Imagine visiting an online shop, and receiving a notification from your browser that this site is not secure. You’re probably not so eager to buy something there and provide this website with private or sensitive information. Well, both your visitors and Google most likely agree. In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become a ranking signal. So it’s definitely something to take into account as a website owner. But getting an SSL certificate and moving your website to HTTPS can be difficult, as we at Yoast know all too well. If you don’t do it right, it can have a negative impact on your rankings. But what about the other way around? In this Ask Yoast, I discuss what to do if you suspect your rankings have lowered because you don’t have an SSL layer.

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Larry Launstein Jr. emailed us a question on this subject.

How do you optimize a site that has been lowered in the rankings because of lack of an SSL layer? Is there a workaround
for this, or does it need to get an SSL layer no matter what?

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

Lower rankings without HTTPS?

“So what can you do to optimize a site that has lost rankings, because of lack of an SSL layer or basically because of lack of HTTPS? Well, if all of your competitors have HTTPS and you don’t, at some point you might start losing some rankings because of that.

But I honestly do not believe that that is your only ranking problem if you have a ranking problem. But does every website need HTTPS in the future? Yes. Should you thus be doing that right now if you’re working on your site? Yes, by all means.

If you do migrate, though, make sure that all the old URLs redirect properly to the new ones and, basically, get an SSL certificate and thus HTTPS for your entire site as soon as possible. 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 knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Ask Yoast: redirecting your site to non-www and HTTPS’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Lower rankings without HTTPS? appeared first on Yoast.

There are several kinds of pages that you’ll expect to find on most websites: a home page, a contact page or an about page, for example. In this Ask Yoast, I’m going to discuss another type of page: the privacy page. This is a page where you put your privacy policy, which allows your visitors to check, for instance, how their information is handled. Not every website will need a such a page, but what about privacy pages and SEO? Is there a benefit to having a privacy page on your site? Read on to find out!

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Derek Little sent us an email with the following question:

I’ve heard that having (or not having ) a privacy page is or was a big factor in SEO, and important to Google. Is this still the case?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

Privacy pages and SEO?

So, does having or not having a privacy page on your site have an impact on SEO?

“Well, as far as I know, this was only ever a factor for the AdWords quality score, not for SEO itself. So, it was important when you were advertising in AdWords, and not in SEO.  

At the same time, having a privacy page on your site makes you look all that more professional, which can help, of course, if you’re selling something. So, I would say, make it, think about what you put on there, think about how you deal with the privacy of your visitors and customers. Put that on there, and show that to the world: that’s always a good thing.

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

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

The post Ask Yoast: having a privacy page and SEO appeared first on Yoast.

We recently made some changes to how yoast.com is run as a shop and how it’s hosted. In that process, we accidentally removed our robots.txt file and caused a so-called spider trap to open. In this post, I’ll show you what a spider trap is, why it’s problematic and how you can find and fix them.

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What is a spider trap?

A spider trap is when you create a system that creates unlimited URLs. So Google can spider a page and find 20 new URLs on it. If it then spiders those 20 URLs, it finds 20 * 20 new URLs. If it then spiders those 400 URLs, it finds 400 * 20 = 8,000 new URLs. This escalates quickly, as you can see. If each and every one of these URLs were unique and wonderful, this would not be a problem, but usually, they’re not. So this causes a massive duplicate content problem.

A spider trap is bad for your SEO because every time Google crawls (or “spiders”) a page in your trap, it’s not crawling actual content on your site. Your new, high quality, super-valuable content might get indexed later, or not at all, because Google is spending its precious time in your trap. And the content it is crawling is deemed as duplicate and lessens how Google sees your site overall. This is why solving spider traps is important for SEO, and especially if you’re thinking about crawl budget optimization.

What do spider traps look like?

Our spider was one of a very particular type. We have a tool here on yoast.com called Yoast Suggest. It helps you mine Google Suggest for keyword ideas. When you enter a word into it, it returns the suggestions Google gives when you type that word into Google. The problem is: Google, when given a search box, will start throwing random words into it. And the results then have links for more results. And Google was thus trapping itself.

You might think that this is a nice story and spider traps never happen in real life. Unfortunately, they do. Faceted navigation on web shops often creates hundreds of thousands of combinations of URL parameters. Every new combination of facets (and thus URL parameters) is a new URL. So faceted navigation done poorly very often results in trapping the spider.

