Blog SEO Tools: Getting Started With Yoast, Pt. 2

Blog SEO Tools: Getting Started With Yoast, Pt. 2

Part 2 of a series: SEO Tools to optimize your blog with Yoast’s WordPress plugin

As I discussed in part one of this little series, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is a crucial factor in running a blog or website.

Most web admins know the value of setting up their content for good SEO results.

They know about using keywords and helpful meta-descriptions, but they often forget about the technical side of on-page SEO.

It  can be time consuming.

Plug in tools can help you streamline your efforts, do an SEO check of your blog posts – and make things easier.

That’s where the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin comes into play.

Not only is it a great SEO checker, but it helps you make every post and page more SEO friendly.

Why this plugin over others?

Yoast enjoys over a million installs so it has a large user base and is widely trusted!

Also, some of my favorite SEO experts use it, including Brian Dean of Backlinko.

Now:

Setting up the plugin is easy, but configuring it to get the maximum out of it can be a little more tricky.

A simple, incorrect configuration can stop search bots from crawling your pages properly, or indexing your blog for a good ranking.

You don’t want that to happen!

Getting traffic to your site can be challenging enough without shooting yourself in the foot with a plugin.

That’s why I’m going to go through what I believe are some of the most important elements of this tool.

Okay, let’s dive in:

1. General: Setting Up Yoast’s SEO Tools to optimize your blog

Yoast recently upgraded its plugin so the navigation is a bit different looking.

You’ll find it under “SEO” on your WordPress navigation panel on the left hand side of your screen once you have downloaded it.

It looks like this:

Yoast plugin navigation

Go ahead and click on the Y SEO General options as you can see in the above screenshot.:

Your screen should pull up the following:

  • General
  • Your Info
  • Webmaster Tools
  • Security
  • OnPage.org 

And should look like this …

Yoast General Settings

Let’s walk through this step by step:

The “General” Tab

Here is an introduction to the plugin if you wish to check it out.  Just hit “Start Tour” button.

It can help you get more acquainted.

There is also a button to access to the “latest changes” in the plugin.

This is good to stay up to speed on changes made to Yoast.

There is also an option here to restore to the default settings if you wish to do so.

The “Your Info” Tab

This is where you declare whether the site is about a company or person.

You can also upload a company logo – for Google’s Knowledge Graph.

You will want to do this if a company since it sometimes displayed if someone does a search on your company name.

My screen shot shows “Homepage” since I declared Hunting The White Whale a personal site, not a company one.

The “Webmaster Tools” Tab

Open up the tab and you’ll see this:

Yoast Webmaster Tools

You can either leave the fields blank if already verified with these search engines (listed) or enter your sites details.

Simple.  Let’s move onto the Security tab.

The “Security” Tab

When you click on the tab you should get this:

Yoast Security Tab

Do you run a multi-author site?

If so, this tab is for you.

You may want to restrict editors and authors from using certain options of the plugin, otherwise just leave it unchecked.

It also allow you or another author to “noindex” posts so they will not be found by search engines.  It also allows other authors the canonical.

But we’ll get more into this in the Advanced section of Yoast.

The “OnPage.org” Tab

This is a new feature.

It offers the ability to disable a check that displays an alert saying that your web page is not indexed.

This alert would appear in a WordPress style message in the dashboard.

Evidently, it would also be incorrect in the early versions of the version3 plugin.

The OnPage.org service offers a technical SEO suite and appears to be a partnership between Yoast and OnPage so you can check your sites index via Google Webmaster Tools.

Also, to keep you in the know, Google Webmaster Tools is now known as the Search Console.

Let’s move on to Titles & Metas in Yoast.

2. Optimizing your Titles & Metas in Yoast

In most circumstances, you shouldn’t have to change too much in the Titles & Metas tab, as many of the important settings will have already been adjusted for you.

However, it is worth getting a better understanding of what each section offers and how you can adjust the features to meet your needs.

So go ahead and open Titles and Metas.

It should list these options:

  • General
  • Homepage
  • Post Types
  • Taxonomies
  • Archives
  • Other

And look like this:

Yoast: Titles & Metas

Your title is one of the most important factors in on-page SEO.

In this tab, you can choose how you want to separate your post title from your site name.

Many people opt for the dashes on the left.

As you can see, I’ve chosen the vertical separator. But I can always change it if I want to later.

The “Home Page” or “Company Info” Tab

This is where you declare whether the site is about a company or person.

You can also upload a company logo – this is for Google’s Knowledge Graph.

You will want to do this if a company since it sometimes displayed if someone does a search on your company name.

