Whenever I think of Googlebot, I see a cute, smart Wall-E like robot speeding off on a quest to find and index knowledge in all corners of yet unknown worlds. It’s always slightly disappointing to be reminded that Googlebot is ‘only’ a computer program written by Google that crawls the web and adds pages to its index. Here, I’ll introduce you to the crawler and show you what it does.

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Googlebot? Web crawler? Spider? Huh?

All those terms mean the same thing: it’s a bot that crawls the web. Googlebot crawls web pages via links. It finds and reads new and updated content and suggests what should be added to the index. The index, of course, is Google’s brain. This is where all the knowledge resides. Google uses a ton of computers to send their crawlers to every nook and cranny of the web to find these pages and to see what’s on them. Googlebot is Google’s web crawler or robot and other search engines have their own.

How does Googlebot work?

Googlebot uses sitemaps and databases of links discovered during previous crawls to determine where to go next. Whenever the crawler finds new links on a site, it adds them to the list of pages to visit next. If Googlebot finds changes in the links or broken links, it will make a note of that so the index can be updated. The program determines how often it will crawl pages. To make sure Googlebot can correctly index your site, you need to check its crawlability. If your site is available to crawlers they come around often.

Different robots

There are several different robots. For instance, the AdSense and AdsBot check ad quality, while Mobile Apps Android checks Android apps. For us, these are most important ones:

Name User-agent
Googlebot (desktop) Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
Googlebot (mobile) Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2272.96 Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
Googlebot Video Googlebot-Video/1.0
Googlebot Images Googlebot-Image/1.0
Googlebot News Googlebot-News

How Googlebot visits your site

To find out how often Googlebot visits your site and what it does there, you can dive into your log files or open the Crawl section of Google Search Console. If you want to do really advanced stuff to optimize the crawl performance of your site, you can use tools like Kibana or the SEO Log File Analyser by Screaming Frog.

Google does not share lists of IP addresses that the various Googlebots use, since these addresses change often. To find out if a real Googlebot visits your site, you can do a reverse IP lookup. Spammer or fakers can easily spoof a user-agent name, but not an IP address. Here’s Google’s example of verifying the validity of a Googlebot.

You can use the robots.txt to determine how Googlebot visits – parts of – your site. Watch out though, if you do this the wrong way, you might stop Googlebot from coming altogether. This will take your site out of the index. There are better ways to prevent your site from being indexed.

Google Search Console

Search Console is one of the most important tools to check the crawlability of your site. There, you can verify how Googlebot sees your site. You’ll also get a list of crawl errors for your to fix. In Search Console, you can also ask Googlebot to recrawl your site. Another way to fix these crawl errors is by connecting Yoast SEO to Search Console. You can import your errors and fix them straight from the backend of your site. Yoast SEO Premium can do even more to make your SEO easier.

Optimize for Googlebot

Getting Googlebot to crawl your site faster is a fairly technical process that boils down to bringing down the technical barriers that prohibit the crawler from accessing your site properly. It is a fairly technical process, but you should make yourself familiar with that. If Google can’t crawl your site perfectly well, it can never make it rank for you. Find those errors and fix them!

Conclusion

Googlebot is the little robot that visits your site. If you’ve made technically sound choices for your site, it’ll come often. If you regularly add fresh content it’ll come around more often. Sometimes, whenever you’ve made large-scale changes to your site, you might have to call that cute little crawler to come at once, so the changes can be reflected in the search results as soon as possible.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: What does Google do?’ »

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For us, these last few weeks were mostly about our SEO conference YoastCon, but work on Yoast SEO went on as well. Today, we’re proud to present Yoast SEO 5.8. In this release, you’ll find a truckload of fixes and enhancements. I’ll share some of them in this release post and I’ll shine a light on all those smart community members who helped enhance this release.

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Thanks to our community

If you read the full changelog, one thing becomes instantly clear: this is a community effort. And that is something we’re grateful for. In Yoast SEO 5.8, we’ve got fixes and enhancements from no less than ten GitHub developers. Let’s go over some of these additions, shall we?

Shane GreySaša Todorović and Damian Luszczymak all made suggestions to fix the layout of the Yoast SEO metabox. These fixes make sure that everything in the readability section now performs better on all screens.

