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How to Set Up Yoast SEO in WordPress for the Maximum SEO Benefits

updated on Nov 15, 2016
How to Set Up Yoast SEO in WordPress for the Maximum SEO Benefits With millions of active installs, Yoast SEO is one of the best WordPress SEO plugins. The rich features and ease of use of this plugin make it a complete SEO solution for those who want to boost the search visibility of their sites.

Since there are tons of features built in the plugin, you may feel confused when installing your first SEO plugin or transferring from another solution like All in One SEO Pack. This post, then, is a beginners' guide to Yoast SEO that shows you the features you may need and tells how to set them up to meet your SEO demands.

If you are looking for the detailed introductions and instructions of Yoast SEO, then continue reading to learn how to use it to achieve the optimal SEO performance.

The Main Features of Yoast SEO

The difficulty of setting up Yoast SEO properly mainly lies in the large number of features built in the plugin. For many of the features, a misconfiguration can lead to a very bad result, for example, stopping the search engine bots from crawling the important parts of your site, or causing the duplicate content issue which results in a Google penalty.

Before telling how to set up the plugin, we'd like to list the main features provided by it first so that you can know which kinds of SEO benefits you should expect. As Yoast SEO comes with both a free version and a premium one, the following features are available.
  • Google snippet preview which helps you check the title, meta description, keyword and more.
  • Page analysis that checks images, alt tags, the post length, subheadings and more.
  • Automatic generation of XML sitemaps and custom configurations.
  • A file editor for Robots.txt and .htaccess.
  • SEO data import from other SEO plugins like All in One SEO Pack.
  • The connection to multiple popular webmaster tools.
  • The support for breadcrumbs and permalink cleanups.
  • RSS configuration.
  • Redirects management & premium support (premium version only).
Set Up Yoast SEO

After learning the main features, you can now install the plugin and set it up by following the steps below. Pay attention that we are not going to cover all the settings, and instead, we only select the ones that we'd like to recommend to beginners.

Deal with the General Settings

When Yoast SEO is activated, a menu item named SEO is added to the WordPress admin area. By clicking on the menu item, you can access the general settings of the plugin.

Under the "General" tab, you are able to reset the plugin to the default settings. Just leave the option alone, and then come back to use it when you meet trouble with your SEO settings and cannot figure out what is wrong.

Yoast SEO General Settings

Next, open the "Your Info" tab. There you have to enter your website name and company name. The information will be shown by Google. For the website name, it is going to be displayed in the Google search results, so be professional with it.

Website Info

Yoast SEO comes with great integration with the popular search engines including Google, Bing and Yandex, so it allows you to connect to the webmaster tools and see the website stats easily. To make use of the webmaster tool you want, you have to register it first, and then enter a meta code provided by it to the corresponding field in the image below.

If you haven't registered any webmaster tool already, then add your site to Google Search Console now.

Webmaster Tools

After saving the changes, you don't need to touch any other settings. Just proceed on to the next step.

Set up the Website Titles & Meta Data

The title and meta settings are some of the most important things in Yoast SEO to deal with. For this section, click on SEO > Titles & Metas. In below, we will cover the different tabs in this menu.

General

For this tab, you can select a title separator which is used between the site name and post title in the search results. The plugin has prepared about a dozen of choices, and the option is free.

Besides, since the readability and keyword analyses are enabled by default, you can leave the configurations untouched.

General Settings for Titles & Meta

Post types

This tab covers the SEO settings for each post type on your WordPress site. The common post types include Posts, Pages and Media, and if you are also using other types, you will also see them there. In fact, the default settings are good, but in the case that you are running a news site, you can choose to show the date in snippet preview.

Titles & Meta for Post Types

Taxonomies

This tab includes the configurations of the title and meta for tags, categories and custom taxonomies. The default settings allow search engines to index categories and tags, but our suggestion is to no-index those things, or duplicate content may be generated on your site which leads to a Google penalty.

Titles & Meta for Taxonomies

Archives

Under this tab, you are able to choose whether to enable author archives and date archives. If you decide to enable them on a multi-author blog for better archives, we high suggest you no-index these archives to prevent duplicate content.

