The SEO Framework plugin has been making some impressive strides in the WordPress SEO space. For anyone who has used Yoast or All in One SEO, this newcomer feels like a more modern take on how search engines rank your website today. Started in 2015 by plugin author Sybre Waaijer – The SEO Framework has quickly become a must-have plugin for site owners, SEO experts and beginners alike. When you install and configure this plugin for the first time – it’s easy to understand why. It currently sits at 50,000+ active installs with a nearly perfect 5 star rating.
Whether you just installed this plugin or you would like to know how to best configure The SEO Framework settings, this step by step guide will walk you through our process. Our process will start from the factory settings once the plugin is freshly installed.
Set Up and Configure The SEO Framework – Index Guide
- Plugin Installation
- SEO General Settings
- Title Settings
- Description Meta Settings
- Home Page Settings
- Social Meta Settings
- Schema Settings
- Robots Meta Settings
- Webmaster Settings
- Sitemap Settings
- Feed Settings
- SEO Framework Extensions
- Bonus tip – Switching from another SEO plugin.
Step 1 – Plugin Installation
To being installing, log into WordPress and navigate to the Add New section within the Plugins tab. Type ”The SEO Framework” and hit that install button. Once installed, click activate. You will notice a new SEO tab on your WordPress dashboard. All of your settings are located there.
Step 2 – SEO General Settings
The general settings section has 4 main tabs – Layout, Performance, Canonical and Timestamps. The administrative layout settings should be displayed first, giving you a visual reference guide for SEO hints and ratings for blog posts / pages.
» Layout Tab
By default, the SEO bar in overview tables is selected. You can see this feature by navigating to the Posts tab from your WP dashboard. Here, you’ll see a very useful rating bar for the following:
- TG – Title length: How the title of your post/page appears on SERPs. Keeping this the same as your assigned title is usually the best choice. If you decide to change it up, keep it as closely related as possible. Generally, you want this bar to be green or yellow.
- DG – Description length: This is how the meta description displays on SERPs. When not filled out, this plugin will automatically generate. It’s recommended that you write a unique description that relates to the subject matter. Generally, you want this bar to be green or yellow.
- I – Index: Whether or not the post/page is being indexed. This will always be green unless you have noindex selected in your visibility settings or you have “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” checked in your reading settings.
- F – Follow: If you want search engines to follow your post/page, always have this set to green. Optionally, you can select the nofollow option in the post SEO visibility settings.
- A – Archive: If you want search engines to archive your post/page, always have this set to green. Optionally, you can select the noarchive option in the post SEO visibility settings.
- R – Redirect: Indicates weather or not the post/page is being redirected to another URL.
The second option is de-selected by default: “Display the SEO Bar in the SEO Settings metabox?” by selecting this option, the same SEO bar from the overview tables will display in the post settings meta box:
Counter settings gives you two display options – pixel counters and character counters. These counters will display inside the SEO settings metabox while editing a post or page. Similar to how the SEO bar is displayed.
The pixel counter is an approximate reading based on the average width of SERPS. So it will tell you if your title or description is too lengthy, a good tool to have when configuring your SEO. The character counter gives a similar reading but is based on the number of characters used in your metabox. Having both of these options selected is recommended for best configuration.
» Performance Tab
This tab controls the overall performance of how the plugin interacts with your server. In most cases, the pre-selected settings for these performance options will deliver the best results. Within this tab, there are 2 main sections:
- Query Alteration Settings: If your website has thousands of pages, these options can greatly affect database performance.
- Transient Cache Settings: To improve performance, generated SEO output can be stored in the database as transient cache.
» Canonical Tab
This controls the canonical URL settings. For those who don’t know what a canonical URl is for, it points search engines to the preferred link when similar or duplicate content appears on the page. This prevents getting penalized by Google and other search engines. By default, THE SEO Framework automatically assigns these to your pages. Something every SEO plugin should have!
Scheme Settings is handy when you have an SSL certificate enabled on your WordPress site. If you prefer your URL to be HTTPS instead of HTTP (which you always should) then set the preferred canonical URL scheme to HTTPS.
