I follow and occasionally post on the WP-Hackers Mailing List which includes some expert WordPress users, I’m usually asking for WordPress help with something PHP code based I’m stuck on.

Someone had asked about the best WordPress SEO plugins and listed these as WordPress SEO plugins they’d tried:

  • HeadSpace2
  • Platinum
  • Keyword Statistics
  • WP SEO
  • SEOPressor

Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin
Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

Another subscriber suggested looking at the new Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin and I in my capacity as a WordPress SEO expert responded http://lists.automattic.com/pipermail/wp-hackers/2010-November/035756.html (from archive of the WP-Hackers list, also pasted as the first comment below).

It would appear this upset the author (another WordPress SEO expert) of the Yoast SEO Plugin (Joost de Valk from yoast.com) as he responded a few days later http://lists.automattic.com/pipermail/wp-hackers/2010-November/035852.html (also posted in the comments below).

I started writing a response for the WP-Hackers list, but it is not the place for this type of exchange, (SEO experts fighting it out should be in a back alley somewhere) hence this post and the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review: that’s one LONG SEO plugin review.

Also see my All in One SEO Review.

Note the new Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review page went straight in at number 5 in Google for the title search “Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review“, right after the 4 results from yoast.com. Only 19th for “WordPress SEO Plugin Review” though.

WordPress SEO by Yoast Branding
WordPress SEO by Yoast Branding

Here’s what my response (rewritten to add a little SEO flair) that was going to be posted to the WP-Hackers List.

Best WordPress SEO Expert

before you insult people, check out who you’re insulting.

Joost, I did not insult YOU personally, I said

“Anyway, had a look at the plugin above and it doesn’t add anything truly worthwhile. It’s not an SEO plugin IMO.”
I’m afraid from an SEO perspective your SEO plugin doesn’t add much SEO value to a WordPress site (being able to manipulate the title is useful if you use a standard WordPress theme).

Yoast WordPress SEO Tutorials

Yoast WordPress SEO

Any good WordPress SEO expert knows you can achieve so much more at theme level with WordPress plugins supporting the SEO theme coding. A plugin would find it difficult to say change those menu items on the WordPress theme you use that are wrapped in a H3 heading (it’s possible, but you’d loose the CSS formatting of the theme).

Why on Earth would you want the words

  • Why Yoast is so speedy
  • Categories
  • Friends
  • My Other Projects

Wrapped in H3 headings on lots of posts?

The Yoast ones good for the homepage if you are after the Yoast SERP (though you shouldn’t need help with that easy brand SERP on the brand website), but the rest, you really don’t want an H3 heading with just Categories within it if you are trying to search engine optimize a page about WordPress SEO. As an SEO expert who is clearly very good at PHP coding you should know this.

Seems like a waste of headings when you’ve put so much effort into optimizing your other headings without being spammy (nice use of headings in the main content BTW).

Update 2014: The Yoast site no longer has the H3 headings I mentioned above, looks like they’ve switched to H4. Still not ideal SEO wise, but an improvement.

In comparison view source of this page and see there are no wasted headings in the template code, I use a span for the menu items for example adding no SEO relevance to them.

Your WordPress SEO plugin can not fix this SEO mistake in your Genesis WordPress theme code, it can be fixed by editing your template files though.

Update 2019: The Yoast site has dropped category type headings format, they no longer have sitewide H3, H4 headings. Team Yoast are slow learners, but they get there eventually.

WordPress SEO

If you’re this good, beat me at “WordPress SEO” in the rankings [1]. I’ve been doing SEO for 8 years and been getting results all that time, the best SEO’s in the world will tell you I know what I’m doing. [2] I wrote the first canonical plugin for WordPress before it was in core because Matt Cutts himself saw fit to ask me to do that. [3].

I consider myself a bit of an SEO expert, I’ve been doing SEO for almost 9 years, does that mean I win something because I’ve been doing search engine optimization longer than you :-).

I’ve offered SEO services for almost 8 years and consistently performed well, I have long term SEO clients from the month I started offering SEO services. I only take on long term SEO clients and haven’t taken on a new client for over a year: taking it easy for a few years, getting over a major operation on my back and spending my time chilling out messing around with affiliate stuff for fun rather than dealing with SEO consultant services.

Please, seriously, go play somewhere else with your AdSense Templates. Some of us make money doing SEO on actual sites that don’t have to hide doing SEO.

My AdSense Templates site is a hobby, not a business per se, though it’s very important for learning and testing SEO concepts (I’ve setup hundreds of SEO tests).

My theme is by far the best WordPress SEO theme available today. Feel free to take a look at the SEO code behind the theme (this site for example) and show me a better SEO WordPress theme.

