Zip has done some essential design work and has started to write a few posts before he launches his blog. But how will anyone find the posts he writes? While he can do many things to promote his blog — many of which we’ll go over in a later section — one of the biggies is configuring his posts, so they have a better chance of ranking in search engines like Google. Therefore, it’s beneficial to install an SEO plugin that will help you optimize your posts to help the search engines know what your article is all about. An SEO plugin will also help you control how your website might appear in search engines. We’ll be looking briefly at a few of the available SEO plugins, and we’ll be installing the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin and look at how to set up Yoast SEO.
Which SEO Plugin Should I Use?
Zip does a search for “SEO” in WordPress plugins (if you don’t know how to install a free plugin in WordPress, read this post) and finds a number of choices:
Not all of these are SEO plugins, but you can see that he has a number of choices here, among them:
And these are just the ones at the top of the list. Note that these are all free plugins — most free plugins also offer premium versions with additional features. You’ll also find some paid SEO plugins that don’t live in the WordPress repository. The premium version of the popular Jetpack plugin also offers SEO tools, but Jetpack is something that merits some dedicated posts in the future.
While I tried and used All in One SEO years ago, I can’t rate the current version. I am sure all of these have great features to give your posts an SEO boost, but you’ll notice that Yoast leads that pack by a long shot with over five million installs. It’s a plugin I always install, and I’ve used both the free and premium versions, depending on the website’s needs and budget.
Differences between Yoast free and premium
What’s the difference? The premium version of Yoast will:
- Setup automatic redirects if you change your post URL.1
- Allow you to optimize for more than one set of keywords.
- Recognize variations on keyword terms in your text.
- Give you suggestions for other pages on your website you might want to link to in a post.
- Identify “orphaned” content.2, and
- Will help you set up a “cornerstone content” strategy for your most important posts.
However, their free version is packed with features and works just fine if you don’t need to optimize for multiple keywords (or key phrases). If you need to redirect posts easily, a plugin like Redirection can do the job for you.
How to Set Up Yoast SEO
We’ll be looking, here, at how to set up Yoast SEO — its configuration and settings, at least. We’ll be leaving using it to optimize a single post for the next article in this series.
After Zip installs Yoast, he’ll find that he has an area titled SEO in his admin, with the subheadings General, Search Appearance, Social, and Tools.3
Running the Yoast Configuration Wizard
If he clicks on SEO, he’ll see that there’s a link for a configuration wizard to help him get started.
Do you have to run the configuration wizard? No, you can go setting by setting, but it’s a quick and easy way to get started. You’ll still want to configure some individual settings when you’ve completed the wizard. Know that you can change anything you set in the wizard later in SEO settings.
Do note that if your website is under construction and you’ve checked the box in Settings to NOT allow search engines to index your website, you’ll get a warning in Yoast. You can ignore it — but definitely change that setting once your website is ready to go “live.”
A Quick Yoast Configuration Wizard Walkthrough
The configuration wizard will ask you a number of questions:
- Is your website live and ready to be indexed or under construction? Choose option B if you aren’t yet prepared to have search engines indexing your website — but don’t forget to change it later when your website is ready to go “live.” Because Zip is creating his blog, in part, for this tutorial series, he’s allowing search engines to index his website right now.
- What does your website represent? Here, Zip sees several radio buttons asking what type of website https://www.slothverse.com is. He picks “A blog.” Note that an online shop is one of the options. If he ever opens an online shop within the same domain, he can always change settings for that URL later.
- Does your website represent a person or an organization? If you choose “person,” you get a drop-down from which you can select a registered user from your website. If you choose “organization,” you’ll get a text box to enter the organization name, an upload button to upload an organization logo, and a long list of spaces to enter the URLs of various social profiles. Zip doesn’t have any social profiles yet! We’ll get to that later.
- Search Engine Visibility: Here, it asks you if you’d like to show posts and pages in search results. I’d choose “yes” for both. If there’s a specific page or post you’d like to keep from being indexed, you can set that up on the individual post or page. Note that you’ll be able to change this later in settings, and if you add plugins that add custom post types to your website, you’ll also find choices in settings allowing you to noindex those posts if you’d like.
- Does, or will your site have multiple authors? Is Zip going to allow for guest authors? Does he want to create a user-submitted gallery? Perhaps in the future. Just in case, he’s saying “yes” to this. Say “no” if you’re sure your blog is going to be 100% you.
- Title Settings: Here, Zip sees a text field that already has his website name entered (but he could change it if he wanted) and a choice of separators from which he can choose. These will go between his post or page name and site title when displayed in search engines. He likes the star-shaped one.
- Help us improve SEO: The last item here asks if Yoast can track anonymous website data to help improve their plugin.
- Ads and stuff: Then, Zip is presented with a choice to sign up for Yoast’s email newsletter and an ad to sign up for their Premium version.
Then he gets a success message that confirms he’s done. Is he done? With the wizard. He finds that there are many more things to set up here.
