Your definitive guide to Yoast SEO meta tags including detailed instructions on how to use them for your on-page SEO optimization.
Are you considering installing Yoast SEO on your WordPress site? Or have you already installed it, and now wish to learn how to use this SEO tool to your full advantage?
Perhaps you just want to learn about Yoast SEO meta tags because you’ve heard they’re the cornerstone of good on-page SEO optimization
Whatever the case may be, this detailed guide will help you.
So keep reading to learn more!
What Exactly Are Yoast SEO Meta Tags?
To explain what Yoast SEO meta tags are, you first need to learn what meta tags are.
Ok, so what are meta tags?
Meta tags are snippets of text that describe the page’s content to various web crawlers and bots of the web, including the almighty Google-bot.
Meta tags are invisible to the user and they can only be seen in the page’s code.
For example, here’s the source code of my Cleantalk review.
I went to the source of the page, pressed CTRL+F and typed “description” and voila I found that post’s meta description.
Note if you notice immediately above you’ll see it says the article has been optimized with Yoast SEO plugin.
For self hosted WordPress sites meta tags can only be added via special SEO plugins.
And while there are many popular SEO plugins out there including SEOPress, RankMath, All in One SEO; and even more meta tags (see full list here), in this tutorial we’ll cover the Yoast SEO plugin and all SEO metatags you can enter with it.
Where Do You Add SEO Meta Tags In Yoast?
First you need to install and activate Yoast SEO. If you haven’t done it already do it now as you’ll need it to follow this tutorial.
And don’t worry, it’s free!
Second, load up one of your post’s editor and scroll to the bottom of it where you’ll find Yoast SEO meta boxes.
It’s here that you can add in crucial meta data to your page’s source code.
Understanding Yoast SEO Meta Tags
Here are 3 elements to pay attention to.
#1- SEO Title
Whenever you type a query in Google and get a list of results you’re usually met with a bunch of blue links on the page, each accompanied by meta description and URL.
SEO titles are those blue links
As you can see from the image above, meta titles are the most prominent part of your listing in the SERPs, and as such you need to spend enough time on them to get them just right.
Your listing’s CTR (clickthrough rate) depends on them.
For example the number #1 result in Google for a particular query gets ~34% of all clicks while number #5 get only 7.4%.
You must go as high as possible for any keyword you target and a well crafted meta title helps a ton.
Here are a few writing tips to get you started.
#1 Make them Short and Concise – But Not Overly So
Google will only display the first 60-65 characters of your title, and if go any longer than that they’ll truncate your title which will decrease your CTR.
Here’s what truncated SEO titles look like
Not a pretty sight, no? And on my OptinMonster Black Friday guide.
For shame 🙂
And here’s what a well written SEO title looks like in the SERPS.
Note: example is Pedro’s total SEMrush tool-set guide.
#2- Include a Primary Keyword
Your SEO title is the second most important on-page SEO element you can have (first is content itself) so you need to optimize it correctly.
Including the keyword you’re targeting is a must and bonus points if you can include it at the beginning of your SEO title.
For example, can you guess what keyword Pedro’s targeting with his SEMrush vs Ahrefs guide?
#3- Remove Your Brand Name; Include a Power Word
Unless you’re Coca Cola, McDonald’s or some other well known brand, including your brand’s name in your SEO title wastes valuable space and limits you in writing an enticing title.
So I propose you remove your brand name and instead throw in a power word that will compel them to click on your post in the SERP.
Examples of power words are:
But my favorite power word is “learn”.
Because learning means leaving the ignorant you behind and embracing the new you who is now empowered with new knowledge.
Yes, “learn” is packed with meaning and people sense it’s power and significance even if they don’t fully realize it.
Use this word well 🙂
#4- Use Title Modifiers
Title modifiers, or keyword modifiers are words you append to your titie’s main keyword so as to gobble up more long tail traffic.
The easiest way to find them is to use Google Auto Suggest feature.
Let’s say our target keyword was “Keyword research tools”
When I type this query in Google I can see Google suggests the most popular modifiers right off the bat.
So taking some of those modifiers and improvising a bit, I get:
“Best Keyword Research Tools for SEO in 2021 – Rank in Google For Free!”
Note: all underlined words are keyword modifiers.
And doesn’t this title look more compelling and promising to the user on the search engine results pages (SERP) weighing up where to click?
Sure it does!
Within WordPress you can enter post and page URL without an SEO plugin.
It’s there right beneath the post headline.
However, it’s much more convenient to add target URL in the Yoast SEO plugin meta box because all other meta fields are there, and next to each other.
URL writing tips:
- Include your target keyword.
- Make it short as possible but not at the expense of the target keyword. Short URL’s rank better.
- Exclude stop words as they make your URL longer and offer no value to either users or Google.
- Don’t change the URL once the post is indexed in Google.
