If you have worked with WordPress, then it’s likely that you have heard of Yoast SEO.
I mean, you are reading this tutorial, right?
Yoast SEO can help take your WordPress website from the bowels of Google SERPs to the first page.
In this tutorial, We are going to discuss Yoast SEO, why you need it and how to optimize your WordPress website with the Yoast SEO plugin.
What is Yoast SEO?
Yoast SEO is a free and premium WordPress plugin created by Joost de Valk in 2007 and it has become one of the best all in one SEO plugins for WordPress. It allows you to do a number of on-page SEO tactics like:
- Meta Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Canonical Tags
- Schema Data
They also feature a premium plugin that includes these features plus:
- Redirect manager
- Advanced context detection: word forms
- Internal linking
- Social previews
- Orphaned content filter
- Stale cornerstone content filter
How to Install Yoast SEO
Installing Yoast SEO on your WordPress website is super simple and you can have it installed and set up in minutes. The first thing you will need is a website with WordPress installed on it. Next, you simply head to the Plugins tab in WordPress, click add new plugin and search for ‘Yoast SEO’.
Click ‘Install Now’ and then Activate and you will see an SEO tab on the left-hand side of WordPress.
This is where you will manage most of the SEO optimization of your WordPress website… But we aren’t done yet. In order to optimize your website for SEO using Yoast, you will need to update some settings to fully optimize your website. In the next section, I am going to show you how to fully optimize your website with Yoast SEO with the recommended settings.
Optimize Your Website with Yoast SEO
Once you have Yoast SEO installed on WordPress, its time to make some changes so that your WordPress site is fully SEO optimized.
1. Setting Up Search Console
The very first thing that you want to do is to connect Google Search Console. Google Search Console is where you can manage and view your website visibility in Google. In order to add your website to the Google Search Console, you will need to head to GSC and add your website as a property. Click Add a Property in the left dropdown and a popup will appear to add your domain:
Add your websites exact URL into the URL prefix input box and click continue. Now you will need to prove to Google that you own the website by verifying your ownership. You can do this by a few different methods including:
- HTML File
- HTML Tag
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag Manager
- Domain Name Provider
The easiest way to do this with Yoast SEO is by choosing HTML Tag.
Copy the text string in the content part of the tag and head back over to your WordPress website. Click the SEO tab on the left and in the General sub-tab, click the webmaster tools link and add your copied Google verification code into the corresponding text box.
Click save changes and then head back to Google Search Console to verify your new property. You should see a message that your website is now verifed in Google Search Console.
Click ‘go to property’ and now we can add the sitemap created by Yoast SEO. Go to the Sitemaps tab on the left side of Google Search Console and this is where you can add your Yoast SEO sitemap. The sitemap is located at your www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml so simply add /sitemap_index.xml into the ‘Add a new sitemap’ input.
Click submit and Google will now know all of the URLs of your website and how important they are to the site structure. Now that we are connected to Google Search Console, we can head back to WordPress to finalize the on-page optimizations.
2. Add Organizational Schema Tags
Organizational Schema tags will tell Google what organization the site is a part of and will help your general SEO and branded keyword searches. To add your organizational schema head to the Yoast SEO tab in WordPress and enter in the details of your organization name and logo. If you have a personal brand or site, select Person from the dropdown instead of Organization.
Click save and now you will have schema tags on your website for your organization. You can test your schema by using the Google Schema Tag Tester tool and add your homepage URL.
3. Add Social Media Schema Tags
Similar to the organization schema tag, adding your social media schema can help Google connect your website with your social media pages. Go to the Yoast SEO tab and then click the Social sub-menu to add in your social media URLs.
Add as many social media profiles as you can (the more the better) and click save. Your social media URLs will now be included in your schema tags. You can use the Google Schema Tester tool to make sure it implements correctly.
4. Remove Invaluable Pages from Sitemap
A step often looked over when optimizing your WordPress site with Yoast SEO is to remove the invaluable pages. Tags, Author Pages, and other nonvaluable pages should be hidden from your sitemap and Google as they don’t provide any extra value to your site. Most of the time, they create duplicate pages that aren’t really valuable to the navigation of the site. So let’s head back to the ‘Search Appearance’ tab and we will work through each sub-tab.
Depending on the plugins you have installed, you can have a number of different content types. The defaults are post and pages but you want to make sure and hide everything besides posts, pages, and products. If you have custom post types that you want to be indexed, then you can leave these as well but hide any content types that won’t provide value like:
- UX Blocks
In order to hide these from your sitemap and from search engines, simply click on the content type to open up the drop-down and click ‘No’ under ‘Show XX in search results?’.
You shouldn’t need to change much on the Media tab.
Under ‘Redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself?’, Select Yes.
Like the Content Types, you will want to remove most of the Taxonomies except Categories and product categories if you have it. Tags, Formats, etc should be hidden from search engines as they don’t provide value to the user.
Under the archives tab, I would recommend disabling everything unless you run a news website, then you can keep author archives enabled. This should be the settings:
5. Set Up Dynamic Meta Tags
Instead of creating custom meta titles and descriptions for every single page on your website, you can actually set dynamic meta tags using Yoast SEO. There are a number of variables that you can use to set custom meta titles or descriptions including:
- Site title
- Primary Category (post, pages)
- Term Title (categories)
To use these variables simply type % in the input boxes and all of the available variables will pop up.
This allows you to create dynamic meta titles that are different on each post/page and automatically create with new posts, pages, products, etc.
6. Add Custom Meta with Bulk Meta Tool
So what if you want to create custom meta titles and descriptions for certain pages? You can do this really easy with the Yoast SEO bulk editor tool. Just click the ‘Tools’ sub-menu under Yoast SEO and you will see a list of tools provided by Yoast. Click the Bulk Editor link and you can easily create and edit meta titles and descriptions for each page of your website.
Enter in your custom meta titles and description for any pages you want a manually created meta tag. Click the Save or Save all link to save all the meta tags on the page. You can switch back and forth between meta title and descriptions by clicking the tabs at the top.
7. Run Final Check with Screaming Frog
Now that we have all of our meta titles and descriptions in place, we can use screaming frog SEO spider to make sure all of our meta titles and descriptions are right. Simply enter in your URL and you can see your meta information for each page and see if there are any blank meta titles or descriptions.
Make sure they are all the correct length and include the main keywords of your pages. Congrats! Your WordPress website is now optimized using Yoast SEO. Now, we are going to look at what Yoast SEO Premium is and how to use it.
Tyler Horvath is an SEO Expert with over 15 years of experience in search engine optimization, popular blog author and WordPress SEO expert.