If you ask me which is the most crucial plugin to install after you have setup your wordpress blog, without batting an eyelid my answer would be Yoast SEO.
Chances are that you already know about the plugin (that's the reason you are here).
If you don't then congratulations you have landed on the right page.
Where to start from??
This is the question that I faced when I wanted to learn a bit more about SEO when I had been blogging for 6 months.
Yoast SEO is a good starting point if you want to learn SEO.
I learned a lot about SEO while I was installing and configuring the plugin.
So in a way this tutorial can be your portal into the world of SEO
And why exactly is this the most definitive tutorial??
SEO by Yoast is one of the most popular wordpress plugins and there is a reason to it. The designers and engineers at yoast keep updating the plugin quite frequently, sometime twice a week.
It is good for us all but, most of the tutorials become confusing even if there is a slight UI change in the plugin.
But this guide gets updated with screenshots whenever there is a slightest of UI change as you might be new to SEO and there should be no room for confusion.
So Let's get down to the business
Installing the Plugin
Absolutely no rocket science involved here.
Do it the way you have been installing every other plugin
Plugins -> Add New -> search "yoast SEO" -> click on the one with a million installs (oh yeah it's that popular)
once you click the install now button activate the plugin and you are good to go.
Now you get a SEO tab in your dashboard confirming the successful installation of the plugin.
Configuration of this Yoast SEO does contain many settings. Basically you can tweak a lot many parameters and hence you learn a lot about SEO.
So let's have a look at all the tabs that are on offer by Yoast SEO.
Once you click on the Dashboard you will find 5 tabs inside.
This is the notification center.
If you can see a number besides you Yoast SEO icon in your dashboard, on clicking it you will be redirected to the dashboard.
You will have two areas here Problems and Improvements.
On clicking you will be shown details and you can take the required actions. Nothing complicated
There are 3 buttons located here.
Introduction Tour gives you a basic guided tour telling what is where and a brief about the functionality.
Latest Changes shows you what are the improvements or the features that have been added onto the new release every time the plugin is updated.
Restore default settings does exactly what it says and you want to be careful with this button as you cannot revert changes once you go back.
The information supplied here is entered in a tag which is only for Google to reads. So we have 3 fields here.
Website name, Alternate name and third field where you have tospecify if you are a company or a person.
As per the developers of the plugin your Info is supplied to google to fill their knowledge graph. The same information which you see on the right of your screen if you google facebook or any other company name.
You can submit your site to different webmaster tools(search engines or ranking sites so that they can index your blog and rank it in future)
You have a variety of tools available here there is Bing, Alexa and of course Google.
You just have to insert your meta tag that you might have received from search engine.
Below is a video demonstrating how to work with Google's webmaster tool.
Security tab has only a single field which is disabled by default.
If you move the slider and enable it you give the permission to the non admin users of your wordpress blog to access the advanced section and reset the canonical URLs
Canonical URLs are URLs which you want your users to see.
If non admin users are non trusted they might set the URL to their own site and hence divert your traffic.
So if you have guest writers who have access to your wordpress console you might want to keep it disabled.
Titles and Metas
This tab deals with titles and meta data
Force rewrite titles is the first option which would be disabled most probably as most of the new themes and the wordpress 4.3.3 .
Only if yoast detects that it cannot rewrite your site the enabled option would be selected by default but chances are slim for that to happen
Title separator again is the symbol which separates post title and site name.
You can probably see - after every word for my blog. So can choose from symbols on offer from Yoast SEO.
Enabled Analysis is another slider which I prefer to keep enabled. Yoast SEO provides readability analysis too, helping you gauge your content. Keeping this enabled will show the analysis along side SEO for every post.
This tab lets you edit the front or the home page.
On clicking editing the front page itself you are redirected to the editing section and you can tweak your home page to optimize it for search engines.
By default this header will have Pages and Posts but depending on your theme or plugins you might have more post sites available on your dashboard.
Title template shows the format in which your URL will show.
From my screenshot you can see that parameters like title, page, month and sitename will reflect in the URL.
So you can modify your post URL for parameters to show from here.
You can go to the variables section and check the variables available which you can use in Title template and Meta description templates.
Meta Robots if for some reason you don't want to index your posts on pages on search engine. Keep it enabled otherwise.
Date in snippet: If you own a news blog you want to make sure you keep this enabled as it will show date in the search results. If not keep it disabled.
Yoast SEO metabox can be disabled if do not want to see the metabox in SEO settings while configuring it for every single post.
Taxonomies are grouping mechanisms in wordpress.
you posts can be grouped according to categories or tags.
Screenshot shows my default settings for taxonomies and you can follow the same.
You will find settings here for author archives and Date archives.
Again you can change the variables as per your liking but keeping the default ones is fine and below is screenshot of my settings.
