Published by on 13 June 2019 • 0 Comments • Lire en Français

With more than 160 million downloads, Yoast SEO is one of the 10 most downloaded plugins of all time. Officially, it is installed on more than 5 million sites that want to optimize their SEO: how could you miss it?

As you might expect, WPMarmite uses it. So do my personal blog and all my other sites.

Your website’s search engine optimization is something to take very seriously. Even without being a SEO fanatic, having a well optimized site is not pointless.

In this article, we will use this plugin to make your site appreciated byr Google, Bing and all their buddies.

Are you ready to go?

Roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work!

Table of contents

This tutorial has been updated and applies to 8.3 Yoast SEO released in October 2018.

  1. Prerequisites before starting
  2. How to configure Yoast SEO
    1. General Settings Section
      1. General Settings Tab
      2. Features tab
      3. Tools for webmasters tab
    2. SEO Settings Section
      1. General Settings Tab
      2. Content Types Tab
      3. Media tab
      4. Taxonomies tab
      5. Archives tab
      6. Breadcrumb trail tab
      7. RSS tab
    3. Search Console Section
    4. Social Networks Section
      1. Accounts tab
      2. Facebook tab
      3. Twitter tab
      4. Pinterest Tab
      5. Google + tab
    5. Tools Section
      1. Import and export tab
      2. File Editor Tab
      3. Batch Editor Tab
      4. Text link counter
    6. Premium Section
  3. How to optimize your content with Yoast SEO
    1. Main tab
    2. Social tab
    3. Advanced Tab
    4. Use the meta-box for all your content
    5. Settings for categories/labels
  4. This time it’s over – but remember this

Prerequisites before starting

Make sure that the permalink format (your page’s URLs) on your site is written in full. I see far too many sites with URLs whose format is “https://wpmarmite.com/?p=11350”.

Search engines will find it more difficult to know the content of your pages with URLs containing numbers than with “https://wpmarmite.com/best-wordpress-plugins/“.

I bet you also prefer the second format.

You must admit it’s much easier to remember it that way.

Warning: If you are not installing a new site, changing the permalink structure of your URLs may have a negative impact on your SEO.

If you decide to do so, you will need to do some redirections, so that the old URLs redirect to the new ones.

If the URL format is still in the default format on your site, go to Settings > Permalinks and tick the box Post Name in the Common settings.

Permalink WordPress settings

While you are on this page, change the category base and the tag base.

For WPMarmite, I chose “cat” for the categories and “sujet” (French for “topic”) for the tags but you can put what you want, as long as it is relatively short and relevant for your visitors.

Again, be careful if you make these changes on an existing site.

Once everything is set up, click Save Changes.

We will now be able to get to the heart of the matter.

Make sure that Yoast SEO is installed and activated. When it’s done, you should have an SEO menu under Settings in the left sidebar.

How to configure Yoast SEO

Let’s take a look at the sub-menus of the plugin one by one and see what they contain. The first is…

General

Clicking on the General submenu is the same as clicking on the plugin’s SEO menu. In both cases, you will be redirected to the same page called General – Yoast SEO.

Dashboard Tab

In this tab you will find a summary of the issue that Yoast SEO has found on your WordPress site, as well as notifications listing configuration tips.

Yoast general settings

Features tab

This tab allows you to enable or disable some of the plugin’s features.

Yoast SEO features

SEO analysis: Enables/disables the Main Keyword tab. It is important to keep it enabled to be able to optimize your content.

Readability Analysis: Enables/disables the Readability analysis tab displayed in the Yoast SEO options when you write a post, for example.

Cornerstone Content: Enables/disables the ability to filter and mark important content on your site.

Text link counter: Activates/desactivates the tool seen in the previous menu, to count the links of your site.

XML Sitemaps: Enables/disables the different sitemaps generated by Yoast SEO.

Ryte integration: Enables/disables a tool that checks if your site is still indexable by search engines. Yoast SEO will notify you when it’s not. Keep this option enabled.

Admin bar menu: Enables/disables the Yoast menu in the administration bar. It’s up to you to decide if it bothers you – but I advise you to keep it.

