As soon as WordPress 5.3 comes out, Yoast will only support WordPress 5.2 and WordPress 5.3, and not versions before that. This means we’ll end our support for WordPress 4.9, which we’d kept alive for a little bit longer than usual to allow people to transition to WordPress 5.0 and the classic editor. I’d like to explain why we have this policy and why we’re deciding to go back to it.
Building software for WordPress can be incredibly complex. We work in a world where there are always a couple of versions of WordPress around. Next to that, plugins can do almost anything (which they do), which also means they can interfere with each other. Every site has a different combination of plugins, leading to tens of thousands of different combinations.
At Yoast we pride ourselves in using the best tools available to build solutions for our users. With WordPress 5.2, the WordPress core team upped the minimum PHP requirement for WordPress from PHP 5.2 to PHP 5.6. We always want our software to work on the minimum requirements for WordPress, which means we could only use functionality from PHP 5.2 up until then.
Note: I know these version numbers and the fact that they’re so alike can become confusing. We’ve certainly had some confusion around that internally. I apologize for that in advance, but as you’ll understand, I can’t change these version numbers.
PHP is the language that most of the WordPress backend is built in. PHP 5.2 was released in 2006, while PHP 5.6 was released in 2014. As you can see, that’s 8 years apart, and 8 years is an incredibly long time on the internet.
By going back to our policy of only supporting the current and previous version, and thus only supporting WordPress 5.2 and 5.3, we allow ourselves to develop using PHP 5.6. Because we can use PHP 5.6 now, we can develop faster and more securely.
What does “support” mean?
When we say we don’t support an older version of WordPress it means we’ve stopped testing with it, and things are likely to break. It also means you won’t see Yoast SEO updates until you’ve updated your WordPress to a supported version.
My site doesn’t work with the classic editor
For a small portion of sites, I know this leaves them in limbo, which we hate. If you have a custom WordPress solution, built with old versions of plugins like Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), you might be “stuck”. Even though ACF has done an incredibly good job of migrating to Gutenberg, that might not “save” you.
While we think that sucks, we don’t really have any option for you other than to go to your website developer and explain them that this isn’t a state you want to stay in. You really should move to newer versions of WordPress. We will keep on supporting the Classic Editor for a few more years, so if they make it work with that, you’re good.
I don’t see any Yoast SEO updates
There are a couple of different reasons why you can’t see Yoast SEO updates. As said above: if you’re on an old version of WordPress, you will not see them. So update your WordPress first. If that’s not the case, please reinstall the plugin, simply delete it and install the latest version manually. That won’t delete any of your data, don’t worry.
Go and update your site!
So, if you’re on an old version of WordPress, go and update. Of course, before doing anything like updating plugins or WordPress, always make sure to test and back up your site!
The fourth edition of WordPress translation day is coming up on Saturday 11 May 2019: tomorrow! Get ready for a 24-hour, global marathon dedicated to localizing the WordPress platform and ecosystem.This event takes place both online and in physical locations across the world, so you can join no matter where you are!
The WordPress Polyglots Team has a mission to translate and make available the software’s features into as many languages as possible. As WordPress powers more than 33% of websites, people from across the world use it in their daily life. That means there is a lot that needs translating, and into many different languages.
On 11 May 2019, from 00:00 UTC until 23:59 UTC, WordPress Translation Day aims to celebrate the thousands of volunteers who contribute to translation and internalization. The event is also an opportunity for encouraging more people to get involved and help increase the availability of themes and plugins in different languages.
What happens on WordPress Translation Day?
There are a number of local meetings all over the world, as well as online talks by people from the WordPress community. More than 700 people from around the world took part in past WordPress Translation Days, and everyone welcome to join in this time around!
Everyone is welcome to join the event to help translate and localize WordPress, no matter their level of experience. A lot is happening on the day, so join in and you will learn how to through online sessions!
What can you expect?
Live online training: Tutorials in different languages focused on translation and localization, or l10n, of WordPress. These are streamed in multiple languages
Localization sessions: General instruction and specifics for particular areas and languages. These sessions are streamed in multiple languages.
Internalization sessions: Tutorials about optimizing the code to ease localization processes, also called internationalization or i18n. These sessions are streamed in English.
Local events: Polyglot contributors will gather around the world for socializing, discussing, and translating together.
Remote events: Translation teams that cannot gather physically, will connect remotely. They will be available for training, mentoring, and supporting new contributors. They will also engage in “translating marathons”, in which existing teams translate as many strings as they can!
A number of experienced WordPress translators and internationalization experts are part of the line-up for the livestream, joined by some first time contributors.
Whether you have or haven’t contributed to the Polyglots before, you can join in for WordPress Translation Day. Learn more about both local and online events and stay updated through the website and social media.
Getting a Schema.org implementation right on a website was – until today – enormously painful. There was not enough documentation and no good tools to help you to make it truly simple. The best implementations so far really are, sadly, still just a fragmented mess. Today, we’ve fixed that.
The best Schema.org implementations we see ‘in the wild’ often look something like this, when seen by Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool:
There are seven Schema pieces on that page, but they’re just that: seven pieces without context. It is not clear what their relation to each other is. To a search engine, this page is still a puzzle which needs solving.
In our implementation, which we’re releasing today, all of the pieces “stitch together”: we form them into a nested structure. Without this nesting, a search engine doesn’t know how all these pieces relate to each other, and what the most important piece on a page is. Our implementation also clearly and explicitly defines the “main thing” on that page. This removes all of the guesswork and adds a lot of context for search engines.
Let’s look at an example: a post here on Yoast.com. This post is an Article. The article is the main “thing” of a WebPage, which is part of a Website. This Article is published by an Organization and written by an Author. Both the Author and the Organization have social profiles attached to them. These separate blocks are now all woven together: it’s simply a nested structure.
The @id is the glue
The secret of our delicious graph is one simple “thing”: using @id to connect graph pieces to each other. We output separate pieces but by using those @id references, we connect them to each other.
Because we can nest them like that, it doesn’t have to stop at that simple structure: the WebPage has a position within the site, outlined by its BreadcrumbsList. The Author, the Organization and the Article have images. Etc. etc. etc. All of that data is combined.
Why did we develop this?
