Beyond exact keyword matching: optimize your text naturally

Our green bullets are addictive. We get that. While these green bullets help people to optimize their texts for the search engines, we don’t want people chasing only our bullets and losing track of their texts. We do want to nudge them and help them get that text as SEO-friendly as possible. In this blog post, I’ll tell you about the most pressing frustration that our customers experience and the solution we developed for that problem.

“Yoast SEO does not recognize my focus keyphrase”

Imagine this: You’re trying to optimize your post for the term [guinea pig]. In your text, you’ll probably use guinea pig (singular) and guinea pigs (plural). However, if your focus keyword is the singular [guinea pig], the keyword density check does not recognize your plurals and will punish you with a red bullet! That’s so annoying and unfair!  

In this text snippet, I use guinea pigs three times and guinea pig only one time. That means I get a red bullet…

Yoast SEO Premium analysis

In the premium analysis, plurals and past tense are recognized as the same keyword and treated as such in our analysis. In the premium analysis, both guinea pig and guinea pigs are highlighted:

The premium analysis recognizes both the singular and plural versions of my keyword: no red bullet!

What does the premium analysis do? 

Our SEO analysis -in the premium version – automatically detects whether or not you use different word forms of your focus keyphrase. It’ll recognize singular and plurals, but also different tenses of verbs, and adjusts your keyword optimization scores accordingly.

Let’s look at yet another example. If your focus keyphrase is [playing with your cats], it will recognize that keyphrase in the sentence ‘You can use toy mice to play with your cat‘. Or, if you want to optimize for [games for cats] it will recognize it the sentence, ‘Another game your cat will love …’ as well.

At Yoast, we have a team of linguists working on this functionality. As you can imagine, recognizing past tenses and plurals works very differently in different languages. The word form functionality is currently available in English, Dutch and German. And we are working on Spanish, too.

What about synonyms and related keywords?

Focusing on exact matching keyword feels a bit outdated. Google is able to recognize different word forms and synonyms too. We know that Google even understands related concepts. If you add synonyms and related keywords to your focus keyphrases, the Yoast premium analysis will take these into account as well. Read more about this in our post about how to use synonyms and related keywords.

Write naturally

The whole idea behind our premium analysis is that you can write naturally and still optimize for the search engines. Our plugin will give you little nudges to optimize your text a bit more, without tempting you to chase the green bullets with exact keyword matching. This means: no more awkwardly rewriting your sentences, so the SEO analysis picks up on your keyword. No more wondering if you really didn’t use your keyword often enough, or if the plugin simply doesn’t recognize every instance. 

Why is this a premium feature?

Recognizing plurals and past tense isn’t easy. And it’s different for all languages. It is a lot of work. That’s why we have an entire team of linguists working on it, making sure we’re adding more and more languages.

This does not mean that the free version is ‘wrong’ in any way. It’ll still help you to focus on the correct focus keyphrases. In fact, it’s already rather advanced. When you use your keywords in a different order, like ballet shoes and shoes for ballet, the free analysis still recognizes them. What’s more, it’ll find your keywords, even if a few function words separate them. The premium version also does all that, but it’s even more state-of-the-art with its word form recognition.

So, if you’re using the free version, feel free to ignore the keyword density check if you’re mixing verb variations and plurals and singulars of your keyphrase. You can recognize yourself whether you’ve used it more often. But, if you want to save yourself the time and effort of checking that, the Yoast SEO Premium analysis is for you!

Read more: “Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”- 6 common misconceptions about Yoast SEO »

Even better SEO with Yoast SEO Premium!

  • Optimize your site for the right keywords for your users
  • Avoid dead links in your site
  • Get previews for sharing on Twitter and Facebook
  • Content quality and link suggestions as you write
More info

5 Responses to Beyond exact keyword matching: optimize your text naturally

  1. Bizpager
    Bizpager  • 5 months ago

    The problem with this keyword frequency is that I saw many pages on Google that are stuffed with keywords – everywhere, in the title, description, every H1 tag, and the text itself. Amazingly, they ranked well. I was just wondering how strong is the influence of the RED BULLET on the whole ranking algo? Are there any studies on that? Or may be other signals, such as quality of links, are much stronger?

  2. Dom
    Dom  • 5 months ago

    I used to face the similar situation while using yoast but I troubleshooted it.
    I think the major problem is about “transition words”. In all my blog post, yoast tell me that I am using less transition words.
    How to solve this?

  3. Stijn Vogels
    Stijn Vogels  • 5 months ago

    Hi there Marieke. About that very first sentence: “Our green bullets are addictive. We get that.”

    I can’t see the difference between your green and red bullets. It’s been a problem for years now. So I was wondering if it’s possible to maybe update those to be more user-friendly? Some examples:
    * green bullet with a white checkmark
    * orange bullet with an exclamation mark
    * red bullet with x cross

    There exist plenty of ways to achieve this, including:
    * Character with background colour and {border-radius:50%}
    * FontAwesome (or similar) stacked icons
    * Commonly available emoji ✅⚠️⛔

    Have a nice new week,

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 months ago

      Hi there Stijn,
      Thanks for your suggestion! We understand your problem with the color of the bullets. A while ago, we considered various options to improve the user-friendliness of the bullets. The solution we went for is the one you see in Yoast SEO now:
      1. We separated the red, green and orange bullets and categorized them in Good results, Improvements and Problems. This might help you with seeing which parts of your content still need improvement.
      2. For the overall bullet, we decided to add a smiley face (smiling, neutral or sad) in the bullet. So you can see right away if your overall SEO and readability score is good or needs some TLC.
      Hope this helps!