My screen shot shows “Homepage” since I declared Hunting The White Whale a personal site, not a company one.

The “Post Types” Tab

When you click on this option, you should see this:

Yoast Post Types

This is an important template.

It sets up your Posts, Pages and Media/Attachment pages and any other Custom Post Types you may have.

Others have their own take on what works best here but I’ll walk you through what works for me.

In general, using the variables in the above example works like this:

The SEO Title here is a placeholder: %%title%%  … and will be replaced with the Title of the post/page as entered when you create a post.

The separator %%sep%% will change to what you chose earlier (see above).   Also, the sitename, %%sitename%% will be change to your site name.

Remember:

It’s a preference thing.

You don’t have to append the sitename because the Description will be the excerpt which is generated from the content, if not explicitly set.

Also, the keywords will be set from any focus keyword set in the local SEO Box option in addition to tags set to the content.

This is a good setting because once done … you don’t have to spend any time thinking about meta keywords!

Meta Robots: “Noindex, Follow” so you don’t mess up your on-page SEO

Here you can choose to set the content to index, follow or noindex, follow.

If you choose this, Yoast tells the spidering programs of search engines (aka: robots) to not record the information on the page (noindex) — but to still relate this page to the pages that link out of it (the follow part).

So what are a couple of reasons you would want to choose noindex, follow?

You should use noindex on any page that you don’t want a human to find without you directly telling them about it.

A couple of examples:

  • Your are running an email promotion: A special promotion page that you communicate to segmented customers through direct email promotions (assuming you have an email list).
  • Employee only pages:  Pages that are be on your websites which you tell employees only by a link from an internal resource.

Also, any page that is duplicate content of other pages on the website should have a noindex.

However,  most likely you want your content indexed in Google so leave that checkbox unchecked.  Unless, you are doing any of the above.

The date … do you want to include it?

You can choose to show the date of the post in the snippet preview which appears in the search index.

This is a good idea if you update and publish new content on a regular basis.

Readers like to know the content is fresh.

If you plan to do this,  I would leave this on as your readers can see that the site is active.

The “Taxonomies” Tab

What are taxonomies?

Simply, they are how you like to categorize your content into word terms.

Now:

There are two forms available in WordPress – Categories and Tags.

Categories are broader with a hierarchical structure and more widely used.  Tags are more specific, evidence of a flat structure and used to a lesser degree.

Click on the tab and you should see this:

Yoast Taxonomies

Using the above variables  would be relevant for these taxonomy pages.

The %%term_title%% is the actual taxonomy (the name itself of the category or tag).

How do I choose to do it?

I choose not to index my tags as I use categories more than tags.

It’s not considered a good ideas to use the same word terms in both categories and tags — as that is verging on duplicate content.

That is not a productive way to structure your content and will confuse the search engines (most likely).

Decide what you want to do.

If you use both uniquely they you can  leave both indexed.

But my general rule is this:

If you use one more than another — or if you have the same category/tag values — then disable one of them.

Remember:

We want to optimize our site for the search engines, not confuse them!

The “Archives” Tab

Next up is the Author ArchivesDate Archives, Special Pages,  Search & 404 Pages

I think the defaults for these settings are fine.

As you can see, I choose not to index my date archives and disable the author archives as it is a one author website.

If I start to add other authors to the site at some point, I can always change it.

Something else:

By default, WordPress archives will consist only of a listing of posts.

This is not overly helpful to your readers because they are served up a page that doesn’t tell them where they are on the site.

This lack of introduction gives visitors only two options:

  1. Leave right away because they don’t understand where they are
  2. Click through to an article (with the hope they might find what they need)

Unfortunately, this happens without you having had a chance of directing them to the right place on your site.

So, every decent archive needs an “introduction.”

This can be as simple as a header that stands out, but for more important sections of your site, it actually pays to write specific content.

Before you write that content though, you first have to make sure that the content you write actually displays on those archive pages.

If you are interested in doing this, I suggest you check out Yoast’s tutorial about how to do this.

As for the Search & 404 pages …  you can add in descriptive text and the variables you think you might need.

Working with the Yoast Archives Tab

Working with the “Other” Tab

There are three main areas under this tab:

  • Sitewide meta settings
  • Use meta keywords tag?
  • Add noodp meta robots tag sitewide

Using the "other" tab in Yoast

Let’s go through each so you understand what they are about …

Sitewide meta setting:

Choose the box to prevent Google from indexing additional pages of content that are already indexed.

Recall what I said about confusion?

Use meta keywords tag?

Many SEO experts are correct in claiming that the meta tags  have been demoted in importance by search engines.  But there are some who  have declared it still has a minimal role with some engines.

