Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it!

Some of the things Yoast SEO does are pure magic. Lots of things are just taken care of after you’ve installed the plugin. You don’t have to do anything about that. Simply installing Yoast SEO will fix a lot of important technical SEO things for you. The content side of SEO, though, is something you should always do yourself. Yoast SEO will help you, but you’ll need to make an effort. So there’s a lot of work in it for you. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the things you need to do yourself, in order to make your SEO strategy successful.

Configure Yoast SEO properly

First of all, you need to configure Yoast SEO correctly. You should be aware that the plugin can’t perform to its full potential if the settings of Yoast SEO aren’t optimal for your specific website. So, make sure that the configuration of Yoast SEO is, in fact, in line with your website. The configuration wizard helps you take care of a lot of these settings.

Keyword research – always

The second thing you need to make sure of is doing your keyword research right. You need to know that you’re focusing on the words that people actually search for. If you’re optimizing for a term nobody uses, you can rank number one, but you still won’t have any traffic. And, if you’re optimizing for a term that’s so competitive that you won’t ever be able to rank for it, then you won’t get any traffic as well.

Doing your keyword research means that you need to get inside the heads of your audience. It also means that you should know your competition and estimate your chances to rank for a certain keyword. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your content for your keywords, but figuring out what the right keywords are, is your job.

Read more: How to choose keywords that’ll attract traffic »

Write awesome content

The third thing you need to do yourself is to write awesome content. And that’s something you have to do manually. Of course, you can outsource this, but it’s something somebody has to do. Yoast SEO actually helps you to write both SEO-friendly, as well as readable texts with the content and SEO analysis. So, make sure you use this feature in order to make your text well-optimized for the search engines. But adding great content is still something you need to do yourself; it won’t happen magically.

Internal linking

Another thing you’ll need to do yourself is to take care of your internal linking structure. This is very important because a proper internal linking structure will make sure that Google understands your website. And, you want Google to understand your website. Otherwise, you will be competing with your own content for a place in the search results.

Yoast SEO (Premium) will help you to do that, with our internal linking feature. But it’s still something you need to be actually doing yourself. Yoast SEO will make suggestions for articles you could link to, but you still have to put them in your article.

Social previews and redirects

Social previews and redirects are features in Yoast SEO that’ll help you improve your SEO. Your effort is needed in order to gain an SEO advantage from these features. Part of your SEO strategy will be a strategy on social media, so Facebook and Twitter. And Yoast SEO can help you make those posts on Facebook, but you still have to hit that button and write the content. Same goes for the redirects. If a page is outdated, you want to redirect it to another page. But it won’t happen just magically; you have to create those redirects yourself.

Don’t forget your competition

Even if they’ve done all the things I talked about, some people are unable to rank for a specific term. Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with competition. Some search terms are so competitive and dominated by high-authority brands that it’s terribly hard for a starting out blog to rank between them. If you want to rank for ‘holiday home Florida’ and you’re just starting out as a blog, you’re probably not going to rank right away. You need to have a whole strategy, in which you focus on long-tail search terms first. So, part of why you’re not ranking has to do with the competition.

On top of that, SEO sometimes takes a long time. Don’t despair if you’re not ranking overnight. It can take a little while before you start ranking for specific search terms. It’s a process that requires a strategy, and it takes some time before you see the results.

Conclusion

SEO is a lot of work. Yoast SEO takes care of most of the technical SEO stuff. The content side of SEO is a different story, though. You’ll need to make an effort to set up a successful content SEO strategy. There are a lot of things you should work on, in which Yoast SEO can actually help you and take you by the hand. And don’t forget: whether or not you rank for specific terms also depends on your competition in your specific niche. 

Keep reading: What does Yoast SEO do? »

The post Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it! appeared first on Yoast.

Celebrating the WordPress community: the Yoast Care fund

WordPress is wonderful! It is a wonderful CMS and with it comes a wonderful community. At Yoast, we’re definitely WordPress fanboys and fangirls. We’re fans of the CMS, fans of the community and fans of all those kickass volunteers. That’s why we’ve decided to introduce a new fund: the Yoast Care fund. Care stands for The Community Appreciation REwards. As of today, we want to celebrate those awesome volunteers with Yoast Care!

What is Yoast Care?

The Yoast Care fund contains money. You can nominate a person who is active in the WordPress community as a volunteer, and if we reward a person with a Yoast Care, they will receive $500. Besides that, we’ll do an interview, which we’ll publish on Yoast.com. In this interview, we want to tell the world about the awesome work someone has been doing as a WordPress volunteer.

Why Yoast Care?

A lot of people at Yoast do work for WordPress and we’re able to pay for most of their time. They do awesome work but also get compensated for it. However, a lot of the people in the WordPress Community are freelancers. And, they don’t have a company that pays the hours they put into our ecosystem. They don’t get compensated for their time or energy at all. 

We get it: it’s a lot easier to contribute to WordPress if you get paid for it. But, it’s impossible for Yoast to hire all those volunteers. That wouldn’t be healthy for our business. And, more importantly, those independent volunteers are of tremendous value. Those freelancers, their independent voices: that’s important for the WordPress ecosystem, that’s something we cherish (even though we might disagree with them sometimes ;-)).  

We’ve noticed that quite some people in the WordPress community don’t feel appreciated. And, let’s face it: it’s hard to show appreciation to one another in a community that’s scattered around the world. But we should make an effort to do so. We should celebrate each other and each other’s accomplishments a bit more often. We’ve been talking about these things a lot at Yoast and decided to set some money aside to get the Yoast Care started.  

What to do?