We didn’t just start implementing this for the fun of it. We are solving a real-world problem: as more and more people implement Schema.org markup, the situation shown in the screenshot at the top of this article is no longer unique. Lots of pages, with lots of separate Schema blocks, are a problem. In a call with Pinterest recently one of their engineers complained: all the Schema that WooCommerce put out was nice, but when there are related products on a page, they often can’t find the main product. Our implementation solves that and many other problems.
On every page, we output the entire graph for that page, and we clearly mark the mainEntity, so Google, Pinterest, and others are no longer left guessing. Every relationship is made explicit.
What do these changes mean for you?
This change has short-term implications: you have a higher chance of getting:
Correct info in Google Knowledge Panels and full support for Rich Article Pins on Pinterest, due to better Schema output from Yoast SEO.
Showing up in a News listing or carousel if you use our News SEO plugin, due to the new NewsArticle support.
Higher chance of product snippets in Google Search results if you use our WooCommerce SEO plugin and full support for Rich Product pins on Pinterest, due to better Product support in it.
Higher chance of good local listing snippets, due to better LocalBusiness schema in our Local SEO plugin.
Long term implications for the web
These changes also have long term implications: we weave a web of data. This type of machine-readable data makes it possible for platforms to build much cooler things. And we wouldn’t be Yoast if we didn’t do this all out in the open. We have a full set of developer documentation on how to do this, and how to interact with our Schema API. Everyone can integrate with this, everyone can build upon it; in fact, we encourage you to do that!
We’ve also documented all our output, so you can learn from it, copy it, play with it. The specification document explains it all more in-depth and explains all the fantastic research that Jono has been doing in this.
I’m deeply excited about this change and think it’s the start of something really big. Now, go upgrade to Yoast SEO 11.0 and check it out!
The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites
This is the original WordPress SEO article since 2008, fully updated for 2019!
WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But even though it gets a lot right “out of the box”, there’s much more that you can do to improve your performance.
Optimizing your site using the tactics and best practices outlined in this article will help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers or sales, and have a better website in general.
Because good SEO should be ingrained in all aspects of your online marketing and PR, this guide covers quite a lot of ground! It’s a long read, so feel free to use the table of contents below to jump around. Or, just download the PDF and get comfy on the couch!
If you’re using another SEO plugin, like All in One SEO or Ultimate SEO, most of the principles will still apply. Of course, we’d prefer you to switch over and make use of our extremely powerful WordPress SEO plugin, which is why we’ve written a migration guide for you. It’s a really easy process!
Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well-optimized content management system. A basic setup can provide a strong foundation — even without extensive customization, theme optimization, and plugins. That said, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ranking, refine your workflow, and make sure your website is perfectly optimized.
By putting the right basic settings in place, and applying a few simple techniques, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon!
1.1. Check your health
First things first. Before you make any changes to your site, it is a good idea to see where you are now. There’s a lot to gain from getting it right: running your site on a modern server with updated software, at a web host that offers great performance. So ask yourself: on what hardware and software is your site running? What is your hosting plan? Are you using a budget shared hosting provider or have you invested in a dedicated hosting plan at a well-known web host that fine-tuned its servers for use with WordPress?
To get a sense of what is going on behind the scenes of your site, you can install the Health Check plugin. This plugin gives you loads of technical insights and helps you get information that outside parties can use to help you improve your site.
Health Check is incredibly helpful — so much so, that the WordPress team is now going to include the plugin in the core WordPress environment.
1.1.1 Check you’re using suitable hosting
According to WordPress’ technical requirements page, the recommended hosting plan to run WordPress should include a modern version of PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS support. It is possible to work with older server software, but that is not recommended. If you’ve installed the Health Check plugin, you can see the technical details of your installation. In addition, if you open the dashboard of your hosting provider, you should be able to see what type of plan you are on.
Many WordPress sites still run on outdated versions of PHP. One look at the WordPress stats reveals that almost half of the sites still run on a PHP version in the 5 series, while PHP 7.0 and up has been available for more than three years.
Backward compatibility is cool and all, but it’s holding back WordPress as a technology and site owners from getting the most out of their sites. These old versions of PHP don’t receive any more security fixes and are thus increasingly vulnerable to attacks.
Luckily, the WordPress team has dropped support for anything older than PHP 5.6. In December 2019, that minimum supported version of PHP will be upped to PHP 7.0. After that, it will follow the release schedule of PHP more closely.
So, one of the most important things you can do to improve the performance and security of your site is upgrading your hosting environment to a modern version of PHP. There are a lot of benefits to this:
PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost.
It runs a lot more efficient, meaning less stress on your server.
Bring loads of modern development features.
It’s a much safer and more secure environment.
It’s future proof.
Now, this is something we all want, right? If you’ve checked your current hosting set-up in the previous section, you have an idea of what your site runs on now. If this shows outdated server software like PHP 5.5, it is a good idea to update this, if possible.
However, take special care before doing so. Ask for help if you’re not sure what you are doing.
Here are some steps to take:
(Always!) Backup your website.
Make a local staging environment based on a modern version of PHP.
Install the backup of your site on that server.
Test thoroughly to see if everything works properly.
Upgrade your live site — most of the times, your hosting provider can do this for you.
Historically, adopting SSL (getting an HTTPS URL, and a green padlock icon in the browser URL bar) was an optional tactic. Many sites, arguably, didn’t need the extra level of security which SSL provides.
Now, however, having a valid SSL certificate installed is mandatory — search engines may ‘penalize’ sites without valid SSL certificates and setups (and/or show warnings next to their search results). It’s also generally good practice for all websites to use SSL, to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.
Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup. To take advantage of new, faster web technologies like HTTP/2, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox require the website to have a valid SSL certificate.
It’s worth spending some time clicking through all of the sections in the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options there can impact the SEO of your WordPress site.
In particular, it’s worth double checking your Privacy settings, to make sure that you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your website. That’d definitely hurt your visibility!
You should also make sure that your Writing and Reading settings are all set correctly, these control your default categories, and what should be displayed on your homepage. Don’t forget to give your site a strong tagline in Settings → General, too!
1.3. Pick the right permalink structure
Your permalink settings define what format your page and post URLs will take, which can have a big impact on SEO. So if yo u’re creating a new site, one of the first things you should do is change your permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.
If you don’t change your settings from the default, all of your pages and posts will have URLs which look like example.com/?p=123. Whilst this is perfectly okay, it’s not particularly nice, and it might impact how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.
