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6 reasons Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is even more awesome then you realize

| July 19, 2013 | 11 Comments

Yoast's WordPress SEO PluginA few weeks ago, Tom Ewer over at ManageWP wrote a post asking whether Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin was broken because it was having issues on some sites, and his request for support from Joost de Valk (the plugin author) and his team were going unanswered.

Of course, anyone who has been using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin for years and on many sites (that’s us!) knows that in 99.9% of cases where the plugin isn’t working, it’s not the plugin’s fault, but a problem with the theme or other plugins running on the site.

The real issue is the fact that plugin developers can’t always provide free support for their free plugins. Support takes tons of time, and when it’s competing with work that actually pays the bills, reality often dictates that it will lose. This issue is compounded if the plugin is so successful that over five million people download it (like in the case of Yoast’s plugin), and thousands of them want support.

The fact that a post like Tom’s its way onto the web proved something to me that I’ve suspected for a while: people don’t get how amazing Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is. He doesn’t do a very good job of publicizing all the plugin’s features (sorry Yoast), and unless you’re constantly in the loop of what’s going on in the world of social media and search optimizations, you can’t be aware of all the amazing things the plugin does, and how he is so on the ball when it comes to ensuring our sites have all the most current SEO and social media optimization code we could want.

Here are six things you probably didn’t know Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin does. I’m not going to elaborate too much on why each thing is important, but will link to relevant resources so you can read up on them

New Facebook Open Graph tags for publishers

Yoast’s plugin has been taking care care of all the basic Facebook Open Graph tags, like title, description, image and so on, for a while. But on June 19, Facebook announced two new Open Graph tags:

  • article:publisher – this places a link to a site’s related Facebook Page in the as follows:


    The benefit of this is that when a post is shared from a site with this tag, a Like button automatically appears so people can Like the Facebook Page directly from the shared post in Facebook.
  • article:author – this puts a Follow button for the author’s profile in the shared post on facebook, so readers can easily follow the author’s Facebook profile from within the post:


As a person who is obsessed with all things related to code for social media and search engine optimization, I was very excited to see this news and wanted to implement this immediately on our sites! My first thoughts were:

  • Thought 1: Maybe Yoast doesn’t know about this. I should email him and tell him.
  • Thought 2: He does so much for the WordPress community already, maybe I should create an add-on for his plugin that adds this code.

Did I get around to doing either of the above? No. I couldn’t even find the time for these little tasks, so how in the world can he provide support? Anyhoo, within a few days I noticed that WordPress SEO had released an update. Lo and behold, it included these new Facebook tags! And how does Yoast announce this on his blog? Nonchalantly, as part of a post explaining how all the social features in his plugin work. “Oh, and by the way”…

Recently, some stuff has been added to that, which we added in the update discussed in our previous post: a tag to relate the content to the author of the content on Facebook and a tag to relate the content to the publishers page on Facebook.

We’re not worthy!

Google+ Authorship and Publisher

Adding Google authorship to your site is critical these days for SEO. It’s projected that some kind of “author rank” will start to factor in to Google’s search results at some point in the near future. You’ll see lots of plugins that do this, or tutorials on how to do this. Fuggetaboutit. Just go to your User profile in your site, and paste in your Google+ link. (Make sure your Google+ profile links to your site too.)

image

Once you’ve done that, the rel=author tag will appear in the of pages that have an author, as so:

Oh, and if you have a Google+ page, you can link to that as well under SEO > Social, the Google+ tab:

image

Once you’ve done that, the following code will appear in your <head>:

rel=Canonical

WordPress SEO Plugin makes sure all your pages have the very important rel=canonical tag in the , as follows:

You can change this on a per-page basis by doing the following: edit the page/post, click on the Advanced tab in the WordPress SEO by Yoast meta box, and enter whatever you want in the Canonical URL field:

image

Breadcrumbs with Rich Snippet semantic data

Yoast offers code for breadcrumbs you can use in your theme:
yoast_breadcrumb('

');
} ?>

That’s maybe helpful for a site that doesn’t have breadcrumbs, but why should every site use his breadcrumbs? Because in typical Yoast style, he’s ahead of the game in a big way. Check out how this code renders breadcrumbs in the HTML of a site:

See all that xmlns:v, typeof=”v:Breadcrumb” stuff? That’s gorgeous semantic data for breadcrumb Rich Snippets in Google’s search results. Have you ever seen breadcrumbs under an item on a Google search results page? It’s often rendered thanks to this type of code:

yoast-wordpress-seo-breadcrumb-snippet-google-authorship

You also have control over how the title of a particular page will appear in the breadcrumbs. To modify the text, go to edit the page/post, click on the Advanced tab in the WordPress SEO by Yoast meta box, and enter whatever you want in the Breadcrumbs title field:

image

Proper semantic data in pagination: rel=”prev” and rel=”next”

In 2011, Google announced a better way of indicating pagination in a site with rel=”prev” and rel=”next”. This “indicate[s] the relationship between component URLs in a paginated series.” Yoast saw that, and added it to his plugin. Although, I checked a number of paginated pages on our sites, and even on yoast.com, to find an example of this in the source code, and couldn’t find it. So I’m wondering what happened to that…

Include, exclude or prioritize pages in the XML Sitemap (and HTML Sitemap – see update below)

Yoast’s plugin can create an XML sitemap for your site, right? Well, you can also control how and when pages appear in that sitemap on a per-page/post basis. Go to edit the page/post, click on the Advanced tab in the WordPress SEO by Yoast meta box, and choose the settings in the sitemap fields:

image

I never noticed the Include in HTML Sitemap option before, and as Yoast’s plugin doesn’t create an HTML sitemap, I’m assuming it’s referring to the HTML Sitemap Template he explained how to create on his site.

