In this release, we’re fine tuning our algorithms to give cornerstone content articles the analysis they deserve. Articles you’ve marked as cornerstone content will now be judged on a different level, so we can make sure they have the quality and authority an article like that should have. Yoast SEO 4.8 helps you write better cornerstone content articles.

Cornerstone content analysis

For some time now, Yoast SEO checks your articles and gives you feedback so you can fix readability and SEO issues. This analysis has always been one-size-fits-all, but that’s about to change. These last couple of weeks, we’ve been investing heavily in site structure. One of the most important parts of a solid site structure is cornerstone content: authoritative articles based on the keywords you most definitely want to rank. These should form the basis of your site.

In Yoast SEO 4.6, we added the possibility to mark a certain article as cornerstone content. This way, it is given a higher value in Yoast SEO, which causes this article to show on top sooner in the suggestions the internal linking tool provides.

Starting from Yoast SEO 4.8, we can now analyze your cornerstone content following a particular, stricter set of specifications. These checks will help you build killer cornerstone articles. Among other things, we now check if a cornerstone article has 900+ words and if the keyword is in at least two subheadings:

yoast seo 4.8 cornerstone analysis

But wait, there’s more

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info
While the rest of this release mostly consists of bug fixes and enhancements, there’s also a couple of other changes. We now remove the prominent words option for unsupported languages and change the string ‘current url’ to ‘old url’ in the Search Console Redirect to match the language in the Redirect Manager. We’ve also made several improvements to the Local SEO plugin.

As always, we hope you enjoy this new release. Don’t forget to update!

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

Google’s Knowledge Graph is hard to find, but its results are not. Take for instance that big block of information that appears on the right-hand side of your desktop screen after entering a search term. This block – also known as the Knowledge Graph Card – contains relevant, context-specific information regarding your search, powered by the Knowledge Graph.

If you search for a specific company, the Knowledge Graph will show an almost complete profile, depending on how well they did their SEO work. Searching for a recently released movie will show posters, reviews and screening times for your local cinema. As you see, the graph is a powerful and fascinating tool. But what can you do to get your information in the Knowledge Graph?

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

It’s Google’s way of connecting information

Google’s core business is providing people with a correct answer to all their questions. To do that, it doesn’t just present the result that closest matches a search term, but also by making broader connections between data. Google, therefore, collects and analyzes massive amounts of data on people, places, things and facts and develops ways to present the findings in an accessible way. These are often rich results, like featured snippets, images carrousels or the famous Knowledge Graph Card mentioned in the intro of this text.

The Knowledge Graph and its card

This is where it might get confusing: many people mix up the Knowledge Graph and the panel you see on the right-hand side of your screen. The Knowledge Graph is the engine that powers the panel that’s officially called the Knowledge Graph Card. In this card, you’ll find the most visible result of the work the graph does. When there’s enough data about a subject, the card will be filled with all kinds of relevant facts, images, and related searches.

Check out Target’s card in the screenshot below, and you’ll see how much information it provides.

Anatomy of the Knowledge Graph

When Google released the Knowledge Graph in 2012, they made an excellent introductory video and supporting website. These explain in easy to understand language how exactly the graph works and how it influences the results you get when you search for a specific term. Check out the site and video; they are still as relevant today as they were then:

Examples of search results

In recent years, content presented by the Knowledge Graph has become much more interactive. At first, it featured only static content, like images, social media profiles, and general information about the search. Today, it is continually expanding in possibilities. If you search for a movie, you can directly book tickets to see it at your local cinema. Search for a local store, and you know exactly when the busiest times are. Google likes to experiment with the graph, what it shows and how it’s presented.

Let’s look at some examples of recent listings.

Recipes:

knowledge graph chocolate
Movies:

knowledge graph alien

 Music:

knowledge graph music
Image slider:
knowledge graph slider

These are just a few of the possible variations of information that can be found. What you see might even change depending on where you are in the world.

Getting your content in

To get your content in the Knowledge Graph, you need to become an authority on your subject. Find out what people search for by doing keyword research, write excellent content and make sure your site is fully optimized and mobile-friendly. Use structured data to mark up important elements of your site to make it easier for Google to understand what it is all about. Register your site with Google Search Console and My Business. Keep in mind, structured data in the form of Schema.org is becoming increasingly important.

Yoast SEO and the Knowledge Graph

If you have a business and need help getting your information in the Knowledge Graph, fear no more, because Yoast SEO can help. Just by setting up Yoast SEO – optionally supported by Local SEO – and filling out the information on your site, you automatically enable the data that Google needs to fill the Knowledge Graph. After that, you can use regular SEO tactics and structured data to fill in the missing pieces. Keep in mind though that it’s Google that determines what it adds to its Knowledge Graph.

Conclusion

The Knowledge Graph is an important part of the search experience in Google. It powers many of the innovative new ways data shows up in the search engine. Getting your information in there is of the essence, especially if you have a business. If so, you have to make sure your business details are correct, sign up for Google My Business and add everything you possibly can. Many other parts of the Knowledge Graph are generated from structured data, like reviews, movie information, events, so be sure to mark up your data in any which way you can.

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

Every business owner with a website is looking for ways to get noticed in the search results. Today, there are loads of tactics to rank well as a local business, but there is no silver bullet: as with most SEO issues, this is a combined effort. One of these pieces of the local SEO puzzle is Google My Business, a dashboard for managing listings. But what is it exactly and why is it so important for local SEO?

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What is Google My Business?

My Business is Google’s one-stop shop to manage how your business will look and perform in the search engine. It is an essential tool to find out and adjust how your site shows in Maps, the Knowledge Graph, Google+ and organic search results. According to the 2017 edition of Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, Google My Business continues to be the biggest driver of local SEO success, with quality links coming in at a close second.

You can manage your business listing by adding NAP details, opening hours, photos et cetera. In addition to that, it is possible to manage the reviews your customers leave behind. As you know, reviews should be a key factor in your local SEO efforts.

How does it work?

Getting started with My Business is easy; you have to make an account and claim your business. After filling in your details, you will get a real-life postcard from Google on the address you’ve specified. This card is the only proof you’re the owner of the business listed at the address.

Once verified, you can fill in all the necessary details and check how your listing is doing. You can even get regular insights to see how many impressions, clicks and subscribers your listing got over a period. It’s a great way of getting a feel for how your business is perceived by Google and customers alike.

Keep in mind that My Business is not the catch-all tool for your local SEO. It has to work in tandem with your on- and off-site SEO efforts. You won’t climb the charts if your profile is inaccurate, but you also won’t reach the top without a well-optimized site and localized content. These things go hand in hand.

