Updates of the Yoast SEO plugin in the first half of 2016 separated the page/post testing section into two parts. The keyword structure test now examines the more familiar parts of on-page SEO. These include keyword density, word count, links, and image alt attribute, among others. The new content test examines reading level, sub-headings, paragraphs, sentences, and passive voice. While bits and pieces of both areas changed slightly, the the content thing changes everything. Many of us might find this not only new but also a little daunting.
About this, Yoast says,
The content analysis of Yoast SEO assesses whether or not you use passive voice. Passive voice is a grammatical construction. In this article, I will explain what the passive voice is and why we think you should avoid it. Next to that, I’ll discuss a few exceptional cases in which Yoast SEO wrongfully diagnoses the passive voice."
Check out their full page on the topic on the Yoast website.
Subtle differences between passive and active voice in English often create difficulty in understanding. We are challenged when writing even moderately technical (website, coaching, support) content without using it. However, Yoast suggests the following,
If you want to write an article which is nice and easy to read, you should try to avoid passive voice. In sentences with passive voice, it remains unclear who or what is acting. This results in very distant writing. Texts using a lot of passive voice tend to be hard and unattractive to read. Avoid using (as much as you can) the passive voice altogether."
The Passive Voice In The English Language
The concept eluded me somewhat. I needed more information. So I turned to one of my favorite online general resources to get a better handle on this whole voice thing. I found the following:
The passive voice is a grammatical construction (specifically, a "voice"). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (e.g. The enemy was defeated by our troops).
"The subject of a sentence or clause featuring the passive voice typically denotes the recipient of the action (the patient) rather than the performer (the agent). The passive voice in English is formed periphrastically: the usual form uses the auxiliary verb be (or get) together with the past participle of the main verb.
"For example, Caesar was stabbed by Brutus uses the passive voice. The subject denotes the person (Caesar) affected by the action of the verb. The agent is expressed here with the phrase by Brutus, but this can be omitted. The equivalent sentence in active voice is Brutus stabbed Caesar, in which the subject denotes the doer, or agent, Brutus. A sentence featuring the passive voice is sometimes called a passive sentence, and a verb phrase in passive voice is sometimes called a passive verb."
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
More On Passive Voice
The lead-in to the article delivered even more,
English allows a number of passive constructions which are not possible in many of the other languages with similar passive formation. These include promotion of an indirect object to subject (as in Tom was given a bag) and promotion of the complement of a preposition (as in Sue was operated on, leaving a stranded preposition).
"Use of the English passive varies with writing style and field. Some publications' style sheets discourage use of the passive voice, while others encourage it. Although some purveyors of usage advice, including George Orwell in Politics and the English Language and William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White in The Elements of Style, discourage use of the passive in English, its usefulness is generally recognized, particularly in cases where the patient is more important than the agent, but also in some cases where it is desired to emphasize the agent."
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
Still More On The Subject
Read more detail about the use of passive voice if you like. Click the link in the quotes above. The writing style you choose may affect your SEO results, however it is not that big of a deal. You may certainly use the passive form, as doing so is neither wrong, nor incorrect. Active voice makes things simpler, and generally uses fewer words. It brings more clarity, however, not getting a green light (in Yoast) every time is acceptable.
Writing flows more easily when your voice is passive. Active voice makes reading easier. Make your own choice. Write in the voice you prefer. Tell your story as you see it. You do not want this to bog you down or let it keep you from writing more posts. Generally, do not lose any sleep over the choice!
This post scores 17.9% for voice. 17.9% gives me a red light. While I desire to close in on the 10% limit Yoast suggests, the quotes above count and they are filled with everything but active voice. I must accept one red light in what is otherwise a sea of green.