Update: it turns out that you can easily add an HTML sitemap to your site with a shortcode from Yoast’s plugin. Create any page, add the wpseo_sitemap shortcode (add square brackets) and voila! For an example, see the HTML sitemap I’ve created for this site: http://wpgarage.com/sitemap/

And more…

The above are just related to optimization-related code that the plugin adds to your site, and doesn’t include the many other amazing things the plugin does like:

  • Complete control over <title> and meta descriptions, site-wide and on a per-page/post basis
  • Noindex nofollow whole areas, or specific pages/posts
  • 301 redirect pages from within a specific page
  • Optimize a page for a specific keyword with Page Analysis tools in the WordPress SEO by Yoast meta box
  • Control title and meta description for author pages from the User Profile page
  • Add a link back to your site in your RSS feed to at least add links to your scraped content

So instead of criticizing Yoast’s plugin, I just have this to say: we’re not worthy, and I’d be happy to start paying for a developers’ license.

In the eternal words of Wayne and Garth: We’re not worthy!


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Category: Plugins

About Miriam Schwab: Miriam is the friendly CEO of illuminea, a WordPress design and development agency. Miriam is a huge fan of WordPress and has been using it for over five years now. In addition, Miriam and her team have been organizing the local Israeli WordCamp conferences for the past few years. View author profile.


Comments (11)

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  1. Ryan Hellyer says:

    Most of the SEO plugins around are horridly spammy and badly written. Joost’s plugin is the only one I ever use because I know it works and does everything I need. I’m still not a huge fan of it though as it has an awful lot of stuff in it that I’d much rather get rid of. It also creates quite a bit of confusion for clients who I find get very frustrated with it’s complexity and all the annoying “pop ups” it creates.

    • Ryan, the plugin can definitely be overwhelming for clients, so what we do is we configure it in the settings so all the site-wide stuff is ready to go, and then show clients how to modify the title and meta description per post/page. That’s the only thing most of them need to pay attention to anyway, and they shouldn’t touch the settings area.

  2. Michael says:

    Interesting. Around that same time, I had HostGator lock my site for 30 hours b/c it was overloading their CPUs. They blamed Yoast’s SEO plugin. I explained they were insane, and their servers weren’t configured properly, but they insisted on placing the blame on any plugin they could. I only have 10 on the site, all top-quality.

    No software is bug-free, but I felt confident enough to tell HG the issue was with them and not Yoast’s SEO plugin. Sounds like it maybe coulda been, now.

  3. Greg says:

    This is a great post clarifying why an obviously great plugin is great.

    Having followed this discussion on WPManage, LinkedIn and here it strikes me as odd that so many in the WordPress community seem to misunderstand what’s going on with support for plugins.

    In the Drupal community, the community supports every plugin because the drupal.org website includes an issue queue system and patch support that allows developers to collaborate without using any outside tools. We don’t even need to speak to each other to coordinate our work. All you need is a Drupal account and you’re writing code for core Drupal and contributed modules all in the same place.

    In WordPress, on the other hand, all you have is support forums maintained almost entirely by the plugin author alone and you have little support for collaborative development. So, each author is on their own for bug fixes, documentation and random new user questions.

    The issue isn’t with a single plugin, it’s with the tools WordPress has to collaborate on support for plugins.

    • Greg, thanks for your input on this issue. The various Open Source communities should make more of an effort to learn from each other. It sounds like the Drupal environment makes it much easier for developers to support their work. The WordPress support forums really are not great in terms of their setup. There are some very dedicated volunteers there, but it’s not a user-friendly environment.

  4. Rudd says:

    I’m using this plugin, and really like it. Few years ago, I hate this plugin so much since it got to many things to configure – no it’s not that bad.

    There are two more points I’d like to add:

    1. You can see the how the meta description will look like in Google from the post editor.

    2. Secondly, this plugin is extendable plugin, which means that Yoast has built this plugin with developer in mind, therefore it’s very easy to extend this plugin using addons. Currently, there are few premium addons available such as Video SEO and Local SEO plugin.

  5. Ovidiu says:

    I seem to be missing this tag in my posts: article:author

    Anything I need to configure within Yoast’s plugin to get this?

    • You need to go to your user profile, and add the URL of your Google+ profile. Also, make sure that your user is the one listed as the author of posts you want to have connected to your profile.

  6. […] WP Garage has an article on the 6 Reasons Why WordPress SEO by Yoast is Awesome […]

  7. […] For more information on what type of data Yoast’s plugin can add, and how to configure it for your site, check out the presentation above. And for more on the awesome things Yoast’s plugin does under the hood of your WordPress website, check out my post on WPGarage: 6 reasons Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is even more awesome then you realize. […]

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