Yoast SEO–For Good and Bad SEO

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The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is one of the very first plugins I install on any new site I am setting up, whether it is for me or a client.  Yoast SEO gives me complete control over many aspects of my on-site search engine optimization.  However,  with the release of my new SEO 2016 book I’ve been getting more and more questions about the plugin.  You see, in the book (and on my site and in my courses), I suggest that you do not create keyword-focused content.  My approach (since around 2005) has been to create theme-focused content, which mimics the kind of content that expert authors create naturally (you can read my “How I Write a Top Quality Article” post if you want to read more about that).  The problem is that some people seem to equate the Yoast SEO plugin with keyword focused SEO, and that is why I am getting asked to explain this apparent conflict.

It’s true.  The Yoast SEO plugin can help you optimize your page for a keyword phrase.  But it’s also true that in 2015, optimizing this way will cause your page problems – low rankings, no rankings or penalties.

However, Yoast SEO offers so much more.  If you ignore the keyword-focused optimization options within the plugin, there are plenty of other features that make this a must have SEO tool for WordPress.

I recorded a video to explain all of this, and show you what I use and what I don’t in Yoast SEO for WordPress.

It's a shame in many ways that to get to some really useful optimization tips (like advice on title length, or occurrence of h2 headers) that you have to enter a focus keyword.  Entering a focus keyword sends the webmaster the wrong signals about modern SEO.  It would be much better if Yoast would provide the optimization tips that were nothing to do with keywords, even to those who do not enter a focus keyword.

In the image below, you can see the Page Analysis that is only available AFTER entering a focus keyword.  The ones I've highlighted are actually good SEO tips.  It's a shame the plugin didn't give you these anyway.

yoast seo advice

The next screenshot shows the advice that is related to a specific keyword you are optimizing for, and these the items you need to be more careful about:

yoast seo advice 2

Are you using these keyword-focused tools in Yoast SEO?  I’d love to see some examples of your rankings if you are.

Comments, ideas and suggestions in the comments section below please.

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12 thoughts on “Yoast SEO–For Good and Bad SEO”

  1. Hi Andy,

    why do you use excerpt for the meta description, why you don‘t use YOAST meta description field? I dont see your advantage to use the other explained field.

    About the penalize, i don‘t think that when you use some keywords into the title, url, metas that you get penalized by Google. Of course if it looks no more natural i agree totally. And yes if YOAST advice to put more and more keywords only to optimize a page i have the same opinion like you.

    Thank you for the post!

    best regards


    1. I use excerpt for convenience. When I write new posts on any of my sites, I use Windows Live Writer. Inside WLW I can write an excerpt, which means I do not need to login to my Dashboard at all. It I used Yoast description, I would.

      I am saying if you follow all of yoasts suggestions you would be more likely to get a penalty. e.g. 1% density is not a natural density in most cases. Together with the keyword in all the other places and Google would almost certainly penalize the page.



  2. Thank you for youre demostrantion. I didnt know that you can use excerpt as meta description 😉 Good one !

  3. Hello Andy

    Guilty… at least partially.

    I’ve not bothered with keyword’s as such but neither have I bothered to understand Yoast better!

    I’m off to buy your new book.

    Thanks for the video instruction.


  4. Hello Dr. Andy,

    Once again you identified an important SEO target with sparse info and delivered the goods. I have always used the Platinum SEO gizmonic up until my next to last site. The client actually came up with Yoast. So I took a look and incorporated it. However, I didn’t take the time to thoroughly investigate. Instinctively I didn’t use the Focus Keyword and now I see I was right. More blunder than science. Ha.

    Looks like Yoast is even more powerful than I suspected and and a real edge in the right hands of the educated, much as you are my secret edge! I thankee again!!!

    Your main fan in Cowchip Alabama

  5. Another thought. When I saw your latest article the antenna in the back of my head shot up with rapidity. A most welcome and timely Yoast tutorial.

    In return, on a totally unrelated matter concerning mail: You may recall that I have lauded a bewhiskered program called Magic Mail Monitor for years now. Well, it finally pooped out. It couldn’t handle the new login instructions for my provider. So I went looking and came up with a new one called Pop Peeper. I would recommend that if you have lots of email accounts to deal with like I do, to go investigate. This is directly from their Google listing:

    “www.esumsoft.com/products/pop-peeper/POP Peeper is an email notifier that runs in your Windows taskbar and alerts you when you have new email on any of your accounts”

    It’s free, easy to set up, dirt simple to use, and very powerful. I never ever download a mail, much less open one without investigating it first. It’s a really jazzed up version of Magic Mail Monitor. I love it.


  6. Hey Andy
    I’m baffled by SEO so I haven’t been keeping up. What I have been doing is blithely working to get a green light with Yoast focus keywords and page analysis.

    So I’ve probably damaged the rankings, what do I do now?

    Should I delete everything I’ve put in in Yoast?

    Thanks Andy


    1. I would recommend you de-optimize your content. Look at the screenshot in my article that has various SEO points circled, and concentrate on de-optimizing those. That means removing words that are forced in there just to get a green light. Your content should read naturally, and noone should be able to read it and tell what keyword phrase you are optimizing for.

  7. Andy thanks for sharing. I had also become a little wary of using the keyword density section. With the changes over the past few years and following your recommendations (well before google panda etc) I have always set them far lower than the 1% ratio and using LSI words to complement them.

    However rather than ignore it completely I do use the keyword density section to warn me of potential dangers.

    For example working on a car servicing garage site if I want to write about (manufacturer – technical term) That term rarely appears in full it would not read very naturally if it did. However I enter the manufacturer’s name eg “BMW” to check it first. I then check the technical term eg “car servicing” separately. This is just in case either of the terms appear too much on their own. I can then reduce each of them as needed. I have found that I have for example written about BMW as a company. Added a sentence or two about BMW series 5 added a couple of sentences about approved BMW parts etc. Before I know it without realising it I am up to the 1%+ level.

    If I concentrated on measuring only “BMW car servicing” term I would have not seen the density of BMW term creeping upwards of 2% and being penalised when I was led by Yoast to believe I was innocent. As an example this comment is not about BMW cars but the keyword BMW appears 7 times. Am I in danger of going overboard with this keyword to the point of getting penalised?

    Get the point use the focus keyword tool to protect yourself.


    1. Hi Ron
      Yes, using it to check individual words and phrases for overuse may be a use for it. It’s a long process to check every word or phrase though, which is why Web Content Studio has this built into the reports. You can check every word or phrase for over-use. Having said that though, I don’t worry too much about density at all.

  8. Thanks heaps for putting this up and bringing this to our attention Andy!

    I’m really grateful for your time and efforts doing so.

    Much appreciated!

    Best wishes,

  9. David Dutch

    Thanks for the video and a quick summary of essential tools you use in Yoast, it clarifies everything in your normal straightforward manner. I for one have not been using Yoast as fully as I now know I can. I hang my head in using it previously mainly to tie in with the first two tabs and basically nullifying the time I spent on developing themed articles through WCS.

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