Doing keyword research is a vital part of your content SEO strategy, but can be a long and difficult process. It’s just not easy to get into the heads of your audience: what words and phrases could they be using? What is their intention when searching? Another important aspect to check is whether it’s realistic to try to rank for a certain keyword or keyphrase, especially if there’s heavy competition.

In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into a specific case of a business aimed at reaching people who want to start a company in Vietnam. What are the most important things to keep in mind?

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Brian Ho emailed us his question on keywords:

I’m trying to reach out to people around the world who want to open a company in Vietnam. Does that mean that I need to add the word ‘Vietnam’ to all my focus keywords?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Finding the best keyword strategy

“Well, you don’t have to add it to all of them, but ‘Vietnam’ is probably one of your important keywords at that point. So if you think about ‘start business’, then yes, ‘start business in Vietnam’ is probably the focus keyword that you want to optimize for, not ‘start business’, because then your competition will be way, way, way bigger.

At the same time, there are reasons why people would want to move to Vietnam and they don’t know that when they’re searching. So you probably also have keywords that relate to starting a business and that might actually make you want to convince them that they should do that in Vietnam, but they wouldn’t use the word ‘Vietnam’ when searching.

So think about your keyword research. We have a course about that if you into that: our SEO copywriting course has a whole module about all of this. This is not something that you should just add, because just adding ‘Vietnam’ to your focus keyword is not going to change anything. You really should think about your strategy, like: “Okay, which keywords do I want to be found for, which topic should I write about?”. And then, based on that, decide your focus keywords. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

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Whenever you make some big changes to your website, for instance to your brand name, you’re probably eager for these changes to show in the search results. Unfortunately, it can take a while for Google to crawl your site again and until then, it will show the indexed version of your site in the results, without the changes. Of course, when people click to your site they see’ll the changes, but you want them to be visible in the results pages too.

So, is there anything you can do to help or speed up this process? And is there anything else to bear in mind when making these changes? Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

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Jolene Moody emailed us her question on this topic:

“I recently changed the name of my business. We have changed it in the WordPress dashboard too. But I didn’t see the change yet in the search results. How long does it take Google to show this change?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Helping Google pick up changes on your site

“It depends on how often Google visits your site and you probably don’t know how often that is. Now, what you can do is go to Google search console and go to ‘Fetch & render’ and then fetch and render your homepage. Then, after it’s done, there’s an option to submit to index. At that point, Google will have already crawled your site and will use that data to show your site in the index, so when people search for your brand, at least your homepage will have the proper brand name.

But it’s very important, if you change the name of your business and people are still searching for the old name of your business, that you also have the old name of your business on your site somewhere. That way people can still find you for that, when they don’t know that you’ve renamed your business. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘SEO Basics: What is Googlebot?’ »

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To work properly, websites contain multiple CSS and JavaScript files. These must be fetched from the server by the visitors’ computer, to fully load a webpage. In the old standard, HTTP/1, only one request at a time could be handled, so minifying and concatenating multiple files was a good idea. Otherwise, visitors would experience a slow website because of too many requests. The new standard, HTTP/2, allows for much easier communication between a visitor and the server.

So, does this increasing move to HTTP/2 mean that it’s no longer necessary to minify and concatenate your CSS and JS files? After all, site speed is still crucial for SEO. Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

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Danny O’Neill emailed us his question:

‘With the increasing move to HTTP/2 should we still minify and concatenate our CSS and JS files?’

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Is it still necessary to minify and concatenate your CSS and JS files?

“In the old standard, HTTP/1, the browser could only open so many files at the same time on your server and thus it was smart to combine those files into larger concatenated files. In HTTP/2 that’s not needed anymore, so no, you don’t necessarily have to do that.

What you need to look at is which portion of your traffic already supports HTTP/2. If that’s the large majority then you can stop doing that altogether. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world’ »

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With the holiday season now mostly behind us, many owners of online shops are probably still recovering from this very busy time. Many businesses offer special, holiday-themed products and gifts during this season. But how to handle the product pages of holiday gift sets after the holidays are over?

Even if the gift set or product was a great success, and you want to offer it again next year, it’ll be a long while until the page is relevant again. So, what’s the best way to deal with these pages in the meantime? Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

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Marek emailed his question on this subject:

‘I want to offer special gift sets for different holidays. What to do with them after the special is over? Should I archive or redirect them?’