How to Set Up Yoast SEO Features Menu
Zip clicks on the Features tab and sees a menu of toggles which will allow him to enable or disable various features in Yoast. You’re using this for SEO, right? So you’ll want to leave most of these set to “on.”
Let’s look at what the tabs in the Yoast Features menu do:
- SEO Analysis: Yoast will analyze your post and give suggestions to improve SEO.
- Readability Analysis: Yoast will analyze your post for readability, looking at various things like the use of headings, sentence length, use of passive voice, and paragraph length, among other things to suggest improvements to make it more readable. Remember that Yoast is analyzing the post for how people generally read articles online.
- Cornerstone Content: Cornerstone content is evergreen content that is linked to by many other pages on your website. For instance, when Zip gets his essential website done and we write up a “basic blogging 101” type post, that might be cornerstone content. Yoast will turn special “analysis eyes” on content that you mark as cornerstone.
- Text Link Counter: An excellent internal linking strategy helps SEO. The text link counter analyzes links on your website to and from your post.
- XML Sitemaps: As of WordPress 5.5, WordPress itself includes a sitemap. However, the Yoast sitemap is more sophisticated. Yoast will switch off your WordPress sitemap. A good sitemap helps search engines crawl content on your website. Zip will be using this sitemap later when he adds his website to Google Search Console.
- Ryte integration: Yoast connects with Ryte and will scan your website to make sure it’s indexable by search engines. If it finds any problem, you’ll find a little red warning bubble.
- Admin Bar Menu: If you have this enabled, when you have logged in, Yoast will add a little Yoast logo, bubble, and menu to the admin bar of your website and viewing a page or post from the front end. The circle will be red, orange, or green, depending on how the plugin has analyzed your post or page for SEO (or grey if you haven’t added an SEO keyphrase). The drop-down menu offers several links to help analyze the page or post.
- Security: No Advanced or Schema Settings for Authors: If you have multiple authors on your website, disabling this will allow users who are not administrators or editors to change the settings for schema and indexability. I’d recommend keeping this on.
- The last two are usage tracking, which we covered previously, and is up to you. The next is REST API: Head Endpoint This outputs metadata to the head of the website, even if the site is “headless.”
How to Set Up Yoast SEO Search Appearance Settings
We configured many of the settings in Search Appearance when we ran the wizard. However, it’s good to know where we can change settings as our website changes. Plus, we’ll find some settings that the wizard didn’t configure that we’ll want to change.
If you ran the wizard, you’ll have configured this. General settings include your title separator and organizational information.
The content types tab allows us to configure settings for various post types. Right now, Slothverse.com only has the two default options: posts and pages. Be aware that if you add plugins that add custom post types, you’ll want to come back here and configure settings for them.
You might not want search engines to index some content types. For instance, I was using a theme and used design templates for some of the posts and pages. It turns out the templates themselves were custom post types. And I found that Google was indexing them. I wanted the posts indexed, but NOT the templates! I was able to quickly turn off the post type for the templates in the Yoast settings.
How to Set Up Yoast SEO for Post Content Types
You’ll note some settings for each post type:
- Show posts in search results? Please note that this refers to search results in search engines. Switch this off, and articles will still show for internal site search. The Yoast plugin will add noindex rules to a file called robots.txt to tell search engines not to index the post.
- Show SEO settings for posts? Do you want to be able to access the SEO settings in the post editor? Yes, you do. When might you not want to? If, for some reason, you have a custom post type that you never “tweak” SEO settings for, you can just set up some parameters here and turn off the meta box in the editor for that, specific, post type.
- SEO Title and Meta Description: You can set up default text to show in search engines here. Click “Insert variable,” and you’ll see some variables where Yoast will insert the information for that page or post. Here, Zip has set up a default description using the post title, category name, page title, and a brief blurb he added regarding the topic of his website. Setting this up is handy in case you forget to customize the SEO for a page. However, for most of your pages and posts, you’ll want to customize the SEO title and description in the post editor for the best results.
- Default Page Type and Default Article Type: These are drop-downs with a variety of choices. For most blog posts, you’ll be choosing “Web page” as page type, and “Article” as the article type. However, you might want to change this for specific kinds of posts or pages. You can change this on a per post basis from the post editor.
Media and Attachment URLs
Just say yes.
Taxonomies are things like categories, tags, and post formats. Some plugins may add taxonomies. For instance, if you’re running an event calendar, you may end up with “event categories” and “event tags” taxonomies. The settings here work just like the settings for posts or pages: you can customize your default text for search engine display (and should if you are allowing search engines to index your taxonomies.)
Should You Noindex Taxonomies?
The big question is, should you allow them to be indexed? I’ve read concerns that this could lead to “duplicate content” penalties. However, I am doubtful that this is the case. On my category pages, I never use the full post text. In my opinion, category pages are a type of content unto themselves, allowing visitors to browse for anything on their topic of interest. Therefore, I usually let my category pages get indexed.
