Why do I need Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress?

WordPress is SEO friendly due to good coding practices and compliant HTML. However, due to high competition under popular phrases on search engines, SEO plugins are often required to help websites perform. The easiest way to review and edit SEO information on a WordPress site is through an SEO plugin. The most popular plugin is Yoast SEO. Yoast runs on 9 million sites and on 11.4% of the top websites in the world. There are two versions, a free Yoast SEO plugin and a paid version with additional features. We have looked at the features of the free version below.

Features of Yoast SEO

  • Control over individual meta titles and descriptions
  • Google search result previews
  • Keyword testing
  • Cornerstone content
  • Editing of Permalinks
  • Breadcrumb configuration
  • Meta Robots configuration
  • RSS configuration
  • XML sitemap
  • .htaccess and robots.txt editor
  • Category and tags support for taxonomies
  • Schema

Yoast Metabox

The Yoast SEO plugin adds a metabox on each page of your website. The box allows you to edit meta titles and descriptions. You can also choose a keyword for your page.

The content placed in the metabox and focus keyphrase is then used to calculate a readability and SEO score, with a red, orange or green score. Yoast SEO then provides a list of points to improve the overall readability and SEO score.

By clicking on the edit snippet button, you can edit the meta title and description. Yoast automatically uses blog tile, separator and website title. However, as the information provided is used directly on search engine results, it is vital to make sure the meta title and description are as clear as possible. The title should be around 60 characters (including spaces) after 62 Google cuts off the remaining tile. The description should be up to 162 characters.

Yoast suggests you use the available characters and the key phrase on both the meta title and description. This is to ensure the user and search engines are aware of what your page is about.

When choosing a keyword, it is essential to consider if people will search for it. The Google Keyword tool can help you do this by providing search volumes and suggestions. Yoast will then review your content for consistency with your chosen word. 

As Yoast tries to apply the same concept as humans, getting a perfect score may result in the content reading poorly. Therefore use it as a guide and use the hints to improve the overall readability. 

Cornerstone content

Yoast describes cornerstone content as ‘Cornerstone content is the core of your website. It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.’

Yoast allows you to select each page to identify if it is a cornerstone article. The default setting is off. To further reinforce your cornerstone pages, links from other relevant articles on your site should go back to your cornerstone pages. The cornerstone pages should be ones you are going to update regularly and hold the core information on your website.

Settings for the Cornerstone content on Yoast SE)

Editing of permalinks

Yoast allows you to edit permalinks and the slug. It is important to note that in essence, these are the same. The slug is the permalink without the domain. Which can be confusing for new users of Yoast.

The permalink should include dashes between each word so that the search engines can read the words. There is often discussion over the length of a permalink. The shorter, the better, is considered to be more SEO friendly. Take a search for “SEO” on Google. The number of characters in the permalinks is as follows:

Position 1: 32

Position 2: 30

Position 3: 42

Position 4: 46

Position 5: 38

The results show that all of the permalinks in the first five positions are less than 50 characters long. Suggesting that a structure between 30 and 50 links will have the most effect.

The permalink structure should also be clear, with no numbers, dates of special characters. Tailoring the permalink structure using the Yoast permalink and slug box, allows you to take out stop words such as the, with, as is. Using these words add valuable characters, with no further benefit. However make sure the permalink still ready correctly, once these words have been taken out.

For example: Blog post Title – How do I use Yoast SEO with WordPress

Permalink: >yoast-seo-wordpress

The permalink still has the important phrases, makes sense and is short. It is also more SEO friendly than the blog title.

SEO advanced tab

The SEO advanced tab allows you to block or show pages to search engines, edit the breadcrumbs title and the canonical URL.

Editing the visibility of the page to search engines is useful if you are creating a draft website, which will change substantially. Therefore you would not want the robots to index the page. Or if you are creating a landing page for an advertising campaign and do not want the page to be indexed. As soon as you want the page indexed on search engines, ensure the settings are set to yes.

Editing the breadcrumbs title allows you to set the title for the page. The bread crumbs are then displayed on your page as follows:

Home > Post

Breadcrumbs help tell users where they are on your site and let search engines know the structure of your site. Yoast SEO plugin automatically adds JSON-LD format to your source code, to enable breadcrumbs to appear on your site and search engine results.

Yoast allows you to brand a page a canonical URL. A canonical URL is necessary when there are pages with similar content. Naming one, a canonical URL will enable you to specify to the search engines which page to display in the results. This is only necessary as your website or blog builds over time.

Yoast SEO advanced settings

Other features

RSS feed protection from scraper sites

The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to add a ‘post from’ line and a link back to your blog. The purpose is to prevent scraper sites from taking the content of your feed and displaying it as their own. If a scraper site takes the content, then they will also have to show the link back to your site citing where the content is from.

Social

You can manually configure how your content will appear when you share it on Facebook or Twitter. Yoast has a default setting of your blog’s SEO title and featured image. If you have subscribed to the premium edition of Yoast, you will be able to preview your post of Facebook and Twitter.

XML sitemap

Yoast automatically produces an XML site map and submits it to Bing and Google. Therefore you do not need to install a separate site map plugin. You can also add the sitemap directly to your Google Search Console account.

.htaccess and robots.txt editor

Normally you would have to download an FTP client to access .htaccess and robots.txt files. However, the Yoast SEO plugin allows you to edit the files within your WordPress account. Always be cautious when editing these files and ensure you have a backup file of your site before you start.

Category and tags support for taxonomies

Yoast SEO allows you to assign a category and tags for each page. Categories should be used as a broad group for posts. Categories are general topics and are designed to help the user see what the blog is about. You must categorise your post. Otherwise, the default setting is uncategorised. You can add new categories and delete categories. As your blog grows, you can also add subcategories.

Tags are more specific descriptions for your post. For example, this blog could be under the SEO category, with a tag of Yoast SEO.

There is no SEO benefit to adding a post under more than one category unless it would benefit the user. However, you can add a post to several relevant tags.

Schema

Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. The Yoast set-up allows you to select Organization, Person, WebSite, WebPage, and article schema. You can test if Schema has been set up correctly by using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

Daily tasks for Yoast SEO

Once you have set Yoast up, most of the settings are automatically set for each page. However, for each new (and any existing pages before installing the plugin) you will need to undertake the following:

  • Set you Focus keyphrase (Remember to research your phrase before writing your blog)
  • Update your permalink (Think about removing stop words)
  • Configure your meta title and meta description (These are visible on search engines, so ensure they are user friendly)
  • Try to obtain a green light for SEO and readability scores (Although don’t get too fixated on achieving perfect scores at the expense of overall user experience).

Our verdict on Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO has a wide range of features which help improve SEO on a WordPress site. The plugin combines lots of elements of individual plugins in one integrated design.

Although Yoast SEO is easy to set up, there are some technical questions during the set-up process. A basic understanding of SEO is required for most of the features of the plugin. The advanced features are available for users with more knowledge. However these are not necessary to use the most of the features of the plugin.

The majority of features are available in the free version, and the premium upgrade is relatively priced. The support features are only available on the premium version. However, Yoast also has a large number of how-to guides to advise for best practice.

We love the Yoast SEO plugin. And can see what it is often described as the best WordPress plugin. If you have any further questions or comments on the Yoast SEO Plugin, please get in touch.