The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Settings

T

Everyone has Yoast, but few use it correctly.

No worries. This tutorial breaks it down into 3 key stepsconfiguring the Yoast SEO settings (including adding AMP Pages to make mobile pages load faster), researching long-tail focus keywords, and optimizing content (there’s more to it than green lights). I will also show you how to connect Yoast to Google Search Console so you can fix crawl errors (broken pages).

This is a COMPLETE guide to Yoast. If you don’t have Yoast go to plugins → add new → search Yoast SEO → install/activate. If you already have Yoast, make sure it’s updated to the latest version. Leave a comment if you have questions and if you like this tutorial, check out my other guides like my WordPress SEO and WordPress speed guides which are both ridiculously good.

2018-Yoast-SEO-Plugin-Settings

1. General

Yoast-Dashboard-Settings

Dashboard

Yoast Features

Features

Below is a screenshot of each feature:
I disabled a few of them… I don’t use the Readability Analysis since I don’t need Yoast “grading” my content (eg. whether my sentences are too long). I use internal links naturally in my content and don’t need Yoast’s Text Link Counter reminding me to add them. I don’t need Ryte to constantly check whether my site is indexed in search engines (it obviously is), and I never use Yoast’s Admin Dropdown Menu. See what features you like, enable them, and disable the rest.

Yoast SEO Analysis

SEO Analysis

Yoast Readability Analysis

Readability Analysis

Yoast-Cornerstone-Content

Cornerstone Content

Cornerstone-Content-Filter
Yoast-Text-Link-Counter-Feature

Text Link Counter

Yoast Content Insights

Insights

Yoast-Internal-Linking

Link Suggestions

Yoast-XML-Sitemap-Setting

XML Sitemaps

Yoast-Ryte-Analysis

Ryte Integration

Yoast-Admin-Bar-Menu

Admin Bar Menu

Yoast-Advanced-Settings

Security: No Advanced Settings For Authors

Webmaster Tools
Next, we’ll sign up for each Webmaster Tools (Google/Bing/Yandex/Baidu) and verify each one using the HTML verification method. Then we can can submit your Yoast XML sitemap to them. I personally use Google Search Console religiously to fix broken pages (crawl errors) with redirects, use Search Analytics to find keywords/pages I rank for, HTML improvements to fix errors in SEO titles + meta descriptions, and monitor mobile/security issues as well as links to my site. Here’s my complete Google Search Console tutorial which I would definitely skim.

Yoast-Webmaster-Tools

Verify Webmaster Tools

  • Sign up for Google Search Console
  • Select the HTML tag verification method
  • Copy the code and paste into the Google Search Console field
  • Delete everything outside of the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click “Verify” in Google Search Console
  • Repeat for Bing / Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine)
  • I do not use Baidu Webmaster Tools since it’s confusing as I don’t read Chinese, and you need a Chinese phone number, but you can read this tutorial if you want to try
  • Be sure to read the Search Console section of this tutorial, or view my full guide

Submit Your Yoast XML Sitemap To Google + Bing + Yandex

  • In Yoast, go to General → Features → XML Sitemaps
  • Click the question mark icon by the XML Sitemaps option
  • Click your XML Sitemap link
  • Copy the last past of the URL: /sitemap_index.xml
  • Login to Google Search Console
  • On the left, go to Crawl → Sitemaps
  • Paste the last part of your sitemap URL into Google Search Console
  • Test and submit
  • Repeat for Bing + Yandex
Yoast-XML-Sitemap-Setting
Yoast Sitemap

2. Search Appearance

Yoast-General-Settings

General

Title Separator – when using snippet variables, this is the dash (or other special character) that is usually between your page/post title and site name. Example: Page Title  Site Name.

Snippet Variables – templates used for SEO titles/meta descriptions only IF you forget to write them, which you should never forget to do. So as long as you’re writing these manually, they don’t matter. You should take the time to write them so they sound nicer than a template.

