How to configure the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin – Tutorial
Whether you have a personal blog, a business blog or just want to start with your first niche pages , there is a plugin that will help you improve the SEO of your site: the SEO by Yoast WordPress plugin .
In this guide we are going to review point by point the most important aspects that you should know about this plugin, emphasizing those that have to do with its configuration and use .
I’ll tell you, first of all, that this is not the typical guide that will go menu by menu telling you what you should play or what each plugin option is for; on the contrary, this will be a 100% practical and useful guide; I will show you what is really important to quickly start working on the SEO of your website and configure the Yoast SEO plugin efficiently.
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What is Yoast SEO, what is it for and how does it work?
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin created to help you optimize the content of your website from an SEO point of view.
It is probably the most important SEO plugin that currently exists and is one of the most used both by those who are professionally dedicated to SEO and by small website administrators.
As I said in the introduction, it doesn’t matter if you have a website that gets thousands of visits per day from Google or if you are just starting your personal website; Having a tool such as the Yoast SEO plugin is essential to optimize your website for search engines.
Yoast SEO works by assisting you in the configuration of your site that search engines (mainly Google) need, to better understand the content of your web page. In the case of not using this or any other WordPress SEO plugin, you would be omitting important information to improve the positioning of your websites .
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What Yoast SEO is really for and what it will NOT do for you
As I said in the previous paragraphs, Yoast SEO is simply an assistant when it comes to the SEO configuration of your website.
There are many people who think that doing SEO is simply installing an SEO plugin for WordPress and that’s it; I must clarify that there is nothing further from reality.
The SEO of your website is done by you, not the plugin , Yoast SEO is just a tool that advises you on the configuration of your site and the pages or entries of your website, but the real SEO work is done by optimizing the On Page of your site with the analysis of keywords and their correct use in the content.
How to download and install the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress
Once the relevant introduction about the plugin has been given, it is time to teach you the first steps. In this case, it is appropriate to install Yoast SEO; For that, in the WordPress administration we go to the “Plugins” > “Add New” menu.
There we have the option to use the plugin search engine; We must write “Yoast SEO”, after it shows us the plugin among the options, we click on “Install” and then on “Activate”.
You will know that it is correctly active in your WordPress because a new menu will appear called “SEO” and an icon of the plugin will appear in the WordPress toolbar.
From here we start with the configuration of Yoast SEO.
Set up the basics in Yoast SEO
If you just got familiar with the plugin, you probably have a lot of options and settings, maybe more than you can know and understand.
If that’s your case, then I recommend the basic Yoast SEO setup that I’m about to show you.
How to create the XML Sitemap for Google from Yoast SEO
The XML Sitemap is a file that contains all the content of your blog (pages, posts, categories, tags and images) in XML format.
It is very important to create this file and send it to Google through Search Console to allow it to identify and find our content, so that it can be indexed in the search engine and can be shown to the public that performs a search on Google.
Yoast SEO, by default, creates the XML Sitemap without the need to do any additional action; to find it we are going to go to the “SEO” > “General” menu, once there we click on the “Features” tab.
Once on that page, we look for the option called “XML Site Maps”; this option should already be marked as “Active”; if it is not, then proceed to activate it right now.
To find the XML Sitemap, click on the question mark and then where it says “View XML Sitemap”; This should open a new tab in your browser with the XML file containing the Sitemap of your website.
In order to send it to Google, the first thing you need to do is copy the URL of the browser that contains the file.
Now you must go to Search Console , if you have already created your account and you have already registered your website, you can go to the Sitemaps menu, paste the URL of the XML file that you just copied and click Submit.
With that, the XML Sitemap would be created and sent to Google.
Appearance in search results
Another very useful aspect of Yoast SEO is that it allows us to have a vision of how our articles will appear in search results.
For a quick configuration of this aspect, we can go to the “SEO”> “Appearance in the search engine” tab.
There we will enter the tab called General, where we can configure two things:
First, the “Title Separator”; This separator is used to be placed between the title of the entries and the name of your website in the search results.
