Many, many sites have an FAQ page. This is a page where a lot of frequently asked questions get the appropriate answer. It is often a single page filled to the brim with questions and answers. While it’s easy to add one, it’s good to keep in mind that not all sites need an FAQ. Most of the times all you need is good content targeted at the users’ needs. Here, I’ll discuss the use of FAQ pages and show you how to make one yourself with Yoast SEOs new structured data content blocks for Gutenberg. You won’t believe how easy it is.

What is an FAQ?

FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. It is more often than not a single page collecting a series of question and its answers on a specific subject, product or company. An FAQ is often seen as a tool to reduce the workload of the customer support team. It is also used to show that you are aware of the issues a customer might have and to provide an answer to that.

But first: Do you really, really, really need an FAQ?

Usually, if you need to answer a lot of questions from users in an FAQ, that means that your content is not providing these answers and that you should work on that. Or maybe it is your product or service itself that’s not clear enough? One of the main criticisms of FAQs is that they hardly ever answer the questions consumers really have. They are also lazy: instead of figuring out how to truly answer a question with formidable content, people rather throw some random stuff on a page and call it an FAQ.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use an FAQ. Numerous sites successfully apply them — even we use them. They do provide value. Users understand how an FAQ works and are quick to find what they are looking for — if the makers of the page know what they are doing. So don’t make endless lists of loosely related ‘How can I…’ or ‘How to…’ questions, because people will struggle to filter out what they need.

It has to be a page that’s easy to digest and has to have real answers to real questions by users. You can find scores of these if you search for them: ask your support team for instance! Collect and analyze the issues that come up frequently to see if you’re not missing some pain points in your products or if your content is targeting the wrong questions.

So don’t hide answers to pressings questions away on an FAQ page if you want to answer these in-depth: make an article out of it. This is what SEO deals with nowadays: provide an answer that matches your content to the search intent.

Questions and answers spoken out loud?

Google is trying to match a question from a searcher to an answer from a source. If you mark up your questions and answers with Question structured data, you tell search engines that this little sentence is a question and that this paragraph is its answer. Paragraph-based content is all the rage. One of the reasons? The advent of voice search. Google is looking for easy to understand, block-based content that it can use to answer searchers questions right in the search engine — or by speaking it out loud. Using the brand-spanking new Schema property speakable might even speed up this content discovery by determining which part of the content is fit for text-to-speech conversion.

How to build an FAQ page in WordPress via Yoast SEO content blocks

The best way to set up a findable, readable and understandable FAQ page on a WordPress site is by using the new structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO. These Gutenberg blocks make building an FAQ page a piece of cake. It even automatically adds the necessary structured data so search engines like Google can do cool stuff with it. But, if nothing else, it might even give you an edge over your competitor. So, let’s get to it!

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Step 1: Open WordPress’ new Gutenberg editor

Make a page in WordPress, add a title and an introductory paragraph. Now add the FAQ structured data content block. You can find the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks inside the Add Block modal. Scroll all the way down to find them or type ‘FAQ’ in the search bar, which I’ve highlighted in the screenshot below.

Step 2: Add questions and answers

After you’ve added the FAQ block, you can start to add questions and answers to it. Keep in mind that these questions live inside the FAQ block. It’s advisable to keep the content related to each other so you can keep the page clean and focused. So no throwing in random questions.

Step 3: Keep filling, check and publish

After adding the first question and answering it well, keep adding the rest of your questions and answers until you’ve filled your FAQ page. In the screenshot below you see two questions filled in. I’ve highlighted two buttons, the Add Image button and the Add Question. These speak for themselves.

Once you are done, you’ll have a well-structured FAQ page. Go to the frontend of your site and check if everything is in order. If not, make the necessary changes.

What does this look like under the hood?

Run your new FAQ page through Structured Data Testing Tool to see what it looks like for Google. Yoast SEO should generate valid structured data for your FAQ page. Here’s a piece of a page I made, showing one particular question:
It’s basically built up like this. The context surrounding the questions is an FAQPage Schema graph. Every question gets a Question type and an acceptedAnswer with an answer type. That sounds hard, but it’s not. All you have to do is fill in the Question and the Answer and you’re good to go! Let’s break it down:

  • context is Schema.org of course
  • The FAQ page content lives inside a graph
  • type: Question
  • name: The question as written by you
  • answerCount: The number of answers counted. In our case that’s only one, but this will change if you have a Quora type of site where people can send in their own answers
  • acceptedAnswer: The answer that will show in search
    • type: Answer
    • text: The written answer for the question in this block

This translates to the code below as generated automatically by the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks. Now, Google will immediately see that this piece of content contains a question with an accepted answer. If you’re lucky, this might eventually lead to a featured snippets or another type of cool rich result.

<script type="application/ld+json">
	{
		"@context": "http:\/\/schema.org",
		"@graph": [{
				"@type": "FAQPage",
				"name": "An FAQ: How to use Yoast structured data content blocks"
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is SEO?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It's the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google's - or another search engine's - search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results."
				}
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is crawlability?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "Crawlability has to do with the possibilities Google has to crawl your website. Crawlers can be blocked from your site. There are a few ways to block a crawler from your website. If your website or a page on your website is blocked, you're saying to Google's crawler: 'do not come here'. Your site or the respective page won't turn up in the search results in most of these cases."
				}
			}
		]
	}
</script>

Structured data is so cool

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Structured data is where it’s at. It is one of the foundations on which the web is built today and its importance will only increase with time. In this post, I’ve shown you one of the newest Schema additions, and you’ll be seeing this pop up in the search results sometime soon.

