Why The WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast is Essential

WordPress natively handles SEO really well. But there is always room for improvement. Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress has been the most popular choice for SEO for as long as I can remember. It is the plugin I always install on any WordPress site I create. In this post I give you 4 reason why it is my go to plugin of choice.

1. You look better in Google search results

Not only this, it helps to elevate your position within the results. When you make a search, Google presents a list of sites composing of a site title and a snippet of the website content containing the terms being searched for. If I were to search for ‘WordPress Developer’ one of the sites (hopefully) would be something like this:

google search snippet

The exact text ‘Freelance PHP programmer and WordPress developer …’ does not occur within the page content. I have used Yoast to set this as a meta description for my home page along with the title. This is very powerful because it allows me to set a very succinct and inviting summary of my home or landing page that is shown only when my nominated keywords are searched for.

WordPress will automatically add a title, but it does not add a meta description. When there is no meta description Google will pick out the relevant part of the page content instead. For your keywords, this may not be the description you want, especially for your home page.

The most efficient way to control titles and meta descriptions with the Yoast plugin it to first make some global settings that will affect ALL your posts and pages. You can do this under the ‘Titles and Meta’ tab.

yoast title and meta tab

On the ‘Post Types’ tab you can set a template for the title and meta description for each post type. For posts, Yoast has set a default tempIate composed of post title, page number (if more than one), separator, and site name.

yoast seo titles and meta settings for posts

The words with %% either side will be replaced by actual values for each post. You can change the variables that are used. For a handy list of variables click the ‘Help center’ link.

Pro tip: Always include %%sitename%%. If you don’t, Google will add it anyway and not necessarily in your preferred position, so make sure you leave it in.

By default the meta description template is empty, but here I have opted for it to be set to the post’s excerpt.

Once you have set the templates for posts you can do the same for pages, taxonomies (tags and categories) and archives if you wish.

Now you can start making changes to individual pages. The most important is the home page. You can do this by simply editing the home page.

In the post editor, you will find that Yoast had added a new box called ‘Yoast SEO’ or ‘Yoast SEO Premium’ (if you have the premium version). Click on the traffic light icon on the left, then click ’edit snippet’.
wordpress yoast seo snippet editor

2. Improve ranking for your keyword

On all your posts, especially for your home page and landing pages, you should have a focus keyword in mind. Focus keywords are search terms that you want to be ranked for in search results. Enter this in the ‘Focus keyword’ box. Note, a keyword can actually be more than one word, odd I know!yoast seo focus keyword

 

The focus keyword you enter is used by Yoast to analyse your page including the content, title and meta data. It gives you a SEO rating based on how well you have used your focus keywords throughout the page.

Pro tip: remember that readability is your priority. If your readers think that you are writing for Google, and not for them, they won’t stick around very long, and you don’t want that.

Yoast will very helpfully make suggestions for improvement. Here you can see I’ve not done too badly. I have nice collection of green lights.. I have a red light for a couple of things. I need to use the focus keyword earlier on in my copy and I should use my keywords more often. These two things are easily corrected.
yoast seo focus keyword analysis

3. Better social sharing

When your post is shared on social media, the image associated with that post is shared too. This is why it is so important to give all your posts an eye catching image of some sort.

The post thumbnail is the most obvious candidate for sharing. But what if your post has many images, or none at all? Yoast makes it easy to set the social sharing image along with a nice title and description. You can also set a default image when there isn’t one.

Again you can make some settings globally and then refine them for individual pages. To make global settings click the ‘Social’ tab.

yoast seo plugin social tab

 

To set a default sharing image for Facebook shares click the ‘Facebook’ tab and select an image you would like to use.

yoast seo plugin facebook sharing tab

For individual posts you can edit the sharing image and, title and description by clicking the sharing tab.

yoast social tab

Yoast will always use the page title and meta description as set in the snippet editor. So generally, as long as you are happy with the snippet you don’t need to change this text. You may want to use a different image though.

4. Better Navigation

The Yoast plugin gives you a little gem of a tool to use called ‘breadcrumbs’.

Think of breadcrumbs as little trail showing you the places you stopped at to get to the current location. Users love breadcrumbs because it is so much easier to see where they are in relation to your page hierarchy. Google loves them too because it helps their indexing bot to find related content. So my overwhelming advice would be to always use them where possible.

Fortunately the Yoast plugin again makes this quite easy for you.

yoast seo advanced tab

Click on ‘Advanced’. Then on the ‘Breadcrumbs’ tab click ‘Enabled’. If your theme supports Yoast breadcrumbs they will be automatically enabled for you. There are various options to help you refine the look. Here is how mine are set.

yoast seo plugin breadcrumb settings

And the breadcrumb looks like this on my site:

yoast seo plugin breadcrumb example

If your theme does not natively support Yoast breadcrumbs then you will need to insert the php code in the theme. If you don’t feel confident to do this yourself, ask a WordPress developer to do it for you.

This is the code you need to add:


<?php if ( function_exists( 'yoast_breadcrumb' ) ) {
yoast_breadcrumb( '<p id="breadcrumbs">', '</p>' );
}
?>

Usually you would put this at the top of the content on single.php and page.php, but this will vary from theme to theme.

Pro tip: If you want a shorter title to appear in the breadcrumbs click the ‘gear’ icon and enter it in the ‘Breadcrumbs Title’ box.

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