Ranking factors

Google My Business uses many factors to determine rankings for businesses. We’ll highlight the three most important ones:

  • Relevance
  • Distance
  • Prominence

Relevance

Relevance determines how well your business fits the search intent of the customer. Is your focus identical to what the customer needs or are you a bit opaque about what your business does? Vagueness doesn’t rank. Be as clear as you can be. Keep your focus.

Distance

Distance is a well-known factor for ranking local businesses. You can’t rank in a local search for (dentist New Jersey) when you have located your company in Manhattan. The exact way Google determines which businesses to show in a local search is unknown, and it can be pretty hard to rank in a given area. The other factors play a significant role as well. It helps not just to say you are located in a particular area, but also to show it by creating local-oriented content around your business on your site. Google uses what’s known about the location of the searcher to present the most relevant local businesses.

Prominence

Prominence is all about the activity around your listing; this could be the number of reviews, events, local content et cetera. It also helps if you can get loads of quality links to your site. It is somewhat hard to determine what prominence means exactly, but one thing is sure: no one likes dead profiles. You have to keep it updated with new photos and manage your reviews. As said before, this works in tandem with your site, so make sure both listings align and that you publish local content.

Optimize your Google My Business listing

To start, you need to claim your listing. After that, you can use the following tips to make your My Business account a success. Keep in mind that everything you add must be in line with the information you provide on your site. Inaccurate information kills your listings and could kill your rankings:

  • Claim your listing with your actual business name
  • Choose a category as accurate as possible
  • Provide as much data as you can – your profile has to be 100%
  • Check your phone number
  • Check your opening times – think about holidays!
  • Review your photos – are they accurate and good or can you improve them?
  • Create citations on other sites as well – pick well-regarded business listing or review sites and directories, stay away from spammers
  • Keep your My Business listing in line with your site – and use Schema.org data
  • Above all, keep your data up to date

It’s critical to remember that this is not a set it and forget it type of thing. Things chance, your business changes. Keep everything active, monitor reviews and stay on top of things. It’s frustrating if your listing doesn’t perform as well as you’d like, but keep putting in the hours, and it will work. US businesses can check their listings with this tool by Synup: Google My Business Guidelines Checker.

my business guidelines check

Structured data and Yoast Local SEO

Google increasingly depends on structured data to find out what your site is about and which elements represent what. This is most certainly true for your business information, including the information that My Business uses. Make sure you add the correct structured data to your site. Enhance your NAP details, opening hours, reviews, product information et cetera, with Schema.org data. This will make it much easier for Google to determine the validity of your listing. Several tools can help you with this, including our Yoast Local SEO plugin.

Your local SEO is critical, even with Google My Business

So, you should activate and maintain your My Business account, and make it awesome. But the most of your listings and to get good rankings, you must have your site in order as well. Optimize every part of it. Create local content for your chosen keyword and business location. Acquire quality local backlinks to build up a solid link profile. Ask customers to review your business onsite or on My Business. Make sure your listing is active and attractive. Dead profiles are no good.

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO’ »

It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. But what does that mean? There’s no beating around the bush anymore: you should work on making your site as fast and accessible as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. I mean it.

For years, we’ve been bombarded by one message: mobile is going to take over the world. We needed to adapt ourselves to this new reality where everyone does everything on their mobile devices. While we still spend loads of time in front of our desktop and laptop machines, we can’t deny mobile is crucial. Just look at the upcoming markets, where people use their mobile for all possible tasks.

We also know that if you want to compete with the big boys, get a solid ranking for your mobile site and make some money from it, you need to take care of a few things. One of the most important ones is page speed. 

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

The verdict is in

Let’s look at some recent research: according to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds. Compare that with the three seconds visitors need to decide if they want to stay for your page to load and you will see a huge discrepancy. People are impatient. They want something, and they want it now. While page speed is important for your SEO, it is even more important for your UX, conversion and general customer happiness.

Yes, page speed will be a ranking factor

At the moment, page speed is more of an indicator than a ranking factor. Unless your mobile site is extremely slow, you can still get decent rankings with average page speeds. But it’s been proven time and time again that the speedier your site, the better your results will be.

Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Also, Google has recently gone on record saying that page speed will be a ranking factor in its upcoming mobile-first index. Details on how they will evaluate page speed for mobile and calculate rankings are still unknown. But, what we do know doesn’t change much from what we at Yoast have been saying for some time: make sure your site is responsive, as fast as possible, solidly structured, and full of excellent content.

5 ways to speed up your site

Do everything in your power to increase the loading speed of your mobile site. Everyone loves a fast site: we SEOs and search engines, but most importantly, our customers. Firstly, check Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what they advise you to do. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads. In addition to that, here are five things you can work on:

Activate AMP on your pages

Google’s AMP project is meant to give the web a necessary speed boost. It’s not too hard to implement, and it will give your mobile site a life in the fast-lane. According to Google, AMP is not a ranking factor, but it’s not hard to predict it has a decent chance to become one. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement AMP.

Use HTTP2

That series of tubes we call the internet is at the dawn of a new age. Several new technologies will bring much-needed upgrades to the way the underlying infrastructure has been built. One of these is called HTTP2, and you can already use to speed up your site, barring it uses HTTPS. Find out more on performance optimization in an HTTP2 world.

Switch to PHP7

As we mainly use WordPress in these parts, getting everyone to use PHP7 is a big deal. To get everyone to move from unsupported and unsafe versions, like PHP5.2 and PHP5.3, we at Yoast created Project WHIP. Moving to PHP7 will give your WordPress site a speed boost, keep it secure and make it future proof.

General optimizations

You should already know these tactics. Please use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket to keep static parts of your site in the browser cache. Last but not least, please optimize images. That’s low-hanging fruit.

Critical rendering path

Running a PageSpeed Insights test will show you which elements block a page from rendering quickly. The critical rendering path is formed by the object – 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. At modpagespeed.com you’ll find several open source tools to help you with these issues.

Always work on your page speed

Keep in mind that your work is never done. Your mobile site is never too fast, and your customers will never come flocking to you when you shave off just a little of your loading time. Keep working on it. Now, tomorrow and next month. If possible, try to automate your PageSpeed Insights testing, so you get regular updates. Follow the news to see if there are new ways to speed up your site.

