5 million active installs!!!
Yes, I am talking about Yoast SEO. It is the first plugin that comes to our mind when we think about WordPress SEO.
And you will find it in (almost) every list of must-have plugins!
But there is a problem:
Yoast comes bundled with a lot of features…
…and to get the best results, you need to configure and utilize this plugin properly.
Hence, I came up with this guide which will teach you everything you need to know about the Yoast SEO plugin.
So let’s get started!
- 1 How to Install Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
- 2 How to Setup Yoast SEO Plugin Correctly
- 3 How to Use Yoast SEO Plugin – The Right Way
- 4 Endnote
How to Install Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast SEO is a feature-rich plugin which helps you to optimize your content and improve the on-page SEO of your website.
Some important features of this plugin are:
- Readability and SEO analysis of your content
- Optimize the title and meta description of your posts and pages
- XML sitemap for your website
- Optimize your content for social media sites
- Add breadcrumbs to your site
The free version of this plugin is available in the WordPress Plugin repository. So, let’s install it:
Step 1: Log in to your WordPress admin panel (that’s obvious :P).
Step 2: In the left sidebar, you will find the option Plugins. Just hover over it and click on Add New.
Step 3: On the top-right corner of the Add Plugins page, you will find a search box. You should search for Yoast SEO using that box.
Step 4: Once you find it, click on Install Now….
….and Activate it.
If you check the left sidebar menu now, you will find a new item – SEO.
Great! Let’s move to the next part of this article.
How to Setup Yoast SEO Plugin Correctly
Configuring this plugin in the right way will allow you to utilize its features properly.
So without any further ado, let’s get our hands dirty!Check out this ultimate guide which will teach you everything you need to know about Yoast SEOClick To Tweet
We will start by using the Configuration Wizard. This will configure the essential settings of this plugin. Later, I will guide you through the other available options.
First, go to SEO -> General from the left sidebar and then click on the Dashboard tab.
Here you will find the option – First-time SEO configuration.
Click on the configuration wizard link to start the process:
Step 1 – Welcome: Nothing special here, just click on Configure Yoast SEO button to proceed to the next step:
Step 2 – Environment: Specify whether your site is live or under construction. So, select the first option and click Next.
In case you do not want Google to index your site (for the time being), you may select the 2nd option. But make sure you select the first option once your site is live.
Step 3 – Site Type: Select your site type from the available options and click Next. In my case, WPHour is a blog – hence I have selected the first option.
Step 4 – Company or Person: If you are a blogger or solopreneur like me, then select Person and write your name.
On the other hand, businesses and brands should select Company and upload their company logo and write their company name.
This data will be used in Google’s Knowledge Graph Card – the info card we normally see on the right side of the search results on Google for famous personalities and companies.
Step 5 – Social Profiles: Add the social media profiles of your brand/website in this step. Again, this information will be used by Knowledge Graph Card.
Though it is not mandatory to have a profile on all the websites mentioned in this page, you should at least register your brand name on the popular social networks.
Step 6 – Search Engine Visibility: You can decide the type of content you want search engines to index. Make sure you select YES for both Posts and Pages.
For custom post types, you have to decide which custom post type is important to you and should be indexed.
Step 7 – Multiple Authors: If your site has multiple authors or you allow Guest Posts, you may select Yes. This will index the author pages on Google.
However, if you are the sole writer of your blog (just like me), you should select NO to avoid duplicate content issues.
Step 8 – Google Search Console: You may skip this step for the time being as I have explained it in details (along with images) in the Search Console section.
Step 9 – Title Settings: When you search for any keyword on Google or Bing, you may have noticed that most of the sites add a separator and their website name after the title of the post. Here is an example:
This step allows you to choose the separator which will be added between the title of your content and your website name.
Hyphen is the default title separator. You may change it if you want.
According to Moz, Google doesn’t give any attention to the title separator you are using. It depends on your personal preference.
Step 10 – Newsletter: You may sign up to Yoast newsletters to stay up to date with this plugin and to get access to their free SEO for Beginners course.
Step 11 – You might like: Here, Yoast promotes some of its premium products and services. You may check them out if you want.
