Become a Yoast SEO pro:

“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 traffic lights. The traffic lights are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. They serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all the green traffic lights can be addictive, but it isn’t necessarily the best way to create great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about green traffic lights on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to understand how to approach the traffic light feedback.

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

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

Also, this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber traffic lights 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 traffic lights are green, but I still don’t rank!

It also goes the other way around: if all your traffic lights are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green traffic lights don’t equal 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 traffic lights. 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 must 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 consciously decide about optimizing 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 (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, 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. It has also shown that too many long sentences make 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 oversimplify 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 oversimplifying 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 your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances they bounce. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And, of course, sometimes you must 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! »

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

  1. Wiley Fry
    Wiley Fry  • 5 years ago

    I would be less annoyed by it if it could tell the difference between passive voice and past progressive tense. “I had been watching a video” is NOT PASSIVE. The subject is “I”. The past progressive verb is “had been watching”. The object is “video”. Active freaking voice. 80% of the “passive” sentences it flags for me are incorrect. It’s an irritant to someone like me who has the creative writing and Classics background to know that I’m right, but I worry that people who are newer to the nuances of English grammar are going to come away thinking that they need to avoid a very useful verb tense. (Sorry about the rant, I just have a pet peeve about flawed algorithms being given power.)

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      Hey Wiley,

      Yes, instances like that can definitely be annoying. It goes without saying that that’s a great example of when you should definitely ignore the feedback. Of course, we’re constantly looking to improve our code to minimize these kinds of false positives.

  2. Karen Lanzetta
    Karen Lanzetta  • 5 years ago

    Thanks! This fits with what I had intuited anyway, but it is nice to see it confirmed. Still, hunting for these green lights is rather addictive ^^.

    I have learned so much from Yoast feedback in the plug in and the articles on your blog, this is a great help.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      You’re welcome, Karen! Yep, those green lights can become a bit of an obsession, indeed :)

  3. Eli
    Eli  • 5 years ago

    I get red bullets because I use a lot of bulleted copy. What’s wrong with using bullet copy for selling products?
    Like everyone else here, I want to rank higher, so if I need to change my writing style by using less bullet copy, I will change it today.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Eli,

      Using bullet copy is not a problem at all. It does make it more difficult for our readability analysis to properly assess your text, as it’s configured for blog content. So in cases where you’re sure the bullets are what makes the difference, I would ignore the feedback.

  4. Rodney Thomas
    Rodney Thomas  • 5 years ago

    Excellent article! It was timely for me indeed. I had been having the same feelings that Yoast Plug-in hated my writing style (granted, I recognize that an application has no ability to love or hate). It was refreshing that you cleared up that misconception for me.

    QUESTION: I’m using exclusively the DIVI plug-in for my WordPress-based website. I’ve been wondering if Yoast SEO works well with DIVI. Have you by chance received any feedback or done any research into whether Yoast works well with the DIVI plugin?

    Love Yoast. Thanks for your great support.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      Hey Rodney! I’m glad the article was of help to you.

      Regarding Divi, we’re always trying to make sure Yoast SEO works with as many plugins as possible. We do work together with Divi and they have modified their code to add compatibility with our plugins.

  5. Zia
    Zia  • 5 years ago

    This post ended a lot of my confusions.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      Great to hear, Zia!

  6. Julia
    Julia  • 5 years ago

    One thing I really dislike about Yoast (actually, the only thing) is that I get marked down for repeating the same word. For example, I may have a list which reads:

    New York
    New Orleans
    New Haven

    It would be really good if there was a way to say ‘hey, it’s okay, I meant to do this’, without it giving you a red light.

    • Jesse van de Hulsbeek
      Jesse van de Hulsbeek  • 5 years ago

      Hey Julia! Yeah, some of the results can be a bit annoying in some cases. We’re always looking to improve the experience, though, so maybe we can solve this in the future as well :)

  7. Vicky
    Vicky  • 5 years ago

    I’m having issues with my Yoast Plugin. Each time I publish It doesn’t go green. Thanks for sharing