Since this is only an introduction to FAQ Schema, there are loads more properties to find on Schema.org. While not everything is available in Yoast SEO structured data content blocks, there’s a chance we’ll add some of those soon. You can always build on the groundwork that Yoast SEO lays down for you.

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

The post How to build an FAQ page with Gutenberg and Yoast SEO appeared first on Yoast.

While we’re still only at the start of the Gutenberg adventure, we’re presenting an awesome, brand-new feature for the new WordPress editor today. Meet the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks! The content blocks automatically add valid structured data code to the content that is added to these blocks. Our initial line-up consists of How-to and FAQ content blocks, plus address and map blocks for our Local SEO plugins, but we’re looking to add more in the future.

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Adding structured data in Gutenberg

Structured data is important but pretty hard to implement. By adding Schema.org structured data to your pages you can tell search engines exactly what’s on there. For most people implementing it comes down to asking their developer to hard-code it into the site. Or learning to master Google Tag Manager so you can inject the necessary code into your pages — this is what we teach you in our Structured data training. This complexity is one of the reasons structured data has been struggling to reach critical mass, even though Google has been pushing it for years. This is now changing with Gutenberg structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO 8.2!

As of today, we’re adding that structured data metadata automatically to the content that’s added to two new Gutenberg blocks inside Yoast SEO, namely How-to and FAQ. Local SEO and WooCommerce SEO have blocks for addresses and maps. So, if you have an FAQ page on your site you can now build these pages inside Gutenberg. Yoast SEO will automatically add the necessary Question Schema.org to that block. The same goes for How-to. Build your how-to article with the How-to content block in Gutenberg, including all the necessary steps and even images, and see a valid piece of structured data appear in the source of your page. It is now easier than ever for Google to find and understand that particular piece of content. Fantastic, right?

Our CEO Joost de Valk and CTO Omar Reiss explain the how and why of Yoast SEO structured data content blocks in this interview »

How-to structured data

How-to structured data is a fairly new addition to the Schema.org vocabulary. You use it to mark up content that teaches you how to do something following a series of steps. This could be how to cat-proof your apartment or how to install Yoast SEO Premium or something else entirely. We published a post a while back on how to add how-to structured data to your how-to articles. Please read that if you need more background information.

The structured data content blocks come with default styling, but we made it easy for you to change these. Our UX designer Luc wrote a post detailing how you can give the How-to content blocks your own styling so they fit right in with the rest of your site. There will be a post about styling your FAQ content blocks later on.

Using the Gutenberg How-to structured data content blocks is incredibly easy.

  1. Choose the Yoast SEO structured data block for How-to
  2. Type the description for the how-to
  3. Enter the time needed to do the how-to
  4. Fill in the first step title
  5. Fill in supporting text for the step
  6. If necessary, add an image using the Add image button
  7. Hit the Add step button to add a new step
  8. Use the Insert step button to insert a new step between existing steps
  9. Done? Save your draft!

Here’s an example how-to on how to install Yoast SEO Premium:How-to content blockAnd here’s what Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool says of that page:the result in the structured data testing toolEpic, right? Remember, due to restrictions by Google it is not possible to add more than one How-to content block on a page.

Want to dive into the mark-up and styling of our HowTo block? Read this post from our UX designer Luc.

FAQ structured data

If you have a section on your site for frequently asked questions — an FAQ— then you’ll enjoy the new FAQ structured data content block. Schema.org/Question is “A specific question – e.g. from a user seeking answers online, or collected in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.” You can now easily add the structured data needed for search engines to understand FAQ content. Just fill in the questions, add the answers and maybe an image if needed. Hit publish and your perfectly structured FAQ block is ready!

Local SEO & WooCommerce SEO with Gutenberg blocks

Of course, we had to give some of our other SEO WordPress plugins some Gutenberg love as well. Do you own a local business or are you doing a lot of local SEO? If so, you need our Local SEO or WooCommerce SEO plugins. These plugins help you to improve your site so it can more easily rank in your local search results.

Today, the two local SEO plugins get structured data content blocks for Gutenberg as well: you can now add valid structured data to your site by adding the new address block. The fields will appear automatically if you’ve filled in the fields in the plugin settings. Of course, you can finetune what you do and don’t want to appear. In addition, you can use the new Google Maps structured data content block to easily add a good looking map with structured data to your site.Address content block

More to come

Gutenberg’s block-based design makes it a very interesting platform to design for. These structured data content blocks are our first tools specifically built for the new WordPress editor. We hope to expand our offering of structured data blocks in the near future. We can’t wait to bring you blocks for job postings, events and recipes, among others! And please, do give us your feedback so we can make these blocks even more awesome.

Polish readability analysis

Yoast SEO 8.2 also brings a new supported language: Polish! We can now analyze text written in Polish and make suggestions to improve the readability. In addition, we will now also suggest articles to link to using our internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium. The Polish readability analysis was made possible by contributions from the community. We’re thankful for the great support from the people at Macopedia, who sent us word lists which make a vital part of our analysis. We’re always super enthusiastic when people in the community show us their love for our products and also a commitment to the open source spirit by contributing to our code base!

Bug fixes and enhancements

As always, we’ve fixed a couple of annoying bugs. This time we focused on fixing bugs related to slugs, user input incorrectly triggering analyses, zooming issues on iPhones and several others. You can read up on them in the changelog. We do want to thank mt8, who helped us fix a bug related to OpenGraph images that wouldn’t correctly show for the front page in a couple of situations.

