Every WordPress site needs an SEO plugin if they want to stand a change of getting their pages to show up in search engine rankings. And when it comes to SEO plugins, Yoast SEO is by far one of the most popular options. WordPress SEO is, unavoidably, a complex topic, though. And to address that, Yoast SEO has built in plenty of complex features to give you pinpoint control over your site’s SEO.

As a result, even though the Yoast team has done a great job trying to make SEO beginner-friendly, there’s still a good chance you need some help with how to use Yoast SEO. To give you that help, we’ve written this monster Yoast SEO tutorial.

It’s such a big guide that we’ve split it into two parts:

  • The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO – in this section, we’ll cover tips for first-time users and casual users. If you’re already familiar with Yoast SEO’s basic settings and the Yoast SEO meta box, you might find it a little redundant.
  • The advanced guide to Yoast SEO – in this section, we’ll cover more advanced tactics like title/meta variables, noindex tags, and more. Even if you’ve already been using Yoast SEO on your site, you can probably get some added value from this section.

Ready to learn how to use Yoast SEO? You can click above to skip straight to the advanced section. Otherwise, let’s start at the beginning!

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The Beginner’s Guide To Yoast SEO

In this section, we’ll cover what you need to know if you’re new to Yoast SEO. You’ll learn:

  • How to properly enter information in the configuration wizard
  • What the Yoast SEO meta box is and how it works
  • What you can do from the Yoast SEO dashboard

Then, in the next section, we’ll get into some of the more advanced Yoast SEO settings.

Using The Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard

After installing Yoast SEO, you can access the Yoast SEO dashboard by clicking on the new SEO tab in your WordPress dashboard.

If this is your first time using the plugin, you should see a big notice for First-time SEO configuration.

By clicking the configuration wizard link, Yoast SEO will give you a guided tour to help you set up all of the basic SEO settings:

Yoast SEO Configuration wizard
How to access Yoast SEO configuration wizard

Go ahead and click that link. Then, on the first page of the wizard, click Configure Yoast SEO.

Below, we’ll take you through the rest of the sections in the configuration wizard.

Section 1: Environment

In the Environment area, you should always choose Option A unless you’re working on a development site:

Yoast SEO Environment
You should usually choose Option A

Section 2: Site type

In the Site type section, try to choose the type of site that best matches your site:

Yoast SEO Site Type
Choose the option that most closely fits your site

Section 3: Organization or person

Next, choose whether your website represents an organization or a person.

If you choose Organization, you’ll be asked to also enter:

  • The name of the organization
  • Your organization’s logo (112x112px, at minimum. We recommend a square logo.)

And if you choose Person, you’ll just need to enter the name of the person.

Enter all of the social media profiles for your website. If you’re creating a website for an organization, this will be your organization’s social media profiles. If it’s a person, you can edit the details, like the social profiles, the name and the description of the user on their WordPress profile page.

You don’t need to enter all of them – just choose the social media profiles that you actively want to promote:

Yoast SEO Organization or Person
Choose whether your site represents a company or a person

This section helps Yoast SEO provide additional information to Google to generate a Knowledge Graph Card. These cards are pretty eye-catching, so every little bit of information helps:

An Example of a Knowledge Graph card
An Example of a Knowledge Graph card

Section 4: Search engine visibility

In the Search engine visibility section, you can choose whether or not to allow certain types of content to be indexed in search engines (Suggested reading: 21 Alternative Search Engines to Use).

99.99% of the time, you want to leave these as the defaults. Unless you already know what you’re doing, don’t change anything:

Yoast SEO Search engine visibility
Leave these as the default most of the time

Section 5: Multiple authors

If you’re the only person writing on your site, Yoast SEO will automatically mark your author archives as noindex to avoid duplicate content (noindex tells search engines not to index that page).

Yoast SEO does this because, on a single author blog, the author archives are 100% identical to your actual blog index page.

