“I love that WordPress allows you to raise your voice, no matter who you are, and where you are located.” That’s just one of the many inspiring quotes of Carole Olinger, our third interviewee in this series on open source. Carole is Community Manager at Plesk, and a true WordPress Community junkie. Learn why she feels every single contribution matters!

Q. Why is open source so important to you?

So far, I’ve only been in touch with the WordPress project and its inspiring community. The contribution of all the fellow open source contributors allows to grow and to maintain projects like WordPress which today covers one third of the internet.

I love that WordPress allows you to raise your voice, no matter who you are, and where you are located. This is true when it comes to spread a message that is important to you, but also, it gives everybody incredible opportunities to run their own businesses, get hired remotely by companies all around the globe and make a living. Open source projects help to reduce boundaries like the local economy, limited travel opportunities and disabilities, to name only a few.

I’m convinced that open source communities, in general, share values that I would consider important to myself, as the WordPress community does.

Carole Olinger at WordCamp Utrecht

Q. In what way do you contribute to open source projects?

Since I joined my very first WordCamp two years ago, I consider myself a WordPress community junkie. I wanted to get more involved with the inspiring people that make WordPress so I started to volunteer at WordCamps very soon. In the meantime, I’m a triple WordCamp organizer myself, I continue to volunteer and I speak at multiple conferences. Since August 2017, I am the WordPress Community Manager for (WebOps and hosting platform) Plesk, which allows me to contribute a considerable amount of my work time to the open source project. Also, I arrange sponsorships for WordCamps, which allows me to act as an enabler, always on the lookout for win-win situations.

WordCamps would not be as affordable as they are right now (average is 20€ per conference day), without the help of all the sponsors. On the other hand, getting involved with the community in person during an event allows sponsors to find out about the needs of actual and potential customers and to collect valuable feedback about their own product.

Q. Who is your open source hero?

There are for sure some people that come to my mind, but I think it would be unfair to name only a few, just because it happens that I know more about them and their individual contributions.

I’m deeply convinced that every single contribution matters, independent of the amount of time (or money) they spend or the impact they might have. I’m aware that I’m in a very privileged situation as I can partly contribute to open source projects during paid work time. Other people have to make choices, because contributing time equals unpaid hours and/or less time with their families. I see people getting into trouble, because they are so passionate about open source, that they don’t put themselves first anymore. And I think, it’s also our duty as a community to have an eye on these people.

Therefore, everybody who manages to contribute to an open source project in a healthy way is my open source super hero.

Q. Does your company encourage people to be involved with open source?

The company I work with allows me to contribute a considerable amount of my work time to the organization of WordCamps. Also, some of my colleagues are regularly contributing to WordPress and other open source projects inside and outside their work time. In my opinion, it’s important to understand that it is necessary to give something back to open source projects, if your business is mainly or partly running on these. I’m happy to be able to work with a company who shares these values.

Carole Olinger presenting

Q. When and what was your first open source contribution?

I remember that pretty well. I volunteered in autumn 2016 at 2 German WordCamps. During the second one, WordCamp Cologne, people convinced me to attend the Contributor Day. I was totally scared, that it wouldn’t be the right place for me, as a non-technical person. I joined the Polyglots team. At the end of the day, I had localized a theme into German, which got committed the same day. This made me very proud and empowered me to get more involved into the community. Only a few days later, I got involved into the organization of a WordCamp.

Q. Do you have to be a developer to be involved with open source? How about diversity within the open source community?

That’s what probably most people think and that’s what I thought as well. But from my own experience in the WordPress project, I can tell that it’s not true. You can get involved in many ways. You can translate plugins or themes, write documentation, help to organize events or the community itself, to name only a few possibilities.

The community I belong to has strong values, also when it comes to strive for more diversity. As a non-technical woman, I totally appreciate the efforts and the Code of Conduct, which in my eyes is the reason why WordCamps are mostly welcoming, inclusive and safe events.

But there are still things that can be improved. Representation matters and I personally don’t see enough women and other underrepresented minorities as team leads, part of event organizer teams or speakers. I’m convinced that this has an impact on the repartition of people. Whether they’re willing to contribute to the different teams of open source projects, to speak up in general and to attend events. And diversity does not just increase because we call for it. Proactive initiatives are the way to go!

