WordPress is a platform for those looking to start expanding their online presence. Whether it’s through a blog or even creating a website, WordPress has something for almost everyone. For those who upgrade from the free platform, the number of SEO tools, such as Yoast SEO, begin to expand tremendously.
Those more experienced in the online world understand just how helpful WordPress SEO and SEO tools are when it comes to growing their audience. However, for those just starting, let’s first dive into what SEO is.
Search Engine Optimization– SEO for Beginners
SEO stands for search engine optimization. With SEO there are actions you take to get your website ranking on search engines such as Google and Bing.
Let’s face it; we are putting content out there to be seen, and to be seen, we need to be taking steps to rank favorably. Sure, there are ways to do this through paid methods, but search engine optimization focuses on organic (non-paid) search results.
Here is the easiest way to think of search engine optimization – people want what you are providing, and they turn to search engines to find it. Google and Bing then search through millions of pieces of content to see what will answer the searcher’s pain point. Practicing proper SEO will set your content up to be found.
Different factors play into a website’s ranking. They are the quality of their content, the use of keywords and having a proper linking strategy. All of which are topics for a different day.
While some individuals find it easier to pay an SEO professional to maintain these ranking factors for them, there are hundreds of free SEO tools out there. Platforms such as WordPress even have helpful plugins that guide users in not only setting up but learning to optimize their SEO practices.
WordPress Plugins 101
WordPress has both a free platform and a platform for those who choose to self-host their site. While the free WordPress platform is excellent for those individuals first starting, it limits the use of WordPress plugins such as free SEO tools like Yoast SEO.
A WordPress plugin is additional software that has set functions that can be added to a user’s website.
Users turn to plugins because they are already built. They do not have to be a coding wizard to add new and exciting functions to their website. WordPress SEO plugins are especially popular because they help users maintain and run their sites in the most effective ways possible.
When it comes to WordPress SEO and SEO tools, Yoast SEO is one of the most popular free SEO tools and used by thousands. This is because it isn’t just a powerful SEO tool, but one that can help make your website as SEO-friendly as possible.
Setting Up the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast SEO is such a hot WordPress SEO plugin. We wanted to provide a breakdown of adding the free tool to your site. Further, we have shared SEO practices on how to optimize.
That being said, let’s go ahead and begin by installing the Yoast SEO plugin.
Installing & Activating the Yoast SEO Plugin
While some plugins are available on the free WordPress platform, the Yoast SEO plugin is only available for the self-hosted WordPress sites.
That being said, let’s go ahead and get it installed and activated!
Find the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard until you come across the Plugins tab. Click on that and choose “Add New.”
This will bring users to a page with all sorts of featured, popular and highly recommended plugins. There is also a search box that you can utilize to find Yoast. Once you’ve found it, click “Install Now.”
WordPress will do the rest of the downloading and installation work for you.
You will, however, have to follow the on-screen steps to activate after it is installed. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a new item on the left-hand menu on your dashboard labeled “SEO.”
Setting Up Yoast SEO
Installing and activating the Yoast SEO plugin was the easy part. But don’t fret, we will help walk you through the set-up process, so you don’t miss a thing.
During your initial setup, you’ll want to begin with the General settings under the “General” tab. This tab gives users a basic tutorial option. It is where you’ll find the “restore default settings” option should you ever need to start over from scratch.
After you’ve familiarized yourself with the “General” tab, move on over to the “Your Info” tab.
This section is where you will tell Yoast about your site. This Will include your web site’s name and an alternative name you may want Google to consider. You’ll also want to let Yoast Know if you are a company or an individual.
If you enter “company” here, you’ll be asked to fill out additional information on the company. If You select “person,” then you’ll be asked to enter the name of the person behind the website.
For those a little more versed in SEO, you’ll know that each of the more popular search engines allows people who own websites to add their sites using their webmaster tools area. These tools will enable you to see your website’s data and insights from each search engine.
For those who have already done this, you’ll want to verify your site, and with Yoast SEO, users can add the meta code they received from the search engine into the plugin.
