Debunking the Yoast Plugin: it’s a SEO Tool, Not a Strategy

Learning how to use the Yoast SEO Plugin can be super helpful when you’re new to SEO, but what happens when you’re relying on Yoast to give you that green light to basically tell you, “Hey, your blog post is good to go”? Now all you’re doing is trying to please that green light – even if it means you’re not focusing on the content and actual SEO.

Lemme tell ya – the green lights don’t matter.

If you feel like trying to get the green light is taking more time than writing an actual blog post, or you’re stressed about not having something that’s going to show up in Google because it’s not getting the score that you need – keep on reading, friend!

Yoast is an SEO tool, not a strategy

If you’re not familiar with Yoast, it’s the most popular SEO plugin. In a way, Yoast has become synonymous with SEO. People will hear “Yoast” and say, “Oh yeah, that’s the thing with the green lights!

But it has also confused people.

Yoast has somewhat oversimplified SEO into this traffic light framework that may not actually be the best way to produce content that works for you and your customers.

Yoast doesn’t know your strategy

I think the biggest way that Yoast has confused their users is the fact that it has a space for you to fill out one target or primary keyword for every post or page or project on your website and then makes all of its recommendations based on the keyword that you select.

And I think that the trouble that can come out of this is twofold.

First of all, it has no idea why you’re selecting that keyword or what the strategy is behind it.

You may choose a keyword that’s not appropriate for what you’re putting onto that page and then Yoast will actually make that blog post worse because it has no way of validating whether or not that keyword is a good choice for you and what you want people to do when they get to that page. Essentially, it’s not taking into consideration the quality of the keyword.

Search has evolved beyond one target keyword

The second problem with having one target keyword associated with each page is that it’s just not the best way to create content. Google has evolved past the point of expecting there to be one target keyword per page.

So, yes – Yoast can be a really good reminder and checklist – but by putting one phrase into all of the places that Yoast tells you to, you’re making your content sound more robotic. Think about it – you’re shoving those same words in the same order into multiple places on the page, which is awkward to read. Plus you’re limiting the number of ideas or concepts that the blog post can rank for.

Now, this approach used to work about 10/15 years ago. The way that you’d get a page to rank was based on a factor called keyword density (which is the percentage of words on your website that include that word/phrase).

But that’s just not true of what Google is looking for in content anymore. We don’t say the same phrase over and over again, even in a very conversational way; We find different ways to say the same things when we’re talking, and Google’s algorithm reflects that.

It’s okay to break the Yoast green light streak

Let’s say that you’re a dog trainer and you’re writing a blog post for your potential clients whose dogs keep barking all the time. You might think that the keyword for that post would be something like, “How to stop dog barking”. Yoast would probably think, “Okay, cool. That’s a great keyword.”

And although it’s a great keyword, the problem with Yoast (and this is true for most SEO plugins) is that it wants you to take those same five words in the same order, and put them into all the places that they’ve identified in that post. And the reality is, people may not be searching for that exact same phrase. People may search for, “How to stop your dog from barking” – and Yoast is going to see that and think that it’s entirely different.

So I give you permission to not feel the need to use the exact phrase in the same order, even if it breaks your green light streak.

Use H2 headings to segment & add other keywords

Another great way to optimize your posts for a variety of keywords and keyphrases is to include them as subheadings. You mayyyyy get a bit of pushback from these SEO plugins, but we’re trying to make our content reflect what people actually search. Give it the opportunity to rank for as many keywords as you want.

If you include more keywords in one post, Google is going to recognize the value of that and they’re going to send more people to that post.

If diversifying your content means that you miss out on that green light stamp of approval from Yoast or other SEO plugins, that’s totally okay.

Your Yoast score is not a performance metric

Remember that your Yoast score is an indication of how often you include a certain phrase in your post. It’s a checklist. It’s not a strategy