Link Relationship Settings has “rel” link tags added to the Home page and Archive pages automatically. Keep these options selected for better consistency. Select the “rel” checkbox for the Posts and Pages option only if you have multiple pages that point to a single page or post.
» Timestamps Tab
The timestamp format settings inform search engines the exact date & time as to when your posts were published. This also applies to any modifications you might do over time. By default, the bottom setting:
2017-12-11T15:18-01:00 is selected. Keep this on for best results. It adds hours, minutes and time zone to the timestamp, a great feature to have for search engines (think geo-location and time filters).
Step 3 – Title Settings
The title settings are for configuring how your
title tag appears in the web browser and SERPs. This section has 3 sub tabs: – General, Additions and Prefixes.
Note that these settings only effect your sub-pages and blog posts. There is a separate section for home page settings in step #5.
» General Tab
From the screenshot above, you’ll notice a preview under the automated title output. You can change this by clicking on different types of separators for the
title tag. Changing this has no effect on a website’s SEO, it’s simply a preference for the user. The pipe option “|” is the most commonly used separator on the web. Likely because it’s easy to scan.
» Additions Tab
The title additions location determines which side your site name appears within the
title tag on web browsers & search engine results. I recommend setting this to the right. Typically, you’ll want users to see the title/subject of the page first, followed by your site name.
» Prefixes Tab
The title prefix determines whether or not you want the WordPress archives added to the
title tag on web browsers. This includes categories, tags, archives, etc. There is an option to remove this feature, but I recommend you keep this on so a search engine can easily recognize what type of page it’s crawling.
Step 4 – Description Meta Settings
The description meta settings are where you configure how the
meta name="description" appears on SERPs. This section has only two tabs: General and Additions.
» General Tab
Similarly to the title settings, you can choose a separator if you decide to split your meta description in two parts.
» Additions Tab
By default, The SEO Framework Plugin automates meta descriptions based on the content within the page or blog post. This is good for users who think of SEO as an afterthought. The automated description will include the title of the page/post, your website name followed by the starting content. For best results, I recommend that you create your own custom post title and custom post description. This way it appears more organic. SEO experts will often fill these out based on the subject topic & keywords.
Step 5 – Home Page Settings
The home page settings determine your title, description and how your social media presence appears when shared. These options should always be filled out and customized carefully. A website’s homepage could have the biggest impact on potential clients. This section has four tabs: General, Additions, Robots and Social.
» General Tab
Starting from the top, the custom home page title tagline is being pulled in from the website tagline that was set up during the WordPress install. You can change this under: Settings – General, within the WordPress dashboard.
The custom home page title should be kept between 40 – 70 characters long for readability. Anything above 75+ will get a bad rating from the SEO Framework. Be sure that the character counter and pixel counter options are enabled from step #2.
Most SEO experts will tell you to keep your meta descriptions around 160 characters. Thanks to the handy pixel counter bar, you’ll know that your description could be cut off on SERPs around 130 characters. I recommend keeping the home page description between 130 – 160. This way you’re not losing quality keywords while keeping your description intriguing.
» Additions Tab
The title additions location determines which side your site name appears followed by the home page tagline. By default, your site title will appear to the right. Usually this is the recommended setting. But sometimes, it may be better to have your site name followed by the tagline (think one-page websites).
There is another option to disable The home page tagline all together. This is a good idea if you want to fully customize your home page SEO. If you uncheck this option, make sure you have your custom title and custom description fields filled out.
» Robots Tab
Here you have the option to set a
noarchive strictly for the home page. All of these meta settings prevent search engines from indexing the home page in any sort of search results. So make sure none of these options are selected, with the exception being that you’re working on a staging site. The more recommended way to do this is through the WordPress reading settings.
» Social Tab
Step 6 – Social Meta Settings
The social meta settings are where you control how your WordPress site is being represented through social media platforms such as Twitter & Facebook. As SEO experts know, social media platforms can direct a lot of traffic to your website if used properly. By default, the meta tag settings under the General tab are pre-selected. The open graph, Facebook, and Twitter meta tags should always be used. Even if you don’t directly share your site links, there is always a chance that a user could share a page or post through their social media profile. The meta title & meta description tags will always pull from your post SEO settings from steps 3 & 4. So make sure they’re filled out accordingly.