Update now!

Yoast SEO 8.2 is a very exciting release. With the launch of the structured data content blocks for Gutenberg, we’re heading into unknown and very exciting territory. We can’t wait to see what you do with the current set of blocks and hope to bring even more blocks to you in the near future. Try it, tell us what you think and enjoy using Yoast SEO 8.2!

Read more: Why you should buy Yoast SEO »

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Journalists have been using the inverted pyramid writing style for ages. Using it, you put your most important information upfront. Don’t hedge. Don’t bury your key point halfway down the third paragraph. Don’t hold back; tell the complete story in the first paragraph. Even online, this writing style holds up pretty well for some types of articles. It even comes in handy now that web content is increasingly used to answer every type of question a searcher might have. Find out how!

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What is the inverted pyramid?

Most readers don’t have the time or desire to carefully read an article, so journalists put the critical pieces of a story in the first paragraph to inform and draw in a reader. This paragraph is the meat and potatoes of a story, so to say. This way, every reader can read the first paragraph — also known as the lead — and get a complete notion of what the story is about. It gives away the traditional W’s instantly: who, what, when, where, why and, of course, how.

The introductory paragraph is followed by paragraphs that contain important details. After that, follows general information and whatever background the writers deem supportive of the narrative. This has several advantages:

  • It supports all readers, even those who skim
  • It improves comprehension, everything you need to understand the article is in that first paragraph
  • You need less time to get to the point
  • It gives writers a full paragraph to draw readers in
  • Done well, it encourages readers to scroll and read the rest of the article
  • It gives writers full control over the structure
  • It makes it easier to edit articles

An example

Here’s an example of such an intro. Marieke wrote an article called What is SEO? that answers exactly that question in an easy to understand way. She gives away the answer immediately, but also uses triggers to get people to read the rest of the article. Here’s the intro:

“SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What is SEO?” and I’ll explain how we perform SEO at Yoast.”

The inverted pyramid is just one of many techniques you can use to present and structure content. You can use it to write powerful news articles, press releases, product pages, blog posts or explanatory articles, like we do.

This style of writing, however, is not suited for every piece of content. Maybe you write poetry, or long essays with a complete story arc or just a piece of complex fiction. Critics are quick to add that the inverted pyramid style cripples their creativity. But, even then, you can learn from the techniques of the inverted pyramid that helps you to draw a reader in and figure out a good way to structure a story. And, as we all know, a solid structure is key in getting people — and search engines — to understand your content. Marieke wrote a great article on setting up a clear text structure.

The power of paragraphs

Well-written paragraphs are incredibly powerful. These paragraphs can stand on their own. I always try to write in a modular way. I’m regularly moving paragraphs around if I think they fit better somewhere else in the article. It makes editing and changing the structure of a story so much easier.

Good writers give every paragraph a stand-out first sentence, these are known as core sentences. These sentences raise one question or concept per paragraph. Someone who scans the article by reading the first sentence of every paragraph will get the gist of it and can choose to read the rest of the paragraph or not. Of course, the rest of the paragraph is spent answering or supporting that question or concept.

It’s all blocks these days anyways

On the web, there is a movement towards block-based content. Google uses whole paragraphs from articles to answers questions in the search results with featured snippets or answer boxes. The voice search revolution is powered by paragraph-based content. Even our beloved WordPress CMS will move to a block-based new editor called Gutenberg. These blocks are self-contained pieces of content that search engines are going to enjoy gobbling up. We can even give these blocks the structured data needed to let search engines know exactly what content is in that block. Blocks are it — another reason you need to write better paragraphs.

Answering questions

Something else is going on: a lot of content out there is written specifically to answer questions based on user intent. Google is also showing much more questions and answers right away in the search results. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to structure your questions and answers in such a way that is easy to digest for both readers and search engines. This also supports the inverted pyramid theory. If you want to answer a specific question, do that right beneath that question. Don’t obfuscate it. Keep it upfront. You can answer supporting questions or give a more elaborate answer further down the text. If you have data supporting your answer, please present it.

How to write with the inverted pyramid in mind

The inverted pyramid forces you to think about your story: what is it, which parts are key to understanding everything? Even if you don’t follow the structure to the letter, focusing on the essential parts of your story and deleting the fluff is always a good thing. In his seminal work The Elements of Style, William Strunk famously wrote:

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”

In short, writing works like this:

  • Map it out: What are the most important points you want to make?
  • Filter: Which points are supportive, but not key?
  • Connect: How does everything fit together?
  • Structure: Use sub-headers to build an easy to understand structure for your article
  • Write: Start every paragraph with your core sentence and support/prove/disprove/etc these in the coming sentences
  • Revise: Are the paragraphs in the correct order? Maybe you should move some around to enhance readability or understanding?
  • Edit: I.e. killing your darlings. Do you edit your own work or can someone do it for you?
  • Publish: Add the article to WordPress and hit that Publish button

Need more writing tips? Marieke gives 10 tips for writing an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post.

Try it

Like I said, not every type of content will benefit from the inverted pyramid. But the inverted pyramid has sure made its mark over the past century or more. Even now, as we mostly write content for the web this type of thinking about a story or article makes us focus on the most important parts — and how we tell about those parts. It forces you to separate facts from fiction and fluff from real nuggets of content gold. Try it out and your next article might turn out to be the best yet.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

The post First things first: writing content with the inverted pyramid style appeared first on Yoast.

