How many SEO plugins do you need? None!

no cost

Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: September 2017

13 minute read

We write about plugin speed. This means we also write about plugins wasting web resources or your time. We critique value.

Here are the comparison of three SEO plugin’s load time (speed):

  1. Yoast SEO plugin: 79.6 milliseconds.

  2. The SEO Framework – (autodescription) plugin: 40.9 milliseconds.

  3. LTI SEO plugin: 13.1 milliseconds.

These plugins cause site drag. The plugins slow down every single page and post of your site. We’ve disabled theme webfonts to save 80 milliseconds for extreme performance optimization. So you’d think we’d recommend the LTI SEO plugin. But that isn’t the case. Instead, we recommend you don’t install any SEO plugin. Especially not Yoast SEO*.

*Yoast SEO is a counterproductive waste of time.

Read more to discover why.


SEO plugin authors take advantage of the lack of awareness and secrecy of Google algorithms. It’s voodoo. The Internet is teeming with SEO misinformation. Ever been ripped off by a web scam? We bet it was for SEO services offering you better Google ranking. Something smells funny about SEO plugins, too. There’s no legitimate SEO results ever measurable, published, or proven. It’s impossible to show improvement. There is no before-and-after because there are too many variables. Most SEO claims are at best unrealistic promises. SEO tweaking is unproductive and often mythical in nature.

So what’s a Yoast SEO plugin?

“Yoast plugin is currently running on 6.2 million WordPress websites, including more than 70,000 websites on WP Engine alone. (Mar 21, 2017)

Joost de Valk — the CEO and founder of Yoast — said,

“If you have a decent site, installing Yoast isn’t going to boost you from page two [on Google’s search results] to a number one ranking, but it is something that can help you fine tune [your site].”

Author: Christopher Mazurk

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO recommendations intend to rank your site higher in search engines, like Google. Intended is the keyword here. De Valk said, “Fine tune.” What does fine tune mean in return on investment?

Search engines crawl your site. They gather information from the title, headings, content, and Meta description. They compare the words in these sections. Then rank the site dependent upon how well the information matches. That’s it in theory.

Yoast SEO is one of the most downloaded WordPress plugins of all time. It allows you to add SEO title, edit meta description, and meta keywords to each post and page of your site. But are those features needed or necessary in today’s world?

Are SEO plugins a substitute for creating, good quality useful content? SEO plugins are often considered must-have and essential plugins. No plugin is essential.

Yoast SEO is about trying to game the Google system for top-ranking spots. SEO looks at ways to do the least amount of work for the greatest initial return, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In reality, you must do the most amount of work for the least initial return. It’s painful. And tedious. Consuming about 15 to 20 minutes wasted per post. If you’re OCD, you can waste the rest of eternity.

Is this mob hysteria? Where are the Yoast success stories with quantifiable data? We couldn’t find any online. Lots of raving testimonials from thousands of fans. But no data about ranking improvements.

Is a plugin needed to get good SEO? And what is good SEO and how good is good enough? How much time should you invest (waste?) on SEO in the first place?

Measuring SEO waste?

  • You can’t conceal cruddy content with a free SEO plugin (or even a paid one). SEO is putting lipstick on a pig. It’s superficial and futile. A waste of your life. It makes no difference.
  • SEO has diminishing returns because you won’t see any improvement even when you invest more time.
  • SEO perfectionism has unrealistic, unattainable demanding goals. Like achieving #1 rank on Google.
  • Messing around tweaking your SEO plugin? You could be writing beneficial relevant content. That is the opportunity cost. You aren’t using scarce resources efficiently.
  • ROI: What is the return on SEO investment? No one can tell you! It’s vaporous.

Google says WordPress does 90 percent of SEO heavy lifting. There are lots of SEO advantages to having a WordPress site. When a search engine enters your site, it plows through gathering content information.

WordPress is famous for being well designed for SEO right out of the box. Features and functions guide search engines through every site post, page and category. So it’s not essential to install third-party SEO plugins for your sites to rank well. WordPress out of the box makes sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You can maintain excellent SEO without Yoast SEO plugin – or any SEO plugin.

Google claims WordPress takes care of 80 to 90 percent of the SEO ‘mechanics’ of your website. It takes care of the more difficult aspects of Search Engine Optimization.