Changing the permalink structure alters the components, ordering, and structure of your website’s URLs. It’s important to select the right structure when initially setting up your website, as changing it later can cause SEO issues.
We usually recommend that people use a structure which creates URLs which look like example.com/post-name/, or example.com/category/post-name/, depending on how much importance they anticipate placing on the categorization of their content. For most WordPress sites, choosing either of these options will be perfectly suitable.
For the first option, you can just change the permalink setting to /%postname%/, like so:
To include the category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value to /%category%/%postname%/.
If you previously had ?p=<postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you. This is also true if you change from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/.
You need to think about what you want your site to show up as www.example.com, or simply example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected:
From an SEO perspective, there’s little difference either way. Additionally, most hosting and server setups will automatically redirect requests for the ‘wrong’ version, to the version you’ve selected. That makes this primarily a branding consideration — which approach feels best for your site?
From a technical perspective, there’s not a huge amount of difference, either. Some setups might have some minor headaches if they omit the ‘www’ component, but these are increasingly rare.
2. Optimize your content
Your site should provide the best content on your chosen subject — period. People are looking for engaging, authoritative articles and trustworthy answers to their questions. Writing high-quality content for your WordPress site begins with your own unique ideas or distinctive take on a particular topic. But it also means presenting these ideas in a well-structured and accessible manner. Together, this will help you attract the audience you’re looking for and keep them engaged.
2.1. Research what your users want and need
Before writing your content, you should think about what search terms you want to be found for. Every page or post should be optimized for a specific keyphrase.
But how can you determine what keyphrase you want to be found for? To find out, you need to do keyword research. In this process, you should ask yourself questions such as: what terms do I want to rank for? How realistic is that I can rank for these terms?
Imagine you have a baking blog and you’re passionate about sharing your favorite recipes and baking techniques. Optimizing a post for a term such as [best cake recipe] isn’t such a realistic goal, because it’s a very general term. There’s a lot of competition for such general terms. Instead, you should think about finding your own niche. This niche could be [healthy, low-sugar cake recipes] or[French patisserie you can make at home].
Within a niche, you can become a true expert. Your expertise can enable you to create content that goes beyond that of your competitors. You can go deeper than others, or shed light on different angles of the same topic. For this, you’ll want to focus on long tail keyphrases. A long tail keyphrase might be [how to make a low-calorie vegan blueberry cheesecake]. A keyphrase like this is more specific, and therefore easier to rank for. Also, it’ll be more suitable for your specific niche topic.
It’s also important to think about what your audience actually wants to achieve by searching for a specific term. This is called search intent. For example, they could be looking for the answer to a specific question and you are able to provide the necessary information. Or they might want to buy a specific product that you can offer them. Think about the needs of your visitors and address them by creating content accordingly.
After you’ve done your keyword research and you know the topics you want to write about, you need to get to the actual writing. Most of the time that’s easier said than done. To get from an idea to a great piece of content, most likely you’ll have to follow a cycle of drafting, writing, editing, and rewriting.
Your first draft can just be an outline of your structure. You don’t have to write out everything in perfect prose at this point, but make sure that you follow a logical structure. For most pieces, that will include an introduction, your main points of argument, and a conclusion. Of course, this will vary per genre – a recipe will have a completely different structure.
You can flesh out the points further in the writing phase, where you try to come up with a first complete version of your text. Finally, in the editing phase, you should check whether your piece is engaging and easy to read. You might be an expert on your topic, but your audience probably isn’t (yet). So try to make your writing as accessible as possible. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a friend or colleague for some feedback. Another good trick is to read your text out loud to yourself. You can even let your computer speak it. It will give you a better idea of whether everything flows nicely.
2.3. Optimize your individual posts & pages
When writing or editing your post, there are a number of elements you need to pay special attention to in order to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include your subheadings, your title, and your meta description. All of these need to reflect the topic of the specific post.
Don’t forget, SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean that it’s easy for a search engine to grasp the topic of a page. More importantly, it means that your visitors can get the gist of your page at a single glance.
Your meta description and your title might be a deciding factor for whether visitors click on your page in the search results in the first place. And once they’ve visited your site, elements like subheadings can be critical for visitors to decide whether they want to stay on your site.
It’s also important to include the focus keyphrase in crucial elements of your post such as the title, the introduction, your subheadings, and your meta description.
All of these elements are crucial signals for what your post is about. Since your focus keyphrase is, in fact, the main topic of your page, it’s a logical consequence that you should make sure this topic is reflected in all of these elements.
The same logic holds true for your text overall: you need to make sure that you don’t stray off-topic; if you stay on-topic, it should follow naturally that you use your keyphrase multiple times throughout your text. But avoid stuffing your text with your keyphrase just for the sake of it. If you find it hard to include your keyphrase in your text a sufficient number of times, it might be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic.
To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean exactly the same or more or less the same as your keyphrase. An example of this are the words film and movie. Search engines will recognize that they have the same meaning, which you can also check by having a look at the search results: if you search for movie, film will also be highlighted in the results, and vice versa.
You can also make use of related keyphrases to optimize a single page for similar, related terms. You can use these to give context to your keyphrase. For example, if your keyphrase is [pumpkin soup] your related keyphrase might be [winter weeknight dinners]. This second, broader term gives additional information about your topic. It can also create coherence by establishing a link to similar pages on your post.
In most cases, your post’s URL should probably contain your focus keyphrase, so that it’s obvious what your page is about from the link. That said, you should always try and keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean — don’t put unnecessary words in for the sake of it!
Before you publish new posts or pages, you may also wish to consider removing ‘stopwords’ from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and”, and “the”. When done carefully, this may make your permalinks more readable, and easier to use or link to. Posts with especially long titles may benefit from this approach.
For posts which have already been published, we’d recommend being careful when changing permalinks. If people have already linked to your pages, changing the URLs may make a mess. Even though WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (the redirects manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles this automatically, and more reliably), changing URLs can impact performance.
2.3.3. Optimize your page title
Each page’s title — the contents of the HTML <title> tag — can be one of the most important factors for ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, but it’s also the first line people see in the search results. It describes what your page is, or is about, and acts as an advert which encourages users to click.
On many websites, the default structure for posts and pages isn’t necessarily the most optimal approach for SEO. A title like “My blog » Cooking » Carbonara recipe” isn’t as compelling or effective as “My 20-minute delicious carbonara recipe | My Blog”.
