You want to be on the first page of the search result in Google or any other search engine because you know that generally users only look at the first page of results. But precisely because we all want to be there and dedicate resources to optimize search engine ranking (SEO), it becomes a very complicated goal.
Recently, when I commented on the 7 indispensable plugins to position your blog, the first one I mentioned was Yoast SEO. We use it on our website as it’s one of the best SEO plugins that exist.
Yoast SEO is a plugin that’s very easy to install and whose basic settings are simple and straightforward. But it’s worth understanding what’s behind the tool and configuring the different parameters to make sure you get the most out of it and Google ranks your website at the top.
This post is the first part of a complete guide on how you should set up Yoast SEO on your website. Not only is it intended to explain how you should set up Yoast, but also to understand why you should and how to make sure that your website is always optimized for SEO (or, better said, On-Page SEO, as I explain below).
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to position them higher and gain more relevant traffic in search engines. In contrast, off-page SEO refers to strategies that combine promotion on social networks and other media to get other relevant websites, directories or media to mention or link to your website.
When we talk about on-page SEO we mean optimizing both the content and the HTML source code of each page. In other words, making sure that you provide Google with the work and information it needs so that it can make a quick assessment of the quality and content of your website and rank it as high as possible according to its criteria.
According to Brian Dean, we have up to 200 factors that Google uses to position your website. And Rand Finskin summarizes them in this infographics of an optimized page:
Just make sure that:
- the value of your web content is unique,
- the design and user experience are amazing,
- all the information needed by search engine crawlers is available,
- the content is related to your keywords,
- the content is ready to be easily shared on social networks,
- the web contains all the metadata that allow search engines to display the right information,
- and is perfectly responsive and suitable for any device.
which, as always, is easier said than done, isn’t it? Luckily, tools like Yoast’s can be very helpful, as they simplify some of these tasks.
Most Relevant Features Of Yoast
Definition of Snippets
The main feature by which one first meets Yoast is that it allows you to define the snippet of each post or page of your website. That is, the title and description you want Google to show on its results page.
Once you have installed the plugin, under each post or page you will have a meta box with several sections. In the first one is where you can add this information of the post or page, also known as SEO titles and meta descriptions.
And the result that we’d see in Google is:
Yoast also allows you to define how to display the default SEO titles through templates, saving you (if you want) the step of defining a specific title for each post and page of your website.
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It’s complicated that a tool can assess whether the content of your website is unique, as Rand mentions, but nonetheless Yoast helps you up to a certain extent. The plugin checks that all your posts comply with a set of criteria that can be indicators of legibility. And this information is shown to you with a system of smiling or unhappy faces in another section of the meta box mentioned before.
As you can see, the results of the analysis are simple recommendations you can apply, but only if they fit your personal criteria.
Another point mentioned for the SEO On-Page is to make sure that the content of your website is related to the keywords of the topics discussed in your website. To do this, Yoast allows you to indicate, for each post or page, the target keyword(s), so that it can check that the content corresponds to what you’ve indicated. For example, this is the result shown after analyzing the content of Managing Widgets in WordPress.
As you can see, the result of the analysis informs you of the problems it has found, what you could improve, and the good results obtained. As before, they are simple guidelines that can help you to improve your SEO.
A function that is activated when installing the Yoast plugin is the creation of sitemaps, which are automatically updated each time we modify the content of our website. Each of them will have information of the URLs that the site has, the images it contains, and their creation date, all of which is then used by Google.
For example, for our website, Yoast generates 11 indexes of site maps.
In addition, Yoast allows you to indicate the URLs you don’t want to be indexed. You can also, from Yoast, connect with the different search engines (Google, Bing, Yandex, Pinging Search Engines and others) to send them the information of the sitemaps so they can quickly index your site.
To make the website ready to share on your social networks, Yoast allows your website to be connected to each of them and then you can customize the information (metadata) that you want to be shared on them. For example, you can define a default image on Facebook so that if a URL that doesn’t have an image is shared on that network, it displays that default image.
Install Yoast SEO Plugin For WordPress
The installation of the plugin itself is like that of any other plugin: from the WordPress Dashboard, access the Plugins » Add New option,
In the search field, type in Yoast and the first result you get is precisely the one you’re interested in: Yoast SEO.
After installing and activating the plugin, you’ll be shown the Yoast SEO for WordPress installation wizard:
Set Up Yoast SEO for WordPress
You can decide whether to configure Yoast SEO with the wizard, following the 12 steps it proposes or simply close the wizard and go directly to the different options of the plugin menu and configure it from there. In this post I’ll explain the basic configuration with the wizard.
Basic Setup With The Wizard
After the Welcome screen, you’re presented a set of extremely intuitive and self-explanatory steps. Let’s review them all.
First it asks you if you already have your website activated and you want search engines to start indexing its content or, on the contrary, it’s still under construction and, at the moment, you don’t want it to be indexed. Just select whatever applies to you.
#3 Site Type
Then, you have to specify what type of site your website is about. I’m not sure if Google uses this information (I think it doesn’t), but it’s easy to choose an option so… why not?
#4 Company or Person
Then select if your website belongs to a company or a person. Bear in mind that if you select the company, you’ll also have to choose an image representing its logo.
#5 Social Profiles
Now it’s time to set up all your social profiles. Specifically, type in the URLs of the different networks you may have. Remember that, in the case of Twitter, you only need to indicate the user name.
#6 Search Engine Visibility
If you want the content of your website to be found directly after a search by Google, indicate that both pages and posts on your website should be searchable directly. Now, you might be wondering why you wouldn’t all your content to be indexed… well, if you’re running a blog, you might want all posts to be indexed and exclude any additional pages like like your T&C (or others that do not add value or rank keywords of your subject).
#7 Multiple Authors
If you’re a single author, author pages won’t be activated because Google can detect them as duplicate content pages, which could lead to penalties and problems.
#8 Google Search Console
It’s important to gather some metrics about the performance of your website. To do this, Google provides the Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools), a set of tools that give you information about what searches have been made to get to your website, indexing errors, data about your visitors, and more. If you have not yet connected Google Search Console to your site, Yoast provides the link that explains how to do it.
Once you have the Google Search Console connected to your site, on this screen Yoast asks for permission to connect to the information provided by Google Search Console so it can notify you if you have problems with your SEO. Click the Get Google Authorization Code button to get the code that will help you verify your connection. Once authenticated, choose the appropriate profile (i.e. your website).
#9 Title Settings
Here you have to tell the name of your site and which separator you want to appear by default between the title of a post or page and the name of your site.
#10, #11 & #12 Additional Information
The last three steps of this wizard simply ask you to subscribe to the Yoast newsletter, recommend you to subscribe to the premium plan, and finally congratulate you on completing the setup.
Now, with this basic configuration, you can rest assured that your website has the basic requirements so that when generating content, search engines have the information they need to browse your website, index it correctly, and ultimately give it greater visibility.
If you want to go a little deeper into the subject, don’t miss the second part of The Perfect Yoast SEO Setup For Your WordPress II.