Do you know somebody who does amazing work in WordPress? Someone, a volunteer, who deserves a bit of recognition? Don’t hesitate to nominate that person!

We’re going to give away Yoast Cares to people that are nominated for it by someone else. You’ll have to fill out our form and explain why this person deserves a Care. Read more about it on our application page.

We’ve set aside $25.000 a year to spend on Yoast Cares. So, we’re really looking forward to receiving those first applications! To whom should we give our very first Yoast Care? Please let us know!

More information?

Do you want to know more about how to nominate someone or what our specific conditions are? Read all about it on our application page! And, while you’re at it: don’t forget to read about our diversity fund

The post Celebrating the WordPress community: the Yoast Care fund appeared first on Yoast.

How to become a better writer

Content is essential for SEO. As Google reads and understands content. And, reading and understanding content is easier when a text is well written. Both for humans and Google. Some people are blessed with great writing skills. Others are struggling a bit more. However, if you’re bad at writing now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get better! There are many aspects of a good blog post that you can learn to do well.

In this blog post, I’ll share 5 tips that’ll help you become a better writer. 

1. Preparation is everything

Especially if you’re not an experienced writer, you should always start with proper preparation. And, proper preparation means that you have to think a lot. Think about questions like: why am I writing this article? Who are my readers? What do I want my readers to know, understand, or do after they have read my article? What’s the topic of the article? What is the main message I want to send to your audience?

Read more: Preparing your blog post »

2. Structure, structure, structure

Always make sure your text has a good structure. That’ll make all the difference for your audience (and for Google for that matter). If paragraphs follow each other in a logical order, it will be much easier to grasp the main message. Think about the different things you want to discuss in an article. Think about what order you should address these issues. And, then write that down. Write a few words about every paragraph you’d like to write.

Structuring your text means helping your reader grasp what your text is about. Help your reading by adding subheadings and images. Make sure paragraphs aren’t too long. And, make sure that you use transition words.

Keep reading: Practical tips for setting up a clear text structure »

3. Write short sentences

Don’t write sentences that are longer than 20-25 words. If you’re not the best writer (yet!), make sure that you write short sentences. Longer sentences are just so much harder to read. People are capable of handling 20 to 25 words in their minds. If you write sentences longer than that, people need much more cognitive power to digest it. In order to truly understand, your audience will need to reread sentences or read at a much slower pace. Above that, writers tend to make more grammar mistakes as sentences become longer. For every writer that is starting, my advice would be: make those sentences short and sweet.

Short sentences are just one aspect of readability. There are some other things you can do in order to make a text easy to read. Try to limit your use of passive voice, write short paragraphs, and make sure to use transition words.

Read on: 5 tips to write readable blog posts »

4. Add examples and little stories

Adding examples, fun facts, and little stories to your article will make it much more appealing for your reader. Using stories in an article may sound daunting for many writers because it might seem like next-level writing. But adding examples is an excellent way to make an article nicer to read. If you’re writing about a product, make sure to add some user stories or give examples on how people use the product. Examples help people to understand what you mean and make your text more fun to read.

Keep on reading: What is storytelling and why should you use it? »

5. Round things up!

Try to get back to the main message of your text in your conclusion. That’s a way of rounding your text up. It’ll make it more probable that the message of your text will resonate with your audience.  If you use an example in your introduction, try to use that same example (slightly different is the best) in your conclusion. 

Read more: Obtain an attractive writing style! »

Conclusion

Everybody can learn how to write better. Everyone can improve their writing skills. You just need a little practice. Start with making sure to write readable texts. The Yoast SEO readability analysis will help you to achieve that. We’ll give feedback and make sure your sentences aren’t too long, that you’re using transition words and you’re not using too much passive voice. The feedback will improve your writing for sure! Combine our plugin with some effort on preparation and structuring your text and you’ll be drafting great content in no time. Good luck!

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

The post How to become a better writer appeared first on Yoast.

Google’s Knowledge Panel: What is it and how to get one?

Google’s Knowledge Panel is the block you’ll find on the right side of your screen in the search results. Nowadays, you’ll see it for a lot of queries. It presents the results of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which can be seen as an engine connecting all kinds of data Google finds on the web. If you have a local, branded or personal panel, you might be able to influence what Google shows in the panel. Here, we’ll explain how.

What is a Knowledge Panel?

Knowledge Panels are a type of rich results in Google’s search results pages. They can show information about all kinds of things: businesses, people, animals, countries or plants, for instance. Such a panel appears on the right side of your screen in the desktop search results. It shows details on the particular entity you’re searching for. What you see in this panel is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph.

example knowledge graph panel
An example of a knowledge panel

Why should we care about Knowledge Panels?

If you want to be found for search terms like your name, brand or business name, a Knowledge Panel is really useful! If Google decides to show you or your business in this panel, you pretty much dominate the search results on the right side of the screen in desktop search. In mobile, the panel will appear between other results but is pretty dominant as well.

A Knowledge Panel will, therefore, 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. This does make sense: if people are searching for you or your brand name, they probably want to find your website. So Google’s providing them with the best result.

How do you get a Knowledge Panel for your business?

As with all 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.

What also helps, is to verify your site with Google Search Console and to add structured data markup for businesses, as our Local SEO plugin does.

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 one Making sure your website is working well and on a high-authority domain could enhance your chances.

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

Branded/personal panels

It’s not possible to apply for a branded or personal panel. Google will decide whether you or your brand is worthy of a Knowledge Panel. If you or your brand have enough authority, a panel will appear. Brands and people who are well-known and have, for instance, Wikipedia pages, often have Knowledge Panels as well.

