“I don’t think at all that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is dead and I don’t think it ever will be.”
James Bavington, Technical Director Creare made this historic statement during an interview with Cloudways, the world’s fastest growing cloud hosting service provider.
With this statement, ‘SEO is dead’ has been quashed. Long Live SEO!
Be it website development, online shopping, online education, or any other facet, SEO has always been an integral part of online activities. Where there is a website, there will be the need for optimizing it for search engines.
All of us are familiar with WordPress, the most commonly used Content Management System (CMS) for websites. The strength of the platform lies in the rich repository of plugins and themes that makes every type of website possible for everyone including developers, designers, bloggers, and businesses. In particular, there is a long list of plugins that focus exclusively on monitoring and executing SEO related activities.
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugin available with more than 3.9 million active installs.
In this blog post, you will learn how to setup and install Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress websites.
First things first. Before going into detail about setting up Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress site, let’s check out on how to install WordPress on a Cloud Hosting Platform.
Hosting WordPress on Cloudways Platform
In order to host WordPress on a dedicated cloud hosting platform, you can sign up for Cloudways WordPress managed hosting platform by entering your username and password.
Select Your Cloud
Once you are logged in, you will have to select a cloud infrastructure of your choice. Under the ‘Select Your Cloud’ section, there are four options: DigitalOcean (DO), Vultr, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Compute Engine (GCE). For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use the DigitalOcean instance.
Select Your Application
From the list of applications available under this section, select ‘WordPress’
Select Your Server Size
After selecting the application, i.e. WordPress, you need to select the server size. By default, a 1GB server size is selected.
Select Your Location
You can select any data center location of your choice from the drop-down menu. Once you are done with all the prerequisites, click the ‘Launch Server’ button. In approximately 10 minutes, a fully functional cloud server will be ready for you.
How to Install WordPress SEO by Yoast on WordPress Website
Now that you have successfully launched a server on Cloudways Cloud Hosting Platform, it’s time to install WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.
To install this plugin, you need to follow these steps.
Once the server is launched, you will come across the main screen with the summarized information about your server. Click on the ‘Server’.
After that, you will have to click on ‘Application’ tab. Here, you will notice the information about your credentials in ‘Access Details’ section. Click on the link provided to go to WordPress admin. Copy and paste the username and password and login to your WordPress website.
Install Yoast SEO Plugin on WordPress
Once you have logged into your WordPress website, navigate to the sidebar and look for the Plugin section. Click ‘Add New’ and search for WordPress SEO by Yoast in the search bar. Once found, click on the ‘Install Now’ button and then activate the plugin. You won’t have to wait for too long.
How to Use Yoast SEO Plugin
The real game begins here. Now, the plugin is activated and you have to configure WordPress SEO by Yoast on your website. The first thing you notice is the addition of a new tab ‘SEO with Yoast’s logo’ in the admin panel.
Look at the panel. There are eight sections: ‘Dashboard’, ‘Titles and Metas’, ‘Social’, ‘XML Sitemaps’, ‘Advanced’, ‘Tools’, Search Console and ‘Extensions.’ In the following paragraphs, you will learn about tweaking the settings of each one of these sections.
1. General Settings
Once you click on the SEO icon, you are on the ‘General Settings’ page.
In the ‘General’ tab, you can learn and get more information about this plugin. You can reset your default settings as well.
b. Your Info
In ‘Your Info’ tab, you can provide information about your website and the individual or the company behind the project. You will have to provide your site’s name and an alternate name for your site for search engines. If you leave these fields empty, the plugin will automatically consider your site’s title as your site’s name.
Your website’s information will be displayed in the search engines like this:
If the website is being run by an individual, then you may provide the name of the person behind the website.
c. Webmaster Tools
All major search engines offer tools for tracking the visitors and related data in real time. You can add your website to these search engines via the webmaster tools. You can also verify your website’s data through the webmaster tools.
