WordPress SEO by Yoast sure has grown up a bit since our last post about setting up the plugin! With all the changes that have happened, it’s time to review the process of configuring the plugin to help ensure SEO perfection. Here’s the run-down.
Yoast WordPress SEO: General Settings
- Company Info
- Webmaster Tools
The General Settings has a couple useful items, like the introduction tour. Other than that, you won’t spend much time here.
You’ll want to make sure you have a Website name plugged in, this can contain your name and possibly a keyword. For example, “NeONBRAND Digital Marketing” would be a great one. Be sure to configure whether you’re a company or a person, and complete then complete the requested fields for either a person or a company. Company allows you to upload your logo too, which you’ll definitely want to do.
Wondering where all the meta verification codes went on Yoast? Here they are! When verifying site ownership on 3rd party sites, they’ll often ask you to add a snipped into the code of your site. This is where you would plug in those snippets. (Side note, the smart people at Yoast make it so you can paste the entire meta string from the other sites into this box, then they strip out all the extras for you on save. Thanks fellas.)
There is only one option on the Security settings, and it’s no so much security related as it is allowing access to advanced settings (which may cause security issues). Use at your own discretion, but for most sites you will want this box checked as those advanced features won’t be necessary.
Titles & Metas – WordPress SEO by Yoast
The Titles & Metas settings are split into six tabbed items:
- Post Types
This is a very important section to configure as these are the default SEO settings for your entire website. The tabs are all very similar in structure and Yoast provides tons of helpful messages along the way if you do something wrong.
I really like the feature found on this page called “Force rewrite titles” and 9 times out of 10 I have this enabled. It overrides any default theme settings and cleans up your titles so they’re the way you want them to be, instead of how your developer may have configured them to be. The Title Separator is also nice, and is totally left to user preference, although I believe there is a sweet spot in Google for those that use the vertical line separator.
If you have a widgetized home page or dynamic blog page, you may have wondered in the past where the heck you can set the page title and description. Well look no more, Yoast has given you that option right here on this page. Thank goodness! If you don’t have a widgetized home page, then you can edit the title and description right on the page itself.
Post Types, Taxonomies & Archives
These pages are awesome, as you can really set a lot of default settings for your SEO optimization. Each default is easily overridden by changing the options on a post by post (or page by page, or category by category, etc) basis. But for starters, you’ll need to know what exactly you can type into these boxes. Let me show you:
|%%pt_single%%||Replaced with the post type single label|
|%%pt_plural%%||Replaced with the post type plural label|
|%%modified%%||Replaced with the post/page modified time|
|%%id%%||Replaced with the post/page ID|
|%%name%%||Replaced with the post/page author’s ‘nicename’|
|%%user_description%%||Replaced with the post/page author’s ‘Biographical Info’|
|%%userid%%||Replaced with the post/page author’s userid|
|%%currenttime%%||Replaced with the current time|
|%%currentdate%%||Replaced with the current date|
|%%currentday%%||Replaced with the current day|
|%%currentmonth%%||Replaced with the current month|
|%%currentyear%%||Replaced with the current year|
|%%page%%||Replaced with the current page number with context (i.e. page 2 of 4)|
|%%pagetotal%%||Replaced with the current page total|
|%%pagenumber%%||Replaced with the current page number|
|%%focuskw%%||Replaced with the posts focus keyword|
|%%term404%%||Replaced with the slug which caused the 404|
|%%cf_<custom-field-name>%%||Replaced with a posts custom field value|
|%%ct_<custom-tax-name>%%||Replaced with a posts custom taxonomies, comma separated.|
|%%ct_desc_<custom-tax-name>%%||Replaced with a custom taxonomies description|
Most of these little code snippets are usable in any of the fields on these four tabs. Some of them may not work, but Yoast is gracious enough to prompt you whenever that happens. The main ones I like to make sure are in place are the title and description for the Posts and Pages (see image to right).
The default is the same for both of them and is as follows:
Title template: %%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%
Meta description template: %%excerpt%%
What this does is by default, without you ever having to change anything on your pages or posts, it will create the title and description tags for you based off of the above formulas. Without something like this in place, those items are left unset and Google doesn’t know what you want your title or description to be. Make sure these are set!
The Taxonomies and Archives tabs are very similar to the Post Types tab, and will have a similar look and feel. You should be fine configuring those yourself.
The other tab has some interesting settings. One of the problem with WordPress when it comes to SEO is that it creates a LOT of additional pages with the archives of posts, categories, and taxonomies. These can cause issues with duplicate content, and aint nobody got time for that. Check the top box to unindex a ton of the paginated results from Google so that you don’t have to worry about that issue. And if you really want to control your SEO descriptions, be sure to check the bottom two boxes too, as you don’t want Google to pull from other resources to try and explain what your site is about.
As for the meta keywords tag, Yoast’s instructions are perfect:
I don’t know why you’d want to use meta keywords, but if you want to, check this box.
Yeah, don’t check that box.