For Yoast, we do have a Knowledge Panel. Joost de Valk also has a personal panel and since a while, as you can see, I have one too!

My own personal knowledge panel!

There are ways to increase your chances of getting in, as discussed in this webinar with a.o. Jason Barnard, but it will take lots of time and effort and success isn’t guaranteed, unfortunately.

Yoast SEO and the Google Knowledge Panel

As of our 11.0 release, Yoast SEO outputs a complete Structured data graph for the pages on your website. Structured data offers Google information about you, your business and your website in a way that’s understandable for machines and therefore it’s a great help for Google’s Knowledge Graph.

By doing so, Yoast SEO’s structured data graph helps Google’s Knowledge Graph connect the dots. This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get a panel, but you’ll offer the data for the panel in the best possible way.

In Yoast SEO, you can also add your social profile information. Yoast SEO will use this data to output the correct Schema markup. This means that, if you get a panel, the right social profiles are shown.

How to verify your panel?

If you have a personal Knowledge Panel, make sure to verify it. Verifying is not all that hard. 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. Once verified, you’ll be able to suggest changes in the panel to influence what it looks like.

Conclusion on Google’s Knowledge Panel

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 one. For branded or personal 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: What is Google’s Knowledge Graph »

The post Google’s Knowledge Panel: What is it and how to get one? appeared first on Yoast.

Don’t make your focus keywords too long

It can be a great strategy to focus on long-tail keywords. But don’t go overboard! If you make your keyphrase too long and use it often in your copy, the quality of your copy might suffer. That’s why Yoast SEO checks if your focus keyword isn’t too long. How does that work? And, what should be your strategy for those long keywords? Let me tell you all about long focus keywords here.

Focus keywords and focus keyphrases

If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin to optimize your posts and pages, you’re probably used to filling out your focus keyword or phrase: the word(s) you want that specific post to be found for. A focus keyword hardly ever is a single word though; It usually consists of a few words. Therefore, we renamed it focus keyphrase a while ago.

For instance, if you want your blog post to rank for the term [raspberry flavored green tea], you should enter these words in the focus keyphrase field. The plugin will then give you pointers on how to optimize your post for that term. Choosing what terms you want to be found for is hard – the competition is fierce! – so you’ll need to do some proper keyword research to come up with the right terms.

Read more: How to choose the perfect focus keyphrase »

Why long keyphrases?

Using long keyphrases can be a good SEO strategy. A longer keyphrase means more specificity and less competition in the search engines. That’s why focusing on very specific, long-tail keywords might get you higher rankings and more, high-quality traffic to your website. Combining such a strategy with cornerstone content and a great internal linking structure is very smart.

But why then, do we throw off a warning when your focus keyphrase is too long?

What’s too long?

To answer this question we’ll have to explain a bit what Yoast SEO does with your keyphrase, and which words in the keyphrase we count when assessing your keyphrase length.

Yoast SEO mimics Google

Google is capable of recognizing the separate words from longer search terms, even if the words are not in the exact same order as the query. For instance, if you Google [easy to use and short site structure guide] you’ll get these results:

Google highlights the words (and word forms) of your keyphrase in the search results

You can see that Google highlights the words (and different word forms) of this search term in the search results, even though they’re not in the exact same order as the original query.

Yoast SEO tries to mimic Google’s behavior. It chops your keyphrase into pieces and then uses these words in various SEO assessments. For instance, in our keyphrase density check, we’ll check whether these words appear close to each other somewhere in your copy. We won’t look for an exact match of the focus keyphrase in this check, because if you write naturally you’d probably variate the order of those words in your sentences.

In particular languages, we’re even able to filter out function words like “the” or “and” or “if”. We’ll just keep the so-called “content words“, which carry the most meaning. And, in Yoast SEO Premium, we’re also able to check for different word forms and synonyms of the words in your keyphrase.

The keyphrase length assessment

Back to the length of your keyphrase. In Yoast SEO, we’ll check how long your keyphrase is. And we’ll provide you with feedback if it’s too long. If it’s too long this might jeopardize the readability of your copy. Imagine using [easy to use and short site structure guide] more often in your copy. Even if you don’t have to write those exact words in the same order, this will probably result in a strange and unnatural text.

The boundaries we use for this assessment depend on whether we can take out the function words for your language or not. If we can, the boundary is four words. If we can’t take them out, the boundary is six words. If your keyphrase is longer than that, you’ll find an orange or red bullet in the SEO assessment of your post!

What should you do with those extra words?

If you’re on Yoast SEO you should reduce your focus keyphrase to the most important words you want this post to rank for. Of course, you can use the other words in your copy as well. But in order to be able to see if you use them often enough (and if you could rank for them!), you should use the related keyphrase functionality in Yoast SEO premium.

For example, if you want to rank for the keyphrase [easy to use and short site structure guide], I would advise optimizing your post for [easy site structure guide] and use the related keyphrase field for [short site structure guide]. Of course, you can use this field for more topical keyphrases too. In this case, [internal linking] would be a nice, on-topic example. If you optimize your posts this way, you’ll make sure you’re optimizing for all the specifics of your long-tail focus keyword.

This functionality of Yoast SEO Premium enables you to focus on multiple aspects of a long-tail keyword. The readability of your text will not suffer, and you’ll still make sure you cover all the aspects of a long search term in your writing. Plus, you’ll be able to enter synonyms of your keyphrase too! Read here why you should use synonyms in your text.

The post Don’t make your focus keywords too long appeared first on Yoast.