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Holiday gift sets after the holidays

“Well, it really depends if you’re going to offer that special gift set again next year. And I’m guessing you’re going to if it worked out. In that case, I would probably keep the pages up. You might want to make them less visible to people just browsing your site. But having the page there, even when it’s not linked for a while, and then linking to it again, when you’re back in the season is better than deleting it and making a new one next year.
So, keep it up, and make sure that it has a slightly timeless content, so that if someone wants to order a Christmas box in March, they can… Why wouldn’t you allow that? So that’s how we would treat it. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Holiday season SEO’ »

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Both the free and the Premium Yoast SEO plugin come with several default settings. We’re all about sensible default settings! So, we’ve put a great deal of thought into setting these defaults, to make sure they’re right for most users. Still, it’s understandable that people get confused, for example when using our awesome configuration wizard, when they see the visibility of the post type ‘media’ set to ‘hidden’.

The last thing you want is to have all the media on your site invisible to your users. Of course, we don’t want that either, and won’t let that happen. So let me explain in this post why the post type ‘media’ is set to noindex in by default and what that means.

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Jez emailed us this question, something we actually get asked more often:

“Yoast SEO sets the post type media to noindex by default in ‘Post Type Visibility’. Why is this? Will my images still display correctly?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

-video staat nu hier, moet wel nog even van private naar public!-

Post type ‘media’ noindex in Yoast SEO

“There’s this weird thing in WordPress where, if you upload an image, not only does it allow you to embed the image in the post, it also automatically creates a page for that image on your site. This is the media post type.

So now that single image has its own page and that page is very thin, because the only thing on that page is that image and maybe the alt text that you put in there, but there’s nothing else on that page. So this is thin content. That’s why we noindex it by default because there is really no reason to have that indexed by Google and to make sure that that thing ranks. So that’s why we do that, we like sensible defaults like that.

Of course, if you have very large media pages that have a lot more than just the image by all means set it to index, that’s why you can. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO’ »

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You might have noticed: Google has made search results snippets longer. In the past it showed up to ~160 characters, now it can be much, much longer. We’re currently researching what this means for site owners. We’ve also changed the Yoast SEO recommendations for meta description length in expectation of the results of that research. In this article, I’ll go over what this change means for you and for us.

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TL;DR: Snippets can now be up to 320 characters or even longer in some rare cases. We’re researching new best practices. In the meantime, Yoast SEO’s green bullets will work differently. As of today, Yoast SEO will only give you an orange bullet if your meta description length exceeds 320 characters.

What changed in the search results?

Search result snippets are now much, much longer. This change came pretty much out of the blue, but it’s undeniable, a search for [what is a meta description] looks like this now:

Google search results for [meta description]

As you can see the featured snippet is exactly the same as the “normal” snippet for the blog post is now. The post has a meta description, which is much shorter, but Google grabs a “random” paragraph from the page and shows that instead.

Our hypothesis on a new snippet reality

Of course, this snippet isn’t “random” at all. This paragraph had explicitly been optimized for ranking in that featured snippet. In fact, it was optimized for that particular query and some very similar ones. Almost all the pages we’ve optimized for featured snippets now have those featured snippets showing as snippets in the normal search results too.

Our hypothesis is simple: Google grabs the “core paragraph” for a particular search query within an article. It then displays that paragraph as the snippet. Not entirely to our surprise, this would strengthen all our efforts on readability and better writing even more. We’ve been saying for a while: readability ranks.

The question is: can you still get your meta descriptions to show up? Our thinking here is that you probably can do that quite reliably if the meta description contains the searched-for keyword. Of course, your meta description length should also fit within Google’s new boundaries. But it seemed in preliminary searches, as though Google would favor slightly more keyword dense paragraphs from within the copy over a meta description which contained the keyword only once.

Another hypothesis we want to test in our research is whether deleting the meta description leads to better snippets.

The impact of this change

With longer snippets, you would expect the overall CTR of search results to drop slightly. People might find their answer in the search results; they might not need to click onward. So far we’ve not seen our own CTR go down, but we will monitor this closely for multiple sites.

