Site migrations are probably not on most people’s fun list. Alas, sometimes they’re necessary to ensure the continued health of a website. Once you’ve decided you need to do a migration, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re doing and make a plan for how to approach things beforehand. Whether you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS, switching your TLD, or moving to another domain: think about what you need to change, and make sure you can easily pinpoint the cause if something goes wrong.

In any case, take into account that you may experience lower traffic, the first few weeks after your migration, simply because your new URLs need to be properly indexed again. If everything goes well and you don’t break things, your rankings will improve over time. Let’s discuss a case where this might happen in some more detail in today’s Ask Yoast!

Anthony Spitery emailed us about his situation:

Our website ranks well in Google but it’s a subdomain of another URL that is no longer registered. We want to move to another host and we’re wondering what the SEO impact would be if we turned the subdomain into the primary domain. Do we lose our ranking?

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

The impact of a site migration

“Well, yes, you’ll lose rankings, because you have to migrate it, so you’ll have to take a bit of a hit. It’s probably a better idea in the long run, though, so I would still do it. But you have to realize that for somewhere between three and six months you will take a loss in traffic. That loss in traffic can vary: I’ve seen less than 10%, but I’ve also seen more than 40%. So, it can be quite a painful experience.

But it’s worth it in the long run, especially if that other domain is not used anymore, because otherwise, that reflects poorly on your business as well. So I would take the hit, and do it. Good luck.”

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In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: Domain names and their influence on SEO »

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As a website gets bigger, it’s often hard to prevent pages from becoming duplicates or near-duplicates of each other. This can cause duplicate content issues. If you have two similar pages, and they are both eligible to rank for a certain keyphrase, the search engine simply doesn’t know which of the two URLs it should send the traffic to. To solve this, you can select a preferred URL, this is what we call the canonical URL.

Same content, multiple URLs

You might, for instance, have a post or product that is attached to two categories and exists under two URLs, like so:

https://example.com/black-shoes/black-and-red-shoes/
https://example.com/red-shoes/black-and-red-shoes/

If these URLs are both for the same product, choosing one as the canonical URL tells Google and other search engines which one to show in the search results.

Canonicals also enable you to point search engines to the original version of an article. Let’s say, you’ve written a post for another party that is published on their website. If you’d like to post it on your site too, you could agree on posting it with a canonical to the original version.

How to detect a canonical URL

A canonical URL can be seen in the source of a webpage, by searching for rel="canonical". It is an element only the search engines see, your users won’t be affected by it.

a canonical in the source code

An example of a canonical in the source code of one of our posts: it refers to the original version of the article that was first published on another website.

When to redirect, when to use a canonical

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Unlike with redirects, users don’t see your canonical. If you can redirect a URL without breaking your site. You should. But if redirecting makes your site illogical, setting the canonical is a viable solution.

Want to learn more? Read our Ultimate guide to canonical URLs.

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Every page on the web has an address, a URL, which stands for ‘Uniform Resource Locator’. Sometimes, content moves from one URL to another URL. That’s when a redirect is needed. A redirect automatically makes a browser go from one URL to another URL.

A redirect can point to any other URL: it doesn’t need to point to the same website. Redirects to another domain are sometimes referred to as cross-domain redirects.

Types of redirects

There are several ways of making a browser redirect. Redirects can be divided into two classes: serverside redirects and client-side redirects. Each of these can then be sub-divided into several types.

Serverside redirects

Serverside redirects are performed directly on the server and result in a tiny bit of content being sent to the browser, in so-called HTTP status headers. The browsers then know where to go and will follow immediately. These HTTP headers have a code for the type of serverside redirects, and a new location to which the browser should take you.

Redirect type Use case Browser impact SEO Impact
301 A permanent redirect, used for when a page has moved or for when a page has been deleted and similar content can be found elsewhere. Browsers will cache a 301 redirect and immediately perform it again next time without needing to fetch the original URL again, until the cache is cleared. Search engines follow the redirect and will add the new URL to the index. Links pointing to the old URL will be counted towards the ranking of the new URL.
302 A temporary redirect, used for when a page needs to be temporarily moved, or for when the original URL should always be requested. This is for instance the case with language or geo-location based redirects. Browsers will not cache a 302 redirect, so the server will be getting a request for the original URL every time. Search engines will follow the redirect, but maintain the old URL in their index. Because too many systems use a 302 by default, when a 301 should instead be used, search engines tend to treat long-standing 302s like 301s in many ways.
307 An “improved” temporary redirect, that will always be treated as temporary by search engines. Browsers will never cache 307 redirects. Search engines might not always follow 307 redirects as they’re deemed temporary.
308 Hardly ever used, a 308 means “follow this redirect and never go to the old URL again”. Browsers will hard cache 308 redirects. Similar to a 301.