Both Chris Wilcoxson and Eivin Landa suggested introducing the wpseo_breadcrumb_single_link_info filter for modifying breadcrumb data. Soulseekah introduced the wpseo_redirect_orphan_attachment action to allow unattached attachment pages to be redirected in tune with the relevant setting.

Tim Nolte suggested removing the max-width on alerts which leads to a better UI. Thanks to William Patton the default Twitter Card option in the social sharing settings of Yoast SEO is now set to ‘Summary with large image.’

SEO roles and capabilities

In Yoast SEO 5.5, we introduced SEO roles. These make it possible to give certain editors access to particular features of Yoast SEO, like the redirect manager. This gives site managers a more fine-grained way of access management. In Yoast SEO 5.8, we’ve enhanced this features, thanks in large part to Jory Hogeveen.

We now integrate better with most role/capability manager plugins using the `members_get_capabilities` filter. We’ve also added a Yoast group to the Members and User Role Editor plugins to find the Yoast SEO capabilities easily. This makes picking and setting the roles even easier.

Cleaning up

This release not only fixes some bugs, but it also contains an extensive clean up of the code base. We’ve removed the old Knowledge Base Search code and now solely rely on the new search feature that was added to the revamped Help Center. Also, we’ve improved the codebase to make it comply with the latest WordPress Coding Standards.

Checking Gutenberg content

While a full integration into Gutenberg is still months away, we did add the possibility to check the content you made in Gutenberg. If you use the Gutenberg plugin to create your content, you can now switch to the regular editor and fine-tune your content with Yoast SEO’s readability and SEO analyses. As you might know, we’re actively working on integrating Yoast SEO in Gutenberg and improving the new editor where we can.

Update!

Yoast SEO 5.8 is a great release chock-full of fixes and enhancements. In this release, we’re both cleaning up after us and looking forward to the future. We’d like to thank our community members that contributed to this and many other releases. We love your input. Now, update!

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It’s been a week since the SEO conference YoastCon and we’re still processing all the cool stuff we’ve heard and seen. In a few days, you’ll be able to watch the talks on video and make your own to-do list to make your rankings skyrocket. To give you an idea of the story arc of YoastCon, I’ll share ten takeaways that have an impact on your SEO, now and in the future.

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All photos in this post by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat »

1. Voice search is changing/has changed search

Both Joost de Valk and Marcus Tandler spoke at length about how voice search is changing search. Since our smartphone is growing ever stronger, voice recognition is getting better and better and the underlying AI is getting smarter and smarter, we are changing how we search. ComScore says that by 2020 50% of searches will be voice searches.

For many common tasks, a voice search gives you the quickest answer. But in contrast to searching in regular search engines, you’ll often only get one result. As a site owner, being that search result is going to be a real challenge. Your content has to answer these questions.

joost de valk at yoastcon

2. Mobile is everything

For years we’ve been talking about the rise of mobile. Now, mobile is the crucial part you should optimize for. Google’s upcoming mobile-first index will rank sites based on their mobile offering. If it sucks, you won’t rank well. There’s no way around it; if you have an OK desktop site, but no great mobile site, you are going to lose out. Make mobile your top priority! Yes, even if you don’t have many mobile visitors – yet.

3. Copy – not just content – is king

You know that content is often called king, right? Well, that’s still true in this day and age. Even with all these developments in the SEO world, content is still where it’s at. But it’s not just any old content; it’s all about quality content. Google’s AI is getting better at determining what piece of content offers the most value for the reader. You can’t rely on your thin content anymore. Better brush up your SEO copywriting skills.

In addition, copy is getting more important. Of course, copy differs from content as it is used to enhance interfaces and improve UX and conversion. You should make your copy personal and offer users solutions, not products. Or, as conversion genius Karl Gilis said in his talk: “Stop selling the way you want to sell. Sell the way people want to buy!”

4. Links are important

Links played a major part in this edition of YoastCon. Both Dixon Jones and Laura Crimmons put links and link building front and center. The importance of links has long been a subject of discussion, but at YoastCon, Google itself probably said it best: “Ranking without links is really, really hard”.

