However, if you’re new to WordPress or SEO, the process of initially configuring this plugin can feel a bit overwhelming. To help demystify the process, I’m sharing my best practices in this Yoast SEO tutorial, with an easy to follow, step-by-step guide.
You can also follow along on Youtube:
Why Bother with the Yoast SEO Plugin?
The simplest answer to this question is that Yoast makes onpage SEO accessible to anyone, regardless of how technical your web development skills may (or may not) be. Part of this has to do with how easy Yoast makes it to format meta information: the title and description you see when searching for something on a search engine like Google.
As if that wasn’t enough, taking the time to fully configure Yoast can also help with some of the technical aspects of SEO. Yoast can help you generate your robots.txt file, manage your .htaccess file, and generate a sitemap to help Google properly index your website.
We’ll get into what each of these things means later on this Yoast SEO tutorial but suffice it to say that they all work together to help your website rank in relevant search.
In order to get the most out of Yoast, you must first take the time to install and configure the plugin on your website.
Step #1: Installing the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
You’ll be happy to know that it’s incredibly easy to get started with Yoast.
First, login to your WordPress admin area. From there, navigate to Plugins on the left-hand side. Search “Yoast” and click the button to Install. Once installed, click to Activate the plugin so that it’s live on your WordPress website.
Alternatively, you can go to the WordPress Plugin Directory to download Yoast. Once downloaded, navigate to Plugins from the WordPress dashboard, then click Upload Plugin at the top of the page. This is a similar process you’d use if you’re instead starting with Yoast SEO Premium—the paid version of Yoast SEO.
Step #2: Setting up Yoast with the Configuration Wizard
After you’ve activated the Yoast plugin, you’ll be prompted to go through a setup wizard.
If for some reason you’re not immediately prompted to go through this wizard, or want to finish this Yoast SEO tutorial later, you can access the wizard again by navigating to the top bar > Yoast (looks like a “Y”) > Configuration Wizard.
Regardless of what Yoast settings you initially configure, know that whatever you do isn’t permanent—you can always make changes later.
When you start going through the setup process, you’ll initially be asked if you want to complete the setup yourself or if you’d like Yoast to take care of this for you.
Since you’re reading this Yoast SEO tutorial, I’ll go ahead and assume that you’ll be taking care of setup yourself. I promise it’s easier than it might seem!
Here are the ideal settings for setting up Yoast using the configuration wizard:
- Environment: This step asks if your website is ready to be indexed by Google. If you’re working on a staging website or a new website not yet ready to launch, it’s best to go with Option B, which won’t index your website. If your website is live and you’re ready to show up in search, choose Option A.
- Site Type: This step helps Yoast to communicate the nature of your website to search engines. Pick the option that best correlates with your website:
- Company or Person: Next, make the distinction that your website represents a company or person and add in your name and logo, if applicable:
- Social Profiles: Next, you’ll want to help Yoast connect your website with your relevant social profiles. Note that it’s not asking you for your personal profiles. Except for Twitter, where you’re just adding in your username, use the full URLs of all relevant social profiles.
- Search engine visibility: Not everyone will see the same things here—the options are generated by your active plugins. In general, you’ll want to mark “Yes” for all.
- Multiple Authors: I recommend saying no here, to prevent potential duplicate content issues.
- Google Search Console: I’d recommend skipping this section for now—we’ll come back to it later on in this Yoast SEO tutorial, in more detail.
- Title Settings: I recommend formatting that adds a separator between your website title and individual page/post titles. Make sure to add in your website name as you’d like it displayed in terms of metadata here:
The remaining configuration settings in this part of the Yoast SEO tutorial involve various promotions for Yoast and it’s various plugins and course offerings. I’d recommend signing up for the newsletter now if you’re new to SEO or just want to stay up-to-date with trends. We’ll talk more about Yoast’s courses and paid plugins later on in this article.
At this point, you might be wondering how long it will take for these Yoast settings to take effect on Google. It can take up to a week but generally only takes a few days.
Next, we’ll work to configure some additional, slightly more advanced Yoast settings. The good news? You’re about halfway done with this Yoast SEO tutorial!
Step #3: Configuring Yoast Features
From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Yoast SEO > General > Features.
This part of the Yoast SEO tutorial is easy—you just want to make sure that everything is set to On. This is the point of Yoast: to make sure that the plugin is properly configured and that everything you want to show up in search, does.
Step #4: Connecting Google Search Console to Your WordPress Website
From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Yoast SEO > General > Webmaster Tools. We’re going to integrate Google Search Console and Bing with your WordPress website.
Start by logging into your Google account and navigating to Google Search Console. You’ll be prompted to add a property (your website’s URL) so that Google knows to index it.
In order for this process to work, you have to verify that you own/manage the property. There are a few ways to do this but the easiest way is to grab the HTML tag…
…and copy/paste it to your Yoast settings:
Yoast will get rid of the extra code for you, automatically. It’s that easy! Once you’ve saved these changes on Yoast, click Verify on Google Search Console.
While you’re at it, verify your website on Bing, too. It’s more or less the same process:
- Follow the link in Yoast to Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Sign in to Bing: You can use your Facebook login information to avoid creating an account.
- Add your website’s URL to Bing.
- Grab the verification code and paste to Yoast as you did with Google Search Console.