It’s critical that you think about the structure of your titles, as well as the content of the title on each individual page. Typically, it’s worth considering that:
Search engines may put more weight on the early words — so trying to get your keywords near the start of the title might make you more likely to rank well.
People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.
Did you know? You can use Yoast SEO to structure your titles!
You can control the default structure of your page titles and descriptions in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. First of all, as soon as you install and activate the plugin, you get an ‘SEO’ section in your WordPress admin.
Navigate to SEO → Search Appearance and you’ll see a bunch of tabs for different types of pages on your site.
For each post type and taxonomy, you can set a so-called Title Template — as well as meta description templates. For posts on our site this looks like this:
This allows you to use components and variables to control how your page titles should behave by default. Of course, these can be overridden on a page-by-page basis.
For example, in the image above, you can see how we’re automatically grabbing elements like the title of the page, to stop us from having to manually write titles from scratch for every page.
There are all sorts of variables you can use in the titles and meta description, and they’re all listed and explained in the help tab on the page.
For advanced users, there are some additional cool features. For instance, you can use cf_<custom field name> to drop in any custom field — either from a post meta value or a user meta value.
NOTE: When you use these templates, be sure to check that your title tags behave as expected when viewed on the site. If they don’t, you may have a problem with the way your theme is built, and you might need to check the “Force rewrite” checkbox in our options. You can also follow these instructions to modify your templates.
2.3.4. Use headings correctly
Headings are great for structuring your content and helping readers process information in bite-sized chunks. They can also be helpful in describing a page’s layout and focus to search engines.
WordPress transforms the headings you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> and so on). That makes it important to think about which type of headings you use, and in which order. Getting that wrong can make your content harder to understand.
Although most themes for WordPress get the basics right, it’s worth making sure that your template sets your post title is an <h1> tag, and that you’re not using <h1> tags anywhere else in your page or your post content.
Your post content should then ‘flow’ naturally; for example, large, significant headings should use <h2> tags, subsections should use <h3> tags, and then subsequent new sections should use <h2>.
A meta description is primarily used search engines to show a description of your page in the search engine results, usually below your page title.
Tailoring and writing a descriptive meta description can encourage users to click your results in the search engine, even if you’re not necessarily ranking in the top position. It’s an advert, and your opportunity to impress.
Writing compelling, informative descriptions of your page content for every page on your site is best practice and gives you the opportunity to attract more visits.
Whilst it might feel like a lot of work to craft descriptions for every single page and post, it’s worth the effort.
We don’t recommend automated descriptions
Some themes and plugins try to produce descriptions automatically, by taking the first sentence or so of a post. This is a clever shortcut, but it rarely produces good descriptions.
The first sentence of a post is often introductory information, which doesn’t provide a great summary or an enticing advert!
The only well-written description is a handwritten one, and if you’re thinking of auto-generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything, and let the search engine pick and control the snippet.
Auto-generating a snippet is a “shortcut”, and there are no real shortcuts in SEO!
If you don’t provide a meta description, the search engine will generally try to find the keyword which was searched for in your page, and automatically pick a string around that — and highlight the searched phrase in bold in the results page.
Automatically generated snippets (whether by plugins, or search engines) are rarely as descriptive or as compelling as hand-written ones. So, we recommend that you use the meta description field you find in the Yoast SEO plugin to write a meta description. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.
NOTE: Search engines may choose to ignore your meta description if they think that it’s unsuitable for the page, or they might choose to show a custom description from the page content if they think it’s a better fit. There’s no way of forcing them to use your specific snippet.
2.3.6. Optimize your images and media
An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is how you handle your images, videos, and media content.
To make sure that search engines can understand your images, you need to think about how you name and format your files. Writing descriptive accessible text descriptions helps, too, and can improve your performance significantly. As an added benefit, you’re also helping out readers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers.
Using the proper alt attributes for images, and transcripts of videos are also something that we check in the content analysis functionality of our Yoast SEO plugin.
As Google strives to show its users the best and up to date information, you should keep track of your content and revise it regularly. Even more so, because you don’t want to show the visitors of your website outdated, redundant or incorrect information.
If you publish regularly and have hundreds, or even thousands, of blog posts, this is easier said than done. That’s why we’d advise focusing on two specific areas when it comes to content maintenance: updating cornerstone content and preventing keyword cannibalization.
2.4.2. Update your cornerstone content
Some pages on your site are more important than others. The most valuable content of your site is called cornerstone content. We’ve written extensively about cornerstone articles and how they can improve your rankings.
In short, these posts or pages:
contain essential information for your audience;
are complete, up-to-date and well-written;
get the most links from related posts within your own site;
rank higher than your other articles on the same topic;
get most organic traffic to your site.
When you’re in doubt where to start with updating your site’s content, always give priority to your cornerstone content. Your business relies on them, and they should never go stale!
2.4.3. No outdated cornerstones with Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO makes it a little easier to keep your cornerstones up to date at all times. If you use Yoast SEO on your site, you can mark a post as a cornerstone article. Doing so, these articles will undergo a more rigorous SEO analysis. In addition, they’ll appear in a separate list in your post overview, which makes it easy to browse through them and check if they’re still up to scratch.
If you’re on Yoast SEO premium, keeping track of them is even easier. The Stale cornerstone content filter only shows your cornerstone articles which haven’t been updated in the last 6 months. You’ll find this filter in your post overview. If it doesn’t show any posts you’re good, and if there are one or more posts in it, make sure you check and update them!
2.4.4. Keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization means you’re eating away your own rankings by creating too many articles for the same or similar keywords. If you have a dozen articles on the same topic, search engines don’t know which one of those they should rank highest. As a result, you’ll be competing with your own articles for a high position in the search engines.
If you publish frequently, as we do at Yoast, you’re bound to run into keyword cannibalization issues someday. That’s why we’ve created a framework on how to deal with keyword cannibalism. In short, you’ll have to:
Find out for which keywords it’s happening;
Analyze which content performs best for those keywords;
Keep the best performing posts;
Decide if you should merge the other posts into the better performing one;
Duplicate content issues arise when search engines encounter multiple URLs with the same or very similar content. As a result, search engines don’t know which of these URLs to rank higher, resulting in lower rankings for all of them.
In the previous section, we’ve already addressed keyword cannibalization, which is caused by writing about the same topic too often. But most of the times, the root of duplicate content is technical and can happen without you even noticing.