Yoast Basic Variables

Why you shouldn’t use them…

The title of this post you’re reading is 160+ characters long (well over the 60 character limit for SEO titles). If I relied on Yoast to create my SEO title using snippet variables, it would be longer than 60 characters and get cut off, making my snippet look horrible. Instead, I wrote it myself so it reads nicely: The Ideal Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Settings (2018, Version 7.9).

Yoast-Snippet-Variables

Homepage – the homepage usually targets a broad keyword about your main product/service (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer). Use this in your homepage SEO title + meta description:

Homepage-Snippet
Yoast-Content-Types-Settings

Content Types

Show Posts In Search Results – control whether posts/pages are indexed in search engines.

Date In Snippet Preview – adding dates to your snippets (specifically adding them on time sensitive articles) makes content look new and can significantly increase click-through rates.

Publish Date

In addition to enabling this in Yoast, you also need to add the “post modified date” to the top of your posts (called the entry meta section). For me, this is in the Genesis Simple Edits settings…

Entry Meta

This is what it looks like on a post…

Entry Post Modified Date

Now, anytime you update a post, the post modified date refreshes to current day and will update in search results. Yes, you can go through ALL posts and make your content look brand new. But don’t abuse it, I try to only do it when I’m making an update to a time sensitive article.

Update WordPress Post

Yoast SEO Meta Box – this is the SEO analysis with content optimization recommendations. You definitely want this for pages, posts, and blog category pages if you’re optimizing those.

Yoast-Media-Settings

Media

Yoast-Taxonomies-Settings

Taxonomies

Which Content Shouldn’t Be Shown In Search Results – tags, portfolio categories, slideshows, format, and other non-useful content should usually not be shown in search results. Tags will usually cause duplicate content in Siteliner. If you have a nice portfolio, or your blog categories pages are well-designed with many articles under that category, by all means include it in search results. But if you wouldn’t spend more than 30 seconds on that page, don’t index it.

Yoast-Archives-Settings

Archives

Yoast-Breadcrumbs-Settings

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs – navigation text that appears at the top of your content:

Breadcrumbs

It helps users and search engines learn your content and site structure. I don’t use breadcrumbs to prevent clutter, but I recommend them if you don’t mind the extra text. To enable breadcrumbs, add this code to Editor → Index.php by pasting it under get_header();

get_header(); ?>
<div id="primary"> 
<?php if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {
yoast_breadcrumb('<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>');
} ?>
<div id="content" role="main">
Yoast-RSS-Settings

RSS

3. Search Console

Authenticate Yoast With Google Search Console – this will show you crawl errors (broken pages on your site) so you can redirect them to the correct page on your site. You might have a lot of these if you ever changed permalinks, deleted pages, or migrated your website. You will need to verify Search Console under ‘General → Webmaster Tools’ before proceeding. Once verified, go here and click “Get Google Authorization Code” and it will prompt you with steps.

yoast-search-console-authentication

Fix Crawl Errors With Redirects – after authenticating Search Console, give it a few minutes (or hours) so Google can populate your crawl errors. You will eventually see the errors (page not found, server errors, soft 404s…). You should fix ALL these by setting up 301 redirects which come with Yoast SEO Premium, or try using the free Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin

yoast-search-console-crawl-errors

Setup Redirects – to setup a 301 redirect using the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin, install the plugin and go to Quick Redirects → Quick Redirects (left tab in WordPress). Enter a URL from Yoast, then enter the correct URL (the most relevant page or post on your website)…

301 Redirect Example

More Google Search Console Optimizations – fixing crawl errors is just one of many ways to optimize your WordPress site with Google Search Console. I HIGHLY recommend looking through my Google Search Console tutorial to learn about rich snippets, international targeting, security issues, search analytics, and other important parts of your WordPress SEO.

Google Search Console

4. Social

Filling out Yoast’s social settings helps Google learn about your profiles, but the main thing is enabling each social network’s meta data. This allows you to upload custom graphics to each page/post which makes it’s image thumbnail format properly when that page is shared on social media. This is what Facebook Open GraphTwitter Cards, and Google+ meta data does.

yoast-social-settings

Accounts

Yoast-Facebook-Settings

Facebook

Facebook App ID – if you created a Facebook app, find your app ID and enter it here. Here’s a tutorial on how to create a Facebook app and what it does.

