Content optimization does NOT mean getting green lights in Yoast – and I think it’s time someone drops the bomb on Yoast’s SEO analysis when it tells you to use your focus keyword.
The problem is, Yoast’s SEO analysis only detects exact matches of your focus keyword in the visual and HTML editor (not page builders). It does not detect plurals, synonyms, or partial matches of your keyword. So when you’re writing a nice page title and snippet (SEO title + meta description) people will actually click in search results, don’t just use your exact focus keyword to get green lights in Yoast’s SEO analysis. Consider click-through rates (CTR) as well.
The solution is, to find a balance between using your focus keyword AND make your content + snippets read nicely. If my focus keyword is “Yoast Focus Keywords” my SEO title could be: How To Choose Focus Keywords In Yoast (You Can Actually Rank For). It’s not an exact match, and I don’t use the keyword in the beginning of the SEO title like Yoast wants, so 2 bullets will be red in Yoast’s SEO analysis. But it’s a nice headline and I rank #5 for this keyword (Yoast has the top 4 results). So it’s perfectly OK to not include exact matches and get red lights in Yoast.
Here’s a post where I rank #1 for these keywords: yoast settings, yoast settings 2018, yoast wordpress seo settings, best yoast settings, among other keywords about configuring Yoast.
How I selected my focus keyword…
Post titles are usually much longer than page titles… this is the only major difference in how I optimize pages vs. posts. My page on WordPress SEO Consulting has a simple page title of “WordPress SEO Consulting.” But my post title for this tutorial you’re reading is… way longer.
Google is giving less and less importance on keyword density and more weight on quality content. Yes, you should still mention your focus keyword (or a partial match of it) a few times in the content, and most importantly, once in the first couple sentences. But to go through all your pages/posts and inject your focus keyword… it’s not a good investment of time. You’re better off improving content. My keyword density % in Yoast is usually red, anywhere from 0-1% especially since I don’t always use exact matches, which is the only thing Yoast will detect.
Yoast’s SEO analysis prompts you to remove stop words (common words most search engines skip over) like the, a, and, in, etc. Sometimes you SHOULD shorten URLs to only include your focus keyword. WordPress automatically uses the page/post title for your URL, so the URL for this post you’re reading now would have been VERY LONG. So to emphasize my keywords, I shortened it to be https://onlinemediamasters.com/yoast-green-lights-in-seo-analysis/
But sometimes it’s not a good idea to remove stop words since this makes URLs confusing on what the topic is actually about. Here are examples when you shouldn’t remove stop words:
See how they don’t even make sense? Yes, you should shorten URLs and include your focus keyword. But if stop words make it read funny like in the examples above, don’t remove them.
If you have an image that describes your focus keyword, by all means use it as the alt text. But there is absolutely no reason to go hunting for images and change their alt text just to get another green light in Yoast. As long as you’re uploading images with a file name that actually describes the image, and use the file name as the alt text, you will be FINE (and you will probably have some nice partial matches of your keyword)! This tutorial has images for Yoast’s SEO analysis, focus keywords, bulk editor… so I will name them just like that. Keep it simple.
If you’re using a page builder, Yoast’s SEO analysis won’t detect anything here, so you will need to do the on-page SEO manually. Just do it how you would on any content, you just won’t be able to tell when your lights turn green in Yoast. The SEO analysis doesn’t analyze content outside the WordPress Visual/HTML Editor, so this also applies to widgetized homepages.
The only time you should use your exact focus keyword is if it sounds natural (no injecting spammy keywords, no injecting them into SEO titles + meta descriptions at the cost of lower CTRs). But if you can still write a nice headline with your exact keyword, go ahead and do it.
SEO Titles Where I Use An Exact Match:
If you want to rewrite your SEO titles + meta descriptions to sound nice (and I would definitely recommend doing this), Yoast’s bulk editor lets you do it without going through individual pages/posts (it’s under SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor). The bulk editor doesn’t tell you each page’s focus keyword, and it does not measure the length of SEO titles + meta descriptions. SEO titles should be 50-60 characters, meta descriptions should be 150-160 (however in 2018, Google extended meta description length in many results and Moz now recommends 300 characters).
It’s counterproductive. You’re better off spending time improving content on 1 single page than creating a bunch of pages with mediocre content targeting the same focus keyword.
The biggest problem I see with people using Yoast is choosing broad, competitive keywords they will never rank for. If you’re not ranking on the TOP of page 1 for many of your keywords, start choosing more specific (long-tail) phrases in Google Autocomplete. And if you’re still not ranking, get even more specific. Usually only websites with high domain authority (you can check this in OSE) can rank for broad, competitive keywords. Until then, always go long-tail.
