SEO is a way to get more traffic to your website. By ranking high in Google, you attract more people to your site. Eventually, your goal probably is to sell your stuff, or to attract more regular visitors. A nice tactic to get more traffic to your site is optimizing your content for words people use. However, to really convince people to buy your stuff, subscribe to your newsletter or to come back to your website another time, you should take into account search intent as well. Here, I will tell you what search intent is and how to optimize your articles for search intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?

Over the years, Google has become more and more able to determine the search intent of people. And Google wants to rank pages highest that fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your post or page fits the search intent of your audience. 

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4 types of search intent

There are a few distinct types of search intent:

Informational intent

First, there is informational intent. Lots of searches on the internet are of people looking for information. Information about the weather, information about educating children, information about SEO. In this case people have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic.

Navigational intent

The second type of search intent is called navigational intent. People with this intent try to get to a specific website. People who search for Facebook are usually on their way to the Facebook website.

Ranking high on a navigational term is only beneficial for your organic traffic if your site is the site people are looking for. A few years ago, Yoast had a Google Analytics plugin and we ranked pretty well for the term Google Analytics. It didn’t drive any traffic to our site though. People searching for Google Analytics were looking for the Google Analytics website and were hardly ever interested in our plugin.

Transactional intent

The third type of search intent is the transactional intent. Lots of people buy stuff on the internet and browse the web to find the best purchase. People who have the intention to buy are searching with a transactional intent.

Commercial investigation

Some people have the intention to buy in the (near) future, but use the web to do their research. What washing machine would be best? Which SEO plugin is the most helpful? These people also have a transactional intent, but will need some more time and convincing. These types of search intents are usually called commercial investigating intents.

Keyword intent

The words people use in their search queries will give information about their user intent. If people use words as buy, deal, discount, they are definitely prone to buy something. Also, if people are searching for specific products, they probably want to buy it. If people are searching and use words like information, how to, best way to, you’ll know they’ll have an informational search intent.

How to optimize your content for search intent

You want to make sure that a landing page fits the search intent of your audience. If people search for information, you don’t want to show them a product page. At least, not immediately. You’d probably scare them away. If people want to buy your product, do not bore them with long articles. Lead them to your shop.

Optimizing your product pages for more commercial driven keywords is a good idea. If you sell dog vitamins, you could for instance optimize a product page for [buy dog vitamins]. Perhaps you also have an article about administering vitamins. You could for example optimize that article for the search term [how to give vitamins do my dog].

It can be rather hard to determine the search intent of a query. And, perhaps different users will have a (slightly) different user intent, but still land on the same page. If you want to know more about the search intent of your audience, the best way is to ask them. You could make a small survey, containing questions about what people were searching for and make that survey pop up if people enter your website. That’ll probably give more insights in the search intent of your audience.

Conclusion

It’s crucial to ensure that the content you’re writing fits both the terms people are searching for, as well as the search intent of your audience. Make sure your post or page is informational, if people are searching for information. But lead people to your sales pages if they are prone to buying one of your products.

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

 

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It can be a great strategy to focus on long tail keywords. But don’t go overboard there. Trying to rank for very long keyphrases usually makes your text a terrible read. Why is that? And what should be your strategy for those long keywords? Let me tell you all about long focus keywords in this post!

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. That’s the word 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: it probably should be called a keyphrase.

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If you want your blog post to rank for the term [longtail keywords], you should optimize your post for that term. If you want it to be found for the term [keyword research tools], you’ll optimize for that term. Choosing what terms you want to be found for is hard, and you’ll need to do some proper keyword research to come up with those terms.

Read more: ‘How to start with keyword research’ »

Why long keyphrases?

Using long keyphrases can be a great strategy. The longer the keyword you’re optimizing for, the fewer competitors you’ll have. Focusing on a lot of long tail (specific) keywords could generate lots of traffic to your website. Combining such a strategy with cornerstone content and a great internal linking structure is a very smart SEO strategy. Nevertheless, if key phrases become too long, the readability of your text will suffer.

