Stop Obsessing Over Green Lights In Yoast’s SEO Analysis

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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.

  1. What Yoast’s SEO Analysis SHOULD Say
  2. Optimized Post (Example)
  3. Writing Headlines For Pages vs. Posts
  4. Keyword Density Barely Matters
  5. When To Shorten URLs (And Remove Stop Words)
  6. Image Alt Text Should Just Describe The Image
  7. Yoast Doesn’t Analyze Content In Page Builders
  8. When To Use Exact Keyword Matches (Examples)
  9. Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite Your Snippets
  10. Don’t Target The Same Keyword On Multiple Pages
  11. Most People Don’t Choose The Right Focus Keywords

 

1. What Yoast’s SEO Analysis SHOULD Say

WARNING: injecting your focus keyword in the content body/snippets can make them look spammy! Have you thought about writing a nice SEO title to increase your CTR instead? Every result in Google will be using the keyword – why would anyone click your link? Yes, you should use your keyword in the page title, SEO title, and meta description… but you don’t have to use an exact match just to make your lights turn green. Just sprinkle it’s individual words throughout the text! Keywords and nice headline… find the balance. Forget about keyword density and using your keyword in the H2… we all know these barely matter in on-page SEO. Mention it in the first couple sentences and get back to creating awesome content (that is better than whoever’s in the top results for your keyword). Ps. if you’re using a page builder, Yoast won’t detect anything in your content, since it only analyzes content in the visual/HTML editor. Do not force yourself to get green lights.

Now go to Yoast’s bulk editor (SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor) and rewrite your SEO titles + meta descriptions so people actually want to click them!

Importance Of Yoast Green Lights

 

2. Optimized Post (Example)

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.

Yoast-SEO-Analysis

How I selected my focus keyword…

Yoast-Keyword-Research

Yoast-Keyword

 

3. Writing Headlines For Pages vs. Posts

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.

Page-Title

Post-Titles

 

4. Keyword Density Barely Matters

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.

Keyword-Density-Yoast

 

5. When To Shorten URLs (And Remove Stop Words)

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/

Yoast-Stop-Words

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:

Stop-Words-SEO

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.

 

6. Image Alt Text Should Just Describe The Image

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.

Yoast-Focus-Keyword-In-Alt-Text

 

7. Yoast Doesn’t Analyze Content In Page Builders

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.

 

8. When To Use Exact Keyword Matches (Examples)

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:

 

9. Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Rewrite Your Snippets

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).

Yoast-Bulk-Editor

 

10. Don’t Target The Same Keyword On Multiple Pages

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.

Duplicate-Focus-Keywords

 

11. Most People Don’t Choose The Right Focus Keywords

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.

Long-Tail Keywords

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.

Keyword Competition

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.

Mozbar Keyword Competition

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.

 

Conclusion: Yoast’s SEO Analysis Isn’t Perfect (Because…)

  • Yoast doesn’t take into account good headlines/CTRs
  • They only detect exact keyword matches, no partial matches
  • They prompt you to increase keyword density which barley matters
  • They prompt your to remove stop words, which can make URLs read funny
  • They prompt your to use your exact keyword in H2’s (causes spammy subheadings)
  • They prompt you to use your exact keyword in image alt text (even if it doesn’t describe the image)

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?

Cheers,
Tom

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