“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can become an addiction, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished. 

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. Research has shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

56 Responses to “Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

  1. Cindy Braid
    Cindy Braid  • 1 year ago

    I recently had to turn off Yoast Readability analysis and Keyword analysis because it was causing my typing to lag. After googling this problem this was the only solution’s that worked. So now I am at a lost on where to put in my focus Keyword and those colored bullets don’t show up. Any other solutions or do I have to turn this on and off each time I do a product launch?

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Cindy! I’m not an expert on stuff like this, but it sounds like the plugin may conflict with your theme. If you have Yoast SEO premium, please contact support. If not, you can post on our forums: https://wordpress.org/support/plugin/wordpress-seo/

  2. Fiforlif
    Fiforlif  • 1 year ago

    Very useful information. Some of mine faced geen bullets but truely its hard to rank. Should re-check again my articles through this information. Great!

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Thanks for the kind words, glad to be of help!

  3. VS Chaitanya
    VS Chaitanya  • 1 year ago

    Previously I used to write Long Sentences.
    Say thanks to Yoast Plugin and Brian Dean.
    Now, I Write Short Sentences, especially in the Beginning. The Introduction Part is the most important lines in the post.
    It’s what makes the readers leave or stick to the read the Post.
    Now, the Page Spend on the time is also Increased and the rankings are going up. I’m Happy :)

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Agree with everything you say, good to hear that you’re seeing the results!

  4. Dave
    Dave  • 1 year ago

    This stuff is great. I’ve used Yoast for years and ranked well. Made a BIG mistake and hired an SEO firm and watched my hits drop by half. They are gone and we are coming back. Thanks Yoast people.
    BTW – the writing guide is better now that it points out exactly what to change.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Good to hear that our plugin has helped you rank consistently, Dave!

  5. Gijs
    Gijs  • 1 year ago

    Hi, sometimes I use a template that makes use of Visual Composer (well know). Yoast cannot read the text in the VC blocks, so red bullet for text part. can this be fixed… or if you need example I can send you a printscreen.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Gijs, thanks for reporting this issue! I’m not a part of the plugin development team, so the comments are not the most effective medium to report issues like these. Issues can be posted on GitHub @ https://github.com/Yoast/wordpress-seo/issues/. Our developers will check out the issue and prioritize it there.

  6. Kemisd- Ethiopian clothing
    Kemisd- Ethiopian clothing  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for all the information, it really help us to build a better blog posts.
    Since we used Yoast Plugin our rankings improved in high precentage. Thanks for the best plugin ever!

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      You’re welcome, we appreciate the kind words!

  7. Dores
    Dores  • 1 year ago

    I write a short fiction blog, i.e. each post is a different short story/flash fiction/poem. Yoast gives me a bad readability score on almost every post, I suppose because I’m not trying to “sell pens, or maintain a mom blog”… My writing is certainly not Hemingway, but perhaps the criteria you use is a little strict regarding what should be the “goal” and content of websites?

    Great plugin regardless, probably the one I use the most often! (And I understand that the point of this article is precisely for people to avoid obsessing about the green lights.) Cheers

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Dores! Let’s turn things around: are you aiming at optimizing your short stories/poems for ranking in Google? Or do you want to focus on making the best possible piece of art? I don’t think the two go together very well. Because Yoast is an SEO plugin, we assume that you’re writing copy with the specific goal of ranking in mind. That’s what the plugin is meant for. You should probably bypass the optimization altogether for your stories, and if you want to rank, make separate blog post entries with which you aim at ranking.

  8. Girlady Bouvier
    Girlady Bouvier  • 1 year ago

    My initial experience with yoast SEO was kind of dificult, but as time went by I realized that plugin was my team mate, not my enemy. The more I use it, the more natural it feels to make some adjustements. Also, it gets easier for my audience to scan through my post and find what they’re looking for.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      That’s exactly the kind of approach we think our users should take, Girlady!

