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Is Yoast SEO Really the Ultimate SEO Plugin?

Posted on November 11, 2015 by in Editorial | 40 comments

Is Yoast SEO Really the Ultimate SEO Plugin?

WordPress is famous for being well designed for SEO right out of the box. All of its features and functions have been built to guide search engines through every post, page and category of your site, so it’s not absolutely essential to install third-party SEO plugins for your sites to rank well.

Though search engines have no difficulty dealing with WordPress sites, users who are serious about SEO often still turn to popular, highly-rated plugins in an effort to supercharge their results. And with over one million active installs, Yoast SEO is the leading plugin on the market.

Yoast SEO is a powerful option, but do users really need all those options to deliver effective SEO, or can they achieve similar results with simpler plugins?

That’s the question we’ll be covering in depth in this article. Let’s start with some basics.

Getting to Grips with SEO

Getting SEO ‘right’ obviously makes an enormous difference to your site’s chances of success, but it’s by no means straightforward. Any WordPress user who’s made it past the beginner stages will know all too well just how involved things can become when you start getting serious about SEO. It’s a moving target; tips and techniques that work one year can fall radically out of favor the next, depending on both trends and the whims of Google.

It’s also worryingly easy to come across outdated or generally dubious advice about SEO while browsing the web, so it’s worth your while getting your head around the basics to avoid getting led down the garden path. Google’s very own SEO starter guide and Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO are two excellent resources to start with for familiarizing yourself with legitimate best practices. You should also consult our recent piece on SEO myths to further clarify things in your head.

Make your way through the resources above and you’ll soon realize that the core set of on-site factors you need to take care of is relatively limited: page titles, descriptions, URLs, navigation, content quality, anchor text, image optimization, correct use of headings and tags are among the main ones.

WordPress plugins that help with these areas while taking both the guesswork and time-sucking drudgery out of the process are worth looking into.

Yoast SEO plugin.

Yoast SEO provides handy options for dealing with page titles, descriptions, and URLs and we’ll be concentrating on these areas for the purposes of comparing it with other plugins. It also adds integration options for major social networks, but we won’t be dwelling too much on that as there are any number of dedicated social plugins that can handle that side of things better.

The other two main standout features of Yoast SEO are XML sitemap generation and URL redirects – the latter being a premium feature. Again, there are dedicated plugin solutions available to handle both of these requirements but they’re certainly pretty handy to have available in an SEO context. We’ll cover options for these as well.

Before we get into our comparisons, it’s worth mentioning that all themes available from Elegant Themes come with a built-in SEO section in the theme options settings which can be a great alternative to using plugins if you’re comfortable enough with using custom fields.

When you navigate to your ePanel, just click on the SEO tab to enable or disable custom SEO settings for your homepage, single post pages, and index page:

Elegant Themes ePanel access.

Let’s move on to looking at how Yoast SEO’s major features stack up in terms of hitting the sections we’ve identified above, and how well it compares to competing solutions these days.

Comparing On-Page SEO Options

Though it’s the best known, Yoast isn’t the only powerful SEO plugin that gives you control over optimizing your individual posts and pages. We’ll be comparing it to three other popular SEO plugins in this article: All in One SEO Pack, SEO Ultimate, and Squirrly SEO.

Each of these plugins has a general configuration section that can be accessed through the plugin’s Settings panel in the WordPress admin area. They also all offer a range of fields and options when composing or editing posts and pages. We’ll start with an overview of what Yoast offers, then look at the comparable sections or options for each of the other three plugins.

Yoast SEO for Posts and Pages

Yoast’s General Settings tab serves as a starter page where you can check out their resource listings, set up some personal information, and integrate different webmaster tools such as Google Search Console.

To access the fields where you can customize your on-page SEO, you have to navigate to the Titles & Metas tab where you’ll find tons of customization options for the homepage, post types, taxonomies, and archives. Each section is nicely organized in tabs with title templates, meta description templates, and several other options for each major page type.

Yoast SEO settings.

