The Ultimate Guide to Yoast SEO [Updated 2019]

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Ultimate guide to Yoast SEO - 2018 for beginners

On March 6th, 2018, Yoast announced drastic changes to the WordPress plugin’s interface. Here is the Yoast SEO changelog

In their words, the new Yoast introduced an overhaul of the Admin settings to simplify the plugin configuration.

Which is actually true. Now, it is simpler than ever to configure the plugin, even for a complete beginner.

Yoast SEO is by far the best SEO tool I have used. Don’t listen to me. Have a look at its stats.

More than 5+ million active installs. 4.9 out of 5 stars average rating. You can read the reviews.

There’s no other plugin comes to my mind when someone says WordPress SEO. Even Neil Patel Recommends this plugin.

Okay, so without further ado, let’s jump in and show you how to set up this awesome tool to get the best out of your WordPress SEO.

Let’s start the Universal Guide to Yoast SEO…

I encourage you to use this guide as a reference. So, go ahead and open a new tab. Go to your WP dashboard and apply the settings as you read on.

Oh BTW, if you have not already started a blog yet then now is the best time to do so.

I have published a guide on How to Start A Blog and Make Money. Go read it. It has all the things you will ever need to get started.

How to Set Up Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin 2019?

The Universal Guide to Yoast SEO

Before we could start configuring the plugin you will have to install and activate the plugin.

Go to Plugins> Add New> Search for Yoast SEO > Install> Activate.

Need more help?

Read this post > How to install a plugin in WordPress?

Once you have installed the plugin you will see a new tab called “SEO” has appeared on the side menu of your WP dashboard.

Inside the SEO tab you will see the following sub menu items:

1. Dashboard
2. Titles & Metas
3. Social
4. XML Sitemaps
5. Advanced
6. Tools
7. Search Console
8. Go Premium – We are not going to talk about this right now.

When you first install the plugin you will not see all the items like above as Yoast has flagged them in advanced options.

So, the first thing you want to do once you have installed the plugin is, enable the advanced settings.

Go to > SEO > Dashboard > Features; Navigate down to find the Advanced settings pages tab and enable it. Scroll down and save the changes.

Advanced settings pages SEO Yoast

Now you should see all the items on the SEO side menu.

Okay! if everything looks good then… Let’s explore them all one by one:

Dashboard:

Inside the dashboard, you will have six tabs as below:

General settings- Yoast SEO

The first tab shows you the problems and notifications (if any) related to your blog’s SEO settings.

Yoast SEO Dashboard

So, make it a habit to check this section once in a while to rectify if there are any errors.

General:

Configuration wizard: If you are not sure how to start configuring the plugin, Yoast made it simple for you with its step by step guide to configure it.

One way, you can just click the Open the configuration wizard button and follow the on-screen instructions to configure your SEO Yoast plugin.

Configure Wizard Yoast SEO

But I recommend you do it manually to have more control over your SEO settings.

Don’t be afraid; just keep on reading this guide and you will be all good to go.

And by the end of this post, I will also share my SEO settings; which you can directly import to your blog if you like.

So, you can simply skip this step.

Text link counter: This simply shows you the status of your blog’s internal linking. It helps you count the internal links that are being built for each post and pages. Simply click the Count links in your texts.

Text link counter Yoast SEO WordPress

For example; Let’s say you shared a link from post-A to post C, you also shared a link from post B to post C and from post C you shared one link back to post A and B, each.

Text link counter diagram -Yoast SEO

Now, the total link count for each post will be:

post A = 1 link; post B= 1 link; and post C= 2 links

This is just a simple example to make you understand what exactly link count means.

Probably on my next post, we will discuss it in details and I will show you how you can get SEO benefits from this. So, stay tuned.

Credits: If you want to know about the people behind this awesome tool you can click the view credit button found in this section.

Restore default settings: If you ever messed up the settings you can always go back to the default settings by using the button Restore default settings and you can start all over again.

Restore default settings - Yoast SEO

 

Features:

Inside features, you have

Readability analysis: Enabling this option will put a meta box after each post inside the editor, along with the SEO meta box. It simply gives you suggestions to improve user’s readability experience.