Two weeks ago, we launched Yoast SEO 8.0. In it, we shipped the first part of our integration with Gutenberg: the sidebar. That release was the foundation on which we are building the next parts of our integration with the new WordPress editor. In Yoast SEO 8.1, we introduce part 2: a Gutenberg-proof snippet preview. Also, a much better experience in the content analysis thanks to webworkers!

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Gutenberg, meet the Yoast SEO snippet preview

Yoast SEO 8.0, unfortunately, had to make do without a snippet preview inside Gutenberg. There were still some kinks to iron out before we could add that snippet preview to our WordPress plugin. The code for that new modal — the pop-up screen — had to be written from the ground up, exclusively for Gutenberg. That code has now been added to Gutenberg’s core so every WordPress developer can make use of the modal inside the new editor. How awesome is that!

Here’s what snippet preview pop-up inside Gutenberg looks like:

You see that it looks just like the regular Yoast SEO snippet preview. It has all the features you know and love, like the true-to-life rendering of your snippet on both mobile as well as desktop screens, SEO title field editor with snippet variables, slug editor and meta descriptions, also with snippet variables. To open the snippet preview, you simply click on the Snippet Preview button in the Yoast SEO Gutenberg sidebar.

snippet preview button yoast seo 8.1Another cool thing now available in Gutenberg is the Primary Category picker. This has been a staple for many years in Yoast SEO. It lets you make and set the primary category for a post. This will be automatically selected whenever you make a new post. We will port more features over to Gutenberg shortly.

What’s next

We, of course, have big plans for Gutenberg. There’s still a lot to be done and not everything we’re dreaming up is possible right now. Step by step, we’re turning Yoast SEO and Gutenberg into a dream combination. We’re not just porting over existing features to the new Gutenberg, but actively exploring what we can do and what we need to do that. In some cases that means we have to develop the support inside Gutenberg’s core ourselves, this way loads of developers can benefit from the results as well.

Speeding up the content analysis with webworkers

Speed = user experience. To keep Yoast SEO performing great, we added a dedicated webworker to our content analysis. Webworkers let you run a script in the background without affecting the performance of the page. Because it runs independently of the user interface, it can focus on one task and does that brilliantly. Webworkers are very powerful and help us to keep Yoast SEO stable, responsive and fast even when analyzing pages with thousands of words of content. Try it!

The update is available now

Yoast SEO 8.1 has a lot of improvements behind the scenes that should drastically improve how the plugin functions. We are dedicated to giving you the best possible user experience, while also improving our current features and laying the groundwork for new ones. And not to forget that new WordPress editor, right? Update and let us know what you think!

Read more: Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium »

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You’ve probably come across the term duplicate content quite a lot, but what is it? Duplicate content is content that lives in several locations — i.e., URLs. Duplicate content can harm your rankings and many people say that copious amounts of it can even lead to a penalty by Google. That’s not true, though. There is no duplicate content penalty, but having loads of duplicate or copied content can get Google to influence your rankings negatively.

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What does duplicate content mean?

Duplicate content is all content that is available on multiple locations on or off your site. It often lives on a different URL and sometimes even on a different domain. Most duplicate content happens accidentally or is the result of a sub-par technical implementation. For instance, your site could be available on both www and non-www or HTTP and HTTPS — or both at the same time, the horror! Or maybe your CMS uses excessive dynamic URL parameters that confuse search engines. Even your AMP pages could count as duplicate content if not linked properly. Duplicate content is everywhere.

Google’s definition of duplicate content is as follows:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

That last part is important. If you scrape, copy and spin existing content — Google calls this copied content — with the intention of deceiving the search engine to get a higher ranking you will be on dangerous ground.

Google says this type of malicious intent might trigger an action:

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results”

Michiel has some great tips for discovering duplicate content on your site: DIY Duplicate content check. Google’s documentation is also a goldmine for working with duplicate content.

Duplicate content vs. copied content vs. thin content

The topic of duplicate content confuses a lot of people. For Google, most duplicate content has a technical origin, but it will also look at the content itself. “I have two URLs for the same article, which one should I choose?” While most regular people will probably think of pieces of similar content that appear elsewhere on a site. “I have used this piece of text in several other places, is that bad?” This is all duplicate content, but for determining rankings, search engines make a distinction between duplicate content, copied content and thin content.

Your duplicate content might classify as copied content if you use an existing text and rehash it quickly to reuse it on your site. It doesn’t matter if you give it a little spin or put in a few keywords, this behavior is not acceptable.  Throw in a couple of thin content pages — pages that have little to no quality content — and you’re in dangerous territory. Site quality is an issue and these tactics can bring serious harm to your site. Remember Panda?

Don’t block duplicate content on your site

Google is pretty apt at discovering and handling duplicate content. The search engine is smart enough to figure out what to do with most of the duplicate content it finds. If it finds multiple versions of a page it will fold these into the version it finds best — in most cases, this will be the original article/page. What it does need, though, is complete access to these URLs. If you block Googlebot in your robots.txt from crawling these URLs, it cannot figure these things out by itself and you will run the risk of Google treating these pages as separate instances. Here are a couple of things you should do:

  • Allow robots to crawl these URLs
  • Mark the content as duplicate by using rel=canonical (read more about this below)
  • Use Google’s URL Parameter Handling tool to determine how parameters should be handled
  • Use 301 redirects to send users and crawlers to the canonical URL

There’s more you can do to fight duplicate content on your site as Joost describes in his article on duplicate content: causes and solutions.