The exception to this is event categories. I was concerned when I found those event categories were all noindexed in the event calendar plugin I use. However, I then realized (this one I have difficulty explaining well) that the way a calendar with tons of events handled categories, it would send search engine robots on a wild crawling loop. This invasion of Googlebots happened when I attempted to implement AMP on that event calendar, and it didn’t have any such noindex in place for event categories. The crawlers went crazy, hitting my event pages every few seconds and causing frequent errors. I had to slow my crawl rate to amend this.4
As far as post format archives, I tend to noindex those — but will go back and change that if my website ever becomes video-heavy.
Here, it asks if you want to keep the categories prefix. Right now, Zip’s category pages run something like https://www.slothverse.com/category/all-about-sloths/. Flipping the tottle here to “remove” would remove /category/. I prefer to keep it to differentiate single post or page URLs from taxonomy URLs.
The archives tab lets you configure settings for author and date archives and special pages like 404 (page not found) pages.
In the image above, you can see that you set it up pretty much the same as for posts or taxonomies. For search or 404 pages, you can only set up variables for page titles.
I keep the date archives off. I would switch this on if I was running a news website that had hundreds of posts every day and where posts were very date-based.
Breadcrumbs are like a trail of breadcrumbs to lead your visitors around. They serve an SEO function as well. They’re the little navigation words that may appear at the top of a post or page, ending with the title of the current page. Yoast offers the ability to add breadcrumbs, but your theme may not support the Yoast breadcrumbs. If your theme doesn’t support them by default, you’ll need to do a bit of editing to your child theme to add the breadcrumbs. That’s stuff for a more advanced post, so we’ll include that sometime in the future.
The Hueman free theme Zip is using does not support Yoast breadcrumbs out of the box. Therefore, for now, we’ll turn it off and come back to it much later.
The Yoast RSS tab enables you to add some additional “stuff” before or after each post in your RSS feed.
You’ll see that this area lists for variables you can use to enter information about things like the post title and your website name.
How to Set Up Yoast SEO Social Sharing
Oh no! Zip doesn’t have any social accounts yet. But once he does, he can add their URLs in this area to add them to his schema. However, the social area in Yoast has some other settings he may want to configure even before he sets up his own social accounts:
Would you like your website to use Facebook “cards” and show a preview with an image and text when someone shares your post on Facebook? If so, then set Add Open Graph Metadata to “Enabled.”
And then we’ll need to set up a Facebook App ID.
How to Set Up Yoast SEO Facebook App ID
Time needed: 20 minutes.
How to Set up a Facebook App ID for Yoast Facebook Sharing
- Go to Facebook for Developers and Click Create App
Create an account if you don’t already have one. If you do, log in. Go to https://developers.facebook.com/apps
- Choose “For Everything Else.”
You’ll get a popup asking what you’ll be using the app for. Choose the “For Everything Else” option.
- Create an App ID
You’ll get another popup asking you to give your app a name and add a contact email. If you have a Facebook business manager account, you can choose it here. You’ll not that in the example photo, there’s a warning. That’s because Zip originally had this titled, “Slothverse Facebook Sharing.” The term “Facebook” is not allowed in the app name. Click “Create App ID.” You’ll get a Recaptcha. Complete that, and move on.
- Choose OEmbed as the type
- Go to Basic settings in the left-hand tab and configure the settings.
- Switch the toggle at the top of the same page from In Development to Live.
This will make your app active.
- Copy Your App ID and put in in the text box in the Yoast plugin.
You can also add a default image used if the post doesn’t have an image by uploading it just below that. Save your settings.
- Test it out!
Try sharing a post somewhere. Here, I’ve up the link to the post in Smarterqueue and you can see that it’s automatically pulled the image and used the social text that I congifured on the post page.
Here, the settings are simple. Switch it on, and enable using a summary and large image. Twitter posts perform better when they have an image or video with them.
Pinterest, like Facebook, uses open graph data. Zip doesn’t have a Pinterest account yet. When he does, though, he’ll create a business account, verify his site according to the instructions on Pinterest. They’ll give him a code that he can upload to his website — OR, to make it easier, he can stick the meta tag they give him right here in Yoast to confirm his website.
Yoast Tools Settings
Yoast gives you some handy tools; fortunately, you likely won’t have to use them too often. You can access your .htaccess file (which sets up rules for security, redirects, and stuff like that) right from Yoast. Don’t mess with it unless you know what you’re doing, and always save a backup first if you do! If you have more than one blog, you can export your Yoast settings and import them to another blog. And if you want to change SEO titles for posts or pages, you can do it in the bulk editor without going into the post editor for every post.
Now that Zip has learned how to set up Yoast SEO, in the next post, let’s go in and look at how to use Yoast to optimize a single post.
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- This was essential on a website with an events calendar where links would change when events got updated.
- Content not linked to from any post or menu on your website.
- As well as a link, of course, to buy the premium version.
- In case you’re wondering, yes, I checked to make sure it was not a DDOS attack and, yes, they were, in fact, Googlebots.