Another common cause of spider traps is when a site has date pages. If you can go back one day, to get a new date, and then back, and back, and back, you get a lot of pages. In my time as a consultant for the Guardian, we found Google spidering a date in the year 1670. It had gone back through our online archives, which went back almost 20 years at that point, to find nothing for more than 300 years…

How to recognize a spider trap

The easiest way to recognize a spider trap is by looking at your access logs. These logs contain a line for every visit to your site. Now as you can imagine, on larger sites your access logs get big very quickly. Here at Yoast, we use a so-called ELK-stack to monitor our website’s logs, but I’ve personally also used SEO log file analyzer by Screaming Frog to do this.

Logs from an ELK stack, showing a graph of indexing, URLs, timestamp, user agents and more

An example of logs in our ELK stack

What you’re looking to do is look at only Googlebot’s visits, and then start looking for patterns. In most cases, they’ll jump straight at you. It’s not uncommon for spider traps to take up 20-30% or even larger chunks of all the crawls. If you can’t find them immediately, start grouping crawls, looking for patterns within URLs. You can start from the beginning of the URL, provided you have clean URLs. If your URLs are slightly more cumbersome, you’ll have to create groups manually.

An ELK stack makes this very easy because you can search and segment quickly:

An example of filtering for the word "SEO" within our Googlebot hits in our ELK stack

An example of filtering for the word “SEO” within our Googlebot hits

How do you solve a spider trap?

Solving a spider trap can be a tricky thing. In our case, we don’t want /suggest/ to be indexed at all, so we just blocked it entirely with robots.txt. In other cases, you cannot do that as easily. For faceted navigation, you have to think long and hard about which facets you’d like Google to crawl and index.

In general, there are three types of solutions:

  1. Block (a section of) the URLs with robots.txt.
  2. Add rel=nofollow and noindex,follow on specific subsets of links and pages and use rel=canonical wisely.
  3. Fix the trap by no longer generating endless amounts of URLs.

In the case of the Guardian, we could simply prevent linking to dates where we had no articles. In the case of Yoast.com’s suggest tool, we simply blocked the URL in robots.txt. If you’re working with faceted search, the solution is, usually and unfortunately, not that simple. The best first step to take is to use a form of faceted search that doesn’t create crawlable URLs all the time. Checkboxes are better than straight links, in that regard.

In all, finding and closing a spider trap is one of the more rewarding things an SEO can do to a website. It’s good fun, but can certainly also be hard. If you have fun examples of spider traps, please do share them in the comments!

Read more: ‘Robots.txt: the ultimate guide’ »

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There’s a lot of discussion in the WordPress world right now about a new editing experience that’s in the making. It’s called Gutenberg. While some of that discussion is technical, every user that uses WordPress regularly should be aware of what’s coming. At Yoast, we are quite excited about the concept of Gutenberg. We think it could be a great improvement. At the same time, we have our worries about the speed in which the project is being pushed forward. And, we’re not excited about all the changes.

In this post I’ll first try to explain what Gutenberg is. Subsequently, I will tell you about the things that are problematic to us. Finally, I will tell and show you what we think should be done about the problems.

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a new approach to how we edit posts in WordPress. It’s basically a new editor. It tries to remove a lot of the fluff that we built up over the years. The intent is to make the new experience lighter and more modern. The end-goal is to make WordPress easier to use. That’s something we really appreciate at Yoast.

Gutenberg introduces the concept of “blocks“. The new editor will be a block-editor: paragraphs, headings, images and YouTube video embeds will all be blocks. Blocks will make it easier to learn how to work with WordPress. People starting out with WordPress, only have to learn the concept of blocks, instead of 3 or 4 different concepts. When we make WordPress easier to use, we make it more accessible to a larger group of people. Making editing easier was the goal from the outset, as Matt Mullenweg is quoted on the Gutenberg Github page:

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery. — Matt Mullenweg

As well as introducing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces a new look and feel for the editor. For me, the look and feel is mostly a copy of the Medium editor, an editor that got a lot of praise in certain online circles. Gutenberg appears a bit more modern, more contemporary.

New technology in Gutenberg

Besides introducing a new look and feel and the concept of editing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces an entirely new technology to WordPress. Gutenberg will use a lot of JavaScript, particularly React. While this change in itself is not interesting to the average user, it does impact how WordPress is built.