The second and most important thing is the “SEO Title” and the “Meta description” of the front page of your website; you have a space to write what you want in both cases.
It is important that you know that the Yoast SEO plugin allows you to use some variables related to your website; To use them, you can click on the “Insert snippet variable” option and select the one you think is convenient.
Note: A very used variable that is not among those options is %%currentyear%% and %%currentmonth%% so that the plugin shows where you want the current year and month respectively.
To finish configuring the appearance in the search results with Yoast SEO, you must go to the “Content Types” tab and configure the “SEO Title” and the “Meta description” in the same way, both for the Posts and for the Pages.
This configuration is important, however, later we will see that we can create unique and personalized SEO Titles and Meta descriptions for each entry or page of our site, so for now do not pay too much attention to this aspect.
In this tab, for both posts and pages, you have three options that you can configure; however, my recommendation is that you leave the three as they are because they are the configurations that I recommend you to have for a better use of the plugin.
In addition to helping you with the presence of your site in search engines, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you help when it comes to your presence in social networks.
With the plugin you can configure the appearance of your content on social networks; To do this, you must go to the “SEO” > “Social” menu.
There, in the “Accounts” tab, I recommend you to place all the social networks that you have associated with your website; in this way, Yoast SEO will indicate to the search engines the social networks of your web page.
After adding your website accounts, it’s time for you to configure each of the social networks separately.
The first tab is the Facebook tab : I recommend you to have the “Add Open Graph metadata” option active so that Yoast optimizes the way articles are displayed on this social network.
In addition, you can configure the settings of your main page (the home) so that, in case it is shared on Facebook, it has a special and personalized appearance.
For the rest of the available social networks ( Twitter , Pinterest and Google+) the configurations are simpler; If your website attracts a lot of traffic through the networks, I recommend you configure and test all the options until your publications look the way you want.
How to do advanced settings in Yoast SEO
If you got here with no problems or if you want to go a step further in the Yoast SEO plugin configuration, then I will show you other options that you should pay attention to during the SEO tuning of your website.
Visibility of category and tag pages in Yoast SEO
Both tags and categories in WordPress are used to order your blog posts according to a common characteristic.
Although they are useful in that sense, the truth is that the URLs that these two taxonomies generate many times do not rank for any keywords and, therefore, do not attract organic traffic to your blog; in those cases, it is best to tell search engines to ignore those results .
To prevent search engines from displaying your blog’s categories and tags in their results, you must go to the “SEO” > “Search Engine Appearance” option and navigate through the tabs until you reach the so-called “Taxonomies”.
There you only have to check the “No” option for the question “Do we show Categories in the search results?”, you should also check “No” for the same question but for the tags, if you want to also place them as no index.
As the main title says, this is an advanced setting of Yoast SEO; not all sites should exclude tags and/or categories from the results; if you decide to do it, it should be knowing exactly what you do and why you do it from an SEO point of view. If you are not very clear, then I would recommend you to leave the default configuration of the plugin.
Configuring robots.txt in Yoast
The robots.txt file is very important for the SEO of your website, it is a plain text file that contains guidelines that robots (bots or spiders) read, to know which parts of your site to crawl and which parts to ignore .
Basically, the robots.txt file contains the prohibited parts of your blog so that robots don’t go through and crawl them.
To configure the robots.txt with Yoast SEO you must go to the “Tools” menu and select the “File editor” option.
If you just set up SEO for your blog, you probably don’t have the robots.txt file created yet; to do so you can click on the “Create robots.txt file” button.
After doing so you can edit the file with the guidelines you want to give the robots about your website.
Again, this is an advanced plugin configuration; If you are not sure what to do or why to do it, then I recommend leaving the plugin default options.
If, on the other hand, you want to learn how to properly configure the robots.txt file, I recommend this tutorial about it.
How to use Yoast SEO when creating content
One of the most powerful options that the Yoast SEO plugin has is to configure the appearance in search engines of all the contents of your blog.