Yoast-Twitter-Settings

Twitter

pinterest-settings

Pinterest

You will need to complete a few additional steps to verify your site with Pinterest.

google-tab

Google+

Social Media Optimization – once meta data is enabled for each social network, you can upload custom social media images in Yoast’s SEO analysis section using the “share” link (see below). This makes the content’s image thumbnail format properly when that page is shared on social media. Yes, this means you will need to create 2 separate graphics for every post.

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 628px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px

Upload custom graphics to Facebook/Twitter…

yoast-social-media-optimization

Makes your content format nicely…

facebook-share

Controlling Facebook Ad Text With Yoast – if you’re boosting posts, Facebook won’t let you change the ad text. So before sharing your post on Facebook, give it the title you want using Yoast’s “Facebook Title” field (which can be different from the SEO title + meta description). If your Yoast Facebook title isn’t working right away, trying clearing your website’s cache. I have found it can sometimes take several days for it to update with new Facebook title and image.

Yoast Facebook Title

5. Tools

Yoast-SEO-Tools

Bulk Editor – edit SEO titles and meta descriptions in bulk (without having to go through each individual page/post). Making sure these ready nicely can significantly increase click-through rates by making your snippets more appealing to click on. Don’t forget to include that post’s focus keyword in both places. SNIPPETS ARE LITERALLY THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR SEO!

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

File Editor – edit robots.txt and .htaccess files.

Import And Export – import my recommended Yoast SEO settings or export your own Yoast settings to use on other websites you manage. If you’re currently using another WordPress SEO Plugin, use the “Import From Other SEO Plugins” tab to migrate it’s SEO data to Yoast.

import-tab
export-tab
yoast-seo-plugin-migration

6. Premium

Yoast SEO Premium is $89/year – I seriously only bought it because I write WordPress SEO tutorials for a living. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have it… setting multiple focus keywords isn’t useful, there are plenty of free redirect plugins, and internal link suggestions + content insights really don’t help me at all. Here’s an explanation of some of the highlighted features…

Yoast-SEO-Premium

Keyword Optimization (Multiple Focus Keywords) – there is a specific strategy for optimizing content for multiple keywords (see below). Secondary keywords are often included as partial matches which means the SEO analysis checklist is virtually useless, since Yoast only detects exact keyword matches. It does help you keep track of secondary keywords in your dashboard so you can use those partial matches, but don’t expect to get a lot of green lights. Targeting secondary keywords is more about crafting a nice SEO title + meta description to include individual words from both phrases – rather than simply listing keywords which looks spammy.

Yoast Multiple Focus Keywords

Preview Of Your Page – as long as you’re uploading custom images in Yoast’s “social sharing option” so your image formats properly Facebook and Twitter (step 4), you don’t need this. But if you like seeing how it looks directly in Yoast to make sure it looks good, that’s all this does.

yoast-social-previews
Yoast-Internal-Linking

Link Suggestions

Yoast Content Insights

Content Insights

Redirect Manager – use this to fix crawl errors (broken pages) from Yoast’s Search Console tab. Do this by add the old URL and new URL to redirect each one to the most appropriate page. If you already have redirects from the Redirection Plugin or .htaccess, you can import these into Yoast. While a free plugin like Quick Page/Post Redirect does the exact same thing, Yoast’s redirect manager will automatically setup a redirect if you ever change a permalink…

yoast-automatic-redirect

To setup a redirect, head to Yoast’s Search Console tab and find your crawl errors…

Yoast-Search-Console-Crawl-Errors

Now head to Yoast’s redirect manager (or the “Quick Redirects” section if using the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin). Paste your broken URL into the “Old URL” field. The new URL should NOT always be your homepage – it should be the closest URL to your broken page.

Yoast-Redirects

Premium Support – I have never used their support, but you do get it with Yoast Premium.