Q. I want to contribute to open source! Where do I start?

Get involved with the community, online and in person. Attend meetups, conferences, online meetings. Talk about what you like about your open source project but also about what you want to see improved. Find out, how you can help with your own skills. In the end, you could be the one to initiate the change that you need to move forward.

Read more: 3 reasons why open source is awesome »

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In our Yoast SEO Premium 9.0 release, we added great functionality that will help you write SEO-friendly texts. We’ve been working on it for some time now, and the software and our techniques are really smart and advanced. So, at Yoast, we’re very proud of our premium SEO analysis. But why do YOU need this? Will it help you? What’s in it for you?

We’d like to celebrate the release of Yoast SEO 9.0 with you, so Yoast SEO Premium is on sale!

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Google is smart; we need to be smart too!

Google can read texts. It can figure out what a text is about. In the old days, you needed to stuff your text with keywords to make sure people would find you. Google does not like that anymore. It makes your text a terrible read. Google understands that. Content stuffed with keywords do not rank high anymore. You need to use synonyms and related keywords in your content to make it pleasant to read and to make it rank!

For instance, if you search for [shoes for dancing], Google shows you results for [dancing shoes], [ballet shoes] and [hip hop shoes] and other types of dancing shoes. The exact focus keyword is not as important as it used to be. In order to optimize a text, you need next level text optimization. You need to include different word forms (plurals, different word order) synonyms and related keywords.

A [shoes for dancing] search shows these results in Google:

If you scroll down you’ll see these ‘regular’ search results:

And a bit further down, you’ll find these related searches:

Word forms, synonyms and related keyphrases

If you optimize your post in Yoast SEO, you’ll be asked to fill out your focus keyphrase. That’s the search term you want to be found for the most. The focus keyphrase will remain very important. People actually search for that specific term. They expect it to pop up in the search engines and are most likely to click on results with that term.

If you optimize your post in the premium SEO analysis (and you’re writing in English), our plugin will automatically detect whether or not you use different word forms of your focus keyphrase. If you’re optimizing for ‘dancing shoes’ for example, our plugin will recognize ‘dancing shoe’ as well. Above that, you’ll be able to fill out synonyms and related keywords. Our premium SEO analysis will help you to write a text that is optimized for Google in 2019!

And it’s super easy! Just add your synonyms below your focus keyphrase in the Yoast meta box:

And click on the ‘plus add related keyphrase’ to add a related keyphrase you want to optimize your post for:

Why in Premium?

Our free SEO plugin will help you to write an awesome, readable and SEO-friendly text. If you want to go beyond that, you’ll need to go Premium. We’re trying to create software as smart as Google is. That takes a lot of smart and talented people, a lot of effort and resources. We are now able to recognize different word forms in English, and we’re planning on making it available in many more languages.

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High-quality content is more important than ever. The number of online competitors is ever growing. And with Facebook referral traffic going down, organic traffic is more important than ever. In order to outrank your competition, you need a kick-ass website with high-quality content. Take your SEO copywriting to the next level.

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Two weeks ago, Joost shared his vision on open source. Today, we introduce yet another WordPress fanatic: Felix Arntz. As a freelancer Felix works part-time for Yoast. Half of that time he’s working on and consulting with the SEO plugin, and the other half Yoast sponsors him to contribute to WordPress core, mainly focusing on the multisite functionality. Learn what open source means to him and get pro tips on how to start contributing to an open source project yourself!

Q. Why is open source so important to you?

“For me personally, there are tons of reasons other than that I simply believe in it. Open source has given me work, new friends, the chance to travel the world, the trust and resources to improve as a developer and as a person. It has given me a passion, and every day when I go to work (which means I get up out of my bed and turn on the computer, in whichever country that may be), I’m looking forward to it.”Felix Arntz - open source

Q. In what way do you contribute to open source projects?

“I have been active in the contributing to open source through the WordPress ecosystem for over five years now. It really escalated when I started contributing to WordPress core, which was in mid-2015 when I went to my first WordCamp. I am a core committer and regularly involved in WordPress core development, with weekly meetings, discussing tickets, writing and reviewing patches. I also quite regularly publish open source plugins or libraries, and even small code snippets that have helped me, but might also help someone else – that’s the beauty of open source: in some ways you’re crowdsourcing your development. Occasionally I also contribute to open source projects that I’m interested in outside of the WordPress bubble, to get some knowledge about other projects and how they are organized.”

