A little while ago, I got a comment on one of my blog posts with a question related to the Yoast SEO plugin.
I’ve had a look around your site as I was looking for information about the best way we should be using Yoast Seo.
Did I miss it or could you provide such info as it keeps changing much to my anoyance?
Since I already had it in my drafts to work on, I decided to make it a priority, and while setting up a new niche site, I took the screenshots needed to make this post. Below you’ll have the information on how I configure Yoast SEO.
Is this the ONLY way to set it up? No, definitely not. Is this the BEST way to set it up? Maybe not, BUT, it’s how I set it up for all my sites and what seems to be working for me. I’m not an SEO expert though, so it is possible that there are things I miss out on, but as long as my sites are bringing in traffic from the search engines, I figure that I’m good to go.
So, let’s see what I do once I have the plugin installed. By the way, it can easily be found through the plugin section in your wp-admin. Just do a search for “Yoast” or “Yoast SEO” and it will show up. They have a premium version too, but the free one does what I need it to do, so I never invested in the pro version.
If you think you’ll need their support often, it might be a good investment though. Plus there are some extra features that the free one doesn’t have. You can get the pro one here.
Where Will You Find Yoast SEO Settings?
The first thing you need to know is that you have two “area” to find the Yoast SEO settings. You’ll see a new tab in your left sidebar that says “SEO”, like you can see in the image below.
When you open that tab, you’ll find three more: the Dashboard, the Search Console and the option to go premium. I’ll cover both the dashboard and the search console below.
The second “area” where you’ll find Yoast SEO is in your content. When you create or edit posts or pages, when you look at your user profile, your categories, your tags, … All those areas will have extra settings for this plugin. I’ll cover those too, or at least the ones I use and find important when it comes to my on site SEO.
Yoast SEO Dashboard
When you open the Yoast SEO dashboard, you’ll find a page where you’ll find any problems the plugin detects, or any notifications that are related to the plugin. Usually you get notifications when installing the plugin for the first or when updating, as you can see below:
If you don’t see any tabs at the top of your page when you’re in the Dashboard, make sure to click changes. Once you do that, you’ll find the tabs for the different settings. I’ll walk you through them:
- General: In the “General” tab you find three things. First, the set up wizard. This will walk you through setting up the plugin according to how Yoast recommends. The second section is the credit section, the people behind the plugin. And the third section is the option to restore the default settings. If something goes wrong, or if you want to start over with how you set up the plugin, you can do that there.
- Features: This tab allows you to disable or enable certain features that the plugin has. By default is the first option, the Advanced settings pages, disabled. I always enable it because I make some changes to it. The other two are enabled and I leave them as is. Once you save your changes, you will notice that under the SEO tab in your wp-admin sidebar, a few more options appeared.
- Your Info: Here you can set up an alternate name for your blog. I leave that blank, personally. You also have a dropdown menu here to decide whether you want to appear as a company or a person in the Google’s Knowledge Graph. I always set it to “Person” for my niche blogs.
- Webmaster Tools: This tab will help you verify your sites with different Webmaster Tools. At this time there are three options available: Google, Bing and Yandex. I always set up Google and Bing. Just click on the link for each option and it will automatically bring you to the page where you get the info you need to verify it. For Google you go to “Alternate Methods” and choose the HTML tag option. Copy the meta tag to the box on your site and save settings. After that you verify if it’s added correctly and you’re done. The same goes for Bing. You just follow the link they provide and you’ll be automatically brought to the page where you can add your site and verify it with the metatag that you copy to your site. Once you’ve added the sites to the webmaster tools, you can come back to those sites later to add the sitemap of your site, but for now, let’s go back to our Yoast SEO settings.
- Security Settings: this last tab I leave as it is. I’m the only author on my site, and even if I weren’t, I would never give anyone the option to make changes to the SEO settings. You never know what they might do and before you notice it, you could have hurt your rankings already. So, just leave it on disabled.
The Advanced Settings
Now that I covered the initial tabs and settings for Yoast SEO, I’ll walk you through the Advanced Settings. Again, I don’t change everything, but I’ll let you know what I do change and why.
Titles & Metas
The first section is called Titles & Metas. Again, you’ll have a few tabs here to walk you through the settings:
- General: In this tab you can choose your prefered title seperator. If you don’t know what that is, take a look at the tabs you see in your browser for each page you have open. If you hover over them you will see a small box with text. It usually contains the title of the page and the title of the site it can be found on. In between those two you’ll have a seperator. Usually a hyphen, but you can select the option you want for your own site. I usually leave it as is. The second choice you have there is enabling or disabling the analysis. I keep that enabled as that is what you will use to improve the SEO for individual posts and pages.
- Homepage: In this section you can make changes to what appears in your title tag. By default the code that is in there will say to show the title of your blog and the description. That information is stored in your site settings. Some people will remove the description from this, but I don’t. I usually have an LSI keyword in there, so it never hurts to have the description in there. The meta description I usually leave blank.