Step 12 – Success: That’s it – the basic steps are complete.
So click on Close to check out the other options provided by this SEO plugin.
While the configuration wizard takes care of the basic things, there are a lot of settings which needs to be configured separately.
And that is what we’ll be doing next.
Let’s start with the General settings (SEO -> General) of this plugin.
Apart from the Configuration Wizard option, the Dashboard tab shows important notifications and SEO related problems of your website which needs attention.
It will also suggest to you what needs to be done to solve the problem.
Here is an example:
Anyways, let’s proceed to the Features tab.
Using this tab, you can enable or disable the features provided by the plugin.
I would recommend you to enable all the features initially to understand them properly. Later you can disable the ones you don’t like.
One more thing:
Enabling the XML sitemaps option will create a sitemap for your website. Yoast automatically updates the sitemap when you add or remove any page and will only include content that you want search engines to index.
You can view your sitemap by clicking on the question mark symbol next to the XML Sitemaps option:
Webmaster Tools Verification
You can use this section to verify your website with Baidu, Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Yandex Webmaster Tools.
Just click on the links, follow the process, add the verification codes, and Save changes.
You may ignore Baidu and Yandex, but you must verify your site with Google and Bing.
Now let’s go to SEO -> Search Appearance.
This settings page allows you to define how the title and meta description of your homepage, posts, and other pages should look like in the search results.
The General tab comprises of three parts – Title Separator, Homepage & Frontpage, and Knowledge Graph.
We have already configured the title separator and the Knowledge Graph when we used the Configuration Wizard. If you want to change them, you can do it here.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Homepage part!
Here you can add the SEO title and meta description for your homepage.
However, there can be two scenarios:
#1. You are NOT using a Frontpage
The output of the default title template will be Site Name <separator> Site Tagline – which is good for your homepage.
However, you can also remove the snippet variables and write the title in that box. And do not forget to add the meta description of your homepage within 156 characters.
#2. You are using a Frontpage
In this case, click on editing the front page itself link and it will take you to the page which you are using as a front page.
Scroll down and you will find the Yoast SEO box below the visual editor. Click on Edit snippet, add the SEO title & meta description, and update the page.
You should also follow the same process for your blog page.
Here you can create meta tag templates for posts and pages using the snippet variables. That means if you don’t write the SEO title and Meta Description of any post or page, these templates will be used.
However, I would recommend you to write the meta tags of all your posts and pages manually. And I’ll show how it is done in the how to use Yoast SEO section.
So, the best option is to keep the templates as it is.
Just make sure the Yoast SEO Meta Box is set to Show for both posts and pages. Also, select YES for Show Posts in search results and Show Pages in search results.
As far as Date in Snippet Preview is concerned, it depends whether you want to show the published date of your content in search results. I like to show dates for my Posts and hide it for Pages.
WordPress creates a new page for each media (images and videos) that you upload. These attachment URLs are thin pages having just a title and the media.
Hence, it is recommended to redirect these attachment URLs to the parent post. So make sure this option is set to YES:
Just like the Content Types, you don’t have to change the meta tag template for Categories. Just set Show Categories in search results to YES and select Show for Yoast SEO Meta Box.
- Go to Posts -> Categories from the left sidebar menu.
- You will see all the Categories on the right side of the page. Find the category and click on it to add meta tags.
- At the bottom of the Category page, you will find the Yoast Meta Box.
- Click on Edit Snippet and add the title and description for that category
- Update the page.
WordPress Tags are just like categories. The only difference is it defines specific topics, whereas categories are meant for broad topics.
In most cases, you can no index Tags (to avoid duplicate content issues) and set the Meta Box to Hide.
The last option in the Taxonomies tab is Category URLs.
WordPress adds the word category to your category URLs. So, the URL of a category page looks like example.com/category/category-name
Yoast offers you the option to strip the word category from the category URL. If you select remove, the same URL will look like example.com/category-name
Looks clean, isn’t it?
If you are the single author of your blog, you should disable the author archives to avoid duplicate content issues.
For multi-author blogs, you may enable it to index the author pages of your website.