Q. Who is your open source hero? 

“Phew, that’s a tough one. There surely are many folks I admire. For a long time, Joost de Valk was my biggest idol, no kidding! He achieved so much from initially just writing a simple, good plugin, which is amazing and Yoast is now able to influence the ecosystem in so many great ways. By now I’ve personally come to realize that running my own company is not something I strive for because I prefer to focus on development full-time. I guess we’re all different in our visions, and I am beyond grateful to be a part of the team that he, and the board, have created and shaped.

More recently, I’d say Alain Schlesser and Jeremy Felt are two people I want to highlight. I have learned a lot from them about development and open source, and they have enabled me to do great things around open source. I’m happy to call them friends, as much as the distance permits it, and to collaborate with them in the respective WordPress core areas, and I hope that through our discussions and with my contributions I am able to give them back something and support them as well.”

Q. Does open source say something about the quality of the product?

“I wouldn’t generalize that open source has better quality than closed source software. We all know how WordPress core is written, right? However, in my opinion, open source software has the better foundation to achieve high quality. Open source is powered by the developers, designers, accessibility experts, marketers, project managers, copywriters, translators, ambassadors, contributors of any kind, of the entire world – while closed source is usually powered by the folks from a single company.

Something else I want to highlight is security. Sometimes you hear arguments like “WordPress can so easily be hacked because its code is public”. While it is true that people with evil intentions can find a security hole easier in that way, the same goes for all the hackers that want to use their powers in a good way, and, believing in the good in the world, I think there are way more of the latter category. A large number of security issues in WordPress are uncovered by people who aren’t even typically active in the WordPress community, and this is thanks to open source. While companies that run a popular software usually have a solid security team, there is no chance that those few people are better than the entire pool of security experts who look at open source.”

Q. When and what was your first open source contribution?

“That would probably be the first WordPress plugin that I ever published, which was in early 2013. It made embeds in WordPress responsive, back then responsive was more of a buzzword than it is today. Many WordPress themes back then didn’t do a great job at it themselves. I would think that the plugin has been redundant for several years now, but there are still more than 2,000 people using it at this point, and even though I cannot maintain it anymore, it still has a special place in my heart.”

Q. How do you learn from open source? And how can others learn from open source?

“There are so many talented people in open source from which you can learn. Like I said, talents from all over the world can participate. In the same way, other people who contribute to open source will learn from you. Especially for me as a freelancer, contributing to open source meant being part of a team, which I didn’t have in my day-to-day job otherwise. The open source community and its spirit has elevated me to become a much better developer, and maybe even a better person.”

Felix Arntz workshop

Q. Why is open source important to everyone?

“WordPress’ goal is to “democratize publishing”. In that regard, I see the goal of open source to be democratizing software development. Anyone can get involved and influence a project in ways that would be impossible to do in a closed source project. If you see the project moving into a direction where it contradicts your vision, you are free to create a fork, and either maintain it just for your own usage or gather fellow folks who share the same ideas. The GPL for example, the license that WordPress is based on, allows you to do pretty much anything with open source software. The important restriction is that anything derived from it needs to follow the GPL itself, which in my opinion isn’t a restriction though. It just causes more people to learn about the benefits of open source.”

Q. I want to contribute to open source! Where do I start?

I love to hear that! How you start of course somewhat depends on the project you want to contribute to. Most open source communities I have gotten in touch with were supportive and welcoming. They always hope to chat to a new contributor that will stick around and get more involved – no pressure though! Due to my involvement with the WordPress community, I can only give more precise tips about that specific community, but I’m sure that a lot applies to other communities as well.

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Something I strongly recommend is to attend an event of the retrospective community. By meeting people in person, you get a much better impression of how the people think, how they act, what they believe in, compared to when you only sit in front of your screen. Really, don’t be scared to go to an event just because you are completely new. Meeting the community will definitely get you more excited if you had a good feeling about it, or it will keep you away from it if that community doesn’t feel right to you. The latter might sound negative, but if that happened, trust me, you wouldn’t want to be a part of that project anyway.

It’s much more likely though that you will fall in love with the community and become more passionate about contributing to it. This is important because by following up on your contributions, staying in the discussions around a bug or enhancement ticket, you can make a much bigger impact. If you are interested in contributing to WordPress core, there are several resources about getting started. I have also given a few sessions at WordCamps about it, as on-boarding new people is a high priority for me. I hope to see you around sometime!

Read on: 3 reasons why open source is so very awesome »

The post Start contributing to open source: Pro tips from Felix appeared first on Yoast.

