From time to time we share lists of our favorite WordPress plugins, and “WordPress SEO by Yoast” always makes the list. It’s updated often and is a solid choice to help enhance the search engine optimization of your site.
Before we dig in, though, it’s important to remember that no SEO plugin (including this one) is a magic tool. SEO is ultimately about two things:
- Writing content that users will want to find.
- Helping Google understand your content as well as possible.
Plugins like this really help with item #2 — making sure that all of the pieces are in place so that Google knows exactly what each page is about, and then hopefully returns one of your pages as a high-ranking result for certain search queries.
Why this plugin?
There are a few main reasons why we prefer WordPress SEO over the other plugins, such as All-In-One SEO (which is certainly solid as well):
- Joost de Valk, the author of the plugin, is a very well-respected developer and he really knows his stuff.
- He updates this plugin quite often with new features, optimizations and bug fixes.
- The plugin gets a lot done — a few years ago, I used it to replace four separate plugins that used to be mainstays of mine.
- Most of the settings that are turned on by default are ideal. If you simply install it and walk away, you’ve done a good thing for your site. However, a few tweaks (as shown below) can help make it work even better for you.
How we use it
There are a few main features that we like to use it for.
Submitting your sitemap to Google is a good way to ensure that they’re aware of all of the pages on your site. It won’t directly help you to rank better, but getting more pages indexed is certainly an important piece of it. You can take this feed and insert it into your Google Webmaster Tools account, as we explain over in this post.
This feature can be found in the “XML Sitemap” section of your WordPress SEO settings.
A common thing for spammers to do is to grab your RSS feed (which your blog has, whether you know about it or not) and republish it as their own. Instead of wasting time tracking them all down, this plugin will put a link at the end of each post back to your site. If they republish the post, you get a free link!
This feature can be found in the “RSS” section of your WordPress SEO settings.
Edit the metadata for each page/post
WordPress SEO gives you some nice tools to edit the title and description of each of your posts and pages, which can be helpful. The main ones to look at are:
- SEO Title: We don’t typically edit this, as we like to keep the titles of our posts the same. However, it can be useful if your title is something cute and whimsical, but you want Google to worry more about the keywords.
- Meta Description: This doesn’t affect your ranking at all, but still can be beneficial because it will change the snippet of text that shows up below your search results. If your text snippet is more compelling than those results around yours, then you might earn a few extra clicks.
The other big one down there is the “focus keyword”. By putting your ideal keyword into that box, the plugin will help you edit your post to make it rank better. This can be a dangerous road, as you’ll end up spending a ton of time trying to make the lights turn green when you could instead spend that time writing another great post!
Don’t stress about it
As we mentioned in a post last week, people often obsess over every detail of their WordPress SEO settings and we advise against that. Certainly tighten things up so that they work well for you, but don’t worry about it too much. Set up your xml sitemap and a few other settings, and then just write lots of great content.
What is your preferred SEO plugin?