Social – WordPress SEO by Yoast
This is a great new section to version 2.0 of the Yoast SEO plugin. He’s really brought together all the social requirements together in one place. It’s really self explanatory, just make sure you fill out as much of each tab as possible.
Get your social accounts setup! Then come back here and plug in the URL’s (or in Twitter’s case, the username… come on Yoast-onians, be consistent! ?).
I recommend checking the box at the top of the page to “Add Open Graph meta data” to your site. This helps Facebook know what is on each page, so when your content gets shared on Facebook, they correctly populate all of the default options. Without this, you’re leaving it up to Facebook to try and guess what to put in for your title or description!
I also connect up my Facebook admin account to collect additional insights, but this isn’t necessarily required for a good SEO experience.
As easy as checking the box, NEXT!
You’ll want to have your site verified with Pinterest. This is where you can plug in the little code they give you in order to complete the verification.
We know… nobody uses Google+ and we TOTALLY agree with that. Problem is, Google sure the heck does… and they reward those who use it with them! My bet is the whole network will get broken up into smaller pieces, but until that time comes you’ll need a Google+ page and this is the tab where you plug in the URL.
XML Sitemaps – WordPress SEO by Yoast
First, go into your currently installed plugins and do a search for the term “xml”. Then deactivate any plugin that might already be creating an XML sitemap for you. You’ll want to use Yoast’s, it’s about a million times better than everyone else’s. After you’ve deactivated any other plugins, come back to this tab and check the box to “enable XML sitemap functionality”. Four tabs are found here:
- User Sitemap
- Post Types
The main purpose of the XML sitemap is to have a nice organized structure of your entire website so that Google can know where all the pages go and when all the pages are updated and or released. The plugin will also notify the search engines whenever you add new content, which is always a good thing.
For starters, there is a nice big button at the top of this tab that gives you a link to your dynamically created XML sitemap (You’ll need to submit this to Google via the Search Console). I’d leave the other setting as is, unless you start experiencing issues.
If you have a multi-author blog, you may want to have the author sitemap enabled. Although with the recent dump of authorship data, this is probably unimportant. I have the Disable button checked on my site.
Then any custom post types for your site will be listed right under those, mine are as follows:
- Ebook Chapters
- Staff Members
Now why would you want to check any of these boxes to EXCLUDE these post types from your sitemap? Well I’m glad you asked. Main reason is that sometimes these post types are created and you don’t actually use them on your site. Doesn’t do you any good to include them in your sitemap then. Go ahead and check those off.
Taxonomies are very similar to post types, there are a few defaults (Categories, Tags & Format) and then the remaining are custom taxonomies. Same rule applies, if you’re not using the taxonomy it doesn’t do you any good to include those in your sitemap either. Check off the ones you don’t use.
Advanced – WordPress SEO by Yoast
The Advanced settings have quite a bit of goodness hidden in here. It’s broken into three tabs:
All really important, and they’re not too advanced for the average user… although there is a little bit of code that accompanies some of these settings.
Breadcrumbs are great. If you don’t know what they are, they come from the fairytale classic Hansel & Gretel. Remember how they found their way home? They left breadcrumbs along the way! The breadcrumbs on a website have essentially the same purpose, they show a road map of how to get back to the home page of the website, and are usually located right below the menu bar. Here’s what ours looks like:
To enable this feature, just check the big fat checkbox at the top of the page. There are a little bit of settings to configure, but the defaults are good. This does require a minor amount of programing and Yoast has already provided this handy little guide on how to set that up.
The permalinks page has a bit of important settings, and Yoast explains all of them really well. Here’s a shot of my default settings, used 99 times out of 100:
The RSS tab allows you to manipulate the automatic output of your RSS feed. Sometimes people use scrapers to take content from other sites. To circumvent that, you can plug in something either before or after the content of the RSS feed to show where the content originated. You can use the little shortcuts here too, he’s got them listed out right on the page.
Tools – WordPress SEO by Yoast
These used to be more obvious, but I think Yoast was probably getting too many questions about some pieces of his plugin that only 1% of people ever need to use. Don’t worry too much about these, but just in case… here goes.
Here you’re able to edit titles and descriptions of all post types en-masse. If you’re really wanting to crank through a bunch of pages at one time, this is the way to do it.
Sometimes you might have to change an important file like your .htaccess or robots.txt. Now be careful with those files, you can also break your entire site in those files…
Import and Export
Yoast knows that you may have another SEO plugin already installed, and changing over may seem daunting. Yoast smoothed all that over by providing a sweet little import tool to help with the migration from most of the other popular SEO plugins.
WordPress SEO Extensions
Yoast has some great paid extensions for his plugin, here’s the list but we’ll save details for another post:
Summary of the Ultimate Guide
We sure love Yoast and all it’s features. We’ve ranked sites using this plugin alone. This post only covers the main settings of the plugin, there are also a ton of great settings on the individual posts editing pages. Definitely check out the settings and let us know if you have any trouble with any of the above!