Beyond exact keyword matching: optimize your text naturally

Our green bullets are addictive. We get that. While they help people 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 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.

Quality content matters now more than ever!

Have you heard about Google’s helpful content update? From now on, the quality of your content could have an even bigger impact on your rankings.


We know that creating high-quality content isn’t easy. But our Premium SEO analysis can help! It’s just as smart as Google, helping you create rich and helpful content in a natural way and improving your rankings!


Improve your content with Yoast SEO Premium

“Yoast SEO only recognizes my exact 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!  

Screenshot of the Yoast keyphrase density check counting only one exact keyphrase match
In this text snippet, I use guinea pigs three times and guinea pig only once. 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. Which means: no red bullet!

How does the premium analysis work? 

Back in the early days, SEO used to focus on using the exact keyword as often as you could. But we’ve come quite a long way since then. Google and other search engines are able to recognize different forms of your keyphrase and that’s great. Because it allows you to write in a more natural way that’s easier to digest for your readers. 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 adjust your keyword optimization scores accordingly.

Let’s look at 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. The analysis is able to recognize these variations on your keyphrase and add them up to your total usage of the focus keyphrase.

Help us improve word forms

The recent launch of French, Russian, Italian, Indonesian and Portuguese word forms consist of beta versions that we’re improving as we go. If you find anything that doesn’t seem right, let us know!

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, German, Dutch, and lots of other languages. And we’re working hard on adding new languages to this list.

But that’s not all. Google is able to recognize synonyms of your keyphrase and even understands related concepts. If you add synonyms and related keywords to your focus keyphrase, 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 are able to 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 the analysis a premium feature?

Recognizing plurals and past tense isn’t easy. And it’s different for all languages. Simply put, it’s 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 will still help you 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’s able to 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 and the possibility to add synonyms and related keywords.

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 are able to check this use of variating word forms yourself. But, if you want to save yourself the time and effort of checking that, the Yoast SEO Premium analysis is definitely for you!

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

Coming up next!

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

  1. Himanshu
    Himanshu  • 2 years ago


    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 years ago

      You’re very welcome!

  2. Nadeen
    Nadeen  • 2 years ago

    Hi, I ‘m so glad I upgraded to premium. I struggled before trying to make content more google friendly. I am now able to craft better post and I’m editing my older post too. Do you think editing my older post is a good idea, or should I just leave them? Thank you!

    • Jason Kidwell
      Jason Kidwell  • 2 years ago

      Outstanding. Thank you

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 years ago

      Hi there, Nadeen. Thanks for your comment and great to hear that you’re liking our plugin! Editing your older posts is definitely a good idea! This article can give you more info on why this is important and how you can do this:

      • nadeencummings
        nadeencummings  • 2 years ago

        Thank you Camille that helped a bunch!

        • Camille Cunningham
          Camille Cunningham  • 2 years ago

          You’re welcome! Lots of luck with your site :)

  3. James Hardin
    James Hardin  • 2 years ago

    I have a technology blog. I tried so many keyword optimization techniques to improve my blog ranking. But they do not work. How can I specifically optimize my blog for tech niche?