If you have a WordPress blog, then you probably have heard of Yoast. Yoast, short for Yoast SEO, is a plugin for WordPress used to help bloggers easily make their posts and their website as friendly to search engines as possible. Yoast employs a traffic-light rating system that is easy to understand and makes helpful suggestions about your posts to optimize them for search traffic and search rankings. The idea behind Yoast is that the blogger just keeps adjusting until the lights turn green.
Of course, Yoast only works if you use it correctly. Blind adjustments without regard to anything but turning those little dots on the screen from red or yellow to green will not, ultimately, yield the results you want with a high level of predictability. In fact, sometimes users find Yoast hurts their content strategy even as it helps their SEO. Counterintuitive and frustrating, but true. We’ve broken down the pro’s and con’s of using Yoast to help you decide if this tool could be right for you.
Yoast is not confusing. You have a checklist for your SEO requirements, and you have little dots that are colored red, yellow, or green. Red means you have some work to do; yellow indicates things are improving but not optimal, and green means you are in solid SEO territory.
In the past, you could use keywords as much as you wanted, and it was a good thing by search engine standards. These days, more than 3 percent keyword density (at very most) sends you into the spam category. Since it is pretty easy to inadvertently use a keyword in excess of 3 percent, it’s nice to have Yoast keeping track of this.
Yoast is set up in such a way that you can easily write descriptions and titles for your new post that are customized for Twitter and Facebook, then share the descriptions on your social media platforms. You can also add custom images for Twitter and Facebook posting.
Just when you thought you had found a one-stop shop for SEO optimization, we’re here to burst your bubble. Yoast SEO, while easy to use and a great supplement to your website, is not going to revolutionize your search engine rankings all on its own. Yoast relies on you to know “when to say when” when it comes to turning those lights green and to understand what keywords are appropriate for your content. It does not consider your overarching content strategy or readability outside of certain basic parameters.
When Google decided to consider “intent” when ranking websites, the SEO world got a little murkier. Somehow, Google search algorithms are going to know when you meant to use a keyword but opted for a similar-but-not-identical term. This means that searching garners, in most cases, better results for the searcher’s intentions. For example, if you search “pound cake recipes” and “best pound cakes” you will probably get similar results. Since Yoast does not consider intent, it can get keyword density measures wrong and affect your real-life results if you do not consider intent on your own when using Yoast.
Last year, Yoast discovered a security vulnerability that affected users operating the SEO Manager version of the plugin. Essentially, if a certain series of actions was not followed in the order Yoast expected, there might have been a “crack” in the system that would let a hacker in. The company updated its security and released a fix last November, but many Yoast users have not upgraded to activate the fix. While this specific issue has been remedied, some developers warned at the time that another one might emerge in the future.
In most cases, if you have the option of installing the Yoast plugin on your blog, you will benefit from the information it provides. However, you cannot rely on Yoast alone for SEO optimization or content strategy. Use this plugin as part of a broader content marketing plan, focusing on the parts of Yoast the best meet your goals rather than permitting the plugin to run your posts entirely.