In the latest version of Yoast SEO Premium, we’ve released a new feature: synonyms. In the next months, you can expect even more updates making our SEO analysis smarter and more advanced. These changes will help you to write awesome, engaging content that’ll rank in the search engines. In this post, I’ll explain to you why we added synonyms to Yoast SEO and what changes lie ahead.

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Why you should use synonyms

Google is getting really good at understanding what texts are about. If you want to rank for a certain term, for example for ‘SEO’, Google will know that ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is pretty much the same thing. It makes sense to use them both. Synonyms make sure a text is nice and easy to read.

A few years ago, we added the multiple focus keyword functionality to Yoast SEO. Multiple focus keywords were often used to optimize for synonyms as well. We feel that the new synonym-functionality is a better solution to optimize for synonyms. Read my post about the difference between multiple focus keywords and synonyms if you want to know more.

Why is the exact match focus keyword still important?

Google understands synonyms, but that does not mean that focus keywords are not important anymore. Every SEO strategy should start with keyword research. You should know what words your audience is using when they are searching. The exact match keyword should be the keyword or keyphrase that your audience is using most often. That’s also the thing they expect to find. The exact match is always a little bit more important than the synonyms, just because your audience uses these words instead of others.

Vocabulary people are using is important. If people are searching for volunteering, they’ll probably not click on civic participation, although the two are supposed to be synonyms. Some words are more high-end than others and might not fit your audience as well. In your keyword research, you should take this into account. What words are your audience using?

In our SEO analysis, we’ll treat the exact match focus keyword different from the synonyms. Read more about that in our release post.

Keyword distribution

Along with the new support for synonyms, we’ve added a new keyword distribution check. Before, we would just count how often you used the keyword with our keyword density check. If you used it 4 or 5 times in the first paragraph and then never again, you could have gotten all green bullets from us. That’s no longer true.

We now have a check to see whether you’ve distributed your use of your focus keyword (or its synonyms) evenly across the text. This makes sure you stay on topic throughout your text, which will increase your chance of ranking.

Roadmap for the SEO analysis

Context is the SEO word of 2018. Google is getting really good at determining what a text is about. Google understands plurals and singulars. It has a related entities database. We’re working hard to make Yoast just as smart as Google is.

Embed synonyms in our SEO analysis

We now released our keyword distribution check in which synonyms are taken into account. We’re currently determining in which other checks we should take synonyms into account as well. Of course, we’re open for suggestions and opinions.

Morphology: plurals and more

In the past weeks, our awesome developers have built morphology recognition. This enables our analysis to recognize singulars, plurals, and other forms of the same word. So, if you want to rank for the focus keyword ‘link’, Yoast SEO will (in the near future) recognize ‘links’ and ‘linking’ as a similar keyword. We’ve built this for English and are planning to do so for more languages. We’re currently testing how to integrate this new morphology recognition into our SEO analysis.

Related keywords

The multiple focus keyword functionality is not optimal yet. In the near future, we’ll change this functionality into related keywords. You can optimize your post for a specific keyword and take synonyms into account. Next to that, you can optimize for related keywords. These are not your main keywords and not exact synonyms, but you still want to use them regularly.

We know that Google has a related entities database. If you’re searching for ‘tagliatelli’, results with the words ‘spaghetti’ and ‘pasta’ could also turn up. It’s smart to focus on related keywords when you’re writing a post. So, if your post is about ‘tagliatelli’, including ‘pasta’ and ‘spaghetti’ will probably help in your ranking as well.

We are currently working on modifying our multiple focus keyword functionality into related keyword functionality.

Recalibration of the SEO analysis

In the past year, we’ve been working on a recalibration of our SEO analysis. Many of the checks in our SEO-analysis were established based on our own experience in the SEO industry.  We wanted to be able to account for every check in our analysis more thoroughly. A team of linguists, developers, and SEO-experts dove into scientific literature and SEO blogs in order to re-assess all of our checks. The recalibration resulted in some changes in the checks of our analysis. For instance: the keyword distribution check was added as a result of it. We’re planning to release the new SEO analysis in September of this year.

