- Rank Math vs Yoast SEO: Key Differences
- Introducing Surfer
When it comes to SEO optimization, Rank Math vs Yoast is a tough choice for your SEO plugin in WordPress.
Yoast is the classic WordPress plugin that introduces many new marketers and bloggers to SEO. However, Rank Math offers a lot more features without confining them to a premium subscription. Overall though, the SEO secret weapon that not many webmasters are aware of is neither Rank Math nor Yoast SEO.
It’s not even a WordPress SEO plugin yet.
It is a new and powerful SEO tool called Surfer that analyzes top-performing pages in Google based on your target search term and creates a recipe to rank for that specific term.
Now if you were looking for Yoast SEO vs Rank Math you might not have been expecting a totally different SEO tool, but the good news is Surfer offers a 14 day trial for just $1 so you can see its power for yourself.
Our Top Pick
In terms of Yoast vs Rank Math I have to go for Rank Math. Yoast SEO has been around for years and it feels like they don’t care about innovation. They are the go-to tool and heavily target beginner bloggers and so don’t seem particularly interested in more advanced features that such a small amount of their user base would actually use. Rank Math feels much more dynamic with regular updates and more powerful features.
I think this is best summarized by the fact that when you sign up you are presented with a choice in the setup wizard: simple or advanced. You can plug and play without getting too involved or go into detail and make very fine tweaks.
In particular this helps with things like no-following your tag and category archives. I’ve seen plenty of sites improve rankings from taking out hundreds of these thin pages from Google’s index. Yoast SEO allows this but doesn’t seem to guide you to it like Rank Math. Generally Rank Math’s default settings seem much more in line with best practice for an SEO plugin.
Rank Math vs Yoast SEO: Key Differences
Yoast SEO vs Rank Math Focus Keywords
In general Rank Math is a much more comprehensive WordPress SEO plugin and is totally free. For a start, you can add up to five focus keywords for free – something that the Yoast SEO plugin reserves for its premium version.
Having said that, I find multiple keywords a bit frustrating. It’s very difficult to optimize a single piece for multiple keywords with the same level of priority. For instance, your title is a massive influence but you are probably only going to have one keyword in the title. Any time I add in extra keywords I get my main one to green while the others fall behind. I can imagine it’s useful for things like plurals and synonyms but I would rather pick these up naturally as I write.
That’s just me and I’m sure there are SEOs out there who delight in fine-tuning multiple keywords. But I get a lot of success out of targeting one keyword really well and then ranking for additional terms by accident.
Both Rank Math and the Yoast SEO plugin use preset formulas for optimal keyword density – but in reality every search term will have a slightly different preference with Google. That’s an advantage of Surfer that works out “true density” by detecting the keyword density of pages that are ranking high in Google for a particular search term. In fact, it picks up lots of common keywords those top performers share and gives you a formula based on all that data.
After using Surfer, you may find that when you paste your perfected content into WordPress Yoast or Rank Math don’t agree with your keyword density. Personally, I’m much more inclined to go with the data-driven result from Surfer and this proves how regularly the Rank Math and Yoast density estimates can be wrong.
Yoast SEO Vs Rank Math – Keyword Research
It is also worth saying Rank Math includes keyword suggestions.
That is huge for beginners.
I remember when I started blogging with an online magazine startup. We used to write content that was interesting to us and then just throw in a random topic into the Yoast focus keyword field. Write good stuff and people will find you on Google.
How wrong we were. To this day I cannot believe our ignorance. Needless to say that startup no longer exists. My first site which I began soon after used the same approach – as I was aiming to get traffic from Facebook rather than Google. It was months later I learned about keyword research – identifying the content people are actually searching for and then writing that, rather than writing content and hoping it would get magically discovered.
By including relevant search terms as suggested keywords, Rank Math could be saving hundreds of bloggers from making the same mistake. Very few bloggers jump right in with a SEMRush or Ahrefs subscription and I can’t imagine that many go straight to Google’s free Keyword Planner either.
To get these suggested keywords just start typing in the focus keyword field and suggestions will appear in a drop-down list.
Yoast SEO Plugin vs Rank Math Content Length
I also feel its much more on it in terms of SEO best practices. Yoast is happy if you write a post that is more than 300 words long. Why that has been the case for years I have no idea. Perhaps it is because it is also intended for Woocommerce product descriptions.
Most SEOs are unanimous that it is rare to publish a post under 1000 words. Content length isn’t really a direct ranking factor – but as Google is always looking for the most relevant and comprehensive answer to a query top ranking posts tend to be thousands of words long.