Always Google your keyword and analyze the search results. Avoid competing with strong content (that covers the topic extensively) and authority websites like credit.com, amazon.com, etc. If you can create better content than the top results, you have a chance.
Use MozBar to Google your keyword and see each result’s PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority). Try to only compete with websites in your domain authority range.
Moz Keyword Explorer is also a great place to find keywords (it’s much better than Google Keyword Planner). Once you’ve narrowed down a list of long-tail keywords and analyzed search results to avoid strong content and authority websites, you’ll have a nice keyword list.
These are all situational on the page/post, whether you actually have an image that describes your focus keyword, and whether you can write headlines/snippets that include your keyword AND still sound nice. Yoast is still a great SEO plugin, but I think they need to incorporate my warning to prevent people from injecting their focus keyword at the cost of spammy content.
Do you agree?
Want some quick and easy tips to make your WordPress site SEO-friendly?
I’ll show you how to do this using different tools/strategies including Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin, Google Webmaster Tools, and keyword optimization. There is more to SEO than 9 items (there’s over 200 factors in Google) but my tips will get you on the right track – and I’m sure you will learn something new especially with the resources I mention in this guide.
Here’s what to do…
Domain – having keywords in the domain helps SEO, but according to Matt Cutts it’s better to choose something brandable. More people will remember your site, trust it, link to it, etc.
Hosting – site speed, uptimes, and security all affect SEO – and hosting is the best place to start. I use SiteGround’s semi-dedicated GoGeek plan ($14.95/month) but they also have other shared hosting for as low as $3.95/month as well as Cloud hosting for $54/month. You don’t want hosting issues affecting your SEO because trust me, it can. Choose a good host!
Theme – some WordPress themes are more SEO-friendly than others, since your theme affects site speed, security, support for rich snippets and other SEO factors. Here’s my list of 25 themes which are SEO-friendly and built in the Genesis Framework (Genesis is SEO-friendly in itself and recommended by the Founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg.
Yoast is the most robust SEO Plugin, but it must be setup and utilized properly if you want the best results for your WordPress SEO. To do this, I broke Yoast down into 3 steps:
Configuring The Settings – see my tutorial which includes a zip file of the Yoast settings I use (you can upload it directly to your WordPress site). There are some fields you will need to change in the Yoast settings for YOUR website – which I’ve listed in that tutorial.
Researching Keywords – see the video…
Optimizing Content For Keywords – see the video…
Structuring your permalinks around your different product/service/location keywords is part of “site structure” and making your site user-friendly. Below are some common examples of ways to do this, which you would do in WordPress using parent pages.
To do this, create the parent page (eg. /services) then create the other page (eg. /web-design). When editing the web design page you will see an option on the right of your dashboard to set the parent page which in this case would be “services” (photo below). This will make the web design page’s permalink read: website.com/services/web-design/
In step #2 I talked about configuring the Yoast settings. I already wrote an extensive article on how to do that, so I simply linked to that article. This helps you, my readers, find additional information about Yoast. At the same time it creates a link to that article which improve it’s SEO. Interlinking pages/posts like this is the easiest way to build natural links!
Videos improve engagement, reduce bounce rates, increase conversions, and the videos themselves can even appear in search results (photo below). You can also use Yoast’s Video SEO Plugin to better optimize your videos. Just make sure you follow the same basic SEO strategies as you do your pages/posts (research a keyword, then use it in the file name before you upload it, video tile, description, then promote it to get views/likes/comments.
Fixing mobile issues, security issues, bad meta descriptions, and other errors will improve SEO. Once you’ve verified Google Webmaster with Yoast, go through my list…
Find this in your Google Webmaster Tools account under search appearance –> HTML Improvements. This tells you which SEO titles and meta descriptions are too long, short, are missing, or where it’s a duplicates. Click the links in GWT to go to each page and fix it.
Find under search traffic –> mobile usability (or check here).
Find under security issues (a main tab on the left).
You know content is king, but what have you done about it? Other than checking for typos and making sure your copy reads well, what else can you do?
Well I’ll tell you – you should spruce it up! Use videos, columns, add an HTML table of contents, embed Twitter statuses and make your content shine! I wrote a nice list on how to spruce up your WordPress content which includes 21 ideas – it’s worth checking out.
That’s all I got for now! I have tons of resources on my sidebar widgets/footer if you want more tips on making your WordPress site SEO-friendly. Other than that, please share this article if you found it helpful! Or drop me a line if you need help with anything SEO-related.