Heard about SEO? Well, yes and no, isn’t it !!!
As of January 2019, there are 1,518,207,412 websites in the World. Have you wondered how search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo work to display your search results from 1.5 billion websites? According to seotribunal.com, Google alone receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day. In such a scenario, you will want that your website should appear in one of the top position of search results. It is obvious that majority of users are likely to click on the results displayed on the first page. If your website or online store appear among the top 5 suggestions in the result page, then you have hit the jackpot!!
SEO or Search engine optimization is a set of techniques that enables you to optimize your online content so that a search engine will show it as a top result for searches of a certain keyword. Let me explain a bit.
If you have a tech blog on python tutorial, you will want that “Google” should show your article on the first page to anyone who searches for the key words “Python Tutorial”.
(Of course I am talking about search results in the unpaid section of a search engine, also known as organic listings.)
Search engines is based on complex algorithms that takes into account many factors before deciding how to rank a particular web page. SEO helps in the optimization of a website so that the search engine algorithms capture it in their results. Typical SEO activities include keyword research, crawlability, indexability, improvisation of user experience, link building and so on.
SEO is a large topic. I will handle it later in a more comprehensive article.
Yoast SEO Plugin
SEO is a complex subject. Manual implementation of SEO by non-technical bloggers is an uphill task. More so because search engine giants like Google constantly updates their algorithms and hence SEO techniques must also be updated from time to time. Thanks to availability of plugins, we can use them in our websites to make them as search-engine friendly as possible.
Today I will discuss about Yoast SEO plugin for self-hosted WordPress site. Yoast SEO is touted as the original WordPress SEO plugin since 2008. It is the most popular SEO tool amongst bloggers for more than one reasons. I have been using this plugin for quite sometime now. The greatest advantage of Yoast SEO plugin is that it follows all the SEO news and Google announcements, and updates the plugin regulary. It essentially means that you do not need to do anything apart from updating your plugin as and when Yoast releases new updates. Another advantage is that Yoast SEO plugin comes for free. Although it has a premium version for some advanced functionalities, the free version has almost all the features that fulfills your SEO requirements.
Installing Yoast SEO Plugin
Like any other plugin, you can install Yoast SEO Plugin from your WordPress site’s admin menu. You need to go to Plugins –> Add New option.
In the search box, look for “Yoast SEO“. Go ahead, install and activate it.
You will see a new option “SEO” on the left-hand side bar menu.
Yoast SEO Set-Up
There is no pre-defined rules in setting up your Yoast SEO plugin. It depends on your experience and site requirements. I have kept most of the settings at their default value. You can play around with the settings at any time.
Let’s quickly explore all the settings.
Step1: SEO > General settings
On the left-hand side side bar menu, click on option “SEO” and access the ‘General > Dashboard‘ tab:
Since this is your fresh installation, you need to configure the basic SEO settings by using the Yoast SEO configuration wizard.
You need to access below link from “Yoast” site that will guide you in configuring initial settings via the configuration wizard.
Once you are through with the configuration wizard, next is General > Features. I will advise to keep the default settings, though you may click the question mark that gives more information about the feature and take alternate actions.
The third settings is General > Webmaster Tools.
This setting enable Yoast SEO to access your Google Search Console and analyse your website metrics.
In order to first add your site to Google Search Console, read our article: Add Website to Google Search Console
Let me show you how to link Yoast SEO plugin to Google Search Console. In the ‘Google verification code‘ section, click on the link ‘Google Search Console‘. Select verification method ‘HTML tag‘.
Copy the meta data tag.
Now, go to ‘Webmaster Tools‘ and paste the code in the Google field. Click “Save Changes”.
Go back to Google Search Console and click ‘Verify’.
Step2: SEO > Search Appearance Settings
In the General Settings, we set the settings on how search engines will display your website data.
In the SEO title, I will prefer to keep the homepage display name as “Site title” “Separator” “Tagline”. Save your changes.
Example of a homepage display:
Content Types Settings:
This is the most important part of your settings. Here you will configure how search engines should display your pages and posts.
In the ‘Posts‘ section, modify the SEO title to “Title” “Separator” “Site title”. Also, add %%excerpt%% to the ‘Meta description‘. Save the changes.
Follow the same process for ‘Pages’ as well. Save the changes.
Keep the default settings. This will ensure your media contents are redirected to your site.
For Categories, keep the settings “Term title””Separator””Site title”.
In the Meta description, add %%category_description%%. Save the changes.
For Tags, it is recommended to disable this. Enabling it might cause duplicate contents, thereby lowering your SEO rankings. Save the changes.
For Formats, disable it.
Keep the default settings for Category URLs.
It is recommended to disable Archives to avoid duplicate contents. Special Pages settings must be as per below screenshot. Save the changes,
Keep the default settings.
Step3: SEO > Search Console Settings
You can skip this section for now. As per notification from Google, it has discontinued its Crawl Errors API.
Read this article from Yoast:
Step4: SEO > Social Settings
In this section, you can add your social profiles in case you have one for your blog. Else you can come back and update later.
Step5: SEO > Tools
This section contains various tools available in Yoast for tasks like import/export settings to other sites or editing sensitive files like robots.txt and .htaccess file.
Recommendation is, leave this section.
Phew!! We just completed 70% of the task.
Next work is to add your sitemap to Google.
Follow my article to guide you: Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Great!! You are now ready to use Yoast SEO plugin.
How to use Yoast SEO Plugin
In order to make best use of Yoast SEO Plugin, go to your Posts or Pages, and scrawl down to the ‘Yoast SEO’ section. It will highlight you with all the problems in your post/page and the recommendations.
You have to add ‘Focus keyphrase’ so that search engines look for your posts/pages when someone looks for these keywords.
Now, you can modify how snippet of your post will be displayed in search engines by clicking on ‘Edit snippet‘
You can follow below article to learn on how the SEO tile must be set up:
The slug and meta description can also be edited by you to suit your post/page contents.
Next is the SEO analysis section. Here Yoast SEO will give you a summary of the problems pertaining to your post and page, an associated recommendations.
Lastly, if your particular post or page is the most important or best one, then you can enable the ‘Cornerstone content‘ option.
Read more on what is cornerstone content!!
You can skip the Social sharing features and Advanced section, and let Yoast handle them.
Congratulations!! You have just installed, configured and started using one of the most powerful SEO tool available today!!!
I am half sleepy writing such a lengthy article!!
Do install Yoast SEO plugin and let me know your experience? Not to forget to optimize SEO settings for all your old blogs!!