Readability analysis in Yoast SEO

However, this is not so much useful and if you try to follow each and every suggestion provided, you will end up creating something hard to understand.

So, even when I have it enabled I don’t follow all the suggestions it gives and it is recommended not to.

Keyword analysis: You definitely want this.

Keyword analysis in Yoast SEO

If you disable this section then it will remove the keywords tab found under the SEO meta-box and will disable all keyword-related suggestions.

Keyword analysis meta box inside Yoast SEO

And without them, you will have a tough time to get your SEO right.

Advanced settings pages: You already know why it is for.

OnPage.org: Not important, it simply does scanning of your blog to see if it’s indexable by search engines or not. I like to keep it disabled. if you like you can enable it, won’t affect your SEO anyway.

You might also like:  16 On-Page SEO Techniques and Strategies 2019

OnPage settings in Yoast WordPress SEO

Admin bar menu: This adds an icon on the admin bar. It is helpful to figure out your SEO status without going inside the post and page editor. And it also has some useful links to learn more about SEO.

Admin bar menu in yoast SEO

Cornerstone content: Enabling this will enable a checkbox inside the SEO meta-box that you can use to signal the search engines that this is a cornerstone content on your blog.

Cornerstone content in wordpress SEO

In simple words, cornerstone content means the posts or contents you believe has more value to the users and are the best in your opinion. These are the posts you would want to rank high for a particular keyword above the other articles written around the same topic.

These are the posts you often linked to from other posts on your blog. It’s very helpful to improve your SEO ranking.

I have written a separate post on how you can take advantage of cornerstone articles to rank high on search enginesSo, once you’re done with this one you can go ahead and check that out.

Your info

Website name: Just fill out your blog’s name and tagline (if you like). This is the title that you will see in search engines when you search for your blog, given you have not yet specified the title meta tag.

Your info section of Yoast SEO

Company or person: Here you can decide whether you want to act like a person or a company. Put the information as applies to you.

Company or person settings in Yoast

FYI, in the long run, this information will appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Webmaster Tools verification: This section will help you to verify your blog with different webmaster tools, like, Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

Webmaster tools verification through Yoast SEO

But, if you have already verified your blog by using another method, you can simply skip this section.

Need help to connect your blog to Google Search Console?

Read this >> How to connect your blog to Google Search Console?

Security:

Security setting: Enabling this section will give the other authors the access to *noindex posts or change the canonical. So, it’s recommended not to enable this feature for other users unless you personally know them or trust them.

Security setting inside Yoast SEO

*Noindex – means you’re choosing not to index (publish) something in search engines.

Titles & Metas:

Just like Dashboard, inside Titles & Metas, you will have six tabs too.

Set Titles & Metas in Yoast SEO wordpress

Inside General, you have the

Title Separator: Here you can select the title separator that you want between your post title and site name.

Title Separator in Yoast

This shows up in the search results.

Separator title and blog name yoast SEO settings

Keep it as it is, that is recommended. However, you are free to choose anyone you like.

Homepage: This is where you specify your blog’s title and meta description. Alternatively, you can do this in the search meta box found inside the homepage as well.

But it is recommended you do it here especially when you are keeping your recent blog posts page as your homepage.

Add title and meta description in Yoast SEO

Post Types:

Posts (post): 

Posts title and meta settings inside Yoast

Leave the title and meta description templates as it is; as you are going to write different post titles and meta descriptions for each post you create.

You definitely want the meta robots to crawl your posts. So, keep it to index.

Whether you want to show the date you had published a post is totally up to you.

But I recommend, you show it as this will help the users who find your post in the search engines to decide its freshness. Which in fact can help increase your CTR (Click Through Rate); as people like to read updated content.

You definitely want the Yoast SEO Meta box to show up inside each post (while you are editing it). Or elsewhere will you optimize the post for Search Engines?

Pages (page):

Page title and meta settings inside Yoast

Just like posts you want meta robots to crawl your pages as well. Keep it to index.

