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:
- The title tag
- Your meta description
- The page URL
- Inside the page, including a keyword density that is not too much or too little
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.
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:
- Earning links from topically related, authoritative websites.
- Having a mobile-friendly website.
- shaving download time off your website, and having a fast-loading site.
- Creating insightful, unique, quality content for your target customers on a regular basis.
- Focusing the content of each page to match the searcher intent of the target keywords.
- Building a strong brand — not just a logo or a nice looking site — but becoming well-known in your industry.
…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.
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.