Client-Side redirects

A client-side redirect is the result of some code that runs in the browser and then redirects the ‘client’, the browser, to another URL. To be able to run that code, it needs to be sent to the browser first, and therefore this is always a slower solution. Client-side redirects should thus be prevented as much as possible.

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There are two types of client-side redirects: the so-called meta refresh, which refreshes the page to another URL after a particular period of time, or a JavaScript redirect, which changes the window’s URL after that code has been run. The SEO impact of both types of client-side redirects is hard to quantify, but usually, it’s not as reliable as serverside redirects.

When to create a redirect

Redirects should be created when:

  • You’re moving from one system to another and change URLs because of that.
  • You’ve deleted a page and there is similar content available elsewhere.
  • You’re merging the content of several pages into one.

Read more: Which redirect should I use? »

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Writing content for another site as guest author or blogger can have many benefits. It could help you get more exposure, especially if you’re writing for a site that’s a lot bigger than yours. Working with other sites also gives you the opportunity to build potentially worthwhile (business) relationships and broaden your network. You might even get paid for your guest articles. Another obvious advantage, of course, is gaining valuable backlinks to your site.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should start sending out loads of mediocre articles to every blog that’s even remotely relevant to your own. A better strategy: guest-write great content for the right website, perhaps a few guest posts, and engage with the audience: you’ll surely get noticed.

But, once you’ve invested a lot of time in writing a great article that you’re very proud of, odds are you also want to put that content on your own site. Preferably without creating duplicate content issues. What are your options, in that case?

Yossi sent us a question that shows this dilemma:

I sometimes write articles for a third party website. I’d also like to put them on my own site. But I noticed the other site set a rel=”canonical” attribute pointing to their page. So, how can I put the articles I wrote on my site and benefit from them, without getting a penalty from Google?

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

Reposting guest-authored content

“The problem is, Yossi, if you publish them on that other site first, and that other site is bigger than yours, then the chance of you ranking with that content is close to zero.

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So, if you want to rank with content, you need to decide where to put it first, and otherwise, you have to put a canonical on that third-party website to yours. But if they’re paying you to write that, or if there’s another sort of deal, they’ll probably not be willing to do that. So, decide where you want to rank with content, publish it there first, otherwise put a canonical from the page that you want not to rank to the page that you want to rank.

But if you can’t do any of that, then I would not go through the trouble of publishing it again on your own site. Because it really doesn’t make all that much sense. And you’d be better off just publishing a short snippet on your own site, saying, “Hey, I wrote this on that other site.” Good luck.”

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In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

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As much as we advocate holistic SEO here at Yoast, there will always be people turning to the dark side, employing less than savory techniques for their own gain. When someone targets a website with actions intended to lower its ranking in the SERPs, it’s called ‘negative SEO’.

One way people can try to damage a site’s rankings, is by getting loads of unnatural, shady links to point to a website. Now, you shouldn’t worry about being the target of a negative SEO attack like that the moment you notice a drop in your rankings! In most cases, the cause is something else. But, if you ascertained that there’s suddenly a great many shady backlinks to your site, it may be time to take action. Google’s disavow links tool allows you to ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site. But is it OK to use this tool, and is it always necessary? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Shant emailed us about this predicament:

I noticed about 18,000 links to my domain in Google Search Console from a few unethical websites. I suspect someone is targeting me with negative SEO, but my rankings are currently not affected. Should I still disavow these 18,000 links to my domain or could this harm my ranking? Or will Google’s algorithm realize this is a negative SEO effort and ignore them?

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

Dealing with bad backlinks

“Well, if you don’t want those links, then disavowing them doesn’t really hurt you. If you know how to disavow them, by all means do it. And you can disavow at a domain level, so if they only come from a few domains then just disavow those entire domains. If they’re not links you’re proud of, then they’re probably not helping you rank either.

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But, if it’s not really hurting your rankings at the moment, then you can also just do nothing because, yes, Google will usually figure out a lot of this by itself and say, “Hey, these domains are really, really shady and we should not allow these links to do anything. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: Clean up your bad backlinks »

 

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Pinterest is a pretty popular platform these days. It’s basically a search engine, with a social aspect. So, making your images appealing for sharing on Pinterest can be a great idea. And not just if you have a mom-blog or DIY site! If you use Pinterest right, it can help you drive more traffic to your site, put your products in the spotlight, or gain more visibility for your business.