Yoast is Slow

Update 2020: Yoast are so poor at technical SEO they appear to have blocked the Google LightHouse Audits tool and the Google PageSpeed Insights tool from scanning the Yoast domain. When you run the LightHouse or PageSpeed Insights tests on the Yoast domain it gives a 403 error code, that’s a 403 forbidden error. Try it below:

Lighthouse returned error: ERRORED_DOCUMENT_REQUEST. Lighthouse was unable to reliably load the page you requested. Make sure you are testing the correct URL and that the server is properly responding to all requests. (Status code: 403)

My SEO Gold site on the other hand has awesome PageSpeed results and I’d like all my potential SEO clients to test my websites speed etc…

PageSpeed Score 100
PageSpeed Score 100

Quick Search Engine Optimization Test for SEO Experts

SEO Anatomy of a Text Link
SEO Anatomy of a Text Link

Which have SEO value in Google:

  1. Alt attribute text of a linked image
  2. Alt attribute text of a non-linked image
  3. Title attribute text of a text link
  4. Title attribute text of a linked image
  5. Alt attribute text of a text link

I know the answer to all the above SEO questions (important SEO questions as well) as I have multiple long term SEO tests for these and many more SEO factors (that’s what good SEO experts do).

I don’t list all my SEO tests online as in the past I’ve had idiots damage them: like linking to a page with no links sort of stuff.

SEO Experts Should NOT Use Nofollow Attributes

Quick SEO Tip Nofollow Destroys Link Benefit
Quick SEO Tip Nofollow Destroys Link Benefit

I’m curious if you are such a great SEO expert why have so many rel=”nofollow” links on your site and generated by your Yoast WordPress SEO plugin?

You do understand they delete link benefit, any SEO expert worth their fee would A) know this and B) find a solution to remove them on their own and their clients websites and certainly wouldn’t generate more through an SEO plugin!

Update 2019: Almost all the damaging Yoast SEO nofollow features have been removed from the Yoast plugin. There’s still the rel=”nofollow” options on a Post by Post basis (very damaging SEO wise for Posts it’s used on and any links from those Posts), but at least the really serious sitewide nofollow features are gone. Real shame it took Team Yoast so bloody long to follow my SEO advice I gave Joost de Valk (the main Yoast SEO plugin developer) way back in 2010. Consider all the Google ranking damage those dumb Yoast SEO nofollow features did to unsuspecting webmasters in the intervening years!

I wanted to insert some expletives there but refrained from doing that. Couldn’t refrain from this rant though.

I appreciate you refraining from lowering the tone of your response to that degree Joost.

Seriously, stop wasting the valuable time of the great developers on this list and go help your customers some more.

Did you even read what I was posting about nofollow and WordPress core here?

You think trying to remove as many nofollow links from core WordPress is wasting WordPress developers time!!! At least one WordPress developer agrees with me as they have set the next version of WordPress to remove the nofollow attribute of Reply to comment links (which is great news for thousands of WordPress users).

If you really believe this in not important you are not a very good SEO consultant.

I hope you were just being petty as you took my quick review of your WordPress SEO Plugin badly. Please see my full Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review.

[1] my ranking for WordPress SEO: www.google.com/search?q=wordpress%20seo&pws=0&gws_rd=ssl
[2] check out my LinkedIn recommendations:
[3] Matt Cutts mentioning me in his canonical release movie: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm9onOGTgeM

I don’t consider any of the above particularly important (didn’t look at them) in determining your SEO abilities, the proof is in what you actually do SEO wise.

I have no idea how good/bad you are at search engine optimization overall (don’t care either). I’ll just say like the vast majority of so called SEO experts websites I’ve looked at you aren’t fully optimizing your own code, I’ll leave that to others to decide what wasting loads of link benefit on nofollow links on an SEO experts website and damaging other webmasters SEO efforts by producing a WordPress SEO plugin that can fill a site with nofollow links means.

Will be interesting to see if you take the constructive criticism of your WordPress SEO plugin on board or take it as a personal attack.

SEO Expert Proof

Best SEO Training Certificate
Best SEO Training Certificate

You may have noticed the classic SEO gauntlet being thrown down when Joost de Valk wrote “If you’re this good, beat me at “WordPress SEO” in the rankings”.

There’s a BIG problem with using this type of SERP (WordPress SEO) to prove how good an SEO expert is at SEO. I’ll emphasize with a competitive SERP with 1,000,000 monthly visitors, “Online Shopping“.

As I update this article (September 2014) I just started a new SEO test targeting the Online Shopping SERP (highly unlikely I’ll rank high, it’s highly competitive and needs some serious off-site SEO effort).

If you read the SEO test article you’ll see the top 10 are all big brand websites, Amazon, eBay type brands (you know, online shops) and you will note their on-page SEO is really rubbish (amateur SEO hour), yet they are ranking top 10 for this competitive SERP.

The thing with big brands is they generate a LOT of off-site SEO (that would be backlinks) without having to do any SEO work. Consider how many times you see TV ads, newspaper ads and even AdWords ads for Amazon, eBay etc… that’s how brands are promoted.