You should put a lot of time and effort in your link building campaigns. Try and find out who your audience is and where they hang out. Find a suitable subject, write great content – or shoot video or make an infographic – and strike up a conversation with relevant journalists. The reward could be enormous: not just links, but exposure and brand awareness.

laura crimmons at yoastcon

5. Accessibility matters

Rian Rietveld and Andrea Fercia, both accessibility experts, showed that every site should be accessible. Every visitor has a right to use your site even if they have some sort of disability. Try to listen to your site and see where screen readers run into trouble. Find and fix these issues. Make your content easy to understand in any kind of circumstance. It’s like Rian said: “Google is blind and deaf, so everything you do for accessibility is also good for SEO.” In the end, we all benefit from a perfectly accessible site.

6. User experience = SEO

UX and SEO go hand in hand and we expect this bond to strengthen over the next year. Google is increasingly looking at how users behave on your site. Do they bounce back quickly because the content does not fit their expectations or do they visit more pages after reading the content they came for?

You should, therefore, offer a flawless UX that easily satisfies your visitor’s thirst for knowledge or their intent to buy a product. Don’t hide stuff, use a proper call to action button and write your copy in a human-centered and personal way. Because, according to Karl Gilis: “If you don’t care about your words, you are a decorator and not a designer.” Most of all: focus on the things that matter most, not to you, but to your users. Make people happy!

7. It’s all about the user

Like I said earlier: nothing is about you because everything should be about your visitor or client. Keep them in the back of your mind at all times. Ask yourself if what you say you do is the same as what they experience? Do you sell your products or do you sell a solution to the user’s problem? Does your keyword research focus on variations of the exact same words or does it include the words the users really use to find you? In addition, does your content answer the question a user has? Karl Gilis: “Your visitors only care about themselves. They don’t care about you! So make your content about their needs – not yours.”

karl gilis at yoastcon

8. Search intent

There’s not just one type of search query, there are four. There’s navigational searches, informational searches, commercial searches and transactional searches. These are called search intent and they determine what a searcher wants. Search intent impacts everything from keyword research to content writing. Aiming your content at the wrong search type could lead to less than stellar results. Take a look at your goals and find out where your content could have the biggest impact.

9. Site speed: your site is never fast enough

Site speed has been a hot issue for a while now and rightfully so. Both users and search engines love fast sites. Conversion and user satisfaction is higher on fast sites. Joost de Valk showed that even Googlebot loves fast sites because it can crawl more pages in the same amount of time. And now page speed will be a ranking factor in the upcoming mobile-first index. So there’s just no way around it: work on your site speed!

10. Artificial intelligence is shaking things up

“Google is not using AI to make search better, Google is using search to make AI better,” said Marcus Tandler in his epic talk. AI is everywhere and playing a bigger role each day. Lots of current developments in the world of SEO, like voice search, are powered by an AI. While this AI is getting smarter and smarter, the impact it has will be huge. Not only for SEO but for many aspects of daily life – for better or worse.

marcus tandler at yoastcon

Bonus: WordPress’ Gutenberg editor

Not strictly SEO related, but something that popped up many times: the future of WordPress. That future largely revolves around a certain new editor that goes by the name Gutenberg. We’re pretty skeptical, but we also see its potential. At YoastCon, Joost and Omar Reiss, discussed the impact Gutenberg will have. They showed the audience where it’s currently at and what will be coming up. Be sure to watch this session and read up on all things Gutenberg. You can even participate in the development of Gutenberg.

YoastCon helps to improve your SEO

YoastCon was an SEO conference of epic proportions. The speakers were exceptional, the workshops impressive, the location awe-inspiring and the visitors kind and smart. We loved every second of it and we hope you did too. If you couldn’t make it, you can always watch the talks next week. Plus, you can always join us again in 2019.

Here, I’ve discussed several topics that came up during the conference. I hope you find this small overview useful and get inspired to improve your site. There’s always something to improve. Good luck!

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: The day after’ »

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Good day everyone! It’s the day after our SEO conference YoastCon and while we didn’t get much sleep last night, we’re still full of energy from the awesome day we – and hopefully every single visitor and our live stream audience – had. Here, we’re taking a peek at what happened yesterday. Somewhere next week, we’ll publish a complete overview of the conference.

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A look back

The second edition of YoastCon took place yesterday in De Vereeniging, a beautiful concert hall in the center of Nijmegen. Speakers like Joost de Valk, Dixon Jones, Markus Tandler, Laura Crimmons and Karl Gilis captivated the audience with in-depth SEO talks. The speakers all shared a wealth of knowledge about almost every part of SEO, from linkbuilding to SEO copywriting and from conversion to the awesome power of Search Console.

