Search Engine Optimisation SEO is critical for most businesses and especially for ecommerce businesses. We did put up a slideshare on the basics of SEO for Entrepreneurs which covers aspects like on page SEO, content marketing & amplification, mobile responsiveness and link building. We always recommend White Hat SEO so its also important to be aware of how NOT to do SEO.
In this context, there are various SEO tools out there which can help and one which is critical for On Page SEO in case you are using WordPress as your CMS is the plugin by Yoast. It is a plugin recommended even for Advanced SEO by most industry leaders including QuickSprout, Moz & more.
YoastSEO Plugin is the powerhouse for WordPress search engine optimization. Barring structured markup data and schema tags, Yoast can handle most on page SEO elements. However, setting up this plugin might be tricky for some, and a startup or anyone without basic SEO skills, might find it difficult to configure. An incorrect configuration can stop search engine bots from indexing your website, or you might let bots crawl a part that might not be relevant to your business.
The best part is that most of the key features in YoastSEO are free, so let’s get started with the step by step tutorial to set up this free SEO plugin.
Step 1: General Settings
- Clicking on the SEO icon takes you to WordPress SEO by Yoast’s General settings page. You can take a tour here to learn more about the plugin. You can also reset your plugin to default settings from this page. There is a tracking option, checking it will send anonymous usage data back to plugin author. You can uncheck this box if you don’t want to share this information.
Step 2: Your Info
This is where you will provide information about your site and the person or company behind it.
- First you need to provide a site name and an alternate name for search engines to consider. Your site’s name could be your site’s title. If you do not enter anything here, then WordPress SEO will automatically use your site’s title (from the WordPress Settings Tab) as your website name
- The next option is to choose whether this website is run by a company/organization or an individual person. If you choose company, then you will be asked to provide company name and you can also upload a company logo.
- On the other hand, if you choose a person, then you can add the name of the person behind the website.
Step 3: Webmaster Tools
- If you know a little bit about SEO, then you have probably heard that each of the popular search engines, Google& Bingallow site owners to add their sites using webmaster tools.
- Webmaster tools let you see insights and other relevant data about your site from the specific search engines. In order to verify your site and see those exclusive data, you have just have to add the Meta code that you received from the search engines in the respective fields.
Step 4: Security
- The last tab in general settings is labeled Security. This has only one option which disables advanced part of the WordPress SEO Meta box. We recommend that you leave it checked. Checking it will prevent your authors from making changes like redirects and no index which could create problem for you later on.
Step 5: Titles &Metas
Titles & Metas section under WordPress SEO has several tabs in it.
- Here you can configure some site wide general settings. WordPress SEO can auto-detect whether it needs to re-write titles or not. So you can leave this as it is, usually it is unchecked. You can also choose the separator used between post title and site title.
- Homepage Title
- By default you will see these fields pre-filled with title-template. So what is the difference between a title and a title template, you may ask. In instances like your home page, you may want to create a static title, description, and keywords. But for posts, the title will vary from one post to another. Title templates allow you to define a way that the title and other meta information is pulled and organized.
- Let’s take a look at the image below for the home page settings. By default the template variables in the title field work fine for most website however you’re welcome to change it. The next option is to enter your site’s description. Once you are done, click on save settings button.
- For example for our Pages Title Template we had put %%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% Social & Digital Marketing in India. So if the page is Content Marketing the Meta tag would become Content Marketing | Social & Digital Marketing in India. The same logic applies for the description template too.
- Post Types Titles &Meta
WordPress SEO allows you to set titles and meta for posts, pages, media, and other custom post types.
- WordPress SEO automatically enters title template variables for all your post types and leaves your description and other fields blank. We recommend that you change the title templates where you only keep the actual title and one of the critical keywords for your business – example %%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% Social & Digital Marketing in India
- Remember WordPress SEO plugin also adds an SEO meta box in your post edit area so you can always customize the meta title & description for each page and each post. It may not be posibble to manually edit these, especially if there are multiple authors creating posts on your website. So this automated temple does make life easy in such cases.
- Here you can configure titles and meta for Categories, tags, custom taxonomies, and post format archives similar to how we discussed for Page & Post Title/Descriptions.
- On the Archives tab you have title and meta settings for author archives, date archives, and special pages such as search and 404 pages. We recommended that you check disable author archives for single author blogs. If you are running a single author blog, then your main blog and the author archives contain exactly the same content.