In general, you should Google your search term and look at the length of other top performers in your niche. Some queries can be answered quite briefly and Google will make it clear if it prefers shorter content for that term. Rank Math is better with a minimum of 600 words – and you get a higher score for writing more.
However, both Yoast SEO and Rank Math use preset formulas of wordcount when in reality this should be dynamic. Of course you can write however many words you like – and Rank Math will reward you with its SEO score – but it is a bit misleading that both use an arbitrary minimum figure.
If you don’t like the sound of manually working out the word counts of top-ranking articles for each post, you can use Surfer. It analyzes top results for you and presents you with an optimal word count. In the case of this article it recommended 3647 words – more than ten times what Yoast recommended as a minimum.
It’s certainly less of a grind writing enough to satisfy the SEO plugins, but if I were a beginner and went with these recommended minimum lengths then you probably wouldn’t be reading this article right now.
When working out word counts it is also a good idea to ignore results that rank highly just because of their sheer authority. Instead you want to look at the smaller players as they will have got to that ranking through their on-page optimization rather than thousands of backlinks.
In Surfer you get a “content rating” and a “domain score” so you can find these perfect-SEO performers with fewer backlinks and therefore top-quality content in Google’s eyes.
Yoast SEO vs Rank Math Scoring
Yoast SEO has a traffic light system. You start off red and as you write content and improve it you get to green. This is nice and simple. I’ve never had trouble explaining this to clients or writers.
But with simplicity comes limitation. You certainly get a lot more granularity when using Rank Math. Use Rank Math and you still have red, amber and green colouring but these are combined with an overall score out of 100.
The other great thing about Rank Math is it divides its guidance into “basic SEO” and “Additional”. Psychologically this means a lot.
The downside of Rank Math is I feel it could easily scare off beginners. Yoast is bad enough by throwing you into a world of alt text and similar jargon – although they have a site full of entry-level SEO guidance. But Rank Math breaks these down into essentials and nice-to-haves. So while vs Yoast Rank Math is more advanced it also feels more beginner-friendly.
The downside is you do feel compelled to reach 100/100. I wouldn’t bother because again SEO is dynamic and ever-changing. Optimizing for a set formula doesn’t make sense and you reach a point of diminishing returns once you are above about 70/100.
With Yoast the light turning green gives you a sense of fulfilment and you can move on to your next post – and of course that’s a much bigger SEO win compared to spending hours perfecting a single post.
Sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense to optimize fully because both WordPress SEO plugins don’t see the full picture of your website.
One client site I work with uses a silo structure where the main product landing pages replace the category archives. I achieved this with a plugin. As you generally don’t want to repeat keywords in your URL, this can be complex as both WordPress SEO plugins can’t see what that URL plugin is doing.
Here’s a fictitious example with dog walking.
That would be the product page and link out to all the articles in that category.
Now supposing I had an article that targeted a location.
That is not optimal as it repeats the keyword “dog walking”. The best URL stucture would therefore be:
But both SEO plugins want you to use your focus keyword in the slug. They cannot see that half the keyword is already in the URL. Needless to say, not a single post on that client site has a super-high score on Rank Math.
As usual with SEO, the moral of the story is to optimize for humans – not robots – and use your own brain.
Yoast SEO Vs Rank Math Google Search Console Integration
Both the Yoast SEO plugin and Rank Math help you integrate with Google Search Console – a powerful platform that lets you see your ranking keywords, impressions and clicks. There aren’t many gifts from Google when it comes to SEO. But Google Search Console is one of them.
However, Rank Math goes further and lets you actually view your Google Search Console data within WordPress. For a lot of people that’s hardly a gamechanger given you only have to visit Search Console to see the same data.
However, if you have employees working on your site then having that data in one place can be preferable to sharing Gmail account information.
A lot of SEOs also run multiple sites and take steps to hide themselves from Google. It is against Google’s policies to link between your own sites to improve rankings. Some SEOs even speculate that simply owning mutliple sites that rank well could result in penalties from Google. To guard against that they create new Gmail accounts for each site rather than having them all on one. But to truly hide from Google some have to go as far as different IP addresses and incognito windows. Simply logging into Search Console to check your stats therefore becomes much harder.
Rank Math is the clear winner here for very quickly seeing how your site is doing.
Yoast SEO Vs Rank Math Elementor SEO Integration
If you use the Elementor plugin to build pages then you will have a problem with Yoast SEO vs Rank Math.
