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Search engine optimization (SEO) is a competitive game. Today, a seemingly endless number of authorities offer their recommendations for how appear at the top of the search engine results. While effective SEO involves a variety of strategies and processes, there’s one great tool you can use to help your WordPress site or blog climb to the top of the rankings: the Yoast SEO plugin.
In this post, you’ll learn how to use Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress (our favorite SEO plugin here at WhatArmy) to get more eyeballs on your site—and get you more business.
There are two versions of the Yoast SEO plugin: the standard, free version, and a paid, premium version. First, we’ll describe how to leverage the most important features of the standard version to land higher in the rankings.
Of course, when using WordPress to create a blog or website, your first job is to create the highest-quality content you can to entice and engage visitors. Yoast SEO can help with the rest. For example, the plugin allows you to target one “focus keyword” you want to rank for.
Once you’ve written your content, simply run a Page Analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin to determine whether you’re using your focus keyword effectively. Just enter it in the box at the bottom of your post or page, and Yoast will report on:
Yoast SEO’s snippet editor lets you customize titles and descriptions, and shows you a preview of what they’ll look like in the search results. You can edit both the display title (the sentence that appears in the search result and at the top of visitors’ browser windows) and the slug that will appear at the end of the URL to describe your post (“yoast-seo”). Focus keywords appear in bold so they stand out.
To make things even easier, you can create title and description templates for different types of posts. Sometimes, search engines automatically create their own meta descriptions based around your most frequently used keyword(s). However, you should still create custom meta descriptions for each post to ensure they’re catchy, clickable and contain the right focus keywords. What’s more, your descriptions will always appear when linked in social posts.
Here are some guidelines to follow for titles. They must:
For example: “How to Use Yoast SEO to Get Higher Search Rankings.”
And here are some guidelines for your meta description. It must:
For example: “Want your blog to appear at the top of the search engine rankings? Use Yoast SEO for WordPress to get a boost.”
If there are certain pages or posts on your site you don’t want found or added to the index, you can specify this using Yoast SEO’s robots meta configuration functionality.
For example, unless you make some changes, WordPress will automatically set you up for duplicate content issues. How? It provides several different taxonomies for archives: date-, category-, tag-, and author-based. If you don’t disable some of these, WordPress will create multiple archives based on all of them.
The Yoast SEO plugin lets you noindex and disable the archives you aren’t going to use. For example, you can choose to use either date- or category-based archives. If your blog only has one author, you can disable the author-based archives, as well.
You should also make sure that any external links lead to trustworthy, relevant sites. If there are any links to sites you’re not sure about—for example, links in user-generated content—these should be set to nofollow.
When used correctly, the breadcrumbs that appear at the top of your pages and posts help visitors navigate your site better, and help search engines understand your site structure.
Karan luring in her prey with a trail of breadcrumbs.
Yoast SEO gives you more granular control over the breadcrumbs that come preloaded in your WordPress theme. You can choose different taxonomies for different post types, and set the titles you want to use in each part of the breadcrumb path.
As a best practice, your breadcrumbs should always lead back to the homepage, and include the category your post is in. If your post falls into multiple categories, Yoast SEO lets you set the one that’s most relevant as the “primary category.” This is the one that will show in the breadcrumb.
For example: Home > Blog > SEO Articles > Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress
A XML sitemap is a file that lists every page on your website so search engines can find your content. A good XML sitemap doesn’t directly impact your rankings, but it does help the engines find your pages more easily—so they can rank them more quickly.
By enabling sitemaps in Yoast SEO, the plugin will automatically generate your map and send it to the search engines. This functionality works quickly, and includes all posts, pages, custom post types, taxonomies, tags, categories and images. Including images in the sitemap—which many plugins don’t do—allows the images themselves to be ranked, which contributes to your page’s overall position.
You can also use Yoast SEO to add your sitemap to Google Search Console (also known as Webmaster Tools), and pull that data into WordPress. This lets you see:
You can also set up redirects and note when errors are fixed using Yoast SEO.
Other features of the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin can help boost your rankings, too. These include:
The paid, premium version of Yoast SEO offers some additional features that can help you boost your site or blog’s position in the search rankings. For example:
As you can see, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool for helping your WordPress posts and pages rank higher in the search engine results.