Pinterest images often have a specific ‘look’. Tall images are most compatible with the way the Pinterest feed is designed. Some text in the image can also work well, to get people’s attention and give them an idea of where the image will lead them. While an image like this is well-suited for Pinterest, you probably don’t want to put it on your website like that. But you still want to provide people who pin your image straight from your post with a good Pinterest image. So, what to do? There are ways to use HTML code to hide a Pinterest image ‘underneath’ the regular images in your post. That way, people get the tall Pinterest image when they pin from your post. But, what does Google think about such practices?

Blake Score emailed us her question on the subject:

What is your opinion about hiding Pinterest sized images in your post with HTML code? Doing this makes for a strong pin when people pin to Pinterest straight from your post. It seems to work from a Pinterest SEO perspective, but what does Google think?

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

Hiding Pinterest images in your post

I honestly don’t think Google minds as much, but I hate all the hacks I’m seeing around how people get their proper pages on Pinterest. So, we are currently talking to Pinterest about improving that entire workflow. About maybe allowing for specific meta tags for Pinterest, so that we can just put an image like that in a meta-tag and not have to put it hidden in a page, which is a dirty hack and can always lead to problems in the long run.

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So, for now it works. Keep doing it because it’s worth the traffic. In the long run, I hope we’ll come up with a better solution. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read on: Pinterest Marketing for your business »

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Using testimonials on your site (the right way) is always beneficial, whether your goal is more sales, or more subscribers, etc. Providing social proof that your product or blog is awesome will help convince people that giving your their money or time is worth their while. While you can certainly use written testimonials, video testimonials are a great way to show that other people, real people, are happy with what you have to offer.

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A good testimonial on video should be authentic and to-the-point. You don’t want it to look scripted, so it’s believable. And if it’s too long and too many aspects of a product are covered, viewers will get bored and won’t remember the most important takeaways. So, in short, have a nice and relaxed conversation with the person giving the testimonial, but think about what you want highlight in this testimonial beforehand, so the conversation can focus on that. After you invest your time and effort into creating the perfect video testimonial, you’ll obviously want to put it to good use. But, how do you do that?

Jessica Martinieri was wondering the same thing:

I’m going to employ video testimonials from my company. Besides adding these videos to my website what more can I do to fully benefit from them and spread the word? Is simply adding them to Facebook and other social media okay?

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

Using video testimonials

“Well, simply adding them is not enough. You have to share them, you have to be proud of them and show why you’re proud of them.

You can also ask the people that you’ve taken the testimonial from to share them as well. Use them in any way that you can. You can also optimize them a bit. If you’ve done specific things for people that you’d like them to talk about, make sure that they talk about that. Also, add a transcript to those videos. And put them on YouTube, and people will find you on YouTube for the terms mentioned in that video. Sometimes it’s that simple. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read on: Testimonials: Increase your visitor’s trust »

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It’s a phenomenon that’s probably a bit surprising when you first hear about it: when paying for Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords), you may just notice your organic rankings going up as well. This may not immediately make sense to you. After all, why would Google give you a ‘free boost’ or something like that?

Truth is, investing in Google Ads won’t directly affect your organic rankings. But that doesn’t mean it’s just a coincidence if you notice your organic rankings and/or traffic improve afterwards. So, what’s going on then? What’s the correlation here?

Mathias was wondering the same thing, and sent us this question:

Since we started paying Google Ads [AdWords] for main keywords, we’ve also doubled organic traffic, mostly with related other keywords (and sites). Does advertising with Google Ads [AdWords] affect organic SERPs? Or do you see any indication for a correlation between paid and organic traffic?

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

Google Ads and organic rankings

“This is a much-debated topic in the SEO world. The thing is, that as your overall site engagement increases, your site usually does better in search as well. It doesn’t matter whether that increase in site engagement comes from Ads [AdWords] traffic, Facebook traffic, or anywhere else. If you get more traffic to your site, more people search for your brand, and are talking about you online, you will do better in the search. It’s that simple.

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So, it doesn’t relate directly to you paying for Ads [AdWords], it relates to you having more website traffic overall, and to people talking more about your brand. It works like that. And yes, that makes it worth even more, I guess. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma to which you can’t find the answer? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: SEO basics: What does Google do? »

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We’ve said it time and again: site speed is a crucial aspect of your SEO. That’s why we often write about site speed tools, speed optimization, and other things you need to know to make your site lightning fast. One factor in site speed is image optimization: on most sites, images will play a part in loading times. So, giving your image SEO some thought will pay off.