Read more: ‘How to improve your mobile site’ »

We’ve seen it happen so often. You have a great blog, and at some point, you decide to go for a new look and feel. There are a couple of things you’ll look at, usually in the order: layout / look and feel, usability, and optionally, room for advertising. If the theme meets your needs in all two or three of these points, you might download and install it. If that sounds familiar, this post describes how to find the perfect WordPress theme!

A theme has quite a few things to take care of, and a lot of themes miss out on these. This overview should help to keep you out of trouble when you’re looking for a new theme. If you’re thinking of installing a new theme, please give the following points a thought. Keep in mind; your new theme should be accessible, compatible, customizable, integrable and standards compliant.

Define your needs

Whether you are in the market for a free theme, a premium theme or want to hire a developer to build one especially for you, the first step is always the same: define your needs. Write down what the theme should do, now and in the future. You might not need an eCommerce shop at this time, but what about in a year from now? What should your site look like? Which pages do you need? What types of content are you planning to publish? Once you have a clear picture of the requirements, you have a better chance of finding your dream theme.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Find a trusted reseller or developer. How’s the support?

Should you build a theme yourself? Or will a general free theme do? The discussion on whether a premium theme is better than a free theme continues to rage on. Both sides have their merits. There are loads of crappy free themes, but there are just as many crappy premium themes. What you should do is find a reseller or developer that you trust. Look for social proof; how many reviews does a theme get? Is there an active message board? When did it receive its last update?

In general, every theme on WordPress.org underwent scrutiny, so they are safe to use. But that doesn’t mean they’re awesome. Theme resellers offer loads of premium themes in varying degrees of awesomeness. But just because you pay for them, doesn’t necessarily make them better than free themes. In addition to that, since you only receive the files when you pay for a theme, there’s no way to check the quality upfront. Despite social proof, it’s still a leap in the dark.

How flexible is the theme?

A static theme won’t do you any good when you want to change the page layout in a couple of months. Make sure to choose a theme that is flexible in its appearance as well as its functionality. Don’t choose a design that screams for full-width images when you only need a well-presented place to write your poetry. Check what happens to a theme when you turn off all massive images; does it still function? And is it possible to change colors, fonts and other visual elements?

Your theme should have ample room for widgets, plus it should support featured images and offer multi-language support. Lots of themes have a page builder on board; these help you construct your bespoke layout. But, this is something you should be careful with because these could generate less than stellar code that hinders your SEO.

Which post and page templates does the theme support?

Another way to keep things flexible is for a theme to offer multiple posts and page templates. That way, you could start off using a basic template with a main content area and a left sidebar, but have the flexibility to change to a full-width content area or one of the many other options. If a theme has only two choices, that might become problematic in the future. Pick a theme with enough sensible templates.

Does it function as a parent/child theme?

Parent and child themes are a great combo. If you use any of the theme frameworks like heavy hitter Genesis, you know how powerful these are compared to regular themes. A child theme gets its functionality from a parent theme. So if you’re making changes to your child theme, the parent won’t see these. You won’t break the parent theme if you make a mistake. The same goes for updates; if you update your parent theme, which happens often, it won’t wipe the changes you’ve made to your theme because it’s a child and doesn’t contain the functionality.

Whether you need a theme framework depends on your needs. Almost all WordPress projects will benefit from a theme framework, but it might be overkill if you only need a tiny amount of its functionality and you know exactly what kind of theme you need.

Watch out for theme bloat

Many themes are bloated, and this will increase loading time. If the developer of a particular theme included everything but the kitchen sink, you might get a feature-complete product but an insanely complicated one as well. Try to find a theme that offers everything you need, instead of everything there is. Your theme should be lean and mean. See the next point.

Check site speed and mobile-readiness

In this day and age, mobile-friendliness is imperative. In addition to that, your site and its theme should load as fast as possible. Choosing a lean and mean theme will certainly help in this regard. Check the responsiveness of a theme and run a Google mobile-friendliness test. You could also enter the address of the theme’s demo site in Google’s PageSpeed tool to see if there are particular loading issues. However, this is just an indication, since you can only judge the real loading speed of your theme when it’s running on your server.

Is the theme’s SEO in order?

While Yoast SEO fixes a lot of WordPress’ SEO issues, a good theme helps a lot. Most WordPress themes will claim SEO-friendliness, but make sure to check it. Find out if the theme’s code is nice and clean or an intangible mess. Has it been updated recently? And will it be supported in the future? How many JavaScript libraries does the theme depend on? Does it support Schema.org structured data? If you’re eyeing a free theme, make sure there are no hidden links to the developer’s website, as this can hurt your SEO efforts. In general, keep Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in mind when hunting for SEO-friendly themes.

Is the theme’s code valid?

Many a theme author is more of a designer than a coder, and thus they sometimes hack around until it finally looks the way they want, without bothering to check whether the code they’ve written is valid HTML. If it’s not, current or future browsers might have issues rendering the content correctly. You can check whether the code is valid by using the W3C’s validator.

Test, test, and test again

Once you’ve chosen your favorite new theme, it’s time to kick it into gear. Start with a development setup to test your new theme through and through. Run every type of test you can think of. This might be a security check with the Sucuri plugin or a theme check with the Theme Check plugin. Load your site with dummy data from wptest.io to see if every element is represented and functioning. Run pagespeed and mobile-friendliness tests to see if problems arise. Fix the issues, or find a new theme.

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

Yoast SEO for WordPress training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

Bonus checks

That’s just to get you going. There’s a lot of stuff you can check before you install your brand-new theme. Start with these three checks, if you will:

Hooks

WordPress plugins use so-called “hooks” to be able to perform their designated tasks. These hooks allow for instance to add extra output, tracking codes, etc. A lot of issues with plugins will arise for you when a theme author forgets to add these hooks. This is how to check for them:

1. In header.php, it should have a small piece of PHP code that looks exactly like this wp_head(); or this do_action('wp_head');, usually just before a piece of HTML that looks like this: </head>.

2. In footer.php, it should have another small piece of PHP like this wp_footer();, or this do_action('wp_footer');

3. In comments.php and/or comments-popup.php, it should have a piece of code like this: <?php do_action('comment_form', $post->ID); ?>, just before the </form> HTML tag.