Yoast SEO can’t read Elementor plugin content. As you are no doubt aware, editing a page in Elementor means you basically disable the default WordPress editor for that page. Once you’re in the Elementor editor SEO can be difficult.
Again Rank Math seems much more of a forward-thinking plugin and provides Elementor plugin integration. It is also very easy to use. If you are using Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin then you should see an SEO tab at the top of the Elementor editor. Once open it is just the same as the usual Rank Math plugin panel – but it can detect the Elementor content.
Ironically though I have been unable to add breadcrumbs to a template using Elementor and Rank Math – these are the navigation links at the top of a page. However, this is a feature provided by the Yoast SEO plugin. That is insane. Breadcrumbs are proven to have significant SEO benefits but at the time of writing you can only implement them in Elementor with Yoast SEO, but Yoast SEO will not then analyze the content you have written in Elementor. You shouldn’t have two SEO plugins active on the same site so I’ve just done without breadcrumbs. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something on Rank Math’s roadmap though.
Be warned though that while Elementor is fantastic for building beautiful landing pages, there are some SEO repercussions. Speed is the main thing as all those elements add up to some serious code bloat. Speed does play a significant role in rankings. I have actually tripled site traffic just by fixing page speed – first with a site that lost 80% of its traffic after I installed banner ads which I regained by removing the ads and installing Nitropack, and then again when I applied that learning to another site.
Therefore, it is generally best to keep Elementor just for pages that really need to be beautiful – like landing and funnel pages. For blog content stick to Gutenberg and just use a simple shortcode plugin for visual elements like summary boxes.
If you do need to use Elementor then you can make sure your page speed is the best it can be with a tool like WP Rocket or Nitropack. Both these tools can turbocharge your site speed with very little work.
Yoast SEO Vs Rank Math Readability
I don’t care about Yoast’s readability score in WordPress. While there’s undoubtedly a correlation between user experience and rankings that will continue to grow, I don’t believe in Yoast’s readability metric.
SEO content should be written well for humans. That’s for a number of reasons. Not only do you want to keep readers on your site so they don’t click back and send a signal to Google that they didn’t like your site, but if you’re doing SEO the chances are you actually want to keep them engaged and sell them something.
You won’t achieve that if you aren’t writing for your audience. If that’s 10-year-old school maths students then write for them. If it’s a PHD research site then the writing style will be different. Instead of relying on making the plugin turn green, just focus on writing content that is readable in a human sense. That is difficult and time consuming if you are going through line by line trying to make the light go green by putting in more full stops and active voice.
Of course, you may not be much of a writer. I trained as a journalist so that’s hardly fair. But I would suggest you go out and learn to be better writer rather than getting Yoast to tell you how in isolated snippets.
Rank Math’s readability is much more relaxed – which is better in my view. Use a table of contents plugin to break up the text, use short paragraphs and include images. That’s it.
A powerful alternative to Yoast SEO and Rank Math is Surfer. Rather than relying on set formulas based on a handful of ranking factors, use data-driven insights to create the perfect recipe for your content.
As yet Surfer does not have a WordPress plugin like Rank Math and Yoast SEO. Instead it is a separate application almost like working in Google Sheets – and they do have a Chrome extension so it can be used in Google Sheets like the SEMRush content editor.
Select the location you are targeting and whether you want mobile or desktop. Mobile or desktop largely relies on your audience. For this piece I used desktop as it seems logical that if you are searching for SEO software and searching Yoast SEO vs Rank Math you will be using a computer.
If your audience is looking for fashion or beauty products perhaps mobile would be more appropriate. You can also elect to use Natural Language Processing (NLP), which includes more analysis based on wording.
Surfer will then generate a template. Go into the template and click on “Customize”.
This is where the magic happens. You will see Surfer has identified the top 10 results for your criteria. It has ticked those that have a high content score as opposed to ranking just through domain strength. With those it has created a recipe of all the features your article needs to have – length, headings, bold words, keywords and more.
The extra perk of Surfer is as a workflow tool. You can copy the shareable link for the template and send it to your writers if you have them. You can also flesh out the structure of the article by putting in the headings so the writer knows exactly what to cover. They also don’t need to be SEO-trained as they can just aim to get as many keywords green as realistically possible.
So in terms of Yoast SEO vs Rank Math, the latter is the clear winner. Rank Math has more features despite being free and keeps fresh with new updates. But to truly supercharge your rankings, consider a getting a trial of Surfer today.