One of my favorite childhood games was Red Light, Green Light. When it was green, I’d sprint to the other side, however in the SEO world, the green light in Yoast SEO doesn’t always mean that you’re being smart about SEO. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing whether you should ignore Yoast for SEO writing, how to use Yoast effectively, and best practices with writing SEO optimized content with keywords.
What is Yoast
In case you’re not using Yoast, Yoast is a SEO plug-in for WordPress that allows you write meta descriptions for your website’s webpages as well as specify SEO titles. It’s a generally helpful tool that allows you to see if you optimized for SEO Keywords. However, Yoast can be a bit overzealous in recommending that you use the same keyword over and over. As the Brits say, it’s like breaking a butterfly on a wheel. (I love butterflies and I’m so sorry for that!)
Mistakes that people make with using Yoast SEO
Their URL does not incorporate keywords
This is a small one, but something that can help you rank better on Google is changing your URL to hit a major keyword. A lot of people still use the date structure to their URLS or just leave their title as the URL, such as yourwebsite.com/blog/4/1/super-long-title-that-nobody-will-read-because-its-cut-off. Instead, fix your URL to be short and snazzy, such as yourwebsite.com/blog/keyword.
Using your keyword too many times
If you’re constantly checking to see if the light turns green, you’re overlooking a lot of things, probably good writing practices. For a long article, Yoast might recommend using a keyword up to 10-20 times, which is just excessive. Don’t feel that you need to listen to Yoast. It’s overkill.
Using only one keyword
The free version of Yoast has only one slot for keywords. So, you pick one keyword and you use it ten times until your Yoast SEO turns green. By the end of the article, anyone who knows about SEO will pick out your keyword and they’ll just be annoyed. (You don’t need the Premium version.)
It’s important to think about variants on the keyword and to write naturally. Good SEO-optimized content isn’t repetitive and my best ranking articles use these keywords in the text only about 2-4 times. The rest is natural writing that is intended to write about a topic of your choice.
Picking a terrible keyword
We’ll go more into this soon, but you will not rank for “travel” or “New York City.” I’m sorry, but you won’t (at least for a very long time). Until you’ve built your website, think about picking keywords that you think you’d search on Google to find your website. Unless your page is very broad, you generally want to tailor your keywords to what we call searcher intention.
I find that a lot of people pick keywords that seem a bit random related to a topic, which does not help you. If I search for “cheapest flight to Albania,” I do not to read an article about what to do in Albania, I simply want to find a cheap flight. The more specific, the better. Many people for instance are searching for long tail keywords. Instead of aiming for the country name, you should be writing an X itinerary for Y days or X budget travel tips. In some cases, these are quite competitive, but due to the way that Google Rankbrain works, it will reward you when your article answers someone question perfectly.
Unnatural keyword writing + Keyword packing
When I started getting into SEO writing, I did a lot of keyword packing. Let’s say that I wrote an article about the best things to do in New York. There’s often unnatural keywords that people search for on google and in my newbie SEO days, I might have included something as terrible as “the best things new york” as part of a header (cringe) in the hopes that I’d rank for it or awkwardly adding SEO keywords into my work, so that I’d have them included.
This is a terrible idea as Google RankBrain comprehends language as well as language structure, so if you want to include keywords, don’t keyword stuff. It’s so painful to read when someone is clearly ONLY writing a sentence just to add keywords. “An insider tip for X: The best things to do in X are sometimes the cheapest attractions in X.” Who wants to read this? Nobody. If you want to include all of these keywords, don’t stuff them into a small article. It’s better often to write another article that perfectly addresses a topic that is related, but not really answered in your article. Natural writing on a topic often ranks better than when you stuff them in.
Should you ignore Yoast?
Sometimes, yes, you should ignore Yoast! However, Yoast is still a valuable tool to help you improve your SEO and ensure that your SEO snippet is well-optimized for your most important keywords. Also, be sure that your URL includes your most important keyword. However, your Yoast doesn’t need to turn green for you to get website traffic. If you can believe it, I don’t even check the color because I know that I’ve incorporated my keywords into the article. Let it go.
How to use Yoast effectively and generally good SEO practices to keep in mind
I know you all love the green light, so I won’t take that away from you. However, it can be yellow with everything else being optimized thanks to Yoast. (If your article is 1000+ words, it’s unlikely that your Yoast will turn green unless you keyword spam.)
ALWAYS FILL OUT THE SNIPPET. Even if you’re not sure what keywords to write, fill it out with your best guess. I generally find that including words relevant to your topic that touch on the following bits: advice, tips, itineraries, best ____, things to ____, etc. always do well. Just include a few and make someone want to click. Why is your website special among all these articles.
Changing out the keyword
This is a hack for all of y’all who love Yoast who are too cheap to buy the Premium version. Write for one keyword–then change it out and press update. Tada, two keywords checked within your article.
Incorporate your keywords into your title
Always fill out your SEO title as you don’t want your title getting cut off as it adds your website name. Make it clickable and even consider adding two keywords to the title. For instance, this blog’s title touches on three big keywords, should you ignore Yoast, Yoast SEO, and how to use Yoast SEO. (We’re clever, huh?)
The cool thing is that Yoast allows you to specify two different titles: One that is used for Facebook (and your website) and one that is used for SEO. For SEO, you can sometimes have a really boring one as it reaches your audience and tells people what your website is about, however for your readers, you can have a more fun title. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make all your titles exciting/cool as it doesn’t always help you with SEO.
Don’t overdo your keywords; Yoast is overkill
You don’t need your keyword in your article or website copy ten times. A few times is enough, especially if it’s in the SEO snippet and the title. Consider what phrases are related or similar to your main keywords. Even if you think that your main keyword sounds natural, switch it up. Use a thesaurus.
Delete the word it and replace it with a secondary keyword
It takes up valuable space that you can use for keywords or words that will bring you traffic. I always read over my blogs to delete the word IT as much as possible. You can replace it with another word that is far more interesting and that will help you rank better.
Headers help you with SEO
You want people to stay on your page. If your page is a massive text block, nobody wants to read that, especially on mobile. Use headers to make your page more digestible (along with enters). Also, having your keywords within H1s and H2s is good for SEO.
Alt text is essential for SEO
Don’t copy and paste the same SEO snippet onto your images. I did this during my first six months of running my website. Google does not enjoy duplicate content and alt text on images is supposed to describe the images. I simply changed out the text to describe the image while incorporating different keywords that may be secondary to your website and I saw a huge increase in traffic just after doing this. Do it for every image.