Yoast also includes customizable options that appear beneath every page and post editor which forcefully remind you to choose a keyword and encourage its use in the heading, page title, URL, content, and meta description of your posts or pages. You can also switch through the tabs to get a page analysis, customize some advanced robots.txt settings, and specify what information you want social networks to use.

All in One SEO Pack for Posts and Pages

All in One SEO plugin.

All in One SEO Pack offers comparable settings to Yoast’s Titles & Metas tab in its General Settings tab. Rather than using tabs to separate each section, All in One SEO Pack has it all laid out on one page. Just scroll down and you’re able to customize everything from your home page settings to your custom post type settings.

Like Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack includes an SEO section beneath every page and post editor too – although minus some of the more advanced tabs Yoast SEO offers. For example, it doesn’t give you a count of how many times you used your keyword throughout the content of your page or post – one of the big highlight features of the Yoast option.

Being the full-feature plugin that it is, Yoast offers a lot more options compared to what you can do with All in One SEO, but that may not matter if you don’t plan on using them. The keyword counter and snippet preview features that come with Yoast are still big pluses though and not having them is a loss.

You can also check out this detailed comparison post to get a clearer picture of how they stack up head to head.

SEO Ultimate for Posts and Pages

SEO Ultimate plugin.

SEO Ultimate is more advanced than All in One SEO Pack and a stronger direct competitor to Yoast SEO. Instead of having a general tab with all the main settings, the plugin adds a handy link to the admin bar that you can access everything from. Roll your mouse over it and you’ll see 25 different features split out into individual tabs.

Beneath the post and page editor options, SEO Ultimate keeps things simple by adding straightforward sections you can fill out for your search engine listing, social networks listing, links and other miscellaneous options. Although the plugin itself has some useful keyword research features built right into it, it doesn’t have any keyword fields, counters, or page analysis features as Yoast SEO does.

Both Yoast SEO and SEO Ultimate offer a generous range of useful features, yet each one provides quite a different experience when you’re actually using it. For example, the Deeplink Juggernaut feature SEO Ultimate offers – which helps intelligently link your content based on keywords – may put the plugin out in front if that’s a priority for you. It also offers some useful social media options that Yoast doesn’t have, like its Rich Snippet Creator and Social Network Listing feature.

You could possibly use both plugins together if it’s too hard to choose, as long as you make sure to disable the SEO Ultimate modules that may conflict with Yoast.

Squirrly SEO for Posts and Pages

SEo Squirrly plugin.

Squirrly SEO is a free plugin offered by content marketing software provider Squirrly. It’s become quite a popular option – particularly for beginners – and has even been recommended by Kissmetrics co-founder Neil Patel.

Unlike Yoast and a lot of other SEO plugins, Squirrly SEO is a very visual plugin that seeks to simplify the world of SEO and carefully guide users through everything step by step (which may be helpful if you have less experienced users or clients).

Squirrly SEO includes slideshows for all of its main features on its Dashboard tab and does a great job in guiding users through available options. Navigate to its SEO and Settings tabs and you’ll see that there’s not a huge amount of customizable settings available, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re looking to concentrate on the essentials.

When you edit any post or page, a bunch of very prominent Squirrly options immediately appear in the right sidebar. You’re automatically asked to enter a keyword so that the Squirrly SEO Live Assistant can tell you how your keyword is being used throughout your content in an easy to understand way: anything colored green is good to go, anything left white hasn’t been set up yet, and anything colored red needs to be fixed.

Squirrly SEO is clearly geared toward newbie users and performs admirably in that context – SEO experts may find themselves needing a little more control.

Social Optimization

SEO is critically important, but there’s no ignoring social media these days either. Making sure that your titles, descriptions, and feature images look great when shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other platforms is essential if you want to drive traffic through social promotion.

Yoast SEO’s Social tab enables users to inform Google of their social profiles and integrate their site with major social platforms by enabling Facebook Open Graph, setting up Twitter Cards, and adding Pinterest verification and Google+ specific post meta data. That’s more than enough for most users but there are dedicated plugins out there if you want to dive deeper.

Since we’re on the subject, here are three options you can consider as alternatives to Yoast’s social optimization features.

1. Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags

Facebook Open Graph plugin.