Security: no advanced settings for authors: Enables/disables Yoast’s advanced options for users with the Author role on your site, to prevent them from deindexing pages for instance.

Webmaster Tools tab

If you want to use the Webmaster Tools offered by Baidu, Bing, Google, or Yandex, this tab will help you to have your site verified.

Webmaster tools tab

As stated, you simply have to enter your different verification codes according to the different search engines…

Search appearance

When you are on this page, you will see that it consists of 7 tabs:

Search appearance Yoast

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

General Tab

As you can see just above, there are several options here.

Title separator: Yoast SEO enables you to easily choose the separator to include in page titles.

As indicated in the description, the separator can be included between the title of a post or page, and the name of your site.

It’s up to you to see which one suits you best. For WPMarmite, I kept it simple with the good old dash.

Homepage & Front page: In this tab, several things may appear depending on your blog’s configuration.
If your home page displays the latest articles, two fields will appear, and allow you to indicate the title and description (as seen in the image above).
Variables are installed by default – but enter a title and description that will encourage users to visit your site.

On the other hand, if you have defined one page as a homepage and another one as a blog page, you will have to go to these pages to insert the titles and associated descriptions:

Search appearance Yoast

Above all, do not neglect this step: the information you will have to provide will describe your homepage to search engines.

For example, this is how Google will present your homepage to Internet users:

WP Marmite on Google France

Try to describe your site as well as possible to convince people to navigate your site 😉

Note: links to Themes, About, etc. pages have been automatically generated by Google. If your site is well organized and has a certain notoriety, these links should appear for you too.

Knowledge Graph: This tab is very important, as it will allow you to take advantage of Google’s”Knowledge Graph”. This means that Google will display additional information about you or your brand/company to the right of the search results.

For example, if you are looking for information about Matt Mullenweg (the creator of WordPress), you will find an insert next to the search results:

Matt Mullenweg knowledge graph

Of course, nothing can guarantee that Google will systematically highlight the information you will enter in this tab – but this will give it a better idea of who you are.

Let’s now move on to the content of the tab. Depending on whether you choose to specify whether you are a company or a person, you will not have the same options:

Company: you can define your company’s name and its logo.

Person: you can only define your name in it.

Content Types Tab

Once the homepage is set up, you now have to work on all the other pages of your site.

To do this, Yoast SEO offers to give default values to the different types of content on your site.

The image below shows only articles and pages. But if you have a Custom Post Type, Yoast SEO will automatically display it.

Content types Yoast

In order to adapt to all your content, Yoast SEO uses snippet variables. For example Title will match the title of your content (post, page etc.). Click on Insert snippet variable at the top right of the screen to get a list of all available variables.

Let’s explore together the options that are avaliable:

Show Posts in search results: select Yes to tell search engines to index your content. This is very important!

Date in snippet preview: Select Show to include the content date before the description in the search results. This is interesting for posts, but not for pages. Therefore, only activate this option for posts.

For other types of content, I would not enable this option- but there may be exceptions (portfolio items can be one if they are updated regularly).

Yoast SEO Meta Box: This option is simply used to hide the Yoast SEO Meta Box when you are in edit mode (i.e. writing a post, page or other type of content).

This insert allows you to improve the default settings in the options. So it’s very handy.

Enable this option for posts and pages. On the other hand, there may be types of content where this is not useful (if you have a Slider content type, for example).

SEO title : For WPMarmite, I simply use the article/page names for the page title tag (Title snippet variable).

Meta description: For the text that appears in search results, I use an extract from the post or page. If this extract is not defined, it will be automatically generated by the plugin.

Media tab

Media tab Yoast

Media & attachment URLs: It’s very important to select Yes. Otherwise, you can have pages containing only one image. This is neither interesting for your visitors, nor for search engines.

This is important to improve your SEO.

Taxonomies tab

After working on the types of content and media on our site, let’s move on to taxonomies. Fyi, taxonomies are the categories and keywords defined for each type of content.

By default, WordPress has the articles’ categories and tags, you can have others. For example, we can have project categories for the portfolio.