Whether a CTR that goes down is bad for you depends on your key goals. For us, if people find an answer to their query in the search results, but associate it with the brand Yoast, we’re good. The branding value, in the long run, exceeds the possibility of you converting to a customer on the click. If your company relies on ad revenue though, you would probably look at this with a completely different perspective.

Our research

Here at Yoast, we feel a profound responsibility to give you the best feedback we can on your writing. And that includes feedback on your meta descriptions. Of course, this feedback has to be fact-based, which is why we are researching this change in-depth. We are currently researching with four equally sized groups of posts:

  1. A group of posts that will get a longer meta description, in which we’ll use the keyword only once.
  2. A set of posts that will get a longer meta description. We’ll use the keyword multiple times, evenly distributed across the meta description.
  3. A group of posts for which we’ll delete the meta description completely.
  4. Posts that will keep their old, handcrafted, shorter, meta description and will act as our control group.

Our research team will analyze the results of this research. After this we’ll probably do another test, with more sites, to try and corroborate our findings. At the same time, we are of course keeping up with posts by other SEO companies on the topic.

Changes to Yoast SEO

While we will have to determine new best practices, we know we have to change things as well. Our character limit for the meta description was just plain wrong. Today’s release of Yoast SEO fixes that and puts it at 320 characters. As our research continues, we might make further changes to our advice about meta descriptions.

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

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With so much of our day-to-day communication happening online these days, the use of emojis, to add some flavor to typed messages, has gone through the roof. They don’t just express emotions, but depict a range of animals, objects, places and so on, as well. The options to express yourself with them are endless! If you frequently use emojis in your daily communication, you may also feel like using them on your website. But what’s the deal with emojis and SEO? Do they have any impact on your rankings, positive or negative? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into that :)

Iris Schöberl emailed us her question:

“Do you as an SEO expert recommend to use emojis? Or is it spam to Google?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

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Emojis and SEO

“I’m thinking that you probably mean in the meta-description and titles etc., where some emojis will actually show up in the search results. If they do show up in the search results, I would use them because they make you stand out. And standing out in the search results means the more people click on you; more clicks is what you want, so yes, I would use them.

Would I use every emoji? No, I probably would not use the poop emoji for pages that I want to sell something on, unless it’s poop.

So, see if it fits in with your brand. If it fits in with your brand, there’s nothing I have inherently against it or in favor of it. Just see what works for your brand and what works for your audience. And do that. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

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Headings play an important role in structuring text, whether it’s on paper or online. Since reading from a screen is already quite difficult, you should make sure you make proper use of headings. There’s a hierarchy in heading tags, with <h1> being the most important, and <h6> the least important. This will help both your visitors (whether they’re reading or using a screen reader!) and search engines understand what’s most essential on a page. But what if your theme only allows the use of one type of heading? Is that bad for your SEO, and what does it mean for your visitors? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into that.

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Nikola emailed us her question on WordPress themes and heading structure:

My theme has no H1 headings on the homepage (or category and archive pages). All headings are H2. My developer says it isn’t bad for SEO, it’s worse to use multiple H1s on a single page. Is he right?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

A logical order in your heading structure

Is he right? Well he is and he isn’t…it really depends. If you’re using HTML 5, you can have multiple H1s, depending on how your page is structured. At the same time, not having an H1 at all in your page sounds very weird.

On a post page the title of that post should be in the H1. On an archive page the title of that archive should be in the H1. On your homepage your brand name should probably be in the H1. So, I’m not entirely sure that he’s right. I would prefer that he does it right in terms of using one H1, then some H2s, etc.

This is more of an accessibility issue than it is a specific SEO issue. But it’s important for people who are blind, or otherwise have a hard time reading your page, because they can actually follow the structure of the headings on your page. So do think about the headings on your page and make them follow a logical order. Good luck!

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘SEO Basics: How to use headings on your site’ »

 

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Branding plays a vital role in the success of your business. We’ve written about branding several times on this site, for instance, the 5 tips on branding and Low-budget branding for small businesses articles. Your domain name should also be a part of your brand. But should you buy one of those fancy new TLDs like .amsterdam or .guru to enhance your branding? Watch Joost answer a readers question about this.

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Andrew emailed us this question:

“Now that there is a wide range of top level domain name options, is it possible to use the TLD as part of your brand? I have a site which focuses on Oakland tourism and oak.land would be cool. Or should I just go for something like visit-oakland.com?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Can you use a TLD as part of your brand?

