Have you heard about the benefits of SEO, but have no idea how to go about implementing the key strategies? Yoast is a great plugin for setting up a WordPress website so it’s optimized for the SERPs. It handles repetitive tasks such as adding title/meta tags, generates XML sitemap, provides website permalink control and keyword optimization help.
Yoast SEO has been downloaded more than 160 million times and it consistently ranks among the top 10 SEO plugins. The founder is Joost de Valk and the headquarters of 80 employees is in the Netherlands. It receives constant updates to stay relevant in the evolving SEO landscape.
Yoast is an excellent tool, but use it incorrectly and you won’t be getting the best results. It’s a great starting place for getting to grips with Yoast optimization for best SEO results.
Why you should use Yoast
SEO can be a labor-intensive process that’s full of repetitive tasks. Yoast somewhat automates website SEO, which means marketers can get on with higher-level tasks. Manually entering meta tags for each page isn’t the best way to spend your time.
Furthermore, Yoast ensures no vital SEO steps are forgotten in the chaotic running of modern online businesses. Features such as keyword optimization assistance mean important keywords are not overlooked.
Yoast offers plenty of customization options to get the setup that works for your website. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the depth of settings that might look daunting at first. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea of how to set up for the best results.
Things to consider before using Yoast
Yoast is there to save time, but ironically it can waste time if you’re obsessing and paying attention to the wrong things. Avoid these common traps to get the most out of Yoast:
- Where to use KW’s: target KW’s should be used in the first few sentences, meta description, SEO title, URL, page title, and alt tags. Don’t waste time trying to find other places to stuff KW’s.
- Green lights: the light system is there to act as a guideline. Don’t stuff KW’s to achieve a green light. It’s spammy, which isn’t great for readability and Google might give you a penalty.
- Advice only: Yoast is not an all-in-one SEO package that takes care of everything. You’ll still need to complete the most important SEO tasks such as doing keyword research and creating informative pillar posts.
Navigate to the WordPress dashboard and hover over to the Plugins tab – then select “Add New”. Using the search box find Yoast SEO – it will be one of the first options that come up. Select the install button, which will take you to the installation screen. You’ll need to click a blue button that says activate. Yoast SEO is now running – all that’s left is to customize the settings.
Your Info: here you can change your website name and give an alternate name. You can also provide a person/company that will appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is an innovative tool that allows you to discover and contact businesses without landing on their website.
The newly developed tool from Google can be a good source of extra traffic if optimized correctly.
Webmaster tools: here you can link an account from webmaster tools such as Bing Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console and Yandex Webmaster Tools. You should link at least one of these tools to receive insight and analytics data about the performance of your website in the search engines.
Security: you may need to limit the amount of access you give each user that’s adding content to the blog. Once this setting is enabled only those with administrator access will be able to alter noindex settings, canonical URLs and redirects.
Titles & Meta Optimization
The following section gives you customization options for displaying your website and posts in search engines. You’ll need to craft this section carefully to get the best clickthrough rates. However, the information entered here must be accurate to avoid high bounce rates.
The main screen allows you to set if title re-writes will be forced. You can disable this setting since Yoast does a good job of detecting when titles need to be rewritten.
At the bottom, you’ll notice an option to turn on “Enabled Analysis”, which you should do to receive recommendations. The advice given at the bottom of each post allows you to improve readability.
Homepage: you can change the title template to “%%sitename%%%%page%%” so that it’s more clickable in the SERP’s. That’s because it increases the size of the title, which means it stands out. Changes can also be made to the meta description – it appears when your home page ranks in the SERPs.
Post types: here you can change how page and post titles appear in the SERPs. You should change the title template to the same format as mentioned for the homepage to maximize screen size. The other checkboxes can be left untouched since they are set for the best results.
The format should have the post/page title first and then the website name. Don’t include other info since it will distract your audience.
Taxonomies: the default taxonomies created by WordPress are good so you don’t need to make changes. However, set the Categories and Tags sections to noindex since they are of no value to most users. Feel free to include these pages in the SERPs if you have added extra value to these pages.
Archives: if you’d like to enable indexing of archive pages you can set the title and meta tags. WordPress creates different archive pages, which include 404 pages, special pages, data archives and author archives. Set date and author archives to nofollow to reduce the occurrence of duplicate content.
Other: leave every setting here turned off if you want a minimalist approach to how your webpages appear in the SERP’s. Unnecessary clutter can do more harm than good to your clickthrough rate.