YoastCon visitors eagerly jotted all of this down on the special writing pad – with to-do list! – that they could find in their goodie bag. This way, visitors left the conference with a head – and to-do list – full of ideas and SEO knowledge to put into practice. In the various workshop sessions, participants learned to SEO-proof their websites, got a deep-dive into keyword research and learned how important accessibility is for the overall quality of a website.

Check out a few of the great tweets about YoastCon. Read the hashtag #yoastcon for all the comments on the conference. Lot’s of happy people out there!

Some photos

While our photographer Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat of Punkmedia is editing the conference photos, we couldn’t wait to share a couple of them with you. Find the complete photo album on Flickr.

Yoastcon 2017-87

Yoastcon 2017-54

Yoastcon 2017-48

Yoastcon 2017-226

Yoastcon 2017-134

Next week

This is just a short look back at the conference. But don’t worry, a more thorough write-up of the talks will come next week. We’ll also try to get the videos – by courtesy of the fabulous Eyes & Ears team – ready as fast as possible, so you can watch or rewatch them.

We’ll be back!

We’re all very excited about the conference and delighted with how YoastCon turned out. We loved talking to all the great and smart people from all over the world. And since everyone had such a blast, YoastCon will be back for a third edition. Stay tuned for more!

One last thing to round off this post. Maybe you heard it through the grapevine, but, yes, Team Yoast performed an epic dance to conclude the conference, leaving lots of visitors speechless. We hope for the right reasons ;)

Thanks everyone, from the bottom of our hearts!

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Two words you often hear together are mobile and site speed. And that’s not without reason because these two go hand in hand. Mobile-friendliness and site speed are some of the most pressing matters we have to deal with as SEOs, developers, and site owners. Measuring page speed has always been something of a dark art. The site speed tools we use today are fairly adequate, but a new tool is trying to come at it from a different, more realistic angle: Google Lighthouse. Here, I’ll take a closer look at how to measure mobile site speed with Google Lighthouse.

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What is Google Lighthouse?

Lighthouse is a tool built by Google and was originally meant to audit Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The tool executes four audits for accessibility, performance, Progressive Web Apps and an extended list of best practices. Together, these give you an excellent overview of the quality and performance of your website or web app.

Site speed is all about perception and user experience. Speed in numbers means nothing if your site still feels slow. Loads of users around the world are on rather crappy mobile connections of 3G or less. Even with lightning-fast 4G connections, a site can simply feel laggy and slow. And we all know what a devastating effect a slow site can have on your conversion. Shaving milliseconds of the time needed to load your site could make a world of difference.

While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile site via a flaky 3G connection on a slightly underpowered device. Packets are lost in an attempt to simulate real-world conditions as authentically as possible. After running the test, you’ll get a report with a score and actionable advice with issues to tackle. Granted, the recently updated and redesigned Test My Site by Google is infinitely more beautiful, but also a lot less comprehensive.Yoast Lighthouse Chrome plugin

PageSpeed Insights vs. Google Lighthouse

PageSpeed Insights is probably the most used site speed analysis tool out there. While it gives you a nice score and a list of possible improvements, it hardly gives you an idea of the perceived loading speed of your site. It brutally states that your site doesn’t follow the rules and it should, therefore, be slow for everyone. In addition, PageSpeed Insights gives recommendations that are hard, if not impossible to implement. Getting a 100/100 is a pipe dream for most sites.

The two most important things PageSpeed Insights looks at:

  • Time to above-the-fold load: This is the time that it takes to fully render the above-the-fold content of a page from the moment a user requests your page.
  • Time to full page load: This is the time that it takes to fully render the complete content of a page from the moment a user requests your page.

Lighthouse takes a much more practical approach and puts user experience front and center. It visits your site over a throttled 3G connection so it can emulate what a real visitor in the real world would experience. Instead of just loading your site like PageSpeed Insights does, Lighthouse checks how and when it responds to input. It finds the exact moment when your content is ready to use, so you can try and optimize that when it feels too slow.