7. AMP

Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are a recent Google project that make your mobile pages load faster and will add that nice “AMP” sign to your mobile snippets. This is quite easy…

amp-pages

AMP Instructions

  • Install the AMP Plugin by Automattic
  • Install the Glue For Yoast SEO AMP Plugin if using Yoast
  • Add /amp/ to any page on your website to see how it looks and make sure it works
  • Go to Yoast’s Settings → AMP to change your design and enable custom post types
  • Wait for Google to recrawl your site and add the AMP sign in mobile search results
  • Visit the Accelerated Mobile Pages section in Google Search Console to see errors

A common issue is featured images appearing on the top of posts when you might not want them too. There is a work around for this, but it’s not perfect. You can either have no featured image, or you can set a default featured image in Yoast under SEO → AMP → Design → Default Image. This will only show if NO featured image is set, but if one is, that is what will show on the top of the post. You can read Yoast’s AMP guide but I basically just summed it up.

If using Cloudflare, enable accelerated mobile links and show the AMP logo…

Cloudflare Accelerated Mobile Links

8. Import My Yoast Settings

To use my Yoast settings, download the zip file and upload it under SEO → Tools → Import And Export → Import. This configures the settings, it does not delete focus keywords or meta data.

Download My Yoast Settings (Updated 3/9/2018)

Things You Still Need To Do:

  • General → Webmaster Tools (verify your site with Google/Bing/Yandex)
  • Search Appearance → General (check if you have duplicate sitenames by hovering over your homepage’s browser tab, and if so, leave Force Rewrite Titles as enabled)
  • Search Appearance → General (fill out your homepage SEO title + meta description, and specify whether you’re a person or company)
  • Search Appearance → Content Types (choose which content you want shown in search results, and add publish dates to snippets on time-sensitive posts)
  • Search Appearance → Taxonomies (choose which content you want in search results)
  • Search Appearance → Breadcrumbs (add your website name as the “Anchor Text For Homepage” and follow Yoast’s tutorial to add breadcrumbs)
  • Search Console → Settings (authenticate Yoast with Google Search Console, wait a few days for the data to populate, then fix crawl errors (visit section). See my Google Search Console tutorial for even more tips on optimizing your website with Search Console)
  • Social → Enter URLs of your social profiles, upload your logo in the Facebook tab, enable Facebook Insights, and verify your site with Pinterest
  • Add AMP Pages (visit section)

9. Focus Keywords

Stop thinking you know your keywords and do the research. My method works quite well…

  • Find long-tail (specific) keywords in Autocomplete + Keyword Explorer
  • Write down all relevant phrases so you have a robust keyword list
  • Avoid keywords where strong content/websites are in the top results
  • Target keywords where search results contain weak/irrelevant content
  • Google each keyword using MozBar to learn each one’s estimated competition
  • Check OSE for your DA (domain authority), then Google your keyword using MozBar and check the top results to see what their DA is. Compete within your own DA range and if yours is low, target even more specific keywords which are less competitive.
  • You should be left with high opportunity keywords where you can get on page 1

Google Autocomplete
Go to google.com and start typing in a keyword to have Google complete the phrase (remember, you’re looking for long-tail phrases usually with 3+ words since those are much less competitive). You can also use an underscore character _ anywhere in the phrase and Google will fill in the blank. You will need to END on the underscore character for that method.

google-autocomplete-keywords

To see even more keywords in the dropdown, use plurals or different word ordering…

autocomplete-keywords

Each service (and location) should be targeted on separate pages on your website…

multiple-localized-keywords

For competitive blog post topics, always select a very specific (long-tail) keyword…

Long-Tail Keywords

You can do the same thing for YouTube video keywords…

youtube-autocomplete-keywords

How I found my keyword for this tutorial (which helped me optimize my content)…

Yoast-Keyword-Research
Yoast-Keyword

Moz Keyword Explorer (Better Than Keyword Planner)
To make sure you don’t miss any keywords from Google Autocomplete, use Moz Keyword Explorer which is like Google Keyword Planner only better (and free). Start with a broad phrase, run the tool, then under Group Keywords select “yes, with low lexical similarity.” This prevents you from having to scroll through similar keyword variations over and over again.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