Keep reading: ‘How to incorporate cornerstone content’ »

Readability and long keyphrases

Optimizing your text for a very long focus keyword will jeopardize the readability of your text. I would strongly advise against the use of very long focus keywords: optimizing for more than 6 words is incredibly hard. Optimizing your text for a keyphrase like [keyword research tools that are easy to use] is very hard. If you want to use that exact phrase multiple times in your text, you’ll need to make an effort. Furthermore, your text can easily become rather awkward, and seem overoptimized if you use such a phrase too often.

Google and long keyphrases

Google is very capable of recognizing longer keyphrases, even if the words are not in the exact same order. If you Google for [keyword research tools that are easy to use] you’ll get these kinds of results:

Google highlights words in the search query, and recognizes the words in the query, even though they’re not in that exact order. In almost all cases, Google can do that. 

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Use multiple focus keywords for those long key phrases

If you want to optimize for long key phrases, you should use the multiple focus keyword functionality in Yoast SEO premium. For example, if you want to rank for the keyphrase [keyword research tools that are easy to use], I would advise you to optimize your post for [keyword research tools] and for [easy to use]. If you optimize your posts this way, you make sure you’re optimizing for all the specifics of your long tail focus keyword.

The multiple keyword 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. Of course, in the ideal situation, Yoast SEO would recognize the terms in the same way Google does. That’s still work in progress though.

Read on: ‘Keyword Research: the ultimate guide’ »

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Yoast Academy is our online SEO courses platform. We’ve been working on our online SEO courses for almost two and a half years now. In 2017, we’ve added some new courses to the curriculum and updated some of the older content. More importantly, we’ve made big plans for new courses and formats for the new year! In this post, I want to look back at Yoast Academy in 2017. But most of all: I want to look forward to what’s just around the corner!

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New courses this year

We’ve created some great new courses last year. We’ve released two technical SEO courses. Our Technical SEO course teaches you all the basic technical stuff one needs to know in order to do SEO. And, our structured data course helps you get those rich snippets in order so you stand out from the other search results. The heartwarming response we get from people taking our courses inspires us, even more, to invest in Yoast Academy. So in 2017, a fresh start has been made by changing to a different learning management system.

New platform

The learning environment we use for Yoast Academy has gone through the most significant change this year. Course structures were simplified so that lessons are easier to find and distractions are kept to a minimum. We also introduced a brand new customer portal this year, called MyYoast. Courses can now be accessed with a MyYoast account, which means no separate login is needed anymore. MyYoast also makes it a lot easier to manage different courses you have purchased, for example when appointing courses to specific employees.

Another change we’re pretty fond of is the greater range of question types now available for the end-of-course quizzes. This makes for a more meaningful learning experience, as you’re not just asked to repeat information. Some of the new question types require you to show you actually understand what you’ve learned. All in all, we’re off to a great start in making Yoast Academy even more awesome!

What to expect in 2018

This January might already mark the most significant change of the year when the Academy team doubles in size! Jesse and Martijn have been in charge of improving and creating SEO courses up till now and will be joined by two new members of Team Yoast: Maartje and Fleur. There is no shortage of ambition and inspiration for Yoast Academy in 2018! The changes made in 2017 enable us to achieve so much more in the future.

Our ambition is for Yoast Academy to be the go-to place for learning about SEO. Obviously, there’s a great deal you can learn from reading blog posts on SEO topics. We should know as we publish quite a lot of those! The online courses in Yoast Academy make you zoom in and focus on all aspects of a subject and help you understand them in a logical order. So, if you’re looking to learn the ins and outs of a specific SEO subject, Yoast Academy is your place to be.

With our team doubling in capacity and the preparations made in 2017, we’re ready to make some great changes to the Academy. We’re renewing parts of courses, adding new questions and of course: developing brand new courses. We can’t wait to show you and promise we’ve got news soon. See you in 2018!

Read more: ‘Our most read posts of 2017’ »

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With 2018 just around the corner, it’s time to look back at yet another amazing year at Yoast. We’ve made some excellent improvements to Yoast SEO and released a bunch of new awesome online SEO courses. Team Yoast has been to lots and lots of conferences. We’ll write separate blog posts to look back at all those things. But as a company, and an employer, Yoast has done a great many things in 2017 as well! Let’s take a look at everything that happened at the Yoast offices in 2017.

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We made a Yoast infographic!