For instance, some content management systems add session IDs or parameters for tracking to URLs. Or, you might have www and non-www versions of a certain page indexed. Accordingly, you’ll have multiple URLs showing the exact same content.
Besides the technical reasons, your articles can get scraped or copied by other parties. So, there are many different causes for duplicate content, as you can read in this extensive article on duplicate content.
If you want to find out if your site suffers from duplicate content, you can use these duplicate content tools to check your site for issues.
2.5.2. Solutions for duplicate content
How you should solve your duplicate content issue depends on the cause of the issue. In general, there are three ways to go about this — in order of preference:
Whenever possible, avoid creating duplicate content. If your system creates session IDs in the URL, try to turn that off, for instance.
Can’t avoid creating them? 301 redirect those URLs to the original version.
Really need to keep a duplicate article? Make sure to add a canonical link to the original version in the <head> section of the duplicate article. It will show search engines what the original version of the article is, so they can pass the link juice on to the original version. In the next section you’ll find out how easy this is with Yoast SEO.
With Yoast SEO, it’s very easy to add a canonical link to a post or page. No need for a developer! Just go to the Advanced tab in the Yoast SEO metabox below your post or page. There, you’ll find the Canonical URL field where you can enter the URL of the original article — the one you want to point search engines to:
To optimize your site for audiences in several countries or language regions, you’ll need to optimize both your content and your technical setup.
Let’s start with the content aspects of international SEO. Doing targeted keyword research and writing fresh content for each audience is crucial. Take items for clothing, for example. An American vest is a completely different garment from a British vest, or a Dutch vest, or a French vest, or a Spanish vest… you get the point. We don’t recommend using automated translations. Invest time and resources in proper research and translations with which to optimize your keywords and copy.
Another important aspect of international SEO is picking the right domain structure. Generally, a different ccTLD (e.g. www.yoast.de) for every variation is only a good option for very large companies with big budgets. In most cases, subdirectories (e.g. www.yoast.com/de) are the way to go.
Search engines want to display the right language version of your site to each visitor, whatever country they’re from. To help them, you need to implement hreflang. hreflang is code that tells the search engines what language variations of a page are available and helps prevent duplicate content problems. It’s quite a complex piece of code, but our hreflang guide helps you along the way — or, you can take our Multilingual SEO training.
3. Optimize your site structure
A solid site structure helps your users and the search engines navigate your site. On top of that, it will make clear what pages on your website are most important. There are two pillars to a good site structure: organizing your site and contextual internal linking.
3.1. Organize your site
Organizing your site will help you set up a navigation path from your homepage right to your individual posts and pages, and back. Adding categories and subcategories will bring order to chaos. Ideally, your site should be organized as such:
You should always make sure your homepage is clear and easy to navigate. Cluttering the homepage with too many options will make your site more difficult to understand. Adding a clear menu and breadcrumbs helps your user navigate your site wherever they are.
3.2. Connect your content with contextual internal linking
Besides organizing your site, you need to link up your content within your copy. We call this contextual internal linking because these links always appear within the context of a text.
Contextual internal links set up a network of pages, which points your users to related content. In a post on keyword research, for example, linking to an article on SEO copywriting makes a lot of sense. For search engines, these links provide insight into how pages are related to each other as well.
Always make sure that the number of links to a page reflects the importance of that page. Our ultimate guides get a lot of links from individual posts about related topics. This helps users and search engines understand that these guides are crucial pillars of our site.
When adding a contextual internal link, make sure the link makes sense within the context of the current page. Moreover, always use anchor texts which accurately describe the page you’re linking to. This provides users and search engines with the context they need to assess whether the link is useful.
3.3. Manage your categories and tags
WordPress has two default ways of structuring your content: categories and tags. Categories add hierarchy to your content and group topics broadly. On a website about cooking, pasta could be a category. Tags are non-hierarchical and can be used to describe your post in more detail. Dinner party themes, for example, could be a tag.
When setting up your site structure, pick a number of main categories. Adding them to your menu can be a good idea, especially if you only have a blog. If you have a blog and several products, a different setup might make more sense. Make sure your categories are roughly the same size. If your categories become too big, make subcategories. Your category pages can be great landing pages, especially for eCommerce sites
Tags are useful for users exploring topics, but they are often misapplied. It’s important not to use too many tags, and to use them more than once or twice. Remember, you want to group your content, not just give it a description.
If you want to structure your content differently, WordPress also allows you to create custom taxonomies. Always consider carefully whether your custom taxonomy groups content in a way that makes sense and helps your visitors.
3.4. Manage your archive pages
If you use categories and tags, you will automatically create archive pages. These pages contain a list of the posts and pages within a certain category or tag. Besides categories and tags, there are date-based archive pages and author archives. These archive pages need managing because they cause SEO problems if you don’t.
First of all, you want to prevent search engines from indexing archive pages that don’t make sense on your site. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for this. You do this under SEO → SearchAppearance, where you’ll find the following options on the “Archives” tab:
The settings above are the settings for our site. As you can see, we’ve completely disabled the date-based archives, as we don’t use those. Any date-based link will redirect to our homepage because of this setting. We’ve left the author archives untouched, but we have set the subpages of those archives to be noindex, follow by default. This way, you’ll never land on page two of an archive on our site from the search engines.
If your blog is a one-author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use Yoast SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date-based archive: disable it as we have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…
If you have lots of posts on your WordPress site, you might want to think about how your pagination looks and works. Otherwise, you might find that your best content is ‘buried’ deep in your site, and users and search engines may struggle to find it.
There are two things, in particular, you need to think about:
You should consider customizing how your pagination looks and works so that it’s a bit more helpful for users and search engines. We really recommend checking out the WP-PageNavi plugin!
3.5. Configure your breadcrumbs
You’ll probably want to add breadcrumbs to your posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that looks like “Home > Articles > WordPress SEO“. They are good for two things:
They allow your users to easily navigate your site.
They allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily.
These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one.
To get breadcrumb navigation to show you on your pages, you may need to adapt your single.php and page.php files in your theme, and include the code for breadcrumbs from the Yoast SEO plugin. You find the settings and instructions on how to do that in the SEO → Search Appearance section.
3.6. Manage your HTML & XML sitemaps
You can use XML sitemaps to tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated. Our WordPress SEO plugin automatically configures your XML sitemaps, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We generate sitemaps for your different post types, including your images, and make sure that it generates and loads really quickly.