All taxonomies detected on your site will be displayed in this tab.

Show categories in search results: by default, your category pages will be indexed by search engines. However, if you do not want to, you can check No and they will automatically be ignored and excluded from your XML sitemap. I advise you to leave the Yes box checked.

SEO title : The page titles should be displayed according to the template you define. Here are the ones I use on WPMarmite – but you are free to modify them:

  • Categories: Category – Separator – Site title to display the name of the taxonomy, followed by the separator and the name of your site.
  • Tags : Tag – Separator – Site title
  • Other taxonomies: Term title – Separator – Site title

Meta description: Here comes the description of your taxonomies. It is recommended to use the following variables:

  • Categories : Description of the category
  • Tags : Description of the element
  • Other taxonomies : Description of the element

Note: Be sure to complete the descriptions of your categories, tags and other taxonomies to make it work. To do this, modify each of your categories and fill in the description field. Do the same for your tags and other taxonomies.

You can find the list of available variables by clicking on the Insert snippet variable button.

Yoast SEO Meta Box: When you are on a taxonomy edit page, you will notice fields under “Settings for Yoast SEO“. Hitting the Display option will optimize your taxonomies. We advice most of the websites to keep it that way.

By exploring these fields, you will see that you can manage more precisely which titles and descriptions to display. Other options are also available – but we will come back to their role later in this article.

Category URLs : By default, WordPress places the category prefix (or the prefix you defined in Settings > Permalinks) in the category URLs. We therefore obtain permalinks of the type: mysite.com/category/plugins-wordpress/

If you do not think this prefix is necessary for your site, just check the Keep box.

Archives tab

Let’s now move on to the settings of the archive pages, i.e. the pages where the articles are listed. Among these pages are the archive pages by author and date:

Archives tab Yoast

Concerning the author archives settings, there are two possibilities:

If you are the only person to write on your site, you can select Disabled. If you don’t, the content of this page will be identical to that of your blog, and could cause duplicate content (i.e. penalize your SEO). In this case, filling in the title and description box would be unnecessary.

If there are several people writing on your site, the author pages can be useful to your visitors. You can therefore activate them. Concerning indexation, I recommend that you select NO, in order not to show author archives in search results.

If you want to index them, remember to fill in the SEO title and meta description boxes using the snippet variables (you will have a list clicking on Insert snippet variable).

For Date Archives Settings, it is advisable not to index them to avoid any risk of duplicate content. Do not disable them tho, in order to give your visitors the freedom to browse your archives.

Similarly, if for any reason you want to index these pages, fill in the SEO title and meta description boxes using the Yoast SEO snippet variables.

The Archives tab also allows you to define the titles of the search pages and 404 pages (when the requested page does not exist).

Here are some suggestions for your site:

Search Pages: Search for – Search Phrase

Pages 404 : Error 404 – Separator – Site title

If you are creative and your site doesn’t take itself too seriously, you can put a funny title on your 404 page as I did on WPMarmite (I let you French-speakers discover by yourself what I did there).

Breadcrumbs tab

In terms of SEO, having an optimized site does not only imply titles and permalinks.

It is important to have links from other sites. But working on internal links (i.e. between the pages of your site) is a key point too.

To do this, Yoast SEO integrates a breadcrumb to inform your visitors on where they are on your site, and create relevant links to other pages on your site.

It should be noticed that not all themes are designed to be compatible with this Yoast SEO feature. If your WordPress theme is not compatible, you can get your hands on the code – but it requires some knowledge.

If you want to try it, insert the following code at a strategic place (for example above your content):

<?php if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb')) {
yoast_breadcrumb('<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>');
} ?>

Is everything good for you? So let’s look at what the Breadcrumbs tab is made of:

Breadcrumbs Yoast

Enable Breadcrumbs: I think this option speaks for itself 🙂

Separator between breadcrumbs: The character you specify will be used as a separator for the different sections of the breadcrumbs. Personally, I often use the character “|”, but you can use “-” or “>”.

Anchor text for the Homepage: How should your homepage be named in the breadcrumbs? Home, Homepage, Blog or something else? The choice is yours.