Pro tip: Listen, the exact keyword in the URL is a significant on-page SEO factor. Even Kyle Roof, who’s a pro on-page optimizer says keyword in URL is the third strongest on-page SEO ranking factor, right after content and meta title
In other words, sometimes when you’re targeting a long tail keyword that doesn’t have a ton of competition, and where ranking pages rank because of on-page alone, it makes perfect sense to include the whole keyword (stops word and everything) in the URL.
That way you’ll be zigging when others are zagging and you’ll have one extra powerful signal to your advantage.
And remember, your competition can’t just go and change their URL because they’d had to do a 301 redirect and redirects are always tricky business.
#3- Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are text snippets below your title and URL that describe your page’s content.
Thin of meta d. as your ad copy.
It’s your chance to entice the reader and to divert their click from your competitor’s listing over to you.
#1- Length is Strength
Your meta description can and needs to be longer than your SEO title. However it shouldn’t be too long.
The limit before Google cuts you off is 175 characters for desktop and 155 for mobile.
Pro tip. In order to know what’s the predominant device your target audience uses to access your site, you need to go to Google Search Console>Performance> Devices.
For example, I can see that 80% of my site’s traffic comes from desktop devices, so I better write my meta descriptions with them in mind.
#2- Include Your Target Keywords
Even though meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor for Google, they can stil help you rank higher in Google.
Have you noticed that when you search for something in Google, and they show you a list of results and some of them have words and phrases written in boldface?
That’s Google telling you the results are relevant and also, it’s a clear sign for an SEO in you on what words you need to include in your meta description.
#3- Include Power Words
Similar to my advice on SEO titles, when crafting your meta description make sure you include powers words.
And because meta descriptions are roughly 3 times longer than SEO titles, you can easily include more than one.
Advanced Settings Explanation – Should You Leave These Settings Alone?
Yoast SEO plugin lets you add noindex and nofollow meta tags to instruct Google and other bots how to behave when they crawl your page.
Here’s what it all means.
Noindex tag helps tell Google not to index the content of that page. You can see if the post is indexed by digging into its source code.
For example, Pedro has set his category pages to be no-indexed.
When I examine this SEO categories source code I can clearly see the noindex tag..
And when I search for that category in Google (by pasting in the URL) Google doesn’t find it because they have obeyed the noindex command and the page is not indexed.
When Should I Use the Noindex Tag?
Use it when you have content that you don’t want indexed.
Typically, these will be WordPress taxonomies (categories and tags) other archive types (date archives, author archives…) duplicate content, thin and low value pages etc.
Keeping those pages out of the index prevents index bloat, preserves your crawl budget and ultimately boosts your rankings.
What if I Already Have Index Bloat? How to Get Rid of it Now?
As an example, when I do a site search for my site, I can see a bunch of indexed categories. They are low value pages and no web user is intentionally searching for them.
I’m seriously thinking of removing them from the SERP’s.
If I decide to do it, here’s exactly what I’d do.
First, I’d visit each category within my WP dashboard and I’d set it to noindex, follow.
Second, I’d use Google’s URL removal tool to immediately purge the index of my thin content pages.
This would remove poor quality content within 24h, and Google would never reindex those categories as long as I keep applying the noindex attribute via my Yoast SEO plugin.
Nofollow attribute serves to tell Google they should not “follow” any links on that page.
“Nofollow” means no SEO value is passed from the linking page to the target page.
You can set it up in Yoast SEO at the same place where you set the index status of the page
You can also check for the presence of nofollow tag the same way you check for noindex tag, (via the pages source code).
How To Use The Nofollow Attribute Correctly?
Generally speaking, you want to avoid using this meta tag on your site.
It’s because you must ensure that PageRank, AKA authority, flows freely throughout your website.
You don’t want to create bottleneck pages where all link equity that flows to those pages disappears instead of being recycled into boosting your site further.
Pro tip- You can also selectively nofollow certain links on the page.
Here are some tips on using this correctly..
First, never nofollow internal links. That cannot help you in any way and it will hurt your SEO because you’ll lose on the authority that could’ve been passed through that link.
Second, don’t nofollow all outbound links like some major sites do (Entrepreneur, Forbes, Huffington Post…).
This will not help your SEO and in fact it might hurt you in two ways:
- First of all, Google might think you’re nofollowing because you’re trying to do some old fashioned PageRank sculpting. So they could start to scrutinize your site more than necessary.
- Second, nofollowing outbound links is disrespectful to other webmasters on the web.
These are people just like you, hard working bloggers who’re trying to succeed and who are giving everything they have and more to their blogs.
They love their blogs and treat them like their children and then you come along and link to them with a nofollow link which is useless for SEO and doesn’t help them.
With a nofollow link you’re basically saying:
“I don’t like your blog and God forbid that a link from me should help you rank higher. I also want to make, sure not to be associated with you in any way, shape or form. And linking to you this time only is a necessary evil”
I don’t know about you but I think that’s offensive and I absolutely refuse to link to any site that nofollows all their outbound links.
