False Keyphrase Errors in Yoast SEO
Finding the SEO analysis section often reports this error:
Keyphrase in introduction: Your keyphrase or its synonyms do not appear in the first paragraph. Make sure the topic is clear immediately.
...and despite having the keyphrase word-for-word in the first paragraph, I got irritated enough to go check out what's happening.
First up, an old support ticket from WordPress.Org, to which the Yoast folks replied:
The keyword not in first paragraph warning is often thrown out as there is an html element, code, image, or whitespace around the keyword which is affecting Yoast’s ability to scan for it.In another support post from August 2020, there was a further admission:
Alternatively, there may be another element that is actually in the first paragraph position. We ask that you please look around the keyword to see if there is something in the way. If there is try moving the elements around to see if it will resolve the warning.
There are some special cases where our plugin isn’t able to detect the focus keyword in the first paragraph. Usually, when the first paragraph is not the first element in your article (i.e. there is an image before the first paragraph).
Please, refer to this KB article for more information which outlines how to resolve it: https://kb.yoast.com/kb/warning-focus-keyword-not-in-first-paragraph/.
Additionally, if you believe your post has been written well for your target audience and moving elements around may result in a poor user experience, we would suggest ignoring the warning. Google will still be able to scan the source code and index the content...
Lastly, this doesn’t mean that Google and other search engines won’t be able to see it, so if your first paragraph does contain your focus keyword, you can safely ignore this warning.
We recently fixed a bug causing unrecognizable focus keyphrase if it contains a punctuation mark such as a period. Can you please make sure your plugin is updated...?
Programmatically trying to scan and match text is not easy; I know, I've tried. It only takes a variation in spaces, word order, an abbreviation or punctuation and you're no longer looking at the same text in two places. Fuzzy logic to deal with this can get notoriously... fuzzy.
The Yoast team also comment that not every criteria or even every post needs a green underline or a green dot. So don't worry. It's not you. RC