Step by step guide to configuring WordPress’s most popular SEO Plugin.
Summary: How to Set Up & Customize Yoast Settings
- Install Yoast plugin
- Fill in your company information
- Get verified with at least one type of Webmaster tool
- Customize the title & meta description for your front page
- Enter URL’s for all of your social media profiles
- Enable open graph meta data for Facebook & Twitter
- Upload Facebook fallback sharing image
- Confirm your website with Pinterest
- Enable sitemap functionality & submit Yoast XML sitemap to your Webmaster tools
Is your Yoast plugin set-up correctly?
Are the settings customized to your website? If it’s not you could be missing out on some major SEO benefits.
SEO is something that every website owner knows is important but the thought of understanding and implementing it is completely overwhelming. That’s where Yoast comes in. My SEO best friend.
Yoast makes SEO more comprehensible.
But, it’s still overwhelming.
There are so many settings & options.
There are so many things to understand in order to utilize this powerful plugin.
Some people install Yoast, active it & think they’re done.
There’s a whole list of settings that you have to set up & configure in order to get the most out of this plugin.
How to Install Yoast:
Go to your WordPress Dashboard. Click on “Plugins” & hit the “Add New” button at the top. Type “Yoast SEO” into the search bar. Find the plugin, install it & activate it.
Once it’s activated, the SEO tab will appear in your dashboard menu.
Click on that bad boy & let’s get started.
How to Set Up Yoast:
- General Settings:
- General Tab: this allows you to start or re-start the Yoast Plugin Tour, which is a quick video giving you the general idea of how to use the plugin. It allows you to view that changes of the plugin from their last update and also allows you to restore the entire plugin to the default settings.
- Company Info Tab: This is where you have to start customizing the setting to fit your website & business.
- Website Name: If you want your website name to show up different in search results then what you put into the WordPress settings, you can change it here.
- Company Information: This area is for Google’s Knowledge graphs. It will help you show up the correct way to consumers.What’s a knowledge graph? The information about a company that shows up in a cute little box to the right of the search results.
- Webmaster Tools Tab: Search Engines wants to make sure that your site, is your site & that you are the one that owns your site. In order to be verified with the search engines & take advantage of their insight tools, you have to be registered with one. To register, click on the blue links to the right & follow each search engines prompts. If your website is already verified, you can skip this part!
- Security Tab: This tab is mainly for websites that have multiple authors on their websites (Like editors, authors, etc.) By enabling the “Advanced part of the SEO meta box” you allow ALL of the authors to change settings within the Yoast SEO box in pages/posts.
Titles & Metas:
- Force Rewrite Titles: By enabling this, you are telling Yoast to re-write your page titles. This is extremely useful if the theme you’re using doesn’t do a good job of this automatically. Typically, the Yoast plugin can detect if your theme is doing this correctly or not and toggle the “enable or disable” to meet your needs.
- Title Separator: This is how you want your post title & site name to be separated. It’s totallllllly up to you & dependent on your style preference.
- HomePage/Front Page: Let’s you write the title and description that you would like to show up on search results. You edit this by editing the Yoast box at the bottom of your Homepage.
- Post Types: This is where you set up the template for all of your different kinds of posts. For example, if you want your pages description to start off differently then your blog post pages….you would set that template information here. (When talking WordPress language “posts” aren’t just your blog posts. They could be your testimonials, portfolio items, downloads, basically any content that gets “Posted” to your website) You also have the option to hide the Yoast box on each of those different kinds of posts.Please note: Whatever settings you set up here can absolutely be customized for each page, as long as the Yoast box is visible. The standard Yost setup of this should be fine, so unless you want to change this, you don’t have to.
- What does the “%%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%” mumbo jumbo mean? Well, that means that in a search result your page would show up like this: Title of your page – Followed by your page name – Followed by the separator of your choice – Followed by the name of your website.Typically, it’s best to set this up with your post title first, considering that’s what’s going to draw visitors to that post to begin with. If all of your search results come up as “Your Website Name” – when they’re really your blog posts, no one is going to see what the content is actually all about, therefore, they won’t click on it.
- Meta Robots: Index or Noindex?
Index means that you want search engine crawlers to list this page aka you want people to find this page via search engine.
Noindex means that you don’t want search engines to show this page in search results. You might use this if you have a page with duplicate content, a “Thank you” page reserved for certain customers, or a page that’s intended for employees only. Things of that nature.
- Date in Snippet Preview: Show or Hide? Basically, do you want the date of your post to show up in search results? If the content on your website is evergreen then you typically want this disabled because the date doesn’t have much relevance. But, on News websites, the dates are a huge part of the post, so you’d want to show this information.
- Yoast SEO Meta Box: Show or Hide? Do you want the option to edit your SEO settings on each post and page? If so, make sure this is on “show”.