Below the meta tag options, you’ll notice another option for Social Image Settings. This will act as a fallback image, in the case that the URL being shared does not have a featured image assigned. I recommend to fill this out. Although it may never been seen, it’s always good to have a fallback. Images grab the attention of users and are proven to increase click rates by up to 40%.
At the bottom of the General tab are the Site Shortlink Settings. The SEO Framework author describes the reasoning of using this option as such:
The shortlink tag can be manually used for microblogging services like Twitter, but it has no SEO value whatsoever.
So If you plan on sharing links through Twitter on a regular basis, this would be a good option to consider.
» Facebook Tab
The SEO Framework has built in Facebook integration settings for your Facebook business/author page. This is good for sharing posts, pages, or promotions. It also has a section for linking up a Facebook app. When these options are filled in, Facebook might link your business profile to be followed or liked when a post/page is shared.
» Twitter Tab
The Twitter social settings mostly pull in from the meta tags that are selected from the General tab. There are a few extra settings you can assign such as how the featured image will be displayed through Twitter. If you’re not sure what the difference is between a summary image of summary large image, this plugin provides you with examples from the official Twitter help page. You can also link up your profile & author URL. When this is filled in, Twitter might link the URL when a post/page is shared.
» Post Dates Tab
The post date settings add an optional
article:modified_time to social media platforms. This adds published and modified timestamps to the sharing snippet. This only applies to certain social sites.
Step 7 – Schema Settings
One of the best features of this plugin is that it has built-in schema output settings that you can fully customize. The SEO Framework author describes this feature as such:
The Schema.org markup is a standard way of annotating structured data for Search Engines. This markup is represented within hidden scripts throughout the website.
When you include structured data markup on your posts & pages, it makes it easier for search engines to index your content better for SERPs.
All the options for the schema settings should be turned on by default. It’s recommended that you keep these on for a greater chance of being indexed sooner rather than later.
» Presence Tab
The authorized presence options enable you to give a name for the schema data (the name of your company or website). This is represented within the schema.org output. There is also an option to upload a custom logo. You may notice the logo setting is cropped to a square shape. If your logo will fit, use your full logo. Otherwise, it’s recommended that you upload the website’s favicon image.
Next you should see the Connected Social Pages. Schema.org recommends that you connect your business pages via social media to its markup. This should boost your chances of being recognized as an official business online. This let’s search engines know that your verified through multiple online platforms. Make sure you copy the correct URL’s for these options. If filled incorrectly, it will have no effect.
Step 8 – Robots Meta Settings
The robots meta settings are where you control what type of pages are being indexed through search engines. Because WordPress has different types of page templates (categories, search results, archives, etc.) there is a strong possibility of having duplicate content being crawled. It’s a good idea to tell search engines what types of pages to ignore, to avoid getting content penalties.
This section has 4 main tabs: General, Indexing, Following and Archiving. Once you configure the indexing options, the rest are self-explanatory.
» General Tab
The SEO Framework has applied a
noydir for the entire site. It’s best to keep this setting on. As the author explains, Yahoo may contain outdated SEO values and this will prevent old listings within Yahoo’s results.
Paginated archive settings have a
noindex applied to the second page and later. This should be kept on to avoid content duplication penalties by search engines. Typically, you don’t want archives being crawled. They are created mainly for the users benefit.
» Indexing Tab
This section gives you the option to prevent the indexing of other WordPress generated pages. By default, the Date Archives, Search Pages and Attachment pages are selected to be hidden. I also recommend selecting either the Category or Tag Archives as well, but not both. Depending on what you use for blog posts, categories and tags are basically the same thing. Using both gives users a better idea on what the topic is about. For search engines, having both types of archives being crawled will likely cause a duplication penalty.
» Following & Archiving Tabs
Step 9 – Webmaster Meta Settings
Once your new website is setup and ready to be validate, you generally want to visit a webmaster tools page. Search engines such as Google & Bing provide webmaster verification codes to confirm ownership of your newfound website. If you want to avoid the traditional way of uploading the .HTML page to your web server, use the webmaster meta settings that this plugin provides. Because it’s handy to have your verification codes all in one place!
