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18 May 2022
How to use (and not use) Yoast for your SEO optimisation strategy
There are a lot of tools out there for WordPress and other content management systems that are useful for different aspects of digital marketing. Yoast is an SEO plugin that is great for certain parts of creating a useful SEO strategy. It provides you with easy access to metadata, redirects and allows you to quickly and easily optimise XML sitemaps. That being said, there are limitations with the plugin and recommendations it may make that you should take with a pinch of salt.
Here we explore Yoast from an SEO perspective, and what you should and shouldn’t use it for to get the best results for your agency or in-house SEO team.
1. Use it to optimise metadata (but green doesn’t mean go)
The Yoast SEO plugin adds a helpful field when it comes to adding metadata at a page level, but their recommendations do not always line up with the best practice when it comes to title and description length. We typically recommend 50-60 characters for meta titles and 150-160 characters for meta descriptions. These may flag as too long or too short in Yoast, which can lead to confusion.
2. Use it to create and optimise XML sitemaps
XML Sitemaps are a useful way for search engines to understand the structure of your site and quickly discover pages. The Yoast SEO Plugin can be used to generate XML sitemaps that update automatically as you make changes to your site. This can save you a lot of time in creating your own sitemaps and as it automatically updates as you add new pages or make changes to existing pages, it means that your sitemap is always up-to-date and without errors.
3. Use it to implement canonical URLs
Canonical URLs help search engines to understand why two or more pages are so alike and how to deal with the collection of similar pages. For example, you may have two product pages on a site which have very similar content but are different variations of the same product. By adding a canonical URL to these pages, you let search engines know which page contains the original content and indicates that the duplication of content is purposeful and for a reason. Canonical URLs are very important in helping search engines to understand the structure of your site and to aid with crawling and indexing. Yoast SEO plugin allows you to add a canonical URL to any page or post without having to go into the code to add it directly.
4. Do not use it to proof your keyword targeting
The Yoast keyword incorporation scoring system is very rudimentary, and will often flag issues where it shouldn’t. Conducting robust keyword research outside of the tool will set you off on the right track for incorporating the right keyword and variations in your content. The greenlight of Yoast is not an SEO silver bullet, and should not be treated as such.
Yoast may flag your content as low on readability and SEO scores, which may lead to you accidentally keyword-stuffing your content. This is a big red flag when it comes to SEO, and is often touted as one of the main issues with Yoast.
6. Do not use it for internal linking suggestions
The standard Yoast SEO plugin reminds you to ensure each page contains internal links to other relevant pages, but the full internal links tool is only a feature of the Premium version of the plugin. Whilst it is important to be reminded to optimise your page with internal links, the best way to add internal links is manually, without the help of a plugin or tool. This is because search engines reward internal links that are unique, natural and most importantly helpful and relevant to a site visitor. Plugins can cause internal links to be repetitive and not personalised to the content of the paragraph you are adding the link to. By spending a little bit more time adding links manually, you are more likely to create personalised links with more diverse and keyword-targeted anchor text, which is better for both users and SEO.
So, is Yoast worth installing on your site?
Yoast is one of the most popular tools within the world of SEO, however, if you stick to it religiously you will not go very far with your optimisations. Using it as a helpful tool within your SEO arsenal is the way to go, the XML sitemap and user-friendly interface for the HTTP access file are great, however, the recommendations that Yoast tries to offer when it comes to content length and keyword targeting leaves a lot to be desired.
Overall Yoast gets a 6/10 when it comes to the Varn SEO tool review, it’s widely adopted across WordPress, has recently launched on Shopify, so you should get to grips with how to use and not use it to get the most out of your SEO.