Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast) is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet editor and real time page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
Yoast SEO features:
There’s a full feature list for the free and premium plugin below. If you want, you can also read more about the premium add-on plugins for this plugin:
- The Local SEO plugin for sites that compete in Google Maps.
- The News SEO plugin for sites that are included (or want to be included) in Google News.
- The Video SEO plugin for sites wanting to optimize their videos for the search results.
Yoast SEO plugin feature list
Post titles and meta descriptions
Yoast SEO let’s you set templates for titles and meta descriptions for all types of pages, so you could come up with a template and not have to think about it, or you could use the Yoast SEO meta box to completely optimize your post title and meta description, using the snippet editor functionality to see what it would look like in Google. Add to that the chance to enter a focus keyword, which is used to show you how it would bold in your search results, and you have the chance to control everything you want about your listing in Google:
As you can see, the plugin automatically tests the important area’s of your content for usage of the focus keyword, so you can truly optimize your page for the term you need.
If you click on ‘Edit snippet’ the snippet editor will open so you can amend the title, slug and meta description:
Whether you want to keep a single post or page out of the index, or you prefer to keep entire sections of your site unfindable: the Yoast SEO plugin has your back. Hidden by default under the “advanced” button is a meta robots settings block that allows you to choose any setting you want on a per page basis:
Yoast SEO plugin meta box – advanced tab
But you could also choose to noindex a certain category, tag or custom taxonomy (or give it a unique title and meta description in the content analysis at that taxonomy):
Canonical and Noindex
And you can set Open Graph share settings per category or tag as well:
Facebook share settings for category
This works for all tags, categories and custom taxonomies. As you can see there are two other yet unexplained features there, canonical and breadcrumbs. Let’s touch on those:
When Google introduced the canonical link element, to distinguish the “original” page from derivative pages within your site carrying the same content, they reached out to me to develop a WordPress plugin for it, and I did. Later on, canonical link elements were added to core. They work fine, with one caveat: they only work for single posts and pages, not for categories and tags, not for the homepage. The Yoast SEO plugin fixes that, and sets the correct canonical on each of those pages.
The Yoast Breadcrumbs code has been powering many (premium) themes breadcrumbs for ages. Using the same code, the Yoast SEO plugin now gives way more granular control over this breadcrumb. You get to determine, for each post type, which taxonomy to show. You get to determine for each post, page and taxonomy, what title to use for that specific entity in the breadcrumb paths it appears in. Full control, that’s what this entire Yoast SEO plugin is about.
Did you just write a post that fits in one category, but should definitely be in another category as well? Of course you can select both categories, but you probably consider one the main category. Yoast SEO brings the solution: you can select a ‘primary category’ for the category that’s most important and should be shown in the breadcrumb.
Permalink clean up
Don’t you hate it when someone adds /2 to the end of a link towards you? Or links with all weird variables at the end of the URL? Yoast SEO solves this for you! Just checking one box will redirect all that stuff away, and make sure that your content is always found under the URL you want it to be found under. If you use a Google Custom search engine, checking another box will prevent that from breaking down while using this function.
XML Sitemaps are an essential part of current day SEO, and can thus not be excluded from a complete Yoast SEO plugin. While there are other WordPress XML Sitemap Generators out there, they don’t talk to your SEO plugin. Meaning that if you noindex a page, preventing it from showing up in Google, it might still be in your sitemap. They also don’t allow you to keep certain taxonomies out of your sitemap. This plugin does. And, to boot, it makes your XML Sitemaps look good by using an XSLT stylesheet on them, so humans can read them too.
My RSS Footer plugin used to allow you to add a piece of content to the beginning or the end of posts in your RSS feed. The Yoast SEO plugin goes one step further and allows you to add content to both of them, allowing you to link back to your blog and the specific blog post, which is very helpful when you have a lot of people scraping your blog.
Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess
Editing your robots.txt and .htaccess files has never been this easy: you can edit them straight from the Files editor of the Yoast SEO plugin, so you can easily check and or update those files and keep it all nice and clean.
Clean up head section
With recent releases, WordPress has added more and more bloat to the
<head> section of WordPress installs. Luckily it also has methods to remove those. Yoast SEO will strive to keep your head section as clean as possible.