Author's note: This post originally started out as the script and accompanying text for a video on configuring the Yoast SEO plugin. By the time I got done writing this, I realized that, one, the video would have been so long that no one would watch it to the end, and two, the video begs for a production quality higher than what I can pull off right now.
I plan to make that video one day, and I will likely use the following to write
a couple three four five shorter, less comprehensive (but easier to understand) posts. In the meantime, here's a comprehensive summary of what I will do when I set up the Yoast plugin for an author.
Ask any expert and they’ll tell you that authors should use their websites as a platform to promote their books, connect with fans, and give them a reason to buy.
That is good advice, but it only works if an author’s site can be found in Google’s search results. While Google will find and add just about every website to its search listings, installing an SEO plugin like Yoast can help a site move higher in the results, and it can increase the chance that someone will click on a link.
Note: the following tutorial was written for authors who have a self-hosted WordPress.org website. If your site is on WordPress.com, Squarespace, Blogger, or another hosting service, you won’t be able to use any of this. (Although, if you have an author site on Blogger or Squarespace, drop me a line. I am seeking a guinea pig who will let me see what can be done to optimize their SEO.)
I recommend the Yoast plugin. It works well, and its configuration wizard makes it easy to cover the basic setup process.
Yoast will charge you $169 to set up this plugin for you (I would charge you $50), but you can save that money simply by following the instruction laid out in this post.
First Things First
Before we get started, you need to pull together a list of all the relevant info:
- Social media account URLs – Yoast is going to ask you to list all of your social media accounts. Experts tell me that taking the time to list all of your accounts will boost your SEO.
- Meta description – This is a 2 or 3 sentence description of who you are and what you write about.
- Meta keywords – this is where you get to tell Google which search terms matter to you. For an author, this would be your genre or subject, and the themes or topics found in your books.
The next step is to install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin. Upon activation, you will notice a new menu item in WordPress admin bar along the left side of the screen labeled SEO, with the Yoast logo next to it.
It looks like this:
Off to See the Wizard
The first thing you need to do is run the configuration wizard. This will take us step by step through setting up the plugin, and will cover about half of what we need to do.
Scroll down and click on Yoast option in the menu on the left side of the screen. Click on it to open the main Yoast menu, and then select the “general” tab.
Click the button labeled configuration wizard. This will take you to a new menu.
Before we go further, you should note there is a number bar across the top of your screen. The following instructions correspond to each of the 12 steps in this wizard.
After you complete each step, you will need to click the “next” button to advance.
- On the first screen, click the purple button. Yes, the other option is that you could pay someone to do this for you (me!) but you don’t have to.
- On screen #2, select option A. This sets things so search engines can find your site. If you are still building the site, you might choose option B and keep your site from being indexed, but I would not. My SOP is to choose A and then hide the site from public view with an “under construction” plugin.
- If you plan to blog regularly, select the first option on screen #3. Otherwise, I would select the last option.
- Since we are setting up an author blog, select the option for “person”, and then enter your name (or pen name).
- On the 5th screen, enter the links for your social media accounts. (You might want to pause the video.)
- Set the “Posts” and “Pages” as visible; this will tell Google to index them. Then set the “Media” as hidden. The thing about WordPress is that it will generate a separate page for each image you upload. If Google can see all those pages then Google will think you have a lot of pages with little content, and it could ding your rankings.
- If your site has or will have multiple writers contributing, click yes on the seventh screen. Otherwise, click no.
- You can skip this step. Just go ahead and click the next button.
- Verify that your site’s name is spelled correctly.
- Unless you really want to be spammed by sales emails, you can skip this step.
- These are just adverts where Yoast is trying to sell you webinars or additional services. You can ignore them if you like.
- Click the purple button to return to your site.
Okay, we’re now about halfway done with setting up this plugin. You could stop here, and call it good, or you could change a few settings and squeeze the last bit of SEO juice out of this plugin.
Now the Real Magic Begins
A. The next step is to scroll down the page, and look in the Yoast menu again. Select the “titles and meta” option under Yoast.
- Make sure that the “rewrite titles” slider is purple for disabled, and click save.
- Then click the “other” tab. Make sure that both the “index” and “enabled” are purple, and then click the save changes button.
- Now select the “home page” tab. If you have your front page set as a blog, this is where you enter the site’s meta keywords, and the site’s meta description.
- Note: If you see a link rather than an text boxes where you can enter the meta description, that is because you have a specific page set as the home page. Click that link, and it will take you to the page so that you can enter the meta description, and meta keywords in the Yoast boxes.
Here is a screenshot showing where to enter the meta description and meta keywords for a specific page/post. You'll need to click the edit snippet button to enter the meta description, and the meta keywords have their own text box lower on the page.
You really should take the time go enter the meta description and meta keywords on your home page. The keywords will help your rankings, and the description will be used by Google - it will be shown in search results.
For example, here’s the meta description for Jane Friedman's site:
Interregnum: iI you made it this far, congratulations. My eyes would have glazed over by now. Reward yourself by blinking a few times.
But don’t give up yet, because there are a few more settings that need work.
B. Now we need to turn our attention to Yoast’s “social” menu. Scroll down the page, and look in the left menu bar.
Select the “social” option in the Yoast menu. This will bring up a new menu screen.
- First, look over the social media URLs, and make sure they are correct.
- Next, Select the “Facebook” tab and make sure that the word “enable” under “Open Graph meta data” is purple.
- Select the “Twitter” tab, and make sure that the word “enable” under “Twitter card meta data” is purple, and that the default card type is set to “Summary with large image”.
When people share links to your site, do you want the tweets and updates to look good and use eye-catching images?
These settings are half of what makes that possible; you will also need to use high-resolution images in your posts and pages. (I am going to cover that in a different post, but I can explain more in the comments if you like.)
C. Next up is the Yoast XML Sitemaps menu – it’s the one right after the Yoast social menu.
- In the Sitemaps menu, make sure that the “XML sitemap functionality” is purple for enabled. This will give you the sitemap that Google wants you to add in Google Search Console. (This will be important later on).
D. And finally, I have one last setting that needs to be tweaked.
- Go to the Yoast Advanced settings menu, and switch to the permalinks tab.
- There is one setting that you have to change on this page, and it is the third down from the top.
- Set the “Stopwords in slugs” so that the word remove is purple.
What that does is simplify your page and post URLs by removing what are known as “stop words” (prepositions, some adjectives and adverbs). Yoast will remove those words from the URL for any posts or pages you publish from here on out. According to experts, this helps your SEO.
O O O
This post is now up past 1600 words, and it is still short of a lot of the explanations required to really help you understand why I am having you take each step. (This is why I didn't record that video.)
Nevertheless, I still thought this post could be useful. (If nothing else, it forced me to formalize my process for setting up this plugin.)
If you have any questions, or noticed a mistake, please leave a comment.