Optimizing your site for search engines should be a no brainer, though many bloggers feel overwhelmed by what they need to do. Rest assured, you don’t have to dive head first and do everything at once.  Take it slow, start with the basics and remember to be consistant with your efforts.

You may have heard of the SEO plugin for WordPress called Yoast, and this is for good reason. It is one of the best tools for getting your SEO efforts up and running, and the free version is top-notch.

The below video, shows a quick walk-through of installing the plugin and the many setting of Yoast.  I am also included, below the video in this post, some more in-depth explaination of some of the settings.

 

 

1. Yoast Dashboard

  • Under the “general” tab, you can run the configuration wizard if you want.
  • Under the “features” tab enable the Advanced Settings Page
  • Under the “company info” tab, add you website name, company name and logo
  • Under the “webmaster tools” you can set up the connection of your website to the search engine specific consoles
  • Lastly, under “security” you can enable “Advanced part of the Yoast SEO meta box”.  Disbale the field if you have authors or editors that you don’t particularly trust with making changes to fields such as noindex (Noindex – means you’re choosing not to index (publish) something in search engines.) or canonical URLs (if you have several similar versions of the same content, you pick one “canonical” version and point the search engines at that. This solves the duplicate content problem where search engines don’t know which version of the content to show).

Verifying Webmaster Tools

  • Sign up for Google Search Console (Bing/Yandex have same process)
  • Select the “HTML tag” verification process
  • Copy the code and paste into the Google Search Console field
  • Delete everything outside of the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click “Verify” in Google Search Console
  • Repeat for Bing and Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine)

2. Titles & Metas

  • Home page – edit the SEO data (titles, description, etc) on the page’s backend
  • The remaining tabs have two different types of fields.
  • index vs noindex – Indexing means you are letting search engines find, catalog and show a particular URL, noindex means you’re choosing not to index (publish) something in search engines. You’ll want to review all teh options as there may be a type of page on your site you don’t want search engines to index.
  • Title & Description Templates – These fields are used to tell WordPress how to autogenerate titles and descriptions. These are only used if you DON’T write custom SEO titles + meta descriptions, which you should be doing for every page and post. For a full list of all the variable you can use, check out the Yoast page

3. Social

Help Google learn about your social presence by filling out Yoast’s social settings. Though the most important thing in this area is enabling each social network’s meta data. This allows you to upload custom graphics to each page/post which makes it’s image thumbnail format properly when that page is shared on social media.

By specifying a particular image and metadecription on each page and post, you’ll social shares can look something like this:

Facebook OG Images

 

Facebook Images when sharing

4. XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are .xml files that list out all the pages on your site and indicates when pages were last updated, how often they change, and how important they are in relation to other URLs in the site. By submitting an xml sitemap to Google you make it easier for Google to know your site exists and promote crawling and indexing of your pages.

For the sitemaps setting, you definitely want pages and posts in the xml file.  Though other files such as media, etc are less important and can often be removed from the sitemap.

Submitting Your Yoast Sitemap To Google

  • Go to SEO → XML Sitemaps
  • Click on the link – XML Sitemap
  • Copy the last past of the URL: /sitemap_index.xml
  • Login to Google Search Console
  • On the left, go to Crawl –> Sitemap
  • Paste the last part of the URL in the field that appears
  • Test and submit

5. Advanced

Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are navigational text that acts as a trail to aid in user knowing where they are on the website.  They used to be super common but you don’t see them quite so much any more.  Really large, complex sites will use them but smaller sites tend not to. If you do want to enable them, you may have to update your theme’s files.

Permalinks – Remember, if you adjust these setting on a site that’s been up and running for a while, you will need to set up redirects so that you don’t have broken links.

Strip The Category Base From The Category URL – if your permalink structure has the word “category” in it (not preferred), this will remove it. If the URLs have lots of traffic and links, it’s probably best you leave them and NOT enable this.

Redirect Attachment URL’s To Parent Post URLs – if people happen to find an image URL, PDF URL, or any file you upload to WordPress, enabling this will redirect visitors who find that file URL to the parent post URL (they will be redirected to the actual page it was uploaded to).

Remove Stop Words From Slugs – stop words are words like the, a, and, how, why… and other non-descriptive words you may not want included. While shortening permalinks to be more SEO-friendly is a good idea, I do NOT recommend leaving this up to Yoast since it can make your permalinks read funny. Instead, on the page or post you can manually change the URL

6. Tools

Bulk Editor – edit SEO titles and meta descriptions in bulk without having to go through each individual page/post. This tool is especially useful if you are installing Yoast on an existing site or doing large SEO updates.

File Editor – edit robots.txt and .htaccess files.

Import And Export – If you’re currently using another WordPress SEO Plugin, use the “Import From Other SEO Plugins” tab to migrate it’s SEO data to Yoast. Or if you manage mulitple websites, you may want to reuse Yoast settings.

7. Search Console

Authenticate Yoast With Google Search Console – this will show you crawl errors (broken pages on your site) so you can redirect them to the correct page on your site. This is VERY important if you ever changed permalinks structure, deleted pages, or migrated your website. To start, you will need to verify Google’s Search Console in the Dashboard tab before proceeding. Once you’re verified, you’ll click the “Get Google Authorization Code” button and then follow the prompts.

 

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