WordPress is open source. Yoast SEO is open source. At Yoast, we’re open source fanboys (and fangirls). We’ve talked about it, we’ve written about it. And still, lots of people do not know why open source is so unique. Most people do not even know what open source software is or how it’s made. That’s why we’re starting a series of interviews with people that love open source as much as we do. We’ll even search outside of WordPress. Let’s start this series with an interview with our very own Joost de Valk, founder and CEO of Yoast.

Q. Why is open source important to you?
“Open source is important to me because it’s what allowed me to learn how to code. I learned to write code by looking at other people’s code. Another reason why open source is so very important to me is that I have a deep feeling that this is how software should be developed and how knowledge should be shared. This might sound a bit grand, but as human kind, it just doesn’t make sense to develop the same things over and over again.”

Q. In what way do you contribute to open source projects?

I actively contribute to WordPress Core myself. In addition, as a company, we contribute to open source platforms by donating development time, design time, marketing time and money.

Q. Who is your open source hero?

“Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. He’s a hero because he open sourced Wikimedia, the platform on which Wikipedia is build. In a way – with Wikipedia itself – he actually open sourced all knowledge. That’s just really awesome.”

Q. Do you have to be a developer to be involved with open source?

“No, absolutely not. Every open source project needs copywriters, translators, marketers, designers and project managers in order to succeed. Also, we need people with lots of other skill sets for, for instance, organizing a conference. I think that at Yoast, about half of our contribution is not code.”

Q. When and what was your first open source contribution?

“My first open source contribution was a test case for WebKit, the core of Safari and Chrome. This was at the end of 2005. I’ve written hundreds of test cases for WebKit and I started blogging about that on WordPress.”

Q. Does open source say anything about the quality of a product?

“Open source itself is not a guarantee of quality. There’s good and there’s bad open source software. However, with open source software, you’ll always be able to hire a developer to work on a product, even if a product is abandoned. You’ll never end up with a completely dead product because you can always reach the code. I think that is a major advantage of open source software as compared to closed source software.

Q. How do you learn from open source software?

“Open source code is visible to everybody. Because of that, you can learn from other people’s code. You can see and learn from the solutions of other people. Working on open source projects also means that you can discuss and collaborate with others who are working on the same product.

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The developers at Yoast learn from each other, but they also learn from all the other developers in the WordPress ecosystem. Because of that, because they learn from so many, different developers, they quickly improve themselves. They become better developers. I really think that people severely underestimate how important this is.”

Who’s next?

Any ideas on whom to interview next? Which open source fanatic should I reach out to? Let me know!

Read more: Why our mission is: SEO for everyone »

The post A big shout-out to open source appeared first on Yoast.

Last week, I posted an article about the current status concerning Facebook traffic. I shared the fact that for Yoast.com, the Facebook referral traffic is decreasing. I also asked you all whether or not you noticed something similar and invited you to share your tactics to deal with such a decrease. You left lots and lots of interesting replies, so first of all, thank you for that! Most people noticed a decrease in Facebook traffic as well. Today, I’ll share three promising tactics that were shared in the comments.

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Facebook traffic is decreasing

The majority of the people who left a comment on my blog post also noticed a big drop in referral traffic from Facebook in the past few months. Quite some people left Facebook altogether. These people didn’t notice a drop in their traffic. Most people are less active on Facebook than they used to be, but they still use it. Also, three people responded that they didn’t notice any difference. Overall, it is safe to say that the large majority of people replying to my post did notice a significant drop in Facebook referral traffic. But what can you do about it?

Tips and tactics worth trying!

I found three tips and tactics when I was reading through the dozens of comments, and I believe that they are definitely worth trying. I am not at all sure to what extent these actually work. However, these are all things that we will be trying out on our own Facebook account in the near future. So perhaps they will be of use to you as well.

Tip 1:  Posts without external links

One of our readers suggested that Facebook posts that contain external links have far less reach than those with just text or posts with video’s or images. In her case, video (and especially live video), was performing the best.

Another reader suggested pretty much the same thing. He also added that a lively discussion on the Facebook-platform can pay off.

This could be a good approach, since Facebook likes it when people stay on Facebook, instead of clicking to another website. It could well be that Facebook treats posts without external links in it differently and that these are shown to more people. We’ll definitely try this one out!