Why you should use synonyms and related keywords

SEOs like keywords. These are the words people search for. The words that make your posts and pages rank. You put a lot of effort into finding that perfect keyword to optimize your article for. So, why shouldn’t you use that exact keyword over and over again? Why should you use synonyms and related keywords? Will doing that help improve your rankings? Well: Yes! As a matter of fact: using synonyms and related keywords the right way will most definitely help you rank. In this post, I’ll explain why. 

A good writer mixes things up!

The most important reason why you should use synonyms and related keywords is because it will make your text so much nicer to read. If you write a text about ‘candy’ and you use the word ‘candy’ in every other sentence, your text will get boring. Your readers will stop reading and click away. You’ll lose your audience. That’s why you should mix things up. Words like ‘sweets’ and ‘delicacy’ could serve as synonyms for ‘candy’. Related keywords would be ‘chocolate’ and ‘sugar,’ which aren’t real synonyms for ‘candy’, but still relevant. 

For a text to be attractive to a reader, it should be very varied. You can vary with a lot of things. For instance, you can try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. That makes a text much more attractive. You can also try to alternate the sequence of words. But the most important tool is to vary with the exact words you use. Especially if you’re trying to rank for a long tail keyphrase such as ‘candy store New York’. Using that exact key phrase in a lot of sentences will make it awful to read. Using synonyms and related keywords, on the other hand, makes a text much more attractive.

But wait: what about keyword density?

Of course, it is important to use your focus keyword regularly, but you should not overdo it. In the old days, SEOs tended to stuff their texts with a lot of keywords. That way, Google would understand what the text was about and rank it accordingly. But Google is not that stupid anymore. It can read and understand texts. 

If you search for ‘candy store New York’ you’ll get results from Google with content from ‘candy stores’ as well as ‘candy shops’. Google understands that ‘store’ and ‘shop’ are synonyms, and treats them as such. 

Snippets from the search result page for the search ‘candy store New York’

It is important to use your focus keyword a few times throughout your post. The focus keyword is the word or phrase your audience is searching for. That exact match remains important. These are the words your audience uses, the words your audience expects to find. But, instead of using your focus keyword over and over again, you should mix things up with synonyms and related keywords.

How often should you use synonyms?

The usage of synonyms versus the use of the focus keywords is no exact science. The most important criterion is the reader. So, read and re-read your text. Is it text nice and easy to read? Or are you getting annoyed by the constant use of a certain term? Let other people read your text. Ask them for feedback. 

If you need more guidance, Yoast SEO will help you to use synonyms and related keywords as well. In Yoast SEO Premium, you can add synonyms of your focus keyword. The plugin can check if you’ve used those synonyms in, for instance, your meta description, introduction, subheadings or image alt text. Moreover, our keyphrase distribution check (added in Yoast SEO 7.8) will reward you for alternately using your keyphrase and its synonyms throughout your text.

One step further: use those synonyms to your advantage

Google understands texts and takes related concepts and synonyms into account. In the old days, Google wasn’t that smart. But nowadays, it wants to serve its users the best result. It is able to recognize related entities. In the end, Google just wants to serve readable texts.

So make sure you deliver! Think of synonyms for your keyword or keyphrase and use them to your advantage. Take a moment and try to come up with a few alternatives for your keyword. Think of things that are strongly related to your keyword. Enter these words in our SEO analysis and make sure to use those in your text. You’ll increase your chances to rank, and more importantly: your content will be more pleasant to read if you use synonyms and related keywords!

Conclusion

Keywords remain essential. These are the words your audience is searching for. People searching for ‘candy’ will probably not click on a result with ‘delicacy’ in the text. If you search for ‘candy’ you’ll expect to see that exact word in the search results. Therefore, exact match keywords remain the most important keywords.

That being said, synonyms and related concepts are very important as well. You just need those to write a readable text. You can’t repeat yourself over and over, especially if you’re optimizing your text for a long tail keyword. Furthermore, using synonyms and related keywords may create ranking opportunities you’d otherwise have missed. In Yoast SEO premium, we offer all the features you need to take into account word forms, synonyms and related keywords. 

The post Why you should use synonyms and related keywords appeared first on Yoast.

How to Yoast your post

Do you want your articles to be as well optimized as possible? Do you aim for that number 1 position in the search results? And do you madly chase traffic and clicks? It’s not easy to achieve all these things entirely on your own, but luckily, Yoast is here to help. In this post, we’ll talk you to the process of optimizing your post in the best possible way. We’ll explain the five steps on how to Yoast your post.

Writing comes first, Yoast comes second

Optimizing your post is important, but should never come first. Writing has three phases. It doesn’t really matter if you’re writing a blog post or an article, or a novel even. First, you prepare, then you write and finally you edit. In that final editing phase, you will be able to Yoast your post.

Preparation is key

Before you start writing an article you should ask yourself some questions: What will be the main message of your post? What do you want to tell people? And: who are my readers? What search terms do I want to be found for?

You need to know who you are writing for and what their goal, or search intent is. What does that mean for the keywords you should use to be found in the search engines? You should take some time to think about what you want to tell your audience and what the structure of your text will look like. Preparing your blog post is crucial. If you do not think about these questions long and hard, you’ll make mistakes like addressing the wrong audience, focusing on the wrong keywords or writing an article that’s badly structured and unfocused.

Write your content

After you’ve thoroughly prepared your blog post or article, you can start the writing phase. Make sure to start with filling out your focus key phrases and synonyms. What are the terms you want to be found for?

Writing should be something you just do. In the preparing-phase you have thought about what you’re going to write, so, in the writing phase, you should just go with the flow. Don’t overthink. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll have the third – and most important phase- to correct and Yoast your post.

Editing: let’s Yoast it!