You don’t need to show the date of publication of your pages; as you are not going to update pages or create new pages that frequently. So, keep the Date in Snippet Preview to Hide.

As you have to optimize the pages as well, so you want to Show the Yoast SEO meta box.

Media (attachment): 

Media attachment settings in Yoast SEO

You want none of the options to be enabled (index, Show, Show respectively) here, rather do a redirection of the attachments to its parent posts (where you have attached the image).

How to do that? Keep reading I will be showing you below.

Taxonomies:

Categories (category) / Tags (post_tag): You don’t want your categories and tags to be indexed in search engines. So, set it to noindex. And set Yoast SEO Meta Box to Hide.

Categories yoast settings

Tags post options SEO Yoast

Two main reasons to noindex the categories and tags from the search engines:

  1. To avoid unnecessary post duplication.
  2. Search Engines will only list the quality pages of your blog.

Format (post_format):

Format SEO Yoast settings

Same way, set format based archives to noindex.

Archives:

Author archives settings / Date archives settings:

Author archives settings Yoast SEO

date settings Yoast SEO

Just like categories and tags enabling these option will also create the duplicate content problem on your blog.

So, if you are running a single author blog (like mine) it’s recommended to keep the Author archives and Date archives disabled as it will prevent duplicate content on your blog.

Special Pages:

Special pages settings inside Yoast SEO

These pages never show up in SERP(Search Engine Results Page). These are meant to help the readers to find something on your blog or if the something they are looking for is not available on your blog.

Recommended not to touch anything here, unless you know what you are doing. If not sure then just leave them as they are.

Other:

Sitewide meta settings:

Sitewide meta settings for wordpress SEO

As you probably are going to list only a few of the most recent posts on your blog’s home page. So, a “next” button will be created on the home page to get to /page2, page3 and so on.

Now if you keep the sitewide meta to index it will list all the other page2, page3 archives as well. And that is not a good SEO practice as it also creates duplicate content on your blog. So, keep it to noindex.

You might also like:  How to Boost Your SEO with Cornerstone Contents?

You don’t want the keyword tags as well; Google doesn’t use these as a ranking factor anymore.

Social:

Similar to the other submenus under Social you have five sections.

Social settings inside SEO Yoast plugin

Under Accounts, you have

Your social profiles: Filling out the links to your social profiles will help Google learn about your social presence. And in the long run, this information will help Google to decide which social profiles to show in the Google Knowledge Graph.

So, fill out your social profiles accurately.

add Your social profiles to google knowledge graph

Facebook: 

Facebook settings:

Facebook settings for SEO

Enabling this section will enable a meta box along with the SEO meta box inside the posts and pages editor; refer to the screenshot below:

Facebook meta box settings

Frontpage settings: Fill out the information accordingly.

Frontpage settings yoast SEO

When someone shares your homepage link to Facebook this information will replace the already defined meta tags like the title, and meta description tag and it will also override the image (if you have any on the page).

Leave this section blank if you don’t want to define separate information for the Facebook Open Graph. But it is recommended you fill out information.

Default settings: 

Facebook default settings in Yoast SEO

Here you can upload an image which will be used if you somehow forget to add an image to your posts/pages. Alternatively, if you like you can add an URL of an image hosted on some other website as well.

Facebook Insights and Admins: If you want to access the Facebook Insights (insights like total impressions, likes, shares etc.) for your site, you can add an admin of your page here.

Just click the Add Facebook admin and follow the on-screen instructions.

Facebook Insights and Admins for Yoast SEO

Twitter:

Twitter settings: This is similar to Facebook settings. Here you can decide how you want your twitter meta card to look like when somebody shares your posts/pages.

Twitter settings for SEO using Yoast

You have two option:

  1. Summary: this will simply show a post summary of your shared page or post.
  2. Summary with a large image: This will show a large image along with the summary (I prefer this one).

Pinterest:

Pinterest settings:

pinterest settings for SEO yoast

Pinterest uses the same data as Facebook.So, first, you must have to enable the Facebook Open Graph.

And, to use all the features you will have to verify your site with Pinterest.