Here at Yoast, we are worried about the use of new technology combined with the introduction of big new concepts. This is bound to make for a rocky experience. We know from our own experience releasing Yoast SEO 3.0 (we’d rather not talk about that anymore). Even when releases are very well prepared, a lot can go wrong and you’ll be busy fixing it for a long time. We feel worried about the combination of new technology, completely renewed functionality, and the extremely ambitious time plan.

Plugins in Gutenberg

The concept of blocks brings some very powerful new tools to plugin authors. At Yoast, we have lots of ideas on how to make our content analysis better, faster, and more user-friendly with the Gutenberg editor. However, Gutenberg does currently not have the technical necessities in place to allow us to actually build that integration. Yoast SEO can’t integrate with the new editor (yet). Of course, we are actively involved in the technical discussions around this. We are currently heavily discussing how to make it possible for plugins to integrate.

Fact remains that, if you test Gutenberg right now, you’ll see that Yoast SEO is not on the page, anywhere. Nor, for that matter, are all the other plugins you might use like Advanced Custom Fields or CMB2. All of these plugins use so-called meta boxes, the boxes below and to the side of the current editor.

The fact that the Gutenberg team is considering changing meta boxes is, in our eyes, a big mistake. This would mean that many, many plugins would not work anymore the minute Gutenberg comes out. Lots and lots of custom built integrations would stop working. Hundreds of thousands of hours of development time would have to be, at least partly, redone. All of this while, for most sites, the current editor works just fine.

Accessibility issues

The current version of Gutenberg has major accessibility issues both in its frontend output and in the backend editor. This ranges from inline styles in the output to many other things.

We feel very strongly about accessibility. Not without reasons. The law in many European countries requires government institutions to have properly accessible websites. If Gutenberg breaks their accessibility, they will have to disable it, or face lawsuits. The Gutenberg team needs to realize that accessibility requirements are simply that: requirements.

To conclude: we are very enthusiastic about the idea of blocks, but have strong concerns about some of the technical choices and the speed of the implementation process. We are also worried about the lack of priority given to accessibility issues in the project. But most importantly, we are very much concerned about the fact that plugins are not able to integrate with the new editor.

When is Gutenberg coming?

In a recent post about the JavaScript library of choice for the WordPress ecosystem, WordPress’ project lead Matt Mullenweg said:

It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

At Yoast, we were pretty shocked about these words. In its current form, Gutenberg is not ready -at all- for mainstream usage. In fact, we do not see it as being ready to be released anywhere in the first half of 2018. In our view, ready to be released also means that the community has had ample time to fix all of their integrations. In this point of time, it’s not possible for plugins at all to integrate with Gutenberg. How on earth should plugin authors be able to build their integrations within a few months? That’s not possible. At least not without breaking things.

So what should be done?

We think that taking the following three steps would bring Gutenberg much closer to release:

  • First of all, we should keep the blocks idea, as it’s a good one. And then we should start iterating, slowly. If you want the admin to get a modern “makeover” for 5.0: that’s doable. We don’t need to change how meta boxes are rendered for that to happen.
  • There’s also no need to move the toolbar (with bold, italics etc buttons) away from where it is (this has been discussed before). Medium does that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing and it means more re-training than the team building Gutenberg seems to realize.
  • We should focus on making sure both the backend editor and the frontend output of Gutenberg meet basic accessibility requirements.

Once we’ve decided on the above, we should start educating plugin & theme developers on what will and what will not work in the new environment.

What should this look like?

We’ve made some mockups of what we think this could look like (click for larger versions):

Document level

Gutenberg editor mockup - block level

Block level

Gutenberg mockup - distraction free mode

Distraction free mode

Note that we have disabled the background color and text color controls in the block level mockup. These should be off by default in our opinion, and possibly only allow a subset of colors, chosen by the theme author, when enabled.

I’d love to discuss with you, in the comments here, on Github, on Slack: everywhere!

The post An alternative approach to Gutenberg appeared first on Yoast.

If you own a website, you have probably, at some point, thought about your preferred URL. Perhaps you chose between www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com straight away and never thought about it again. Or maybe you switched to or from www at one point. While in the early days of the internet www was the norm, these days a good many sites of great repute -Yoast.com included ;)- don’t use www. So, are there any SEO-implications to choosing either option? I’ll get into that in this Ask Yoast!