This plugin claims to be compatible with Yoast SEO, so you can use it as an additional social plugin if you want more options like including (or excluding) Open Graph tags and choosing a default feature image if the post doesn’t have one. Yoast has useful basic set-up options for both, but this plugin offers more settings that you can enable and disable for even more effective and efficient sharing results.

2. WordPress Social Sharing Optimization

WordPress Social Sharing Optimization plugin.

This plugin gives users complete control over the information provided to social networking crawlers, including Facebook, Google+ Twitter, Pinterest and others. In addition to basic meta tag support for Open Graph, Rich Pins, and Twitter Cards, this plugin will blow you away in terms of all the configurable and customizable options it provides. It should also play nicely when used in conjunction with Yoast SEO.

3. The Official Twitter Plugin

Twitter plugin

Not only does the official Twitter plugin enable you to integrate Twitter Cards with your site for more media-rich tweets – it also enables users to embed Twitter content and Vine videos easily, with the added bonus of having Twitter buttons built right into the plugin itself. If you heavily rely on Twitter for content promotion, this plugin may be more useful than the basic Card style option Yoast SEO offers in its Twitter tab.

XML Sitemaps

An XML sitemap makes it easier for Google to discover the pages on your site, including pages that may not be as easily discoverable by Google’s standard crawling process.

Yoast’s XML Sitemaps tab enables users to generate a sitemap which is automatically updated any time a new post or page is published. It also enables users to specify post types, individual posts, or taxonomies that should be excluded.

XML Sitemap plugin.

As an alternative to Yoast SEO’s sitemap feature, Google XML Sitemaps is one of the highest rated XML sitemap plugins and has been going strong for over nine years. It gives users even more control over their sitemaps, specifically in terms of setting up post priority and change frequencies. Users can also add specific files or URLs to be included in their sitemaps that don’t belong to their WordPress site.

Yoast Premium Features

We’ve looked at some interesting plugin options you can use to match the main features of the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin but there are also the premium features (starting at $89 for a single site) to consider. Even if you’re sticking with the free version of Yoast SEO, it’s worth looking at other free plugins that may be able to replace its premium features.

URL Redirects

If you have broken links and old pages that need to point to newer pages, you’re going to want to use a redirect tool to stay on Google’s good side. Yoast SEO offers a redirect manager as a premium feature that integrates directly with Google Search Console. If you run a big commercial site with lots of pages that require quite a bit of maintenance, the premium upgrade to get this redirect feature could easily pay for itself in terms of the time it will save you.

If you’re just looking to simply clean up a few of your URLs, Redirection is a popular free plugin that makes it easy to manage 301 redirects and keep track of 404 errors. It’s easy to use and best suited for smaller sites that need a quick and effective tool for tidying things up.

Video SEO

How cool would it be if the videos that you posted on your site showed up directly in Google search results? Yoast SEO’s premium video extension claims to do just that but, as with any SEO topic, there are naturally caveats to consider here.

It doesn’t look like there are any other WordPress plugins out there that offer this. While the official YouTube plugin is quite popular, its focus is on embedding YouTube videos in WordPress.

News SEO

Ranking in search for news is different than ranking for evergreen topics, meaning those who manage news sites may need a different approach. Yoast offers a news extension that creates XML News Sitemaps and editors picks RSS feeds to stand out for Google News.

XML Sitemap & Google News feeds may be a possible alternative plugin for news sites and has attracted some decent reviews from users attracted by its simplicity.

Local SEO

Business sites that target visitors from a specific geographical area have to make sure they tell Google the right location-specific information if they want a chance at a top spot ranking. Yoast SEO’s local plugin claims to help sites optimize this aspect of their information so they can rank better in their local results, and in Google Maps.

Local SEO and Business Listings is one free option if you’re not prepared to shell out for Yoast’s premium package. Its core plugin functionality includes local SEO road maps, a keyword research tool, a competitor keyword spy tool, suggested content submission websites, and a proprietary keyword effectiveness index.

Other Optimization Plugins to Consider

Yoast SEO offers a ton of SEO features but certainly doesn’t encompass everything you can do to optimize your site. For example, you’ll want to do everything you can to improve your site’s loading time since speed is a ranking factor.