To give you an idea what Yoast looks like in numbers, we put a lot of them in an overview. The article continues below the infographic:

Yoast 2017 infographic

So many new colleagues

The biggest change in 2017 is the number of colleagues we have. At our office in Wijchen, we are now with 50 colleagues (and already doing interviews to hire more :-)). In 2017, we welcomed over twenty awesome new  people at our Yoast office. On top of that, we hired six new support engineers from all over the planet!  We also decided to sponsor two important WordPress icons –Alain Schlesser and Remkus de Vries-, to make sure they continue their awesome work for WordPress core and the WordPress community.

As our company is growing really fast, we organized lots of events to get to know each other. We have our famous ‘Know your colleague-quiz’, in which we ask all kinds of random questions (what’s your favorite color, what kind of sports did you play when you were a child) about all of the people at Yoast. The colleague that knew most answers (way to go, Ben!) won an amazing price. We also had BBQs, went cycling, bowling, celebrated birthdays, Sinterklaas and Christmas. And on December 27th, we’ll have our annual LEGO building day. We’re planning to build 100.000 bricks of LEGO in one day. That’s teambuilding at Yoast!

yoastcon so many people

Our new office: building #2

As Team Yoast continued to grow, our Wijchen office was getting too crowded. We decided to open a second office (building #2) in Wijchen, just around the corner from building #1. There was a big celebration when we opened our new office. We drank champagne, did a real skippy ball race and a had running contest. It took some getting used to, but we’re now all taking frequent walks between buildings #1 and #2 for meetings, coffee or lunch. And, if construction goes well, in spring 2018, building #3 will be opened. The city center of Wijchen has a lot of Yoasters walking around!

opening yoast building #2

Bring your parents to work day

To many of the activities we undertake at Yoast, we let people bring their partners and children. Most of our colleagues do not have families of their own yet. Some of them even live with their parents. We therefore decided to organize an event, to which everyone could bring their parents: ‘bring your parents to work -day’.

We showed the parents around, told them what we’re working at and explained about our products and the growth of our company. It was great fun to meet everyone’s parents. Next year, we’ll definitely organize another ‘bring your parents to work-day’. We’ll  do a bit rebranding and make it an even more inclusive event: the ‘bring your family to work-day’. Some of the little brothers felt left out ;-).

5 years since Yoast hired first employees

In 2012 Yoast hired the first employees. Most of them still work with us today. That’s so very special to us! Of course Michiel started out as an employee in 2012, but quickly became one of the co-owners at Yoast. Mijke and Erwin were our 3th and 4th employee’s in 2012 and celebrated their 5th anniversary at Yoast this fall. We gave them special editions of Newton’s cradle to put on their desk. These cradles should remind everyone how much we love and value the people that work at Yoast. We hope they’ll all celebrate their 5th anniversary with us!

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YoastCon 2017

One of the biggest highlights of 2017 was the second edition of YoastCon. It was so very awesome! The venue was gorgeous and we had some great speakers on stage! Most of team Yoast really enjoyed performing our ‘Yoast dance’ on stage too. And the afterparty!

It was great that part of our support team travelled to the Netherlands to attend YoastCon. As they live so far away (The United States, Philippines, Bangladesh) we communicate with them over Skype. It was great to meet them in person and show them some sights in the Netherlands. We’re already planning our next YoastCon in early 2019. Definitely stay tuned!

Teaching children how to code

We started a great project this year to teach children how to write code. A large portion of our development team spent several Tuesday-afternoons at one of our local elementary schools. We taught children how to built their own website and showed them the very basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript. It was a lot of work (10 years olds are always a lot of work), but great fun as well. We’re planning to do more courses for more children next year!

2017 was great fun

For Yoast, 2017 was a great year! We had lots of fun! Fun building our plugin and the My Yoast platform, fun developing online SEO courses, writing blog posts and shooting video’s. Time for 2018!

Read on: ‘Our most read posts of 2017’ »

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Your focus keyword is the keyword you want your post or page to rank for. Some people like to use the same focus keyword over and over again. But, that’s not what a focus keyword is for! You should use a focus keyword only once. But why? And what should you do if you desperately want to rank for that one specific keyword? Don’t despair: I’ll tell you all about it in this post.