HubShout WebGrader (Competitor Keywords)
To see a full keyword list for competitor websites, run them through HubShout WebGrader

My Keywords

MozBar (Keyword Competition)
Now you should have a robust keyword list. The final step is to install the MozBar Google Chrome Extension and Google each keyword. The higher the PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), the more competitive the keyword. Try to select keywords within your own DA/PA range. You can increase these by creating awesome content to get links. The best keywords are those that if you Google, weak (or irrelevant) content exists in the top results.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

It’s a little outdated, but here’s a video I made on choosing keywords…

10. Content Optimization

The first step to optimizing content is researching focus keywords – make sure you do step 9 first. Then you can start creating content (or optimizing existing content) for those keywords.

What Yoast should say…

WARNING: injecting keywords in your content/snippets makes them look spammy! Have you thought about writing an SEO title + meta description to increase CTR? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, SEO title, and meta description… but don’t inject keywords just to get green lights in Yoast. Forget about keyword density and keywords in subheadings… start thinking about adding a table of contents to longer posts, videos, infographics, rich snippets, social sharing images, and beefing up thin content to make it better (more detailed) than everyone else’s.

Basic Rules Of Yoast:
The green light obsession – if you’re copying/pasting focus keywords throughout your content to make Yoast happy, stop it right now. This article you’re reading is well optimized (it’s super useful and organized) and half my bullets are red. Stop obsessing over green lights and start obsessing over your content. Add an infographic and video to a page and see what happens.

You can only set 1 focus keyword – Yoast premium allows up to 5, but if you don’t have success with 1 keyword then don’t try 2. However it’s not that hard (just make sure the secondary keyword is very similar to your primary) and sprinkle partial matches throughout the content. Generally, each unique keyword should have it’s own page with content reflecting that phrase. Each of your services will have it’s own page – sometimes multiple pages. I have separates pages for WordPress SEO Services, WordPress SEO Consulting, WordPress SEO Audit, etc.

Yoast doesn’t always detect keywords – sometimes it won’t pick up on synonyms or partial matches. If my focus keyword is SEO Consultant and I use SEO Consulting in the content, Yoast may not count this keyword. But I can assume keyword density is higher than Yoast says.

Find a balance between keywords and using a nice page title, SEO title, and meta description – there’s a fine line between writing a headline that sounds good, and writing a headline so it includes your keyword. Find the right balance. Crafting a headline that people will actually click on is a huge part of content optimization.

Yoast only detects keywords in the main content body and search engine snippet – not the sidebars, not the footer, just those two areas. This is also good since search engines analyze content in blocks and your content body/search engine snippets are the important areas.

Focus keyword for homepage – your homepage should usually target your primary keyword. If you have a widgetized homepage you won’t have Yoast’s SEO analysis checklist (since you’re using widgets). But that’s OK, just use the same on-page SEO strategies as the other pages.

You usually do want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Homepage
  • Product/service pages
  • Location pages
  • Blog posts (non-promotional keywords)

You usually don’t want to target a focus keyword for these pages…

  • Contact page
  • Team pages (unless their names are being searched for)
  • Testimonials
  • Work/portfolio
  • Main blog page

Now create a page, set your focus keyword, write some content, and see my suggestions…

Yoast-SEO-Analysis

Focus Keyword – use Google Autocomplete to find long-tail (specific) phrases, then Google the keyword and analyze the search results with MozBar’s Chrome Extension. Look for keywords with weak content in the top results and avoid competing with authority websites.

Never Target The Same Keyword On 2 Pages – if you’re going to spend time creating 2 pages targeting the same keyword, you might as well spend all that time on 1 page and make the content awesome. I would rather have 1 amazing piece of content than 2 mediocre articles.

Page Title – include your keyword here. If it’s a blog post make sure you write a kick-ass headline preferably with your focus keyword in the beginning of the title. Posts usually have a longer, more descriptive title, page titles are usually shorter and just list a product/service.

