Yoast: What are the pros and cons?
Yoast is often used as the benchmark by which SEO standards on a WordPress website are measured. Yet, while getting that green smiley might seem the be all and end all of SEO, in reality, using Yoast should be one tool in your SEO box. Here, we look at the pros and cons of Yoast and other SEO considerations you should be making when creating web content.
The pros of Yoast
There’s no denying it, Yoast provides a clear and easy to implement set of SEO standards for your web pages. Following them will, mostly, put you on the right SEO path. And there are certain aspects of SEO that Yoast really excels at.
Editing meta descriptions
Creating and updating meta descriptions is very straight forward on Yoast. The plugin presents you with a clear snippet preview that you can edit and optimise to be just the right level of description and length for search engines.
Internal links counter
Internal links between your web pages and posts are vital for Google’s bots to be able to get an overview of what your site is about. Yet, these internal links can be easily missed while creating content and adding new relevant links to older posts. Yoast allows you to keep track of how many internal links you have on each post and page through the dashboard, so you can review this regularly.
XML Sitemaps made easy
An XML sitemap is a file that lists a website’s essential pages, making sure Google can find and crawl them all. It also helps search engines understand your website structure. You want Google to crawl every important page of your website and the best way to ensure this is happening is to submit your site map for indexing in Google Search Console. Yoast makes this really easy to do as it compiles a sitemap, which you can download from your Yoast dashboard.
Setting different meta descriptions for social channels
It may be the case that when you create a new post, you would like to present it differently on different social channels. Yoast allows you to do this through the Social tab. Here, you can create a customised meta description for Facebook and Twitter and upload optimised images for those platforms.
The cons of Yoast
While it is clear that Yoast can provide you with some really handy SEO features and data to keep your site optimised, there is a limit to its powers. At the end of the day, Yoast performs a blanket search of your content and asks you to complete a tick box exercise. That is, it can never be as nuanced as you are, and worse still, it can throw your content off course if followed blindly.
The traffic light system
While easy to follow, the traffic light system on Yoast can be deceiving. On the SEO Analysis tab, Yoast outlines 16 categories it will use to analyse your content, from key phase density to SEO title length. It will then mark each category as either green (good result), amber (needs improvement), or red (problem result), giving you an overall score. However, there are a number of problems with this tick box method.
Focus keyphrase stuffing
The free version of Yoast asks that you create a single keyphrase and stick to it. It will not take into account variations on the keyphrase, such as plurals, changes in tense, rearranged words, or synonyms, which all help to optimise your content on search engines.
This can lead someone that does not have a rounded knowledge of SEO to try and add into their content as many repetitions of the keyphase as they can until they get the green tick. Sadly, this will likely create a piece of content that is usually challenging to read, full of jargon, irrelevant, or just plain indecipherable.
Yoast and Google
When followed rigidly, this aspect of Yoast can go directly against Google’s search algorithm, which has become very sophisticated. Google’s search engine has a much more nuanced approach to analysing content and, first and foremost, it looks to see if the content was created by a human for a human. One way in which Google does this is by using LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) to analyse conceptually related terms to keywords, that enable it to more deeply understand content on a webpage. When a knowledgeable person writes on a subject, they will naturally write like this and that is what Google wants to see.
As with the SEO Analysis, Yoast also analyses readability using the Flesch test to determine how easy the content is to read. While this analysis can help with certain poor writing habits, such as rarely using transition words that help to clarify and create flow in a piece, it does not take into account the audience the content is written for.
In general, the readability test favours a more conversational and simplistic style of writing. While this can suit some websites, it will not be suitable for all.
Make you content clear, yes, but also write for your brand, your audience and their expectations.
Conclusion: should you use Yoast?
If you have a site on WordPress and you are producing content for the public, then yes, you should use Yoast. It can make important SEO decision easy to follow and pick up on smaller SEO wins you may have missed. But, first and foremost, your content needs to be engaging, relevant, focused, nuanced, and, crucially, written for your audience and their expectations. That’s why the last word in SEO shouldn’t be dictated by a plugin.
If you would like to find out more about SEO for your website, please do get in touch.
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