Big improvements in our SEO analysis are coming

Context is gaining importance in 2018. That’s why we invest heavily in improving our SEO analysis. At the end of this year, we can really account for context in your blog posts and articles. This could mean that some of your articles that get green bullets now, will have orange or red bullets later on. That does not mean that your content became worse. It only means that we’re able to give you better, smarter feedback on your writing.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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Semantics is hard. What does a certain word mean in a specific situation? Which ‘mars’ are you talking about? Have you ever tried to discover all definitions of ‘run’? In most cases, context is everything. You can help humans and machines understand a text better by adding context. This is one of the reasons Yoast SEO is now adding support for synonyms and related keywords, giving you more flexibility to improve your text! Now available for Premium users of Yoast SEO 7.8.

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New Premium feature: Synonyms

Content SEO has long been about finding out what your main keyword was and adding that focus keyword in a couple of places in your text. While that worked pretty well, there’s a lot more going on at the moment. Not only is search intent more important than ever, but search engines get smarter and smarter every day. They increasingly ‘know’ what a text is about by looking at the context in which these focus keywords appear. This context is what makes or breaks a text.

Yoast SEO always worked by a single focus keyword or multiple focus keywords in our Premium plugin. We understand this can be a bit restrictive; we’re not even looking at plural instances of the keyword. Luckily, that’s about to change!

We’re working on some very nice new language-based SEO checks, and we’re presenting the first updates today: synonyms and keyword distribution! Yes, you read that right: Premium users can now add synonyms and related terms to check. Writing about bikes? Your synonyms will probably include ‘bicycle, cycle, ride, two-wheeler,’ and now you can add those terms. The Yoast SEO plugin will check how you use these terms in your article.synonyms in Yoast SEO 7.8

New Premium feature: keyword distribution

The new synonym feature also works in conjunction with another new feature in Yoast SEO Premium: keyword distribution. If you added a couple of synonyms for your focus keyword, Yoast SEO now checks to see if these are distributed well throughout the text. Before you could add your focus keyword in the intro a couple of times and that would be fine by us. That’s over. We’re taking the complete text in regard and want you to evenly and realistically distribute your focus keyword and synonyms. The gif below shows what the highlighting of keywords and synonyms looks like.
keyword synonyms yoast seo premium 7.8
We keep using the focus keyword exclusively to determine keyword density. In our opinion, optimizing your post for the most common keyword — the one that your keyword research uncovered as being most used by your audience — continues to be imperative. 

More on the way

This is just the start. At the moment, we’re hard at work to improve the language capabilities of Yoast SEO. Marieke wrote a post describing what you can expect from Yoast SEO in the coming months. Read about morphology, related keywords and the upcoming recalibration of the SEO analyses in Yoast SEO.

Feedback welcome!

We’ve added these new checks for you to try out. We’re very much looking forward to your feedback. How are you using synonyms and related topics in your texts? What do you want Yoast SEO to do with your synonyms? Are there ways to improve how we handle the analyses of your text? As we’ve said, this is the first step to a Yoast SEO that is far more capable of understanding language and using that knowledge to provide you with the best possible feedback. Help us get there! You can either add an issue to GitHub or comment on this post. We’re looking forward to your help!

Language improvements for French, Spanish and Italian

Yoast SEO 7.8 has turned out to be a release focused on language because we’ve also expanded the language functionality for French, Spanish and Italian. Users writing French and Spanish can now use the Flesch Reading Ease assessment to check the perceived difficulty of their texts. Users writing Italian can now improve their texts using the new passive voice assessment. French, Spanish and Italian now fully support all Yoast SEO features.

Other improvements and fixes

As always, we’ve fixed loads of bugs and improved various parts of the plugin. For instance, we’ve improved the way we determine the OpenGraph for front pages, especially in the case of static front pages. We’ve also fixed several bugs regarding the look and feel of the new snippet variables that we introduced in Yoast SEO 7.7.

Update now to Yoast SEO 7.8

Yoast SEO 7.8 is an exciting new release, one that marks a new direction for us. We’re giving you much more flexibility to enhance your articles by using synonyms and providing you with more tools to determine how well you present your keywords. This is the first step to an even more relevant, useful and indispensable Yoast SEO!

Read on: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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Keyword density is the number of times your focus keyword occurs on a web page, compared to the total text of that page. If you write a post for your blog, you should have thought about what keyword you want to rank that post for. In our Yoast SEO plugin, that keyword is what we call the focus keyword. If you have a text that is 100 words and 5 of those are your focus keyword, your keyword density is 5%. Is it that black and white? In a very strict world, that would indeed be the case. But Google is smarter than that. In this post, we’ll discuss a number of things you need to take into account when checking keyword density for your pages.

