The big “Is it a Ranking Factor?!” webinar

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in SEO: What factors into Google’s algorithm? What should I optimize to be able to rank? What should I do first, and what can wait? On Wednesday, June 26th, join Marieke van de Rakt, Joost de Valk, Jono Alderson and me, Jesse van de Hulsbeek, to settle the debate once and for all. We’ll discuss and show what matters most. And the answer might not be what you expect…

What am I going to watch?

The webinar will kick off with a quick-fire round of “Is it a Ranking Factor?!”, with Marieke and Joost telling you exactly what’s what. Then, you’ll get to enjoy a 10-minute rant by our very own Jono Alderson. Suffice it to say, he’s got an opinion on the matter. Then, we’ll cover some important factors in more detail in a round-table discussion. At the end of the show, we’ll do a live Q&A session which allows you to ask our panel of experts any questions you may have. Want to be sure your question is answered? Leave it in the comments and we’ll put it on the list!

How can I attend the webinar?

We’ll stream the webinar on YouTube, so it will be freely accessible to everyone. Visit https://yoa.st/rankingfactorshow to attend the stream. You can also subscribe to the Yoast channel on YouTube. Then, you’ll be notified when the stream starts. There will be no login or other requirements. Simply visit the page and enjoy! In the table below, you’ll see when the webinar starts for a number of common time zones.

Add the Ranking Factor webinar to your calendar!

(iCal event: click the link and download the ics file. Open the file, select your calendar and save the date. All the details (URL etc) are included in the event!).

PST (Pacific Time)11 AM
MT (Mountain Time)Noon
CT (Central Time)1 PM
ET (Eastern Time)2 PM
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)7 PM
CET (Central European Time)8 PM
IST (India Standard Time)0:30 AM (June 27th)
AET (Australia Eastern Time)6 AM (June 27th)

If you can’t make it and want to watch the webinar at a later time, no problem. It’ll be freely available on YouTube afterwards.

The post The big “Is it a Ranking Factor?!” webinar appeared first on Yoast.

“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

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

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

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

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

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished.

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets’ feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. It has also shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

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Why you should actively avoid the passive voice

Are you aware of the risks of overusing the passive voice in your writing? In the readability analysis in our Yoast SEO plugin, we recommend using the passive voice in a maximum of 10% of your sentences. But why? In this post, I will discuss a couple of key questions about the passive voice. I’ll start by explaining what it is. Then, I’ll explain why it is usually best to avoid using the passive voice in your writing. To cap it off, I’ll describe some situations in which using the passive voice makes perfect sense. 

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

What is the passive voice?

The passive voice is a grammatical construction. The easiest way to explain the passive voice is by contrasting it with the active voice. The active voice is the standard English sentence structure. The simplest possible sentences feature an actor (the subject), who does (the verb) something to either a person, animal or thing (the receiver).

WordMomhuggedme
Semantic functionactordirect verb receiver

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around. The receiver becomes the grammatical subject. Note that the meaning of the sentence stays exactly the same. The only difference is the word order.

WordIwas huggedby mom
Semantic functionreceiverdirect verbactor

In some passive sentences, you can omit the actor. ‘I was hugged’, for example, is a perfectly sensible passive sentence, although it provides less information.

Why should I avoid the passive voice?

Let’s cut to the chase: using the passive voice almost always makes your writing more distant and your message less clear. There are two main reasons for this.

Wordy

First of all, the passive voice is wordy. The passive alternative to an active sentence is simply longer. Consider these two sentences:

1. The passive voice almost always makes your message less clear.

2. Your message is almost always made less clear by using the passive voice.

You convey the same message by using the passive but add three words. When overusing the passive voice in your text, this can really add up.

Sentence structure

In addition, the passive voice uses a sentence structure which requires more cognitive effort. Your reader will spend valuable working memory on making sense of the sentence. This decreases the likelihood of you getting your message across.

Let’s explore why the passive voice demands more effort. As I told you before, the basic active sentence structure is quite consistent and logical in English. The passive voice turns this all the way around. You first read what was affected. Then you read what happened to it. Lastly, you learn how it was affected. You discover who or what was responsible only at the very end. This sequence differs from how we usually make sense of events.