We intelligently split your sitemaps up into smaller bits, so Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published.
You can check and manage which types of your content, archives, and templates should be included in your XML sitemaps in your SEO → Search Appearance settings. Content types which are set to not show in search results will be automatically excluded from your XML sitemaps.
Lastly, our XML sitemaps support has a pretty complete API, allowing developers to add or change functionality through their plugins and themes. Our own Local SEO, News SEO and Video SEO extensions (which generate their own, specific sitemaps) are built on this API, and, other plugins frequently build their own solutions on top of our system.
For larger or more complex sites, it might make sense to provide an HTML sitemap, too. This is a normal page on your website, which helps users navigate to deeper or more specific content.
4. Speed up your WordPress website
If your website is slow, you risk frustrating your users. That makes them less likely to engage, browse, convert, or visit again. That, in turn, can make them less likely to share your content, link to your pages, or recommend your brand.
In short, speed is an important part of WordPress SEO, and a huge part of the overall user experience. That means that it’s critical to measure and manage your performance — especially for users on mobile or slower connections!
4.1. Measure your site speed
Measuring the speed of your site can be confusing. Different tools give different scores and results, and sometimes even give conflicting information.
Once you’ve identified what and where your bottlenecks are, the next challenge is to make hosting, theme, plugin and performance tweaks to speed things up.
WordPress is the most-used platform for website management in the world. It powers 33% of the web (March 2019). While that is awesome, it also means that WordPress is the most targeted platform for hackers. When running a WordPress website, basic security is dealt with by the platform, but there are things you can do yourselves to make your website more secure.
That starts with your own login. The default username in WordPress is admin, so change that first. Otherwise, a hacker’s first guess for your username is just too easy. The same goes for your password. Passwords like ‘123456’ and ‘welcome01’ are just not enough. Use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass and pick a 20+ character password instead. WordPress also has a number of plugins for two-factor verification, so adding that to your website is easy as pie as well. Do it.
The next thing we’d like you to do is create regular backups. In case your site gets hacked, or something else goes wrong — for instance, when updating a plugin or theme —, it’s important that you revert that change in a heartbeat. Regular backups make sure that this can be done.
In WordPress, there is a wide range of backup options to choose from. Several plugin developers have created nice software solutions for you, so you don’t have the technical hassle of that backup. At Yoast, we recommend and have good experiences with the Blogvault backup solution. That service has additional benefits like creating staging sites and easy migration options.
An easy first step is to limit login attempts. By limiting the amount people can try to login to your website — close your login form after five false logins, for example — you are hardening your install against brute force attacks and other malicious acts targeting that form.
The next thing you need to do is to make sure that your WordPress install, including plugins and themes, is always up-to-date. Updates might fix security issues as well. Make sure to check regularly for updates, and keep your WordPress install up-to-date.
Another important thing to realize is that you are dealing with security every time you add a new user or writer to your WordPress install. There’s an article in the WordPress Codex regarding Roles and Capabilities you should read. It comes down to giving permissions only to those that need it when they need it and only for the time they need it. No need to give a guest blogger administrative rights to your website, right?
Authentication Keys and Salts work in conjunction with each other to protect your cookies and passwords in transit between the browser and web server. Make sure to change these keys when installing a new WordPress instance.
Another easy fix that we’d like to mention is to make sure your template files can’t be edited from the WordPress backend. You can do this in Appearance → Editor. When a hacker managed to get passed your login form, this is really the easiest way to add evil code to your website. Hardening this involves changing your wp-config file.
5.3. Use monitoring and logging
Security is an ongoing process. You need to keep a keen eye on any breaches and keep your website as secure as possible. You could put part of your WordPress security in the hands of, for instance, a company like Sucuri. In case of a hack, they fix this asap. For your own monitoring, you could check your site on a regular basis with their Sitecheck tool. There are a couple of plugins that can help you secure your WordPress site by, for instance, monitor files on your server, like WordFence, iThemes or Sucuri. Pick your plugin of choice, as long as you make sure that security is monitored.
It can also be useful to just keep track of everything that’s happening on your website like file changes and logged in users. There are several plugins and tools for that as well, like WP Security Audit Log. Keeping track of these things makes sure that you can find irregularities in your install and act on these, or find what happened when in case of a security issue.
6. Cater to your mobile visitors
People are always on the move these days. From city to city or conference room to conference room. People are waiting in lines, at cinemas, at the bakery, at lunch. And what do we do when we are on the move or waiting? Indeed, we check the weather, read the news, check social media or order clothes in that new online designer shop our friend texted us via Whatsapp, iMessage or Signal. What’s more, our mobile devices are becoming the de facto way of browsing the web, even when we’re at home, lying on our couch. We visit mobile websites. You, as a website owner, need to cater to your mobile visitors.
According to Statcounter, mobile market share surpassed desktop market share almost all of 2018. This means that if you are only optimizing for desktop visitors, you are not optimizing for the majority of your visitors. Of course, it depends on your specific niche, since those numbers could be different. Google Analytics can give you the exact numbers for your site.
With a mobile market share like this, there is no way you can consider your mobile website an ‘extra’. Maybe it’s time to make mobile the default. It’s time for mobile SEO.
6.1. Make sure your theme is mobile-friendly
After making sure that your site is fast, make sure your website, or rather your theme, is mobile-friendly. Making your website mobile-friendly starts with making sure the links are not too close together, and buttons are easily clickable. Your font should be consistent and shouldn’t be too small and your images not too big, both in file size and dimensions.
We’d like to highlight two specific mobile theme optimizations below.
6.1.1. Use responsive design techniques
Responsive design means that the design of your website adapts to the screen size your visitor is using. You can do this by using specific CSS media queries. We wrote about responsive design way back when, but in the basis, things are still the same. You have to address certain ranges of screen widths and design for those. Most WordPress themes should be responsive by now.
Depending on the part of the world you are targeting, no, depending on how fast their mobile internet is (2G? Already at 5G?), you might want to change a couple of things. Think about how you use images on your site. Are you using any text enhancements or font variations that might hinder a good performance of the mobile website? Responsive design helps you build a more focused website. That brings us to the second optimization:
6.1.2. Prioritize what’s important to mobile users
Take a step back and look at your website: what do your users want to do here? Define the four to six main tasks your user performs on your website and focus on these. Maybe even give the most important task a big fat call-to-action button.