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Not competing with your own articles

The main reason why you should not use your focus keyword more than once is that you do not want to compete with your own content for a position in Google. If you optimize two different articles for the same focus keyword, you would like to have both posts to turn up in Google. You’ll be telling Google: these two are both suitable for people searching for my keyword. You would like both of them to turn up. That’s hard to do, not impossible though, but very hard.

You need to have a site with quite a bit of authority to rank with two articles in the top ten search results. If you’re already ranking with one of your articles in the search results, you’ll probably have enough authority to try and rank with a second one. If you’re not yet ranking on a focus keyword, never use it twice! Update and improve your original article and write another post surrounding a slightly different keyword.

Ranking for your most desired keyword

What should you do if you want to rank for that specific keyword you’ve set your mind to? Imagine yourself starting a webshop selling clothes for dogs. You probably want to rank for ‘dog clothes,’ but as you are a starter, that’ll be rather hard. Optimizing all of your posts for ‘dog clothes’ is not the right strategy. So what should you do? Your keyword research has given you some ideas what other terms to target.

Your most precious keyword ‘dog clothes’ is a so-called ‘head’ keyword. It’ll be competitive and rather hard to rank for. You should write an awesome, lengthy cornerstone article about dog clothes and optimize it for the term ‘dog clothes’ using our Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure to indicate in our plugin that this specific article is a cornerstone article.

focus keyword input field Yoast SEO

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Improve your site structure

The next step you’ll need to take to rank for your most desired keyword is to make sure your site structure is flawless. You’ll need to write a lot of posts each surrounding a specific aspect of your ‘head’ keyword. You could write an article and optimize it for focus keywords like ‘clothes for small dogs,’ ‘clothes for big dogs,’ ‘dog clothes for rainy days’ and so on. These focus keywords are called long tail keywords. If you link from these long tail articles to your ‘head term’ article, you’ll be telling Google which one of your articles is the most important one. That’ll help with the ranking of your most precious article. At the same time, you’ll be attracting traffic for those long tail articles as well.

Should I use a keyword more than once?

Unless you’re a high authority site and you’re already ranking for a specific keyword, you should NOT use a focus keyword more than once. Ranking for that one specific focus keyword is possible if you write an awesome cornerstone article about that focus keyword. On top of that, you’ll need a kickass site structure to make sure that article will start ranking!

Read more: ‘The ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

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Site structure is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy. After all, the structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. You can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engines, with your site’s structure. So, it’s important to get it right! It also is a very actionable part of your SEO strategy. You can all start improving your site structure today! In this SEO basics post, I’ll explain the importance of site structure for your site’s SEO and I’ll give three quick tips on how to start improving your site’s structure.

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As your site grows, it’ll get cluttered

As you’re writing more and more blog posts, or add more product pages, your site will get cluttered. You need to organize it neatly, to make sure you, your visitor AND Google will be able to find what they’re looking for.

Why is that? Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name is Alice. Alice gets up every morning, sits down at her desk and starts to write a beautiful story. She writes one story every day. Alice types all her stories on this beautiful old-fashioned typewriter. Whenever she’s done writing, she pulls the paper out of the machine and puts her lovely new story on her desk. As you can imagine, her desk will slowly get cluttered with all these sheets of paper. After a year of writing, she’ll have 365 sheets of paper on it. After three years of writing, she’ll have more than a thousand. Alice will not be able to find her favorite story, because of the abundance of stories on her desk.

If you do not structure your stuff neatly, your stories, your blogposts, your product pages will get lost. Your visitors will not be able to find what they are looking for, and, important for your SEO: Google will also get lost.

Why is site structure important for Google?

There are two reasons why site structure is important for Google and, therefore, for your chances to rank in the search engines.

1. Structure is a guide for Google

The way your site is structured will give Google clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and what you’re selling.

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Googlebot. And by following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. The structure of your site is a guide to Google and therefore very crucial.

2. Not competing with your content

The second reason why site structure is essential for Google is because, without a decent structure, you’ll be competing with yourself for a high ranking in the search engines. You probably have blogposts or articles on your site that are on the same topic. At Yoast, for example, we write a lot about SEO. We have multiple posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. But Google won’t know which of these is most important unless we ‘tell’ Google.