What to look for in Lighthouse results

The whole concept of speeding up your mobile site is two-pronged; your site must be fast and it must feel fast. You, therefore, need to get your content on screen as fast as possible. Don’t let people wait. In addition, users must be able to interact with your content as soon as possible. Since Google announced that page speed is a ranking factor for SEO, you need to fix these issues.

What should your priority be? Load your content first. Awesome graphics and killer animations can wait. Your message – and what people are looking for – is most likely in the content. You can load the rest of the content in the background and ease it on the screen later on.

Metrics used

While measuring the performance of your mobile site, Lighthouse uses the following metrics:

  • First meaningful paint: This determines how long it takes for the first meaningful content to appear onscreen. The lower the score, the faster that page appears.
  • First interactive: This measures when a page is minimally interactive. This determines if most UI elements are interactive and if the screen responds in a reasonable manner to user input.
  • Consistently interactive: This measures when a page is fully interactive.
  • Perceptual speed index: This speed index shows how quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated. It also comes with a target loading time of <1,250 ms.
  • Estimated latency input: This measures how long it takes for your page to respond to user input. A high latency will result in a page that feels sluggish or laggy. The target here is <50 ms.
  • Critical requests chain: This network waterfall shows what resources are needed to initially render this page. Prioritize asset loading in the critical rendering path to speed up the page.

The Lighthouse report also features a number of opportunities to improve the site speed of your mobile site, including how much loading time they will save. These include reducing render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, properly sizing images and fixing offscreen images.

All in all, Lighthouse gives you a tremendous amount of insight into the performance of your page. Use these insights to your advantage.

How to install Google Lighthouse

Getting started with Google Lighthouse is very easy as it is built into Chrome’s Developer Tools Audit panel (Mac: Shift+Cmd+I. Win: Ctrl+Shift+J or F12). From there, you can run the test and get the full report. In addition, there is a separate Chrome add-on for Lighthouse that adds a button to your toolbar, though using it stays the same.

You can also run Lighthouse as a Node package. This way, you can incorporate the test into your build process. When using the Node package, you will also see that there are a couple of audits that only work in a Node environment and not in the Audits panel of the DevTools.

To install Lighthouse globally from the command line use:

npm install -g lighthouse

If you want to run a test for https://example.com use:

lighthouse https://example.com

The full results of the audit will be available in the terminal, but also in a separate HTML file.

yoast lighthouse devtools audits

Testing Yoast.com in Lighthouse

It’s time to put Lighthouse through its paces. Let’s see what happens when I shine the spotlight of the lighthouse on yoast.com. Some of the audits are most useful for Progressive Web Apps. Now, Yoast.com isn’t available as web app yet, so we’re only focussing on the Performance tab here. This tab shows how your site or app performs currently and shows you ways to improve it.

In the screenshot below, you can see the results for yoast.com. The initial loading of the site is visualized by a bar showing when the content first appears onscreen. It shows how many milliseconds it takes for the content to become visible. The faster, the better.

Lighthouse Performance Report YoastBelow that graphic, you’ll find the most important information, with a green, orange or red bar to show how well the performance is. When you want to optimize the performance of your mobile site, you need to watch the figures for first meaningful paint, first interactive and consistently interactive, as mentioned earlier. Also, try to lower the perceptual speed index and the estimated latency.

From the grades, you can see that yoast.com does OK with a 75 overall score. The first meaningful paint could be a bit better, but the first interactive and consistently interactive are good at 4,360ms. They even happen at the same time. That’s good news, as the site is completely useable at the moment it appears interactive. There also isn’t too much time between the first meaningful paint and the first interactive. While these scores are reasonable, the perceptual speed could be higher. In other words, the site appears to be rather fast but still could use some speeding up in the appearance part.

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Implementing site speed fixes

There’s a lot you can do to improve your site speed. While explaining all the fixes is beyond the scope of this post, most optimizations can be found in the critical rendering path. The critical rendering path is formed by objects – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. Google’s Ilya Grigorik wrote a great guide on how to understand and improve the critical rendering path. And please, don’t forget to optimize your images!

Try it!

Google Lighthouse isn’t the one site speed tool to rule them all, but it is a very valuable addition to your toolkit. We know PageSpeed Insights is a fairly static tool that gives you a high-level overview of the performance of your site. Lighthouse, however, is more fine-grained and gives you immediate feedback based on real-world usage. You should definitely use it along with your other page speed test tools, like WebPageTest and GTmetrix.