So does this mean that the rest can be done with a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast? Nope. The rest really comes down to you.

Firstly, just because you have the Yoast plugin installed on your site by no means guarantees you of getting rankings in Google.

Produce original, relative and quality content that your niche market is looking for and rankings will come naturally. Target a specific niche market.

author: Marc Parsons

Surprise! Google doesn’t trust you. You have to earn Google’s trust to have a top ranking page. What counts today:

  1. Indexed age is the date that Google discovered your domain.
  2. Google wants to see a healthy link profile that signifies authority.
  3. Relevant content not only has to be lengthy. It has to be well-written, keyword centric and engaging. Readers then spend a good amount of time digesting and consuming that content.

The ugly truth about Meta tags (snippets).

The meta description is a ~160 character snippet, a tag in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content.

Google calls meta descriptions a “snippet.” It takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web. The goal of the snippet and title is to best relate to the user’s query. The snippet for a page in search results may determine click through from a search results page.

“Rich snippets” are site owner written snippets or based on markup on the page. These are usually done in a SEO plugin. If it’s not relevant, it’s not used. Google displays snippets generated from page content even if the words from a query appear in a meta description. Google decides upon a snippet based upon its perception of a query.

The snippet is a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content. Leave it alone. You can prevent Google from creating a snippet but why would you want to do that? They are trying to help you and reduce your work load. Best to let Meta descriptions get pulled in naturally. Contrived Meta descriptions are old-school SEO.

Is optimizing meta descriptions in a plugin an important aspect of SEO? Altering meta tags doesn’t significantly affect ranking. They affect click-through at best. But you don’t get to choose whether your carefully crafted snippet gets used any more. Google does.

Many bloggers and websites don’t include meta descriptions. In that case, Google chooses a random snippet of the article text. Sometimes, this is the first sentence. Or the sentence including the first instance of the user keyword entered.

In 2017, do Meta Tags control search snippet listings in Google? Sometimes, yes, at least in the case of the Meta Description, but not always, and this is dependent on many factors. Google will pick its own preferred search snippet for SERPs for display purposes. It’s influenced by whoever made the page (and site) – and what Google knows about the page.

Google radically changed how it creates page snippets. Both to improve user experience – and mask how it works as a search engine. In 2017, Google no longer requires information in various tags to rank or display pages. They rely more on newer signals of intent to both rank and display pages in SERPs.

So it’s possible to influence your snippet – that doesn’t mean you should if it duplicates title text. That advice is direct from Google. Google gives importance to visible page content. Not the relative unimportance it gives to invisible meta descriptions. Google prefers using their own automated snippets.

Google reserves the right to alter or change your title and meta descriptions to match searchers query intent. They supply information scent for easier more relevant scanning. All your time spent fiddling and tweaking is then for nothing.

Green-Dot Train Wreck A Yoast green dot only means that you stuffed the page with keywords. If you over do it, that may even draw a penalty from Google for trying to game the system. Don’t do keyword modifications. It will only get you blacklisted for keyword stuffing. In other words, attempted cheating the Google system. A SEO plugin can risk damage to your site and reputation.

You cannot stuff keywords into your text, add a SEO plug, and consider you will get a page-one ranking. That is an absurd expectation. How much tweaking is necessary with an SEO plugin for every page and post of your website? The return on investment is minimal and counterproductive. You have to do a lot of thinking and writing to make meta-tags that help even a little. You should be writing and researching content. Not worrying about getting green buttons in Yoast.

If your content is no good, how can it be relevant? Without great content, forget about your chances to rank. Google wants content made for humans. Getting a green dot is not an indicator the post will rank well with Google.

Yoast suggests duplicating Keyword strings for page title, article heading, content, and META description. Having a green “yes” in all these categories doesn’t achieve Google high organic relevancy.

“I’ve been using Yoast for a few years and I like it overall, but I’m getting pretty tired of their new “readability” scoring. Unless you use absolutely bizarre sentence structure and dumb your content down for morons, you’ll never get a green ‘good’ score.”

Keyword Meta Tags are dead.