In the final phase, the editing phase, you’ll be able to really Yoast your post. So, let’s look at the five steps you should take in order to optimize your post to the max.

  1. Make sure your text is readable

    The first step on how to Yoast your post is to check out our readability analysis. You could keep an eye on our readability analysis during your writing phase too, if you like. If your overall readability analysis is green, you’re good to go. But, perhaps, you use sentences that are a little bit too long. Or, you have been using the passive voice too often. Correct those readability issues and make your text nice and easy to read. Check out our article about the readability analysis for more tips.

  2. Check out your snippet preview

    You want people to click on your results in the search result pages. In order to make your result stand out, you need to write a kickass meta description. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site! So make an effort and choose a title and a meta description that really stands out. Read our article on how to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description if you want more practical tips.

  3. Which SEO bullets need improvement?

    The third step on how to Yoast your post is to check out the SEO analysis. Which aspects of your SEO need improvement? Perhaps you should use your keyword or its synonym a bit more often? Or maybe you’re already overdoing it? What about headings and images?

    Check out the problems and improvements the Yoast SEO analysis indicates. Usually, you can easily make some tweaks that’ll make your copy a little better optimized for the search engines. But don’t overdo it! You do not need all green bullets. If your overall SEO bullet is green, you’re good to go!

  4. Add those internal links

    To really Yoast your post, we would advise you to take some time to think about your internal linking structure and to work on improving it. Are you linking to your most important articles? Are you linking to the articles that are most closely related to the article you’re currently writing? Make sure your site structure is tip-top. This will pay off in terms of rankings. Read more about the power of internal linking in our article about why you should use Yoast internal linking.

  5. Read and reread!

    Our SEO analysis is a tool. It is not just any tool, we’ve thoroughly evaluated all of the checks in a recent recalibration project. That being said, it remains a tool. You should always think for yourself. Read your blog post after you’re done editing and optimizing. Reread it. Let other people read it. That’s the final step to get your blog post to that next level.

Yoast your post

Writing is hard. Optimizing your post is hard. Yoast tries to make it a bit more easy for you. We’ll check things and make suggestions for improvements. We’ll help you to Yoast your post. But in the end, it’ll always remain hard work.

Good luck! Let’s Yoast it!

The post How to Yoast your post appeared first on Yoast.

The ultimate guide to content SEO

Content SEO is a key part of any SEO strategy. Without content, it’s impossible for your site to rank in search engines. It’s, therefore, crucial to write and structure quality content! This ultimate guide covers the most important areas of content SEO. Read on if you want to learn how to create content that ranks.

What is content SEO?

Content SEO refers to creating content that helps your web pages to rank high in the search engines. It includes everything to do with the writing and structuring of content on your website. There are three major elements you need to consider to produce content that will make your website rank well: keyword strategy, site structure and copywriting.

Content SEO is important because search engines, such as Google, read your website, so the words you use on your site determine whether or not your site will rank in their results pages. Of course, your website should be well-designed, with a great user interface, and all the technical stuff that makes your site rank in Google should also be covered. But without good quality content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines.

1. Keyword research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is basically the steps you take to create an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Every content SEO strategy should begin with keyword research, because you have to know what your audience is searching for if you want to generate traffic. Keyword research helps you to discover the terms you should be aiming to rank for.

Keyword research has four steps:

  • First, you write down the mission of your business;
  • Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for;
  • Look at search intent
  • Finally, you create landing pages for all these keywords.

If you do your keyword research right, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms for which you want the pages on your site to be found. This overview will serve as a guide for writing content on your website.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

Why is keyword research so important for SEO content?

Proper keyword research will make clear which search terms your audience uses. This is crucial. At Yoast, we regularly encounter clients who use particular words when talking about their products, while their customers use entirely different words. Optimizing SEO content for words that people do not use doesn’t make any sense. Doing proper keyword research makes sure that you are using the same words as your target audience and therefore makes the whole effort of optimizing your website worthwhile.

Some terms we use in keyword research

Keywords and keyphrases

We tend to use the word ‘keyword‘ all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it has to be just one word. ‘WordPress SEO’ is a keyword, as is ‘Google Analytics plugin.’ So you can have keywords containing multiple words!

Long tail keywords

The longer (and more specific) a search term is, the easier it will be to rank for that term. Keywords that are more specific (and usually longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific and focus more on a niche.

How many keywords?

It is very hard to give an exact number of keywords you should focus on. And then again, it’s very simple: You just need to have a lot – as many as you can come up with. More than 1,000 keywords is probably too many though!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But you don’t have to create pages for all of these immediately. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can gradually add content. Think about what keywords you would like to rank for right away, and which ones aren’t immediately important. Determine what your priorities are and plan the creation of your content.

Head or tail?

Classifying your keywords is essential. Some keywords are very common and competitive (head), while others are long-tail. Decide which are your most critical, high-level keywords – the ones that generate sufficient traffic for your website and best fit your business. You will probably only have a few of these general keywords for your business, the rest of them will be more down the tail. In the next section, we will give more in-depth information on long tail keywords (and the importance of these keywords).

SEO content focusing on the most common keywords should be on the top level pages on your website (homepage and the pages one level beneath your homepage), whereas content focusing on long tail keywords should be more on the tail end of your site.

Keyword intent and search intent

As you’re doing keyword research, it really pays off to think about the search intent of users. Would they be looking for information when they enter your keyword as a search term? Or is their goal to buy something? Keyword intent is clear in keywords like [buy leather sofa], or [how to train your puppy]. But it’s not always that simple.

