WordPress is easy to use and install, making it an ideal content management system (CMS) for bloggers. You don’t need in-depth programming knowledge and it’s very flexible in terms of plug-ins and support. This is why many webmasters claim that WordPress is one of the best CMS platforms out there today. Out-of-the-box SEO, however, isn’t one of its fortes. But again—the beauty of plug-ins has made everything much simpler. Here is my section-by-section guide for WordPress SEO Plug-in by Yoast—a plug-in that will cover all the basics related to SEO.
Installing Yoast is like installing any other WordPress plug-in. From your WP Dashboard, go to Plug-ins > Add New, and search for ‘Yoast’. Hit ‘Install Now” under the first option, WordPress SEO by Yoast. You will now be able to see “SEO” on the left-hand panel in your WP Dashboard.
You can add your Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Alexia Verification ID in the Yoast Dashboard. Copy and paste your verification IDs into the corresponding boxes. If your site is already verified, then you can pretty much skip this step.
Titles & Metas
It’s true, title and meta tags will not affect your rankings, but there’s a lot more to SEO than just appearing on the first page. What good is ranking high if you have a low CTR? The title tag is an essential on-site feature that tells people what your page is about and why they should click. By default, WordPress will display your site or blog name in the beginning of your post title. This is unnecessary as you’re probably already ranking first for your site name.
Meta description tags are used by search engines to provide a preview or a snippet of the page under the link. Again, Google doesn’t crawl the meta tags for keywords, but it is still useful for CTR.
Be careful of what plugins you install when dealing with title and meta descriptions. Trying to find the best plugin for each variable will only leave you with duplicate title and meta tags. This really looks unprofessional in the SERP and your CTR will reflect that. One thing you can do to avoid this is check “Force rewrite titles”, as shown below.
This tab lets you edit the title and meta tags of your home page. Alternatively, you can determine the title & meta of your front page of your blog by going to the page itself.
Yoast lets you set a template for your title and metas for different types of pages. This is perfect for websites and blogs with thousands of pages to help you save time. You can also optimise the title and meta descriptions for each post, and the tool will give you a preview of how it will look in the SERP. Google keeps changing the character limit for meta description tags, but keep it at a maximum of 150 characters to be safe. Yoast will let you know if you’re over the limit, anyway.
Another thing you may want to do here is check the boxes for “noindex, follow” and “Hide” for Media pages.
These are image attachment pages which just end up creating duplicate content. Google doesn’t like unnecessary pages such as these, and may actually penalise you for it. Better safe than sorry!
Again, set Post Tags and Format to “noindex, follow” and “Hide” as you don’t want these pages indexed by search engines. Apply the following template for the rest:
- Categories, Tags and other taxonomies: %%term_title%% Archives %%page%% • %%sitename%%
- Search pages: You searched for %%searchphrase%% • %%sitename%%
- 404 pages: Page not found – Error 404 • %%sitename%%
You can add a well thought-out meta description to your Category page, mainly when you have a website with lots of posts.
If you’re the only author on your website, then set your Author and Date archives to “noindex, follow” and check disable. They aren’t necessary and just add more bulk to your website. Remember, less is more.
This feature lets you manage your social media branding with Facebook and Twitter. These mediums are huge lately, and Google is starting to take social signals into account for rankings more and more. If you’re already set as Facebook admin, then add your site description, logo URL, and image URL.
There are plugins that do a better job than Yoast when it comes to sitemaps. The Google XML Sitemaps tool is a recommended one. Alternatively, you can just Google search “xml sitemap generator”. If you want to keep it simple and use Yoast, then this section allows you to check parts of your site which you do not wish to include in your sitemap. Go ahead and exclude pages that you want to, such as media, etc. When you’re done, click “XML Sitemap” which will take you to your sitemap’s location. Copy this URL into webmaster tools to get things running.
Permalinks, or ‘permanent links’, are the URL of your posts. WordPress sets your default blog post URL to look like www.vervesearch.com/blog/?p=123, or wherever you have installed your WordPress directory. If you’re in this mess, leave Yoast for a second and head over to your WP Settings.
This permalink doesn’t really tell you the title and doesn’t look too good. Also, there aren’t any keywords for the search engine to pick up. “?p=123” doesn’t mean anything. Instead, go to Settings > Permalinks, and change the ‘Custom Structure’ to /%postname%/. Newer versions of WordPress will have a “Post name” option which does the same thing. If your site has a lot of posts organised by categories, then you may want to choose the /%category%/%postname%/ structure as shown below.
This is recommended for new websites, but if you’re going to change your permalink for an already-running website, then be sure to install the Redirection plugin by WordPress. The tool helps you manage your 301 redirects and keep track of any 404 errors. A 301 redirect moves the page path permanently by editing the .htaccess code. This type of redirect is user and search engine friendly and is the safest method to redirect pages without a change in your rankings.
This part in Yoast covers breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a way to organise your websites to make it easier for users and search engines. Breadcrumbs can get quite complicated, so it’s better that you read about and install the Yoast Breadcrumbs plug-in.
The RSS section helps protect you from scraper sites and content copiers. It basically links your RSS to original posts and pages on your site. Leave everything as it is under this section.
Import & Export
This section will help you change to Yoast if you were using HeadSpace2 or All-In-One-SEO Pack. Check the boxes to import from plugin and delete old data. You can go ahead and deactivate the other plugins.