If you do plan to have multiple authors, choose yes so that people can still find a specific author’s post archives in the Google search results:

Yoast SEO Multiple authors
Choose whether you’ll have one or multiple authors

Section 6: Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a tool from Google that allows you to view information about how your site works in Google organic search. If you’re already using Google Search Console, you can allow Yoast SEO to import information by clicking the Get Google Authorization Code and entering the code here.

If you’re not sure what Google Search Console is, feel free to just click Next and skip this for now. While Google Search Console is definitely something you should investigate eventually, it’s not something that’s necessary to the functioning of Yoast SEO:

Yoast SEO Google Search Console
If you have a Google Search Console account, you should sync it now

Section 7: Title settings

Your Title is the main headline that appears in Google search results (and visitors’ browser tabs):

An example of an SEO title
An example of an SEO title

By default, Yoast SEO makes your title:

Post Name *Separator* Website Name

In this section, you can choose:

  • Your website name
  • The *Separator*
Yoast SEO Title settings
Choose your desired title settings

For example, if you had a post with the title “How To Use Yoast SEO” and the settings above, your site would look like this in Google:

How To Use Yoast SEO - Kinsta Demo Site

Wrapping Up The Configuration Wizard

In sections 8 and 9, Yoast SEO will try to get you to:

  • Sign up for the Yoast SEO newsletter
  • Purchase Yoast SEO Premium, keyword research training, or plugin training

You do not need to do either of these things unless you want to.

Just keep hitting next until you get to section 10 – Success! And then click Close:

Yoast SEO success
You made it!

Congratulations – you just configured Yoast SEO!

Using The Yoast SEO Meta Box

On a day-to-day basis, the Yoast SEO meta box is where you’ll interact with the plugin the most. The meta box helps you by:

  • Analyzing your content for its SEO quality and readability
  • Letting you configure settings for how your content functions in Google and social media

The meta box appears underneath the WordPress editor (its exact location depends on your other plugins and themes). If you’re using the new WordPress block editor, you can find this on the right-hand sidebar as well. There are three different ways to interact with the meta box:

The Yoast SEO meta box
The Yoast SEO meta box
  • (1) – lets you switch between Snippet Preview, Readability analysis, Focus keyphrase, and Cornerstone content
  • (2) – lets you access additional settings for social media
  • (3) – lets you access advanced options

Content Optimization Tab

The Content Optimization tab is mostly about how well optimized your content is for search engines.

The first area in the content optimization tab is the Snippet preview.

You can click the Edit snippet button to manually edit your content’s SEO Title and Meta description. You’ll see a live preview at the top as you edit the information:

Yoast SEO edit snippet
How to manually edit SEO snippet

This information is important because it’s what will show up in Google’s organic search results:

Example of real SEO snippet
An example of a real SEO snippet

In the Readability analysis area, Yoast SEO tries to apply that same concept to humans. Essentially, it tries to gauge how readable your content will be to human visitors and then makes some suggestions for how to improve your content’s readability.

These suggestions aren’t perfect – so don’t feel like you need to get a perfect score. But they are a good high-level guide:

Yoast SEO Readability analysis
Yoast SEO Readability analysis

In the Focus keyphrase area, you can enter a Focus keyword to optimize your content for.

Essentially, you’ll want to perform some basic keyword research to find a keyword that people are searching for. Then, you plug that keyword into this box and Yoast SEO will analyze your content to see how well optimized your post is for that specific keyword.

It will tell you both what you’re doing well and what needs to be improved. If you are using the premium version of Yoast SEO you can also add a related keyword.

Yoast SEO Focus keyphrase
Yoast SEO Focus keyphrase

It’s important to remember that the Yoast focus keyphrase doesn’t help you rank in Google. It’s only advice to help you optimize your content.

In the Cornerstone content area, you can choose whether or not to designate the post as cornerstone content.

Cornerstone content is the core of your website. It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.

Yoast SEO Cornerstone content
Yoast SEO Cornerstone content

In other words, only choose your best content and posts or pages that you are going to keep up to date as cornerstone content. You can then easily sort by your cornerstone content in the posts and page lists.

