A year always seems like such a long time. But whenever we reach the end of one, we tend to say: where did it go? That’s definitely the case for developing and using software. We’re so invested in Yoast SEO that we sometimes forget when we added a feature because we use it so much. So, now’s the perfect time to give you a brief overview of the evolution of Yoast SEO in 2017. Enjoy!

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Yoast year in review

Starting 2017 with Yoast SEO 4.1

2017 started off with a bang: we added a mobile version of the well-known snippet preview and full support for the German language. We all know mobile has only gained importance this past year and will continue to be essential. Just look at Google’s decision to switch to a mobile-first index sometime early next year.

A strong focus on site structure

The overarching theme of Yoast SEO in 2017 was site structure. We wanted to give you a set of tools to improve your site structure since site structure is one of the most overlooked, but critical parts of SEO. We wanted to build tools that are easy to use and extremely valuable. We’re happy to say we’ve succeeded! During the year, several improvements to current tools and new additions turned Yoast SEO into a fantastic tool to improve your site structure.

Vastly improved internal linking tool

internal linking toolIt all started in Yoast SEO 4.0, in December of 2016, when we launched the initial version of the internal linking tool. So what does the internal linking tool do? While working on your post, our internal linking tool will give you suggestions on which posts you could consider linking to because they are about related topics. Linking to these posts will help you create a better site structure.

To quote our CEO Joost de Valk:

“The internal linking tool is one of the most powerful tools we’ve ever built, and it keeps surprising me. I love it. In its current form, it’ll allow you to improve your site structure by the bucketload, just by suggesting posts to link to. I am very excited about where it will go from here!”

New languages

During the year we added several new languages to our roster. Besides English, we added full support for German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and French in 2017. Yoast SEO has full knowledge of these languages so the internal linking tool and readability tools can give solid advice tailored to those languages. In 2018, more languages will follow. Our linguists are even looking into complicated languages like Japanese.

Text link counter

As we all know, links – both internal and external – play an important role in SEO. This year, Yoast SEO received several tools that help improve your linking strategy. Since 4.7, for instance, we check the text to see if you’ve added links. If not, the SEO content check will give you a red bullet. If all is well, Yoast SEO will suggest relevant links to other articles you’ve written, and you can just copy and past a new link in your article.

The text link counter, introduced in Yoast SEO 5.0, works in the post and pages section of your WordPress backend. In two columns, you’ll see how many incoming and outgoing internal links an article has. This functionality is very actionable. If you want to improve your site structure and your SEO, the text link counter will help you do that. You can go through your post with few links and improve your site’s structure step by step.

text link counter

Orphaned content filter

Orphaned content, you say? Yes, orphaned content is content on your site that doesn’t get any links from other parts of your site. Content that doesn’t get links will stay undiscovered by visitors and search engines. But if a certain article is important to you and you want it to rank for a specific keyword, you need to link it in your site structure. In Yoast SEO 5.6, we added a filter that finds these articles so that you can quickly remedy this situation and add these valuable articles to your site structure.

Checking and optimizing cornerstone content

While and finding and creating relevant links to your other content is crucial to building a solid site structure, there was another piece of the site structure missing: cornerstone content. Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission, are thorough and extremely well written. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines.

To help you determine what those articles are, we introduced several cornerstone content features. First, there’s the cornerstone content check in Yoast SEO 4.6. By marking an article as cornerstone content, this article receives priority over a regular article. These articles are analyzed more thoroughly to increase the chance of them popping up as must-link articles.

cornerstone content

In Yoast SEO 4.8 we expanded that feature. Since then, we analyze your cornerstone content following a particular, stricter set of specifications. These checks will help you build killer cornerstone articles. Among other things, we now check if a cornerstone article has 900+ words and if the keyword is in at least two subheadings. All this will help you to improve your most important content.

This suite of site structure tools gives you everything you need to improve your site structure. Use them!

So what else was new?

Besides helping you fix your site structure, we did loads of other cool stuff. Let’s go!

Redirect improvements

Our redirects manager is one of the most important tools in Yoast SEO. It helps you redirect anything you ever wanted. This year, we improved it drastically, with new filter options and a long-awaited import/export from/to CSV. You can analyze your redirects in a sheet, make edits and import it again.

SEO roles

Yoast SEO was always an on/off affair. There was no way to give site editors, for instance, access to selected parts of the plugin they need to do their work. Since Yoast SEO 5.5, that is now possible! Expanded in 5.8, SEO roles and capabilities give site managers to chance to fine-tune who gets to access what in Yoast SEO.

Tune Yoast SEO to your liking

Getting lost in all the Yoast SEO settings? Don’t need the readability analysis? Just want the basic settings? No problem, an ever-increasing number of features in Yoast SEO gets their own on/off toggle. Keep your workspace clean and focused.

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PHP 7 and beyond

At Yoast, we care about a lot of things, but two things in a very particular order: user happiness first, developer happiness second. A user is happy when he or she has a fast, easy to install, secure content management system like WordPress to build a site in. A developer is happy when he or she can use a modern language and modern tooling to build software with. That’s why we started the Whip project in March of 2017. The goal of this project is to steer users and web hosts away for unsupported PHP versions like 5.4 and move them towards the fast and secure PHP7.

Full support for ACF

2017 was also the year of an awesome collaborative effort: The ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO plugin. The Advanced Custom Fields plugin makes it easier to add custom fields to any WordPress site. Custom fields are used to extend WordPress. People use them to build tailored solutions to, often, complex problems. The ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO plugin makes it possible for Yoast SEO to work inside custom fields. By using this plugin, you can use the SEO and readability analysis features of Yoast SEO to check your writing and SEO score, even if they live in a complex custom field.

Vastly improved code-base

This year was not all about new features. We’ve been hard at work improving our code to make our plugins future-proof and easier to manage. One of the biggest project at Yoast right now is project Reactify. We are in the process of rebuilding several main parts of Yoast SEO in the JavaScript library React. This makes these easier to port to other platforms, for instance.

Yoast SEO for Magento 2 & TYPO3

Yoast was built for an open source world, and we’re branching out to other open CMSes. This year, we introduced the Magento 2 and TYPO3 communities to the pleasures of working with Yoast SEO. Together with our development partner MaxServ, we built tailored plugins for these popular platforms. We’re already looking where to go next.

Ending 2017 with Yoast SEO 6.0

In a year spanning more than 30 releases, the last one was maybe the most talked about. Not that we introduced a killer new feature or did something awkward. No, it was all about Google’s decision to move from 160 character meta descriptions to 320 character descriptions. This caused quite a stir and people were quickly asking whether Yoast SEO would follow suit and let people use all those characters. In Yoast SEO 6.0, we expanded the length of descriptions. We, however, are still researching what this decision means for the advice we give our users.

Thanks to you, our beloved community contributors

In the end, we couldn’t have done it without you. We love getting input, feedback, bug reports and features requests. Almost every release featured a community contribution, either bug fixes or improving the flow of our plugin. We love getting these suggestions, and we love to see how much thought and care people put in their work. Collectively, we make Yoast SEO better and better!

And 2018?

We’ve got loads of plans for the new year, but first, we’ve got to get a new speed bump out of the way. You know that word? It starts what a ‘G’ and ends with ‘utenberg’. Yeah, Gutenberg is going to take up a lot of our time. We’re pretty optimistic about the project, and we are doing our best to help improve where we can. We’re investing loads of time and manpower to get Gutenberg off the ground and make a killer integration for Yoast SEO. Stay tuned; you’re bound to hear a lot from us in 2018!

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