Template files

Another wise thing to do when you’re changing themes is to compare theme files. If for instance, your current theme has an author.php file, which contains the template for your author profiles, and your new one doesn’t have that, that might be an unpleasant surprise when you install the theme. The files you should be checking for in your old and new theme:

  • home.php: the homepage template.
  • single.php: the template for single posts.
  • page.php: the template for pages.
  • category.php: the template for category indexes.
  • author.php: the author template, used when someone wants to find all posts by a certain author.
  • date.php: the date template, used when someone tries to look at for instance a certain month of posts on your blog.
  • archive.php: this template is used when either category.php, author.php or date.php isn’t there.
  • search.php: used when someone searches on your blog, a very important template to look at if you’re concerned about usability, and whether people can find posts on your blog.
  • 404.php: used when WordPress can’t find a certain post or page, this is a very important template file to have!

How is your theme handling titles?

You should check how your current theme is handling page titles in the file header.php. You can find it within the <title> HTML tags. If the title tag differs, you might want to check out why and what happens when you enable your new theme. Sometimes it’s for the better (for instance, because it turns around blog description and page / post title), but you have to make sure up front!

It will probably look something like this:

<title><?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?> <?php wp_title(); ?></title>
If it does, you’ll be a lot better to change it to:

Now Yoast SEO can take care of all the titles. We have a great article that you can read if want to know more about crafting good titles.

If your theme does all of this correctly, you should be quite ok. Good luck with your new theme, and if you have any tips on other things to check, please share in the comments!

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

As an SEO or site owner, you are bound to run into redirects. Whenever you delete a page, change your URL structure or switch to a new domain, you are going to have to redirect your URLs. You have to tell search engine robots that there has been a change in your URLs and that they have to go somewhere else, temporarily or permanently. Choosing a particular redirect might impact your SEO, so be careful what you pick. In this article, we’ll give a brief of which redirect you could use.

Reasons to use redirects?

If you’re maintaining your site on a regular basis, your tasks include the redirection of URLs. There are many cases when you might use a redirect, but the following will pop-up often. You’ll need a redirect when you:

  • Delete a page or post
  • Transfer your site to a new domain
  • No longer want to use www in your domain
  • Enable permalinks in WordPress
  • Merge websites
  • Change your CMS
  • Change your URL structure
  • etc.

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 179 - Buy now » Info

HTTP status codes

To understand how redirects work and how you can influence what a server returns to a browser, you need to know about HTTP status codes. A HTTP status code is a set number that a server sends to a browser following a particular request for a page. These codes may include 200, 301, 404 and 503, for instance. All codes serve a particular purpose. A 404, for instance, indicates that a page has not been found. A 503 means that the server is temporarily offline for maintenance.

If you want to maintain your site without fault, you need to know your HTTP status codes. Read up on them in the article HTTP status codes and what they mean for SEO.

Types of redirects

There are a couple of redirects that you’ll run into on a daily basis. These are the ones you should remember:

  • 301 Permanent redirect
  • 302 Found
  • 307 Temporary redirect

Not really redirects, but useful nonetheless:

  • 410 Content deleted
  • 451 Content unavailable for legal reasons

301 Permanent redirect

The 301 is one of the most common redirects; use this if you permanently want to redirect a deleted or moved page, or if you’ve changed something in your permalink structure. Using this redirect, you’ll tell search engine robots that this page is no longer available in this location and that it should no longer be indexed. If you don’t set a redirect correctly, chances are your visitors – and crawl bots – will see 404 error messages. That’s not something you want happening.

Since a 301 permanently leads visitors from the old URL to a new one, you should only use this if you’re sure that you’ll never use the old URL again. If you want to use the URL again, you need a temporary redirect. A 301 passes all the link value a discarded URL has accumulated over the years over to the new URL, thus making sure the new URL gains or retains value. If you want to learn how to implement your 301 redirects with WordPress, you can read this post by Jimmy or just use the redirects manager of Yoast SEO Premium.

302 Found

A 302 is a fairly ambiguous redirect and is often used to make a temporary redirect. The code means that the requested content is found, but it lives under a different location. Why? It doesn’t say. If you want to make sure visitors get to an alternative page when visiting this particular page, and you want to reuse the URL in the future, you can use a 302.

Since this is a temporary redirect, it doesn’t pass link value. Thus, it’s possible to reclaim the URL with its value intact. Don’t use it when moving a site to a new domain or when you’re doing other large-scale renovations on your site.

307 Temporary redirect

302s are often used to create temporary redirects, but with the advent of HTTP1.1 307 has taken its place as a valid temporary redirect. A 307 explicitly states that the requested URL has been moved to a temporary location and will be back in a while. Since this request can change in the future, the request has to keep being made with the original URL. Use this redirect if you’re sure that the move is temporary and that you’ll still need the original URL later on.

Not really redirects, but still

Besides the traditional redirects, you’ll find two more that don’t really redirect. However, these are still relevant for your day-to-day maintenance work on your site. You could see 410 and 451 as a message from your server saying: Hey, there used to be something here, but not anymore.

410 Content deleted

One of the biggest problems on sites is the amount of 404 error pages. If you look at your readouts in Google Search Console, you are bound to run into a few. These must be fixed as fast as possible because no-one likes these errors: Google sees them as a sign of bad maintenance, and visitors get confused by them. 404 errors often occur when the requested page or post was deleted from the site.

You could use a 301 to redirect the page with the 404 to a relevant page, or the homepage, but there might be a different way: tell search engines this page was correctly deleted with a 410 redirect. This way, they know that the page won’t return and can, therefore, delete the page from the index.

451 Content unavailable for legal reasons

Should you ever be ordered by a judge to delete a page or in case you get a notice and takedown request, you should give this page a 451 header. This way, you tell search engines that there was a post here and that you wanted to fulfill this request, but some legal reason told you not to do so. Find out how and why to make a 451 header, should you ever find yourself in that situation.

REGEX redirects

If you are an expert SEO and you need to do complex redirections, you may need to use REGEX redirects. With normal redirects, you specify a single source URL and a destination URL. With REGEX – regular expressions – redirects, you can, for instance, make a single redirect to move entire groups of URLs with a keyword to a new location. This could save you a ton of time while working on a massive SEO project. However, you should only use REGEX redirects if you know what you are doing because they can break your site.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Manage redirects with Yoast SEO Premium

Now, in all fairness: you are free to fix your redirects on the server or use other tools to help you. However, if you are a user of Yoast SEO Premium, you have the best possible tool to work with redirects at your disposal. The redirects manager of Yoast SEO Premium helps you to set the correct redirect. Whenever you delete or move a page, Yoast SEO will ask you how to treat this page: should it get a 301 or a 410? Or maybe a 451? The redirects manager supports 301, 302, 307, 410 and 451 redirects, all in an easy to manage workflow.