Cornerstone content in post list
Cornerstone content in post list

Yoast SEO Social Media Tab

In the Social tab, you can manually configure how your content will look when shared on Facebook or Twitter:

Yoast SEO social media tab
Yoast SEO social media settings for individual pieces of content

This is the information that a social network automatically generates when a URL is shared:

facebook example
An example of how those social media settings affect things

Most of the time, you don’t need to manually configure this information for each post because Yoast SEO will automatically generate it based on:

  • Your SEO title
  • Your content’s featured image

But if you want to override those defaults, this is where you do it.

Yoast SEO Advanced Tab

Most of the time, you won’t ever look at the Advanced tab. But if you want to:

  • Stop Google from indexing this specific piece of content. Or in other words, allow or disallow search engines from showing it in search results.
  • Specify a canonical URL to avoid duplicate content.

Then this is where you can do it:

Yoast SEO Advanced tab
Yoast SEO meta box advanced settings

Exploring The Yoast SEO Dashboard

Now that you have Yoast SEO configured and understand the meta box, let’s take a look at the dashboard.

On the main page of the dashboard (Under General), Yoast SEO will alert you to any potential SEO issues on your site.

For example, you can see that Yoast SEO doesn’t like the way that our test site’s tagline is still the default text:

Yoast SEO dashboard notifications
Yoast SEO dashboard notifications

Yoast will give you instructions for how to fix the issue. Or, you can always dismiss the notification if you don’t want to address it.

General Tab

The General tab isn’t very important, but it does let you:

  • Access the configuration wizard
  • Count the number of internal links in your post

Features Tab

The Features tab is a bit juicer than the previous tab. In this area, you can enable or disable specific features of Yoast SEO.

For example, if you don’t find the Readability analysis in the Yoast SEO meta box helpful, you can turn it off here:

Yoast SEO features tab
Yoast SEO features tab

This is where you also can enable/disable security for authors. The advanced section of the Yoast SEO meta box allows a user to remove posts from the search results or change the canonical. These are things you might not want any author to do. That’s why, by default, only editors and administrators can do this. Setting to “Off” allows all users to change these settings.

Looking for your XML sitemaps? Yoast SEO can help you automatically generate an XML sitemap that you can submit to search engines. More about WordPress sitemaps here.

In the newer versions of Yoast SEO, there is no longer a separate section for this. But you can still find a link to your XML sitemap by expanding the XML sitemaps tooltip and clicking on the “See the XML sitemap” link.

Yoast SEO XML sitemap
Yoast SEO XML sitemap

To exclude certain post types from your sitemap, this is now done from the Search Appearance area further below.

Webmaster tools Tab

In this tab, Yoast SEO can help you verify your site with various search engine’s webmaster tools:

Yoast SEO Webmaster tools
This area helps you connect to various search engine’s tools

The More Advanced Guide To Yoast SEO

Congrats! At this point, you should have a pretty solid understanding of how to use Yoast SEO’s core settings and features.

In this section, we’re going to dig into some of the advanced settings that Yoast SEO keeps hidden away.

Search Appearance Options

Need to edit the knowledge graph & schema.org data? Perhaps you didn’t use the configuration wizard. You can access this under the Search Appearance area. Click on the General tab and you can then edit your organization and or person data.

Knowledge Graph & Schema.org
Knowledge Graph & Schema.org

As of April 16, 2019, Yoast SEO version 11+ supports more structured data than ever before. It’s added as JSON-LD to your site’s code and they support Organization, Person, WebSite, WebPage, and article schema.

You can test your WordPress site using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool
Google Structured Data Testing Tool

The Search Appearance area also provides some awesome ways to automate a lot of your on-page SEO.

Essentially, Yoast SEO lets you set templates for the SEO titles and meta descriptions for all of your:

  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Custom post types
  • Taxonomies
  • Custom taxonomies
  • Archive pages
Yoast SEO Content types
Yoast SEO Content types

What makes this so powerful is that you can use a wide range of variables to dynamically insert information including information contained in custom fields.