As far as date archives are concerned, it is better to keep it disabled. Also, you don’t need to make any changes to the special pages.
You might have seen something like the following on some websites:
And this is how the URL part of the same page looks like in Google:
It is called Breadcrumbs.
It is a type of navigation that helps your visitors to know where they currently are on your site. This is also good for the SEO of your website as search engine crawlers can understand the hierarchy of your site.
You can add breadcrumbs to your website by enabling the option.
This plugin also allows you to customize the breadcrumbs. Like for example, you can decide whether you want the last page to be a regular text or bold text.
Under Taxonomy to show in breadcrumbs for post types, you should choose Category for post types.
However, there is a problem. To display breadcrumbs on your website, you need to place a few lines of code in your theme. Yoast website clearly explains how to do it.
If you are not comfortable with editing the code, please ask your theme developer to assist you. Also, some premium WordPress themes come with Breadcrumbs feature. In such cases, you should keep this option disabled.
The last tab of the Seach Appearance page is RSS. Here you can decide the content that will appear at the beginning and at the end of the posts in your RSS feed.
I like to add this value at the end of each post – The post %%POSTLINK%% appeared first on%%BLOGLINK%%.
Why is it important? Well, if someone uses (or steals) your content from your feed, then a link to the original post and your site link will be added at the end of their page.
Okay! We are done with the Search Appearance settings.
Before moving to the Search Console part (SEO -> Search Console), DO NOT forget to save the changes.
Google Search Console is a must-have tool for any site owner. It allows you to get important information about your site from Google.
In case you don’t have an account, you must create it.
At one point, the Search Console feature of this plugin allowed you to check the crawl issues of your site. This feature is not available any more after Google discontinued its Crawl Errors API.
That means you’ll now have to visit your Search Console account to see the crawl errors of your website.
If you’re using the free version of this SEO plugin, you can install the Safe Redirect Manager plugin to redirect the error page to another page on your site.
Social Media is important for any business. So you should register your brand name on the popular social networks.
Anyways, let’s check out the options on the Social settings page (SEO -> Social):
We have already added the social profiles while using the configuration wizard. If you want to add or change anything, you may do it here.
Facebook and Pinterest use Open Graph metadata to fetch the title, description and featured image when someone shares your article link on these sites.
Hence, you should enable Add Open Graph meta data:
One more thing:
If you are NOT using a static homepage, you will see the Frontpage settings here. This allows you to decide what happens when someone shares your homepage URL on Facebook or Pinterest.
You should add an image (1200 x 630 px) for your homepage, otherwise, Facebook will randomly select an image from your website. You may keep the title and description blank – then it will fetch the SEO title and meta description of your homepage.
However, if you are using a static front page for your site, you will not get these options. You will have to go to the page which you are using as a static page and edit the Facebook settings there. You may check the Social section to understand how to do it.
Finally, you can add an image (1200 x 630 px) in the Default settings part. This will appear on posts and pages which do not have an image. If kept blank, Facebook will randomly select an image from your website.
Just like Facebook, Twitter needs some code to fetch data from your site. This code is known as Twitter Card Meta Data. You should enable this option:
You can also decide whether you want Twitter to show a large featured image with a summary of your post or not.
Select the one you like. Personally, I like large featured images as it draws the attention of the user.
You can use this option to verify your site with Pinterest if you haven’t already done it.
Just follow these steps:
- Go to the Pinterest Settings page and click on Profile.
- Add your website URL to the website field and click on Confirm Website.
- Copy the meta tag value, but do not close the popup.
- Paste the value in the Pinterest confirmation box provided by Yoast and click Save Changes.
- Now go back to Pinterest, click Finish, and then Save Changes.
So, we have completed all the settings of the Social page. Let’s move to the Tools section.
Yoast plugin provides some powerful tools to make life easy for you. This includes robots.txt & .htaccess file editor, bulk title & description editor, and import & export SEO settings option.
Import and Export
If you were previously using another SEO plugin like All-in-one SEO or Jetpack SEO, then you can use the Import from other SEO plugins option to import the existing settings to Yoast.
Not only that, you can also import or export Yoast settings to use the same on other websites.