Working with redirects

Working with redirects is a daily job for many SEOs. In this article, you’ve discovered the different options to redirect pages and learned how and when to use these. Be careful when choosing your redirect, for instance, you don’t want to 302 your entire site when you’re moving to a new domain. This will lead to serious problems down the line. Think about what you want to accomplish and pick the most appropriate redirect method.

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

Here’s the thing: your site should be mobile-friendly. In fact, this might just be your number one priority. If you want to improve your mobile SEO, you have to improve the performance of your site, plus you have to make sure that it offers users an excellent mobile experience. In this SEO Basics article, you’ll find an overview of what you should do to improve your mobile site.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

When is a site mobile-friendly?

A site is mobile-friendly when it:

  • loads properly on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet,
  • loads lightning fast,
  • presents content in a readable fashion, without users having to pinch and zoom,
  • offers ample room to navigate by touch,
  • offers added value for mobile users,
  • is instantly understandable for search engines.

Why is mobile SEO important?

Mobile SEO makes sure your mobile site offers the best possible presentation of your content to a mobile device user. Since our world is increasingly mobile-oriented, it has become imperative that your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not, or not properly, available for mobile users, you are going to miss out on a decent ranking in the search engines and thus miss income. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make the mobile version of your site as good as possible. In fact, it should be excellent!

Since the beginning of this year, Google uses the mobile version of the site to determine its rankings. If your site is not up to scratch, or if you present less content on your mobile site, you will have a difficult time getting a good ranking. If you don’t have an adequate mobile version of your site yet, you best make a fully functioning one, preferably as a responsive design. Google has a great getting started guide to get you going.

How to improve your mobile website

To improve your mobile SEO, you need to focus on a couple of things:

  • Make sure your site is responsive
  • Improve your site speed
  • Don’t block JavaScript, HTML and CSS code
  • Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
  • Don’t use too many redirects
  • Choose the correct viewport
  • Verify mobile-friendliness
  • Tell Google about your site

Responsive design

There are multiple ways to make your site available for mobile users. The most important one is responsive design, and this is the technology Google advocates. With a responsive design, your site lives on one URL, making it easier for Google to understand and index it.

If you use WordPress, chances are your theme is already responsive and can adapt to all screens. Be sure to check how your site scales in Google Chrome’s Developer Tools. If it doesn’t scale correctly, you should talk to your web developer about fixing it – or choose a different theme.

Improve your site speed

One of the most important things you can do to improve the mobile SEO of your site is to improve the loading speed of the site. Time and time again, studies show that people leave sites that load slowly, often never to return again. Speed has been a ranking factor for years, and Google is increasingly focusing on fixing this common issue.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Optimize images

If there is one quick win to improve your site speed, it is this: optimize your images. Don’t load those 3000 x 2000 pixel HD images in your site. Scale them to the correct size and make them smaller with a tool like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like WP Smush.

Minify code

Every request your site has to make has an impact on site speed. You have to work on reducing these requests. One way of doing that is by minifying code. This means that you group and concatenate assets like JavaScript and CSS, and as a result, the browser has to load fewer files, leading to a faster site. This sounds hard to implement, but a plugin like WP Rocket can take care of all your caching needs.

Browser caching

By using browser caching, you’re telling the browser that page elements that don’t change often can be saved inside its cache. This way, the browser only has to download new and dynamic content whenever it visits again. Again, this is something a plugin like WP Rocket can help you with. Or you can also do it yourself if you like.

Reduce redirects

A redirect leads a visitor from one requested page to another, because the requested page was moved or deleted. While this leads to a good user experience if done well, the more redirects you use, the slower your site will be. Don’t make endless redirects. Also, try not to keep links around that point to deleted posts that are redirected to new ones. Always make direct links.

Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS

We’ve said it before, and we’re going to keep saying it: Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Doing so makes it harder for Google to access your site and that could lead to bad rankings. Check your Google Search Console to see if you’re blocking resources.

Improve legibility

Make sure that your mobile site is perfectly readable on mobile devices. Use different devices to check if your typography is in order and, when necessary, make changes. Typography can make or break the user experience of your site.

Improve tap target sizes

People hate it when their finger can’t hit a button, link or menu item without fault. Sometimes designers haven’t given enough thought about the size of the buttons. Mobile users get frustrated when navigation is hard or unnatural. Fix it.

Choose the correct viewport

The viewport determines the width of the page for the device used to view it. By specifying a correct viewport, you make sure that visitors with specific devices get the right version of your site. Fail to do this, and you might just show your desktop site to a small-screen smartphone user – a big no-no.

Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups

Starting this year, Google will penalize sites that use large pop-ups or interstitials to promote newsletters, sign-up forms or ads. These often get in the way of the user quickly accessing the content they requested. Don’t use these, but if you must, make sure you abide Google’s rules.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Test your site and tell Google about it

Before you start working on your mobile SEO, you should run a Mobile-Friendly Test on Google to see where you should start. During your work, you should keep testing to see if you make progress. If your site is optimized, you need to tell Google about it so that it can be checked and indexed. Use Search Console to stay on top of the performance of your site.

Investigate Google AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a new initiative by Google and others to get web pages to load super fast on mobile devices. By wrapping your content in special HTML code, you can optimize the pages in a way that Google can use to give them special treatment. Pages are cached by Google and presented with a stripped down presentation to make sure it gets delivered at light speed.

AMP is still relatively new, but growing rapidly. Nearly every site can benefit from incorporating this technique. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not hard to get started; just install the official plugin. This takes care of most of the setup. You can find more information in Google’s guidelines.

Conclusion

Mobile is the future, but that future is now. Do everything you can to fix your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitor’s. Mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical presentation, but more about creating a user experience to die for. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re on your way to the top!

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

Voice search is picking up steam. You can now use your voice to search the web, play music, navigate home, order sushi or get the latest football results. Not a day goes by without news stories about search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s – uh – nameless service. It seems like voice assistants are slowly taking over the world. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the rise of natural language and voice searches, plus give you tips on how to prepare your content for these new types of visitors.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What is voice search?

With voice search, you use your voice to perform actions on the web. In the past, people often laughed at voice assistants because they were slow and had difficulty understanding and answering questions. However, the current generation of assistants is on its way to becoming incredibly sophisticated. Almost every type of query is possible just by uttering it. We’re not there yet, though, to become a real asset to people’s lives, these devices and services have to take it up another notch. Accuracy is often still an issue.

But why voice? For one thing, it’s fast; people can speak much more rapidly than they can type. It’s convenient, because you can work hands-free and, most of the time, get instant, relevant results, be it in answer to a question or performing an action. In addition to that, the developments on using your voice as an interface, have resulted in a context-based system that uses many components to give you relevant results.