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Keyword density in Yoast SEO

In Yoast SEO free, we encourage you to aim for a keyword density of 2.5%. If 2.5% of your post is your desired focus keyword, your text will still be fairly natural to read. It won’t look over-optimized. The thing is, that in the end, you want to make sure your text is written for humans, not Google. If the keyword density of your text exceeds 5%, it will already start to look a lot like spam, or what we call keyword stuffing. It’ll start to look like it’s written for search engines more than your human visitors. Just don’t do that. This is why a keyword density of 2.5% is a nice indication of natural, yet optimized text as well.

Multiple keywords

Often, you’ll find yourself optimizing a text for more than one keyword. Especially long pages or articles can be used perfectly for multiple keywords. It’s usually hard to write two or three articles about similar keywords, so it makes sense to group these. Think along the lines of:

  • “SEO” and “search engine optimization”
  • “Review” and “Testimonial”

But also words that are a tad bit more unrelated. You might find yourself writing about a “forest” and want to include “trees” as well, for instance. The plural of a word is also something you could add as a focus keyword for your page.

Did you know that adding multiple keywords is a breeze in Yoast SEO Premium? You can add up to 5 (!) focus keywords instead of the single keyword you are used to in our free plugin! Get Yoast SEO Premium here.

When talking about keyword density, SEO and search engine optimization obviously mean exactly the same. Therefore, you should take this into account when checking keyword density for your post. If the keyword density for SEO is already at 2.5%, it would be unwise to add another 2.5% for search engine optimization. You are probably wondering how to check if Google considers two words the same or not: that’s simple. Google one word, and see if the other one is bold as well:
Keyword density: bold in Google

In this example, it’s clear that Google treats “SEO” the same as “search engine optimization”.

Synonyms

We’re so excited to let you know that synonyms are coming to Yoast SEO Premium! In one of the upcoming releases, we’ll allow for synonyms to be used to accompany your focus keywords. So, that means that besides the actual focus keyword, we’ll also let you to insert a number of synonyms, and we will adjust the keyword density calculation accordingly.

Imagine you are writing about forests. You might also want to use the word ‘woods’ to refer to the same thing. You can set ‘forest’ as a keyword and ‘woods’ as a synonym. In addition, you can also use the synonym field to add the plural ‘forests’. To set multiple synonyms, just separate them with commas.

Note that this does differ from the multiple keywords option. That option allows you to optimize for totally different words, whereas we will take the synonyms into account for keyword density and other checks in our plugin. For instance, synonyms are also used when we calculate topic distribution (more on that below).

Keyword versus topic

The terms we use in our plugin to refer to these checks, will differ, depending on which version of Yoast SEO you use. We’ll use the terms ‘keyword density’ and ‘keyword distribution’, as long as you don’t have Yoast SEO Premium and the synonyms feature. As soon as you have that feature, we will no longer refer to the ‘keyword’, but to the ‘topic’, being the keyword and the synonyms, when checking density and distribution. That brings us to the next new feature in Yoast SEO Premium: topic distribution.

Topic distribution

We will also add topic distribution to Yoast SEO Premium in that release! This is actually something we’ve been planning to add for a while. We can tell you that your page has 2.5% keyword density, but if your 2,500 words article uses your focus keyword and synonyms 62 times in just the first two paragraphs, your text will still look strange, right? If your article is about ‘plugins’, you’ll want to use that word throughout the article, not just at the beginning or end. That is why topic distribution is so important.

Just to be clear: we’re talking about topic distribution when you have included synonyms because we calculate the distribution of keywords as well as synonyms. When you don’t have synonyms, we simply calculate the keyword distribution for your keyword or keyphrase.

Keyword density is the basis

You’ll understand by now that keyword density is the basis of how well your post or page is optimized for a certain focus keyword. Keyword density, in our plugin or in one of the many tools available on the internet, will tell you if you’re over-optimizing your text or just not optimizing it enough. If you want to take it a step further and get closer to how Google sees your copy, synonyms and topic distribution will definitely be something to take into account too. Now go optimize!

