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Why Green Dots in Yoast Aren’t Moving Your Rankings

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

If your website is built on WordPress, you have probably used the Yoast SEO plugin.

Yoast SEO is the number one SEO helper plugin for WordPress, (and they also have a module for Drupal). Here’s how it works.

For each page or article you edit, you set a focus keyword phrase. Yoast SEO gives you an overall score for Readability and SEO.

Green dots mean “good”, orange dots mean “OK”, red dots mean “needs improvement”.

You also get a breakdown of individual areas that fall under the red, orange, and green dots. (There will be a screenshot further down of what this looks like in the back end.)

So here’s the question that I hear most often from other Yoast users:

“I have green dots in Yoast. So why am I not ranking higher in Google?”

I understand why there’s confusion. Isn’t Yoast supposed to help you rank higher?

It can, but with an asterisk.

SEO is a black box inside a moving target, and there is no transparent formula to ranking number one in Google.

But I’m here to tell you, green dots in Yoast are not a prerequisite for ranking. Some of the pages we rank on page one of Google for only have orange dots.

Google cannot see what color your “dots” are in Yoast. Only you can see those.

Let’s explain in more detail.

What Yoast Does, and What It Does Not Do

Yoast SEO is a great tool. But it only looks at one aspect of SEO. Specifically, on-page keyword factors (and internal linking, in the Premium version).

This includes looking at whether you used your keyword phrase in:

Yoast SEO also looks at the overall readability of the page, whether you have an image in the page, and prompts for internal linking in the Premium version.

Below, you can see a screenshot of the Yoast SEO widget as I was in the process of editing this post. Notice the green, orange, and red dots.

Yoast SEO Example WordPress post

There’s More to SEO Than On-Page Keyword Optimization

While there are many SEO companies that only look at on-page optimization, the reality is, you’re unlikely to dominate rankings unless you are also focusing on these SEO factors:

…and dozens of other things that should be on your SEO checklist.

Needless to say, many businesses don’t know what they should be looking for.

However, if you are going to do one thing, working on improving existing content and creating new content is exactly what you should be doing.

Google Can’t See Your Green Dots in Yoast SEO

A lot of businesses get discouraged because they get green dots for a page, and they still don’t rank.

Truth is, Google cannot see whether your page has green dots, or orange dots, or red dots in Yoast.

The green dots, and the orange dots, and the red dots in Yoast are just a guide, nothing more.

It’s very possible that someone else simply has a better page, a better link profile, a bigger brand, a better user experience on their website, or satisfies searcher intent better than you do.

That’s not a reason to get frustrated. Analyze what you can improve, and even if it requires a lot of work, do what you need to do to make your page the best on that particular topic.

Very often, this requires creating “next-level” content, improving your overall website, reaching out to industry colleagues for links to your website, and building a better brand.

Yoast can’t help you with all those other things. Yoast and the green dots are only there to help you focus the content on a page for on-page factors.

But, for what it is designed to do, Yoast SEO is the best plugin out there.

Key Takeaways

Google can’t see if you have green dots or orange dots in Yoast. Even if it could, that’s not the most important part of ranking.

Give people who are searching what they are looking for, and let them complete the task they are trying to accomplish, while making it easy, and you’ll do better in SEO.

Content and keyword optimization is an important part of SEO, but it’s only one part. Know that there are other things that go into SEO besides optimizing for Yoast.

By having a solid all-around plan for content creation, matching searcher intent, building relevant links to your site, creating a buzz around your brand, and establishing your authority as an expert in your industry, you will improve your odds of ranking. Getting green dots in Yoast is only one part of that plan.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

13 comments on “Why Green Dots in Yoast Aren’t Moving Your Rankings

    1. Hi Susan:

      That’s a great point. You can optimize the green dots all day long, but if it’s for a low-volume keyword phrase, or if it is for a highly-competitive keyword that everyone is going for — then the results will be disappointing.

      The best philosophy is go for keyword phrases that target customers; that have a reasonable amount of competition, but are realistic goals; and focus on long-tail phrases that solve a specific need.

      Thanks so much for commenting and signing up for the newsletter. It’s much appreciated!

      – John

  1. Great article. SEO is a difficult thing because the “game” changes constantly. Whatever you used today for increasing web reputation may not work tomorrow. It is very important to keep updated with the latest effective techniques for SEO.

    1. That’s well said, Lewis. Google is constantly tweaking their ranking algorithm, so the target is always moving. Th important thing is to create pages that help the customer solve their issue at hand at all stages of the funnel, while delivering a great experience, and also building a strong brand that gets links and mentions around the web.

      Piece of cake, right?

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read.

      – John

  2. Hi John,

    Yoast often tells you that you are not using the keyword in the first paragraph even when you are. So, there is a flaw. You are right, you should use it just as a guideline. If you have On Page SEO down in your head, you’re good and don’t have to be paranoid about oranges. Enjoyed your article. Thanks!

    1. Hi Taka:

      There’s a common belief that if you use your target keyword phrase in the first 100 words of the article, that it will help you rank higher. I think this is why Yoast included this as a prompt.

      Thanks for reading!

      – John

  3. Some great points here.

    If it was just a case of getting all green lights in Yoast, everyone would be ranking number 1, haha.

    I see it a lot where say, “I just don’t understand it, I’ve got all green lights, but I’m still on page 4”.

    If only it was that easy.

    Cheers for the good read.

    1. Hi Dan:

      Thanks for reading. Yes, if you get green dots in Yoast (provided it’s for keywords that actually have search volume) — that’s still only one part of the puzzle.

      It takes hard work to create pages that are worthy of being on Page One.


      1. 100% agree.

        It’s not just about being as good as the competition, it’s about making pages and content that is far better, wherever possible.

        Although Yoast can help with a small part of this, as you say, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.


  4. I agree with this.
    It is not possible all green indicator rank #1. It depends on the keyword’s popularity and contents.
    In my case, I have over 80% green on average, however, the ranking is still very poor.

    1. Excellent point, Dev. Many of the articles on my own site that rank well had orange dots in Yoast (before I switched to SEOPress Pro). The colored lights are meant to be a guide, not an exact evaluation of how Google will rank the page.

      – John

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