While the significant strides were made on mobile devices, it is now at home were voice operated devices find their place. Amazon has sold millions of Alexa enabled devices, and there’s no end in sight. Recently, Google went on the offensive with Google Home; it’s own smart home assistant.

A look at the data

If you look at data from Mary Meeker’s renowned annual trends report, you’ll see that the use of voice assistants is on the rise. In 2015, 65% of US smartphone owners used a voice assistant, up from 56% in 2014 and 30% in 2013. The main reason for this growth is the improvement of the technology. Meeker also suggests that Google voice queries were up 35 times since 2008 and seven times since 2010. The last one, in May 2016 one in five searches on Android devices in the US is voice activated.

voice search graph

From Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016

A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed that, while people were generally happy with the performance of voice assistants, they’d like them to answer more questions directly.

Expect search engines to double down on this

Why and how do people use voice search?

It might not come as a surprise that people use voice assistants because they’re convenient, especially when your hands are occupied. They’re a breeze to use, even more so for slow typers. Plus, people love getting fast, relevant results and many just plain enjoy the use of this kind of assistant. However, people rather use these services at home or in the car than on the go and at work. There still seems to be a psychological barrier to belt out search queries in a group of people.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What voice search means for SEO

Voice assistants use so-called conversational search queries to get an answer to an individual question. These kinds of queries are spoken in a full, natural language sentence, and the reply is in a whole sentence as well. This is something you have to keep in mind when working on your content SEO strategy. If you ask [What’s the weather in Amsterdam today?], you might get the answer [‘It’s cloudy today, with a slight chance of rain. The maximum temperature is 16C.’] If you’re on a screen-based device, this result might be accompanied by a screen showing you the conditions.

Google Hummingbird

Google made answering questions a priority in its Hummingbird update in 2013. This update was meant to change the way Google responds to queries people write or speak. Since Hummingbird, the context of every word in the search query is taken into account. It’s no longer about the words themselves, but what they represent or mean. If you need a reminder of what Hummingbird encompassed, watch Joost explain it all in this video. Hummingbird had a significant impact on how Google scanned your content and thus on your SEO tactics. It became incredibly important to structure your text properly.

The 5 Ws

Conversational searches tend to answer the classic 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who designed the Golden Gate Bridge?
  • What do I need for a BBQ?
  • When did Sesame Street air for the first time?
  • Where can I get the cheapest pizza in the Bronx?
  • Why do birds suddenly appear?
  • How did Google start?

You see that these natural language, conversational searches encompass more words than our typed searches. These are no keywords, but rather key phrases. If you want to rank for these kinds of phrases, you have to have an answer for these questions. Long-tail keywords play an important part in this. More on that in a minute.

The technology is getting smarter

In the early days, searching with your voice was clunky and error-prone. Many people just gave up in frustration. However, nowadays, voice operated technology is getting smart, fast. Think about it; you can now adjust the spelling of a search query if a result came up with the wrong keyword [night vs. knight]. Searches now take into account what was asked before, so you can ask additional questions to narrow down the results. So, you can ask a voice assistant to find all films by Kevin Spacey. After that, you can bring that down to just the ones he won an Oscar for. Or ones that co-star Morgan Freeman.

Context plays a big part in the recent developments of voice assistants. More and more, these assistants look at the world around you to give you relevant results or actions to take. If you’re at home, you might get different options than when you’re commuting to work. Or if you have a particular app running, an assistant might use that information to make an educated guess about what you are doing or what you might want to do. This is only the beginning; we will see a lot more developments on this front.

Now what?

So voice search changes how we search, and therefore we should closely examen the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? You should also think about the readability; is it easy to understand, scannable and instantly comprehensible?

Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up.

Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.

An example of a question answered

Your content and HTML must join hands to respond to questions in the quickest way possible. Optimize the pieces of content you think are valuable for your visitors, plus the ones you suspect people will search for. To illustrate that, we’ll look at an example from Yoast.com. We are continually working on our content to get it highlighted in Google. That’s no easy task, but keep at it and it will work.

In this case, our article on cloaking affiliate links has been optimized in such a way that it can answer the question: [“How to cloak an affiliate link”]. Google figures out the question and the answer right from the content. In general, it helps if you use short answers, and present it with bullet points. If you use ten or more steps, Google will add a ‘read more’ link to the answer box, likely getting you a higher CTR. Answering questions in this way, not only gets your content ready for voice search but can also lead to featured snippets in Google, like the one below.

voice search featured snippet

Google answers a question directly, based on Yoast content

Google takes this piece of content to answer the question

Focus on long-tail keywords

To answer natural language questions correctly, you also need to work on your long-tail keywords. Since these spoken questions contain a lot more words than a typed search command [What is the best restaurant near De Dam in Amsterdam vs. Restaurant De Dam Amsterdam], you can use these extra words to rank for. It might make it a bit easier to rank higher for the phrases you want to be found for. You’ll also see that searchers will increasingly use terms like [best] or [nearest] to search for relevant results, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Another good way to answer questions people may have is by adding a FAQ to your site or optimizing the one you already have. Collect the questions people ask and write a short, but relevant answer. Search engines can directly use these answers to give searchers a valid reply to their voice search commands.

Optimize your page for mobile use

In addition to offering valuable answers to questions people are asking, your page needs to work flawlessly on mobile devices. Check how it functions on multiple smartphones, tablets, and other gear. Is it perfectly accessible on these devices? Is it attractive, fast and easily readable?

It is also a good idea to invest in a proper Schema.org implementation because this gives your pages a lot more context for search engines. For instance, you could add Schema.org markup to your review page, so search engines have a valid source to identify your authority.

Conclusion

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

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

Voice search is picking up steam. You can now use your voice to search the web, play music, navigate home, order sushi or get the latest football results. Not a day goes by without news stories about search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s – uh – nameless service. You might think that voice assistants are taking over the world, but that’s not the case – not yet, anyway. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the rise of natural language and voice searches, plus give you tips to prepare your content for these new types of visitors.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What is voice search?

With voice search, you use your voice to perform actions on the web. In the past, people often laughed at voice assistants because they were slow and had difficulty understanding and answering questions. However, the current generation of assistants is on its way to becoming incredibly sophisticated. Almost every type of query is possible just by uttering it. We’re not there yet, though, to become a real asset to people’s lives, these devices and services have to take it up another notch. Accuracy is often still an issue.

