Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process which requires a lot of patience, with equally sweet returns. One of the many reasons to love WordPress is because it enables us to implement SEO in our website without much knowledge of HTML. In this tutorial I'm going to walk you through the basics of Yoast's WordPress SEO Plugin.
What you will neeed
- A self hosted WordPress site. (WordPress.com doesn't let you install 3rd party plugins)
- Latest version of Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin installed.
- 2-3 sample posts ready.
So let's begin. When you first install Yoast's SEO plugin, it gives you a nifty beginner's tutorial, explaining the basic features. You need to follow it carefully.
Plugin Basics: General Settings
The General settings can be found under "SEO" > "Dashboard". Over here, you can set the basic options of the plugin.
- If you'd like to help out Yoast, then you can check the "Allow tracking of this WordPress installs anonymous data" box. This sends anonymous data to help improve the plugin and/or fix possible bugs.
- The Security check-box should be ticked in case you're running a multi-author blog, where the authors generally do not know much about SEO. However, if you intend to have pages which you do not want search engines to index, then you should leave this box unchecked.
- The Webmaster Tools are absolutely essential for you to fill in. It enables the two major search engines to easily verify your website. Plus an Alexa verification would prove useful in tracking your site's rank using Analytics.
- Once you've finished editing, click on Save Settings.
Plugin Basics: Titles & Metas
Navigate to SEO > Titles & Metas > Home. The Author metadata allows you to highlight an author for your site in the search engine results page. The highlighted author's picture (accompanied with some other data) is displayed. The Google publisher page is a amazing addition to your business/blog SEO. It displays as awesome box containing you site's logo and description on Google's search results page.
You need to setup a Google+ page for your website and link it here in order for it to work.
Plugin Basics: Social
Now-a-days, social media is as important for your blog's visibility as compared to SEO. Thankfully, WordPress SEO plugin supports OpenGraph metadata for both Facebook and Twitter. For Facebook, just check the "Add OpenGraph meta data" box.
Suppose someone linked your blog's homepage in Facebook. What metadata would it use then? The answer is simple!
Scroll down to "Frontpage settings", add an image & description and you're good to go.
To enable OpenGraph metadata support for Twitter:
- Check the "Add Twitter card meta data" box under Twitter settings.
- Enter your site's Twitter username.
- Click on Save Changes.
Plugin Basics: XML Sitemaps
As a WordPress enthusiast, you've surely heard about Google XML Sitemaps, but we'll get to that later.
All you need to do is navigate to SEO > XML Sitemaps and check the "Ping Yahoo.com" and "Ping Ask.com" boxes. Of course, don't forget to Save Changes.
Plugin Basics: The Rest
The default settings of Permalinks, RSS & Internal Links are just fine for all practical purposes. You don't need to alter them unless you need some specific feature. This concludes the first part of our tutorial. Now we will move on to the SEO settings of individual posts and pages.
Page/Post Specific SEO: General Settings
If you want optimum results for your blog (I'm sure everyone does), you need to specify individual settings for each and every post and page in your blog. Right below the visual editor, you should find a box called WordPress SEO by Yoast. That's your queue. So let's start with the General Settings. Here we shall discuss the 4 most important aspects of page/post specific SEO.
1. Tags: Choose relevant tags. Of course its not related to Yoast's SEO plugin, but I cannot stress how important this is. Your WordPress site's tags are updated most frequently in search engines and your SEO efforts are significantly affected by them.
2. Focus Keyword: Ask yourself the following:
- "How would I describe my article in the least possible words?" or
- "If I was someone else, what would I type in Google while searching for the topic my article covers?"
The answer you get is your focus keyword. Keep in mind not make it too long. Sometimes it may happen that you just cannot find a focus keyword for your article (for instance if you were writing about what you did for last Christmas). In such cases, don't worry. Leave it blank.
If you end up choosing a focus keyword then make sure its in the following:
- SEO Title
- Meta Description
- First line of your content
Sometimes its pretty hard to do if you want to be non-repetitive, but hey there's no harm in trying!
3. SEO Title: The SEO Title is the single most important factor of your page/post specific SEO. If someone Googles your exact SEO title, chances are your site ranks first. Now that's just invaluable. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind while coming up with your SEO title:
- Your SEO title must be short, catchy, grammatically correct and it must describe your article in the best possible way. Its the first line people are going to read if your site comes up in a search engine's result page. Therefore you must give this considerable thought.
- For example, if you were reviewing a list of top 25 war movies (each of them in separate posts) and Letters From Iwo Jima happened to be no. 15 then your proper SEO title shouldn't be: "15. Letters From Iwo Jima". In fact, the proper/relevant SEO title should be "Letters From Iwo Jima (Review)".
- Suppose you had two movies with the same name and you were reviewing them both, then your best bet would be: "Twilight (1998) (Review)" and "Twilight (2008) (Review)".
- Your SEO Title can be different from your Post Title. The SEO Title comes up on Google while the Post Title is displayed in your blog. For example, MakeUseOf probably uses this technique.
4. Meta Description: How would you describe your article in a sentence or two? The answer would be your Meta Description. However, it should be within 156 characters, grammatically correct and non-repetitive. Try and avoid the words/phrases that you've used in your SEO title. Instead, try to use their synonyms/variations. This would be a perfect meta description for a review of Letters From Iwo Jima Review:
"A critical appreciation of Clint Eastwood's 2006 Oscar-winning film, based on the 36 day battle for Iwo Jima and letters from young Japanese soldiers."
Page/Post Specific SEO: Social Settings
Click on the Social tab under the WordPress SEO by Yoast box. You should find 2 options: one for Facebook and the other for Google+. This is the OpenGraph data Facebook and Google+ is going to use when you paste your site's link in either of the social networks. If you want your links description to be the same as your Meta description, leave it blank, else use your creative liberty.
Tip: The description should be short and catchy: something that would grab the reader's attention and make him/her click the link.
Page/Post Specific SEO: Advanced Settings
This is only for advanced users. If you do not want a particular page to be indexed in a search engine results page, you need to change 3 basic settings:
- Meta Robots Index: No Index
- Meta Robots Follow: Nofollow
- Include in Sitemap: Never Include
In conclusion, I would like to mention some links for further reading:
- Yoast's Original Guide: This is where it all started. If you want to master the plugin, there's no better place to start.
- For professional SEO services I highly recommend SEOMoz. Why? Because companies like Yahoo, eBay, Facebook and the NY Times use SEOMoz. It starts at 99$ per month.
There are lots of great SEO plugins out there but I personally love Yoast's SEO plugin. A notable mention would be the All In One SEO Pack WordPress plugin. We've compared these two plugins in the past. This concludes our guide.