This is the last tab under titles and Meta.
There is a cheeky description under every setting under this tab which explains what it does. I would recommend you to continue with the default settings.
Ah!! Another menu that is important for any active blogger.
This is the first tab in the social media category.
you will find all the social media sites listed here. You just have to insert your URL here to get started.
I believe you must create at least a facebook page if you are new in the game.
Add Open Graph meta data should be enabled. This is a must if you share your data and posts on Facebook as it allows facebook to pickup correct thumbnail and description.
You can insert a default image in the image URL field for when your post shared from the blog does not contain any images. It will pick up this default image.
It can be your brand logo or a picture which signifies your blog.
Just like Open Graphs in Facebook we have cards for twitter.
You can select if you want an image with description or only description when you share your story/post on twitter.
Similarly we have a tab for Pinterest and Google+.
You can connect to these social engines by linking their metadata and about me pages.
XML sitemaps are as the name suggest map of your website contained in an XML file.
This xml file(sitemap) contains URLs from your site and metadata about those URLs.
Sitemaps are meant to be consumed by search engines and they inform the search engines about the pages which are available for crawling hence making it easier for search bots to index your site.
Basically a sitemap is an an index of all the urls of your website in a single XML file.
Yoast SEO creates a different site maps for posts, pages, authors, etc to speed up the crawling.
The General tab contains a button which takes you to a sitemap_index which is another sitemap displaying all your sitemaps.
You can restricts the number of sitemap entries to any number by default it is set to 1000.
For example if you have 1500 posts in blog two separate sitemaps will be created or you can increase the value here to 1500 so that each post is listed in a single sitemap file.
Now that you know what sitemap is there are different tabs labelled user sitemap, Post type, Excluded posts and Taxonomies.
If for a reason you want to omit any post or if any author who writes for your blog from your site you can customize your sitemap accordingly.
breadcrumbs are navigation paths displayed to assist user to know where he/she is currently.
Since my blog does not have many post categories I don't have breadcrumb trail setup.
Add the code shown below in your theme's header.php and enable breadcrumbs.
But if your theme does not support breadcrumbs you can enable breadcrumbs in yoast and add a bit of code to your child theme's header.php and save to see.
Google shows bread crumb trails in the search results that's why Yoast has also included it on board but I don't use bread crumbs.
Permalinks are URLs of your site. You can check your permalink structure at the permalink settings in the wordpress.
first toggle button is labeled category. We all categorise our posts if you want to remove that category but why would you want to do that. Just leave it enabled.
Redirecting attachment URL will redirect the attachment URL to the post URL. Sometimes an image is linked to an attachment ID . So this redirect you to the URL of the parent post not the attachment.
Stop words in slugs lets you keep or remove stop words in slug. Stop words are bad for SEO ex(in, the, if, a ) but sometimes you need them not to make a sentence sound weird.
keep remove replytocom varibles
also Redirect ugly URLs to clean permalinks should be disabled as suggest by yoast team themselves.
This tab allows you to decide what content to add after and before a post. You are provided with a bunch of variables which you can use.
This feature will help search engines identify you as the original source of traffic.
Here we find some tools build in to make our SEO easier for us.
Bulk editor allows you to change titles and meta descriptions of each and every post from a single page. You can do the same from your word press dashboard.
This option lets you edit two Robots.txt and .htaccess file
Robots.txt is a file where you can specify to the search engine bots the pages that you don't want them to crawl.
Remember that Robots.txt is a public file so you cannot hide information. You hide folders or pages like your wpadmin login page from showing up in search results.
You can click on create robots.txt to create a file.
The other file here is .htaccess file which basically guides how the apache server handles requests. We will let it be as we don't need a modification for this file.
Import and Export
Here we have three tabs which can help you export and import you SEO settings if you want to do that.
If you had configured SEO with help of another plugin before yoast you have an option of importing settings from there.
I personally feel that configuring SEO is the most important part after the initial site setup and every site has independent needs. So do configure your SEO as you will learn a lot about your own website.
Thats why I would usually skip import and export part. If only your blog is a big one and you are making a move from one plugin to another you might require import export settings
It's a new tab which has three sections Desktop, smartphone and feature phone. Here you can view all the 404 errors that have been detected by search consoles.
you have options of either marking them as fixed or redirecting to avoid 404 error.
In side this tab you can find all the other premium Yoast extensions such as Video SEO, news SEO. You can get the one you want for your website here.
So these were the basics of configuring Yoast SEO.
This is all you need if you have just setup your wordpress blog or are new to SEO. Use the settings I recommended and do Google the new terms to learn a lot more about them.
As i already mentioned, configuring Yoast SEO is your portal into the world of SEO, so take your time and comeback with your questions in comment box if any.