Here’s an example: If you have a local business, the two main tasks might be calling you or finding the directions to your business. That means you could add these as a special mobile menu, for instance, — some kind of bar that is visible all the time. Focus on your visitor’s main tasks and make their life as easy as possible. How to find these top tasks? Ask your visitors! Also, check Google Analytics for the most visited pages on your mobile website. More about Analytics further down this article.
6.2. Consider using AMP
If you are using WordPress, you could serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well. AMP is a 2015 initiative by Google and some major publishers. It allows for fast mobile pages and does so by stripping some of the design. AMP these days is used for both static content and dynamic content like news articles. AMP has pretty strict code requirements, so be sure to validate your AMP pages frequently.
One of the challenges you as a website owner might have is to make sure the AMP version of your website aligns with your branding. Make sure your visitor — used to visiting your desktop/responsive website — still clearly understands that he or she is visiting your pages. Luckily, the difference between design on all these platforms can be minimalized.
If you are looking to kick-start the AMP version of your WordPress website, be sure to check the official AMP plugin. This will add an AMP version of your website after installing the plugin.
7. Analyze and improve your performance
A good SEO campaign relies not only on implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Google has developed two amazing tools to analyze the results of your website and to identify new opportunities where you could focus on in the future.
The first one, for analyzing results, is Google Analytics. By adding Google Analytics to your website, you make sure all user data will be stored in your own account. You can, for instance, check how many visits your pages get, how many of your visitors convert, how many visitors immediately leave your website after landing on a certain page and much more. Within Google Analytics, you can see how visitors behave on your website. Here’s how to track your SEO with Google Analytics.
The second tool is meant to analyze how your website performs and to see how visitors find you in the search engine. That tool is Google Search Console. By exporting and sorting through your search queries and impression data, it’s easy to identify opportunities where you could focus on improving clickthrough rates, content, and/or rankings.
7.1. Set up and integrate Google Analytics
To start with Google Analytics, you need to create an account. Click the ‘Start for free’ button to start. To set up your account, you need to add an Account Name first. This could be your company name. However, when you’re about to add other websites to your account, we recommend choosing a more generic Account Name. Also, you can always change your Account Name later when you want to.
After setting up your account, it’s time to add a property: the website you want to add. Insert the Website Name and the Website URL. Make sure you add the precise URL: http:// or https:// and with or without www for collecting the right data.
After setting up your property you can choose for yourself if you want to enable, some of the data sharing settings. Each data sharing option gives you a clear explanation of what you will be sharing enabling it.
Now you’re almost ready to go! The last step to connect your website to your new Google Analytics account is adding the tracking code to your website. After successfully creating your account and adding a new property you’ll see this screen with your Google Analytics tracking code on top:
This tag needs to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this within WordPress is by installing a Google Analytics plugin such as the MonsterInsights Plugin for WordPress. Installing this plugin, you don’t need to touch the actual code of your website to connect with Google Analytics. You just simply install and activate the plugin, insert your tracking ID and you’re set!
For more technical readers, it’s also possible to add the tag manually to the head of every webpage or to add the tag to Google Tag Manager.
Now your website is connected to Google Analytics, it will start collecting data of your users. Start clicking around to see what all can be found within the data or start reading one of our blog posts about Google Analytics for helpful tips.
Create or sign in to your Google Search Console account.
Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
Verify your website — within the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily copy and paste the meta tag to make it work.
After connecting your website to Google Search Console, it will start collecting data about the performance of your website. Connecting through Yoast SEO, you can also immediately find errors within the WordPress backend and easily create redirects to reduce the number of errors when you have an Yoast SEO Premium subscription.
7.3. Other useful tools
Of course, there are plenty of other useful tools out there to get valuable insights into your website and to find SEO opportunities. Everyone has their own favorite tools, so it’s important to just start playing with different tools to find out what tool brings you what you need most.
There are all-in-one SEO tools which give you a complete overview of your performance and there are more in-depth tools which give you more specific data. Think about site speed tools, duplicate content tools, site analysis tools, keyword research tools and much more.
Some tools we use besides Google Analytics and Google Search Console:
Bing Webmaster Tools
Within the Source/Medium section of Google Analytics, you can see what percentage of your traffic is coming from Bing. When this is a sufficient amount of traffic, you might want to create a Bing Webmaster Tools account as well. Bing Webmaster Tools is the Google Search Console variant for Bing. It shows you your site’s health and performance in the Bing search results.
Ryte is one of the all-in-one SEO suites you could use to analyze on-page SEO. The tool crawls your website to give you a bunch of data on indexation, errors, links, speed and much more. You can try Ryte for free to see what it has in it for you. Ryte even integrates with Yoast SEO.
Google Lighthouse is a Chrome extension which you can download for free. With the Lighthouse tool, you can easily generate a report with scores for Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. This report will give you a quick overview of how your site is doing and you can immediately start working on the areas that need the most attention. You can also use the web-based version on web.dev/measure.
To get insights on how your visitors actually move, scroll and click on your webpages, you could use a tool like Hotjar. This user research tool also has options to add polls or surveys to your site to start doing research. You can try it for free, and the paid packages have competitive prices.
You put a lot of time and effort into the content of your site and making sure that readers can find that content via search engines thanks to SEO, but there are other ways to get people to visit your WordPress site and read your posts. But how do you get and grow such an audience? Simply writing posts and putting these out there won’t do the trick: you need to promote your site!
8.1. Encourage engagement
It’s always fun to interact with your readers, but how do you get them to engage? With engagement, we mean all the different ways people can interact with your post. It could be leaving a comment, sharing it on social media or taking action on the topic in general.
But how do you get people to engage? You can always ask them! Write in an engaging way, and then ask your readers for their opinion. Then respond to these comments in order to keep the conversation going and build a relationship with your readers.
Engagement also benefits SEO, as it shows that your site is alive and active. If you want to dive deeper into blog engagement, you can read our post on how you can increase blog engagement.
8.2. Grow your reach
Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. You should be active on the social media channels where your (potential) audience is present. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are examples of popular social media. It might be a lot to decide on, so you can find out more in our blog post on social media strategy: where to begin?
8.3. Build a mailing list
In addition to using social media to promote your blog, it is often a good idea to invest in a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.