URL – shorten URLs to not include stop words (and put emphasis on your focus keyword) UNLESS this makes the URL ready funny. I shortened mine to /yoast-wordpress-seo-settings/

SEO Title – these are the blue links in search results and are the FIRST thing people see. They should be 50-60 characters (length bar in Yoast should be green). If it’s a page, don’t just use “Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” Use a modifier to spice up your headline so more people click on it… “Award Winning Chicago Wedding Photographer – Tom Dupuis.” SEO titles for posts can be similar to the title, but adjust it to read nicely in those 50-60 characters.

Meta Description – 150-160 character description of your content, primarily used to increase CTR and get people clicking your link, but should also include your focus keyword.

Image Alt Text – do not stuff keywords here, just describe the image! As long as you’re writing descriptive file names before uploading, you can use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin to automatically use the file name as the alt text, so you don’t have to do this manually.

Keyword Density – Yoast exaggerates the importance of keyword density when it’s actually not very important. Use it once in the first couple sentences, then forget about it.

Keyword In Subheading (H2) – you don’t need to use your keyword here – it looks spammy.

Internal / External Links – use a few links on your page. Google likes this and as long as you’re actually linking to helpful resources (I’m not talking about Wikipedia), then visitors will also find this helpful. Internal links are good because they keep people on your site and are a natural way to build links, but you will need a good amount of content for this. External links are good because they’re like citing sources for the article, which Google likes. Both are good.

Post Long Content – short, crappy content doesn’t rank. Long content that covers the topic extensively (especially content that includes a video or infographic), will. Google measures “average time on page” so your primary goal is to increase the “dwell time” of your visitor. Yoast recommends 300+ words, but try 3,000 words (or more) and you will see way better results.

Social Media Optimization – assuming you configured the social tab in Yoast’s SEO settings, you can use the “share” link to upload custom graphics so your post image formats properly on Facebook and Twitter. This is a small ranking factor but it will also increase your social sharing which is excellent for SEO. And yes, this means you need to create 2 graphics…

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 628px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px

Rich Snippets – these enhance your snippets with review stars, videos, and information about products, events, recipes, and other types of data. This isn’t part of Yoast but it obviously helps your SEO and click-through rates. I use the premium WP Rich Snippets plugin (here’s my review of it) which has way more options and looks better than free plugins like All In One Schema.org. If you would like to add rich snippets to your WordPress site, follow that tutorial.

rich-snippets

Image Speed Optimization – I have a full tutorial for image optimization. Run a page through GTmetrix to see all unoptimized images on the page. Large images need to be resized to fit the correct dimensions. If your content body is 680(w) you should be using images that are resized to 680(w). Use a plugin like Imagify for lossless compression. Images with the “specify image dimensions” error means you need to specify a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS:

<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Why-Is-WordPress-So-Slow.jpg” alt=”Why Is WordPress So Slow” width=”680” height=”380” />

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Targeting Multiple Keywords – I touched on this in the Yoast SEO Premium section, but here’s an example. You’ll want to craft your SEO title/meta description to include elements of both…

Primary Keyword: SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes
Secondary Keyword: SEO-Optimized WordPress Themes

Page Title / SEO Title: 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes For Everyone
Meta Description: Browse over 25+ SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes which have mobile responsive and HTML5 design, all of which are SEO optimized via the Genesis Framework.

Now sprinkle your secondary keyword (or a partial match of it) in your content. Your permalink should usually just include your primary keyword: /seo-friendly-wordpress-themes/. You do not need to purchase Yoast SEO Premium to target secondary keywords – just use tools like Google Autocomplete to find a secondary keyword, then sprinkle it.

11. Anatomy Of A Perfectly Optimized Page

I borrowed this from Backlinko which emphasizes why content optimization is more than “green lights.” It’s more about creating damn good content using infographics, videos, and creating “the ultimate guide” with a table of contents (like this post). Stop worrying so much about green lights, get off the “text and photos” route and start doing something different.

on-page-seo

I also created a version for WordPress (a little outdated but still good)…

WordPress-Content-Optimization

Whaddaya Think?

Hit me up in the comments if you have questions 🙂

See Also:
How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In .2s (100% GTmetrix/Pingdom Scores)

Cheers,

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