Ewww Image Optimizer plugin.

Installing an image optimization plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer is an excellent idea for minimizing overall page sizes by chomping down your images to something reasonable. A caching plugin like W3 Total Cache will also improve server performance, speed up download times, and supercharge your site speed when integrated with a content delivery network (CDN).


So, is Yoast SEO really the ultimate SEO plugin?

Well, it’s complicated. As you might’ve already guessed, this is the type of question that can’t really be answered with a straight up yes or no.

If you run a serious commercial site that relies pretty heavily on search engines for traffic, and you find that you could really make use of all or most of the extensive SEO options that the plugin offers, then the answer is almost certainly yes.

You can still maintain excellent SEO without Yoast however. It all comes down to how many customization and advanced options you really want, and how much manual work you’re prepared to do yourself.

What’s your experience been like with using Yoast? Do you favor another SEO plugin over it? Get in touch via the comments and let us know!

Article thumbnail image by ideyweb / shutterstock.com.

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  1. Hi Tom,

    great article, indeed! I’d like to say it loud: I can just confirm, that I’m pretty satisfied with Yoast SEO plugin. It does plenty background jobs for me and I’d like to thank to Mr.Yoast team this way.

    Wish you all have a great SEO optimization! 😉

    One more thing goes to ET blog team. I am giving my vote for few (basic) text formatting – what’bout bold, italic, underline? Please? 🙂

  2. i think all depend on what you need when we talk about SEO, i think Yoast is the most powefull plugin for seo, is the only plugin with base code inside wordpress vip, and wp interprise… and when you combine the google news seo and yoast premiun seo, become easy to optmize you entire website.

    but again this is a good analisis, because this was user will pick what SEO plugin they really need for they sites.

    Remember Google seo news only work if you are ready aprove for Google News.

  3. Congratulations, this article is very good to erase from many heads that no one can live without Yoast SEO plugin. It’s a very good plugin, but with All in One SEO Pack for what I’ve seen the results are also very good.

    Keep the nice work with great posts!

  4. Yoast seo is like Dreamweaver for webmasters… A Big industry capable of doing so Many things… And most of us Will only use 10% of it 😁 Now… With all the hype around yoast, of course it’s creating a high level of trust for new users. I am using it myself, only using 20% of its features, and i chosen it because of the hype, but i am pretty sure other free plugins could do the job as good as yoast 😁

  5. I think Yoast is so good at what it does that it’s there to be shot down at the slightest sign of a weakness.

    Most people who use it get extremely good results on their SEO and articles like this help it stay on top of the other plugins (in my opinion) as they consistently provide a top plugin with extra options if needed.

    I still have not been tempted elsewhere…as of yet anyway.

  6. I have used the Yoast plugin almost exclusively but I am going to try out the SEO Ultimate plugin. I like those additional features and I think it would be great on a niche site.

    Great article!

  7. Hi,

    I’m confused how anyone could render the concept that Yoast could even be an Ultimate SEO plugin (unless they just haven’t done as much research trials as me).

    I’m confused by that with Yoast in particular, because I have used/tried nearly every SEO plugin and SEO related plugin out there, premium and free. Though, I never tried Yoast’s premium version because by description alone it seems to offer much less than others and much less in terms of holistic SEO.

    From all that I could gather Yoast Premium only offers a redirect manager?
    – Because Redirection is already available for free, that is not really needed enough to buy the premium.

    I would have to say by a VERY LONG SHOT that Premium SEO is the most complete SEO plugin, then All in One SEO. While All in One does have a couple things… and I mean just a couple things that Premium SEO could offer. But in comparison, Premium SEO offers a ton… and I do mean a ton more than All In One SEO. And it offers a ton more than Yoast, and I do mean a ton.

    My only problem with Premium SEO is that for sites with more plugins, it could be better optimized for loading performance concerning the SEO metabox on pages, posts, etc. But most of the plugin is done on one ajax loaded page and really helps you start to grab a grasp on how much can be done and really should be done to optimize your site.