Are you using Google Lighthouse? How do you find it? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments. Would love to hear from you!

Read more: ‘Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

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Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: featured snippets can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get featured snippets.

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What are featured snippets

A featured snippet is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as a featured snippet not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?

Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield a featured snippets with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with featured snippets in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.

Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts

Now to understand the value of featured snippets, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.

Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get featured snippets to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.

How to write content for featured snippets

There are several ways to try and aim for featured snippets. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing for featured snippets:

  • Do your keyword research
  • Find out what people ask about your keywords/brand/product/service
  • Look at the ‘People also ask’ boxes for ideas
  • Use Answer the Public the find questions to answer
  • Check several current answers to see how it works
  • Find out where you could improve
  • Determine how to structure your content
  • Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
  • Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
  • Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
  • Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
  • Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
  • Not every search will yield a featured snippet (there are even regional variations)

To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the featured snippet. You don’t want people to read the featured snippet and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.

Featured snippets and structured data

There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get features snippets. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got a featured snippet. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.

If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting a featured snippet. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.

The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio

As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for featured snippets. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents featured snippets is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award a featured snippet box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”

Yes, you can do it too!

Aiming for featured snippets can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for featured snippets, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for featured snippets is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!

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We’ve just hit ‘publish’ on the next release of Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO 5.7 isn’t so much about killer new features, but more about ironing out some kinks to make sure we’re offering you the best possible experience with the plugin. In this release, among other things, we’re adding some new notifications and improvements to the logic that determines how you use keywords in your post. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Reminding you about glue plugins

One of the core reasons for the existence of Yoast SEO is helping you make improvements to your site. In a perfect world, you’d be able to do everything by yourself. Yoast SEO takes care of a lot of improvements under the hood of your site, but sometimes it needs your input. That’s why we use a system of notifications. These notifications bring certain issues or potential improvements to light that might influence your rankings. Paying attention to these might save you a lot of work.

In Yoast SEO 5.7, we added some new notifications that will trigger when your site runs a particular plugin. In this case, whenever you run the official AMP plugin or the Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin, the notification will remind you to install our Glue plugins: Yoast SEO AMP Glue and Yoast SEO ACF Glue. Installing these plugins make sure that Yoast SEO and AMP and ACF work together seamlessly.

Community patches

As always, there were a number of community patches from our awesome community members. In this release, Shane Grey and Pedro Mendonça receive all the credits. Shane Gray made sure that we could replace the link to Google AdWords with the HTTPS variant, while Pedro Mendonça suggested changing the preferred spelling of plugin and setup. Thanks so much, guys.

If you want to help improve Yoast SEO or any one of our other plugins, please head over to GitHub. We’re looking forward to your input. We highly value our community members as they helped us to get where we are now.

Update away!

While Yoast SEO 5.7 doesn’t feature killer new features like the last couple of releases, it does improve how the plugin performs. We fixed several bugs and enhanced the plugin where possible. It takes a new step in helping you get the most out of your site. We hope you enjoy working with Yoast SEO and we’re looking forward help you tackle those rankings!

Keep reading: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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HTTPS secures the connection to the website you are visiting. I’m sure you have seen this in action; look at the address bar in the browser and find the lock icon on the left-hand side. Is the lock closed? Then the connection is secure. Is it open or is there another type of icon or message? Then it’s not secure and vulnerable to attack. Using a site over a non-secure connection means hackers/criminals could intercept the data you send to the site, like your password and email address. Here, I’ll explain what HTTPS is and why it plays a role in SEO.

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Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

HTTP vs HTTPS

When you type in a URL in the search bar, your browser asks the site for its IP address – for instance 123.456.7.89. This number is the actual address that a site gets online. The browser connects to this number in the hopes this is the correct site. This is all done in plain sight and there is no encryption to be seen, so everyone can intercept this traffic. So when you want to log in to a site that you connect to via an HTTP connection, the data you enter – username and password – is sent in plain text. Trust me, that’s really bad. Think about what would happen if you’d connect to your bank this way.

HTTPS secures this process. HTTPS encrypts the connection between the browser and the site, therefore making sure that no one can intercept the data sent between those two. Every site that wants to secure itself needs a so-called SSL certificate.  The browser checks the certificate of the site and verifies its legitimacy with the company that issued it. If you want to see who issued the certificate, please click on the lock icon. By using HTTPS, sites not only secure your login procedure and personal data but also what you do on a site and which sites you visit.

