I just read your article on focus keywords and you said that the focus keyword does not affect your SEO. So the YOAST plugin is not really an SEO optimizer, but rather an SEO analyzer? I know with Google’s Hummingbird update that meta-tags are not so essential, so my real question is how can I actually SEO optimize my site?
The Yoast plugin is largely an SEO analyzer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin has several settings you can configure to help improve and optimize the SEO for your site. Here are a few examples:
Disabling archives to prevent duplicate content
WordPress has several different archives, including:
- The main archive on your homepage (when you click the pages to go to previous posts)
- The author archives
- The date archives
However, if you have a ONE PERSON blog, every single one of those archives will be identical. That means the exact same content/results exist in three locations. This is duplicate content, which Google doesn’t like.
The Yoast plugin allows you to easily disable these archives for search engines. You can do this by going to SEO » Titles & Metas and clicking on Other. On this page you can choose to Disable the author archives and Disable the date-based archives.
Generating an XML sitemap
Having an XML sitemap is essential. It helps Google (and other search engines) more easily find the content on your site and crawl the posts/pages. WordPress SEO by Yoast allows you to create an XML sitemap, which you can then give to Google using Google Webmasters.
Cleaning up permalinks
The SEO » Permalinks section mostly has a few tweaks, but they can be helpful. For example:
Remove stop words from slugs
Stop words are words like, a, by, is, or, and, etc. Google does not take these words into account when performing searches, so having them in your URLs is pointless. It just adds extra length to your URLs. By cutting out these words, your URLs will be shorter, more to the point, and be more focused on the important keywords. The Yoast plugin has a checkbox that allows you to automatically remove these stop words from your URLs.
I don’t personally have this enabled on my blog, just because I usually only get 7-20 comments on each post, but if you get a ton of comments you might want to consider enabling this. In Yoast’s words:
The small tweaks can go a long way
It’s true that a large part of what Yoast does is analyze your SEO. Sure, when you make a post you can add a custom title and description. But ultimately, in most cases you probably want your search result title to be the same as your post title, and Google often doesn’t use the description anymore anyway. However, after that, all Yoast will do for you on the post page is analyze your SEO and tell you how well optimized it things your post is.
But what a lot of people don’t play around with are the settings. The settings panel can help your SEO in minor ways, but it all adds up. It’s certainly worth having the plugin even if just to configure a few settings, remove duplicate content, and generate that XML sitemap!