There are four types of intent:

  • Navigational intent: People want to visit a specific website, but rather than entering the URL, they’re entering a term into a search engine.
  • Informational intent: People are trying to find an answer to a particular question or information on a specific topic.
  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something in the near future and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Search engines are always trying to answer to the exact needs people have, and they’re getting better and better at guessing people’s intent. So, put simply, if 95% of the people searching for ‘change car tire’ have informational intent, and you’re optimizing for transactional intent to sell tires, you’re probably not going to rank most of the time.

You can get a wealth of information from the results pages when you’re doing keyword research. If you want to find out what the intent is of people using your keywords, simply google those keywords and take a good look at the search results. Try to create your content so that it answers the specific need that you distill from the results for each keyword.

Keep reading: What is search intent? »

Tools you can use

There are multiple free tools available to help you with your keyword research. Check out our article about keyword research tools if you want to find out more about practical tools.

Adapting your keyword strategy

Your keyword strategy isn’t static. It should change and evolve alongside your company and your website. It should evolve and grow with you. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.

You should be on top of the changes in your company and adapt your strategy simultaneously. If your online shop starts selling new products, extend your list with more keywords. If you’re aiming for new markets, it’s vital that your keywords are aimed at these new markets as well.

There are several keyword strategies to adopt. One of them is to start off trying to rank for long tail keywords and then aim at more general keywords afterwards, but you could also start by focusing on general ones then aim for more long tail keywords after. You can zoom in and pursue more niche activities, broaden your approach, adding more content on different things, or you can do both simultaneously.

2. Site structure

The second important aspect of content SEO is the structure of your site. First I will explain why site structure is critical, then I’ll show you what an ideal site structure looks like. I will also give tips on how to (quickly) improve your site structure without completely disrupting the core of your website.

Why is site structure important for content SEO?

There are two main reasons why site structure is an important ranking factor and therefore imparative for SEO content:

a. Good structure helps Google to ‘understand’ your site

The way your site is structured gives Google significant clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine understands what your site is about, and how easily it will find and index content relevant to your site’s purpose and intent. A good site structure will, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

By creating such a structure, you can use existing content that has attracted links from others to help other pages rank as well. Your site’s structure will help spread some of that link juice to the other pages on your site. On a commercial site, that means that you can use quality content you’ve written to boost the search engine rankings of your sales pages too.

b. Good structure makes sure you are not competing with your own SEO content

On your website, you will probably have multiple articles about similar topics. At Yoast, for example, we write about SEO. If we wrote eight articles about SEO, Google wouldn’t know which of these is most important. If we didn’t clarify this with our site structure, we’d be competing with our own articles for Google’s top spot. So, solving problems like this using a sound internal linking structure will result in higher rankings overall.

The ideal structure of a site

Ideally, you should structure your site like a pyramid. On top of the pyramid is your homepage and on the homepage are links to some other pages (such as category pages). These pages, in turn, link to even more pages.

In an effective content SEO strategy, your keyword strategy and the way you structure your site work together. In a proper keyword strategy, you’ll have thought about common, competitive keywords as well as more long tail niche search terms. You should make a similar dichotomy in your site structure. Pages focusing on more common search terms should appear high in your pyramid, while pages optimized for more long tail keywords should appear in a lower part of your site structure. These long tail pages at the bottom of the pyramid must link correctly to the pages higher in the pyramid.

Read on: The ultimate guide to site structure »

Practical tips on improving your site structure

If you’re serious about content SEO, you’ll most likely already have a live website. So it may be a bit late to set up your site’s structure in an ideal pyramid-like way. Don’t despair – there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your site’s structure and your SEO content.

Decide upon cornerstone content

You should focus your efforts on cornerstone articles. These are the articles you’re most proud of, that fit the mission of your website best. This ultimate guide is, in fact, one of our cornerstones. You want to rank for these articles the most. If you haven’t decided which of your articles are the most important yet, start thinking about that now. Make these articles the best ones on your site. Give them extra TLC and update them regularly.

Keep on reading: What is cornerstone content »

Link from tail to head

Once you’ve decided upon your precious cornerstones, make sure you link from all your ‘tail’ articles to those cornerstones. That way, Google will know which articles to rank highest. Read all about this in our article about incorporating cornerstones into your site structure.

Use tags (but not too many)

Your site will also benefit from adding tags. Tags and taxonomies will give your site more structure – or at least, Google will understand it better. They group your articles about similar topics. Don’t overdo it, though. Some people have more tags than articles. Using too many tags will lead to a confusing, poorly-structured website.

Avoid duplicate content

The same SEO content can turn up at multiple places on your site. As a reader, you don’t mind: you still get the content you came for. But a search engine has to choose something to show in the search results, as it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.

Moreover, when other websites link to your product, chances are some of them link to the first URL, while others link to the second URL. But if these duplicates all link to the same URL, your chance of ranking top 10 for the relevant keyword would be much higher. Canonicalization is the solution to duplicate content. You can configure the canonical URL in the advanced tab of Yoast SEO.

Remove old SEO content

If the content on a page is outdated, remove it! However, you may have had some valuable links to that page. You want to make sure you still benefit from these links, even though the page doesn’t exist any longer, so you should redirect the URL.

Redirecting pages is not difficult if you have our Yoast SEO Premium plugin, which can help you to take care of redirects. Preferably, you redirect the old URL (301) to the page or product that replaced the old page or product, or a related page if there is no replacement. That could be the category page of the specific product, or, as a very last resort, your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore.

