Review

Dear Yoast, Stop Turning Us Into Idiots

Dear Yoast,

Can you please stop telling people to use two sentence paragraphs…

Thanks! Love ya. Mean it!

– MERJ

 

Not too long ago, I downloaded the Yoast search engine optimization (SEO) plug-in because all the profitable blogs said so. And I always do what they say. Let me tell you, it is annoying. I thought it would be magic fairy dust to rocket my posts into SEO glory. It isn’t. When will I learn? It’s more like a spell-check for SEO.

You create your post then the plug-in finds your SEO mistakes and areas for improvement. For example, it points out how many sentences start with the same word or if you use too much passive voice (which sometimes isn’t even accurate). Yoast is helpful, I guess, for bloggers who blog based on keyword searches because the plug-in also tells you how well your text would perform for that keyword.  Other than that it’s pretty much just annoying.

The most aggravating feature is its preference for the short paragraph. (See what I did there.)

You get marked down for having paragraphs more than 300 words or not having enough sub headings between blocks of text. If you’ve ever taken a writing class or had to read Elements of Style, you’ll balk at some of the plug-ins suggestions, for example, introducing a new paragraph to continue the same thought. Doing this starts to make each blog post look like a list.

Now that I know what this SEO tool actually does, I look at blog posts with new light. I am finding these Yoasty blogs are the blogs to which I stop returning. I prefer a good narrative. It’s distracting to me to be skipping to new paragraphs when you’re talking about the same topic. From this reader’s perspective, posts crafted this way look scattered. Like, is that all you had to say?

I would caution against this tool for every post. It may be useful for lists or reports but for the bloggers out there who introduce personal stories or well researched posts, please skip this SEO feature. I may be new to blogging, but I learned to read when I was three and have been reading ever since. Yoast makes your blog look as though it has ADD. I find myself more likely to skim posts like these especially with those oh so informative headings acting like flashlights on a tarmac. After awhile, every paragraph looks like a headline or subheading and as a reader, I keep moving right along. Please refrain from doing this to your posts, unless the pageview is all that matters. Let’s elevate the mind of the reader. I beg you! It only took twelve years of my life to earn my high school diploma, I’d like to continue reading at least at that level.

My experiment

A heading. Blasphemous. I know. They got to me!

Well I was beginning to wonder if this was just another single girl rant against money-making blogs with poor style since my blog is still in the shadows, so I did a little experiment with some national news sites to see just what Yoast had to say about their copy.

Exhibit A

ArticleAmélie Nothomb is a must-read author in France. ‘Strike Your Heart’ shows why. (The Washington Post)

How the copy looks: (excerpt)

Yoast score:

Exhibit B

Article: Eminem Became A Parody Of Himself And Everybody’s Laughing (NPR)

How the copy looks: (excerpt)

Yoast score:

Exhibit C

Intro: Michiko Kakutani is a well respected, well-read, well-learned NYT literary critic who actually reads and critiques people’s writing for a living. Her level may be above most of ours but it’s a desirable standard. Michiko Kakutani (full name basis) is where I aspire to be as a writer and reader. I would encourage all of us to lean this way.

Article: I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine. (The New York Times)

How the copy looks: (excerpt)

Yoast score:

What Yoast actually says about their feedback points.

[Source: Yoast.com]

Why is readability so important for SEO?

It is unclear whether readability is a specific ranking factor.”

What does the Flesch reading ease test measure?

Flesch reading ease measures the complexity of an English text.  The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read. Text with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) is straightforward and easy to read, with short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease score of 60-70 is considered acceptable/normal for web copy.

And shocker their big “well-respected” source: wikipedia.

So they’re asking you to dumb down your posts for something that may or may not even matter? Who wants to read copy with short sentences and mono-syllabic words? Not this single girl.  Unless you are truly writing a how-to guide, let’s elevate the level of our content. If I wanted to be made dumber, I’d keep my day job.

Now that red frowning face that shows up on nearly all my posts to me means I’m doing something right. If it’s good enough for Michiko, it’s good enough for me.

How this single girl rates the Yoast SEO plug-in:

 

 

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