Written by Edwin Toonen –
We take pride in our products and our company history here at Yoast. We’ve been around since 2010 and we’ve helped to optimize millions of websites across numerous industries. Throughout our existence, we’ve introduced many new features and made countless improvements to our plugins. The Yoast SEO plugins that you’ve come to know and love today are vastly different from what they were years ago. With that said, there are still many things we haven’t done in Yoast SEO, things that we probably won’t ever do. In this post, we want to discuss about the things we don’t do in Yoast SEO and explain the thinking behind those decisions. Read on!
1. SEO scores
It’s always a good feeling when we score high in something, whether for an exam or in a video game against our friends. When you take an exam, for instance, there’s a clear distinction between the right and wrong answers. But it’s a completely different scenario if you want to assign a “score” for your SEO effort.
SEO is not a test prepared by examiners who define all the right answers. At the same time, it’s incredibly hard to determine whether something is more important than others, thus having more ‘weight’ when scoring. Instead, what we have are algorithms to rank web pages based on hundreds of ranking factors, many of which are not publicly known. Besides the algorithms themselves, nobody knows for sure how all these factors come into play when search engines rank your content.
Since there are no specified ranking factors and scoring criteria, how can you determine SEO scores for your content? In this sense, SEO scores are opinionated and arbitrary. Not to mention, you may run the risk of over-optimizing your posts to get a maximum score, ultimately making them worse for your visitors to read.
SEO is about sending signals to search engines and helping them to better understand your content. In Yoast SEO we do have an SEO analysis, but we use color codes instead of scores. We do give suggestions on things you should do. But we don’t tell you if one thing is more important than the other, simply because we can’t. For us, having a green bullet for the overall SEO analysis means you’ve optimized your post by including enough signals to inform search engines about your content, helping search engines to understand and rank it.
2. Analytics integration
How convenient would it be to see all your website statistics right within the dashboard of your SEO plugin? After all, you install an SEO plugin and put in the work to generate more organic traffic to your website. So, it’s natural that you want to see how you’re performing.
In Yoast SEO, we don’t integrate with analytics platforms simply because we don’t want to bloat our plugin with managing analytics implementation and data. A bloated SEO plugin may result in a slower backend or less responsive experience when writing and optimizing web pages. Not to mention, in many situations, the data you see in such a dashboard is rather incomplete and limited.
You can view a lot more data and query data faster if you go straight to the tools themselves. And if you want to view analytics data within your site’s admin area, there are many plugins for that. Sitekit, for instance, is the official WordPress plugin from Google. It shows you key metrics and insights from different Google products, including Google Analytics, Search Console, Adsense and even PageSpeed Insights.
Generally speaking, heatmaps are a useful tool to gain insights into the behavior of visitors on your website. You get this visualization of how visitors interact with website elements in the form of a heatmap. But, we do have a few issues with heatmaps that lead us to not offer one in Yoast SEO.
First, and perhaps most importantly, heatmaps are a resource-intensive feature, both for us to develop and for your website to run. We would need to add a heatmap script to your web pages, and it has to load every time a visitor arrives. That could potentially slow your website down, a consequence that we don’t want at all.
Additionally, making this feature work on millions of websites and maintaining it would take away much of our resources. Instead, we could dedicate those resources to developing other features and improving other parts of our products. Lastly, we find that heatmap can produce inconsistent data due to websites being responsive. Since website elements move according to your visitor’s screen size and browser setup, certain types of heatmaps like mouse-tracking maps may give incorrect results when the data is aggregated for visualization.
3. Automated image title and alt text
Having your image title and alt text automatically generated for you may sound like a huge time-saver. But however convenient that may be, we’re not in favor of it at Yoast, especially when it comes to alt text.
Generally speaking, tools that let you generate image titles and alt text use AI to check and understand the content of your image. The tool then comes up with a title and/or alt text based on what’s in the image. The problem is that it doesn’t account for the context of your image, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get good results with them. Sometimes you’re happy with what the AI generates for you. Other times, you may get a title that sounds nothing like the image you input.
Talking about alt text, we think automated alt text is bad for accessibility and we don’t recommend that. The alt text is used by screen readers, which are browsers used by users with visual impairment. These screen readers tell them what is on the image by reading the alt text. That’s why we always advise you to keep your audience in mind and think of the image alt text as an element within your content.
Let’s say you have an image that’s purely for decoration. In that case, you should leave the alt text empty because it wouldn’t bring value to your audience. Having an automated alt text here would actually disrupt your visitor’s experience.
4. Breaking Google’s guidelines
Whenever we want to develop a new feature for our plugin, we always take Google’s guidelines into consideration. Since our plugins are used by millions of websites, we don’t want our actions to negatively affect our users in any way. So, it’s important that we comply with Google’s regulations and not partake in exploiting loopholes in Google’s products, even if we can.
For instance, Google introduced the Indexing API that allows website owners to ping Google to crawl and index their short-lived content. The API is specifically for job postings and livestreams at the moment. These are time-sensitive content that Google wants to quickly index and remove to keep content fresh in the search result page.
By now, we all know the importance of having content timely in the search index. Unfortunately, there are people who discovered that it’s possible to request the Indexing API to index other types of content. They abuse this loophole to get their content to appear fast in the search result. Needless to say, this action goes against Google’s policy. Frankly, we could exploit this API in our plugins and let our users use it. But why would we? Doing that can potentially put our users at risk of being penalized, something that we never want!
Adding schema markup to your web pages is a great way to help search engines understand your content. But we also know that it can be quite difficult to implement schema markup on your website. You would need some coding and website knowledge to make it work the right way. Even then, it can still be a tricky and time-consuming process.
For this reason, we decided not to offer a schema-building tool in our plugins. We believe that if you are experienced enough to implement schema markup yourself, then you probably don’t need our help anyway. You might even have a tool for that purpose already. Besides, adding a tool for building and managing schema to our plugin is quite a cumbersome task. Given that the majority of our users won’t ever need such a tool, we don’t think the benefits outweigh the downsides in our case.
Instead, we automatically take care of schema implementation for you in Yoast SEO. We let you decide a few things, but we do most of the heavy-lifting work so you can focus on other things that impact your website, like creating high-quality content.
So there you have it – some of the things we don’t do in Yoast SEO. We know that there are countless other things we couldn’t touch on. However, it would be impossible to address all of them in one article. But whatever it is that we do or don’t do, we always put in a great deal of thought and consider the impact of our decision. We carefully ‘weigh’ our decision based on the value or disvalue it brings to our users, and in relation to our capacity to fulfill that decision.
With that said, it’s without a doubt that we need input from our users to help us improve our products. They use our plugins on a daily basis, so they can tell us what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re running Yoast SEO plugins, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support or drop us some feedback on WordPress.org. You can even drop suggestions for features you’d like us to develop on Github. And for our advanced users and developers, we have various APIs and documentation that allow you to further customize your site with Yoast SEO plugins. Check it out