Titles & Meta for Archives

Other

There are some additional meta and title settings under this tab. By default, Yoast SEO enables the subpages of your archives to be indexed and other options on the page disabled. However, we still suggest you no-index the subpages for better SEO benefits.

Other Titles & Meta Settings

Connect to Your Social Accounts

Yoast SEO helps you connect your website with its social profiles. Currently, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and MySpace are supported. The configuration is super easy, since you only need to add the required URL in the respective field, and that's all. Things are even easier for Twitter as a username is needed only.

Social Profile Settings

For Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, there are some additional options under each different tab. With those options, you are able to add a default image for the posts shared to Facebook, add Twitter cards, and add a Google Publisher Page.

Social Options

Set up the XML Sitemaps

With Yoast SEO, you don't need to install another plugin to create XML sitemaps for your website. Simply go to SEO > XML Sitemaps, and you will find that sitemaps are enabled by default without any manual effort. But as an extra task, you need to submit the sitemap to Google, Bing and any other search engine that you rely on.

Enable XML Sitemap

If you want to exclude any post type from the sitemap, simply select "Not in sitemap" under the "Post Types" tab.

Exclude Post Types from XML Sitemap

Besides, you are able to exclude certain posts from your sitemap by entering their IDs in the filed under "Excluded Posts" tab.

Exclude Posts from XML Sitemap

Deal with Breadcrumbs & Permalinks

Besides all the SEO settings above, Yoast SEO also comes with some advanced ones in the Advanced submenu. Here we'd like to introduce the optimal configuration for these things.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are useful for helping search engines understand your website, enhancing visitors' navigation, and increasing the page views. So if you want to use them, you need to open the "Breadcrumbs" tab and enable breadcrumbs manually. The other default options for the breadcrumbs are good to use.

Enable Breadcrumbs

If you want a detailed tutorial for using breadcrumbs on WordPress sites, read this tutorial.

Permalinks

This tab includes some advanced settings for the permalinks. In fact, most of the default options are good for the common sites, but there is one thing we suggest you make a change. For the attachment URLs, you'd better redirect them to the parent post, so that your visitors won't see a dumb page with an image but no content at all.

Permalink Settings

Besides, there is also an "RSS" tab, but we won't discuss it here because the settings are quite good. If you want to make your own customization, then read this guide to learn about RSS first.

Connect Yoast SEO to Google Search Console

In SEO > Search Console, you are able to connect Yoast SEO with your Google Search Console account so as to fetch the information you need. The connection is simple. You only need to click the get-code link and follow the required steps to allow Yoast SEO to access your account. Within a few seconds, you can get an authentication code. Just copy and paste the code to the plugin's settings.

Google Search Console Authentication

Upon successful authentication, select a proper profile to view, and then you are able to see the crawl data in Google Search Console including the 404 errors.

Google Search Console Crawl Data

Edit the Robots.txt and .htaccess File

In SEO > Tools, Yoast SEO provides a file editor which helps you edit the Robots.txt file and .htaccess file from the WordPress dashboard directly. If there is a need, you can edit the files as you like, but remember to back up the files before making any change so that there is a chance to revert back when problems arise.

Edit Robots.txt and .htaccess

Customize the SEO Settings of Single Posts with Yoast SEO

In addition to the site-wide settings, Yoast SEO also allows you to configure some SEO settings for each single post/page, including the SEO title, meta description, etc. When adding a post or page, you will see the snippet review. And by clicking on "Edit snippet", you are able to add your own title, slug, meta description and keyword.

Edit Snippet

Below those fields, there is a page analysis. You can refer to the different lines of the analysis to improve the post content for search engines.

Page Analysis

Go Premium for Redirect Management

If you purchase the premium version of Yoast SEO, you will also get a redirects manager which allows you to add new redirects and manage them. For some 404 errors that you don't have a good plan to deal with, you can simply redirect the posts to save the link juice.

Create Redirects

In fact, the power of Yoast SEO doesn't end here. But as a beginner, the features introduced in this post are quite suitable for you. After acquiring more knowledge about SEO, you can go back to the settings of Yoast SEO and make the modifications that better suit your WordPress site.