FAQ on SEO and the Yoast Plugin for WordPress

SEO with Yoast Image
When we handle an SEO project for a client on a WordPress platform, we generally recommend the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. While there are other decent plugins for SEO, we find Yoast to be the most comprehensive, user friendly and it’s updated and refined constantly.

Yoast helps our clients optimize their new content as they create it, with immediate feedback on whether they are following SEO best practices. As clients attempt to optimize their new posts and pages after we’ve completed our work for them, they often come to us with questions on using Yoast to understand how its rating system works.

Here’s a look at some of those questions and our responses you might find useful, not only with respect to using Yoast, but in what are considered some SEO best practices today.

Question: One thing that always bugs me when I am posting is that even though I make sure the keyword is in the first paragraph, the analysis always tells me that it is not.

Answer: Yoast is not perfect, and does not always pick up accurate information. If you see that it is in the first paragraph, the tool isn’t functioning correctly. Yoast might be advising the keyword is not in the first paragraph, but sometimes when we save the page and come back to it later, it detects it. If the topic of the page is related to the keyword, having it in the first paragraph is not as strong a signal as it used to be for ranking the page. Yoast, as part of its advice in this area is: “Make sure the topic is clear immediately.” The benefit of having a keyword early on is if the searcher used that keyword and came to the page, they will get some validation that this is the page they were looking for and not leave immediately (bounce). A lower bounce rate has become a stronger signal to the search engines (especially Google) that the page is indeed relevant to that search keyword.

Question: On a page with more than one focus keyword, I get a Bad SEO score, with Yoast indicating, for example, the focus keyword does not appear in the SEO Title, yet it clearly is, with [target keyword 1, target keyword 2 at the beginning of the title.

Answer: In this case, two keywords are being targeted, it is not being targeted as a phrase. It is always more difficult to get a good score in Yoast (and more difficult to get a decent ranking for the page) when you try to focus on more than one keyword. In this case, you can confirm that both are in the SEO Title and they are at the beginning.

Question: Yoast tells me that a Meta Description has been specified, but it does not contain the focus keyword. Does that matter?

Answer: Yes. Again, it reinforces to the searcher that it’s what they are looking for. If the searcher used that keyword and the search engine displays the Meta Description you provided, the keyword will be displayed in bold font in the search results, providing reinforcement to – and catching the eye of – the searcher. We recommend making the effort to ensure that the keyword does appear in the META Description and that it appears early enough that it won’t get cut off (truncated) in the search results.

Question: Is it better for the Meta Description to be more descriptive, albeit too long for Yoast, which is showing an orange rating (SEO OK), or better to shorten it for a green (SEO Good) rating?

Answer: Shortened. Though META Descriptions are not believed to be used for ranking a page and META Description length doesn’t matter to Search Engines, it will help you improve the Yoast rating for that page. When META Descriptions are too long, any text that exceeds the current character count on what gets displayed in the search results, will get cut off with multiple periods (….) and searchers will never see it. Because Yoast updates so frequently, you can expect that the character count they recommend is the cutoff point before your text gets lost. The nice thing about it is by keeping to the Yoast recommended limit, it forces you to compose short and sweet descriptions, which are great for the searcher.

Question: Should the focus keyword be generic to the site or specific to the page?

Answer: Specific to the page topic. Pages are ranked individually and appear in the results individually, providing another point of entry to your site. Sites are not ranked as a whole per se, though themes of sites are detected by search crawlers and domain authority is important for rank. Search Engines want to provide the shortest and most relevant path to what they think the searcher wants (searcher intent).

Question: Should the image Alt text match the focus keyword and SEO Title of the post or page, and should that be an SEO keyword from the list of keywords you provided us, or match the content for that post or page?

Answer: The alt tag for the image used on that page should include the focus keyword you’ve specified for the page or post (or be a derivative thereof) and you should not need to go back to the list. Include it in the text so that it makes sense to a human and helps provide the Search Engine with a clue as to what the image is related to, since search crawlers look for text, and cannot read what’s on the image.

Question: Should we change the permalink to match the Focus Keyword on any page?

Answer: Ideally, yes, the URL should include the focus keyword within it, as Yoast recommends. While this element is also being given less importance in search rankings, like the META Description and SEO Titles, including the keyword in the URL is another means of attracting the searcher’s attention and can lead to increased click through rates from search results (also considered to be a factor in stronger rankings). If you change the permalink, it’s much easier if you do so before publishing a page or post because if it was already published with a not-so-friendly URL, permanent (301) redirects need to be created. Your developer can help you with those, and there are also several plugins that will allow you to do it yourself, right in WordPress.

Question: With Focus Keywords, do capital letters matter to Search Engines?

Answer: Not at all.

Getting the Green Light: With Yoast SEO, it’s all about getting the green light where you can. You don’t need to get a green light in every Analysis point (shown below), but the more you can get, the more likely your post or page will get an overall rating of green (SEO Good) in Yoast.

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