Use rel=canonical!

One of the essential tools in your duplicate content fighting toolkit is rel=”canonical” . You can use this piece of code to determine what the original URL is of a piece of content, something we call the canonical URL. We have an excellent ultimate guide to rel=”canonical” that shows you everything there is to know about it.

Focus on original, fresh and authoritative content

Another tool in your arsenal to fight duplicate, copied and unoriginal content are your writing skills. Google is focused on quality. It is always on the lookout for the best possible piece of content that fits the users intent best. Your goal should not be to make a quick buck but to leave a lasting impression. Watch out for thin content and make sure to make it original and of high quality.

The same goes for similar content on your site. We’ve talked about keyword cannibalization before and this is an extension of that. Folding several comparable posts into one can achieve much better results, both in terms of rankings as well as fighting duplicate content.

Here’s Google’s take on similar content:

“Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”

Duplicate content is everywhere — know what to do about it

Ex-Googler Matt Cutts once famously said that 20% to 30% of the web consists of duplicate content. While I’m not sure these numbers are still accurate; duplicate content continues to pop up on every site. This doesn’t have to be bad news. Fix what you can and don’t try and turn duplicate content and its siblings copied content and thin content into a viable SEO strategy.

Read more: Content maintenance for SEO »

The post What is duplicate content? appeared first on Yoast.

You don’t even have to listen very carefully because SEO people are shouting it from the rooftops: site speed is everything. Not a day goes by without a new article, white paper, Google representative or SEO expert telling us that optimizing for speed is one of the most important things you can do right now. And they’re right, of course! Site speed influences SEO in many ways. Here’s a small overview of how site speed and SEO go together.

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You won’t have a second chance for that first impression: Everything starts with speed

Picture this: you have put in a lot of effort to make sure that your site works well, it has a great structure and includes fabulous targeted and relevant content. But that won’t be the first experience your potential visitor/client/consumer has with your site. They will have to load your site first before they can access that killer content. If it takes ages to load, there will be a significant drop-off and a lot fewer people will visit your site. A much faster competitor is just a single click away. Not investing in a fast site is almost like you don’t care for your customers. No reason for them to stay, right?

On mobile, site speed is even more of an issue. According to research by Google, the average mobile site takes over fifteen seconds to load while people expect them to load in less than three seconds before they consider leaving altogether. Every second counts, as conversions drop sharply with every second longer, your site takes to load.15 seconds to load a mobile page google research With that said, what are some reasons to improve the loading speed of your site?

  • Site speed is a ranking factor
  • Fast sites are easier to crawl
  • Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates
  • It reduces bounce rates
  • It improves general user experience (less stress!)

It all boils down to this: improve your site speed if you want happy customers and happy search engines! And who doesn’t want that, right?

Site speed is a ranking factor

Google has said time and again that a fast site helps you to rank better. Even as recently as this month, Google launched the so-called ‘Speed Update’ making site speed a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google stressed it would only affect the slowest sites and that fast sites getting faster won’t get a boost, but they are surely looking at site speed across the board. Only the slowest sites get hit now, but what about the future?

Loading times influence crawling

Modern sites are incredibly wieldy and untangling that mess can make a big difference already. Fix your site structure, clean up old and outdated posts and bring those redirects in order. Invest in a better hosting plan and turn those servers into finely tuned machines. The bigger your site is, the more impact of speed optimizations will have. These not just impact user experience and conversion rates but also affects crawl budget and crawl rate. If your servers are fast, Googlebot can come around more often and get more done.

Fast loading sites have higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates

Your goal should be to be the fastest site in your niche. Be faster than your competitors. Having a site or an e-commerce platform that takes ages to load won’t do you any good. People hit that back button in a split second, never to return. Not good for your bounce rate! By offering a fast site you are not only working on improving your conversion rate, but you’re also building trust and brand loyalty. Think of all the times you’ve been cursing the screen because you had to wait for a page to load — again — or been running in circles because the user experience was atrocious — again. It happens so often — don’t be that site.

Site speed improves user experience

Did you know that people experience real stress when experiencing mobile delays? And that this stress level is comparable to watching a horror movie? Surely not you say? That’s what the fine folks at Ericsson Research found a couple of years back. Improving your site speed across the board means making people happy. They’ll enjoy using your site, buy more and come back more often. This, of course, means that Google will see your site as a great search result because you are delivering the goods when it comes to site quality. Eventually, you might get a nice ranking boost. It’s a win-win situation!experiencing mobile delays ericsson research 2015

Optimizing your site is not just looking at pretty numbers

Optimizing your site for speed is not as simple as getting a good score in all those site speed test tools. Don’t blind yourself on scores and metrics. Most tests emulate an unrealistic environment, but guess what: the real world matters even more. Every user is different. Every visitor uses a different type of internet connection, device and browser. Find out who your users are, how they access your site and what they do while they’re there. Combine classic tools like Google’s recently updated PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest.org and Lighthouse with analytical tools to get a broad overview of speed issues on your site. Use the recommendations to get started on improving your site speed, but do take these with a grain of salt; these recommendations are often hard to implement and not really realistic.

Ps: You are optimizing your images, right? Quick win right there!