This is the last tab in the ‘General Settings’ section. It is recommended that you should keep this option selected. This way, no one will be able to redirect or noindex your website, which may cause you problems later on. Enabling the advanced box allows all users to change these settings.
2. Titles and Metas
The second section that you will see in WordPress SEO by Yoast is the ‘Titles and Metas’ section. There are six tabs within this section. I will cover each of these sections below.
In the ‘General’ tab you can configure several site-wide settings. The plugin will automatically detect whether your titles should be re-written or not. It is recommended that you should keep the check box unchecked. You can also choose the type of separators between your post titles and your site title. If you find all this overwhelming, you could disable the readability analysis to reduce the complexity of the suggestions.
Now is the time to define and set your homepage title. You can edit title template field to choose a suitable title for your homepage. Remember, you have to make static homepage title, if your website has a static page, and you have to edit the settings from page edit screen. The titles for your post may vary, so you can set variable titles for your posts.
You can also include a meta description of your website. Once done, click on ‘Save Changes’ button.
c. Post Types
WordPress offers you a large number of post types such as post, page, revisions, navigation, attachment, etc. in addition, WordPress supports custom post types. You can also set the titles and meta descriptions for your posts, media, and pages.
WordPress SEO by Yoast automatically sets the title template, while leaving all other areas vacant for you. It is recommended that you should edit the title template and provide a meta description for each of your post types. If you skip this step, the plugin will automatically do this for you.
In this tab, you can configure titles and meta descriptions for your categories, tags, custom taxonomies, and archives. The SEO plugin takes the description from your tags and categories. It is important that you provide titles and meta descriptions in the respective fields. In case of vacant fields, the plugin will not add any meta description to the archives.
In the ‘Archives’ tab, you can set title and meta description for author archives, date archives, and special pages such as 404 search pages. If you have a single author blog, disabling the author archive box is highly recommended because the content on your main blog and author archives must remain the same.
This tab offers you some additional settings that include no-indexing subpages of archives and meta keyword tag. If you select the no-indexing subpages of archives, it will prevent search engines from crawling subsequent pages of your website. The meta keyword tag option should also be disabled as it impacts the ranking of your website in SERP.
One of the best advantages of using WordPress SEO by Yoast is that you could easily integrate all popular social media channels with your website without a hitch. Once you click on ‘Social’ section on the list, you can configure the settings for several social media websites with ease. It has five tabs.
The first tab under the ‘Social’ settings is ‘Accounts.’ Here you have to provide URLs of all your major profiles. For Twitter, you only have to provide the username. Once done, the URLs will inform Google about your active profiles.
On the Facebook tab, you need to enable the box ‘add open graph meta data’. This will allow the SEO plugin to integrate open graph meta data in the <head> section of your website. This check will also enable Facebook to capture the right thumbnail image and page information from your post, once it is shared on this social media website.
There is another option through which you can connect your website with Facebook profile. Once you are in the Facebook admin panel, you can have easy access to Facebook insights. You will need to provide Facebook page URL, thumbnail image location and a short description. The provided description will be used on all sites, where your website is being shared by the users. You will also have to provide a thumbnail image URL. This URL will be used in all articles that do not contain a image by default.
Configuring your Twitter profile while using WordPress SEO by Yoast is really easy. You only need to use any Twitter card of your choice for this purpose. It is recommended that you should use a summary with a large image.
To configure Pinterest, you need to ensure that you have selected the ‘open graph meta tag’ box when setting up your Facebook profile. Pinterest works very similar to Facebook. You only need to enter a verification code (provided by Pinterest) into the field provided for this purpose. To get the verification code, you need to check out your Pinterest account settings.
If you have a Google+ Publisher page, you will need to enter the URL in the field provided. This will get your business’ page linked to your website.