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Besides resizing and compressing your images to improve loading times, there’s the option to implement ‘lazy loading’ on your site. Lazy loading means that an image or object on your site doesn’t load until it appears in your visitor’s browser. For example: if a page has 8 images, only those that appear ‘above the fold’ load right away, while the others load as the user scrolls down. This can significantly improve speed, especially on pages that contain a lot of images. There are several plugins you can use to add lazy loading to your WordPress site. But is there really no catch? Will Google still index all your images?

MaAnna emailed us, wondering exactly that:

I’m testing the lazy load image function in WP Rocket. In online testers like WebPage Test, the waterfall doesn’t show the images loading, but when I do a Fetch and Render in Google Search Console all images on a page are shown. Can Google deal with lazy load and still index our images, as Fetch and Render seems to indicate?

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

Can Google deal with Lazy Load?

“Yes, it can. It renders the page, it waits a bit and it scrolls down the page a bit to generate all the events that it needs to generate to make sure that it has loaded the entire page.

So yes, it can deal with that. You’re very fine using something like that lazy load image function. Google actually has code itself as well, in which it promotes the lazy loading of images because it really enhances people’s experience because pages get faster using lazy load. So, by all means, do use it. Use it well. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma to which you can’t find the answer? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: Does site speed influence SEO? »

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In the week of August 1st Google rolled out a “broad core algorithm update.” We know it was that because they said so on Twitter. There was quite a bit of buzz around this update. Some sites “won”, others “lost”, which is logical because, in the end, this is pretty much a zero-sum game. We’ve been trying to make sense of what happened; this post explains what we know.

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Why is it called the Medic update?

It’s called the Medic update because Barry Schwartz, one of the most prolific writes in the search industry, called it that. It doesn’t mean this update only affected medical sites.

What do we know about this update?

In reality: not much. Google hasn’t said anything specific, and repeat their standard party line:

If you think this isn’t helpful: we’re sorry. It probably is the best advice you’re going to get around this update or any update for that matter. You shouldn’t “just” build great content though. Great content has to fit with the goal of your site, whether that’s informing people, selling products or something else.

But what does “the data” say?

There are a lot of tools out there, like SearchMetrics and Sistrix, which check the rankings on millions of keywords and tell us what changed. From looking at it, you might get the idea that you understood what happened. Except there’s a problem. Even by looking at the top 50 domains in either tool, you’d still be looking at only a fraction of the data. So: all of what follows is by no means science. It’s anecdotal.

We see some trends after this medic update that are interesting:

Changes for brand searches

For searches towards large brands — think KLM, IBM, McDonald’s, etc. — Google seems to have slightly changed what they show. This now almost always includes a “jobs at” type result, which resulted in a huge uptick in those rankings for some large job sites.

Commercial sites doing slightly better

On the whole, commercial sites seem to be doing better. Among the examples we see are eBay in the US and Germany and Marktplaats (which is owned by eBay) in the Netherlands, but also non-eBay commercial sites. When they do better, content sites in those results have taken a hit, and some price comparison sites also seem to have taken a slight hit.

Is the Medic update about intent?

We can be honest about this: no, we do not see an overall trend. In discussing this, we have a hunch of what Google tried to do with this update: it seems to try and show results that better match the intent of the search. This would fit with another bit of news that came out of Google recently: updated search quality rater guidelines.

Google has teams of search quality raters that look at sites manually and score them according to a manual. This manual recently got an update, and one of the most interesting changes in that update was a new section about the “beneficial purpose” of a page:

Google has also added the concept of “beneficial purpose” to the Quality Rater Guidelines, where raters are not just asked to rate the quality of the content, but also consider whether the page has a beneficial purpose or use to being on the site. What would a visitor to the site gain?

The idea of the “purpose” of a page ties in with the intent a searcher has for a query. Let me explain: If I’m searching for a “LEGO minifgures display case”, I either want to learn how to make one, or where to buy one. Pages in my results should either explain to me how to build one or try to sell me one. If I search for “buy LEGO minifigures display case”, Google can leave out all the pages explaining how to build one.

Our best guess as to what the Medic update did was improve that “match” between intent and results. All of the changes above would make sense with that point of view. The “problem” is that if that’s true, Google’s advice probably is still the best advice on how to do better: build a site that people want to visit. A site that matches people’s search queries and their search intent, and you’ll do just fine.

Read more: When Google changes up: Should I abide every decision they make? »

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