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Dirkje Evers emailed us her question on this subject:

A Dutch hosting company told me that it’s better for Google to use the domain www.exampledomain.nl instead of exampledomain.nl. Should I take their advice or not?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

Should I use www for Google or not?

“Dirkje Evers emailed us about a Dutch hosting company that had recommended to them that using www.example.nl was better than using just example.nl for Google. And whether they should take that advice or not. Well, no… That’s what we call…nonsense. In terms that I can use on video. Because I’m actually up to use some other terms. It’s absolutely nonsense, you don’t have to use www for anything. The only reason why you would use www.something is if people would otherwise not recognize your domain name as a domain name. Which is something that is bound to happen, if you have a somewhat older target audience. But other than that use whatever you want. Use www or do not use www, whatever rocks your boat.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Redirecting your site to non-www and https’ »

The post Ask Yoast: www or no www? appeared first on Yoast.

It’s important to have breadcrumbs on your website. They show users how a page fits into the structure of a site, and allow search engines to determine the site’s structure. But how do you go about implementing breadcrumbs when you have many products that fit into more than one category? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll discuss the best way to handle breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories.

Niall Diamond emailed us an interesting question:

“When you have a product within multiple categories each page will have a canonical URL that is the same, but what about the breadcrumb for the canonical URL page?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

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Handling breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories

“Well Niall, there is one primary category for that product and if you use our Yoast SEO breadcrumbs then it will always show that primary category in the breadcrumbs. If you use another system of using breadcrumbs……well, don’t. Because most systems can’t handle this in a proper way. So switch to using Yoast SEO breadcrumbs and this will be fixed for you. Good luck!”

Read on: ‘What are breadcrumbs and why are they important for SEO?’ »

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

 

The post Ask Yoast: Breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories appeared first on Yoast.

No matter what you’re selling: you want to use the best eCommerce system possible. So you know you’ll get optimal results and therefore have one less thing to worry about. But with all the different systems and plugins out there it can be hard to choose. In this edition of Ask Yoast, I’ll share which eCommerce plugin I generally recommend.

Topher Knoll emailed us the following question:

I’m curious what Yoast uses as its WordPress eCommerce plugin or what it recommends. I’m interested in something with plenty of SEO capability, and that has an easily customizable theme. I want to be able to encourage conversions with a good UX.
This is for ducttapedanyol.com which is an artist’s portfolio.

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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The most complete eCommerce plugin

“Well, let me answer that. We currently use Easy Digital Downloads and we are in the process of switching to WooCommerce. Both are fine systems.

We have outgrown Easy Digital Downloads a bit because we do so much more than digital downloads and we wanted a more complete eco-system. 

I think by now, I would probably recommend most people on WordPress to use WooCommerce and nothing else, because it has the most complete eco-system, the most plugins, etc.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘eCommerce SEO checklist’ »

When you’re running a large and busy website, it’s practical and time-saving if you can reuse some of your material. Both meta descriptions and excerpts use a brief passage to summarize the content of a web page. So, it could be handy to use the same text for both. But how do you do that? In this video, Joost explains the easiest way to reuse your text for both meta descriptions and excerpts, and whether Google approves of this reuse.

Renee Lodens sent us an email with the following question:

“Is there a way to bulk copy the Yoast SEO meta descriptions to the excerpt field? Also, is this considered duplicate content?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page! 

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Meta descriptions and excerpts

So, what to do if you want to save time and use the same passages for meta descriptions and excerpts?

“Well, let’s start with the first thing. It’s probably easier to do it the other way around. If you put the description that you want in the excerpt field, and then in the back end, in the Yoast SEO Titles & Meta section, you can use the excerpt short code for meta descriptions. We will automatically put your excerpt in your meta description. That’s easier. You can do it the other way around too, but then you’d have to code a bit.

Is this considered duplicate content? No, it’s not. Because they are different things used for different purposes. Your meta description will only show up in the metadata, which will not be shown on the page. And Google considers these two separate things.

So this might actually work well for you if you write really good short excerpts that fit well into your meta description.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read on: ‘How to create the right meta descriptions’ »

Our mission statement is SEO for Everyone. On many fronts, we’re making good on that promise. In 2016, Yoast SEO added revolutionary checks to content and readability analysis features. Much of that year was spent improving and enhancing the content part of the plugin. In 2017, we’re fixing the site structure problem, by adding, among other things, an internal linking tool and cornerstone content checks. Now, we’re taking the next step: Yoast SEO 5.0 features a brand new, and awesome, text link counter.