But why voice? For one thing, it’s fast; people can speak much more rapidly than they can type. It’s convenient, because you can work hands-free and, most of the time, get instant, relevant results, be it in answer to a question or performing an action. In addition to that, the developments on using your voice as an interface, have resulted in a context-based system that uses many components to give you relevant results.

While the significant strides were made on mobile devices, it is now at home were voice operated devices find their place. Amazon has sold millions of Alexa enabled devices, and there’s no end in sight. Recently, Google went on the offensive with Google Home; it’s own smart home assistant.

A look at the data

If you look at data from Mary Meeker’s renowned annual trends report, you’ll see that the use of voice assistants is on the rise. In 2015, 65% of US smartphone owners used a voice assistant, up from 56% in 2014 and 30% in 2013. The main reason for this growth is the improvement of the technology. Meeker also suggests that Google voice queries were up 35 times since 2008 and seven times since 2010. The last one, in May 2016 one in five searches on Android devices in the US is voice activated.
voice search graph
A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed that, while people were generally happy with the performance of voice assistants, they’d like them to answer more questions directly.

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Why and how do people use voice search?

It might not come as a surprise that people use voice assistants because they’re convenient, especially when your hands are occupied. They’re a breeze to use, even more so for slow typers. Plus, people love getting fast, relevant results and many just plain enjoy the use of this kind of assistant. However, people rather use these services at home or in the car than on the go and at work. There still seems to be a psychological barrier to belt out search queries in a group of people.

Voice searches answer questions

Voice assistants use so-called conversational search queries to get an answer to an individual question. These kinds of queries are spoken in a full, natural language sentence, and the reply is in a whole sentence as well. This is something you have to keep in mind when working on your content SEO strategy. If you ask [What’s the weather in Amsterdam today?], you might get the answer [‘It’s cloudy today, with a slight chance of rain. The maximum temperature is 16C.’] If you’re on a screen-based device, this result might be accompanied by a screen showing you the conditions.

Google Hummingbird

Google made answering questions a priority in its Hummingbird update in 2013. This update was meant to change the way Google responds to queries people write or speak. Since Hummingbird, the context of every word in the search query is taken into account. It’s no longer about the words themselves, but what they represent or mean. If you need a reminder of what Hummingbird encompassed, watch Joost explain it all in this video. Hummingbird had a significant impact on how Google scanned your content. It became incredibly important to structure your text properly.

The 5 Ws

Conversational searches tend to answer the classic 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who designed the Golden Gate Bridge?
  • What do I need for a BBQ?
  • When did Sesame Street air for the first time?
  • Where can I get the cheapest pizza in the Bronx?
  • Why do birds suddenly appear?
  •  How did Google start?

You see that these natural language, conversational searches encompass more words than our typed searches. These are no keywords, but rather key phrases. If you want to rank for these kinds of phrases, you have to have an answer for these questions. Long-tail keywords play an important part in this. More on that in a minute.

The technology is getting smarter

In the early days, searching with your voice was clunky and error-prone. Many people just gave up in frustration. However, nowadays, voice operated technology is getting smart, fast. Think about it; you can now adjust the spelling of a search query if a result came up with the wrong keyword [night vs. knight]. Searches now take into account what was asked before, so you can ask additional questions to narrow down the results. So, you can ask a voice assistant to find all films by Kevin Spacey. After that, you can bring that down to just the ones he won an Oscar for. Or ones that co-star Morgan Freeman.

Context plays a big part in the recent developments of voice assistants. More and more, these assistants look at the world around you to give you relevant results or actions to take. If you’re at home, you might get different options than when you’re commuting to work. Or if you have a particular app running, an assistant might use that information to make an educated guess about what you are doing or what you might want to do. This is only the beginning; we will see a lot more developments on this front.

Now what?

So voice search changes how we search, and therefore we should closely examen the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? You should also think about the readability; is it easy to understand, scannable and instantly comprehensible?

Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up. Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.

Learn how to structure your site well with our Site structure training! »

Site structure training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

An example of a question answered

Your content and HTML must join hands to respond to questions in the quickest way possible. Optimize the pieces of content you think are valuable for your visitors, plus the ones you suspect people will search for. To illustrate that, we’ll look at an example from Yoast.com. We are continually working on our content to get it highlighted in Google. That’s no easy task, but keep at it and it will work.

voice search featured snippet

Yoast content answers a question directly in the search engine

The content for the featured snippet was taken from this piece of text

In this case, our article on cloaking affiliate links has been optimized in such a way that it can answer the question: [How to cloak an affiliate link]. Google figures out the question and the answer right from the content. In general, it helps if you use short answers, and present it with bullet points. If you use ten or more steps, Google will add a ‘read more’ link to the answer box, likely getting you a higher CTR. Answering questions in this way, not only gets your content ready for voice search but can also lead to featured snippets in Google, like the one below.

Focus on long-tail keywords

To answer natural language questions correctly, you also need to work on your long-tail keywords. Since these spoken questions contain a lot more words than a typed search command [What is the best restaurant near De Dam in Amsterdam] vs. [Restaurant De Dam Amsterdam], you can use these extra words to rank for. It might make it a bit easier to rank higher for the phrases you want to be found for. You’ll also see that searchers will increasingly use terms like [best] or [nearest] to search for relevant results, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

Another good way to answer questions people may have is by adding a FAQ to your site or optimizing the one you already have. Collect the questions people ask and write a short, but relevant answer. Search engines can directly use these answers to give searchers a valid reply to their voice search commands.

Optimize your page for mobile use

In addition to offering valuable answers to questions people are asking, your page needs to work flawlessly on mobile devices. Check how it functions on multiple smartphones, tablets, and other gear. Is it perfectly accessible on these devices? Is it attractive, fast and easily readable? It is also a good idea to invest in a proper Schema.org implementation because this gives your pages a lot more context for search engines. For instance, you could add Schema.org markup to your review page, so search engines have a valid source to identify your authority.

Conclusion

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

Keep reading: ‘SEO copywriting: the complete guide’ »

HTTP status codes, like 404, 301 and 500, might not mean much to a regular visitor, but for SEOs they are incredibly important. Not only that, search engine spiders, like Googlebot, use these to determine the health of a site. These status codes offer a way of seeing what happens between the browser and the server. Several of these codes indicate an error, for instance, that the requested content can’t be found, while others simply suggest a successful delivery of the requested material. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the most important HTTP header codes and what they mean for SEO.

What are HTTP status codes and why do you see them?