Deal with orphaned content

The term ‘orphaned content’ refers to articles that don’t have any links from your other articles or posts. Because of that, these articles are hard to find, both by Google and by users of your site. Google will consider this type of content less important. So, if an article is important to you, make that clear to Google (and your visitors) by linking to that particular article from other (related) content. Read more about solving the problem of orphaned articles in our article about orphaned content.

Check out our article on how to improve your site structure in 4 simple steps for more tips and practical input.

3. Copywriting

The third and final aspect of a successful content SEO strategy is copywriting. You should write articles that are attractive to read, and that makes your audience want to stay on your website. At the same time, you want to make your SEO content attractive for Google. But some people go too far and optimize their content so overtly that they become terrible to read. At Yoast, we suggest optimizing your text for search without adversely affecting the originality of your idea or the readability of your text.

Read more: The ultimate guide to SEO copywriting »

Copywriting starts with an original idea

The first requirement for high-quality copywriting is to write original content. Your blog post or your article should be ‘fresh,’ new and original. It has to be different from all the other blog posts and articles that are already on the internet. It should be content that people will want to read.

If you did your keyword research well, you ended up with a long list of terms you want to be found for. This list can be a guide for you to choose from. A keyword is not yet a topic, though. You should make sure to come up with an original idea for your blog post – an idea in which the desired focus keyword has a prominent place.

Original SEO content doesn’t necessarily mean brand new content. Of course, if your story is completely new, that’ll automatically mean it’s original. However, giving your (professional) opinion on a particular topic also counts as original content. Your own personal angle to a story will make your content unique and original.

Think about your audience

If you want to write original content, you should think about your audience and who they are. Also, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to tell your audience?
  • What will be the main message of your article?
  • What is the purpose of your article?
  • What do you want your audience to do after they’ve read your article? (Do you want them to engage, to buy your stuff, to read more posts?)

Thinking about these questions will help you to come up with an original idea for your post or article.

Content design

Content design is a process that helps you produce content based on actual user needs. It doesn’t just help you figure out what your user wants, but it focuses more on what the user actually needs. Thinking about your content in this way will help your user to get that content when they need it, in the language and format they need it.

Content design isn’t just a technique to help you produce better content – it’s a new way of thinking about content. If you want to know more about content design, read our post on content design: a great way to make user-centered content.

Copywriting requires readable SEO content

A key requirement for writing high-quality content is to write content that’s easily readable. Readability is important both for your audience and for Google. After all, not only do people read your articles, but Google does too.

If your text is well structured and clearly written, readers will understand your message, but perhaps, more importantly, it will also help Google understand better too. If your main message is clearer to Google, your post is far more likely to rank well in the search engines.

Readability is about many factors, including text structure, sentence length and writing clear paragraphs. Read all about the importance of readability in this post. For more tips on readability, you can read our post on how to make an article more readable.

Content, context and search intent

As Google is getting smarter, it starts to understand content on sites better. It doesn’t just see if a keyword pops up a certain number of times on a page. It also takes into account the context of those keywords, like co-occurring terms and phrases, related words and synonyms. On top of that, as mentioned before, Google is able to understand queries of users better: it tries to determine what the search intent of the user is. Is he or she looking for a product or just information? Which pages fit that intent best?

All these developments mean that you should focus on more than just using your keyword often enough. It means you should also think about the words you use around it: do they make clear what topic you’re discussing? And, do you have the purpose in mind of the post or page you’re creating? Does it just provide information or are you trying to sell something, and does that align with what your users are actuall looking for? Yoast SEO Premium lets you optimize your SEO content with synonyms, making it even easier to add context to your articles.

Content should be optimized for search engines

The final requirement for writing high-quality content is to make sure the content is optimized for search engines. You want your SEO content to be easily found. Findability has to do with increasing the likelihood Google will pick up your content for the result pages. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written an original and readable post.

Yoast SEO helps you tweak your text just a little bit more. If you’ve written your article, focused on that original idea, and optimized the readability of your post, you should take a look at the SEO analysis in Yoast SEO. Red and orange bullets indicate which aspects of your findability need a little bit more attention. You don’t need a green bullet for every aspect though, as long as your overall score is good.

Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. These tweaks can vastly improve your chances to be picked up by the search engines. Read more about optimizing your post in our article on how to use the content and SEO analysis.

Conclusion on Content SEO

Content SEO is such a huge part of SEO. It encompasses all the aspects of writing and structuring content on your website. Content SEO is essential. Google reads and scans your website text. Google’s algorithm decides the ranking of your site largely based on the content you publish. And we all know content is king. So, you need to write awesome SEO content, focus on the right keywords and structure your website in such a way Google understands it. It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the long run.

Keep reading: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post The ultimate guide to content SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Is there such a thing as too much high-quality content?

Some bloggers consistently write awesome content. Everything they create is of the highest quality. Does that mean that these bloggers never have to clean up their website? Well, we have some bad news… Even if your content is really great, you could still have too much of it. In this post, I’ll tell you why too much content (about the same topic) could be problematic for SEO. And, I’ll give some tips to solve those problems. Finally, I’ll talk you through the process of combining two articles.

Why does too much content lead to SEO problems?

If you are writing about a similar topic a lot, you’ll have a bigger chance to suffer from keyword cannibalization. If you focus your articles on the same topics and the same keywords, you’ll actually be competing with your own content. Google will show one or two results from the same domain in the search results. If you are a high authority domain, you might get away with three results.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Solving the SEO problem of too much high-quality content

Don’t panic! There are a lot of sites that keep adding content and do wonderfully in SEO. Just think about news sites for example. You can solve a lot of the SEO problems with a very good and hierarchical site structure.