Prefix for the breadcrumb path: It is possible to put a small text before the breadcrumb path (eg: “You are here:”)

Prefix for Archives breadcrumbs: Same advice as before, except that it is intended for the archives page.

Prefix for Search Page breadcrumbs: Same advice as before, except that it concerns pages containing search results. WPMarmite simply uses “Search results:”.

Breadcrumb for 404 page: Enter what the breadcrumbs path should display when visitors are on a 404 page (i.e. a page that does not exist).

Show Blog page: Either choose to Show or Hide your Blog page, if you have one on your site.

Bold the last page: To spotlight the current page a little more, you can put it in bold. This is purely aesthetic.

Taxonomy to show in breadcrumbs for content types: When a content type has multiple taxonomies, you have the option to choose which one to display in the breadcrumbs.

For instance, for posts, there are categories, tags or even the format (if your theme takes into account post formats such as video, quotation, etc.). You can choose nothing, but for the posts, we recommend you to select the categories.

Save your changes before clicking on the next tab.

RSS tab

Yoast SEO allows you to make changes to the content of your site’s RSS feed. As a reminder, an RSS feed is a way to subscribe to a site to receive future articles through what is called an RSS feed reader (Feedly, for example).

It sometimes happens that the RSS feeds of a site are included without quoting the source, so it would be interesting to include a small signature automatically to avoid this small inconvenience (it will even make you gain some links).

Here is what I added at the end of the WPMarmite RSS feed:

RSS settings

As with page titles, it is possible to use variables to build the message of your choice. You can place text (and HTML code) before and after the content of your RSS feed, but it is not mandatory to do both.

Note: In addition, be sure to display only the excerpt of the article in your RSS feed by going to Settings > Reading.

Now let’s come back to the menu tab….

Search Console

If you have connected your site to Google Search Console, it is possible to display some data directly in the Yoast SEO options.

The first thing to do is to connect the plugin to your Google Account to fetch the data:

Search Console settings

Click the Get Google Authorization Code button to authenticate to Google. Once connected, a code will be provided. Enter it in the corresponding field and click on the Authenticate button.

Four tabs will appear when Yoast SEO is connected to your Google Search Console:

search console wpmarmite-yoast-seo

In the first 3 tabs will be listed the errors found by Google on your site under different devices (Computer, Smartphone and Phone function).

You will be able to create redirections, go to the page to see the errors, and mark the errors as set to Google (so they will disappear from the Google Search Console site).

The last tab (Settings) can be used to manage the connection to your Google Account. Normally, you don’t really have any reason to go there again.

Come on, let’s move on to the next options page. It concerns..

Social networks

Yoast SEO allows you to optimize your site for the main social networks. Of course, there are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, Pinterest and MySpace.

Metadata will be inserted into your site’s pages to improve the integration of your content on social networks.

Let’s start with…

Accounts tab

Social accounts

Here nothing complicated: you just have to enter the links to your social profiles if you think it is relevant to associate them with your site.

WPMarmite has a dedicated Instagram account, so go ahead and subscribe if you feel like it.

The purpose of this tab is to inform Google about your online identity (perhaps it uses the statistics related to these accounts to determine your popularity and therefore rank you higher?).

Facebook tab

Even if you don’t use Facebook personally or for your site, your content can still be shared. It is therefore important to enable the Add Open Graph meta data option.

facebook yoast seo

Default settings > Image URL: Paste the link to an image that will represent your site on Facebook. Select the URL of your logo.

When you are finished, save it by clicking on Save Changes.

Are you still there? Come on, let’s continue with….

Twitter tab

The principle is the same as with Facebook: just enable the Add Twitter card meta data.

Twitter

The default card type to use: Twitter cards are an elegant way to integrate content on Twitter. Select Summary with large image and click Save Changes.

Pinterest Tab

To optimize your site for Pinterest, you must absolutely enable Add Open Graph meta data in the Facebook tab settings.

Then, to confirm your site with Pinterest, you’ll have to add the Pinterest verification code. You will see how to do this on this page.

