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What happened exactly?
Who would have predicted that one of the most popular and useful SEO plugins would become the protagonist of nightmares for thousands of SEOs all over the world?
No one, but it happened, and it is hitting SEOs badly, costing them tons of rankings and screwing their progress. Not cool, not even a bit, and even worse is the fact that Yoast did not take the time to release a proper public announcement.
We would not have expected such an irresponsible behavior from a serious and famous SEO company, but time always likes to surprise us with the unexpected, and this time, the surprise was not pleasant at all…
Here at SEO Heroes we managed to notice the issue early, and fortunately, fixed it and prevented it from damaging our clients’ websites. Unfortunately, as we are going to see, not many were so lucky…
The issue has been so big that even John Mueller chimed in, because this bug created a real chaos in the SERPs. You can read the official statement by Yoast, which was released way too late, but still, you can check it.
In this article, we are going to talk about all the issues the plugin is causing to sites and what you can do to remedy them.
An Overview: What Kind of Damages Did It Cause?
The most damaging effect of Yoast SEO Plugin 7.0 has been the dramatic ranking drops that many SEO professional have experienced.
We can trace it back in time and see that this bug has been present in the plugin since March 6. Therefore, if you have experienced an abnormal drop in rankings for no clear reason and you have Yoast installed in your website, then now you know what might be causing the problems.
Losing rankings inevitably makes a website lose traffic, and therefore, it will generate less leads and conversions, which is detrimental for any kind of business, because after all, we all invest into digital marketing to generate more money.
On the surface, the root of the problem is that the plugin reverts all the settings to the default configuration, which is enough to wreck all of your advances, because it can completely mess up with your plans. However, there is a lot more…
It restores settings to default, yes, but it also enables some settings that are switched to off by default.
If you want to take a closer look to this issue, then all you need to do is to open the Yoast plugin and check the settings under SEO > Search Appearance > Media. You will see that it is configured to show media in search results, which is bad for your website.
It converts media attachment pages into normal inner pages. Imagine if you had 1000 images in your site, now due to the bug, you would have 1000 new pages in your website undermining your SEO efforts. Not cool.
If the image redirects worked correctly, then they would redirect to the attachment itself, but due to this configuration by Yoast, you get a real mess in place that is hurting thousands of websites in the internet with huge drops in rankings.
A Huge Problem at the Worst Time:
Having tons of useless pages with nothing of relevant content can really destroy your advances in your SEO campaign, and this is something that many SEOs have experienced themselves. Many have lost a significant percentage of their traffic, which as you can easily guess, translates in less sales and conversions.
Even worse, many are the stories of SEOs and bloggers who got their sites completely de-indexed from Google, sending their traffic, sales and conversions into the trash. No apologies will be enough to compensate such a traffic loss that many are experiencing.
Such issue could have been fixed promptly and the negative results would have been easily reverted, that would have been the case under normal circumstances… but it happened when Google decided to release critical core algorithmic updates and it only means one thing: trouble.
This fact makes the terrible mistake and negligence by Yoast even more, because we all know that these updates normally bring a lot of noise and movements to the SERPs, and having your site in such an unfavorable state is the quickest way to lose your hard-earned rankings.
The main issue with these updates is that they targeted the quality of sites, and you can easily guess that a site with tons of empty pages with weird URLs and titles is not the best sign of high quality, and Google knows it.
In order to save resources, Google decided to target sites with duplicate and thin content, because they are a waste of time in the eyes of Google. However, due to the Yoast bug, your high quality site with tons of useful and great content was classified alongside with all the poor quality sites of the internet.
Briefly: the bug creates tons of useless pages that classify your website as a poor-quality one, and therefore, penalizes you with a classical duplicate/thin content penalty.
What Can You Do To Fix It?
Many SEOs are already aware of this issue and they have fixed it. However, there are many webmasters, bloggers and even SEOs who do not know what is causing the big drop in rankings and traffic. If you have Yoast in your site, and it has created tons of pages from your media attachments, then you know what your problem is and now it is time to fix it.
All you need to do is the following:
- Go to SEO > Search Appearance > Media
- Find the “Redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself?” and switch it to YES
- Problem solved.
That fixes the root of the problem, however, what can you do if you want to recover your rankings and traffic faster? Well, you can try the following:
- Fix the bug following the instructions from above
- Update the plugin
- Re-index the sitemap and wait for the best.
Even then, it will take a while for Google to crawl your site again and make your rankings and traffic come back. You can also try to do a bulk URL removal of all the media attachment pages, but even then, only time will heal this issue.
These are the steps to follow and I hope you recover fast, because it is a very hard hit to see your sites suffer such a massive drop in rankings and traffic, and all due to a third party’s irresponsibility and negligence.
If your site is big, then it will take weeks or even months for Google to remove all of those pages. On the other hand, smaller websites should experience quicker results. Nonetheless, everything is on Google’s hands.
Tired of Yoast?
It is completely understandable if you cannot trust Yoast against after such a catastrophic incident. Therefore, if you are tired of it, there is an alternative that you should definitively check out: SEO Framework.
Like Yoast, it is a plugin that you can easily install in any website that runs WordPress. Here you have a list of the benefits:
- Like Yoast (basic version), it is completely free
- Far more SEO settings that you can work with, which is excellent if you are a very technical SEO
- The indicators offer you a good guidance on how to optimize your pages, however, you should never rely on it completely, because as the good SEO that you are, you need to take care of the optimization on your own based on your research
- It comes with Schema settings, which is very useful for inserting micro-data
- Very easy to use even for beginners.
Therefore, if you are looking for a reliable substitution for Yoast, then here you have it. One of the most useful characteristics of it is that it is more technical than Yoast, and still, it is very easy to use and is perfect for most sites.
What Can We Learn From This?
The most important lessons from the Yoast incident:
- You should never rely completely on a third-party tool, because it is your duty as an SEO to take care of the optimization of every page on your own
- Even the most reputable companies can mess up big time and directly damage your websites
- You must always analyze your site and stay up to the date with the latest news in the industry
- The importance of regular checkups of your websites, both in-site and off-site.
There is always something new to learn, especially from failure and chaos, and this case is the perfect example.
Yes, Yoast caused a real hell in the SEO world, and all due to a bug is still affecting many websites.
However, now you know how to fix it and what caused all these problems. In case you haven’t fixed it yet, you should do it as soon as possible, because the longer you wait the more time it will take to fix.
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