Moreover, we expect the actor to be in the subject position, so we are slightly disoriented. This means constructing an image of what happens takes a tiny moment longer. Again, these moments can easily add up if you overuse the passive voice.

In the example I gave, there is no added benefit to using the passive: the active sentence conveys the same information. Whenever you use passive voice, always consider whether a better, active alternative is available.

What are the exceptions?

Sometimes, using the passive voice can be the only logical way to word a sentence. Mostly, this occurs when the actor is unknown or irrelevant. Let’s look at an example I used in the first paragraph of this very text:

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around.

There is no identifiable actor here, nor would he or she be relevant. After all, we’re talking about a general action here, not a specific one. Any alternative active sentence would be less clear and concise than the passive sentence I wrote, so it’s the best option available.

Alternatively, you may want to use a passive sentence to focus on the receiver. This works when the object is more central to the topic than the actor:

J.F. Kennedy was killed in 1963 in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

This means that we’re not here to tell you to avoid the passive voice like the plague. If it beats the active alternative, by all means: use it! Rules about style are hardly ever set in stone, so don’t make the mistake of following the rule of thumb too strictly. Do what seems right to you and what makes your text flow nicely. A maximum of 10% generally suffices. You should be able to achieve numbers even lower than that by following our advice.

Conclusion

Using the passive voice is generally a bad idea. After writing your text, scan it for passive voice constructions. Always ask yourself: is a better, active alternative available? If there is, use it. If not, use the passive voice.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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All-new and improved: the SEO copywriting training!

As of today, you can get your hands on a completely overhauled version of the SEO copywriting training. We’re very proud to present a much more hands-on training, which will really take you by the hand, and guide you through every step of writing an SEO-friendly blog post. It’s chock-full of real-life examples and practical exercises, so you can get the skills and confidence to write excellent content yourself!

You can get the course for $129, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!

Why should I be excited about the new SEO copywriting training?

Good writing is essential for SEO. If your site is full of copy that your visitors want to read, they’ll enjoy your site and they’ll want to come back. And helping search engines understand your text is crucial for your rankings as well. That’s why, in this course, we’ll introduce you to the wonderful world of SEO copywriting. We’ve created a new course that takes you by the hand, and walks you through the process of writing a blog post that is optimized for ranking in the search engines.

In each module, experienced copywriters provide you with theory, best practices, and tips. All of this is accompanied by lots of practical learning aids: examples, exercises, screencasts, and assignments. After doing the assignments, you’ll have your own, ready-to-publish blog post. If you follow this hands-on course, you’ll master the art of copywriting before you know it!

What will I learn?

We’ll start this course by explaining how Google understands text and what good SEO copy looks like. Then, we’ll cover the essential first step of SEO copywriting: picking the keyphrases your text should rank for in Google. In the last three modules, we’ll explore the three phases of a solid writing process:

1. Preparing your text

It’s important to prepare your text thoroughly. We’ll teach you how to consider your message, audience, angle, and purpose to tailor your copy to your audience.

2. Writing your text

The fun part: the actual writing! You’ll learn why readability is so important and how to write texts that are a breeze to read. Paragraphs, transition words, subheadings – these terms will no longer hold secrets for you.

3. Editing your text

A big part of the actual work lies in editing your text. In this module, we’ll teach you how to craft your text to capture the hearts of your visitors and the search engines. You’ll learn how to rewrite passive sentences and how to avoid spelling and grammar errors.

Get personal feedback on your blog post

The assignments in this course offer you a step-by-step template to write the optimal SEO blog post. When you’ve completed your blog post, you may want to confirm you’re on the right track. If so, you can look to our experts for advice. If you choose the feedback package, a Yoast expert will check your blog post and provide feedback on your copy. We’ll point out missed opportunities and give you ideas to improve your text!

Start writing copy that ranks before the offer expires!

The SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write awesome copy that ranks, so you’ll attract more visitors. And like every other Yoast Academy training course, the SEO copywriting training is online and on-demand. This means you can do this course whenever you want, wherever you want. It’s all up to you!