Tip 2: Facebook groups

Several commenters pointed out that although Facebook referral traffic was going down, Facebook groups were still very active. Sharing posts in active groups does seem to be paying off. Time to get active in those groups! Perhaps we should start a Yoast group on Facebook?

Tip 3: Lengthy posts

One of our readers suggested writing longer posts. His experience was that lengthy Facebook posts performed much better than short posts.

This is easy to experiment with. Adding a bit more text to a post is not that hard. We’ll be experimenting with longer and shorter texts in our posts. I’ll keep you informed on the results of this tactic!

Conclusion

Although Facebook referral traffic is decreasing, there are some tactics we can use in order to get some of that traffic back. Perhaps investing in lengthy, well-written Facebook posts without external links will do the trick. You will not get those people to your site then, but your reach on Facebook will remain intact. That’s something to consider. We’re going to try out all three tactics we discussed in this post. We’ll keep you informed about our findings!

Read more: How to optimize your Facebook reach »

The post New tactics to improve your Facebook reach appeared first on Yoast.

Facebook is becoming less important as a source of traffic to your site. We wrote about it before, but mid August a lot of internet-sources reported that Facebook “did not care about publishers”. Joshua Benton wrote a nice and nuanced article about the matter, in which he also shared some interesting statistics. Facebook is indeed referring less and less to publishers. In this post, I’ll share what Yoast has noticed in decreasing traffic from Facebook, I’ll share my personal view on the matter and I’ll discuss our current strategy in dealing with it.

What have we noticed at Yoast

At Yoast, we’ve noticed our traffic from Facebook is going down. We share blogposts on our timeline and the number of visitors we attract to our website has halved in the past year-and-a-half. Overall, our traffic is going up though. We still notice a nice growth in organic search (which is a good thing, considering we’re selling SEO).

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Yoast, of course, isn’t a classic publisher, like an online newspaper or a online magazine. However, we use Facebook primarily to share our blogposts. So, I think Facebook pretty much treats us as a publisher. And indeed, we’ve seen our traffic going down.

My personal experience as a Facebook-addict

I am a Facebook user. I use it professionally, for my work at Yoast. Besides that, I am also in a few Facebook groups that give me information on WordPress and SEO. But most of all, I love catching up with friends and family through Facebook. I post pictures of my children and write little anecdotes about my life.

In the last few months, I’ve noticed a lot of people leaving Facebook, or spending far less time there. Some friends left a while ago because of the privacy issues. But others are leaving too. I notice lots of people are sharing less on their timelines. And I am also posting far less on my timeline myself. Some Facebook groups remain very active though. And lots of people aren’t really disappearing; many of them are joining Instagram.

If people are really leaving Facebook and turning to other social media platforms, traffic from Facebook will decrease even more. And if that happens, I’ll need to find another platform to share those amusing anecdotes about my life ;-).

What to do?

A while ago, I wrote a post on what to do if your traffic from Facebook is decreasing. Engaging content, personal accounts, working with influencers and advertising are all possibilities to increase your visibility on Facebook. These are valid options, which we’re working on as well. For Yoast, investing in other social media platforms is now also becoming a new very important strategy.

This week, I decided to put some genuine effort into the Yoast Instagram account. If Facebook indeed turns out to be on its way down, now is the time to dive into ‘new’ social media platforms. I’ve challenged myself to double the current amount of followers on Instagram before Christmas. I’m now experimenting with writing SEO tips in an Instagram Stories format. I really enjoy exploring new possibilities, but I am not a professional yet. If you would like to witness (and help with) my enthusiastic (and somewhat sad) attempts to double our followers, please follow the Yoast Instagram account.

What about you?

I am curious if you noticed anything different on your Facebook timeline (personal or professional) in the past six months? Are you a publisher of some sort? And I would also like to know what your tactic is. Are you focusing on different social media platforms? And which one? Or is Facebook still the most important one?

Read more: As Facebook’s algorithm changes, SEO becomes crucial »

The post Facebook traffic: What’s the current status? appeared first on Yoast.

Keyword cannibalization means that you have various blog posts or articles on your site that can rank for the same search query in Google. If you optimize posts or articles for similar search queries, they’re eating away each other’s chances to rank. Here, I’ll explain why keyword cannibalism is bad for your SEO, how you can recognize keyword cannibalization and how to solve it.

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What is keyword cannibalization?

If you optimize your articles for similar terms, you might suffer from keyword cannibalization: you’ll be devouring your own chances to rank in Google. Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get away with 3.