Step 6. Social
- One great feature of the plugin is that it integrates your site with Open Graph data for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ platforms so that it tells the search engines that your site is linked to these social media channels
- The first tab under the social settings is for all your social accounts. You need to simply add the URLs and Twitter username for the main social profiles of your business.
- On the Facebook tab, first thing you need to do is check the box that says add open graph meta data. Checking this allows WordPress SEO to add Facebook open graph meta data in your website’s <head> section. This will help Facebook pick up the right thumbnail and page information when a post from your website is shared on Facebook.
- As for Twitter, you can add Twitter cards into your site’s head section. You can also choose the card type to use. We recommend using summary with large image.
- Pinterest uses Open Graph meta data just like Facebook. Make sure that you have open graph meta data box checked under Facebook settings. After that you just need to enter the site verification code provided by Pinterest. Simply visit your Pinterest account settings to add and verify your site. You will be provided with a meta tag that you need to enter here.
- On the Google+ tab, check the box to allow Google plus related data for posts. The second option for this page is to enter your Google+ Publisher page. If you have created a Google+ page for your business enter its URL here.
Step 7. XML Sitemaps
- Sitemaps are essential for any website. While its not a ranking factor by itself it does give clarity to search engines on the pages that exist and the hierarchy of your website. It is also the quickest way to get indexed and notify search engines about new content on the site..
- Yoast SEO makes it easy to add an XML sitemap. First you need to make sure that the box that says ‘Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality’ is checked.
- After that you need to click on the ‘User Sitemap’ tab and disable author/user sitemap.
- Lastly click on post type tabs, disable any post type that you don’t want to be included into sitemaps. By default WordPress SEO disables Media Attachments from sitemaps. If you are using a custom post type that you don’t want to be included, then you can disable it here.
- Repeat the same process for taxonomies. If there is a taxonomy that you don’t want to be included into sitemaps, then you can exclude it here.
Step 8. Advanced (Breadcrumbs)
- The advanced settings page allows you to configure breadcrumbs, permalinks, and RSS feed related settings.
- Breadcrumbs are great for internal linking because it defines a clean path or trail to the page you are on. These breadcrumbs also appear in search results giving your site extra advantage in the search.
Simply check the ‘Enable Breadcrumbs’ box and rest of the settings will be displayed.
- WordPress by default adds a category base in each urli.e /category/. By checking the first box, you can strip that part from your category URLs. This is something that a lot of people want. But you can leave it unchecked if you do not want your category urls and page urls to conflict if they are the same name.
- Next feature is to enforce a trailing slash on all categories and tag urls. If you are one of the users, who have .html at the end of their posts, then you probably want to select this option.
- The next option is to remove stop words from permalinks. Stop words are common words used in plain language. Yoast believes that by removing these, you will create cleaner URLs but its your call on whether to remove these.
- Next option is to redirect attachment URLs to parent post. WordPress allows you to attach images and other media to posts. But all of those attachments get their own URLs which in most cases are unnecessary. Therefore by checking this box, you redirect all your attachment page URL to the original post URL.
- Redirect ugly URLs to clean permalinks option is not needed in most cases. We advise you to ignore it unless you know what you’re doing.
- The last option to configure on Permalinks page is canonical URL settings. We would recommend that you leave them as they are.
- Under clean up the head section you can safely check hide hide RSD links and hide WLW Manifest Links.
- WordPress SEO plugin has an RSS Feeds section, which 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, so bot scrapers will automatically add these links too, helping search engines identify you as the original source of the content. So we have added something like “The post %%POSTLINK%% appeared first on Social Beat”
Step 7. Tools
- The bulk editor allows you to edit post titles and descriptions in bulk. It makes sense to use it when doing manual edit of all pages, for example when launching a new site or a new set of products/services.
- The other tool is file editor, This section is only for advanced users as it gives access to the robots.txt file (which tells search engines which content to index and which not to) and .htaccess file (which allows in speed optimization – but that’s another blog post)
Step 8. Search Console
- In case you have have given the plugin access to your Google Webmaster Account (which is recommended), you can see all the links that have issues – 404 errors, soft 404 error, server access error; access denied error. These could then be rectified by either upgrading the Yoast SEO Plugin or by using another free plugin called Redirection. You should check these once or twice every month to see & fix all such issues.
I hope that helps you set up the Yoast SEO Plugin and also gets you started on SEO. Please do follow our other SEO & Content Marketing Blogs here.