5 reasons your content won’t rank – even though it’s optimized

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your posts and pages. People use it to try and get higher rankings. But unfortunately, perfectly optimizing your post does not magically put it at the top of the search results. So, if your perfectly optimized post isn’t ranking, what could be the matter? What is keeping your content from reaching that coveted #1 position? In this post, I’ll discuss five reasons why content doesn’t rank, even though it has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.

1. There’s too much competition

In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank is that there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for competitive keywords and keyphrases, such as [cat behavior], [robot vacuum cleaner], or [real estate agent], chances are high you won’t rank for that term. 

To find out if this is the problem, check the results pages for your keyword. Do high authority sites, such as Wikipedia or Amazon, dominate the first page? Do you see many sites that have already firmly established themselves in this niche? Odds are, your site doesn’t have the authority that these other sites have (yet). So you can optimize all you want, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive. 

How to fix it:

If you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Write blog posts that target related long tail keywords and phrases before tackling the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.

Read more: Why you should focus on long tail keywords »

2. Your site has technical issues

If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, technical issues could be preventing it from appearing in the search results. You could have conflicting plugins causing problems, and we’ve also seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site. And, while Yoast SEO takes care of many technical issues under the hood, it should be set correctly to do that properly.

If you were ranking well before, but suddenly disappeared from the search results, go over your site’s security and make sure you weren’t hacked! If a site is hacked, existing content will decrease in ranking as well. New posts won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. In most cases, getting hacked probably isn’t the cause of ranking troubles. But if you’re sure none of the other problems apply to your site, it may be worth looking into. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make sure your security is tip-top!

How to fix it:

First, make sure that Yoast SEO is indeed set correctly. In the first step of the Yoast configuration wizard you’re asked whether your site is ready to be indexed. If you answer ‘no’ and forget to change it to ‘yes’ later, your content will not appear in the search results! But, if this is the case, you will see a warning in your Yoast SEO general dashboard, so that’s easy to check. For individual posts and pages that aren’t ranking: check the ‘advanced’ tab in the Yoast metabox underneath the post whether search engines are indeed allowed to show the post in the results. Keep in mind, that after you change a setting to allow search engines to index your content, it may still take a while until you see it starts ranking. 

If your Yoast plugin settings are all correct, it’s time for some more digging. Check your plugins and/or theme and make sure your security is in order!

3. Your site doesn’t have a proper internal linking structure

Another reason why your content doesn’t show up in the search results: a crucial part of your SEO strategy is not in order. Don’t underestimate the importance of site structure – the internal linking structure – for your SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high are lower – even when your content is well-optimized and awesome. 

How to fix it:

Start adding those links! Make sure that your important posts and pages have the most internal links to them. But don’t randomly add links: make sure you add relevant, related links that add value for your users.

You can use the Yoast SEO orphaned content filter to find posts without incoming internal links. Yoast SEO premium will help you even more by offering helpful linking suggestions as you’re writing. And if you really want to improve your site structure, check out our site structure training!

Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

4. There are few backlinks to your site

If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if every page is optimized perfectly and every bullet in Yoast SEO is green. To be able to rank, you’ll need some links from other websites. After all, Google has to know your website exists. 

How to fix it:

In order to get (more) backlinks, you can reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. You can also use social media to get the word out! Learn all about link building strategies in our All-Around SEO training!

5. You’re targeting the wrong type of intent

One final thing that could be the reason your content isn’t ranking: it doesn’t match the intent of people searching for your keyword. Search intent is becoming an increasingly important factor for search engines these days: do people want to buy something, go to a specific website, or are they looking for information? Even if you’re targeting a more long tail keyphrase, if your content doesn’t match the dominant intent of searchers, odds are search engines won’t show it in the results because it won’t be what people are looking for.

search results for 'training your puppy'

Let’s look at a few examples. Say you’re a dog trainer who wants to rank for puppy training services, so you optimize for [training your puppy], with transactional intent in mind. But if you look at the search results, you’ll see that there are informational videos, and all the results explain how to train a puppy yourself. So searchers actually have informational intent. This can work the other way around too. If you’ve written a step-by-step guide for your blog on how to make your own garden decoration, aiming to rank for [flower garland garden decoration], you may have trouble ranking for that term if people just want to buy that, not make it themselves.

Now, it should be noted that not every search term has one dominant type of intent. Also, it isn’t impossible to rank with content for differing intent. Still, it can be worthwhile to look into this if your optimized content doesn’t rank in the search engines.

How to fix it: 

Unfortunately, you don’t have the power to change the intent of search engine users. But you can adapt your content strategy. If your optimized content isn’t ranking, take a good look at the search results (preferably in private mode) and analyze what you see. Is one specific type of result dominant? Are there images or videos? Which related queries are shown? This is where your opportunities are. If you find mostly informational intent for a query, you can write content about that to get people to your site, establish your brand as a reliable source of information and stay top of mind when people do want to buy something. If you find a lot of images in the search results, you may need to focus more on image SEO. Take what you see on the results pages into account when determining your SEO strategy.

Optimized content not ranking?

There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too fierce. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You need to work hard and be patient. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!

21 Responses to 5 reasons your content won’t rank – even though it’s optimized

  1. Giulio Stella
    Giulio Stella  • 1 year ago

    Internal links are often undervalued, especially if you are able to do PR sculpting properly you’ll get so much value from these types of links. Great articles

  2. Debendra Jena
    Debendra Jena  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for this information. I’d definitely take care of this points for my site, since we too have similar challenges, and need to fix 1-2 on a priority basis.

