Whenever you search for the best SEO plugins for a WordPress site, the number one choice of most of the bloggers would be WordPress SEO by Yoast. There is another plugin too called All in One SEO but I have used it once and it’s not advanced as WordPress SEO by Yoast.
WordPress SEO by Yoast is developed and maintained by Joost de Valk and is the most complete SEO solution for a WordPress blog. It contains all the features that you would help you get higher in search engine and increase traffic on your site. As the plugin contains tons of amazing features, it’s not very easy to set up the plugin. So we are going to see the steps to install and set up WordPress SEO by Yoast and utilize all the features for the best benefits.
- Site verification in Google, Bing, Yandex, Alexa and Pinterest.
- Titles and Meta settings for Homepage, Posts and Pages, Taxonomies and Other settings like author profile and date archives.
- Facebook Open Graph Meta Data and Twitter Meta Cards support.
- Cleaning the head section by hiding RSD, WLW Manifest links and Shortlinks.
- Sitemaps settings, breadcrumbs support and advanced permalink settings.
- RSS footer and header configuration to show in your feed content.
- Import and Export the SEO settings from different plugins or in the same plugin.
- Edit .htaccess file and more.
Also Read: SEO Smart Links Setup Guide
How to Install WordPress SEO by Yoast?
First of all, you need to download WordPress SEO by Yoast and install it on your blog. To install the plugin, go to “Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin” and install the plugin. Or you can also search for the plugin from your WordPress dashboard as well.
Once successfully installed, you will see a tab named “SEO” in the left sidebar which will look something like the image below. That’s the sign that the plugin has been successfully installed.
How to Set Up WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin?
(Skip this step if you are installing the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin on a newly created WordPress blog.)
You might already be using some other WordPress plugin like All in One SEO or some themes like Genesis Framework or Thesis Framework which have built-in SEO options. So to make sure that Yoast SEO plugin works perfectly, you need to transport all the old SEO settings over to WordPress SEO by Yoast.
You can use the SEO Data Transporter plugin to transfer all the previous SEO data to the newly installed plugin.
When you click on the SEO tab in your sidebar, it will take you to the General Settings page of the plugin. You can learn more about the plugin by taking a tour of all of its features. There is also an option on this page where you can reset to default settings.
Then there is a Tracking option which sends anonymous usage data of the plugin to the plugin author. You can uncheck it if you don’t want to share any data with anyone. Then there is the Security option, which you should keep checked always to prevent the authors and editors on your blog to make changes like redirect and noindex that might cause problems.
You might have already heard that you should always submit a sitemap of your blog posts to all the popular search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. and to do that you should have submitted your site in the webmasters tools of each search engine.
Once you submit your site to different search engines, you have to add a meta tag to your WordPress theme and verify it. Normally, beginners find it a little confusing in adding a verifying the meta tags, so with WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can do it easily. You just have to add the meta code that you receive from search engines and save the settings. You site will be verified in the webmasters tools of respective search engines.
2. Titles and Meta
The next step is to set up the title and meta tags of all the pages and posts on your blog for better search engine rankings. This setting contains a lot of different tabs and we will see all of them one by one.
The first option is the General settings. The first option is the Force Rewrite Titles. WordPress SEO by Yoast can check if it need to rewrite titles of some of your pages. Usually it is unchecked but you can choose if you want this option active or not. Next option is the Title Separator and you can choose any of them as per your requirements.
Then we have Sitewide Meta Settings. Here keep all the checkboxes unchecked except the meta keywords tab. Check the meta keywords checkbox to use meta keywords in your posts. If you want then you can keep the meta keywords checkbox unchecked as Google has made it official that they do not care about meta keywords.
And the last option is to clean the head section of your site. You can check all the boxes and keep the head section clean. However if you are using any other client or application to update your site, then you need to keep the Hide RSD links and WLW Manifest Links unchecked.
You will see a default title template automatically filled in the boxes. You can change it because these titles are going to appear in the search engine results. You can either choose a custom title of your homepage like I have done or keep the default WordPress title. Enter the meta description and the meta keywords in the boxes.
The next tab is Post Types. Here we will be able to change the titles and description of your blog posts, pages and other special pages as well.
By default, the WordPress SEO plugin automatically enters the title template for all your posts, pages and media files. You can choose the following templates for the post settings.