- Post Types: Here you can do the same as you did for the homepage, but for all the different post types you have available on your site. And that’s not just posts, that includes the pages, and the media uploads. If you have a theme or plugin that adds custom post types, you will find those here too. Again you can change the title template for what shows in your title tag for your individual pages. I leave both that and the meta description with the default settings. What I do change from time to time is the other options that each post type has. You can choose to noindex a post type if you want. This could be helpful in some cases, where you want to add specific content but don’t want to have it show in the search engines. I leave the settings here default in most cases.
- Taxonomies: This lets you change the same information as with the post type, but for the taxonomies. Taxonomy is the term used for the different ways your content is grouped on your site: categories, tags, format. You can again change the title tag or set them to noindex. Again, I leave this as it is.
- Archives: Now, here is where I make changes. This again lets you change the same info as with the previous tabs but in this case for the different archives, like the date or author archives. Since I am the only one who blogs on my sites, my author archive page would be the same as my regular blog. This could qualify as duplicate content. That’s why I always disable the author archive, this way it’ll redirect to the homepage. The date archive I usually leave enabled, but I make sure that it’s put on noindex.
- Other: this last tab holds a few extra sitewide meta settings. What I change here is that I put subpages of archives to noindex. I don’t have any issues with the main page for some archives to show up in the search engines, but I don’t think that all of them have to show up, and possibly affect the ranking of the regular posts on my site.
The second advanced setting area is called Social. This relates to your social media presence and how it’s linked to your site.
- Accounts: On this tab you can add all your social media urls that are related to your site. I don’t use all the social media sites mentioned, but the ones I do, I will add here. At least, if I’m using them for that site. I will not add a general account there, but only the ones I created specifically for that niche. Usually that means I’ll link to the Facebook fanpage, the twitter account and the google+ page. If I have a pinterest account specifally for that niche, I will link that too. If you have others and they are mentioned there, make sure to add those too!
- Facebook: I add an image url under default settings. That will be used when I (or someone else) shares a post from my site that doesn’t have images that could show up.
- Google+: In the last three tabs I don’t make any changes, I just leave it as is.
The third advanced settings are related to XML Sitemaps. I always make sure that the sitemap functionality is enabled. Once it is, and I have my first post on the site, I can add it to the webmaster tools for Google and Bing. There is a link in that section that will bring you to your sitemap, so you’ll have to correct link to add. Besides that I don’t make any changes.
A few more options that will help your on site SEO.
- Breadcrumbs: Personally I always use Genesis and a childtheme on my site, and those have the breadcrumb functionality already activated. If you use a theme that doesn’t have this, I would recommend to enable it here. Once you do, you’ll get a few more options that will help you with the design of the breadcrumbs.
- Permalinks: I usually leave it as it by default.
- RSS: I’ll leave this one as is too.
In this section you don’t have anything to set up, but it can be a great help when you want to quickly change SEO titles and descriptions of your posts and pages without having to go into the editor for each page. You also have a file editor here where you can make changes to your robots.txt file (or create one if you don’t have one), or changes to your .htaccess file. Since my .htaccess file isn’t writable (which I recommend) I have no use for this section most of the time.
This section could be found under the SEO tab in your sidebar from the start. When you authenticate your site with Google, you’ll be able to find some of the information collected in your search console account with Google. If you have the paid version of the plugin, you can set up redirects for non-existing URLs here.
SEO Yoast And Your Content
While the plugin will add additional options on different pages on your backend, I only really use it for my posts. There are different options here: the major use I have for it, is tracking the keyword in your article and the readability of your article. There are three colors: green for when everything is okay, orange when you have a few minor things to work on and red when you have a lot to work on.
Let’s see how it looks for this article at this point.
As you can see, according to the information that the plugins collects from my article, and the keyword I chose for it, I’m already in the green. I still have a few things to work on, but I usually do those when I’m done writing. The rest came naturally. I never look at this before I’m done writing, well, usually I don’t. When I’m done, almost each of these bullet points will be green. I almost never receive a completely green list, but that’s okay.
As you can see, my readability isn’t completely okay here. The passive voice might change since I’m still adding content. The other part, not so much. But again, it’s okay if I don’t reach a full list with green bullet points. And I’m not alone in saying this. Even the people behind the plugin say that you shouldn’t chase the green bullets. What I do find important is how I score in the Flesch Reading Ease test. I like my content to be easy to read. I’m writing for a large public, and not all of my readers are native English speakers. For people that have English as a second or third language (like me), the text is easier to digest if I keep it at an easy to read level.
Another option I use for my individual blog posts (at least from time to time) relates to Facebook. For each post you can set up a different title, description and image that will show up when the post is shared on Facebook. If you don’t do this, Facebook will use the default information to show what is related to your link. I don’t use this for all my blog posts, but from time to time I will create a specific image that I want to use to share the article on social media. When I do, I add that image here.
So, this is about everything that I use when it comes to the Yoast SEO plugin on my sites. Like I said before, there are different ways to do it, you can add more info, change more things, but for me, this is what has worked up till now and what I’ll keep using.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!