Social media has a big impact on SEO and that’s only going to increase. You can integrate popular social media platforms using Yoast. The first step is to enter your social media URLs on the main page.
Facebook: the Facebook Open Graph metadata can be configured here. These settings also increase the number of customization options for Facebook posts from the WordPress editor.
Twitter: when sharing a post you can alter how the Twitter card is displayed. “Summary with large image” is better than having the title alone because tweets with images get a 55% increase in leads.
Pinterest: like Facebook, Pinterest uses Open Graph metadata. Therefore, you’ll need to enable the Facebook metadata for Pinterest metadata to work too.
Google+: link your Google+ business page here, which helps deliver the right business details to searchers.
Setting this section up correctly helps search engines index your content. Search engine bots use XML Sitemaps as a map to crawl your website. It helps ensure no pages are missed and increases the speed of re-indexing your site after updates.
The XML sitemap should be enabled and click on the “XML Sitemap” button to retrieve the URL, which should be copy/pasted into Webmaster Tools to ensure data between the two platforms are shared.
User sitemap: here unique sitemaps can be created for each user. However, you can leave this disabled if you don’t need this function.
Post types: the type of posts appearing in the XML sitemap can be set here. You’ll want the majority of posts to appear, but it might not be applicable for site media to be displayed.
Excluded posts: you may not want some posts to appear on the sitemap. Use this section to exclude sensitive posts you don’t want users to find via search engines.
Taxonomies: you can include/exclude specific tags or categories in the sitemap. What you choose to include depends on your goals and website.
Check out the advanced settings to elevate your SEO efforts. You can configure the breadcrumbs, permalinks and RSS. Playing around with these settings has the potential to provide a sizeable SEO boost.
Breadcrumbs: this section helps search engines get a better idea of your website structure. Breadcrumbs display the navigational route users will take to arrive at the target page. They are a good way of increasing the attention drawn to your search listing, thereby increasing the clickthrough rate.
Permalinks: SEO friendly URLs are important and you should already have the correct format using WordPress settings. Here you need to make sure that permalinks are set to the post name, which should contain the prominent KW’s you’re targeting.
RSS: this feature makes sure backlinks are automatically created when content inevitably gets scrapped. It helps search engines determine the original source of content to ensure the correct one is displayed in the SERP’s.
Optimizing your content
The base settings covered thus far are only a fraction of what Yoast SEO is known for. The biggest benefits can be gained whilst you are optimizing each post individually as you create them. Optimizing for each post might seem like a lot of work, but becomes second nature after you’ve completed a handful.
You’ll find a box called “Yoast SEO” at the bottom of each post, which can be used to optimize pages based on target keywords. The analysis tool gives insightful recommendations on what changes to make to have the best chance of ranking for a specific keyword.
There are 3 main sections to the Yoast SEO box:
- Snippet editor: this is a self-explanatory tool that allows you to customize the title, slug and meta description. They are initially auto-generated, but you may want to make changes. Remember they must be optimized for readers too. Make these are informative and compelling so you achieve a respectable clickthrough rate.
- Focus keyword: in this section, you’ll enter your target keyword and see what you need to work on to achieve complete optimization. The idea is to get as many green lights as you can. However, don’t obsess over getting a green light for every entry – this tool only serves as advice.
- Readability: improving readability has a profound effect on SEO. Google uses metrics such as bounce rate and time spent on the page towards determining SERP rankings, which are impacted by readability. Try to fix as many non-green lights as possible.
This feature can be used if you’ve connected your website to the Google Search Console. You’ll need to connect Yoast SEO to your Google Account to gather the data. Select the “Get Google Authorization Code” button. Enter the code in the correct field once it’s provided.
The tabs Computer, Smartphone and Phone Function will appear once the connection is made. Errors found by Google will appear here, which you can fix to improve your website. The Settings tab will also appear where you can manage the connection to the Google Search Console.
Configuring the settings outlined above allows you to achieve a proper Yoast setup that helps you rank in the SERPs. You’ll achieve a competitive edge over websites that aren’t using an SEO plugin to control what Google sees. The SEO plugin has the potential to turn a website struggling for recognition in the SERP’s into a top performer.
Yoast automates basic SEO tasks to take the load off your schedule. It also highlights potential problems that are hindering your SEO efforts. The tool is a proven asset for highly ranking WordPress sites so you can’t afford to miss out if you’re serious about climbing the SERPs.