Importance should order your content. Think about Alice’s cluttered desk. Alice could clean up by making piles of her sheets of papers. She could order her stories by topic: stories about bumble bees, stories about flowers, stories about fairies. But, if Alice were to make piles of paper, without ordering them, without putting the most beautiful stories on the top of the pile, no one would ever know which story is the most important to her.

If you don’t tell Google which posts are most important, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You’d be competing with your pages for a high ranking in Google. The solution is rather simple: you let Google know which page you consider most important. You tell Google which story you want on top of your pile. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure.

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Read more: ‘Why is site structure important?’ »

How to get started with site structure?

What are the things you need to do to improve your site’s structure? What can you do to avoid your site structure becoming an issue?  I’ll give three basic tips on how to quickly improve your site structure.

Remove old content

Lots of shops will sell a different collection of products (clothes; shoes) every season. If you don’t expect to sell the same product again, you should remove the page. However, you may have had some links to the page you want to remove. And you know, links to your page are valuable for your SEO!  You want to make sure you benefit from these links, even though the page does not exist anymore. That’s why you should redirect the URL.

Evaluate your categories

You should ensure that categories are about equally large. Think of Alice and her stories. Alice could categorize her stories by making piles of these categories. Imagine one pile becoming huge, while the others remain much smaller. It would be hard to find a specific story in that big pile, while it would be much easier to search through a small pile. At the same time, that big heap is probably very important, because Alice wrote a lot of stories about that specific topic.

Categories become too large when you write a lot about one specific subject and less about others. At one point, you should divide that one category into two categories. A good rule of thumb for the size of categories is to make sure that no category is more than twice the size of any other category. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a huge category. The pile has become too large to search through.

3. Improve your internal linking structure

You should make sure that you’re linking to your most important articles. A great internal linking structure is crucial. We’ve built Yoast Internal Linking to help you achieve such an internal structure. But you should do some reading and research to get the hang of it. Read Meike’s blogpost about Internal linking for SEO to improve your internal linking structure.

Keep reading: ‘Avoid these site structure mistakes!’ »

Conclusion: get started with improving your site structure

It’s important to remember that site structure is part of a bigger, ongoing process. Your site will grow and therefore, the structure will require maintenance. Improving and maintaining the structure of a site should be a core aspect of every SEO strategy. It’s a very actionable part of SEO; it’s something you can control and improve rather quickly. So, let’s get started!

Read on: ‘Site structure: the Ultimate guide’ »

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Online reviews are important for any local business. They’ve become essential in local search strategies. Having positive reviews and ratings will help in attracting traffic, both to your website as well as to your local business. Should you respond to positive reviews? And what about the negative ones? Here, I’ll give you lots of tips on how to respond to online reviews of your business.

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Importance of online reviews

For customers, online reviews are critical. Every one of us would check out reviews before booking that expensive holiday home in the south of France. Online reviews are also important for your SEO. There’s an overall consensus among SEO experts about reviews being a ranking factor for local search. You should read the article David Mihm wrote for Yoast for more information on the impact of reviews on your local rankings. Or learn how to grow your business with ratings and reviews.

Why should you react to reviews?

Reviews tell what other people, your customers, think of your product. If you respond to reviews, you show your (potential) customers that you care about their opinion. And that’s something your customers will appreciate. Apart from that, responding to reviews will make your business stand out from other companies, as a lot of them do not make an effort to respond to their reviews.

If you write a response to a review, you’ll not be only writing to the person who wrote the review. Your response will be out there for all potential customers. Handling reviews with grace, gratitude and a little bit of wit, can have a huge impact on the way people perceive your brand.

To which reviews should you respond?

Reacting to reviews appears to be a wise thing to do. That does not mean you should respond to every single review. In my opinion, you should react to negative reviews. Responding to negative reviews will show potential customers how you handle problems and solve solutions to dissatisfied customers.

I would also react to very positive reviews, especially if the response it elaborate and detailed. Responding to positive reviews will give the opportunity to promote your brand and to show your passion for your company. Responding to positive reviews is not that hard to do. It’s the negative ones that need a strategy.

How to respond to reviews?

How do you respond to those negative reviews? What should you do and which pitfalls should you avoid? I’ll share seven tips on how to handle those negative reviews!