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The snippet editor is one of the core pieces of technology in Yoast SEO. It helps you build snippets that truly stand out in the search results to get you traffic. To make this vital piece future-proof and to update it with new features, we needed to rebuild it. In Yoast SEO 7.7, you’ll find the result of that. Plus, a new and incredibly easy way of working with snippet variables.

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The new snippet editor in Yoast SEO

The new snippet editor offers a much better user experience. Editing your meta descriptions and titles is a breeze and checking how it all looks a joy. It’s robust and easier to use. You’ll notice it right away when you open a post. Heading over to the Search Appearance settings (Content Types, Archives or Taxonomies), you will also see the editor pop up. There, you can now visually edit the appearance of your snippet variables. More on that later.

new snippet editor yoast seo 7.7

While preparing for Gutenberg, we are steadily rebuilding all parts of the Yoast SEO interface in the JavaScript library React. This makes it easier for us to port different parts to Gutenberg and to do awesome new things with those parts.

Improved mobile snippet preview

Improving the snippet editor also made it possible for us to enhance the mobile snippet preview. It’s much more accurate and closely matches what Google shows. We now default to the mobile snippet preview. In addition, we take a critical look at how long the title that we show can be. For this, we use the longest possible character count available on all platforms.

Revamped snippet variables

You can automate some of your SEO work by using variable templates for your titles and meta descriptions. This way, you can use some existing content, for instance, an excerpt, or a focus keyword and have these filled automatically. What’s more, if you have a WooCommerce store and run Yoast SEO for WooCommerce, you can automatically fill in the product’s sku, brand and price. You can find the list of all supported template variables in our Knowledge Base.

The snippet variables in Yoast SEO are very powerful. While you can do awesome stuff with it, most sites will probably be fine using the well-thought-out default settings we provide. Previously, these variables looked kind of scary with those %% signs and lack of visual feedback. Testing various snippet variable setups meant a lot of switching between browser tabs to see the rendered end result. We’re now changing that!

Introducing the new snippet variables in the Search Appearance settings

As I said, the new snippet editor lets us do cool stuff. It made it possible for us to revamp how we use variables for titles and meta descriptions to make it instantly understandable for non-experts. This leads to huge usability benefits and a truly enjoyable user experience.

search appearance snippet variables yoast seo 7.7We’ve opted for sensible defaults fit most sites fine — for instance, for the SEO title: Title, Page number, Separator and Site title —, but you can change these if you really want. We’ve made a handy button called Insert Snippet Variable to quickly add the requested variable. You can simply pick the variable from the dropdown menu. The same goes for the Meta description field where you can automatically generate — parts of — your snippet’s meta description by adding variables. You can set sitewide variables for meta descriptions and titles in the Search Appearance settings, but you can always override them on a per post basis in the post editor.

The last thing we’ve opted for in the new snippet editor is to change how the meta description preview functions when there is no handwritten meta description. We no longer mimic Google by showing a part of your content, but explain what Google does instead. Hopefully this will remind you to write those killer meta descriptions.

Check your Search Appearance settings

It’s always a good thing to dive into the settings of Yoast SEO regularly to see if everything is still perfectly set up for your site. Definitely take a look at the new Search Appearance settings page and check the different tabs to see if there’s anything to improve. While doing that, you probably discover a new setting or feature from time to time, like setting template using the new snippet editor.

Cool community contributions

For Yoast SEO 7.7, we reviewed several community contributions. There were a couple that made the cut this time. First, Laurent helped us improve the lists of French transition words, stop words, and function words for use in the readability analyses. Thanks to Matteo, we have now added support for JSON-LD breadcrumbs. You can switch on the breadcrumbs setting and see the necessary code for it generated in the source code.

Last but not east, we’ve added a wpseo_attachment_redirect_url filter to allow changing of the target redirection URL for attachments. This may be necessary to restore the redirect to the parent post. Thanks to Alex Kozack for this one. If you also have a bug, patch or feature request, please raise an issue over on the Yoast GitHub account.

Update now to Yoast SEO 7.7

There you have it: Yoast SEO 7.7 is available to all. It’s a great release with lots of new stuff to discover. The new snippet editor makes for a great user experience and the revamped template variables can give your productivity a big boost. Check out the new and improved tools and update to Yoast SEO 7.7 now! Or check the changelog here.

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