I chose to enable this function as I believe meta keywords still play a role in SEO.  Yes, it is diminished, but still viable so I chose to enable this option and add the keywords I want associated with my blog.

What the heck is Noodp?

Noodp = No Open Directory Project

It is a meta robot command that instructs search engine bots on how to handle the usage of data for your site, in this case, the Open Directory Project/DMOZ Directory.

This is used if your website is listed in one of these directories with information you do not want used in the results pages.

For example:

This might be the case if you have old, outdated listings that no longer apply. Enabling Noodp tells robots not to use information from these sources.

If you have DMOZ/Yahoo directory listings for your site you will have a special meta tag for those.

if you don’t want to use those meta tag description values for your site pages in the Google index then check these options.

If you have a new site and don’t have those listings then don’t worry about it.

3. XML Sitemaps: What Ahey Are And How to Set Them Up

When you open up this piece of Yoast, these are your tab options:

  • General
  • User sitemaps
  • Post types
  • Excluded posts
  • Taxonomies

This gets into some of the more technical SEO techniques,

 

XML Sitemaps in Yoast

What are XML sitemaps?

Sitemaps form an essential part of what goes into optimizing and ranking your page.

They offer search engines a road map that allows them to crawl through your website, and are one of the easiest ways for you to notify them regarding changes in your content.

Before making any changes, I recommend you take the time to double check that you don’t have any other plugins equipped that would create sitemaps.

If you do, this can end up confusing search engines.

That’s something you definitely don’t want.

Like almost any other part of Yoast, there are a number of tabs in the XML Sitemaps feature:

The General Tab

In the General section, all you’ll need to do is make sure that functionality is enabled and the plugin should be able to do the rest of the work for you.

If you want to see your XML Sitemap, click on the button where the red arrow indicates:

Finding XML Sitemaps in Yoast

You’ll also need to take the URL of your sitemap, which you can get by clicking the available button, and verify it with your Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console).

The User Sitemap Tab

These settings are pretty self explanatory.

If you have an editor, do you want them included in the sitemap settings?  The same is true of authors, admin, contributor and subscriber.

Assigning settings in XML Sitemaps

The Post Types Tab

You definitely want to have your posts and your pages included in your sitemap …

Post Types in XML Sitemaps

But images are different.

Here’s why:

The problem lies with WordPress.

When you upload an image, WordPress automatically creates a post of the type “attachment” in the database along with a corresponding URL.

It calls this the “media” post type.

You can exclude the media post type from your XML sitemaps settings to avoid confusing Google.

According to Yoast, in most cases it is a good idea to exclude media.

This is what I chose to do.

The Excluded Posts Tab

Posts and pages can be assigned to multiple taxonomies.

Because of this, some may unexpectedly show up in your sitemap when you thought it would be hidden.

Uh oh!

No worries:

You can exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap in the XML Sitemap settings.

Simply enter the post id in the space provided:

Exclude Posts from XML Sitemaps

If you have questions about how to find your post or page ID, this article will help you.

The Taxonomies Tab

Open up this tab and you’ll see its straight forward:

You can assign Categories and Tags to your sitemap.

I chose to assign Categories but not tags as I discussed earlier.

4. Advanced: SEO Tools and Understanding Breadcrumbs Plus

Open up the “Advanced” option in Yoast SEO’s navigation.

This menu contains plenty of SEO techniques and advanced settings that are optional, but worth understanding for on-page SEO purposes.

Even if you don’t use them now, you will know you have a tool to help manage them later as your blog or web site grows and attracts more traffic.

The first section you’ll come across (so long as they’re enabled), are “Breadcrumbs”

Breadcrumbs in Yoast

For those new to the world of on-page SEO, “breadcrumbs” are the links at the top of the page that display exactly which routes or pathways your visitors have taken in order to arrive at the content they’re viewing.

In other words, its a great tool for user navigation and site structure.

In other words, breadcrumbs show how your readers got to the content they want on your blog.

Not only is this beneficial to the reader, because it makes navigation easier, but your breadcrumbs can also help search engines to better understand the unique structure of your site.

And anything that makes it easier for Google to understand your site is beneficial to you.  It can only help your SEO.

Now:

Although they’re not essential, breadcrumbs can be a useful way to up the ante for on-page SEO, and there’s even a tutorial on Yoast to help get you started.

Just so you know, I’ve not yet set up the breadcrumbs on my own site yet as I don’t think its necessary yet.

I am still building out the content.