    What do you think about Premium SEO?

  8. Personally, I would gasp at the notion that there’s a better plugin for SEO than Yoasts. Namely because of the extensions they now offer. The benefits of having schema markup for local businesses now is an absolute must. Futhermore their redirect manager (integrated with Search Console) cannot be overlooked. All in all they’ve done a damn good job on improving the plugin’s offering as users needs change. However, I have to use the term users loosely – the above mentioned extensions are paid.

  9. Wow, I took SEO Ultimate for Posts and Pages for a test drive and it seems really, really cool. I can edit all my title tags from one page etc. Thanks you so much for the review. Now I’ll be obligated to buy something.

  10. You know what the killer SEO tool is? Content.

    Sadly, most marketers just throw junk out there and hope their tools help fill in the gaps. All the schema.org rich snippets, sitemaps, and metadata creation tools won’t save a bad site.

    WordPress out of the box just makes sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Yoast in particular takes it a step further but to paraphrase Morpheus from the Matrix, these tools are just the door, it’s you that has to walk through it (use it properly).

    • Great article! Dave, You nailed it! Content is King!

      • Trust is king. If there isn’t any trust then all the well-written content in the world isn’t going to make any difference. You have to establish yourself in your niche as an authority, and that will gradually build trust.

  11. Good detailed article on SEO plugins. I have used Yoast SEO plugin in my all client’s websites, and I am satisfied with its performance. Its save my time for on-page optimization, which is really good for me.

  12. Great post Tom!

    I’ve used a variety of SEO plugins over a number of sites. Overall, the sites rank nicely on Google with chosen keywords and locality.

    I couldn’t say for sure if one works better than another. I think it comes down to what users are comfortable in using. Your post will help make that decision a little easier.

  13. Thanks for the article ET! SEO always seems like a large boulder to deal with.

    I just installed Yoast SEO on a new Divi site (I’ve used it before) that had “Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags” plugin installed and was strongly advised by the Yoast plugin to deactivate it. I did. Seems Yoast SEO includes all of the functionality in the Open Graph plugin has already built in.

    • Hi there,

      I’m the author of the “Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags” plugin.

      Yoast shows that nasty and obnoxious message for each and every plugin that has any kind of functionality that Yoast SEO itself has. In this case, you can use my plugin and you should go to Yoast SEO settings and disable the social part of it.

  14. Great article! I find the Yoast SEO plugin to be the ultimate. The most generous thing I could say is that some of the others may be as good… but not better. I also use the Yoast Google Analytics plugin for 90% of my Google Analytics needs.

  15. I have a tendency to use Yoast as well as AIO but ended up getting conflicts. I also use PushbuttonSEO (PBS) which is more of a premium plugin, a little similar to Squirrly. I tend to use both yoast and PBS becasue PBS gives me content, Yoast prevents overusage of kewords. The one thing I dislike about Yoast is that it has a tendency to be extremely specific when it comes to a particular keyword. Conversely PBS will provide a content based on selected keyword. I am tempted by Squirrly though so will give that some serious thought.

  16. If Yoast integrated with Divi better it would be the be all, end all – for now.

  17. Tom, excellent encapsulation of the available pertinent SEO plugins…

    I’m currently testing all of them (each on separate URLs). One can run Google XML sitemaps plugin as a stand-alone, which works rather well
    (however, if you do you’ll want to shut-off XML in the respective SEO plugin).

    In any case, your aforementioned info provides ample provisions for initial, basic SEO requirements… of course, further on-page and off-page techniques re-enforce the basic elements provided by these plugins.

    I would mention, however, that my testing concludes that Google provides favorable search results for edits that include copy/text, which further provides for Keyword(s) that incorporate synonyms and Latent semantic indexing (LSI).

    So, when Yoast suggest duplicating Keyword string for each of the… page title, article heading, content, and META description, be aware that having a green yes in all of these categories isn’t necessarily a Google requirement to achieve high organics relevancy.

    Keep up the great blog posts for Elegant, Tom.


  18. I enjoy Yoast’s SEO plugin but I’m happy to learn about all these cool other ones. Watch out for the free local listings plugin. Something that cool for free has hidden costs.

