The Yoast SEO plugin is by far the best search engine optimisation (SEO) plugin available to WordPress. It offers excellent all round services to ensure that your site has solid technical and search engine friendly foundations.
SEO is a key part of any web build as it ensures that your site is optimised for Google, therefore attracting traffic to your landing pages. Yoast makes optimisation quick and easy for you to do making it a hassle-free experience. It’s the perfect plugin to help you manage and streamline all of your crucial on-page optimisation.
Whilst a plugin is not a comparable substitute for an all-round technical and off-page SEO strategy, we use it on our own site because it makes those smaller SEO tasks a lot more manageable thanks to the following five fantastic features.
Feature 1 – Snippet Editor
The most useful tool that sets Yoast apart from its competitors is the easy to use snippet editor function. This handy little snippet is great for giving you a preview of how your page looks in the Google search page results and it allows you to make quick edits to those all-important metadata fields.
When altering your page title and page description the Yoast plugin makes it easy to keep an eye on whether they are too long or too short.
When it comes to your title the best practice is to have your primary keyword followed by your brand name or website name. If your brand name or website name is short enough then you can potentially also make use of a secondary keyword. In order to get the most out of your title make sure you don’t go over the recommended pixel limit.
While Google has explicitly stated that descriptions aren’t important to search engine rankings, at Receptional we recommend using your primary keyword in your description as long as it flows well with relevant content. Even though it doesn’t boost your ranking it will help to entice users into taking a look into what you have to offer.
Another excellent perk within the snippet editor is the ability to modify and optimise your slug: the slug part of a URL is anything that comes after your domain name. Including keywords in your URLs helps to give your rankings that extra little boost and, more importantly, entices potential users.
For searchers this is eye-catching and is likely to encourage them to check the slug to see how relevant it is whilst they are considering where to click in the search results. Short, relevant and easily readable slugs are the key here to help entice searchers into clicking.
Feature 2 – Advanced Options
When editing a page or blog post you can access the advanced options section by clicking on the gear icon tab: this section gives you options for meta robots and the canonical URL. Meta robots are mainly used on specific pages or posts which you do not wish to be indexed by Google. It is a useful tool in collaboration with your robots.txt file, however best practice is to use them sparingly, so only use them when you really have to.
Canonical URLs are used to tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually one and the same, this helps to improve link and ranking signals by grouping content together. When search engines crawl your site, they like to identify unique URLs to put in their index. Sometimes however, pages can be accessible through multiple URLs, usually due to a filtering system or by the pages being listed in more than one category. Be aware that this can cause duplicate content issues and if your duplication issues become severe you may find your rankings dropping.
For the most part these settings are already set to a global scale so you might not need to make use of this feature very often. However it’s an excellent addition to have as it allows you to override your global settings for specific posts.
Feature 3 – Social Integration
Bearing in mind the growth and perceived importance of social media in our everyday lives it’s important to make sure that your content is just as accessible on various social media channels. The Yoast SEO plugin simplifies this task with the easy to use social integration services it offers: Yoast allows you to link your social media channels to your site.
It enables you to add Open Graph meta data to your site which Facebook and other major social media channels use when your pages/posts are shared. Open Graph, also referred to as The Open Graph Protocol, allows you to integrate a web page onto a social media channel which instantly connects with your followers.
Optimising the Open Graph meta data is an important feature because it’s essential that you that the shared preview on social channels looks enticing to viewers, helping you to get those all-important clicks. While the screenshot below shows the Facebook page, you can also set this up for Twitter and Pinterest.
Yoast also gives you the ability to link in your Google+ account.
By linking your Google+ profile to the Yoast plugin it will appear in the search results whenever someone searches for your business. This gives them the opportunity to see your address, phone number and opening hours at a glance as well as any reviews users have posted about you. If you have photographs and a map set up on your account users will also be able to see all the details making you more easily contactable. If you have your website linked to your Google+ account this can be great for encouraging people to click through to your website.
Another handy feature provided as part of the social integration services, is the ability to over-ride the default metadata Facebook and Twitter pull in from your pages/posts. Although generally you would leave these blank, Yoast allows you to easily alter them. You may wish to do this when testing different images and when targeting different audiences.
Feature 4 – XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps are one of the main ways to of help Google understand the structure of your website so it’s important to have a sitemap in place. Yoast SEO takes the stress out of generating a sitemap yourself thanks to its inbuilt XML sitemap functionality, meaning that all you need to do is enable the feature and Yoast takes care of the rest. Remember, that despite Yoast being able to quickly generate a sitemap, it is important to audit your sitemap every so often to ensure that key areas of your site are included.
The system is versatile meaning you can make changes to the settings when needed. The tweaks are quick to make allowing you to alter the number of entries per page, the post types you want included, exclude specific posts and alter the taxonomies included in your sitemap.
Another handy little feature provided is the ability to view your sitemap while in the backend of your site. A benefit of using the Webmaster tools account integration is that you can review your sitemap whenever you need to while logged into your site.
Feature 5 – Search Console/Redirects
Part of the charm of Yoast SEO is how it ties everything you need together into one place. It goes that one step further with the ability to easily integrate your search console into the plugin. By doing this you can keep an eye on the number of 404 pages Google is detecting, enabling you to act quickly to resolve them. Although there is no ability to implement redirects through the plugin, when using the free version, having the data available makes it easier to manage.
If you are willing to pay for the premium version of Yoast SEO it adds on the powerful redirect function. The paid for level let you create 301s, 302s and 410s. While you can’t do bulk redirects, it’s a great tool for keeping on top of your redirections if it’s something you are willing to invest the time on a regular basis.
Free version vs Premium
On its own the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool for implementing those fundamental SEO practices. It’s frequently updated so it’s a secure plugin to use on your site, as long as you are running the updates as and when you need to. However, if you can afford the premium version then it is worth getting, not just for the several extra features, but also for the support services that come with it. With Yoast SEO premium you’ll have direct access to their support team.
The premium version is run on a yearly subscription basis with the cost varying depending on the number of sites you would like it for. A single site costs $69 to upgrade with up to 100 sites costing $799. If you are interested in learning more make sure you check out the Yoast website where you can read through the feature list further before making your decision.
If you are interested in web development services, or you think you need help with optimising your existing site then get in touch with our web development team.