Besides securing the web, HTTPS is necessary for sites that want to upgrade to a new, safer and much faster internet protocol called HTTP/2. HTTP/2 includes different new technologies that make sites a lot faster to load.

yoast ssl certificate

Value of HTTPS for the user

Everyone has the right to privacy on the web. We are doing so many mission-critical things on the web these days that we can use any kind of security we can get. An ever-increasing number of websites is making the move to HTTPS. In the screenshot below, you can see that at the moment, 61% of the sites that Firefox loads are being sent over HTTPS (stats by Let’s Encrypt). HTTPS is a must for any type of site, even if you own the bakery around the corner and don’t send or request sensitive data via your website.

lets encrypt https usage

Value of HTTPS for SEO

In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become a ranking signal. Today, your rankings will hardly change when you activate HTTPS. But it’s not just about rankings as much as it is about user experience and gaining trust with your future customers. It’s inevitable that we are moving to an all-HTTPS web. It is, therefore, incredibly important that your site makes the switch to HTTPS in the coming year.

Several browsers now show ‘not secure’ messages when your site doesn’t have an HTTPS connection or when you try to send data via HTTP on your HTTPS site. Don’t forget, it’s easy to scare off visitors! Wouldn’t you switch over to the site of a competitor when you’d see something like the ‘not secure’ message in the screenshot below?

https not secure message

Make the switch to HTTPS

A few years ago, switching to HTTPS was a major undertaking. Some big sites waited years to do it because it came with several challenges, like speed issues and the cost/benefit issue. These days, while still not easy, it’s manageable. If you’re planning to make the switch to HTTPS, be sure to make a checklist so you don’t forget anything during the process.

Joost shared some advice in a recent Ask Yoast video on moving to HTTPS:

Forcing HTTPS is something that you need to test really well. There are all sorts of things in your site that probably aren’t HTTPS ready that you should know of upfront. I know it was a lot of hard work to get yoast.com to HTTPS and we don’t even have ads. Especially ad services can be really tough to get working on HTTPS.

The Let’s Encrypt project issues free certificates to anyone wanting to secure their site. Several web hosts even offer free Let’s Encrypt services that make the installation of a certificate as easy as pie. That is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. On Google’s Secure your site with HTTPS site you can find more information on best practices. We’ve written a guide on moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS. If this stuff scares you it is best to hire an expert!

Read more: ‘Moving your website to HTTPS: tips & tricks’ »

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With only a few weeks left until YoastCon 2017, it’s time we introduced another of our amazing speakers. Laura Crimmons is Communications Director at Branded3, an award-winning SEO and digital marketing agency in the UK. Laura herself also has an admirable amount of achievements and awards under her belt, for example being named PR Moment’s Young Professional of the Year 2017. At YoastCon, she’s going to talk about link building in a successful online campaign, and successfully structuring a link building campaign. We asked her a few questions about links and link building to give you a little preview!

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Laura in action! Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
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Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. How did you end up at Branded3? And what is the accomplishment you are most proud of while working at that agency?

My background prior to joining Branded3 was in PR; I did a PR degree and had some experience in more traditional PR agencies and in-house roles but it was always digital that appealed to me, so I decided to join Branded3. I joined about a week after manual penalties and Penguin first rolled out, so it was at a time when the agency (and the SEO industry as a whole) was trying to find its feet, with how to build links now that the old ways were (rightfully in many cases) being penalized. Thankfully PR seemed to be part of that solution.

You focus a lot on link building for larger clients. Link building, of course, is a science in itself. Could you share your tactics for starting a – hopefully – successful link building project?

The starting point always has to be the audience, and plenty of research. You need to understand:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • What are they interested in?

From here you’re able to start brainstorming ideas that will engage the audience. At this point you should also have started to develop a list of sites that will be your targets for link acquisition.

Links are still incredibly important, even in this day and age. Anyone is looking for high-value links from relevant sites in their industry. What are your favorite tips for getting these kinds of quality links?

We use PR as a way to generate these kinds of links i.e. working with journalists who usually work for higher quality sites (publishers) than say bloggers who would generally have lower quality domains.

