Another day, another drama. This time for the users of SEO plugin, Yoast.
An announcement from Yoast sent the cat amongst the pigeons late last month, when they revealed a bug with the widely used WordPress plugin could have led to significant ranking drops. Not the best news when the plugin is supposed to help with optimising sites for search.
So, WordPress, Yoast, sounding a bit familiar? With approximately 40 milllion downloads worldwide chances are that a few of you out there may have been subject to this bug.
Starting to panic a little? Don’t. As with a lot of news in the SEO world, there was an initial uproar and collective lamenting which was soon replaced with a calmer “oh, actually, this isn’t a big deal”.
So, what was the bug and what do you need to do? Essentially, it has to do with the way the plugin handles image URL redirects. When you upload an image to WordPress it creates an attachment URL for the image. These are pages that have little content on them other than the image itself. If you have a large site with lots of images you can end up with a high percentage of your site’s URLs being thin and not very useful.
The Yoast plugin has historically taken care of these URLs by redirecting them to the page the image was attached to. In the recent iteration, Yoast SEO 7.0, the default setting for this process was changed meaning there was a possibility that these image URLs could make it into a search engine index. Many people, upon hearing this news, were quick to claim that the bug had caused them to lose rankings.
However, Google’s John Mueller has weighed in saying “Sites generally shouldn’t be negatively affected by something like this. We often index pages like that for normal sites, and they usually don’t show up in search. If they do show up for normal queries, usually that’s a sign that the site has other, bigger problems. Also, over the time you mentioned, there have been various reports on twitter [sic] & co about changes in rankings, so if sites are seeing changes, I’d imagine it’s more due to normal search changes than anything like this.” So, John Mueller doesn’t think that this bug would have caused many sites problems, and actually as there has been a lot of chatter over the past few weeks about ranking algorithm changes (there always is… that’s why we haven’t covered it) usual fluctuations and ranking changes may be the culprit for keywords taking a dive, not this bug.
So, if you are worried you might have genuinely been affected by this bug, what should you do? Firstly, check your site runs on WordPress and uses the Yoast SEO Plugin. If not, this does not apply to you. Next, go to the backend of your site and navigate to the Yoast plugin and then the “Search Appearance” tab. From there, go to “Media”, and then check the toggle under “Media & attachment URLs”. If you have intentionally set this to “no”, then leave it be, I trust you know what you are doing. If this has defaulted to “no”, then change it to “yes”. That’s all.
You can panic that your site has suffered some kind of Panda-like issues because of this, but realistically your site probably hasn’t been affected and even if it has, Google has reassured us that they are quite good at handling image URLs so they shouldn’t really be appearing in the SERPs anyway.