Google+:

Google+ settings: To use this section you first have to create a Google+ business page of your blog. And then submit that link here.

Additionally, you will also have to add a link to your Google business page on your own Google plus profile.

Google plus settings for SEO

XML Sitemaps:

Once you have enabled XML sitemap functionality you will see four tabs inside this:

XML Sitemap for Yoast

Note: If you have enabled this section then you don’t need to use other plugins to generate sitemaps.

Under General, you have

Your XML Sitemap: This is where you can find your XML Sitemap. Just click the link XML Sitemap available in this section.

Set up Your XML sitemaps inside SEO Yoast

Alternatively, you can also open a new browser tab and type your domain name followed by /sitemap_index.xml. Eg. www.yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml

Entries per sitemap page: Here you can decide how many entries (post/page URLs) you want to show in a single sitemap page.

Max entries per sitemap for SEO

If your URLs exceeds the number you set here then a new sitemap page will be created with the same name, it will simply add a number to the end of the page name.

Sitemap with same name in SEO Yoast

So, it’s better to leave it as it is.(keep it to default 1000).

Post Types:

Post types sitemap settings: Here you can decide what are the post types you want in your sitemap.

Recommended to not add the unnecessary posts or pages like the media attachment links.

Post types sitemap settings for SEO Yoast

Excluded posts:

Excluded posts settings: By default when you decide to index the pages or posts on your blog, the search engine will index all the posts and pages.

So, in case you like to exclude any particular page/post that you don’t want to be indexed in the search engine then you can simply add the post IDs here. Otherwise, leave it blank.

posts to exclude inside SEO Yoast

Taxonomies:

Taxonomies sitemap settings: Enable the taxonomies like the category to be added in the sitemap.

Just follow the screenshot below and you should be fine.

Taxonomies sitemapin SEO

Advanced – Yoast SEO:

Inside this advanced section, you will see the three tabs as below:

Advanced Yoast settings

Breadcrumbs:

Under breadcrumbs you have,

Breadcrumbs settings: Breadcrumbs help the readers as well as the search engines to learn your content and site structure.

It simply shows your readers where they are right now on your blog. Refer to the pink box below:

Home » SEO » The Ultimate Guide to Yoast SEO [Updated 2018]  << this is where you are right now

This is an optional thing. If you like you can enable it. Leave the details as they are.

How to enable Breadcrumbs in SEO Yoast

If you like to use this feature then simply enabling this option won’t show the breadcrumbs. You will have to place some codes inside your theme’s PHP files. Which is a risky task to do, if you are not well versed in coding.

You can check out the link given inside the section How to insert breadcrumbs in your theme.

insert breadcrumbs in wordpressAlternatively, you can manually add the breadcrumb shortcode (given below) to individual posts or pages where you want to show the breadcrumbs. (Recommended for no-coders).

Breadcrumb shortcode to use in page

Bold the last page: How do you want the current page name to be? You can set it to either bold or regular. So, keep it as per your interest.

Taxonomy to show in breadcrumbs for post types: Here you can decide which taxonomy you want to show in the breadcrumbs. My recommendation would be to go with the category.

Permalinks:

Don’t confuse it with the permalinks section found inside WordPress settings.

Change URLs:

Strip the category base (usually /category/) from the category URL:

If your permalink structure has the word “category” in it, you can remove it from here. And that is recommended, as Shorter URLs are preferable for good user experience and usability.

You might also like:  4 SEO Trends Every Blogger Should Follow in 2019

Strip the category in SEO

Redirect attachment URLs to parent post URL:

As promised, here is how to redirect the attachments on your blog. Just select Redirect and you are done.

How to Redirect attachment URLs to parent post URL

Now, if somebody somehow stumbles over any image, pdf or any attachments (you had uploaded to any post) outside of your blog like the search engines, then the users will be automatically redirected to the actual post where you have the attachments attached.