1. Keep Calm

It’s never easy to get a negative review. In some cases, it can feel unfair. Perhaps the tone of the review is harsh, personal or condescending. Your first reaction will most likely be an emotional one. Perhaps you’ll get angry or very frustrated. In such a case, it’s wise to take a moment before you write your response.

2. Have a plan

Negative comments and reviews will always come up at one point in time. It’s a good thing to prepare yourself for it. You could have some standard replies ready. Be careful never to use the same answer more than once. Always adapt a reply to the specifics the situation requires. Having some nicely drafted sentences ready can help you to formulate the response in the heat of the moment.

3. Own the problem

A negative response means that someone has had a negative experience with your business. Maybe they didn’t like the food you served in your restaurant. Of course, this could be due to their lack of taste, but such a response will not be satisfying to your potential audience. In most cases, start with apologizing for their negative experience, even if it’s not (entirely) your fault. You are sorry that they had a negative experience. You are sorry the food did not taste good.

If something went wrong because of a mistake on your site, tell people that, own up to your mistake and apologize for it. If someone did not get their dessert and is pissed off about that, investigate the specifics of the situation. Did you, in fact, forget about their dessert? Admit to your mistake, apologize and try to fix the problem. In this case, invite them back to have dessert another time.

Everyone makes mistakes and people are really forgiving if you are willing to show your human side. Own up to your mistakes, apologize and try to come up with a solution.

4. Let someone proofread your response

You’re never an objective author of responses to reviews. You’re involved; what might sound reasonable to you, might sound crazy aggressive to someone else. If you’re not sure about your response, letting someone else read it first (someone objective) can be a good idea.

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5. Short and sweet

Don’t write responses that are too lengthy. Make them short and sweet. Nobody wants to read through a reply of thirteen paragraphs. Even if someone personally insults you in a review, you should never get personal. Try to remain professional and polite, at all times.

6. Don’t get trapped in long discussion

Never get trapped in lengthy discussions. Reply once, maybe twice if necessary, but stop replying after that. Nobody wants to read a complete discussion between a dissatisfied customer and a business. Or maybe some people do like to read such a thing, but it does not reflect well on your business.

7. Take the discussion offline

Someone had a bad experience with your business and you can solve it? Try to contact them outside of the review-channel. Ask them to get in touch with your sales department, or invite them over to your restaurant. Did people not get their dessert? Invite them over to your restaurant. People can’t get in touch with your support department? Help them to make a connection.

After the response?

If you have had some negative responses, you’ll probably want to bury them underneath a big pile of positive ones. Maybe you’ll encounter customers that have positive experiences. By all means, invite them to leave a review. Research shows that a lot of people are willing to do that!

If you can solve the problem with a dissatisfied customer, you can also ask if they can edit or remove their review. You should only do that if the air is clear between the customer and your business.

Read more: ‘How to get local reviews’ »

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Does it pay off to write a text that is nice and easy to read? Will readable content lead to higher rankings and more traffic? Is readability a ‘ranking factor’? At Yoast, we are strong believers in writing texts that are nice and easy to read. We’ve developed an entire tool to help people write readable texts. We truly believe that readability ranks. Writing readable texts will lead to higher rankings and more traffic.

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So why is readability becoming more important? I’ll discuss two reasons why we believe readability is of increasing importance for SEO. In our view, it’ll become essential for every copywriter. The first reason why readability will gain importance is because of the growth of and focus on voice search. The second reason is because of the fact the algorithm of Google is getting better and more ‘human-like’.

Voice search becomes more dominant

Although few people use voice search, Google (and other search engines) are focused on voice. They present their results in a voice-like matter; they rank their results in a voice-like matter. The very fact that search engines want voice search to be the next big thing, makes readability so important. To understand the importance for readability in voice search, look at this video:

People searching for information with voice search could end up listening to a rather long piece of information. In the example in the video above, the search result consists of an entire paragraph. Imagine such a paragraph consisting of long sentences and containing lots of difficult words. The voice result will become impossible to understand. Google will never rank such an impossible result. Neither in the voice results, nor in the normal results.

Google will prefer understandable content, because Google is focused on voice search. Google wants voice search to become the next big thing. Whether that will happen or not, doesn’t matter for the importance of understandable, readable content. Google simply dictates the search results and the algorithm. We just have to go with it. And in this case, it’s a good thing. Writing readable content is a blessing for the reader.