4. XML Sitemaps
The most convenient and easiest way to inform search engines about your website is to add XML Sitemaps. The WordPress SEO by Yoast allows you to add sitemaps to your websites without any hiccups. Several tabs in this section are explained below
When you click on the ‘General’ tab, you will see a Selectbox, ‘XML sitemap functionality’. Keep this box enable. The value for ‘Max entries per sitemap’ is set at 1000.
b. User Sitemap
The second tab is called ‘User Sitemap’. When you click this tab, you will see a select box, ‘disable author/user sitemap. It is recommended to keep this box selected.
c. Post Types
In the ‘Post Types’ tab, you can disable any post types that you don’t want to be included in the sitemap. By default, media (attachment) is disabled in WordPress SEO by Yoast. If you are using any custom post types, you can also disable the post types which should not be included in sitemaps.
d. Exclude Posts
If you wish to exclude certain posts, all you need to do is to enter the post’s ID in the respective field. Multiple posts could be included by comma. (for instance 1,2,99,100).
If you don’t want to include any specific taxonomies in the sitemap, you can disable that by clicking on the ‘Taxonomies’ tab.
In the ‘Advanced’ section, several advanced settings could be easily configured. This section has three tabs: Breadcrumbs, Permalinks, and RSS.
Breadcrumbs are the most effective tool for improving internal linking at the website. When you click on the ‘Breadcrumbs’ tab, you see a select box, ‘Enable Breadcrumbs’. Keep this box Enabled. All other settings will be automatically displayed.
These breadcrumbs also help your website rank higher in search engine ranking pages.
In ‘Permalinks’ tab, you get options to change URLs, redirect attachments, and clean up and remove stop words from permalinks. You can also hide RSD links, WLW Manifest Links, short links for posts, and RSS links in the ‘clean up’ <head> section. All the options are provided with respective checkboxes.
Note that WordPress adds a category base to each URL /category/. If you check this box, category URLs will be excluded. If you don’t want any conflict between your page URLs and category URLs, you are required to keep this box unchecked.
In order to get clean and short URLs for your websites, you will have to exclude stop words. These stop words are simple words in plain language. WordPress also allows insertion of images and other types of media on your posts and websites. Images and attachments have their own specific URLs. You can also redirect them to the original post or page.
WordPress SEO by Yoast has a great RSS feed section. There you can feed the backlinks for your website that you receive from various web sources for your reference, thereby increasing the authenticity of your website.
There are some additional options available in the ‘Tools’ section of WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. These options include ‘Bulk Editor’, ‘File Editor’, and ‘Import and Export.’
If you have another WordPress site, you can import your settings from other SEO plugins, export them or reuse at your other websites.
With ‘Bulk Editor’ option, you can change titles and descriptions of your posts and webpages as per your requirements.
The ‘File Editor’ option allows you to edit and change the names of your important files for optimization purposes.
If you are new to WordPress, you should leave these settings at default, in order to avoid any unwanted hiccups.
7. Search Console
Search Console Section fetches your Google Search Console information. To activate the feature, enter your Google Authorization Code.
After the verification, you will be asked to select a profile. You will need to select your website from a dropdown menu.
Yoast SEO will now fetch your Search Console data into WordPress. You will be able to see Desktop, Mobile, Feature Phone tabs on screen.
Maximizing the benefits with Customization
Now that WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin has been installed and set up on your WordPress site, all you want to do is to maximize the benefits of the plugin. For this, you need to customize this plugin to your advantage.
WordPress SEO for Individual Posts and Pages
Remember that for maximum benefits, you need to optimize each and every aspect of your website. If you are running a blogging website, you will have to optimize each and every blog post that you will publish on your website. You will have to provide SEO title and meta description for each post, so that the post is ranked higher on search engines.
If you want to get further insights about your specific post or a specific webpage, you can use ‘Page Analysis’ tab. It is recommended that you should use this tab only as a reference.
This brings us to the end of this long tutorial. I hope it has been helpful for you and that you understand how to configure WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin for your WordPress website. I have tried my best to keep things simple and to the point. If there is anything I missed out or you wish to clarify, please leave a comment below.
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Arda Burak [Agency Owner]
Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at [email protected]