Submitting a Sitemap to Google Search Console
In order for Google to understand the relationships between various pages and posts on your website, you’ll want to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console. As long as XML sitemaps are set to “On” under General in Yoast’s settings, this should automatically generate at yoururl.com/sitemap.xml.
Navigate to Google Search Console > Crawl > Sitemaps. Click the red button in the top right-hand corner labeled Add/test sitemap.
Enter in your sitemap URL (sitemap.xml) and click Submit (you can test to make sure it’s working). While you’re here, check to see if your robots.txt file is working in the same area, labeled robots.txt Tester.
Step #5: Configure Your Content Display Settings for Search
From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Yoast SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types. This is an especially important step, as it defines how your posts and pages are displayed on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
As a general rule, most SEOs format the meta title with the post/page title, a separator, and the site name. To see other supported snippet variables, navigate to Need Help? > Template Explanation.
Note that not all variables are supported with every template, so make sure to experiment and verify what you’re doing.
I recommend using %%excerpt%% to auto format your meta descriptions. You can always customize this on individual pages and posts.
The specific content types you see will vary, depending on the theme and plugins you’re using. When it comes to these various content types, you may want to hide certain content types from search (like Templates or Mega Menu Items: examples I give in my Youtube video that goes through this same Yoast SEO tutorial).
For the most part, you’ll want to make sure all of your content shows up in search. One thing I usually hide? The Date in Snippet Preview.
You might turn this on if your website covers news of a particularly timely nature. It’s less useful if you have tons of relevant content that may seem untimely with a long-past publishing date that shows up in search. On a related note, it’s worth noting that every time you update an old article, you get a little SEO boost from Google!
Under Search Appearance > Media, make sure that media is set to redirect URLs to the attachment, as a best practice.
Next, we’ll look at Search Appearance > Taxonomies.
I’d recommend that you don’t use Tags. They can cause some weird duplicate content issues and it’s hard to say if they have any positive impact on SEO. I’d also recommend disabling Format for similar reasons.
For Categories, I’d recommend formatting with the title followed by a separator, then the site name. Then, add the category description variable to the meta description template:
You can get rid of the Archive variable.
At this point, you’ll have to decide if you want category data to display in your URLs (i.e. yourwebsite.com/CATEGORY/posturl).
Unlike many of the settings you customized during the initial configuration process, this is a permanent decision that can’t easily be changed without consequences—unless you have a redirect tool, like the one available in Yoast SEO Premium (more on that soon).
Next, we’ll look at Search Appearance > Archives.
I recommend disabling everything here—it can cause duplicate content issues.
Scrolling down to Special Pages > Search Pages, I’d recommend getting rid of the%%page%% variable.
Next, we’ll look at Search Appearance > Breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumbs (similar to pagination but with more details) might break your theme, so make sure to test this setting out if you plan to use it. I don’t recommend using breadcrumbs but they can help with site usability.
Next, we’ll look at Search Appearance > RSS.
These settings tend to work best as the default: displaying the post link followed by the blog link.
Step #6: Finishing up Social Setup
At this point, you’ve already added relevant social handles and profile URLs during the initial configuration wizard setup.
Next in this Yoast SEO tutorial, you’ll be asked to provide additional validation information for Pinterest and Google, which you should fill in if you use these social networks. You’ll also be prompted to add in some additional settings for Twitter: I recommend enabling Twitter card meta settings and selecting the default card type to display Summary with large image for best results.
Step #7: Know Your Tools
From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Yoast SEO > Tools. At this point, you’re basically done with Yoast SEO tutorial. There are just a few extra things to be aware of.
You probably won’t use a lot of these settings, especially if you’re just getting started using any SEO plugin. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they mean:
- Import and Export: This is a nifty feature if you’re transferring information from one SEO plugin/instance of Yoast to another.
- File Editor: This Yoast feature allows you to generate a .txt file—make sure to click Create. Make sure not to edit this file unless you know what you’re doing. The robots.txt file tells Google what parts of your website to index (and what to ignore). You can also manage your .htaccess file here, which handles configuration changes for web servers running Apache Web Server software (aka WordPress). If you’re not sure what that means, don’t mess with this file!
- Bulk Editor: This tool is useful for mass editing meta titles/meta descriptions.
Getting to Green on Yoast & Yoast Premium Offerings
You may be done with this Yoast SEO tutorial but there are still many things to learn about Yoast and SEO.
The plugin tells you how SEO-ready your content is with a stoplight system. Red means there’s work to do, while green means you’ve followed the majority of onsite SEO best practices. WP SEO Hub provides an in-depth guide to getting to green on Yoast. Yoast now offers built-in functionality for measuring readability but it helps to pair these insights with a grammar/spelling checker like Grammarly.
Yoast SEO Premium is the paid version of this free plugin. You can get away with using Yoast free for basic SEO needs but should consider upgrading for Yoast SEO Premium’s redirect manager. This will be helpful if you ever need to change blog post URLs—it handles the process automatically!
Yoast also offers a number of useful SEO courses for those looking to improve their understanding of this field. Grab a discount to Yoast SEO Premium or Yoast’s SEO courses with coupon code DW368159. While you're at it, check out additional offers for awesome WordPress tools!
A video tutorial is also available to help
Final Thoughts: How to Setup Yoast on WordPress: A Complete Yoast SEO Tutorial
Going through this Yoast SEO tutorial, your website will be well on its way to ranking in relevant search.
If you have any remaining questions about setting up Yoast SEO, let me know in the comments!
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