This is a getting started guide for people who want to optimize their WordPress sites for search engines. WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the most popular of all WordPress SEO plugins, having been downloaded over 670,000 times since it's launch early in 2011.
You can also click here to read our review of another highly popular SEO plugin called All-in-One SEO Pack.
In this tutorial we're going to introduce you to the WordPress SEO plugin and also show you how to choose settings that will work successfully.
Step 1. Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin
After you activate the plug-in, you will see a new menu section on the Dashboard for managing your SEO.
Step 2. Go to the SEO Dashboard
Yoast WordPress is pretty cool in that it really won't let you make a mistake. It will warn you and give you a quick Fix it button, so you can start off on the right foot. If you see this message, click Fix It.
Step 3. Set your Permalinks
The Fix It button takes you to your Permalinks Settings page. Choose one of the options that includes %postname% in your permalinks. Alternately you can create a custom structure, and for SEO purposes you want to make sure your hostname is included in the link.
Be sure to save your changes and then go back to the SEO Dashboard.
Step 4. General Settings
This plugin adds a new panel to your post and page editing screens, that allows you to edit the SEO features. The general settings will show or hide parts of the panel.
I checked the meta keywords tag, but you don' t really need to. No search engines actually use keywords any more. They make a nice note for developers when they are working on the coding of the pages.
If you're really new at SEO you might want to disable the Advanced part of the SEO meta box, so you can do no harm.
Generally if you don't check anything in this section you'll be OK.
Step 5. Verify Your Site with Webmaster Tools
Google, Yahoo! and Bing have tools for monitoring traffic. They also allow you to submit your site to the search engine, and submit a sitemap. So it's good if you have visited these sites and created an account, and gone through the verification process.
The field titles are links to the services, so just click on the field titles and you can complete this process. When you sign up you are given a choice of verification method. Use a meta tag or download a file that you then place in your home directory. If you choose the meta tag method, you simply copy the meta tag into the appropriate field.
If you're already verified and have used the download method, you don't have to do anything here. Or if you find the meta tag method confusing, use the download method instead.
Step 6. Set the Page Titles
Your choice on this section depends on your template. When in doubt, click Force rewrite titles.
To check the title tag in your template to see if it matches:
If you don't feel comfortable doing that, click Force rewrite titles, which will be the easiest thing to do. Changing that simple tag sounds easy, but below is the code for the title tag in the 2011 theme. The tag, and how to change it isn't always obvious. Only change this if you really know what you're doing.
Some themes will work perfectly with this plugin. Others would need modification or the "Force" method.
Step 7. Set the Title Templates for Singular Pages
You can create two types of templates here, static and dynamic. To create a static template, type in exactly what you want. You might want to use a static template on the home page or a landing page. It depends on your SEO objectives.
Step 8. Create Dynamic Title Templates
Dynamic templates are created from the page and post entries themselves, and will change as you change content. A long list of variables is included at the bottom of the page, in a panel titled "Help on Title Settings" to help you build your variable templates. You will want to consult this before creating the templates.
Post, page and attachment templates
Here are some examples of common setups. Go through the entire section and set up templates for each type.
Note that you can also combine text and variables in the same field. The "-" in the title template field is text so it's easier to read on the site.
You could also do something like this:
Instead of including the excerpt or caption, we are getting the meta description from the category description. If you haven't written descriptions for all the categories, this is a good reason to get into the habit. Take your time and write good descriptions and use good SEO practices.
Post tag template
Author Archives template
Date Archives template
If you leave any section blank, there is a default template that will be used. The Date Archives default template is perfectly adequate, so we can skip this one.
Search pages template
404 error page template
You can combine static text with variables.
Also note that all these templates can be overwritten when you create the post or page. These are now the defaults, and if you don't specify anything when you create the entry, these templates supply the tags.
Step 9. Indexation
The first thing you see at the top of the Indexation section is a checkbox to toggle the verbose explanations of each of the settings below. Check it and the advice disappears, un check it and it all the descriptions come back. That's all it does.
You get this information from Facebook. If you don't have any idea what this is it won't hurt to leave it blank. Before you fill it in, learn all you need from Facebook's documentation.
These are the suggested settings for the No Index Rules. You've may be familiar with nofollow rules in robots.txt files. This isn't like that. These rules do not stop a spider from following links on the page, they just won't index that particular page, but the will follow the links to other pages that do need to be indexed.
There's no reason for a search engine to index a registration page, a search page, a shopping cart page or other pages of a similar kind.
You will want to restrict some pages with nofollow. A searchbot spends only so much time on a site with each visit, following links on unnecessary pages dilutes your page strength for the important pages. So check all the boxes in this section.
If you are running a single author blog, you can disable the author archives. If you have a multi-author blog, don't check it.
Don't disable the data-based archives unless you don't show the archives on your site at all. If you check this it will completely disable the archives and they will not be viewable by the public.
Don't mess with this unless you are a total expert. If you're a novice skip it entirely.
Clean up settings
Most of the cleanup is handled by default functions of the plug-in. These are the only optional choices you get to make. You might consider checking the second and third boxes if you use a remote editor or Windows Live Writer. Other than that nothing here needs to be checked.
Step 10. The XML Sitemap
Check the box to make all the options visible.
By default, the plug-in does everything for you. Optionally you can have it submit your sitemap to Yahoo! and Ask.com as well as Google and Bing. If you have webmaster accounts there, check the boxes.
The rest of the form is about things you don't want to include on site maps. If you're a beginner and the site is small, you don't need to worry about excluding anything. You need to study up on sitemaps as you get more experienced./
You don't need any other XML sitemap plugins if you are using this one.
Step 11. Adjust the Yoast Permalinks settings
We already set the basic WordPress Permalinks. These settings only concern the permalinks created by the Yoast plug-in.
Strip the category base.
Enforce a trailing slash on all category tag URL's
Redirect attachment URL's to parent post URL
Redirect Ugly URL's
You don't need to do anything in these two sections for now. When you've fully explored SEO and are a pro at Google Webmaster and Analytics tools, you can revisit these section.
Step 12. Using Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are great for navigation and for SEO. Your theme needs to support breadcrumbs though. If it does, you can add some configuration to the breadcrumb section.
Use ASCII in the separator field. For example > will put a "greater than" bracket between each breadcrumb link like this
If you know about modifying themes, the author includes a code snippet you can use here to add breadcrumbs to a theme.
Step 13. Foil Scrapers
I don't mean spatulas for cleaning thin sheets of metal, I mean take the advantage away from data thieves.
People can take your original material and have it appear on their site as if it is their own. This feature will make sure you get a link back to your site, and the the material is properly credited to you.
You can actually get pretty creative here. You could put advertisements and affiliate links in here and generate some income as well.
The plugin uses variables to allow you to create a template. You can mix html, text and variables in the same message.
Step 14. Import and Export
As a beginner, you don't need this section, but once you've got a winning formula, you might want to duplicate it on other sites. Or if you've done some SEO with other plugins and are changing plugins, you might want to pull the settings into this plug-in.
Unless it applies to you, you don't need to do anything here.
You're finished! You can now add SEO features to each page and post
Now there is a new section in your editing page that lets you set up SEO for each individual article. If you are putting this into an existing blog, you could have a big job ahead of you, but it won't be so bad if you're new and just adding content and optimizing as you go along.
This is a getting started guide, and is meant to help you get this feature installed and working right away. There is an entire industry based just on SEO and a lot more to learn. As you keep learning, you'll be able to come back here and make decisions to fine tune your performance.
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