Title Template: %%title%% (for posts) & %%title%% – %%sitename%% (for pages)
Meta Description Template: %%excerpt%%
Meta Keyword Template: %%focuskw%%
By default, the plugin hides the dates from search engine results. If you are going to publish evergreen content then don’t check this box, but if you are running a news blog or a gadgets blog, then you can check this box to show the dates is search engine snippets.
You should remember that WordPress SEO by Yoast adds an SEO meta box in your post area and for the best SEO benefits, you should use it to add SEO title of your posts and the meta description for that particular posts for each post you publish. If you don’t use this SEO meta box, the plugin will use the default settings as defined here and will automatically add the description for your posts and pages.
Here you can set up the SEO of categories and tags for your WordPress site. Normally the default title parameters will work for all the sites but I like to keep it simple so I have used different settings for my blogs. You can choose to change it but it won’t matter if you keep the default ones. You can even keep the categories and tags of your blog noindex and dofollow by checking the box in the settings area.
The last tab in the settings is used to set up your author profile, data archives and special pages. You can keep the data archives and the special pages as default as it won’t create any problems.
However I have changed the author profile in my blog a little. If you are running a single author box, then you need to disable the author archives to prevent the duplicate content as your main blog and the author archives contains the exact same data.
In the Social tab, you can set the Facebook Open Graph Meta Data, Twitter Meta Card and Google+ settings. You can add the default image for the posts that you share on Facebook from this settings.
4. XML Sitemaps
Currently I am using Google XML Sitemaps to create sitemaps of my blog posts so I have disabled this feature. However you can enable this feature in WordPress SEO by Yoast and reduce one more plugin from your site.
The first option in the Permalinks tab is to strip the category base, i.e. /category/ from the URLs. If you want to keep your category URLs simple then you can check this box but you should make sure that none of your posts or pages have the same name as the categories as it will create a conflict.
Next feature is to enforce a trailing slash at the end of your post URLs. By default, your posts will end with a .html tag and if you wish to remove it then you can check this box to end your post with a slash instead of the .html tag.
Next feature is to remove stop words from your URLs. If you wish to remove the stop words from your URLs then you can select this option otherwise leave it unchecked. I use different settings in my different blogs and you can choose whether you want to check it or not.
You can add images and media files to your posts but WordPress create separate URLs for all those attachments which is unnecessary. By using the next feature and checking the box, you can redirect all the attachment URLs to the original post URLs.
The last option to redirect ugly URLs to clean permalinks is not needed in most of the cases. But you can choose it if you like. However make sure that you know what you are doing or else leave it unchecked.
The last option is the Canonical settings and you should leave them as they are. There’s no need of changing the default settings.
6. Internal Linking
This section is not about internal linking your blog posts but about enabling the breadcrumbs for your site. The first thing you need to do on this page is check the box to enable breadcrumbs, then you can set it up as you like.
7. RSS Feeds
In the RSS feeds section, you will be able to add backlinks to your own site from the feed content. Most of the times, the content scrapers use your blog’s feeds to copy the articles. This way you will get backlinks from their site and Google will know that your blog is the original source of the content.
You can add your author link, blog description and others in the RSS feeds section. Here’s how the default settings look like.
8. Import and Export
You can export all the settings that you just did to the plugin in case you mess it up accidentally in the future. In that case, you will be easily able to import all your settings with a single click.
There is also an option to transfer the SEO data from other sources like HeadSpace2, All in One SEO and other plugins, so if you don’t want to use SEO Data Transporter plugin to transfer the data then you can use this option.
9. Bulk Edit
The next option is the Bulk Edit option. It allows you to edit the SEO settings of all your posts easily. You can change the Post Titles all all the posts easily from here and save a lot of time.
10. Edit Files
There is an Edit option also in the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. You can edit your blog’s .htaccess file from here. However I won’t recommend you to do any changes to it as it might cause some serious problems if some wrong code is added to it. So stay away from this option.
How to Optimize Your Posts with WordPress SEO?
Now that you have done all the SEO settings for your blog, it’s time to see how you can use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to optimize your posts for the best rankings in search engines.
However I am going to cover that topic in a completely new post as I don’t want to make this post more lengthy. So stay tuned as I am going to share the post in about a day or two.
Wrapping it Up:
WordPress SEO by Yoast is by far the best free SEO plugin for your blogs and I am using it on all my sites as the ultimate SEO solution. If you haven’t used the plugin then install it right now and use this post to set it up for the best benefits.
If you think that I made some mistake in the settings for WordPress SEO by Yoast or forgot some important section then please share it via the comments below as it will not only help the readers but it will help me too.