Whether it’s posts, pages, categories or labels, you can give everything a unique and differentiated style.
To find the Yoast SEO options in your content, you must go to the bottom of the content editing page you are creating and look for the module called “Yoast SEO”.
Now I will teach you everything you need to know about using the plugin for your content.
Is the target keyword really useful?
When you are configuring the Yoast SEO module in your content, the first thing the plugin recommends is to enter a target keyword phrase in order to do an SEO analysis of the content you are creating.
From the SEO point of view, it is recommended that each content of your web page is focused on attacking target keywords or phrases that have searches and that eventually end up positioning themselves to attract organic traffic to your site.
So, what Yoast SEO does is provide you with recommendations that in theory you should follow to have your content better optimized according to a target keyword, in this case I use “in theory” because experience has shown me that it is not necessary to comply 100% what the plugin recommends to end up positioning the keywords you want.
That is the first aspect that I recommend you pay attention to; Remember that Yoast SEO offers you recommendations that are in no way decisive or are always important to end up positioning a key phrase.
Another singularity of this analysis that Yoast performs on the target keyword is that the plugin (in its free version) performs the analysis on a single phrase , when reality indicates that our article should be optimized to also position variants of that main phrase and even phrases that represent searches related to the main topic of the content.
So, my answer to the answer about whether the analysis is really useful would be: if you have just started to create content on the internet and you want to start your on-page SEO optimization training on the right foot, the analysis is very useful and I recommend you try to follow the Yoast SEO recommendations.
As you gain experience, you will create your own criteria on how to correctly optimize the onpage SEO of your articles without the need to have the support of Yoast to approve it.
SEO analysis . What you should really pay attention to and what not
Above I told you that not all Yoast SEO Analysis recommendations are really important to end up ranking the target keyword phrase.
In addition, I also told you that you should optimize your content not only for a single target phrase but for several; So, surely you are wondering what is really important in the analysis. Below you can see my recommendations:
- Try to use the target key phrase several times throughout your content , always using it naturally in the writing and not repeating it in an exaggerated way. Also try to use variations of the main keyword as a substitute during the writing of your content; For that, Yoast will help you by indicating the density or the percentage of times that you have used the main keyword phrase.
- You should also use the target keyword phrase in the titles and subtitles (H1, H2 and H3) of your content, also trying to use variants of the main phrase and phrases related to the central theme of the content.
- Use the main keyword phrase in the SEO title and in the meta description of the articles. Although these spaces are small, you can also place phrases related to the central theme to increase the range of keywords to position in search engines.
- Try to keep the URLs of your articles short and, if possible, use the main keyword phrase to compose the slug of your content.
- It is also recommended that you use the target keyword phrases in the alt and title attributes of your images and links; In addition, here it is also important that you try to increase the use of variations to the main phrase and related phrases as much as possible.
On all these aspects, Yoast SEO will show you suggestions or conclusions derived from the SEO analysis of your content; Trying to comply with Yoast’s recommendations and the ones I have placed above will make your content better optimized from an onpage point of view.
How to create the page title and a meta-description
The most important aspects that you must take into account to optimize the presence of your content in search engines are the title of the page and the meta-description.
They are the first places where the reader has contact with the content of your website and it will largely depend on them whether users click on your result or that of the competition.
Good titles and meta descriptions can make a difference, noticeably modifying the CTR of your results; Fortunately, the Yoast SEO plugin allows you to make a special modification of these two aspects for each content of your website.
To modify both the page title and the meta description, you must click the button that says “Edit Snippet” within the Yoast SEO module on the editing pages.
To optimize the SEO Title I recommend some things that can be useful:
- Put the main keyword of your article inside the title.
- Use icons or emoticons to highlight your result, trying not to abuse them too much ( here you will find some icons that you can use).
- Capitalize where you want to put more emphasis in the title.
- It uses the variables %%currentmonth%% and %%currentyear%% to display the current month and year, respectively; that will give the sensation of being a new and updated content.