Google+ tab

Google’s social network is the last one to appear in Yoast SEO’s options.

If you have a Google+ page for your business, add that URL here and link it on your Google+ page’s about page.

Google+

Editor’s note : Google+ service shut down on April 2019. 

We have finished setting up social networks. Don’t forget to click on Save Changes to save everything.

Let’s go to the next menu.

Tools

Tools tab in Yoast SEO

Three built-in tools are currently offered by our SEO extension, the first being….

Import and export

This tool will only be useful in two cases:

You have decided to choose the Yoast SEO plugin and you want it to use the options defined by your old SEO plugin.

You want to take over the configuration of your site for another site or simply to back it up.

If so, continue reading and discover the 3 available tabs. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.

Import settings

This tab will be useful if you have already exported Yoast SEO settings (for example from another site).

Import settings

Nothing much complicated here: you just have to select your file containing the settings you want to import, then click on Import settings.

Export settings

This tab will allow you to export the plugin settings for backup purposes or to avoid doing the same entire configuration on another site all over again.

Export settings

Keep your export file in a precise place, so that you don’t have to search everywhere when you need it. Ideally, send it to yourself by email or use a service like Dropbox to keep it.

Import from other SEO plugins

If you have decided to switch from another SEO plugin to Yoast SEO, you will not have to redo the entire configuration. Yoast has anticipated this and allows you to import the settings of your previous plugin.

Import from other SEO plugins

Yoast SEO will automatically detect if you are using another plugin and offer to import all data automatically if that’s the case.

Let’s now discover the second tool offered by Yoast SEO.

The Bulk editor

This tool allows you to quickly change titles and descriptions of your posts and pages without having to go into the editor for each page.

Robots.txt Yoast

The bulk editor

Behind this barbaric name lies a very practical feature. As we will see later in this article, it is possible to define a title, a meta description and other parameters for each of your contents (post/page etc.).

What’s interesting with this Bulk editor is the ability to quickly add or modify titles and meta descriptions to your content.

Here is how it looks like:

Bulk editor in Yoast SEO

Your content is listed in the page, and the columns provide you with different information. Simply enter a new title in the penultimate column and click Save to save it.

If you add multiple titles, click Save All to save all of them at once.

Your website has a lot of content? You can filter by item type by clicking on the drop-down menu Show All Content Types and by status (All, Published, Draft and Trash).

A second editor is available, enabling you to modify the your contents’ meta descriptions in another tab.

This operation is similar to the title editor. See what I explained above to see how to use it.

Text link counter

This option allows you to count internal links on your site, and manage your internal linking by identifying posts or pages that you could link to.

Premium

Yoast, the plugin’s author, offers additional features through different extensions. There are extensions to start ranking better for your videos, to get better search results in Google search etc.

Yoast premium extensions

In most cases, you will not need it so we will move on to the next section without further delay 🙂

How to optimize Yoast SEO content

Before starting this section, I wanted to congratulate you. You have completed the configuration phase of Yoast SEO… but you will have to go on to optimize your contents

Even if the plugin does a lot of things automatically (thanks to what we have seen throughout this article), it is better to pamper your posts, pages and other contents.

To do this, I invite you to open a post and scroll down the page. Very quickly, you will come across the Yoast SEO meta box. This is the box in which you will optimize your content. Remember, we talked about it earlier 🙂

This meta box contains 3 parts that we will go through in detail (the 4th one is an add-on that I use for videos, I won’t talk about it here).

Main tab

This tab will allow you to optimize your content so that it is well ranked. As an example, I took the Yoast SEO meta box from this article.

By default, here’s what we have:

Keyword Tab

Metadata on Yoast SEO

Snippet preview: The purpose of this section is to show you the appearance of your post on the search results pages. To edit titles, URLs and meta descriptions, simply click on the Edit snippet button to access the different fields:

Edit metadata in Yoast SEO

Focus keyphrase : Define here the keyword on which you want to rank. Depending on the optimization of your post, you will know what you need to improve with the signals below.