  3. ankit
    ankit  • 1 year ago

    I read this article, I have a site and I am using Yoast SEO plugin but readability and SEO is ok, but my content is not ranking so suggest me can I use the premium version of Yoast SEO …
    Good luck, keep growing!

  4. Ashley
    Ashley  • 1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing this article- it’s so easy to understand and gives me some more tips on things to improve! :)

  5. Akshya Nagar
    Akshya Nagar  • 1 year ago

    I do write better content than my competitors. But, still, my articles aren’t ranking. My competitors have team that creates backlinks for every article. Can you please help me, how I can create quality backlinks. I am a small blogger, don’t have much money to spend.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Akshya! Unfortunately, it can be hard to get there when there’s a lot of competition, even if your content is the best. If you’re struggling to get backlinks as a small blogger, these tips might be helpful: https://yoast.com/link-building-for-bloggers/ Good luck!

  6. Elizabeth Alexander
    Elizabeth Alexander  • 1 year ago

    Gosh I do rank but not as high as I’d like to. There is so much here to take and and to take time to learn and put in place. Thank you for this!

  7. Subrina Sullivan
    Subrina Sullivan  • 1 year ago

    Great article and tips on how to fix some of my issues! Thanks!!!

  8. Annabel
    Annabel  • 1 year ago

    There is another reason that a site may actually lose rankings and traffic. We have a site providing information about TB (Tuberculosis). It is a health information site, encouraging people to go to a doctor, or have more informed discussions with a doctor. The site even get read by doctors.
    But since September we have lost over half our traffic (and its still going down) because google classifies us as a medical site that should have all its pages written by doctors.
    Yet Wikipedia seems to be exempt from this rule, as well as all the big medical institutions, even though some of them have very out of date pages.

  9. healthbaze
    healthbaze  • 1 year ago

    I’m still working on number 4. But I still need some professional advice. Is buying backlinks whitehat or blackhat? I’ve been trying to build my backlinks with guest posts but it seems I`m not getting anywhere.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi! I’m afraid that buying backlinks is blackhat: while it might work for a short while, in the long run, it’ll most likely do more harm than good. Link building is a lot of work, but it sounds like you’ve already made a good start, writing guest posts and reaching out. Hang in there and good luck!

  10. Teerath Singh Marbai
    Teerath Singh Marbai  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for Information it will really help us to get sorted out everything before going to publish site on google.

  11. Geek Tech Support
    Geek Tech Support  • 1 year ago

    This article has cleared my confusion regarding why my optimized page isn’t ranking. I wasn’t able to recognize the main problem. Thank you so much for this article.
    In my case, more competition and improper internal linking is the problem. Now I will start using long-tail keywords and will definitely follow your tips.

  12. The Gandhigiri
    The Gandhigiri  • 1 year ago

    Kindly tell me about my news site not getting traffic even included in google news. I am using yoast seo premium+news plugin. when I submit to a news sitemap, search console says that Publisher name not in google news or not proper url, but its lying.

  13. Melissa Gerke
    Melissa Gerke  • 1 year ago

    Every time i change my SEO on a page, the readability suddenly can’t detect i have content! I’ve been updating my pages and now it tells me i have no words. What’s going on?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi Melissa! That’s strange, I couldn’t say what’s going wrong there. But if you have Yoast SEO Premium you can send our support team a direct email, otherwise, you can post your question on the WordPress.org support forums. Our support team monitors these forums as well. The following link has all the information (and links) you need: http://yoa.st/support

  14. info26496
    info26496  • 1 year ago

    For point no.4 , do you recommend buying backlinks or hiring a professional SEO or how exactly? Our websites have good backlinks but still, are not performing well as we expected!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 1 year ago

      Hi! Sorry to hear that you’re not performing as well as expected. Are you sure it’s not one of the other problems on the list? As for backlinks, we definitely don’t recommend buying backlinks! Maybe a professional SEO could help, but you could also consider diving into link building yourself. These two guides on link building will get you a long way, I think! To get you started: https://yoast.com/successful-linkbuilding-strategy/ A bit more advanced: https://yoast.com/15-advanced-link-building-tactics/

  15. rob
    rob  • 1 year ago

    I have received errors for a How To page using your Yoast block. Can you help?
    Search Console has identified that your site is affected by 3 How-to issues:

    Top Warnings

    Warnings are suggestions for improvement. Some warnings can affect your appearance on Search; some might be reclassified as errors in the future. The following warnings were found on your site:

    Missing field “supply”

    Either “image” or “video” should be specified

    Missing field “tool”

    Any help much appreciated as I am new to this I dont really understand what the problem is?

  16. Marston Gould
    Marston Gould  • 1 year ago

    #5 and #1 are generally diametrically opposed. If all you do is target less competitive long tail terms, you’ll likely end up with an audience that has either low intent or intent so specific that you can’t create a business model that can serve that audience economically. Furthermore if you try to build a content strategy that targets primarily long tail terms, you are likely to find that it’s not only expensive and not scalable, but dilutative as you try to support all those long tail terms on unique pages stretching your page rank further and further.

  17. Things To Know
    Things To Know  • 1 year ago

    This was such an awesome post, think what I need to do with my own website is number 4.

    There rest of the thing about my website are good and well done as I expect.
    However, I have a minimal backlinks to my website and i think i need a good strategy on how to increase it even all my content are GREEEN.

    Besides, this is just a new website and i thin I need to observed it for sometime.