Why is keyword cannibalism bad for SEO?

If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the same topic. In that case, Google isn’t able to distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. As a result, they’ll probably both rank lower. Therefore our SEO analysis will give a red bullet whenever you optimize a post for a focus keyword you’ve used before.

But, keyword cannibalism can also occur if you optimize posts for focus keywords that are not exactly, but almost the same. For instance, I wrote two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. The first post is optimized for ‘does readability rank’, while the second post is optimized for the focus keyword ‘readability ranking factor’. The posts have a slightly different angle but are still very similar. For Google, it is hard to figure out which of the two article is most important. As a result, you could end up ranking low with both articles.

How to recognize keyword cannibalization?

Checking whether or not your site suffers from keyword cannibalism is rather easy. You should search your site for any specific keyword you suspect might have multiple results. In my case, I’ll google site:yoast.com readability ranks. The first two results are the articles I suspected to suffer from cannibalization.

Googling ‘site:domain.com “keyword” will give you an easy answer to the question whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism.

Solve keyword cannibalization with internal linking

You can help Google to figure out which article is most important, by setting up a decent internal linking structure.  You should link from posts that are less important, to posts that are the most important to you. That way, Google can figure out (by following links) which ones you want to pop up highest in the search engines.

Your internal linking structure could solve a part of your keyword cannibalism problems. You should think about which article is most important to you and link from the less important long tail articles, to your most important article. Read more about how to do this in my article about ranking with cornerstone content.

Solve keyword cannibalism by combining articles

In many cases, the best way to solve the keyword cannibalization problem is by combining articles. Find the articles that focus on similar search queries. If two articles are both attracting the same audience and are basically telling the same story, you should combine them. Rewrite the two post into one amazing, kickass article. That’ll really help with your ranking (Google loves lengthy and well-written content) and solve your keyword cannibalization problem. That’s exactly what I should do with my two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. In the end, you’ll delete one of the two articles and adapt the other one. And don’t forget: don’t just press the delete button; always make sure to redirect the post you delete.

Keyword cannibalism will affect growing websites

If your site gets bigger, your chances increase to face keyword cannibalism on your own website. You’ll be writing about your favorite subjects and without even knowing it, you’ll write articles that end up rather similar. That’s what happened to me too. Once in a while, you should check the keywords you want to rank for the most. Make sure to check whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism. You’ll probably need to make some changes in your site structure or to rewrite some articles every now and then.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

The post Keyword cannibalization appeared first on Yoast.

My husband – Joost de Valk – and I often have discussions on how technology will change our day-to-day life. Joost is an early adopter, while I am much slower and more reluctant to technological change. Our discussions are pretty heated. So, what’s Joost’s opinion on the future of voice search? How dominant will voice search be? And how will search be affected by it? I interviewed my early-adopting-voice-addict-husband  to shed some light and perspective on the matter of voice search. I did some thinking myself as well. Here, I share our views on what the future of voice search could look like. 

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Voice queries make a lot of sense

Joost just likes voice. He likes talking to machines. Joost asks Siri to set the timer while he’s cooking dinner and gives orders to Google Home when he wants to listen to some music. So what is it what attracts him in voice search? ‘I like voice whenever I cannot type,’ Joost answers,  ‘So, I use it while I am cooking, or when we are in a car together and we have a discussion. Using a voice query is just as easy as typing in a keyword. And if you do not have access to a keyboard, voice search is especially useful.’

I think Joost is right about that: voice queries just make sense. Voice search is easy to use (as long as your voice is recognized properly). For most people, speaking to a machine is quicker than typing. And, you can use voice search everywhere, even when you’re doing other things.

Voice results do not (always) make sense

The results that voice gives us are always singular. Siri will set a timer, Google Home will play the song. Joost:  ‘Voice results only make sense if you’re looking for a singular result. If you want to know something specific. If you want to end the discussion you’re having in the car and need to know exactly how many people live in France. And also, if you search for a specific restaurant. But if you want to have dinner in a nice restaurant and you’re not sure which one it ‘ll be,  you’ll probably prefer to see some options. And right then and there, is where I think voice results as they work now stop making sense.’

I started thinking about that. Most search queries people use are not aimed at a singular result. People like to browse. People want to choose. That’s why physical stores have a lot of options. People like to browse through different pairs of jeans before they choose which one they’ll buy. Online, we’ll probably check out different sites or at least different models before we add a pair of jeans to our shopping cart.