Make sure that you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website. Make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. But, most of all, make sure your newsletter is truly something special! We use MailChimp for our newsletter, which is free up until 2,000 subscribers.
8.4. Amplify your content
The number of blog posts published every day is enormous, which is why it’s becoming much harder to stand out. Your articles have a big chance of getting lost in the vast sea of content. To help your content reach its full potential you need to amplify it.
If your content is original and well-structured, you’re probably able to reach new audiences. Take a look at how you can reach new audiences, beyond your organic reach.
Maybe advertising on Facebook or Instagram might be a good way to reach new audiences for your content? Analyze what channels you already use and decide where you can do more in order to broaden your audience.
This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical SEO tips to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.
You’re competing with every other website and business on the planet for attention, visitors, and outcomes. That means you have to put in a lot of hard work!
But don’t worry — we’re here to help.
So if you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, SEO, and our plugins, then you can subscribe to our newsletter and stay one step ahead of the competition!
In the meantime, want to reread this ultimate WordPress SEO guide?
WordPress now powers over 1/3rd of the top 10 million sites on the web according to W3Techs. Our market share has been growing steadily over the last few years, going from 29.9% just one year ago to 33.4% now. We are, of course, quite proud of these numbers!
The path here has been very exciting. In 2005, we were celebrating 50,000 downloads. Six years later, in January 2011, WordPress was powering 13.1% of websites. And now, early in 2019, we are powering 33.4% of sites. Our latest release has already been downloaded close to 14 million times, and it was only released on the 21st of February.
Over the years WordPress has become the CMS of choice for more and more people and companies. As various businesses use WordPress, the variety of WordPress sites grows. Large enterprise businesses all the way down to small local businesses: all of them use WordPress to power their site. We love seeing that and we strive to continuously make WordPress better for all of you.
We’d like to thank everyone who works on WordPress, which is built and maintained by a huge community of volunteers that has grown alongside the CMS. This incredible community makes it possible for WordPress to keep growing while still also remaining free. And of course, we’d like to thank all of you using WordPress for using it and trusting in it. To all of you: let’s celebrate!
As we announced at YoastCon, we’re working together with Bing and Google to allow live indexing for everyone who uses Yoast SEO. In an update currently planned for the end of March, we’ll allow users to connect their sites to MyYoast, our customer portal. After that we’ll roll out live indexing, which means every time you publish, update, or delete a post, that will be reflected almost instantly into Bing and Google’s indices.
How does this work?
When you connect your site to MyYoast, you’ll authorize it to send messages back and forth. One of the types of messages that will be sent will be when you publish, update or delete anything on your site. We’ll pass that notification on to Bing, and Bing will check the changes within approximately one minute of you hitting the button.
You will not need to connect your site to Bing Webmaster Tools to do this. It’s all handled automatically. For Google the details on this are not entirely determined yet, but a Google Search Console account will probably be required.
We do, of course, recommend making use of both Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console as they can give good insight into why your site is or is not performing well in the search engines.
If you’re reading this on Thursday (Feb 7, 2019), you might still catch one of Bing’s principal engineers, Arnold Overwijk, discuss this live at YoastCon through our live stream on Friday.
We were honestly scared of the WordPress 5.0 release. As it turned out, there were some serious performance issues within Gutenberg that needed addressing. But, all of those have since been addressed. The overall load on our support team has honestly been negligible. WordPress 5.0.3, the current release as of me writing this, is good. In fact, you can get the best version of Yoast SEO we have right now by upgrading to 5.0 and starting to use Gutenberg.
Working with Gutenberg is very nice. In fact, our content team here at Yoast, who were also skeptical in the beginning, have been asking for the team to enable Gutenberg on yoast.com. I think that’s a testament to how awesome it is and I look forward to improving Yoast SEO in it even more!
Sometimes I encounter new “SEO hacks” that people apply, that are actually anti-patterns. One of these new anti-patterns I noticed is the pattern of 301 redirecting all your 404 pages to your homepage. Let me explain why this is a lot like cleaning up your room by throwing everything into a drawer and what the better solution would be.
The premise of this SEO hack
The premise of this hack is that 404 errors are counted by Google, and that through some magic the number of errors on your site affects your site’s overall ability to rank. The solution, that really isn’t a solution, that people come up with is then to start 301 redirecting all error pages to their homepage. Let me quote some of the reasons people give for doing this:
to siphon Google Page Rank (TM) from missing pages to the homepage
If you care about your website, you should take steps to avoid 404 errors as it affects your SEO badly.
I have a website, every time I login to Google webmaster tools, I found many new discovered 404 error links, the problem is not in 404 errors itself, but when Google see them and count them for you!
Let’s be clear: we’ll be the first to tell you that you should keep an eye on your 404 errors and try to fix them where possible. Google indeed shows a graph of your 404 errors in Google Search Console and lowering the number of 404s on your site is often a good idea. That doesn’t mean that your site shouldn’t have any 404s.
Let me go back to my analogy of throwing everything into your drawer when your dad or mom told you to clean up your room. Everything, in this case, means not just the dirty clothes, or your toys, but also that half emptied milk carton, that half-finished sandwich, etc. You know what that makes your drawer when you clean up your room like that? A mess. And soon your whole room will start to stink because you cleaned up like that. This situation is no different.
I verified this with Google before I wrote this article, see John Mueller’s response:
Yeah, it's not a great practice (confuses users), and we mostly treat them as 404s anyway (they're soft-404s), so there's no upside. It's not critically broken/bad, but additional complexity for no good reason – make a better 404 page instead.
As John explains: when you do this blanket redirect, all those URLs are treated as 404s. So none of them spread value. So the premises listed above are all wrong. On top of that, by 301 redirecting all your 404 pages, you throw away the opportunity to find real errors on your site and fix them.
Better solution to 404s
The better solution for this problem of having too many 404s is much more granular. You see, 404 redirects can exist for lots of reasons, and each of those reasons has their own “solution”. For instance:
Someone linked to an article and made a mistake in their URL. If you can redirect that wrong URL to the right article: do so.
Together they account for 240,000+ sites that show this behavior and there are probably a lot more.
Stop 301 redirecting all your 404 pages
Now, don’t take this as though we’re telling you not to 301 redirect 404 errors. We’re telling you to do it granularly. There’s nothing wrong with having a few 404 errors on your site, and you should definitely keep an eye on them. The redirect manager in Yoast SEO Premium can make this really easy to do.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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!