a professional in custom WordPress development company and loves sharing information about leveraging multiple benefits of WordPress in the best possible manner. Currently, she has an impressive count of WP- related articles under her name.