Editor’s note: This article on the Yoast SEO plugin was originally published on October 24, 2016. It was updated on September 15, 2018.
The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is a very helpful tool for optimizing WordPress websites and blogs. Unfortunately, it can be a beast of a plugin. For the beginner, it’s a plugin we highly recommend you add after you install WordPress. Why? Because the SEO plugin helps give bloggers and content creators of all kinds better visibility into SEO and improving their online search results.
After installing Yoast SEO, however, a lot of new users forget that you have to put a little effort into configuring the plugin so it can go to work for your WordPress website.
14 things you must do with Yoast SEO for WordPress
1. Configure Yoast SEO.
Installing Yoast SEO is just not enough. The plugin does have some default settings in place, but not every website needs those exact settings. It’s important to configure Yoast SEO to work for the specific demands of your website. Need help? Yoast SEO has an Installation Wizard to assist you with configuring the plugin.
2. Submit your website to Google Search Console.
Google Search Console can help let you know the health of your website. It’s like a doctor for the search engine. Google Search Console can give you website insights including:
- If you’ve got pages that can’t be found.
- If your website has malware.
- If your website needs to be more responsive, or mobile-friendly (easier to view/navigate on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets).
- If your website can be crawled.
- If your website is fast enough for internet users.
To add Yoast to Google Search Console, you have to submit your website, verify it, and then submit your site’s sitemap. Once all of these are done, Google crawls your website. The data the crawlers gather is then available in Google Search Console, so you can make sure your website is properly rendered by Google Search.
Note: It may take Google up to a few weeks to index your website, depending on its size. You usually get a notice from Google Search Console if there are any problems, but sometimes you have to check. For more information and help, check out the great Google Search Console Help section.
3. Submit your website to Bing Webmaster Tools.
Google isn’t the only search engine out there. Bing reached 21-percent market share in 2016. Yes, Google is well over 64-percent market share, but you can’t ignore Bing because there are a lot of people using it as their preferred search engine. Bing has its own algorithms and tools to let you know if their search engine can properly crawl and index your website.
Yoast SEO makes it easy to set up Bing Webmaster Tools. You submit your website’s URL and sitemap URL. You then bring back the verification key to your Yoast SEO Webmaster Tools section (under SEO > Webmaster tools tab, in your WordPress admin area). Like Google, this allows Bing to verify your website, and for the Webmaster Tools to gather information about your website’s Bing search health.
4. Enable Open Graph.
Social search is big. What you share on social media can drive traffic to your website. However, how you share your content is important. Yoast SEO has tools ready to make your posts look more attractive on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
After you install Yoast SEO, enable its Open Graph feature on your website. Not all social share plugins for WordPress have an Open Graph feature, so Yoast SEO offers a big bonus in this area.
5. Fill out your social profiles.
Taking a few minutes to fill out your social profiles in Yoast SEO can give you better visibility in Google search results. Why? It’s all about Google’s Knowledge Graph, a powerful system that “that understands facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected.” Knowledge Graph data about a specific search query shows up in a special panel, sometimes called a Knowledge Card, on the right side of the first search results page (in desktop view). The Knowledge Card can display an image, description, social media profiles and much more information. This is what it looks like on the results page of a Google search for “GoDaddy”:
Google doesn’t always list social profiles, but filling out your social profiles in your Yoast SEO plugin settings will give you a better shot at getting your social media handles showcased on your business’s Knowledge Card.
6. Configure your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ settings.
It’s important to enable Open Graph on your website so when someone shares your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, it will display in a nice format. In some social networks, like Facebook, this format lists a featured image of your page or post, title of the article, short summary, source, and author.
The Open Graph format displays content on social networks in are far more attractive way than just dropping just a link, so using this feature can entice visitors to click and read content on your website.
Here is an example from Twitter so you can see how Yoast SEO’s Open Graph feature can help make your posts look more attractive when shared:
7. Adjust your Titles & Metas settings.
The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to suggest to Google titles and meta descriptions. While Google decides what to use in the end, you can try to control the title and descriptive info that Google displays by altering the templates in your Yoast SEO installation. Your General Settings dashboard allows you to customize title and meta descriptions for all post types (e.g. posts, pages, media, and custom post types), and taxonomies (e.g. categories and tags), archives and more.
8. Fill out your individual titles and meta descriptions in the snippet preview, in both post and pages.
Sometimes the general template variable may not be enough. You can suggest a specific title or meta description on each post or page. For example, you can create a more catchy title or meta description that might attract more visitors to click through when they see it in the search results.
9. Enable breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumbs allow both the website visitor and Google a glimpse on the relation of where they are on the website. Breadcrumbs sort of act like the crumbs that “Hansel and Gretel” threw down on the ground so they could find their way back home.
Below is an example of what website breadcrumbs look like:
11. Decide whether you should set the taxonomy known as Categories to noindex or index.
A lot of people get confused on whether to set categories to index or noindex. If you are utilizing templates for categories, in WordPress, with posts that have their own unique description, you will want to set your categories in the Yoast SEO Titles & Metas section to index. An example of this would be the Content SEO category at Yoast, where the template has the category description displayed, and the excerpts are different from the content, when each post is clicked.
If you are using altered versions of the original text, or displaying the full post, then you need to set the categories to noindex.
12. Decide whether you should set media to noindex or index.
The Media template in the Titles & Metas section of Yoast SEO is all about your media. Every time you upload an image or other file, it creates its own page. Unless you’re a photographer or someone else who could benefit from having your media files indexed, go ahead and use Yoast SEO to set media to noindex.
You can find this setting under the Media section in the Post Types tab, in the Titles & Metas area of the Yoast SEO plugin.
13. Redirect media attachment URLs to the attachment itself.
This is a newer option in the Yoast SEO plugin, but an important one. This feature helps prevent thin content that can hamper a website’s overall health and SEO efforts. By turning on this feature, you will prevent WordPress from displaying image attachment URLs on the live website and sending these over to search engines to index. This creates a better user experience and a healthier website.
14. Use the Yoast SEO Help center.
Team Yoast spent a lot of time writing articles and creating videos to help you understand the features of Yoast SEO. Each area of the plugin has a Help center section that you can click on and learn about that area.
For the new Yoast SEO user, I hope this post provides a nice little checklist for you. After configuring the plugin, there’s a lot more that you can do with it. If you really want to learn more about WordPress SEO and the Yoast SEO plugin, be sure to check out Yoast’s WordPress SEO guide.