    Sneaky 🙂

  19. Very nice article. Previously i’m using All in one seo pack to maximum my on page SEO blog. But now i’m using Yoast SEO plugin and i’m very happy because many feature include in Yoast SEO campare with other SEO plugin. For me Yoast SEO is really ultimate SEO plugin.

  20. Thanks Elegant Themes for publishing this. As a website design beginner, Divi has been great, but I never could figure out how to use the SEO in the epanel and searched far and wide in the Q&A section for articles or posts on it. I implemented Yoast recently and it has really helped me to understand how it works and what I need to be focusing on for my SEO on each page. Still learning, but they have made it simple. Glad you’re recommending using a plugin for this. Please put this article up in Q&A for other beginners like me to find easily.

  21. I am in the process of installing Divi on my site. I am going to deactivate Yoast SEO plugin because it interferes with a lot things on the website.

    I am going through Divi SEO options. They are good.

    Yoast SEO plugin is becoming difficult to use.

  22. Thank you for your article Tom, I really appreciate your articles! I am currently using Yoast seo, which I really like, but after reading your article I think I may try experimenting with another seo plug-in!

  23. Is Yoast SEO really the ultimate SEO plugin?

    It sure ain’t now… The 3.x update is killing sites left and right. What a disaster.

  24. It’s not so clear, how does elegantthemes seo compare with yoast? A simple feature table would help.

    • Yes, some authoritative comparison would be helpful, as I am in the process of deciding whether Divi is worth purchasing. Concerned about the content within a builder not being indexed by search engines. Has this problem been resolved with recent Divi update? Can it be resolved?

  25. I use yoast before. But now I use squirrly more. The only downside with squirrly is that you can’t no index a page or post individually

  26. Ever since some recent updates, I’ve hated Yoast SEO. I’ve switched to All in One SEO Pack. It is way more simple and doesn’t have a million bugs. What I dislike about Yoast is:

    – Making functions that use to be free exclusive to the pro version
    – Ugly interface
    – Confusing interface
    – Bloated
    – Too much advertising
    – To much meta data

    That’s just my opinion.

  27. Hi I am new to this. need to ask this question so I don’t mess up.

    Can i use WordPress Yoast SEO plugin and also WordPress all in one seo pack at the same time?

    Thank you,

  28. To answer your question, no, not by a long way!

    The best SEO plugin by far is The SEO Framework [http://bit.ly/theseoframework]. Its written with massive and busy (multi-)sites in mind and therefore 197% to 867% faster compared to other popular SEO plugins. It consumes 177% to 260% fewer server resources and makes 15% fewer database interactions (numbers may vary on this one depending on plugin compatibility).

    And it has 100% fewer advertisements. Let’s keep it that way.

  29. It appears the Yoast premium plugin is not playing well with the Extra theme we are now using. A shame. Any time we try to us the Category Builder and add a module or look to edit a module, the theme freezes. Really liked using Yoast and have until we just updated to the new theme. Any ideas what is causing the problems?

  30. The latest Yoast updates make it difficult to use because of new conflicts caused by his plugin!

    Now every time I go to my Dashboard I get big Warnings saying I can’t use my Socialize plugin or my XML plugin any more, but I carefully researched those plugins before choosing them, and they have always worked well.

    I don’t want to disable them, and I bet the makers of those plugins don’t like being sidelined either.

    I get the feeling that Yoast is trying to take over the world’s websites (especially mine!) and I don’t like it. He now wants to incorporate my GA, Adsense and Webmaster Tools into his plugin as well, and I don’t like those data sites being taken over by his plugin either.

    Is he an ego driven megalomaniac who wants to control the whole world? I thought Google had already done that.

  31. Does anyone know why Yoast uses the socialbox plugin on his own website, instead of his own plugin’s inbuilt Social Media option?

  32. Awesome post. There are many useful free SEO plugins available, but I’m using Yoast SEO almost always. It’s easy to configure and works like a charm.

  33. I am thinking that SEO by Yoast is Ultimate Plugin for On page optimization due to its elegant features

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