- Taxonomies: This is basically the organization of your content. Like your categories and your tags for your blog posts. If your “Peanut Butter Recipes” category shows up on Google, how would you like the information to be displayed?If you don’t want someone to be able to find your category page of “Peanut Butter Recipes” in a search result, then “No index” these options.This one is kind of dependent on your SEO plan. Certain people have tags that are exactly the same as the names of their categories, therefore, if they index both categories and tags, they run the risk of showing duplicate content to Google.The standard Yost setup of this should be fine, so unless you want to change this, you don’t have to.
- Archives: Archives are ways to organize content based on the author or the date.Depending on your website and the content you provide, both author archive (showing all of the posts from that author) and date archives (showing all the posts from a specific date) could result in duplicate content. You should toggle these to best fit your website.If you’re the only author on your blog, then the author archive page will be the same as your blog archive page, which will cause a duplicate content problem. If this is the case, you should “noindex” the Meta Robots for this bad boy. If you have numerous authors, then each list of posts that the author has written will be different from one another, so no need to change the defaults!Search pages & 404 pages don’t show up in search results by default but you can customize how you want the title format to show up!
- Other: These are additional meta settings for your entire website. You can usually leave these default settings alone, they’re typically not that important.
- Accounts: Toss in the URL of your main social profile for each social media platform. Filling this area out will tell Google that these social media accounts belong to your website.
- Add Open Graph Meta Data: Enable or Disable? This allows you to define your own title, meta description,and image for Facebook in the Yoast box options on each page. I suggest Enabling. This allows you to customize your Facebook sharing information for each page and post.
- Default Settings: Pick a fallback image. If your page or post doesn’t have an image attached to it, the image that you chose here will be used.
- Facebook Insights & Admin: Click on the button to be prompted on setting this up!
- Add Twitter Card Meta Data: Enable or Disable? This allows you to define your own title, meta description, and image for Twitter in the Yoast box options on each individual page & post. I suggest Enabling. This allows you to customize your Twitters sharing information, just like Facebook.
- Default card type to use: Summary or Summary with large image. I suggest the one with the image, considering large visuals stand out in a feed a lot better than plain content!
- Pinterest: Want to sign up for Pinterest Rich Pins? They’re great. Click the “confirm your site with Pinterest” and it will prompt you on the next steps for this.
- Google+: Choose whether you want to have the option to add Google+ specific metadata in the WordPress editor and optionally link to your publisher page. If you choose to do so, make sure you verify your site afterwards.
A sitemap is essentially how search engines crawl your website. It’s the foundation of WordPress SEO. It’s like a roadmap of your entire website. It’s a breakdown of your content and how it’s all organized. Your sitemap is also the easiest way to tell search engines about content changes (like: adding or removing a new post, etc)
- General: Make sure that your XML Sitemap functionality is enabled. Other than that, there’s not much you have to do in this section of the plugin itself.What you do have to do, is tell Google about your website. Click the “XML Sitemap” button, copy the URL of that page and verify it in your Google Webmaster Tools.Sign into your Google Webmaster Tools Account and then follow these steps. STARING WITH NUMBER 2. (No need to create a sitemap, Yoast already did that for you, and that’s the URL that you just copied that ended in sitemap_index.xml)
- User Sitemap: Do you want to include authors in your sitemap? The recommended setting is no and you can usually leave it that way.
- Post Types: Are there any kinds of post types that don’t deliver any value to your website? You’d want to exclude those in your sitemap. For example: Media pages. They hold your images, but don’t have any value by themselves. A good rule of thumb is to disable anything here which you have set to noindex earlier.
- Excluded Posts: Are there any specific posts that you’d like to exclude? You can add those into this area.
- Taxonomies: Same rule of thumb as the post types.
Most of the options in this area are usually okay being left with Yoast’s default settings, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at them and get a brief understanding of them.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are a way to display the users content trail.
They help a visitor understand where they are on the website & are super useful for searching purposes. They also help search engines understand the structure of your website content. Having breadcrumbs on your website is a personal preference. If you’d like to take advantage of them, here’s a tutorial on Yoast!
- Permalinks: Yoast lets you adjust additional settings for your URLs, but only after you’ve already switched your website to have pretty permalinks in the WordPress settings. (To set your permalinks to pretty ones go to “Settings” in your Dashboard. Click on the “Permalink” option. Select the “Post Name” option. Save!)Read these options and notes from Yoast carefully and decide is you want to change anything. It’s on a website by website basis, but typically these settings can be left alone.
- RSS: If you’re a blogger that uses websites that use your blog’s RSS feed (like Bloglovin’), this option allows you to put content before and after each post that it snags. Super useful because it can help search engines figure out the original source of the blog post.
That’s it for the Yoast Settings! But don’t think your SEO is now all configured. SEO is something that you have to work on consistently to see any results. What we did we configure the plugin to benefit you in the most powerful way, but there’s still a whole other side to the plugin….and that’s USING it!