Google considers the articles that have the most internal links pointing towards them the most important content on your website. Figure out which articles are the most important and make sure to link to these. This sounds easy, but it is a lot of work, especially if your site is large. You should be adding hand-picked, relevant links that are useful for someone visiting your website. Automation will not give you quality results.

Keep reading: Rank with that cornerstone content! »

Combining content

Having too much high-quality content on your website does not mean that you have to throw half of it away. About a year ago, we started noticing that we were suffering from keyword cannibalization at Yoast. Since then, we have been combining a lot of articles. Combining articles is not that different from writing a new article. Good preparation is half of the work. Let me explain just how to do that:

Step 1: Which URL?

The first step in combining two (or more) articles is deciding upon the URL you want to keep. Which of the articles attracted the most traffic? I’d recommend keeping the URL of the article that was most successful in the search engines.

Step 2: Decide upon a new message

If you want to combine articles, you’ll probably have two (or maybe even more) stories. Two articles that have a slightly different purpose and a different message. What is going to be the message of the new post?

In order to come up with your message, you could try to phrase a question which your new text should resolve. We refer to such a question as the central question of a text. The new blog post will be the answer to your central question. It could be that your new article will have the same message as one of the articles you’re planning to combine. It could also be a new (broader) message. Make sure to take some time to think about it.

Step 3: Decide upon the structure of your text

Create a new structure. Which information should come in what order? You already have some nice paragraphs in your ‘old’ articles. In this step, just think about the order of the information you want to present. For more input on how to come up with a good text structure, read my post about setting up a clear text structure.

Step 4: Write some new paragraphs

You’ll probably need to write some new paragraphs. Your introduction and your conclusion will probably need some altering. Perhaps you need to write an extra paragraph to make sure that the new article has a logical structure

Step 5: Rewrite your old paragraphs

In this step, I paste all of the content in the right order in your backend. You’ve thought about the order in which you want to present the information in step 3. In step 4 you’ve written some new information. Now, you’ll have all of the content and you just need to do some rewriting. The paragraphs from the old articles probably need some alterations. They need to fit in the new format. Make sure that they are rewritten in such a way that they fit the new post.

Step 6: Delete and redirect

You can now delete all of the old posts (except for the new and combined article). Of course, redirect those posts to the awesome new one you just created.

Step 7: Republish that awesome content!

You have now created a new article. I would treat it as such and republish it on your website. The combined insights of those old articles are valuable for your readers. Don’t forget to share it on social media and in your newsletter either!

Conclusion on too much high-quality content

It is possible to have too much high-quality content on your website. If you have been blogging for some time, it is almost inevitable to have too many great articles. You’ll probably suffer from keyword cannibalization. That does not mean that you have to throw that content away! Work on your site structure, make sure that your internal linking structure is flawless. That is a lot of work but will pay off in your rankings. Also, combine articles that are about similar topics. Just create an awesome new combined article. Good luck with cleaning up that site!

Read on: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

The post Is there such a thing as too much high-quality content? appeared first on Yoast.

Should you keep old content?

Writing a blog post can be a challenge. It is hard work, but afterwards, you’re probably proud of what you have created. No way you are ever going to throw those beautiful articles away, right? But what should you do with blog posts that are really, really old? Should you keep all of those?

In this blog post, I’ll explain why you cannot keep all of your old content. Also, I’ll explain what types of content you should keep on your site and which kinds of articles should be deleted.

Why you cannot keep all your content

Even if your content is really awesome, you need to do some cleaning. Otherwise, you’ll be hurting your own chances of ranking in Google. You see, there are only a limited number of places in Google’s search results pages. 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 three results.

If you have written 3 articles focussing on the same – or very similar – keywords, you are competing with yourself for those limited spaces in the search results. You’ll be confusing Google. That’s why you cannot blog endlessly about the same content and leave it be. You need to do some content management.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Update, delete or merge?

There are three things you can do with old content. You can keep it, you can delete it or you can merge it. Not sure what to do? It all depends upon your content.

1. Update valuable content

Is an article still very valuable? Does it get a lot of traffic from Google? Is the post still in line with your site and your company? Old content that is still very valuable should, of course, be kept on your website. Do make sure that this content is updated on a regular basis. Your most important articles should never contain any outdated information. Setting reminders for yourself to update those evergreens every now and then is a great way to make sure your content is always up to date. 

Solve it with site structure

Keeping content on your website does come with a price, especially if you write a lot about similar topics. Make sure you add some structure and hierarchy to your website. If one of your pages or posts is much more important than the other one, you should treat it as such. Place that important page higher in your hierarchy. Link from less important pages to your most important page. that way you’ll be telling Google which article you want to rank highest with and you can keep both articles.

Keep reading: How to set up a cornerstone content strategy? »

2. Delete (and redirect) outdated content

Is an article outdated? Does it contain invalid information? Does it contain information that’s no longer informative? Every now and then you write about an upcoming event or you announce something new. After some time, these articles are pretty much useless. These types of articles should be deleted. Do make sure to redirect the article to something similar (or to the homepage if you cannot find an alternative).

3. Merge content

Have you written multiple articles about the same topic? Are they pretty much the same? Are they ranking for the same topics? These types of articles should be merged. Make one really awesome article out of the two (or three) you have written. Then delete (but do not forget to redirect) the old articles. I would write the new merged article on the URL that attracted the most traffic from Google.

Conclusion: continue to clean up

Checking, updating, structuring and deleting old content should be part of a process. Just like you need to clean up your kitchen closet every now and then, you also need to clean up your old content. As your site grows, you need to clean out the content and maintain the structure. This really needs to be a core element in every SEO strategy.

The post Should you keep old content? appeared first on Yoast.