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Improving your structure one link at a time

SEOs can probably build solid site structures in their sleep, but for the rest of us, it’s hard work. We need every kind of help we can get. This process requires a lot of work. That’s why we’re starting to make Yoast SEO a tool that can not just help you with improving your content and different kinds of on-page optimizations but transcend that to a site-wide level.

Yoast SEO 5.0 kicks things off with the introduction of the text link counter. It’s the first tool that looks at your site from a site-wide SEO perspective. We all know how important – internal and external – links are. The web is based on links. We all form connections that lead us from one place to another. Links build a site structure. We, however, often encounter sites that hardly use links to form connections between different parts of the site. Without a well-thought-out linking structure, there will be no site structure. But how do I link correctly? Is there a way to check the links I have on my site and how do I know which articles link back? Well, now there is.

yoast seo 5.0 text link counter

New icons in Yoast SEO 5.0. The arrow pointing out is the number of internal links in an article. The arrow pointing in is the number of internal links to this article. The traffic light is the SEO score, while the feather represents the readability score.

 

text links counter

Hover over the icons to see more information.

Yoast SEO text link counter

The text link counter in Yoast SEO 5.0 analyzes every part of your site and presents all the internal links found on your WordPress site in two new columns. The first one – the icon with an arrow pointing out – shows the number of internal links an article has, while the second column – arrow pointing in – shows the number of internal links pointing to this post. By browsing the overview, you can easily see which posts and pages are linked. You can also discover which posts don’t have enough links or which links could be improved. You might even find pages that have just one or no links at all. This way, you can prioritize the posts and pages you need to fix to build up your site structure. Read Marieke’s post on why you should use the text link counter.

We’re making this tool available to every user of Yoast SEO because we think everyone can use a little help in building a solid site structure. The absence of a strong structure is one of the main reasons many sites fail to live up to expectations. Let us help you fix it. We want to improve your site from a holistic SEO perspective and lower the barriers to do so. Every part of your site has to be perfect to be the best possible result.

To keep track of your linking structure, we have to add a table to your database. If you are running into problems with this, you can get more information in this entry on our Knowledge Base.

Enhancement for Italian and French

New features are cool, but we’re also still focussing on expanding Yoast SEO’s language abilities. In the past releases, Yoast SEO received initial Italian support: transition word and sentence beginning assessments. In Yoast SEO 5.0, we can now calculate the Flesch Reading Ease score for Italian. This way, you can see exactly what the perceptive level of the text is. We’re continuously researching better ways of implementing language support. In this case, after much deliberation, we’ve upped the maximum sentence length from 20 to 25 based on in-depth research into the use of the Italian language.

The second supported language we’ve enhanced in this release is French. Thanks to Sylvain Perret and Vianney Andre we can now offer full insights and linking suggestion in French. Full support for French is expected soon.

Upwards and onwards

Yoast SEO 5.0 is another milestone release that makes SEO a bit easier for everyone. We’re offering you a new way to look at your site and the content within. We’ve made links visible and usable, so you have to spend less time figuring out how everything is connected. Now, hit that update button and go work on your site structure!

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

Redirects serve multiple purposes. For every occasion there’s a specific redirect that works best. Some redirects seem quite similar though, for instance, the 302 or 307 redirect. You can both use them to temporarily point users to another URL. So we’re not surprised some people wonder what’s the exact difference. Let’s clarify this here!

WordPress specialist Marcel Bootsman, also known as Nostromo on Twitter, has send the following question to Ask Yoast:

Can you explain when to use a 302 or a 307 redirect when temporarily redirecting a URL?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

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When to select a 302 or a 307 redirect?

Let me explain when to use which one, if you need a temporary redirect:

“Well it’s actually quite simple. If the URL is really, really temporary
please do use a 307. Only use a 302 if you want the URL that you are redirecting
to show up in the search results with the content of the page that you are redirecting to.

So you have page A with a URL and you have page B with a content. You want the URL of page A to show up with the content of page B in the index. If that’s what you want use a 302. If that’s not what you want use a 307. And if something is not temporary but permanent use a 301 redirect and not anything else.

Good luck!”

Read more: ‘Which redirect should I use?’ »

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer pressing SEO questions from followers. Need advice about the SEO of your website? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.