The “Security” tab is the final one in the initial set up, and if you are the only one working on the website, then it won’t be something you need to change.
However, if you have multiple authors and editors working on your site, you’ll want to check the “Disable the Advanced part of the Yoast SEO meta box,” so that others cannot change advanced settings like redirects and noindex settings.
Optimizing Yoast SEO Settings
Now that your initial setup is complete, you’ll want to optimize your WordPress SEO. Dive deeper into the Yoast SEO settings to start optimizing.
Yes, this can seem intimidating at first. But trust us, taking these steps now will save you time in the long run.
Titles & Metas
This is the next section you’ll see on your WordPress Dashboard under the SEO option. In this section, you’ll notice six tabs and we list them below with a short description.
- General– This section allows users to change how their titles will display. You can choose from some different title separators and even have the option to “Force Rewrite Titles,” which helps if your site name appears more than once in the title.
- Homepage– This tab will differ depending on how your website is set up. If you use a static homepage with a separate blog, you’ll notice two links that allow you to edit the title and meta descriptions separately. Other homepages, however, will have two boxes, one to edit the title template and one to enter the meta description for the homepage.
- Post Types– Much like the homepage tab, the post types page allows users to edit the title and meta description templates for each type of page (pages, posts). Users also have the option to check or uncheck “noindex, follow,” “date in snippet preview,” and “Yoast SEO Meta Box.” Keep the “noindex” bot unchecked to allow search engines to index your content. The “date in snippet” box can be left unchecked if your content is considered more evergreen. If you have lots of current newsworthy content, you can check it to hide the date. As for the “Meta Box,” you only have to hide it if you have multiple contributors.
- Taxonomies– Taxonomies are things such as your categories, tags and so on. This allows you to set up title and meta description templates for pages that use a variety of different tags and categories, such as blog posts. However, if you use the same tags and categories quite frequently, you may want to consider checking the “noindex, follow” box to avoid any penalties for duplicate content.
- Archives– Archives include previous content that you have created but may not be actively promoting. This tab allows site owners to avoid duplicate content penalties because they have the option to add “noindex, follow,” which again keeps the pages marked “archived” from being indexed.
- Other– This section allows users to prevent picking up descriptions from directories such as Yahoo. A rule of thumb for beginners is that if you are unsure about these, leave them unchecked.
Setting up your social media links is self-explanatory, so we aren’t going to spend too much time on this one.
Site owners must enter their social media links into the designated fields. Each social tab contains options to edit how you share content from your site.
If owners choose to enable XML sitemap functionality, Yoast SEO will automatically generate a sitemap for them. Even better, this WordPress SEO plugin will continue to update the sitemap as users add new content and will ping search engines when the site is updated.
Users can move through the different tabs and choose what content they want to be included in their sitemap.
Yoast SEO does a fantastic job going into detail on their advanced options, so we only put a brief description of each option below.
- Breadcrumbs– Enabling breadcrumbs to allow visitors to see links along the top of the page that shows the path to the current page.
- Permalinks– Allows site owners to clean up their URL structure, permalinks, and <Head> section to make them more search engine-friendly.
- RSS– Gives site owners the ability to add content to posts when they appear in RSS feeds.
This is where site owners will be able to get a verification code to connect Yoast SEO to Google Search Console.
This allows site owners to see a list of site errors that visitors encounter. It will also allow owners to correct them from the WordPress dashboard.
The tools are self-explanatory as well, so we won’t spend a whole lot of time here.
- Bulk Editor– allows users to quickly change titles and descriptions of your posts and pages without having to go into individual pages at a time.
- File Editor– allows users to quickly change important files for their SEO, such as their robots.txt
- Import & Export– Allows users to either import or export settings from or to other SEO plugins.
Free SEO Tools Make for Great WordPress Plugins
When it comes down to SEO, yes, it can be very daunting. WordPress plugins such as Yoast SEO are built with the user in mind. They make the task simpler and much less intimidating.
Do you utilize the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin?
Share with us in the comments below!