My web designer, my friend who does SEO, and a whole host of posts I saw on the web told me that I should for sure have the Yoast SEO plugin on my WordPress site. So I put it on. And then I went into the settings and… WHOA! OVERLOAD! How many settings could you possibly need? I just want the thing to work decently and improve my SEO. I don’t want to need to become an SEO in order to use it. What should I do?

Sound familiar?

Yoast SEO is a great plugin, recommended for good reasons. But it you don’t have a little guidance on what to DO with it, it’ll be a nightmare.

We’ve come to wake you up out of your bad dream, and give you the cheat sheet to setting up Yoast SEO: fast, friendly and effective.

Let’s start with the first set of options Yoast SEO gives you when you click on “Dashboard” or “General.”

General/Dashboard Section

yoast general tabs

First up to edit:

Company Info

If the focus of your site is your personal brand, choose Person. Otherwise, choose Company.

Webmaster Tools

Many major search engines offer webmaster tools so you can see stats about your site and information to help your site show up in the search engines.

Google Search Console is the most important Webmaster Tools to have for your site (sign your site up here and Google will give you the code to put in the above field), followed by Bing (sign your site up here). Yandex is really only important if your audience is primarily in Russia – or if you’re crazy about data and you’ll take everything you can get. (Sign your site up for Yandex Webmaster here.)

yoast plugin general webmaster tools

There are a few different ways to verify your site, so you don’t have to verify your site by putting in the code here, but there are additional benefits you can get from connecting Yoast SEO and Google Search Console, so it may be worth it.

Moving on to the next Yoast SEO section (these will help with your all-important on-page optimization):

Titles and Metas

yoast titles and metas menu

This section enables you to tweak how your titles and snippets will look when you show up in Google search results.

General

yoast titles general

You’ll be able to override any automatic titling, but the default (if not overridden) will probably have some combination of page name, separator and site name.

yoast titles separators 2

The Post Types tab enables you to change the default for any one of those three elements, or change the way it’s displayed.

Taxonomies

When you assign a blog post to a category, or assign tags to the post, WordPress ends up creating pages for all the blog posts within a given category or with a specific tag. While this can sometimes enhance user experience, especially if you have a lot of posts, Google doesn’t need to know about all these pages. They don’t contain any new content – just the blog posts that Google has indexed already.

To avoid duplicate content issues, you want to noindex the category and tag pages, as so:

yoast plugin taxonomies

Archives

WordPress will create archives of your posts based on the date (posts published in January 2017, posts published in December, 2016, posts published in November 2016…) and based on the author (posts authored by John, posts authored by Tammy, posts authored by Kim). These archives create yet more duplicate content, and it’s usually worth disabling them.

yoast plugin archives

If you have a multiple author blog, and you want readers to be able to see the blog posts from each author independently, you can keep them enabled and just noindex them (under the Other tab) so that Google doesn’t process them.

yoast noindex archives

XML Sitemaps

Yoast has its own sitemap generator, but I recommend using the XML Sitemap plugin. Stay tuned for next post when we’ll show to how to set it up!

yoast xml sitemaps

Advanced

yoast advanced menu

Breadcrumbs

yoast breadcrumbs disable

Permalinks

The basic link structure of your site is defined in the general WordPress settings (i.e. whether you want your blog posts to use an ID number, the date, words, or a combination of the above).

This section in Yoast is where you can get a little more specific.

yoast permalinks

This was the cheat sheet, for those who don’t have time and just want a “webmaster-see, webmaster-do.”

If you want to really understand Yoast SEO, what all your options are and the pros and cons behind each choice, Whiskey Neat’s Ultimate Yoast SEO Guide is a must-read.