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Semantics is hard. What does a certain word mean in a specific situation? Which ‘mars’ are you talking about? Have you ever tried to discover all definitions of ‘run’? In most cases, context is everything. You can help humans and machines understand a text better by adding context. This is one of the reasons Yoast SEO is now adding support for synonyms and related keywords, giving you more flexibility to improve your text! Now available for Premium users of Yoast SEO 7.8.

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New Premium feature: Synonyms

Content SEO has long been about finding out what your main keyword was and adding that focus keyword in a couple of places in your text. While that worked pretty well, there’s a lot more going on at the moment. Not only is search intent more important than ever, but search engines get smarter and smarter every day. They increasingly ‘know’ what a text is about by looking at the context in which these focus keywords appear. This context is what makes or breaks a text.

Yoast SEO always worked by a single focus keyword or multiple focus keywords in our Premium plugin. We understand this can be a bit restrictive; we’re not even looking at plural instances of the keyword. Luckily, that’s about to change!

We’re working on some very nice new language-based SEO checks, and we’re presenting the first updates today: synonyms and keyword distribution! Yes, you read that right: Premium users can now add synonyms and related terms to check. Writing about bikes? Your synonyms will probably include ‘bicycle, cycle, ride, two-wheeler,’ and now you can add those terms. The Yoast SEO plugin will check how you use these terms in your article.synonyms in Yoast SEO 7.8

New Premium feature: keyword distribution

The new synonym feature also works in conjunction with another new feature in Yoast SEO Premium: keyword distribution. If you added a couple of synonyms for your focus keyword, Yoast SEO now checks to see if these are distributed well throughout the text. Before you could add your focus keyword in the intro a couple of times and that would be fine by us. That’s over. We’re taking the complete text in regard and want you to evenly and realistically distribute your focus keyword and synonyms. The gif below shows what the highlighting of keywords and synonyms looks like.
keyword synonyms yoast seo premium 7.8
We keep using the focus keyword exclusively to determine keyword density. In our opinion, optimizing your post for the most common keyword — the one that your keyword research uncovered as being most used by your audience — continues to be imperative. 

More on the way

This is just the start. At the moment, we’re hard at work to improve the language capabilities of Yoast SEO. Marieke wrote a post describing what you can expect from Yoast SEO in the coming months. Read about morphology, related keywords and the upcoming recalibration of the SEO analyses in Yoast SEO.

Feedback welcome!

We’ve added these new checks for you to try out. We’re very much looking forward to your feedback. How are you using synonyms and related topics in your texts? What do you want Yoast SEO to do with your synonyms? Are there ways to improve how we handle the analyses of your text? As we’ve said, this is the first step to a Yoast SEO that is far more capable of understanding language and using that knowledge to provide you with the best possible feedback. Help us get there! You can either add an issue to GitHub or comment on this post. We’re looking forward to your help!

Language improvements for French, Spanish and Italian

Yoast SEO 7.8 has turned out to be a release focused on language because we’ve also expanded the language functionality for French, Spanish and Italian. Users writing French and Spanish can now use the Flesch Reading Ease assessment to check the perceived difficulty of their texts. Users writing Italian can now improve their texts using the new passive voice assessment. French, Spanish and Italian now fully support all Yoast SEO features.

Other improvements and fixes

As always, we’ve fixed loads of bugs and improved various parts of the plugin. For instance, we’ve improved the way we determine the OpenGraph for front pages, especially in the case of static front pages. We’ve also fixed several bugs regarding the look and feel of the new snippet variables that we introduced in Yoast SEO 7.7.

Update now to Yoast SEO 7.8

Yoast SEO 7.8 is an exciting new release, one that marks a new direction for us. We’re giving you much more flexibility to enhance your articles by using synonyms and providing you with more tools to determine how well you present your keywords. This is the first step to an even more relevant, useful and indispensable Yoast SEO!

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

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A redirect happens when someone asks for a specific page but gets sent to a different page. Often, the site owner deleted the page and set up a redirect to send visitors and search engine crawlers to a relevant page. A much better approach then serving them an annoying, user experience breaking 404 message. Redirects play a big part in the lives of site owners, developers, and SEOs. So let’s answer a couple of recurring questions about redirects for SEO.

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1. Are redirects bad for SEO?

Well, it depends, but in most cases, no. Redirects are not bad for SEO, but — as with so many things — only if you put them in place correctly. A bad implementation might cause all kinds of trouble, from loss of PageRank to loss of traffic. Redirecting pages is a must if you make any changes to your URLs. After all, you don’t want to see all the hard work you put into building an audience and gathering links to go down the drain.

2. Why should I redirect a URL?

By redirecting a changed URL, you send both users and crawlers to a new URL, therefore keeping annoyances to a minimum. Whenever you perform any kind of maintenance on your site you are actually taking stuff out. You could be deleting a post, changing your URL structure or moving your site to a new domain. You have to replace it or visitors will land on those dreaded 404 pages. If you make small changes, like delete an outdated article, you can redirect that old URL with a 301 to a relevant new article or give it a 410 to say that you deleted it. Don’t delete stuff without a plan. And don’t redirect your URLs to random articles that don’t have anything to do with the article you’re deleting.

Bigger projects need a URL migration strategy. Going from HTTP to HTTPS for instance — more on that later on in this article, changing the URL paths, or moving your site to a new domain. In these cases, you should look at all the URLs on your site and map these to their future locations on the new domain. After determining what goes where, you can start redirecting the URLs. Use the change of address tool in Google Search Console to notify Google of the changes.