Step 10 – Sitemap Settings
As with any good SEO plugin, an XML sitemap integration should be included. The SEO Framework takes it even further by adding in robots.txt, timestamps, ping settings and custom styling configuration.
Sitemaps generate an XML file that search engines can use to list all of your website posts & pages. This will be updated every time a new post/page is published or modified. By default, the Output Sitemap setting is pre-selected. You should always keep this on, unless you’re intentionally trying to hide your website from search engines. The sitemap URL can be found from the link labeled “here“.
The author of this plugin describes the robot.txt settings as:
The robots.txt file is the first thing search engines look for. If you add the sitemap location in the robots.txt file, then search engines will look for and index the sitemap.
If a sitemap location is not included in your robots.txt file, a manual submission via webmaster tools will need to be provided. You will not need to worry about doing this step. This plugin provides the sitemap location in your robots.txt file by default. As long as the option is not un-selected. The robots.txt URL can be found from the link labeled “here“.
The timestamp settings add the
<lastmod> snippet to your sitemap file. When you revisit your old posts and make them up to date, this will let search engines know if you’re keeping your content relevant. As the plugin suggests, this may not affect your SEO rankings unless you drastically change your content.
» Ping Settings
The term “ping” is used to describe whether or not search engines (such as Google or Bing) are notified when a new post/page has been published. When your ping settings are turned on, there is a good chance that your new content will be indexed sooner rather than later. I recommend to keep the “Notify Search Engines” options selected.
» Styling the Sitemap
The sitemap styles can be viewed by visiting your website URL with /sitemap.xml added to the end. Or you can click the link from general sitemap settings labeled “here“. Styling the sitemap has no SEO value. It’s mainly for a user’s preference. If you would rather have no styles added to the sitemap file, click the “enable sitemap” option to disable this setting.
Step 11 – Feed Settings
The feed settings from this plugin enable you to convert the typical WordPress feeds (RSS) into an excerpt. According to the author, sometimes website content can be stolen by robots, causing duplicate content across the web.
There is also an option for adding a link source to the original URL of which the content was pulled. This backlink lets visitors know where the content came from. I recommend that this setting be kept on. Backlinks are great for letting search engines know the source of all unique content on the web.
At the bottom of the feed settings, a URL can be found for your website by clicking the “here” link. This is mainly used for RSS readers.
Step 12 – SEO Framework Extensions
If you wish to extend the functionality of the SEO Framework, the same author has created an extension manager plugin to further advance its SEO capabilities.
The extension manager comes pre-loaded with 8 feature extensions. You can activate the ones you think you’ll need for your website. A number of these extensions can be done with separate plugins. But why not have everything under one plugin framework? I recommend you do the research on what each of these extensions do. That way, you’re not over-cluttering WordPress with features you don’t necessarily need.
6 of these extensions are free to use, while 2 need a premium upgrade. Premium users will also get access to future extensions!
Bonus tip – Switching From Another SEO Plugin
If you want to start using The SEO Framework but currently have another SEO plugin installed, you’ll need to transfer your SEO meta data to avoid duplicates. If you’re switching from Genesis SEO, you’re in luck. The SEO framework was initially written to extend Genesis SEO, so the data should transfer automatically.
If you want to switch from Yoast SEO, All In One SEO Pack, or another common SEO plugin, I recommend using the SEO Data Transporter from WordPress.org. The data transporter is a plugin that will allow you to transfer your SEO data to the SEO Framework. The supported plugins from version 1.0.0 are as follows:
- Add Meta Tags
- All in One SEO Pack
- Greg’s High Performance SEO
- Infinite SEO
- Jetpack Advanced SEO
- Meta SEO Pack
- Platinum SEO
- SEO Title Tag
- SEO Ultimate
- Yoast SEO
The SEO Framework is great for getting your WordPress site on the map. Compared to other well-known SEO plugins, this one has way less bloat, does not stick ads on your dashboard and is refreshingly customizable. I hope this guide was able to help you decide on the best configuration for at least some of plugin settings. I will do my best to keep this up to date as future versions get released.