You can find a full list of these variables by clicking the Need Help? Button and choosing the Snippet variables tab:

Yoast SEO Snippet variables
Some of the available template variables

If you scroll down to the Advanced variables section, you can find some really neat time-saving hacks.

For example, let’s say you run a coupon website and want to always make sure your post’s title looks like:

Kinsta Coupon - Updated In February, 2018

Rather than manually editing the title each month to keep it up to date, you could just use the %%currentmonth%% and %%currentyear%% variables to have Yoast SEO automatically do it for you.

Other things that you can do in this area include:

  • Control noindex tags for specific types of content. If you make something noindex, Google won’t index that type of content in the search results. This is powerful so use it carefully. Only change the default settings if you know what you’re doing and the implications.
  • Choose whether or not to show a blog post’s published date in the Google search results (Date in Snippet Preview). If you publish evergreen content, you should leave this turned off. But if you publish news or other time-specific content, it’s a good option.
  • Control whether or not the Yoast SEO meta box should appear for specific types of content.

Taxonomies Tab

The Taxonomies tab lets you do some cool things to clean up your site’s permalinks.

One of the most useful features is the option to remove the category slug from your URLs:

Yoast SEO taxonomies
Yoast SEO taxonomies

Breadcrumbs Tab

Breadcrumbs are a navigational feature that look something like this:

Example of breadcrumbs
Example of breadcrumbs

They’re generally regarded as a positive for helping users navigate your site.

In this section, you can enable them via Yoast SEO. But, you’ll also need to add a small code snippet to your theme in order to get the breadcrumb feature working:

Yoast SEO Breadcrumbs
How to add breadcrumbs using Yoast SEO


Finally, the RSS tab lets you insert extra content before or after your post content in your RSS feed. You can also use some variables to dynamically insert information, like a link to your blog to ensure proper citation:

This lets you add content before or after posts in your RSS feed

Social Options

In the Social area, you can configure more general settings for how your site interacts with various social networks.

Most of the time, you’ll want to leave these as the defaults, though:

Yoast SEO social
Yoast SEO advanced social media settings

Tools Options

Finally, the Tools area lets you access various types of editors, as well as an option to import or export your Yoast SEO settings:

Yoast SEO Tools
A list of the Yoast SEO Tools

One helpful thing that you can do here is edit your WordPress site’s robots.txt file right from your dashboard. There is no need to SFTP into your site.

If you click on the File editor option, Yoast SEO will help you create a robots.txt file (if you haven’t already). And once you have the file, Yoast SEO will let you edit it right there in your dashboard:

Edit robots.txt file in Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO lets you edit your robots.txt file from your dashboard

If you don’t see the File editor option, this means one of two things.

  1. Your .htaccess file or the folder in Nginx isn’t writable on your web server. You can reach out to your hosting provider for assistance with this.
  2. Your WordPress install has file editing disabled.

How to Use Yoast SEO in Your Everyday Website Life

As we hit the end of this guide, let’s round-up with a look at how you’ll actually use Yoast SEO in your everyday WordPress life.

Most of Yoast SEO’s options are “set it and forget”. Once you get everything configured, the only area that you’ll use on an everyday basis is the Yoast SEO meta box.

For every post, you should, at a minimum:

  • Enter a focus keyphrase. You don’t need to address every single suggestion from Yoast SEO, but trying to get a green light is usually a good goal.
  • Configure the SEO Title and Meta Description. Even if you set up a good template, you’ll still want to manually edit these for most posts to make them as optimized as possible.

Other things that you might want to address include:

  • Readability
  • Social settings, especially if you think a specific piece of content has a chance of doing well on social media

It should also be noted that Yoast Premium is always updating and dropping in new functionality as well, like the new IndexNow feature, which allows website owners to easily submit and inform search engines of changes immediately.

Any other questions about how to use Yoast SEO? Leave a comment and let’s get your site ranking!

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