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Why you can’t rely on SEO plugin traffic light systems

Posted on 23rd April, 2021 by gregdoyle

Search Engine Optimisation

If you are looking to optimise your WordPress website then one of the best options available is to install the Yoast SEO plugin. Not only is this fantastic plugin free, but it also helps to open up the functionality of WordPress and make it possible to add unique page titles, meta descriptions, open graph metadata, robots tags and much, much more. And, while Yoast is great at helping you to optimise your website it isn’t without its faults.

Greenlight obsession

One of the biggest drawbacks of the Yoast plugin is that it uses a traffic light system to assess your on-page SEO efforts. This is fine in practice, but in reality, it is almost impossible to get a green light on every page of your website without detrimentally affecting the readability and user-friendliness of your website. The main trouble with the Yoast plugin is that it is too focused on exact matching of your focus keyword and on arbitrary keyword placement e.g. in the URL, first paragraph of text, page heading etc.

In a post Panda world, you need to write high-quality content that isn’t stuffed full of keywords and over optimised and if you follow all of the Yoast SEO guidelines to get a green light on all your website pages then you could be doing more harm than good. As with any automated tool, the Yoast plugin should be used as a rough guideline but it should not dictate how you write your content, after all, you know your audience and what they want.

Having a green light does not guarantee rankings

Another misconception is that just getting a green light for your website pages means that you are guaranteed to get to the top of page 1 on Google or at least rank on the first page. Unfortunately, it is not quite this simple as there is much more to SEO than this. One of the biggest problems that people make is using irrelevant focus keywords simply to get a green light in the Yoast plugin. Instead, you should be focusing on creating relevant, high-quality content that is useful to your audience.

Yes, you should be adding keywords to your content, but this should be done in a way that improves your content rather than detracts from it. Choosing the main topic for each page on your site is a great way to do this and allows you to use synonyms, plurals and other related search terms that make up the topic as a whole, rather than just focusing on a single keyword.

Yoast doesn’t pick up page builder content

If you use a page builder on your WordPress website then Yoast’s built-in keyword analyser which is an integral part of the traffic light system won’t work. With so many third party plugins using the page builder functionality it is impossible for the Yoast SEO plugin to analyse the content within these sections of your page. This means that you will almost certainly fail to get the coveted green light for your page. But, as we said earlier, obsessing over getting a green light for your pages is not something that you should be doing anyway.


Overly optimised image alt text

Don’t get carried away with adding keywords to your image alt text in order to get a green light on your Yoast SEO plugin. Instead focus on keeping your alt text short and descriptive of the image and remember the primary use is for people who are unable to view images to help add context, and not as an SEO ranking factor.

Keyword focused headings and titles

Just because you have an exact match of your keyword in your h1 tag and title tag doesn’t mean you’ll get the clicks that you want, or indeed the rankings. For a lot of blog pages, in particular, you should be looking to create click-worthy titles and headings that will help your listing stand out in the search results. If you follow the guidance of an automatic tool then you will be advised to use an exact match of your focus keyword, which will not have the same impact as a well-written headline or title which is not as strictly focused on your keyword.



As we said at the start of this blog article, the Yoast SEO plugin is fantastic, but it can’t replace the knowledge, experience and skills of an SEO professional. It is often used by those in the SEO profession as it makes it possible to control SEO elements such as page titles, meta descriptions, robots tags and URLs but this does not mean that the plugin alone can get you great ranking results. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

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