The file editor allows you to edit the robots.txt and .htaccess files of your website.
In case you want to edit the robots.txt file, first you need to create it:
Now you will be able to edit both robots.txt and .htaccess files. But do not forget to save the changes once you are done.
This tool allows you to change the SEO title and meta description of all your posts & pages without having to open each of them individually. This saves a lot of your valuable time.
Yoast has a premium version of this SEO plugin. You can add multiple focus keywords (up to 5) if you are using the premium version.
Some of the other features are:
- Redirect Manager
- Social Previews
- Suggestions for internal linking
- 24X7 Premium support
- No ads
Yoast also offers several premium SEO extensions like Local SEO, Video SEO, News SEO, and Local SEO for WooCommerce.
You can go to SEO -> Premium and find more information about these products.
Anyways, you can now pat on your back as you have successfully configured the plugin.
How to Use Yoast SEO Plugin – The Right Way
In this section, you’ll learn how to optimize the posts and pages of your website for search engines and also for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s dive right in:
When you create a post, page, or a custom post, Yoast allows you to write the SEO title and meta description for them. It also provides other features like content analysis, readability analysis, and social settings.
These options are available in the Yoast SEO meta box, situated below the visual editor:
Content Optimization – Keyword & Readability Analysis
Content Optimization tool is the USP of this plugin.
Here you can add the SEO title and meta description of your content by clicking on the Edit Snippet button. Once done, you can preview how the article will look like in desktop and mobile search results.
This tool allows you to add a focus keyword and shows how well your content is optimized for that keyword. It’ll also suggest what needs to be done to make it even better.
Not only that, but the plugin also checks how readable your content is, based on a number of parameters.
A focus keyword is a keyword or phrase for which you want your article to rank in Google and other search engines.
To find the perfect focus (or target) keyword for your content, you can use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, KWFinder or Ahrefs. Google’s Autosuggest and Related search are also great places to get keyword ideas.
When you finish writing your content, add your focus keyword in the Yoast SEO box.
Once you do that, the plugin will analyze your content based on the target keyword and will give a report like the following:
The ones in green are good.
You just need to focus on the red and orange points. Try to tweak your article slightly and make sure it is properly optimized.
Following are the points Yoast SEO takes into consideration:
- You must add your focus keyword in your article at least once
- The focus keyword should appear in the first paragraph of the article
- The title must include the target keyword and it should appear at the beginning
- The title length should be between 45 to 60 characters
- You should add images to your article
- Add your keyword in the ALT tag of (at least) one of the images
- You should add internal links wherever it is appropriate
- You should not link to some other website with your target keyword
- Add links to articles of some authority websites in your content, if possible
- The keyword density should be between 0.5% to 2.5% (better to keep it below 1%)
- The keyword should appear in the sub-heading(s) – at least once
- You should not use the same focus keyword in another article
- The meta description of the article must include the keyword
- The length of the meta description should be between 120 to 156 characters
- The target keyword should be present in the URL or permalink of the article
- The permalink should not contain stop words
- The length of the article should be greater than 300 words
This plugin allows you to select whether the article is a cornerstone article or not. When you do that, Yoast checks your article based on some specific criteria.
For example, your cornerstone article needs to be at least 900 words long as compared to normal articles which can be 300 words.
Good SEO copywriting is not about content length and adding keywords.
You should focus on your readers more than search engines because human beings (and not robots) will help you to grow your business.
Thanks to the Readability Analysis feature, you can check how easy to read your article is. This will help you to improve your content – both for readers and search engines.
Just like keyword analysis, you may receive red and orange bullets on the readability analysis tab.
If possible, try to edit your content to get the green bullets. However, it is not mandatory. I will explain why in a moment.
Here is an example of readability analysis:
Following are some of the points which this plugin takes into consideration:
- You should have sub-headings in your article
- A subheading can be followed by a maximum of 300 words
- Don’t start 3 or more consecutive sentences with the same word
- More than 30% of the sentences should have transition words or phrases
- Do not write long paragraphs – 2 to 3 sentences per paragraph is recommended
- Maximum 25% of the sentences of your copy can have more than 20 words
- Maximum 10% of the sentences can be written in a passive voice
- Your article should have a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 or more
Do Not Get Obsessed with Green Bullets
The points mentioned in the Keyword and Readability analysis section are just for reference. It’ll help you to improve the readability and on-page SEO of your article.
