Plugin review: Yoast SEO

Another essential plugin: Yoast SEO from Team Yoast. This is the most popular plugin for managing SEO (search engine optimization) and related aspects of your site. If you just install it and do nothing else, it will help improve your search rankings. The other essential functions it provides:

  • It produces an analysis of the readability of your page; pay attention to this to write content that ranks better. This may seem like it’s judging you, but it’s to help you better match what search engines are looking for, if you choose to listen to it.
  • You can see and control what your page will look like in Google search result listings.
  • You can set which image will accompany a link to the page when it’s shared to Facebook and Twitter.
  • It gives you the ability to exclude pages from Google and other web search results. This is helpful since there are often pages you only want people to reach via a certain route, and not through web search. You might think that by just not providing links to it, you have hidden the page well enough that Google won’t find it. Believe me, you haven’t. You need an option to tell search engines to ignore the page.

NOTE: The Yoast SEO plugin, if you use it to generate a sitemap, creates an author-sitemap.xml file that contains all your site’s usernames. Hacking bots look for this information since the username is half the information they need to break into your site. If you have a strong password, and other security measures, you aren’t at much increased risk from this, but why give it away for free? I discuss how to hide your usernames from hackers (including the right settings for Yoast) in my review of the Stop User Enumeration plugin.

The main alternative to Yoast is the All in One SEO Pack plugin. It also is a fine plugin and some people prefer it; I think Yoast is slightly better overall. WPBeginner has a good comparison of these two from the standpoint of features, ease of use, and pricing.

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