We know Amazon exists because of advertising, not SEO, you are reading my website because of SEO not advertising.

On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO

Lot’s of webmasters link to Amazon, eBay etc… because they buy from them (maybe you’ve linked to Amazon or shared a link on Facebook) and the interesting fact about search engine optimization is backlinks (main off-page SEO factor) are damn important, more important than on-page SEO. You can even gain competitive SERPs with mostly off-site SEO factors, but you can’t gain competitive SERPs with mostly on-site SEO factors.

For this site to rank for the Online Shopping SERP I’d need to match the same level of off-site SEO Amazon etc… have generated or a significant amount of off-site SEO (a lot of backlinks using shop phrases as the anchor text) AND some bloody good on-page SEO. Without the off-site SEO nothing I do on-site will make a dent in this very hard SERP.

Does this make me a rubbish SEO expert because I can’t match Amazon’s off-site SEO due to how popular Amazon is? I don’t have a budget of millions for advertising.

WordPress SEO SERP

Power of Backlinks and Anchor Text on the WordPress SEO SERP
Power of Backlinks and Anchor Text on the WordPress SEO SERP

The WordPress SEO SERP though not as competitive as online shopping is competitive. Yoast has done a really good job promoting the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin to a degree where it’s one of the go to WordPress SEO plugins (millions of users) and like with Amazon etc… this generates backlinks, for Yoast it’s enough for a PR6 home page (that’s a lot of PageRank, a lot of backlinks).

I’m not taking anything away from Yoast, this is really good off-site SEO promotion (it’s a major part of SEO, if they can repeat this for an SEO client at will for only tens of thousands of dollars a year I’d hire Yoast) for a product that isn’t that good (barely adds any real on-page SEO).

All those backlinks including from WordPress.org (which does even better for the WordPress SEO SERP due to more backlinks than Yoast has: WordPress.org PR9 homepage, Yoast.come PR6 homepage**) puts the domain in a difficult to beat position for a main SERP like WordPress SEO where there are thousands of backlinks using WordPress SEO and derivatives as anchor text.

** Even though Yoast.com has better on-page SEO than WordPress.org (their on-page SEO is rubbish) because WordPress.org has so much more off-site SEO, Yoast isn’t number 1 for the WordPress SEO SERP. It’s all in the backlinks. I have the same result with the Stallion SEO Plugin SERP, WordPress.org which also hosts my SEO plugin is number 1 in Google, I’m number 2 for the Stallion SEO Plugin SERP.

Naming the Yoast plugin “WordPress SEO” is spot on, many webmasters call his plugin “WordPress SEO” and will use the phrase as anchor text when linking to his site. That’s well thought out promotion/SEO: learn from Yoast when you create a product or service that could go viral think what the anchor text might be when links are added.

All In One SEO Pack Plugin ranks outside the top ten for the WordPress SEO SERP (around 15th). Number 2 for the All In One SEO SERP, guess which site is first, yep, WordPress.org again.

From an SEO expert perspective Yoast has done a superb job generating backlinks to yoast.com (hence the PR6 home page), but this has nothing whatsoever to do with how good those working at Yoast are at on-page SEO just like those working at WordPress.org aren’t SEO experts, they rely on the backlinks for good rankings.

If you use the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin how does that plugins sales page having a lot of backlinks using WordPress SEO as anchor text, help you with your websites SERPs?

Yoast WordPress SEO doesn’t generate any backlinks for you, all it really does is add a different title tag and a few other fluff SEO features that have minimal ranking value.

If your WordPress theme is poorly SEO’d the WordPress SEO plugin can’t fix it: there’s only one true SEO theme, Stallion Responsive, all the rest have major SEO failings like not dealing with nofollow links.

When your WordPress theme generates thousands of nofollow links deleting valuable link benefit how does Yoast SEO fix it? Actually Yoast adds more!!!

When your WordPress theme forces your visitors to re-download avatars (little images you see next to comments) from gravatar.com every 5 minutes to re-cache, how does Yoast SEO fix this? Check one of your webpages with lots of comments in the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool.

When your WordPress theme adds so many Jquery scripts Google PageSpeed Insights Tool throws a wobbly, how does Yoast SEO fix this?

These are real SEO issues I’ve fixed along with many, many more in the SEO package I’ve developed.
Will Stallion Responsive generate thousands of backlinks to your website?

NO, but it will take full advantage of whatever off-site SEO factor you’ve worked hard to acquire, Stallion doesn’t waste link benefit, Yoast SEO does.

David Law

David Law : Technical SEO Expert with 20+ years Online Business, SEO, Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing experience... Creator of multiple WordPress SEO Themes and SEO Plugins. Interests: wildlife, walking, environmental issues, politics, economics, journalism, consumer rights.

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