If you have WordPress installed but no SEO plugin, you are seriously reducing your chances of success in search engine listings. Quite simply, the default settings in WordPress don’t give you enough control. Currently, the best plugin is the free one from Yoast.
Once you have the plugin installed, go through each tab one by one and tweak the settings to your liking.
But before you do that, go to Settings option and change your permalink structure. I prefer the post name option, but if you have a very large and busy website you can choose one of the other options.
Then go to Yoast’s SEO settings.
The General tab allows you to easily connect your site to the webmaster tools provided by Google and Bing and claim your site in Alexa without uploading any file to your server.
Once you’ve done that, you need to move on to the Titles and Metas section.
This is where the real SEO magic happens!
Yoast allows you to force a rewrite of your page and post titles. If the plugin thinks your chosen theme requires it, it will automatically check the box for you. However, if you find that some of your page title settings are being ignored, it’s worth checking this box.
It ensures that the title displayed in the browser tab and (more importantly) in the search results is the one you chose.
Yoast gives you a preview of your title and also tells you if you used too many characters, which would mean Google would truncate it with an ellipsis.
This isn’t an absolutely precise science, as Google now takes into account the width of the characters in your title. So it pays to be safe and use a few fewer than the plugin suggests.
There are several other settings on the General tab that you can use to remove certain types of pages (e.g. archive pages) from indexing and potentially cause duplicate content issues on your site.
The Post Types tab is also important.
WordPress normally inserts the post’s date before the meta description (the text that appears under your page title in search results), but the plugin doesn’t allow this in its preview by default. Instead, you must check the appropriate box on the Post Types page for the date to appear in the preview.
I personally had neglected to do this on my blog until recently, which meant many of my page meta descriptions were truncated by Google. Once you’ve ticked the box – and you only have to do it for the Posts option – the preview and suggested character count in the description will be correct again.
There is also an option to change how your default post and page titles look. So if, like me, you don’t want your site name in the title, you can remove it from the defaults, which will save you from forgetting this in every single post.
The other important setting to look out for is the one that lets you link your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles and make sure they’re coordinated and looking the way you want them to.