However, remember one thing – it is NOT necessary (or, should I say not mandatory) to get the green bullets for all the points.
Let me give you some examples:
In this article, the subheadings Configuration Wizard and Search Console contains more than the recommended 300 words. Hence I received a RED bullet in readability analysis:
However, it was necessary as I had to explain each of the steps. Also, there was no reason for adding another subheading.
Again, your article may not have the focus keyword at the beginning of the title. So, don’t worry about it – it is not always possible to do that.
You don’t have to trick the plugin or change things just for the sake of getting green bullets.
Be natural. Write for humans and not for search engines. And in the process, try to follow the guidelines and achieve green bullets if you can.
Once you have optimized your post for search engines, you can turn your attention to the social settings:
This section allows you to write different titles and descriptions for Facebook and Twitter. And if you use Yoast SEO Premium, you can even preview how your post will look like on these social media sites.
Also, you can use different featured images for Facebook and Twitter.
I highly recommend it as different social networks use different image sizes. And your default featured image may not work perfectly with those sites.
You may use software like Photoshop or free image editing websites to create different versions of your featured image.
I personally use Canva. It is free and has lots of features. They also have a premium plan using which you can create images for various social networks in just one click.
What happens if you keep these fields empty?
In that case, the original title, meta description, and the featured image of your article will be used. And if you don’t have a featured image for your article, then a random image from your article will be used.
The final tab is Advanced.
As the name suggests, you can expect some advanced stuff here:
Allow search engines to show this Post in search results?
It is set to Yes by default, which means that your page will appear in search engines.
However, in some cases, you may want to noindex or hide a page from Google.
Say, you have a page and want it to be accessed by your subscribers and fans only. In that case, select NO, and it will prevent that page from showing in search results.
Should search engines follow links on this Post?
If you set it to NO, the search engine crawlers will NOT follow the links on that page. By default, it is set to Yes and it is recommended in most cases.
Meta Robots Advanced
As the name suggests, the Meta Robots Advanced section of this plugin allows you to do advanced SEO stuff.
If you keep the textbox blank, then your page or post will be indexed by the search engines and no restrictions will be implemented.
In case you want to add advanced meta settings to this page, you’ll have to click on the textbox to get 3 options. Let me explain each of them:
- No Image Index – It prevents search engines from indexing the images on a page.
- No Archive – The next option is No Archive. Selecting this option will prevent search engines from showing a cached copy of your page.
- No Snippet – Prevents Google from showing snippet or description of the page in search results.
The Yoast Meta Robots Advanced section is for experienced SEO people. So, you don’t need to change anything here unless you know what you are doing.
Want to use a custom title for Breadcrumbs? You can add it here.
The post title (not the SEO title) will be used if you keep this box empty.
Do you want the current page to point to the Canonical version? Then use this box to add the canonical URL. Otherwise, you should keep it blank.
Wait! What is Canonical URL?
Say, you have two pages:
These pages have the same content, but for some reason, you want to keep both of them.
Now, this is not good for SEO and your site may be penalized by Google for duplicate content issues.
So, select the page that is important (or canonical) between the two and add a rel=canconical tag to the other page (non-canonical version).
Thanks to Yoast, you don’t have to add it manually. Just go to the advanced tab of the non-canonical page and add the canonical URL.
While your visitors will still see both the pages, search engines will consider them as one and will give preference to the canonical version.
You can also use this setting if you republished an article from another website. Just add the original URL in the canonical URL box and you are good to go.
I have to say – You are awesome. You have just completed this 5000+ words guide.
I tried my best to explain how to set up Yoast SEO plugin correctly. Also, I have explained important terms and showed you how to use this SEO plugin in the right way.
Last but not the least, please share this article with your friends and followers. Also, let me know in the comment section if you have any questions.
Anyways, here are some recommended articles that you can read now: