Plugins (part 2): Configure Yoast SEO + Install and Activate User Profile Picture plugin for WordPress


We continue our revised course with Internet Income Lesson thirty-five. Each new lesson of this course contains updated tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Author George Little continues to use plain English to explain the ins and outs of starting and running a profitable online business in today’s ever-changing global market. Read the previous lesson 34 here.

In this lesson, we will continue our discussion of configuring the Yoast SEO plugin, picking up with the Taxonomies tab under Titles and Metas. Then, we will guide you with installing and activating the User Profile Picture plugin.

Convenient Flow

"Taxonomy" may be an unfamiliar word to many of us. At first glance, you might think it has something to do with taxation and the economy, but that would be incorrect. If, like me, you grew up in a rural setting, you might think it related to the preserving of dead animals for display or study. This is close. That's taxidermy. If you think of preserving samples of species in order to classify various animals, you are getting even closer. In its basic definition, "taxonomy" is classifying things. It is an orderly way of grouping things based on observed similarities. The words "taxonomy", "classification", and "categorization" all have very similar meanings. A concrete way to think about it is to think about shelves in a retail store. You put all the things with one shared characteristic on one shelf and all the things with another shared characteristic on another shelf and so on. You arrange the shelves so that people can easily move from one to the other, depending on what they are interested in at the time. But, what does this have to do with Wordpress and websites?

In WordPress, a "taxonomy" is a grouping mechanism for posts (or links or custom post types). According to the Wordpress codex, "The names for the different groupings in a taxonomy are called terms. Using groupings of animals as an example, we might call one group "birds", and another group "fish." "Fish" and "birds" are terms in our taxonomy. As an example from WordPress, a category or tag is a term." Wordpress has four built-in taxonomies: "Category", "Tag", "Link Category", and "Post Format."

Recall our discussion of the importance of effective "flow" earlier in this course. Creating the proper flow is crucial to engaging your viewers. Taxonomies assist in allowing your viewers to move from one post to another easily in order to preserve the feeling of flow through the material. Flow is facilitated by proper arrangement of your menu(s) and by properly creating and configuring categories and tags.

To understand the "Category" taxonomy, let me give you an example. Let's say I have a blog about exercising. Some of the posts are about cardiovascular exercise. Some are about strength training. Some are about isometric exercise. Some are about participating in sports games. Some are about exercises in the gym. Others are about exercises you can do most anywhere. I suspect that some of my readers are interested only in cardiovascular exercises that do not require a gym subscription or the purchase of a fancy treadmill for the home. I can use wordpress to create a "category" just for "Cardiovascular." I can create another category for "No Gym Needed." By selecting these categories, those readers will see only the articles that hold their interest and will not have to filter through all the other articles.

I make this possible by going to the Wordpress Dashboard and clicking on "Posts." Under "Posts", I look for the link to "Categories" and click on it. On the resulting page, I can create, organize, and delete various categories. Once I have created a category scheme in this manner, my readers can then select the category of their interest and see a list of posts within that category only.

The "Tag" taxonomy is more free form. Rather than creating a tag scheme in advance, you create tags for your posts on the fly. Posts can have multiple tags. (Posts can also have multiple categories, but it is more awkward to do so with categories.) Tags then present themselves to the readers as "tag clouds", allowing readers to move from one post to a similar post, based on the particular aspect of the post that caught their interest.

The 'link_category' taxonomy lets you categorize your links. These are mostly used for internal organization of your posts, and are not usually exposed on the site itself. They are handy for defining groups of links to be displayed in sidebars and in inserts. (Although similar, this should not be confused with link organizational hierarchy. Under "Appearance/Menus" in the Dashboard, you can create an organizational hierarchy for your linking structure. This is not the same thing as creating link categories.)

Post Format
"Post Format" taxonomy can be ignored by most users. This is used primarily by theme designers. When you select different "themes" to try on your Wordpress blog, you are using the "Post Format" taxonomy although you may not be aware of it. Advanced users can create certain post formats for certain types of posts in order to utilize advanced features (mostly made available through plug-ins), but this is only useful if you will have many such posts using the same format.

Customized Taxonomies
Wordpress also allows for customized taxonomies. You can ignore these for now, but as you become an advanced Wordpress user, they will become of interest.

The Taxonomies Tab In Yoast

To get to the Taxonomies tab in Yoast, you go to your main Wordpress Dashboard. On the left hand vertical menu look for SEO. Continue moving down in the left hand main menu and a couple of links down you will see "Titles and Metas." (If you don't see this menu option, you may have failed to execute the advanced features earlier. If that is the case, review the previous two lessons and make sure you get these features activated.) When you click on Titles and Metas, you will see six tabs, one of which will be "Taxonomies." On the taxonomies configuration page, you will see sections for Categories, Tags, and Formats. Under each section, you will have the opportunity to modify three or four things: the title templates, the meta description, the indexes for robots, and whether certain boxes show on your pages.

Before we get into the specifics of these possible modifications, let's step back and look at the big picture again. Recall that the purpose of SEO configuration is to optimize the way the search engines respond to your site. When a search engine lists a page from your site (be that a static page, a blog post, or a page listing the posts in a category), it displays your page in the search results according to its ranking. The way it displays the link is of issue here. A particular search engine listing will have three sections, the title, the URL, and the description. The wording of the larger, bolder font at the top of the listing (the title) is influenced by what you name the category when you create it. The ordering format used to display that title in relation to the remainder of your site is determined by what you put in the taxonomies configuration.

This can be confusing, but it will become clear as you work with your site. For example, if I create a cardiovascular exercise category as in my earlier example, what I name that category will determine the words of the title in the search listing for that category page. Whether that title listing also shows additional information (such as the site name) and in what order it shows this information – is determined by how I set up the taxonomy configuration for categories. When you set the taxonomies title template for categories, it will apply to all categories used on your site.

When you modify the meta descriptions, you are modifying the way the description of your page may appear in the search engines. When you adjust the link indexes (turning them on or off), you are determining whether the search engines will even list the page in the first place. All of these adjustments may affect not only how your link appears to people making searches, but whether it even appears in some searches and the ranking it will have if it does appear.

With this big picture in mind, let's look at the specific choices you have on the taxonomies tab. If you choose to adjust the title template, please keep in mind that you are not creating a title here. (You create the title for the category when you create the category under the categories tabs elsewhere.) Rather, you are setting the template for how the link to this category page will be displayed in the search engines. You are including or excluding certain variables that can be shown or not shown and determining their order of appearance.

The default for the title template for categories looks like this, "%%term_title%% Archives %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%." So, if I had a site named "Exercise for Everyone" and if I created a category for "cardiovascular exercise" and did not change the category title template, it would show up on the search engines as follows:

Cardiovascular Exercise Archive – Exercise for Everyone

If I were to change the title template to "%%term_title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%", then it would should up like this:

Cardiovascular Exercise – Exercise for Everyone

Note that I only removed the term "Archives." That's more of a personal preference, but I would rather not see the word "Archives" show up. It is advised that you do not remove the page variable. (If you do, the second page will have the same title as your first page.) If you are confused, it's ok to leave the title_template as is. If you want to experiment, unfortunately it takes some time for your changes to be noticed by the search engines. You will have to wait until your site has been re-indexed and then go to the search engines to see how your changes show up.

Below the title and description templates, you have the opportunity to set index or no index for categories, tags and post formats. On categories, you will almost always want these to index. Otherwise, your categories will not show up at all in the search engines. Categories are helpful in including your pages in search queries, so you definitely want them indexed.

The same is true for your tags with one exception. If you have created far too many tags and they desperately need cleaning up, you may want to turn off indexing until you can clean them up and consolidate them. Otherwise, you want to set indexing to on for your tags.

Why So Much Discussion Here?

You may have noticed that we breezed through many of the other sections of Yoast SEO, just quickly making bulk suggestions to ignore things or leave settings as they are (and we'll finish the remaining settings that way as well). You may be wondering why I covered this particular tab in so much detail. I could have just recommended that you leave all the settings as they are and move on. I chose not to, however, because it would have become dizzyingly monotonous and you may have lost interest. It is important to understand taxonomies as they are important to having an effective site. This was a good place to slow down and bore into the details a bit. I felt that providing some insight here would help ground you before we finished up the subject of configuring Yoast SEO.

Despite the lengthy discussion, you may still be confused. That's understandable. It can be a complicated subject. If you are confused, just leave the settings as is and move on. Hopefully, the discussion will help you more quickly get the hang of things as you work with your Wordpress site in the future.

The Archives And The Other Tabs

There are two remaining tabs on the Titles and Metas page: Archives and Other. It is recommended that you take a moment to read through them so you are somewhat familiar with what they are about, but leave the default settings in place as they are.

The next link on the SEO submenu (within the main Dashboard vertical menu on the left) is "Social." This allows you to designate the URLs of all of your social media accounts that go with your site. It's pretty straightforward (and has been covered in an earlier setting within the configuration wizard). Just look up your social URLs and place them in the appropriate fields. (Note that with Twitter, you just use your handle and not the full URL.)

XML Sitemaps
The next link on the SEO submenu is for XML sitemaps. This page has four tabs: General, Post Types, Excluded Posts, and Taxonomies. XML is a format similar to HTML that is used to display and transfer organized data (much like a database). A sitemap is an XML document that contains information about each page on your site, including when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently. The SEO settings for XML Sitemaps that you can adjust under these four tabs allow you to include and exclude certain pages and types of pages or post from your sitemap. Read over the options for education purposes, but I recommend you leave the default settings as they are.

The next link on the SEO submenu is "Advanced." This page has three tabs: Breadcrumbs, Permalinks, and RSS. As you might guess since these are advanced settings, I recommend you leave the default settings in place unless you know what you are doing and have a good reason to change them.

The next link on the SEO submenu is "Tools." Three tools are provided here: a Bulk Editor, a File Editor, and an Import/Export Editor. These are all three useful tools when you need them. The Bulk Editor gives you a shorthand way to change the titles to many pages at once. This can be very useful when you are cleaning up and organizing your site. The File Editor is a bit misnamed in my opinion but can be extremely useful should you need to change your Robots.txt file on your site. Anytime you create a directory or file that you do not want to be part of your public site, you should make an entry in your Robots.txt file to disallow indexing of that directory or file. This is where you can do that on a Wordpress site. The last tool provides you import and export tools which can be handy if you are moving a Wordpress site from one server to another or one directory to another.

Search Console
The final link on the SEO submenu is "Search Console." It is pretty straightforward. It provides a field for you to input your Google Authorization Code (if you have not already done so) in order to use Google Analytics. We will discuss Google Analytics in a separate lesson.

Duplicate Settings and Later Modifications
And that gets us through the initial configuration of Yoast SEO. Note that there are many duplications of the same settings that have shown up in the configuration process. This results from Yoast placing most of the main settings for a particular function under the same tab, even though they may duplicate settings elsewhere. You can go back to any of these settings and modify them at a later date if a need arises.

User Profile Picture
Even though this lesson has run quite long already, we will, as promised, briefly explain using the one remaining Wordpress plugin we will be covering at this point in the course – the User Profile Picture. It won't take long as it is a very simple plugin. What this plugin allows is for you to use an uploaded photo in place of the default avatar in any place on your site where you are identified as the contributor. The advantage provided by this plugin is that it allows circumventing use of the Gravatar service to which Wordpress normally connects, thus eliminating one more place where you have to create an account. Instead, you can just upload your photo like any other media uploaded to Wordpress and use that photo in place of the avatar.

It's very simple to use. Find the plugin "User Profile Picture" using one of the two search methods we discussed in the last lesson, then upload and activate the plugin. Choose and upload the photo you want to use as you would any other media file on Wordpress (using Media/Add New in the Wordpress Dashboard). Then, all you have to do is click on "Users" in the Wordpress Dashboard Menu, select your user account and scroll down and select your photo from available media in the appropriate field. That's all there is to it!

In this lesson, we have worked through the remaining steps for configuring the Yoast SEO plugin, taking some time to discuses taxonomies and how they can be used to improve the flow and ranking of your site. Then, we have concluded with a quick how-to regarding the User Profile Picture plugin.

In our next lesson, we will introduce you to Google Analytics. And you may also browse through the Internet Income training Index.

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see

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