Keyword on Yoast SEO

Analysis results: The purpose of this section is to give you advice on how to optimize your post.

Unlike previous versions of the plugin, content analysis and advice are increasingly relevant

On this screenshot, we can see that not all signals are green. This is not required to ensure that your publications will be well positioned in search engines.

In other words, you shouldn’t make it an obsession – but try to look at them regularly to improve your pages or articles. The important thing is to write useful content for users. Just because you repeat a keyword 20 times in an article doesn’t mean that Google will favour you.

Be careful not to do anything for search engines to love you… the backlash can hurt.

In the end, Yoast SEO calculates a global score that will be displayed just below the publication date:

Publish insert Yoast SEO

Readability Analysis tab

onglet lisibilite yoast seo

The Readability tab gives you real-time writing and layout tips to make your content the best it can be.

However, do not always take this into account, as not all the recommended optimizations are necessarily doable.

Tab Add related keyphrase

The Add related keyphrase tab is an option of Yoast SEO Premium.

Also ignore it – in most cases you will not need it.

Social tab

The options in this tab (located on the left) will allow you to go even further in customizing your post for social networks:

Social tab in Yoast SEO

Two sub-tabs are available to customize the appearance of your Facebook and Twitter posts. You can define:

A title different from the title defined in the general tab

A different description from the default meta description

An image representing the publication

Good luck if you decide to customize everything for each post (this is of course not mandatory)!

Advanced Tab

Before making any changes here, I suggest that you fully understand the role of each of the offered options. It would be disgraceful to harm your site after all the work you have just done.

Allow search engines to show this post in search results: always leave the default values here, so that your content is always indexed.

Should search engines follow links on this Post? This option allows you to show the internal links between your different contents to search engines. Always leave it on Yes, unless you list a large number of sites of little interest to you on one page.

Meta Robots advanced: In most cases, leave the default setting (unless you are sure you do not want to index a category, tag or other taxonomy).

Canonical URL: A canonical URL is the official URL of a page. This is made to limit the number of duplicate content. Do not fill in this field in order to use the URL generated by WordPress.

Add-ons tab

This tab allows you to set up some of Yoast’s premium extensions. For example, WPMarmite uses the Video Addon to optimize the pages that contain it (which is not the case in this post).

Use the meta box for all your content

You now know a little more about how the Yoast SEO meta box works. You will find it under all posts, pages and other types of content for which you have defined it.

With a good optimization, your contents will be ready to rank on search engines 🙂

Before leaving us, we still need to review the latest options of Yoast SEO.

Settings for categories/labels

If your site uses categories and labels, you can optimize the pages that display them. To do this, go to the edit page of a category or label.

Main tab

categories yoast seo

Edit metadata: As for posts, define here a title and meta description that will be used instead of the default values specified in the Content Types tab of the SEO Settings section of the options.

Readability Analysis: Here you will find tips on how to optimize your page. Be careful, not everything is always relevant.

As for the meta-boxes of articles, a Readability tab is available to help you optimize everything. As usual, don’t totally focus on it, but give relevant information to your visitors and search engines.

Focus keyphrase : Indicate here the keyword for which the category, tag or taxonomy should be positioned.

Social tab

Social category Yoast SEO

At this point, I don’t think it’s useful to explain again what this last tab is for 😉

Once you have done this work for one category, move on to the next one until the last one. I hope you don’t have too many!

Then do the same for your tags. And yes, I know this will likely take you quite long.

As a general rule, you will only have to write a title and a meta description per term (or even a breadcrumbs title but nothing more). Leave the default settings in other cases.

Advanced Tab

As with traditional posts, it is possible to go further in the configuration of taxonomy pages:

Advanced settings

Allow search engines to show this Category in search results? Always leave the default values here so that your content is always ranked.

Canonical URL: Official URL of the taxonomy page. It is recommended not to insert anything here.

This time it’s over, but remember this

We have completed our visit of the Yoast SEO plugin. I hope you enjoyed the post.

Now I’d like to hear from you: what is your opinion about this plugin?

Do you use it, or maybe you’re familiar with another option?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you liked the post, please share it on Social Media.