  9. Ashraf
    Ashraf  • 1 year ago

    Initially, i was also worried about the orange and red bullets but after reading this guide I am kind of taking a sigh of relief.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Don’t sweat it, Ashraf: as long as you’re making conscious choices and following the feedback where it makes sense, you should be safe!

  10. Antonio Esposito Scalzo
    Antonio Esposito Scalzo  • 1 year ago

    Hello, in my opinion as an Italian speaker with an Italian audience, the green bullet for the readability are quiet weird. In english the sentences can be shorter than in italian language. For this reason, in order to have a good readability, I am forced to change the text dumbing down it. It would be great if this plug-in could focus on other languages too.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Antonio! We’re always looking to improve the plugin on all fronts. Of course, English is the language in which the large majority of our audience writes, so that will probably be a step ahead for the foreseeable future.

  11. Faire-connaitre.net
    Faire-connaitre.net  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for those clarification. it’s hard sometimes to explain to my customer that the article must be natural and does not “always” have to be green to rank (even if we all prefer that colour;-). This article will help me quite a lot. :)

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Good to hear that this article can be of help!

  12. Jill
    Jill  • 1 year ago

    Sometimes the red bullets appear and state that the keyword is not in the first paragraph or title – yet, in fact, it is. This also happens with keyword density. Why?

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Jill! Are you sure you are using the exact keyword? If you change the keyword (e.g. use the plural version of the word or add or subtract a determiner), the plugin does not recognize that (yet). In addition, the plugin may have a different idea of what your first paragraph is. In any of these cases, you can ignore the feedback if you’re sure you are using the keyword in the right places.

      • Peter
        Peter  • 1 year ago

        I use the Elementor page builder. Because of that, I also get the message that the keyword is not in the first paragraph.

        • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

          Yeah, in those cases, you should absolutely just do what makes sense.

  13. Philip Miller
    Philip Miller  • 1 year ago

    Exactly. All your comments exactly what I think. No matter what you say, it is obvious you are trying to dumb down the language. Make it readable for a fourth grader.

    I think the great example of Hemingway or Steinback proves the point. I know they are not trying to sell anything. But if I am trying to write semi-technical and educational blogs, I will never rank high or score with green dots. But my audience will appreciate the level of discussion and validation and legitimacy.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Hi Philip, thanks for your comment. You won’t be surprised that I kindly disagree. As an educator, I regularly write technical and educational texts. It’s definitely possible to score green bullets on readability there. For example, several posts we’ve written about hreflang, one of the more complex SEO topics, have excellent readability scores. Most importantly, I maintain that conveying the same message with simpler words has nothing to do with dumbing things down. I think dumbing down is when you simplify an explanation by leaving for example information out. This is usually not necessary to achieve good readability. As I mentioned in the article, sometimes it’s necessary to use a lot of jargon. This is an exception, in my view, which makes it better to ignore some of the feedback. And if it’s better, by all means: value content over readability.

  14. Shane
    Shane  • 1 year ago

    Phew, I was really worried about having to go through and change a lot of our most popular posts, many of which have some red and yellow in ’em. :)

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Glad to have been able to save you some precious time, Shane! Improving, updating and reposting can be a very effective tactic, though!

  15. HindiMePadhe
    HindiMePadhe  • 1 year ago

    Excellent I loved reading this information. Even today, many people do not know about the right SEO. They are given incorrect information. He is still unable to understand that the right SEO guide is available here.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Thanks for the kind words!

  16. jeff28
    jeff28  • 1 year ago

    Thanks, quite helpful.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Thanks, Jeff!

  17. Peter
    Peter  • 1 year ago

    Hey Jesse, to be ‘as clear as possible’ always seems easy to me. Untill I start reading the blog that I wrote years ago.

    There is indeed a lot to improve and these orange and (ouch) sometimes red bullets helps me with that improvement.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      I agree, Peter, it’s weird how difficult it can be to write simple copy. Good to hear that our bullets can be of help!

