Avoid optimizing for suboptimal keyphrases with Yoast SEO

  • Avoid optimizing your content for generic words
  • Help search engines find out what your content is about
  • Rank higher in the search results
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Yoast SEO has an input field for the focus keyphrase. This is the word or phrase you’d like your post to rank for in the search results. Choosing the right focus keyphrase is important. When you set a focus keyphrase, the Yoast SEO plugin evaluates the post’s content and provides feedback on how to improve the content to rank higher for that search term.

To ensure you optimize your post for a meaningful keyphrase, Yoast SEO checks whether your focus keyphrase consists of function words only. The plugin will show a grey bullet along with a warning message if this is the case.

The function words check in Yoast SEO
The function words check in Yoast SEO

Why is it important to check for function words in my keyphrase?

Search engines scan your content to find out what your content is about. While scanning, they ignore all of the function words in your text, because these words usually have a very generic meaning. Function words are words that mainly express a grammatical function in a sentence. They help us connect the words in a sentence. For example, “the”, “and”, “from”, and “under” are function words.

If you want to rank high in the search results, it’s good practice to optimize your page or post for a particular focus keyphrase. It wouldn’t make much sense to optimize your content for function words, as these words don’t help search engines with figuring out the topic of your text.

The function words check in Yoast SEO

But you could make a mistake and type in only [the] in the focus keyphrase field when actually, you wanted to optimize your page for [the function words check in Yoast SEO]. Or, you might not have thought your keyphrase strategy through well enough. To help you avoid optimizing your content for suboptimal focus keyphrases, we’ve created the function words check in our Yoast SEO plugin.

Yoast SEO assesses your focus keyphrase and warns you if the focus keyphrase field only contains function words. This way, Yoast SEO prevents you from optimizing your post for suboptimal keyphrases. It helps you focus on your keyphrase again so you can finish it or think it through another time!

You can find a complete list of all the function words for all supported languages here.