You can get the course by clicking the button below. But don’t wait too long: it’s temporarily discounted at $129, so get it before the offer expires! If you have a Yoast training subscription, the new course will automatically be added to your account.

The post All-new and improved: the SEO copywriting training! appeared first on Yoast.

How does Google understand text?

On Yoast.com, we talk a lot about writing and readability. We consider it a very important part of good SEO. Your text needs to satisfy your users’ needs. This, in turn, will help your rankings. However, we rarely talk about how Google and other search engines read and understand texts. In this post, we’ll explore what we know about how Google analyzes online text.

Are we sure Google understands text?

We know that Google understands text to some degree. Think about it: one of the most important things Google has to do is match what the user types into the search bar to a search result. User signals alone won’t help Google to do this. Moreover, we also know that it is possible to rank for a phrase that you don’t use in your text (although it’s still good practice to identify and use one or more specific keyphrases). So clearly, Google does something to actually read and assess your text in some way or another.

What is the current status?

I’m going to be honest. We don’t really know how Google understands texts. The information simply isn’t freely available. And we also know, judging from the search results, that a lot of work is still to be done. But there are some clues here and there that we can draw conclusions from. We know that Google has taken big steps when it comes to understanding context. We also know that it tries to determine how words and concepts are related to each other. How do we know this? On the one hand, by analyzing some of the patents Google has filed over the years. On the other hand, by considering how actual search results pages have changed.

Word embeddings

One interesting technique Google has filed patents for and worked on is called word embedding. I’ll save the details for another post, but the goal is basically to find out what words are closely related to other words. This is what happens: a computer program is fed a certain amount of text. It then analyzes the words in that text and determines what words tend to occur together. Then, it translates every word into a series of numbers. This allows the words to be represented as a point in space in a diagram, a scatter plot, for example. This diagram shows what words are related in what ways. More accurately, it shows the distance between words, sort of like a galaxy made up of words. So for example, a word like “keywords” would be much closer to “copywriting” in this space than it would be to “kitchen utensils”.

Interestingly, you can do this not only for words, but for phrases, sentences and paragraphs as well. The bigger the data set you feed the program, the better it will be able to categorize and understand words and work out how they’re used and what they mean. And, what do you know, Google has a database of the entire internet. How’s that for a dataset? With a dataset like that, it’s possible to create reliable models that predict and assess the value of text and context.

Related entities

From word embeddings, it’s only a small step to the concept of related entities (see what I did there?). Let’s take a look at the search results to illustrate what related entities are. If you type in “types of pasta”, this is what you’ll see right at the top of the SERP: a heading called “pasta varieties”, with a number of rich cards that include a ton of different types of pasta. These pasta varieties are even subcategorized into “ribbon pasta”, “tubular pasta”, and several other subtypes of pasta. And there are lots and lots of similar SERPs that reflect the way words and concepts are related to each other.

The related entities patent that Google has filed actually mentions the related entities index database. This is a database in which concepts or entities, like pasta, are stored. These entities also have characteristics. Lasagna, for example, is a pasta. It’s also made of dough. And it’s a food. Now, by analyzing the characteristics of entities, they can be grouped and categorized in all kinds of different ways. This allows Google to better understand how words are related, and, therefore, to better understand context.

Practical conclusions

Now, all of this leads us to two very important points:

  1. If Google understands context in some way or another, it’s likely to assess and judge context as well. The better your copy matches Google’s notion of the context, the better its chances. So thin copy with limited scope is going to be at a disadvantage. You’ll need to cover your topics exhaustively. And on a larger scale, covering related concepts and presenting a full body of work on your site will reinforce your authority on the topic you specialize in.
  2. Easier texts which clearly reflect relationships between concepts don’t just benefit your readers, they help Google as well. Difficult, inconsistent and poorly structured writing is more difficult to understand for both humans and machines. You can help the search engine understand your texts by focusing on:
    • Good readability (that is to say, making your text as easy-to-read as possible without compromising your message).
    • Good structure (that is to say, adding clear subheadings and transitions).
    • Good context (that is to say, adding clear explanations that show how what you’re saying relates to what is already known about a topic).