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

A HTTP status code is a message the server sends when a request made by a browser can or cannot be fulfilled. According to the official W3C specs, there are dozens of status codes, many of which you’re unlikely to come across. If you need a handy overview of status code, including their code references, you can find one on HTTPstatuses.com.

To fully understand these codes, you have to know how a browser gets a web page. Every website visit starts by typing in the URL of a site or entering a search term in a search engine. The browser sends a request to the site’s IP address to get the associated web page. The server responds with a status code embedded in the HTTP header, telling the browser the result of the request. When everything is fine, a HTTP 200 header code is sent back to the browser, in conjunction with the content of the website.

However, it is also possible that there’s something wrong with the requested content or server. It could be that the page is not found, which gives back a 404 error page, or there might be a temporary, technical issue with the server, resulting in a 500 Internal Server Error. These HTTP status codes are an important tool to evaluate the health of the site and its server. If a site regularly sends improper HTTP header codes to a search engine indexing its contents, it might cause problems that will hurt its rankings.

Different ranges

There are five different ranges of HTTP status codes, defining different aspects of the transaction process between the client and the server. Below you’ll find the five ranges and its main goal:

  • 1xx – Informational
  • 2xx – Success
  • 3xx – Redirection
  • 4xx – Client error
  • 5xx – Server error

If you ever try to brew coffee in a teapot, your teapot will probably send you the status message 418: I’m a teapot.

Most important HTTP status codes for SEO

As we’ve said, the list of codes is long, but there are a couple that are especially important for SEOs and anyone working on their own site. We’ll do a quick rundown of these below:

200: OK / Success

This is how it probably should be; a client asks the server for content and the server replies with a 200 success message and the content the client needs. Both the server and the client are happy — and the visitor, of course. All messages in 2xx mean some sort of success.

301: Moved Permanently

A 301 HTTP header is used when the requested URL permanently moved to a new location. As you are working on your site, you will often use this, because you regularly need to make a 301 redirect to direct an old URL to a new one. If you don’t, users will see a 404 error page if they try to open the old URL and that’s not something you want. Using a 301 will make sure that the link value of the old URL transfers to the new URL.

Read more: ‘How to create a 301 redirect in WordPress’ »

302: Found

A 302 means that the target destination has been found, but it lives under a different location. However, it is a rather ambiguous status code, because it doesn’t tell if this is a temporary situation or not. Use a 302 redirect only if you want to temporarily redirect a URL to a different source and you are sure that you will use the same URL again. Since you tell search engines that the URL will be used again, none of the link value is transferred over to the new URL, so you shouldn’t use a 302 when moving your domain or making big changes to your site structure, for instance. In this Ask Yoast video, Joost details the difference between the two.

307: Temporary Redirect

The 307 code replaces the 302 in HTTP1.1 and could be seen as the only ‘true’ redirect. You can use a 307 redirect if you need to temporarily redirect a URL to a new one while keeping the original request method intact. A 307 looks a lot like a 302, except that it tells specifically that the URL has a temporary new location. The request can change over time, so the client has to keep using the original URL when making new requests.

403: Forbidden

A 403 tells the browser that the requested content is forbidden for the user. If they don’t have the correct credentials to log in, this content stays forbidden for that user.

404: Not Found

As one of the most visible status codes, the 404 HTTP header code is also one of the most important ones. When a server returns a 404 error, you know that the content has not been found and is probably deleted. Try not to bother visitors with these messages, so fix these errors as soon as possible. Use a redirect to send visitors from the old URL to a new article or page that has related content.

Monitor these 404 messages in Google Search Console at Crawl errors and try to keep them to the lowest amount possible. A lot of 404 errors might be seen by Google as a sign of bad maintenance. Which in return might influence your overall rankings. If your page is broken and in fact should be gone from your site, a 410 sends a clearer signal to Google.

Keep reading: ‘404 error pages: check and fix’ »

410: Gone

The result from a 410 status code is the same as a 404 since the content has not been found. However, with a 410 you tell search engines that you deleted the requested content, thus it’s much more specific than a 404. In a way, you order search engines to remove the URL from the index. Before you permanently delete something from your site, ask yourself if there is an equivalent of the page somewhere. If so, make a redirect, if not maybe you shouldn’t delete it and just improve it.

Read on: ‘How to properly delete a page from your site (404 or 410?)’ »

451: Unavailable for Legal Reasons

A rather new addition, the 451 HTTP status code shows that the requested content has been deleted because of legal reasons. If you received a takedown request or a judge ordered you to take specific content offline, you should use this code to tell search engines what happened to the page.

Read more: ‘HTTP 451: Content unavailable for legal reasons’ »

500: Internal Server Error

A 500 error is a generic error message saying that the server encountered an unexpected condition that prevented it from fulfilling the request, without getting specific on what caused it. These errors could come from anywhere, maybe your web host is doing something funny or a script on your site is malfunctioning. Check your server’s logs to see where things go wrong.

503: Service Unavailable

A server sends a 503 error message when it is currently unable to handle the request due to an outage or overload. Use this status code whenever you require temporary downtime, for instance when you are doing maintenance on your site. This way, search engines know they can come back later to find your site in working order again.

Keep reading: ‘503: Handling site maintenance correctly for SEO’ »

Working with HTTP status codes

HTTP status codes are a big part of the lives of SEOs, and that of search engines spiders for that matter. You’ll encounter them daily and it’s key to understand what the different status codes mean. For instance, if you delete a page from your site, it’s very important that you know the difference between a 301 and a 410 redirect. They serve different goals and, therefore, have different results.

If you want to get an idea of the kinds of status codes your site generates, you should log into your Google Search Console. Here, you’ll come across a page with crawl errors that the Googlebot found over a certain period of time. These crawl errors have to be fixed before your site can be indexed correctly. Or, you can connect Yoast SEO Premium with Google Search Console, view errors directly from the backend and fix the ones that need redirecting.

Manage redirects with Yoast SEO Premium

We get it, working with these things on a daily basis is time-consuming and pretty boring. However, if you use Yoast SEO Premium, creating redirects has never been easier. Every time you delete or move a post or page, the Redirects manager in Yoast SEO asks you whether you want to redirect it or not. Just pick the correct option and you’re good to go. Watch the video to see how easy it works.

That’s all, folks

Make yourself familiar with these codes, because you’ll see them pop up often. Knowing which redirects to use is an important skill that you’ll have to count on often when optimizing your site. One look at the crawl errors in Google Search Console should be enough to show you how much is going on under the hood.

Read on: ‘Crawl efficiency: making Google’s crawl easier’ »