3. What is a 301 redirect? And a 302 redirect?

Use a 301 redirect to permanently redirect a URL to a new destination. This way, you tell both visitors and search engine crawlers that this URL changed and a new destination is found. This the most common redirect. Don’t use a 301 if you ever want to use that specific URL ever again. If so, you need a 302 redirect.

A 302 redirect is a so-called temporary redirect. This means that you can use this to say this piece of content is temporarily unavailable at this address, but it is going to come back. Need more information on which redirect to pick?

4. What’s an easy way to manage redirects in WordPress?

We might be a bit biased, but we think the redirects manager in our Yoast SEO Premium WordPress plugin is incredible. We know that a lot of people struggle to understand the concept of redirects and the kind of work that goes into adding and managing them. That’s why one of the first things we wanted our WordPress SEO plugin to have was an easy to use redirect tool. I think we succeeded, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Lindsay recently said:

The redirects manager can help set up and manage redirect on your WordPress site. It’s an indispensable tool if you want to keep your site fresh and healthy. We made it as easy as possible. Here’s what happens when you delete a post:

  • Move a post to trash
  • A message pops up saying that you moved a post to thrash
  • Choose one of two options given by the redirects manager:
    • Redirect to another URL
    • Serve a 410 Content deleted header
  • If you pick redirect, a modal opens where you can enter the new URL for this particular post
  • Save and you’re done!

So convenient, right? Here’s an insightful article called What does the redirects manager in Yoast SEO do, that answers that question.

5. What is a redirect checker?

A redirect checker is a tool to determine if a certain URL is redirected and to analyze the path it follows. You can use this information to find bottlenecks, like a redirect chain in which a URL is redirected many times, making it much harder for Google to crawl that URL — and giving users a less than stellar user experience. These chains often happen without you knowing about it: if you delete a page that was already redirected, you add another piece to the chain. So, you need to keep an eye on your redirects and one of the tools to do that is a redirect checker.

You can use one of the SEO suites such as Sitebulb, Ahrefs and Screaming Frog to test your redirects and links. If you only need a quick check, you can also use a simpler tool like httpstatus.io to give you an insight into the life of a URL on your site. Another must-have tool is the Redirect Path extension for Chrome, made by Ayima.

6. Do I need to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?

Whenever you plan to move to the much-preferred HTTPS protocol for your site — you know, the one with the green padlock in the address bar — you must redirect your HTTP traffic to HTTPS. You could get into trouble with Google if you make your site available on both HTTP and HTTPS, so watch out for that. Also, browsers will show a NOT SECURE message when the site is — you guessed it — not secured by a HTTPS connection. Plus, Google prefers HTTPS sites, because these tend to be faster and more secure. Your visitors expect the extra security as well.

So, you need to set up a 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS. There are a couple of way of doing this and you must plan this to make sure everything goes like it should. First, the preferred way of doing this is at server level. Find out on what kind of server your site is running (NGINX, Apache, or something else) and find the code needed to add to your server config file or .htaccess file. Most often, your host will have a guide to help you set up a redirect for HTTP to HTTPS on server level. Jimmy, one of our developers also wrote a guide helping you move your website from HTTP to HTTPS.

There are also WordPress plugins that can handle the HTTPS/SSL stuff for your site, but for this specific issue, I wouldn’t rely on a plugin, but manage your redirect at a server level. Don’t forget to let Google know of the changes in Search Console.

Redirects for SEO

There are loads of questions about redirects to answer. If you think about it, the concept of a redirect isn’t too hard to grasp. Getting started with redirects isn’t that hard either. The hard part of working with redirects is managing them. Where are all these redirects leading? What if something breaks? Can you find redirect chains or redirect loops? Can you shorten the paths? You can gain a lot from optimizing your redirects, so you should dive in and fix them. Do you have burning questions about redirects? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: ‘How to properly delete a page from your site’ »

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The snippet editor is one of the core pieces of technology in Yoast SEO. It helps you build snippets that truly stand out in the search results to get you traffic. To make this vital piece future-proof and to update it with new features, we needed to rebuild it. In Yoast SEO 7.7, you’ll find the result of that. Plus, a new and incredibly easy way of working with snippet variables.

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The new snippet editor in Yoast SEO

The new snippet editor offers a much better user experience. Editing your meta descriptions and titles is a breeze and checking how it all looks a joy. It’s robust and easier to use. You’ll notice it right away when you open a post. Heading over to the Search Appearance settings (Content Types, Archives or Taxonomies), you will also see the editor pop up. There, you can now visually edit the appearance of your snippet variables. More on that later.

new snippet editor yoast seo 7.7

While preparing for Gutenberg, we are steadily rebuilding all parts of the Yoast SEO interface in the JavaScript library React. This makes it easier for us to port different parts to Gutenberg and to do awesome new things with those parts.

Improved mobile snippet preview

Improving the snippet editor also made it possible for us to enhance the mobile snippet preview. It’s much more accurate and closely matches what Google shows. We now default to the mobile snippet preview. In addition, we take a critical look at how long the title that we show can be. For this, we use the longest possible character count available on all platforms.

Revamped snippet variables

You can automate some of your SEO work by using variable templates for your titles and meta descriptions. This way, you can use some existing content, for instance, an excerpt, or a focus keyword and have these filled automatically. What’s more, if you have a WooCommerce store and run Yoast SEO for WooCommerce, you can automatically fill in the product’s sku, brand and price. You can find the list of all supported template variables in our Knowledge Base.