Clean up permalinks: 

Stop words in slugs: Without stop words, your URLs might look and sound funny. So, don’t allow Yoast to handle this. Rather Keep it and trim it yourself manually, given the URLs still makes sense, even without the stop words.

stop words in slugs in Yoast SEO

Earlier google wasn’t that smart as today so it always used to get confused with stop words but now it’s smart enough to get through even with the stop words.

So, don’t need to worry anymore, when you want to add stopwords to your URLs, just go ahead and add it. After all, you want to impress the human readers, not the search engines.

Remove the ?replytocom variables: It simply removes these types of URLs: https://yoast.com/yoast-seo-5-0/ #comment-529079 

When you have a lot of comments on your blog post/page, removing URLs like above can make a huge improvement in crawl efficiency for search engines. And it also helps prevent duplicate content.

Redirect ugly URLs to clean permalinks. (Not recommended in many cases!): If someone types your URL wrong or adds unexpected parameters to the end of your URLs, Selecting Redirect here will redirect them all to the correct URL.

But it is known to break several plugins (according to Yoast). So, it is recommended not to use this feature.

So, set it to No redirect.

Even if you do, just disable this feature as soon as you encounter issues after installing any plugin.

RSS:

RSS feed settings:

This feature is used to automatically add content to your RSS, more specifically, it’s meant to add links back to your blog and your blog posts.

If someone tries to scrape your content then they will automatically add these links too, helping search engines identify you as the original source of the content.

Here is what I like to use:

You can customize it as you like. Just refer to the Available variables found in that RSS section.

Tools – Yoast SEO:

Inside this section, you have three powerful tools from Yoast.

Tools in SEO Yoast for WordPress

Bulk editor: With the help of this tool, you will be able to change the SEO site title and Meta descriptions of your posts and pages in bulk, without having to edit each post and page individually.

how to change SEO title in Yoast how to change SEO Description in Yoast

File editor: This tool allows you to quickly edit your robots.txt and .htaccess file.

Import and Export: In case you want to export your Yoast SEO settings to another website you manage or want to import settings from another website to your own blog, you can do that using the Import and Export tabs found inside this tool.

Along with the Import and Export tabs, there you have one more tab Import from other SEO plugins.

Import and export settings in Yoast SEO

If you’re using another SEO plugin like All-in-One SEO, HeadSpace2 or Jetpack SEO and now want to switch to Yoast SEO, you can migrate the existing SEO settings to Yoast using this tool.

Just select the existing SEO plugin from the list and check the last point Delete the old data after import? (as it can conflict with the Yoast settings) and click the import button found below.

import and export from other SEO plugins to Yoast

Once the import is successfully done go to plugins and delete the existing SEO plugin that you’re not going to use anymore.

Search Console – Yoast SEO:

Here you will see only one tab.

Settings:

This is where you can connect your website to Google Search Console.

Click the Get Google Authorization Code, follow the onscreen instructions and finally when you have the authorization code just paste it into the box found below and click Authenticate. That’s it.

how to Submit Google Authorization Code to your blog

Once you have authorized Yoast to get information from Google Search Console, this section will automatically convert into a different page with four tabs.

Now, each tab will show you crawl errors (broken pages on your blog) device wise, so that you can correct them or redirect them to the correct pages on your blog.

Inside Settings, you have the option to reauthenticate your blog with Google Search Console.

Broken links can happen if you ever change the permalinks, delete any pages, or migrate your website to another host.

So, keep an eye on this section of your Yoast SEO Plugin.

Final Words:

I have tried to give you each and every detail in this Universal Guide to Yoast SEO. But still, it is not complete. Here, I have only covered the FREE features of this plugin.

There is a premium version of this plugin. You can compare the features here.

I am definitely going to update this guide with all the premium stuff you can do with this plugin very soon. But till then you can start using the FREE version as it has most of the features you would need to get started.

Till then you can go ahead and get comfortable with the FREE version as it has most of the features you would need to outrank many of your competitors.

Have any queries? leave it in the comment. I’ll get back to you asap.

P.S. If you found the guide helpful, please share it with your friends and family who you believe might benefit from this.

Have an awesome weekend with your friends.

And I’ll see you next Thursday.

Cheers!

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