  18. Fernando Rutia
    Fernando Rutia  • 1 year ago

    Hi Jesse, thanks for the tips. I was obsessed with the traffic light for a while, but now I’m understand is not possible sometimes because for example the comas are good to separate the phrases but Yoast doesn’t like.
    Also I’m with the new design and I thought maybe is good check all the old posts and rewrite to be more SEO, what do you think it is good idea or not? My blog is about my travel around the world, but is not a travel blog with only tips for other travelers, if not is more my story mixed with tips to travel.
    Thanks for your answer and the post.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Rewriting and updating old posts can be a very good SEO tactic. You can consider republishing some of them as well, to reflect any changes that have occurred over time.

  19. Visaginietis
    Visaginietis  • 1 year ago

    I have my bullet points for my website too.
    Working together with Yoast SEO I made my own conclusions.
    With some of them, you Jesse van de Hulsbeek may not agree, but this is what I noticed.
    To get ranks you need:
    1. Unique text
    2. Internal links (Link-wheel)
    3. Good images
    4. Tags to the topic
    5. Well-optimized website
    These are the most important factors to get ranks for my website.
    As you mentioned by yourself “green bullets don’t equal a great text”, but great text equal to the great text :) So posting unique text with bullet points mentioned above my traffic is growing. I wish to attach the image with the graphic screen, but unfortunately didn’t see the option.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Definitely agree that those factors matter a lot!

  20. claire
    claire  • 1 year ago

    Thanks for this. Just some calm through the neurosis of the green bullet…

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Haha, don’t worry too much, Claire!

  21. Mr & Mrs Gist
    Mr & Mrs Gist  • 1 year ago

    There’s some good feedback here Jesse, thanks for this summary. I started obsessing about the traffic lights at first with regards to readability but have taken this on board.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Good to hear!

  22. Christian Kirsch
    Christian Kirsch  • 1 year ago

    I agree with your statements on passive voice and over-long sentences. However, I’m not sure if the plugin and I agree on the term “sentence”. E.g., a semicolon effectively separates thoughts in one sentences. Similarly, a dash (“Gedankenstrich” in German, I’m not sure about the correct English term) can separate information.
    And I definitely do not agree with using “words” as metrics. German words tend to be long(er than English ones). Syllables would be a more reasonable measure, in my opinion. At least for this language.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      These are indeed instances in which you can viably ignore some of the readability feedback, Christian. Most of the time, I try to avoid dashes, as they tend to interrupt a thought for another, and then return to the original one. It depends on the situation, though.

  23. Ann Marie van den Hurk
    Ann Marie van den Hurk  • 1 year ago

    You have no idea how much I love the title of this blog post. I take the readability part with a grain of salt. And usually, I give it the finger when it tells me I am writing too “smart” for the average person.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Thanks, Ann Marie. At Yoast, we want you really think about how you can serve your target audience best. We do think that a lot of people underestimate the power of clear, concise and easy-to-read copy. Still, it’s up to you to find your sweet spot!

  24. maratun
    maratun  • 1 year ago

    thank you, because all this time I use yoast plugin, I already feel the benefits. hopefully yoast growing

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Good to see that you’re enjoying the plugin!

  25. nexvan
    nexvan  • 1 year ago

    Optimizing old stuff for new content is harmful?

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

      Sorry, I’m not sure I understand your question. Could you clarify?

      • nexvan
        nexvan  • 1 year ago

        I’m sorry Jesse van de Hulsbeek
        Edit and optimize old content that does not have SEO
        In the new content is harmful?

        • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

          Rewriting old content can be a good SEO strategy. You can even consider republishing it with a new date, but in that case you should also consider revising information that may have changed since you first published your post. Also, make sure that you don’t publish two posts with almost the same content, as it leads to duplicate content issues.

          • Jesse van de Hulsbeek

            My pleasure, thanks for the kind words!

          • nexvan
            nexvan  • 1 year ago

            Jesse van de Hulsbeek, Thanks so much for your tips
            that was perfect