Google is very clear about meta keywords (or keyword meta tags) – they don’t use them. You have more important things to worry about than this nonsense. Google no longer uses the meta keyword in search result ranking. They confirm this in their Webmaster Central Blog. Search engines don’t use the meta tag information any more because many site owners abused it. Yet it remains a feature in Yoast SEO plugin. Weird.

The Page Title Element is not a meta tag, although it’s referred to as one.

Title tags are the most important meta tags. These tags have a real impact on search rankings and, it’s the only tag that’s visible to the average user. You’ll find them at the top of your browser. The Title Tag alone can impact your search engine rankings.

Improve the quality of your titles. That can increase the number of people who are clicking. Titles should be authentic, use natural language, be short and condensed. Titles should inspire curiosity.

Page titles are more important than meta descriptions tweaked using SEO plugins. Creating page or post titles is part of WordPress. You can’t make a page without supplying that information. How to write good titles is a human skill. Automation only produces inferior titles. They do not understand human motive.

Now for some irony:

Do the top SEO blogs use meta descriptions? The answer is yes and no.

Uses meta descriptions on their homepage and product pages, but not their blog posts.

Search Engine Land
Uses a lengthy meta description on their homepage and sometimes uses them on their posts.

Search Engine Watch
Uses a lengthy meta description on their homepage, but not on their posts.

Doesn’t use a meta description on their homepage or blog posts, but does use it on the occasional internal page.

Search Engine Journal
Uses a brief meta description on its homepage but not on its posts.

author: Kristi Hines

When optimizing a page for Google, focus on page content and user experience in 2017. Search engines can’t see a site. They can only read a site. Looks do not talk to a search engine. What talks to a search engine are the words, the content. That’s the material that explains, shares, informs, educates, and babbles. Make sure you have quality word content for a search engine to examine and compare to give you a good score. Don’t worry so much about writing a certain amount of content every single day. Worry about publishing good content every single week. That’s what Google cares about – quality.

Google’s primary ranking factors now focus on user’s intent.

What are visitor’s motives to visit your site. Why are they there in the first place? Do you satisfy their needs and goals? What problem are they trying to solve? What questions do they want answered?[nextpage title=”What is the best SEO tool?”]

What is the best SEO tool? Content.

Put in the work and time, elevating quality over quantity.

Write content for readers:

  • readable.
  • interesting.
  • helpful.
  • informative.
  • well-written.
  • engaging.

Forget about the search engines. Chasing search engine algorithms is a waste of time. Relevant, valued, quality content is the biggest contributor to search engine page ranking. Period.

Our recommendation: Don’t use a SEO plugin – like Yoast. Leave out meta descriptions on pages. Your time is better focused on more important site issues like content.

Offsite link:

We understand the claimed *benefit* of snippet editors. Most site owners know producing relevant content takes priority over tweaking snippets. Snippets are information scent. That is important – but site owners controlling them in year 2017 is an illusion.

Google doesn’t pay attention to manufactured snippets any more. They ignore them. If site owners can control “indicators” – other than content – Google removes it from the search algorithm. It’s to their benefit. Google doesn’t tell anyone that, of course. They would get major adverse press.

Google also claims speed affects SEO. That was a scare tactic in 2010 – that persists. Speed only affects SEO (ranking) a half percent at best. Speed affects UX – especially for mobile users. Google is deceptive about the speed benefits for SEO. They are also deceptive about SEO benefits from snippet editing.

Google also has site owners chasing their tails with their online PageSpeed test. But Google doesn’t use that test score for ranking. The only speed parameter Google counts is TTFB – and you have to pay for that with a hosting provider. Does that mean you should change hosts for SEO? Nope. Make your site faster and be hospitable to abused users. That’s good UX.

Tweaking snippets is an opportunity cost.

Google now creates snippets from page content based on user intent (search history). How they do that is mysterious and undisclosed to prevent search-system manipulation. Google’s snippet formula is proprietary secrecy. No one knows for certain how things work. Our recommendations, thus, are counterculture and deduced. But, it’s plain how the Google game works. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a snippet editor plugin. Remember, your time is better spent creating relevant content.



Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:

"That's very helpful. What a thorough speed report. I already implemented some of these changes. Thank You Steve!", Tiberius, Israel

by - Shlomi Tsur