Regarding the meta-descriptions, the recommendations are quite similar to the ones above, only here you can play a little more with the words to also include keywords related to the main one or derived from it.
I recommend that, before publishing your content, you make sure that it looks good in the snippet previewer offered by Yoast SEO; in that space you can see an image of how your content should look inside the search engine .
To be honest with you , that vision is not always definitive and the search engine can adapt both the title and the meta description according to what it considers best to answer the query of the user who makes the search, but it is always better to suggest an optimized option of what we would like the results to look like; most of the time, that will be the ultimate vision.
Another option that we can configure with Yoast SEO is to show or hide the date of the article in the search results.
I am in favor of not publishing the date, since, if time passes, our article will have the feeling of being outdated; but as with Yoast’s advanced options, in this case you should hide or show the date according to a criteria defined from an SEO point of view .
To configure whether or not the date is shown in the search results, you must go to the “SEO” menu > “Appearance in the search engine” and then in the “Types of content” tab select “Show” or “Hide” according to whatever you want, both for posts and pages.
Another of the analyzes offered by Yoast SEO of our content is readability. According to the plugin’s official page , the results shown in said analysis are the result of an algorithm that determines to what extent your content is easy to read.
SEO and writing go 100% hand in hand; after all, what we are positioning in search engines are texts and it is logical that if they are easier to read, they will have a better user experience and, therefore, more possibilities of positioning.
Now, something similar happens with the Yoast SEO readability analysis as with the SEO analysis, what Yoast provides are only recommendations that, according to the plugin, make reading easier, but this is not necessarily the case in all cases.
Should all the readability analysis circles be green? No, these circles are not decisive to indicate that your articles manage to position or not for the target keywords.
What I do recommend is that you try to maintain a friendly writing according to the guidelines used on the web; It never hurts to see the readability analysis to look for any possibility of improvement in the writing, but it is not necessary to obsess over this analysis to better position your content .
Set certain pages to noindex with Yoast SEO
As with categories and tags, on a web page there are pages that we are not interested in being taken into account to be positioned in search engines.
I can think of contact pages, legal texts or pages that are useful for browsing the web, but not for positioning target keywords.
Whatever your reason for excluding pages from search engines, to noindex pages with Yoast SEO you need to click on the cogwheel within the Yoast SEO module and select the “No” option to the question “Allow search engines to noindex”. search show this Entry in the results?”.
Yoast SEO Premium for WordPress What else does it give you?
So far I have only talked about the free version of Yoast SEO; however, the plugin also has a Premium version that, among other things, has the following additional functions:
- SEO analysis of your content for several target keywords, synonyms or keywords related to the main one.
- It notifies you when your most important pages have not been updated for a while, so that you always try to have new content in your articles (something positive for search engines).
- Snippet preview on Bing, Facebook or Twitter.
- Real-time internal link suggestions.
- Redirection manager so that, when you delete content, you decide if you want to redirect the deleted URL to other content on your website.
- Indicator of contents that do not have internal links pointing to them.
All that, in addition to personalized support 24/7 and the elimination of advertising , are some of the things that Yoast SEO Premium currently has.
What alternatives exist? All in one SEO pack vs Yoast SEO
As I told you at the beginning of this tutorial, Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that helps you optimize the SEO of your website; however, I must also tell you that it is not the only plugin of its kind.
Currently there are other plugins with similar options that work quite well to work on the SEO of your website; Probably the best known after Yoast SEO is the All in one SEO pack plugin.
Although these two plugins are very similar and have almost identical configuration options, one of the most notable differences is that Yoast SEO seems to have a much better SEO and readability analysis than its competitor All in One SEO pack.
For an advanced user profile, these analytics are probably not that useful, but for new and inexperienced users these analytics are probably a significant advantage in deciding on Yoast as their favorite SEO plugin.
Another advantage for Yoast SEO is that it is currently the most popular WordPress SEO plugin and, therefore, it is the one for which you will find more information and support on the internet, an important advantage if you are starting your project and want to give your SEO a boost. of your website.a