The better you do, the easier your users and Google alike will understand your text and what it tries to achieve. Especially because Google seems to basically be trying to create a model that mimics the way us humans process language and information. And yes, adding your keyphrase to your text still helps Google to match your page to a query.

Google wants to be a reader

In the end, the message is this: Google is trying to be, and becoming, more and more like an actual reader. By writing rich content which is well-structured and easy to read and is clearly embedded into the context of the topic at hand, you’ll improve your chances of doing well in the search results.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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New, newer, newest: the All-around SEO training!

Yoast Academy has just released the All-around SEO training course! This course teaches you how to optimize every aspect of SEO. Content SEO, technical SEO, off-page SEO, image SEO… You name it, it’s included! And we’ll not only teach you the theory, but we’ll give you hands-on tips on how to tackle common real-life SEO problems as well. With this training, you’ll learn how to set up a proper, all-around SEO strategy!

You can get the course for $169, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!

What will I learn in the All-around SEO training?

A lot! The All-around SEO training really helps you cover all your SEO bases. Let’s take a look at the topics that are included in this training.

1. Content SEO

In this course, you’ll discover how to determine what keyphrases will drive traffic to your site. This training teaches you how to set up your own keyword research sheet, step-by-step. Moreover, we’ll walk you through all the steps of SEO copywriting. We’ll also show you how to set up or improve your own site structure, so your most important pages have the best chances of ranking. And you’ll learn how to optimize your images, both for your visitors and for search engines.

2. Technical SEO

The All-around SEO training teaches you how to improve your site speed, so your visitors don’t leave before they’ve even seen what you have to offer. Also, you’ll learn what structured data is, so you’ll know how to get those coveted rich results. In addition, you’ll learn how to make sure your site is secure, so your site won’t get hacked!

3. Off-page SEO

This course also teaches you to look beyond your own site. You’ll learn how to make sure other sites link to your pages, so search engines see you deserve a higher ranking. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to keep your audience engaged with email marketing. You’ll also discover how social media can get you even more traffic.

4. Beyond SEO

Finally, the All-around SEO training teaches you how to outsmart your competition by going beyond the usual SEO staples. We’ll teach you how to make sure you offer the best user experience, and how to get more customers or subscribers by conversion rate optimization. In addition, you’ll learn how to improve your site’s accessibility, so everyone is able to use your website, including people with a disability.

How is the course set up?

The All-around SEO training consists of eight modules, which are divided into several lessons. Each lesson contains interesting videos, in which our SEO experts – like Marieke van de Rakt and Joost de Valk – explain everything you should know. We’ve also created reading materials, in which we explore topics more broadly and use different examples from the ones we use in the videos. To complete a lesson, you take a quiz. These quizzes test whether you understand the theory and if you’re able to apply this knowledge to realistic example cases. Once you’ve finished the course, you’ll get a certificate and a badge you can display on your website.

Joost de Valk in the All-around SEO training

Why should I take the All-around SEO training?

If you want to get a head start in SEO, the All-around SEO training is for you. It teaches you about all SEO aspects – including topics that don’t get covered in the average SEO course, like email marketing, social media, UX and accessibility. The course even goes beyond the theory and teaches you useful and practical skills, so you can quickly improve the SEO of your site. It doesn’t matter whether you run a blog, online store, or another type of website – this course covers it all. If your goal is to make your site rank higher in the search results, the All-around SEO training is the right course for you.

Learn whenever you want, wherever you want

And just like every other Yoast Academy training course, the All-around SEO training is online and on-demand. This means you can do this course whenever you want, wherever you want. It’s all up to you!

Get it before the offer expires!

The All-around SEO training helps you improve all aspects of SEO on your site, so you can make your site rank higher in the search results. You can get the course by clicking the button below. It is temporarily discounted at $169 (that’s $30 off!), so get it before the offer expires!

The post New, newer, newest: the All-around SEO training! appeared first on Yoast.