If you’re searching for information that is longer than a few sentences, voice result is not very useful either. That’s because it is hard to digest information solely by listening. As a listener, you’re a very passive receiver of information. As a reader,  you can scan a text, you can skip pieces information or read an important paragraph twice. You cannot do that as a listener. As a reader, you’re much more in control. So, if you’re searching for information about what to do in Barcelona, it makes much more sense to get that information from a book or a screen.

Search engines are growing towards singular results

Joost thinks that search engines are working towards singular results. They are developing that type of functionality. ‘The answer boxes you see in the search results are an example of that,’ Joost explains. ‘Search engines are trying to give one single answer to a search query. But, in a lot of the cases, people aren’t searching for one answer. In many cases people want to make a choice, they want to browse.’

So what will the future bring?

‘I think you’ll see different applications being connected to each other,’ Joost answers when I ask him what the future of voice search will look like. ‘Siri, for example, would then be connected to your Apple TV. Search results and information would appear on the screen closest to you that Apple controls. I think voice will become the dominant search query, but I think screens will continue to be important in presenting search results.’

Read more: How to prepare for voice search? »

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In the latest version of Yoast SEO Premium, we’ve released a new feature: synonyms. In the next months, you can expect even more updates making our SEO analysis smarter and more advanced. These changes will help you to write awesome, engaging content that’ll rank in the search engines. In this post, I’ll explain to you why we added synonyms to Yoast SEO and what changes lie ahead.

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Why you should use synonyms

Google is getting really good at understanding what texts are about. If you want to rank for a certain term, for example for ‘SEO’, Google will know that ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is pretty much the same thing. It makes sense to use them both. Synonyms make sure a text is nice and easy to read.

A few years ago, we added the multiple focus keyword functionality to Yoast SEO. Multiple focus keywords were often used to optimize for synonyms as well. We feel that the new synonym-functionality is a better solution to optimize for synonyms. Read my post about the difference between multiple focus keywords and synonyms if you want to know more.

Why is the exact match focus keyword still important?

Google understands synonyms, but that does not mean that focus keywords are not important anymore. Every SEO strategy should start with keyword research. You should know what words your audience is using when they are searching. The exact match keyword should be the keyword or keyphrase that your audience is using most often. That’s also the thing they expect to find. The exact match is always a little bit more important than the synonyms, just because your audience uses these words instead of others.

Vocabulary people are using is important. If people are searching for volunteering, they’ll probably not click on civic participation, although the two are supposed to be synonyms. Some words are more high-end than others and might not fit your audience as well. In your keyword research, you should take this into account. What words are your audience using?

In our SEO analysis, we’ll treat the exact match focus keyword different from the synonyms. Read more about that in our release post.

Keyword distribution

Along with the new support for synonyms, we’ve added a new keyword distribution check. Before, we would just count how often you used the keyword with our keyword density check. If you used it 4 or 5 times in the first paragraph and then never again, you could have gotten all green bullets from us. That’s no longer true.

We now have a check to see whether you’ve distributed your use of your focus keyword (or its synonyms) evenly across the text. This makes sure you stay on topic throughout your text, which will increase your chance of ranking.

Roadmap for the SEO analysis

Context is the SEO word of 2018. Google is getting really good at determining what a text is about. Google understands plurals and singulars. It has a related entities database. We’re working hard to make Yoast just as smart as Google is.

Embed synonyms in our SEO analysis

We now released our keyword distribution check in which synonyms are taken into account. We’re currently determining in which other checks we should take synonyms into account as well. Of course, we’re open for suggestions and opinions.

Morphology: plurals and more

In the past weeks, our awesome developers have built morphology recognition. This enables our analysis to recognize singulars, plurals, and other forms of the same word. So, if you want to rank for the focus keyword ‘link’, Yoast SEO will (in the near future) recognize ‘links’ and ‘linking’ as a similar keyword. We’ve built this for English and are planning to do so for more languages. We’re currently testing how to integrate this new morphology recognition into our SEO analysis.

Related keywords

The multiple focus keyword functionality is not optimal yet. In the near future, we’ll change this functionality into related keywords. You can optimize your post for a specific keyword and take synonyms into account. Next to that, you can optimize for related keywords. These are not your main keywords and not exact synonyms, but you still want to use them regularly.

