How to Optimize your WordPress SEO with Yoast - Part 1
Do you ever feel a little lost with SEO? Everyone talks about its importance, but it can be difficult to figure out how to actually use it to your advantage. Well good news, today we're sharing a guide to our favorite SEO tool for WordPress - the Yoast SEO plugin.
We'll walk you through the ins-and-outs of installing and setting up the plugin to work in your favor so you can feel more confident about optimizing your site for search engines - yay! Plus, a guide through using it when creating new posts and pages.
Why is SEO important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and in it's simplest form it helps your content rank higher in search engine results. Showing up higher in a search engine result is important because it helps those looking for your type of product, service, blog, etc find you! Read more about SEO importance and a general overview in this article by Elle & Co.
Install + Setup
To get started, you'll first need to install and activate the plugin on your site. You can find the plugin by going to your dashboard then Plugins > Add New > Search Yoast SEO and it should be the first option available.
After you’ve installed and activated, you will now have a tab in your dashboard labeled SEO where you can setup your general settings.
Yoast’s dashboard gives you updates on the plugin and your site’s problems (if any) and potential improvements. The General tab has tutorials Yoast has provided to get a better handle on the plugin, we recommend checking these out!
Your Info: Add in how you want your website to appear in Google and choose to let Google recognize you as a person or company.
Webmaster Tools: Verify your site with Google, Bing, and Yandex webmaster tools, which will help you show up in search results.
Security: If you run a site with multiple contributors, you can use this option to limit the amount of control they have over SEO settings.
Titles & Metas
Your Titles and Metas are essentially the content that is visible within a Google Search result for each page/post on your website. Since this is likely your first interaction with any potential visitors, you want to make sure that you make a strong first impression that inspires action. The settings under this tab will allow you to edit the appearance of this content using standardized templates to ensure that all your content looks consistent. As well, you can even make subtle edits like the choice of separator used between the title and meta content (more on those later).
Your title and meta content also shows up in a few other unexpected places - in the tab of your browser window, as default content for social media sharing, information used for saving browser bookmarks, etc. - so take a few moments to make sure it meets your high expectations!
Accounts: Connect your social accounts to help Google recognize you and your outside links.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+: Add default images, titles, descriptions, and URLs to use when your site or content is shared. You can also confirm your website with Pinterest here (perfect for getting started with rich pins!)
Here's an example of what our site looks like when shared on Facebook after we've customized the settings.
Here Yoast will generate a sitemap for you to submit to search engines, such as through Google's own Webmaster Tools. It’s best to keep this updated (ex. once a month), so Google can easily recognize your site. You can decide what content to include and exclude in your sitemap, we suggest including everything.
If you feel like getting your hands really dirty, the Advanced tab offers some, well, advanced features to help you up your SEO game.
Breadcrumbs: The Yoast SEO plugin offers it's own customizable breadcrumbs functionality. Breadcrumbs show you where you are in a website, and the content path. For example, this article would be found under Home > Resources > How to Optimize your WordPress SEO with Yoast - Part 1. Please note: adding in these breadcrumbs requires some changes to the theme files - always use a child theme or a plugin like Genesis Simple Hooks to keep your edits safe during future theme updates.
Permalinks: Additional settings for controlling the appearance of your content's permalinks (aka how the url looks in your browser's address bar).
RSS: Here you can add in additional content into your site's RSS feed (used by feed aggregators like Feedly or Bloglovin'). Unless you have something specific in mind, Yoast does a pretty good job of managing this with its default settings.
Yoast provides several tools to help you quickly change titles and description of posts and pages, update files, and import / export your SEO plugin settings to another site if needed.
Here Google will pull up you Google Search Console information and tell you about any areas that need attention, such as missing content and 404 errors. You will need to authenticate with your Google authorization code first.
Phew! Yoast definitely offers a lot of different settings, and it can certainly be overwhelming at first glance. However it also makes things easy by handling most things with its default settings. This means you can pick and choose the settings that matter for you and leave everything else as it is, and you're already on your way to optimizing your WordPress site's SEO. But we're not quite done yet! Make sure you check out part 2 of our Yoast SEO for WordPress post, where we walk you through the steps for optimizing each and every page on your site to rank higher in search results - don't miss it!