Yoast SEO has always been my goto plugin to handle on-page SEO for my WordPress sites. Yoast and team has always stayed up to date with the ever-changing world of SEO, and has provided an excellent tool to help optimize your site. With the SEO
With the recent update of Yoast SEO to 3.x, I am re-evaluating what I actually use the Yoast SEO plugin for.
Note: I am not going to compare feature-for-feature other “SEO Packs” against Yoast. There are plenty of those reviews that you can find here and here. I am looking to identify which features of this plugins I actually use, and find the least-bulky replacement. SEO has changed so much in the few years these plugins have existed, therefore the features of these plugins has shifted around to keep up with times.
It seems the Yoast team is spending majority of time and resources building out the content analysis feature – which is functionality that checks your pages content for keyword density and assigns a grade. While this is great, I simply do not use the feature. SEO has changed so much over the last few years, simply keyword stuffing your content isn’t going to get you good SEO results. I certainly agree you should use your target keyword (and/or some variation) in the url, post title, descriptions, and within the content, but you shouldn’t need a bulky plugin to remind you to do that. It is simply a best practice, and something you should be aware of in every step of your publishing process.
The fact is, Google’s algorithm is WAY smarter than this plugin could ever be in terms of keyword usage, relevancy of related keywords, the use of variations of your keyword, etc. Having the Yoast plugin light up “green” when you match some pre-defined parameters does not mean you have good SEO – and I feel it gives many users a false sense of reality when it comes to the SEO of their page/website.
Breaking Down Yoast SEO Features
Meta Titles & Descriptions
- Homepage, post types, taxonomies, archives, other
- Noindex subpages of archives
- Add noodp meta robots tag sitewide
- Add noydir meta robots tag sitewide
Meta title and descriptions are a fundamental part of on-page SEO. This is the one feature I use extensively, and was very pleased with how Yoast SEO handled this feature. Any replacement for Yoast, in my mind, would need the ability to set default title and descriptions for pages, post types, archives, etc – with the ability to override on specific pages. This should’t be hard to find a replacement for, since it is a fairly basic feature.
While it is debatable whether meta information should be handled be a theme or plugin, some themes do offer this feature by default.
The following frameworks/themes are equipped to handle the output of meta title/descriptions:
- Genesis Framework
- Website Name & Alternative Name
- Company/Person Name & Logo
Yoast has done a good job at staying up to date on new features related to schema. Things like site search and sameAs can make you look good in search results and can differentiate you from competitors.
- Verification – Alexa, Bing, Google, Yandex
Under the General Settings for Yoast, you can find fields to help verify ownership of the website with Google, Bing, Alexa, and Yandex. These fields store the verification tags for these popular search engines and output them into your website. While it is a great idea (highly advised) to verify your website for webmaster tools, there are various ways to do this, and none require the Yoast plugin.
Option 1: Verify using alternate methods. For Google Webmaster tools, you can verify ownership by uploading an html file, via DNS, or with your Google Analytics tag. With Bing you can verify using DNS or uploading a file to the server.
Option 2: If the meta tag method is the best for you, you can easily output the meta tags into the head of your webpage yourself. You can add the code below to your themes functions.php.
- Account information
- Facebook open graph
- Twitter open graph
- Pinterest open graph
- Google open graph
- Custom post types
XML Sitemaps is an important feature in Yoast SEO that I do use – but mainly because the plugin includes it. Luckily, there are various plugins for this that work equally as well.
- Strip the category base from permalinks
- Remove stop words from slugs
- Remove the ?replytocom variables
- Enforce a trailing slash on all category and tag URL’s
- Clean Up Head
- Hide RSD Links
- Hide WLW Manifest Links
- Hide Shortlink for posts
- Hide RSS Links
- Canonical URLs
- Next/Prev Links
- No-index Posts/Pages
- 301 Redirects (I believe this feature was removed from the free version and is now a premium feature )
Rolling back Yoast to previous versions
While it is generally not advised to use out-dated versions of plugins, I have rolled back to 2.5.3 on many production sites I manage. I am keeping a very close eye out for security releases, and if a vulnerability opens up with the version of WP SEO I am using, I will not heasitate
What am I missing? Any other features that Yoast SEO offers that make it hard to transition away from?