That said, there are lots of other high quality sites that you can attract links from without PR, for example by looking at any genuine resource sites in your industry that link to competitors but not you.

Every site-owner needs to gather links and local business owners would probably benefit even more for good links. Could you explain the impact of link building for local SEO?

Link building is important for local SEO in the same sense that it is for any SEO, however, when specifically looking at local SEO we place more emphasis on citations, data accuracy and proximity.

Do you see the importance of links changing anytime soon?

We all know that search engines have been trying for years to decrease their reliance on links as a ranking factor. But they haven’t got there yet and I don’t necessarily see that happening in the next year or so.

Even if they do manage to find a way to determine a site’s authority better than links, I still think the practice of Digital PR/Content Marketing that we do now for link acquisition will remain important, as it goes beyond just acquiring links. It’s about building brand awareness, affinity and ultimately does play a part in assisted conversions.

Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?

I’ve spent the last five and a half years working in link acquisition and have had a lot of success over that time gaining links from some of the biggest publishers in the UK and globally. So anyone that wants to up their game or learn some tips would probably take something away from it.

Get your ticket for YoastCon 2017 now!
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Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

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In these last few releases of Yoast SEO, we’ve been focusing heavily on internal linking. Linking your posts in a sensible manner helps build a solid site structure, which, in turn, makes your site easier to understand for both humans and machines. Yoast SEO 5.6 brings another new tool to help you find content to link to: the orphaned content filter. Orphaned content is content that doesn’t have any links pointing to it. Here, I’ll explain why we added it to Yoast SEO 5.6 and how you can use it to improve your SEO.

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Yoast SEO Premium: Fix orphaned content

Orphaned content, you say? Yes, orphaned content is content on your site that doesn’t get any links from other parts of your site. Content that doesn’t get links, will stay undiscovered by visitors and search engines. This happens a lot, even on Yoast.com. It’s easy to forget all those articles you wrote. But if a certain article is important to you and you want it to rank for a specific keyword, you need to link it in your site structure. No links? No rankings.

But finding those orphaned articles is not easy. No one knows every link in every article. That’s why we’ve built a new tool for Yoast SEO Premium users that lets you find these posts with the touch of a button. Just go to your posts overview in the backend of WordPress and click ‘Orphaned content’ in the top bar. Now, every article that hasn’t been linked to will appear in the list. You will even receive a notification when Yoast SEO discovers new orphaned content. Go through the list and fix those links!

The orphaned content filter is a new feature in a line of tools that help you to build a great site structure. We all know it is imperative to have a well-thought-out structure to your site so users and search engines can understand it quickly. Improving the way you link your posts and pages together, helps improve your rankings. Use the Yoast SEO text link counter, internal linking suggestions, and cornerstone content features to find relevant posts to link to and to add focus to your internal linking strategy. Want to use all these extremely helpful tools? Buy Yoast SEO Premium now and you’ll get access to all of them and much more, like 24/7 support.

To further explain the concept of orphaned content and how to fix this with the help of Yoast SEO, Marieke wrote a post that tells you all about this new feature.

orphaned posts Yoast SEO 5.6

Redesigned Yoast SEO help center

We like to help you do your job and we’re always improving how we do that. Today, we’d like to introduce our new and improved help center in Yoast SEO. The help center is available in every page of Yoast SEO. The little ‘Need help?’ button is easy to find. Click on it to open the revamped help center to find a drop-down screen with three tabs. Sometimes it has extra tabs, like on the Titles and Metas settings page.

The help center always shows a tutorial video relevant for the page. In addition, there’s a search bar for our knowledge base and a link to a form to request help. Searching our knowledge base surfaces an incredible amount of answers to many problems people often run into. This new help center makes it easy to find the kind of answer you need. And don’t forget, if you have a Yoast SEO Premium license you can contact our awesome support team anytime you wish!

Yoast SEO new help center

search knowledge base

kb refresh in Yoast SEO

 

Update now

In Yoast SEO 5.6 we’ve introduced a great new feature, the orphaned content filter, and a brand-new help center. In addition to that, we’ve fixed several bugs and improved various parts of the plugin. We hope this version of Yoast SEO will make it even easier to improve your site structure. Now, get to work and start giving those orphaned posts the links they deserve!

Read on: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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