The snippet variables in Yoast SEO are very powerful. While you can do awesome stuff with it, most sites will probably be fine using the well-thought-out default settings we provide. Previously, these variables looked kind of scary with those %% signs and lack of visual feedback. Testing various snippet variable setups meant a lot of switching between browser tabs to see the rendered end result. We’re now changing that!

Introducing the new snippet variables in the Search Appearance settings

As I said, the new snippet editor lets us do cool stuff. It made it possible for us to revamp how we use variables for titles and meta descriptions to make it instantly understandable for non-experts. This leads to huge usability benefits and a truly enjoyable user experience.

search appearance snippet variables yoast seo 7.7We’ve opted for sensible defaults fit most sites fine — for instance, for the SEO title: Title, Page number, Separator and Site title —, but you can change these if you really want. We’ve made a handy button called Insert Snippet Variable to quickly add the requested variable. You can simply pick the variable from the dropdown menu. The same goes for the Meta description field where you can automatically generate — parts of — your snippet’s meta description by adding variables. You can set sitewide variables for meta descriptions and titles in the Search Appearance settings, but you can always override them on a per post basis in the post editor.

The last thing we’ve opted for in the new snippet editor is to change how the meta description preview functions when there is no handwritten meta description. We no longer mimic Google by showing a part of your content, but explain what Google does instead. Hopefully this will remind you to write those killer meta descriptions.

Check your Search Appearance settings

It’s always a good thing to dive into the settings of Yoast SEO regularly to see if everything is still perfectly set up for your site. Definitely take a look at the new Search Appearance settings page and check the different tabs to see if there’s anything to improve. While doing that, you probably discover a new setting or feature from time to time, like setting template using the new snippet editor.

Cool community contributions

For Yoast SEO 7.7, we reviewed several community contributions. There were a couple that made the cut this time. First, Laurent helped us improve the lists of French transition words, stop words, and function words for use in the readability analyses. Thanks to Matteo, we have now added support for JSON-LD breadcrumbs. You can switch on the breadcrumbs setting and see the necessary code for it generated in the source code.

Last but not east, we’ve added a wpseo_attachment_redirect_url filter to allow changing of the target redirection URL for attachments. This may be necessary to restore the redirect to the parent post. Thanks to Alex Kozack for this one. If you also have a bug, patch or feature request, please raise an issue over on the Yoast GitHub account.

Update now to Yoast SEO 7.7

There you have it: Yoast SEO 7.7 is available to all. It’s a great release with lots of new stuff to discover. The new snippet editor makes for a great user experience and the revamped template variables can give your productivity a big boost. Check out the new and improved tools and update to Yoast SEO 7.7 now! Or check the changelog here.

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Well, it was fun while it lasted. In Yoast SEO 7.6, we’re reverting the longer meta descriptions in the snippet editor to comply with Google’s latest change. That’s not all though, we’ve also updated our support for the Russian language, added transition words for Catalan, redirect support for WP-CLI and fixed several bugs. Find out all about Yoast SEO 7.6.

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Meta descriptions back to 156 characters

We’ve talked about Google’s decision to roll back the expanded snippet length for meta descriptions quite a bit. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, Google recently returned to their old 156 character limit for the snippets after upping it to 320 characters for about half a year. Read Marieke’s post about shorter snippets for meta descriptions if you want to know what to make of all this. Of course, this change means that Yoast SEO has to adapt as well. In Yoast SEO 7.6, we’ve changed the length of the meta description field to 156 characters. This is not a ‘hard’ limit, you’re still welcome to write longer meta desciptions, although these might get truncated in the snippets.

Keep in mind, that meta descriptions itself can be much longer — Google has said many times that there is no set limit. In addition, Google still likes to show these longer meta descriptions. It also loves to generate its own meta description if it thinks it can do better than yours. But the snippets you see in the search results pages now tend to be a lot fewer characters than before.

Read more: ‘How to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description’ »

New language updates for Russian and Catalan

In last month’s release — Yoast SEO 7.5 —, we added full language support for Russian. This made it possible for Russian language users to get feedback on their writing and to get links suggested by the internal linking tool. One piece was missing, though. The Flesch reading ease score took a bit more fine-tuning to get it to make sense for the Russian language. That work is done, so you can now use it for Russian as well.

A community effort brought us transition words for the Catalan language. You can use transition words — like ‘contràriament’, ‘resumint’ and ‘en primer lloc’ — to make connections between different parts of your text. Using them well makes your text a lot easier and more enjoyable to read. Find out more in Marieke’s article on transition words and SEO.

Yoast SEO Premium: WP-CLI commands to manage redirects

The command line interface, or CLI, is an excellent tool for developers. It gives them quick access to their whole development environment and beyond that: the world. WP-CLI is WordPress’ CLI and it helps developers to reach, update and develop WordPress sites quickly. Today, we’re introducing a new tool for these developers: WP-CLI commands to manage redirects. These commands let you view, make and edit redirects right from your CLI. Curious? Install WP-CLI and type wp yoast redirect.

Bugfixes and enhancements

With every new release, we set out to fix bugs to take away small annoyances. Also, we try to enhance the plugin wherever we can to make it run better. In Yoast SEO 7.6, we fixed several bugs concerning keyword usage, translations, warnings and an instance where the button for the internal linking counter didn’t work. Read about all the bug fixes and enhancements in the full changelog for this release.

Update now

As always, read up on the update and update whenever you feel ready. If you don’t feel confident updating your live site without testing, please try it out on a test site to see if everything works as it should. Thanks for using Yoast SEO and happy updating!

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