The Permalinks Tab: Getting the Most From Permalinks To Improve On Page SEO

After breadcrumbs, the next tab along is “Permalinks” and we have three main sections:

  • Change URLs
  • Clean up permalinks
  • Clean up the <head>

Permalinks with Yoast

Just a quick glance at this extensive list of options will show you that it’s often a different menu to the one you’ll find in Settings > Permalinks.

Yup, it can be confusing!

The plugin generally only allows you to adjust additional settings for URLs, and assumes that you’ve already updated to pretty permalinks on WordPress.

But here’s what you can do for technical SEO in this section:

Change URLs:

You can decide whether to remove the category base from your archived links.

Although this can make things neater, Yoast outlines that it’s not crucial to SEO, and is a feature that can be prone to error.

Beneath that is a section marked “Redirect Attachment URLs to Parent Post URL.”

When this feature is enabled, readers who find your attachments or images via Google will be redirected to the post, rather than your attachment page.

Why would you want to do this?

It can be a good option to enable for websites that use a lot of images.

Makes sense.

Clean up your permalinks to help your on-page SEO

This is so you can choose whether to remove stop words from slugs.

What’s a stop word?  Good question!

Simply, stop words are common words or adjectives that can impede your SEO efforts.

For example, words such as, ‘of ‘ , ‘or’, ‘the’ etc. interfere with your SEO efforts because they use up precious character space.

Taking out stop words means that your URLs are stripped of words that search engines ignore anyway.  Taking them out steamlines things for the search engines.

Remember:

Stream lining things for the search engines is a good part of your on-page SEO.

The cleaner the better.

Fixing “replytocom” link issues with Yoast

Another option you will find is the replytocom variable box.

This is for blogs which allow reply to comments — which many do. In particular, many have threaded commenting enabled, which means that you can reply to every comment by clicking on that comments reply link.

Powerful stuff for keeping your readers engaged.

Yet, WordPress automatically adds a noindex, nofollow robots meta tag to each URL that has ?replytocom in it.

So when ever you click on reply to comments, you will see the link.

For example, it might look like this:

http://www.huntingthewhitewhale.com/example-post/?replytocom=1

To keep your on-page SEO clean, links like this should  not be a part of Google search.

Why?

Pages showing as noindex,nofollow makes every URL with ?replytocom in it a dead end!

The upshot is that doing nothing is much better:

The rel="canonical" link element on the page, pointing to the clean version, tells search engines to use that version instead.

That is much better.

Turn off replytocom by clicking on the remove button.

Activated it will appear as below:

Turn off noreplycom in Yoast

Ugly URL Redirection is a complicated way of cleaning up permalinks, which Yoast doesn’t recommend.

I think the older version of Yoast provided a bit more clarity …

Cleaning Up Permalinks with Yoast

Clean up <head>” …

RSD

Really Simple Discoverability is a set of XML rules for allowing services from your blog to be discovered by third party software.

It hasn’t been turned on by default in any WordPress installations since V3.5 according to Yoast.

If you have no need for it – i.e no need to remotely post to your blog from some third party service – you can check this box in the Yoast plugin.

The option can always be un-checked if you ever change your mind.

WLW

Windows Live Writer … and is a WYSIWYG editor that runs on Windows, and that can post to your WordPress site remotely.

If you are a control freak like I am, you won’t want to bother with this.  I encourage you to write to your site directly – for maximum control – using HTML or CSS.

Hide Shortlink for Posts

WordPress supplies a shortlink to each post you create and these can always be found on the posts’ edit screen should you ever need one.

However, you also get this in the head of your page if you don’t disable it.

For me, I can’t see the point of it and so in the interest of de-cluttering if nothing else, you can check this box.

Hide RSS Links

This one should definitely be checked off if you don’t want to show links to your RSS feeds to search engines and anyone else trying to find them automatically

I’m thinking here of comment spambots.

So check this box.

That means that your RSS feeds are now not open to scrapers, but also not to Google and Bing.

You can fix this by adding your comment feed to your sitemaps in Google Search Console.

6. Advanced RSS

The last tab in this section is SEO section is RSS,

It offers you a menu to add content that may be included at the end or beginning of your articles when they are delivered by RSS.

Usually, this measure will help to identify your website as the original source of any content if it ends up anywhere it shouldn’t.

You can use whatever variable you like.

I stick with the given option as it works for me.

In a later post I may delve into Tools and Search Console in the Yoast Navigation.

Here’s what to do next …

If you enjoyed this post, please comment below!

Tom Augenthaler

Influence marketing virtuoso | work @theinfluencemarketer.com | connect brands and marketers to online influencers | Swordsman| All views here are my own!

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1 Response

  1. Excellent article. Thank you so much for putting all your thoughts on Blog SEO tools. I love this article.

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