“Well yes, of course. We sometimes use Yoast.com instead of just Yoast, because Yoast is actually a last name in the US as well. So, you can definitely do that. You could use .tourism or .land; there are so many options out there. Of course, you can use these in your branding. In fact, I’d encourage that.

But you have to keep in mind that not everyone might realize that they are looking at a domain name. Let’s take oak.land. Would everybody in your target audience realize that’s a domain name? Most people that are slightly older might not realize that’s something they can type in. At that point, it would be a good idea to add www or http:// in the branding when you put it on a poster or show it somewhere so people realize they can type in oak.land. Ok, good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

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

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2018 is coming soon and people are starting to ask: what’s new? What should we do to keep up with changes in search and specifically in SEO in 2018? In this post, I’ll sum up the biggest changes in our world, and what you should be working on.

The search landscape is changing

Over the last decade(s), our computers have become faster and faster, and our phones have been catching up. The iPhone X is faster than many computers people have at home. The power of the small machines we have in our hands is slowly being utilized by apps and search engines alike.

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Building on that growing power of the devices in our hands, the reliability of voice recognition has been steadily increasing. It’s now at the point where, in languages like English, voice commands can be reliably used to instruct our devices to do something. One of those things we can do, is search.

Voice search changes everything

We cannot tell you how many people search with voice. Most people, for now, will not use voice search as their primary mode of searching. But: the search engines are optimizing for voice search results and have been doing that for a while now. Because the search engines are optimizing for voice results, all of search has already changed because of voice search.

The featured snippets that SEOs have been striving to get are a prime example of how voice search has changed SEO. Optimizing for these snippets requires old school SEO tactics combined with something new. You see, a featured snippet is meant to be read out loud. That’s the context in which Google’s Gary Illyes told people to read their copy out loud, early this year.

Listen to this result from Google Home for the search [what is a meta description?]:

If you’ve listened to the above answer, you’ll know why readability is so important. Answers this long become very hard to listen to if they’re not well written. And even then, we still have to solve things like figure out how we can get Google to pronounce SEO as S-E-O instead of “Seeoo”.

Google changes

Besides voice search and Google’s focus on that, more is changing in and for Google. Specifically: a few new technologies and a profound new way of looking at the web.

Mobile first indexing

We’ve written about mobile first indexing before, but the basic idea is simple: Google is changing how it looks at your site. From ‘judging’ your site as though it’s a desktop site, it’ll switch to judging your site as a mobile site. Every bit of content that can’t be reached on your mobile site, will not count for your ranking.

It’s still unclear when this will roll out and how fast this will roll out. Google says they’re already testing it, but they also say that sites that aren’t ready for it shouldn’t be hurt, for now. Regardless of that, your site should be working well and fast on mobile, so if it isn’t, that’s going to be your priority for SEO in 2018.

AMP

If you haven’t heard about AMP, you’ve missed quite a few posts on this site. I’d suggest you start reading here to learn what AMP is and why it’s important.

Google is focusing a lot of time and effort on AMP. So much that one of the projects we’ve got planned at Yoast for 2018 is to see if we can recreate our single post pages entirely in AMP, completely leaving the non-AMP version. Yes, that’s how important we think AMP will become in the long run. I don’t expect normal sites have to do anything that drastic in 2018, but do make sure you keep up to date with the latest news on AMP.

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Structured data: JSON+LD & Schema.org

Alongside AMP, Google is pushing more and more structured data ‘profiles’. By asking webmasters and SEOs to mark up their content in structured data, according to schema.org data structures, Google is trying to understand the web better.

Yoast SEO does a good chunk of work for websites adding structured data to sites already. For most small business websites and blogs, what it does should be enough.

But if you have a site that has a lot of content that fits one of the schema.org data types (think of recipes, reviews, products, etc.), I’d highly suggest following our Structured Data course. After that you’ll know how to set up a properly structured data strategy for your site.

Content is still king

While all of the technical changes above are important to SEO in 2018, and you should definitely keep an eye on them, content is still the thing that’s going to make you rank. Our recent ultimate guide to content SEO should get you started on the right path there. Good luck optimizing your site in 2018!

Read more: ‘Structured data with schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

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