I don’t link to them on principle because I don’t like people who like taking and don’t enjoy sharing…
The mini rant is officially over 🙂
You can also set canonical tags with Yoast SEO. This meta attribute helps Google determine which page is the canonical version in cases when you have a lot of content duplication happening on your site.
For example, let’s say you have an ecommerce store and a product page that sells blue shirts.
On that page you have a helpful filter that allows users to change shirt colors.
So just by clicking the user can toggle between blue, white, black, red and green shirt variants. It’s all on the same page but to Google they’re different URLs and they’re different pages.
Letting all of these slight page variants index would only hurt you as Google would see it as content duplication.
But if you use the canonical tag to point to Google that the “blue shirt” product page is the one you want indexed, they’ll obey it and point all ranking signals to that one page.
Other product page variants won’t get indexed and you won’t have a duplicate content problem on your hands.
Questions About Yoast SEO Meta Tags Answered – A Mini FAQ
No article is complete without an FAQ section that answers all the burning questions you probably have.
I did my best to be thorough, but if I missed your question tell me all about it in the comment section below 🙂
#1- Is it Important to Add SEO Meta Tags in My Yoast SEO With Every Blog Post That I Publish?
Some “experts” say you no longer need to add meta tags because Google is now smart enough to determine on their own what your post is about.
Please don’t listen to them. Don’t follow that common SEO myth.
Even if Google were that smart (which they aren’t yet, even John Meueller says meta tags are important), it’s your job to help Google-bot as much as you can.
Every piece of SEO meta tag data you add in is another clue to Google on what your page is about and what keywords they should rank you for.
So add in your tags diligently and don’t be a lazy marketer. These are rarely successful.
#2- Where are Meta Keywords in Yoast?
They’re gone, finito. It used to be that you could add meta keywords tags in Yoast SEO. However, with the introduction of Yoast version 6.3 that option was permanently disabled.
So no, you cannot add meta keywords with Yoast SEO plugin. Besides, why would you want to use them on your blog?
Don’t you care whether you’re a successful blogger or not?
Don’t you know that Google has devalued them completely all the way back in 2009?
And don’t you know that Google, Bing and Yahoo use the presence of meta keywords as spam signals working against your site?
Basically, when search engines see a certain keyword in your meta keyword tag they lower your rank for said terms. I’m confident you don’t want that to happen.
So you shouldn’t want meta keywords too!
#3- Why Don’t My SEO Title and Meta Description Show in Google’s SERPS?
Because Google doesn’t have to use them. Oftentimes Google rewrites your description and title because they think they know better.
It’s a way for them to show searchers that your site is relevant to certain questions they typed into the search bar.
If Google is rewriting your metadata there’s nothing you can do except rewrite your SEO title and description in hopes that new ones will be shown accordingly. But there’s no guarantee they would so my advice is to not fret about it too much.
#4- Are Tags and Categories Part of Yoast SEO? Are They Also Meta Tags?
Tags and categories are WordPress taxonomies and they are not part of Yoast SEO.
They’re important for categorizing your content in a WordPress site and they’re also not hidden as anyone can see them, usually, right below the article’s headline or below the article itself (that’s how Pedro’s articles are set up).
#5- How Long Does it Take For Yoast SEO to Start Working?
As soon as you start using Yoast to add in meta tags Google will be able to parse them and use them to determine your rankings.
So, it’s an immediate effect. However it’s up to Google to decide for each post and even each keyword how much a certain tag will help or not.
#6- Can I Set Follow and Index Tags in Yoast SEO?
“Follow” and “index” tags don’t exist.
If you don’t add nofollow and noindex tag with Yoast SEO plugin then it’s automatically both follow and index.
You May Also Be Interested In…
Here’s a selection of some of our best resources on SEO to move you to the next level:
- SEO For Bloggers: 48 Experts Share Website Optimization Tips
- Rank Math SEO Vs Yoast SEO: Which SEO Plugin Is Better For You?
- Your Free Guide To The Best Yoast SEO Alternatives
- 38 Experts Reveal Best Keyword Research Tools For SEO (Top 10 Leaderboard Included)
- Best SEO Tips for Beginners and New Websites
- 7 Proven Tips to Instantly Improve Content Readability for SEO
- The Actionable On-Page SEO Guide on How to Rank in Google
- Semrush Vs Ahrefs: Which SEO Tool is Best?
- SEO Certification Through Free Online Courses
- SEO For Dummies: What Is SEO And How It Works
Concluding My Yoast SEO Meta Tags Guide and Tutorial…
Yoast SEO is an indispensable plugin for your site. You absolutely need it if you want your blog to compete successfully in the SERPS.
And the better you become at using it, the more productive you’ll become and more success you’ll have, and faster too.
So, I hope my Yoast SEO Meta tags guide has helped you.
Please leave me a comment below, let me know what you think.
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