We know that Google has a related entities database. If you’re searching for ‘tagliatelli’, results with the words ‘spaghetti’ and ‘pasta’ could also turn up. It’s smart to focus on related keywords when you’re writing a post. So, if your post is about ‘tagliatelli’, including ‘pasta’ and ‘spaghetti’ will probably help in your ranking as well.

We are currently working on modifying our multiple focus keyword functionality into related keyword functionality.

Recalibration of the SEO analysis

In the past year, we’ve been working on a recalibration of our SEO analysis. Many of the checks in our SEO-analysis were established based on our own experience in the SEO industry.  We wanted to be able to account for every check in our analysis more thoroughly. A team of linguists, developers, and SEO-experts dove into scientific literature and SEO blogs in order to re-assess all of our checks. The recalibration resulted in some changes in the checks of our analysis. For instance: the keyword distribution check was added as a result of it. We’re planning to release the new SEO analysis in September of this year.

Big improvements in our SEO analysis are coming

Context is gaining importance in 2018. That’s why we invest heavily in improving our SEO analysis. At the end of this year, we can really account for context in your blog posts and articles. This could mean that some of your articles that get green bullets now, will have orange or red bullets later on. That does not mean that your content became worse. It only means that we’re able to give you better, smarter feedback on your writing.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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Last week, Google announced a new feature in their knowledge panels. You’re now able to verify your branded or personal panel and add or change some of the information in it. But what exactly are knowledge panels? Are these useful? Should your company have one?  I’ll tell you all about it in this post!

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What is a knowledge panel?

Knowledge panels contain information about businesses or people. Such a panel appears on the right in the desktop search results. It contains information about the company, for instance when the company was founded and where the company is situated. A panel also contains pictures.

There are two types of knowledge panels: local panels and branded/personal panels. Google calls both of these knowledge panels, but the process of verifying them is totally different. For the local panels, verification was already possible through Google My Business. The new feature actually only applies to the branded/personal panels.

Why should we care about knowledge panels?

If you want to be found on your brand or business name, a knowledge panel is really useful! If Google decides to show your knowledge panel,  you pretty much dominate the search results on the right side of the screen in desktop search. In mobile, the knowledge panel will appear between other results but is pretty dominant as well. A knowledge panel will thus make sure your company or brand will stand out in the search results when people are specifically searching for it. That’ll give you lots and lots of clicks. And this makes sense too: if people are searching for your brand name, they want to find your website.

How do you get a knowledge panel for your business?

As with other types of search results, Google will decide whether or not it’ll show a knowledge panel in the search results. If you’re a local business, you can do some things to increase your chances to rank with a knowledge panel. For the branded and personal panels, it is much harder to obtain such a knowledge panel.

Local panels

If you want a chance of Google displaying a local panel for your business, the first step is to open a Google My Business account.  You’ll then be able to verify that you are the owner of your business. After that, you can add or edit all relevant information about your business, such as address information, opening hours and photos.

In the end, Google will decide whether or not to show a knowledge panel. Relevance, distance, and the prominence of the business are all important aspects for Google in determining if it’ll show knowledge panels. Making sure your website is really awesome and working on a high-authority domain could enhance your chances.

Read more: ‘Improve your local SEO with Google My Business’ »

Branded/personal panels

It is not possible to apply for a branded or personal panel. Google will decide whether or not your brand is worthy of a knowledge panel.  If your brand has enough authority, a knowledge panel will appear. Brands and people who have Wikipedia pages, often have knowledge panels as well. For Yoast, we do have a knowledge panel.  Joost de Valk also has a personal knowledge panel. I do not have a knowledge panel. I’ll keep working on that level of authority.

How to verify your panel

So, Google’s news from last week was that people could now verify their brand or personal knowledge panel. Verifying is not all that hard. If you have a knowledge panel, make sure to verify it. Follow the steps Google has outlined for you in this article. You need to log in to your Google account and sign in to one of your official sites or profiles to get verification for your business. For Yoast, it was pretty easy.

Once verified, you’ll be able to make changes in the knowledge panel and make sure it looks the way you want it to look.

Conclusion on knowledge panels

Knowledge panels are a great asset to have in the search results. For local panels, you should make sure you’re doing everything you can to get a knowledge panel. For branded or personal knowledge panels, it is much harder to influence your chances of getting one. It all depends on your level of authority, and that’s something that probably won’t be fixed overnight.

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

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