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Read more: ‘How to prepare for voice search’ »

Google’s algorithm becomes more human-like

Google has become much better at predicting what people want to read. The algorithm of Google is mimicking a human. It tries to read texts like a human being. As Google becomes more capable of understanding and scanning texts in a human-like way, the demands on the readability of texts also rise.

Google will, increasingly, assess the topic of a text the way humans assess the topic of a text. People scan through texts, read subheadings and the first sentences of paragraphs. People look for transition words in order to quickly abstract what the main conclusion of an article will be. All the things humans do while reading a text, are things Google will do. That means that the structure of your text, the way you write your paragraphs, will become increasingly important. Core sentences (the first sentence of every paragraph) will gain importance. Having a clear and logical structure in your text will be invaluable.

What will be the demands on readable content?

Understandable, readable content contains lots of transition words, as these words help people understand the connection between sentences. Content that’s easy to understand has short sentences and few difficult and long words. The structure of a text is very important. Core sentences will be the most important sentences in assessing the topic of an article or blog post. These will be demands copywriters will have to deal with. It might sound scary, but if you simply write a good text, you’ll please your readers and Google.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

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Content SEO is a major aspect of an SEO strategy. Without content, it is impossible to rank your site in search engines. It is, therefore, crucial to write and structure quality content! This ultimate guide covers the most important topics for content SEO.

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What is Content SEO?

Content SEO encompasses all the aspects that have to do with writing and structuring of content on your website. There are three major topics you should keep in mind to produce content that will make your website rank: keyword strategy, site structure and copywriting.

Content SEO is important because search engines, like Google, scroll text. They decide whether or not your site will rank in their result pages based mainly on the words. Of course, your website should be very nicely designed, with a great user interface. And all the technical stuff that makes your site rank in Google should also be covered. But without content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines.

Keyword research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research can be defined as the activity you undertake to come up with an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research. You have to know what your audience is searching for if you want to generate traffic. Keyword research helps you to discover what you should be ranking for, or aiming to rank for.

In our view, keyword research has three steps:

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

In the next chapter, we will take you through these three steps in much more detail.

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

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

Why is keyword research important for content SEO?

Proper keyword research will make clear which search terms your audience uses. This is imperative. At Yoast, we regularly encounter clients that have a specific set of words they use when referencing their products, while their users use an entirely different set of words. Optimizing content for words that people don’t use does not make any sense. Doing proper keyword research makes sure that you use the words your target audience uses 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) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific and less some. They 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 large number, as large a number as is feasible for you. More than a 1000 keywords are probably more than you can handle.

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 make 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 that important (yet). 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 business and fit your business best. You should only have a few of these general keywords for your business. The rest of them are bound to be more down the tail. In the next chapter, we will give more in-depth information on long tail keywords (and the importance of these keywords).

Content focusing on the most common keywords should be on the most high-level pages on your website (homepage and the pages one level beneath your homepage). Content focusing on long tail keywords should be more on the tail end of your site as well.

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 or 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 aim at more general keywords afterward. But you could also aim for more long tail keywords after focusing on general ones. You can zoom in and pursue more niche activities, or broaden your approach, adding more content on different things. And you can do both at the same time.

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Site Structure

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

Why is site structure important for content SEO?

In our opinion, there are two main reasons why site structure is an important ranking factor:

1 A decent structure makes sure Google ‘understands’ 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.

2 A decent structure makes sure you do not compete with your content

On your website, you will probably have multiple articles about similar topics. At Yoast, we write about SEO. If we would write eight articles about SEO, Google wouldn’t know which of these pieces is the most important one. If we didn’t clarify this with our site structure, we’d be competing with our own articles for a high ranking in Google. So, solving problems like this with an excellent internal linking structure will result in higher rankings.

The ideal structure of a site

Ideally, you build your site like a pyramid. On top of the pyramid is your homepage and on the homepage are some other pages (categories). These pages, in turn, refer to even more pages.

In an effective content SEO strategy, your keyword strategy and the way you structure your site are related. In a proper keyword strategy, you have thought about common, competitive keywords as well as more long tail niche search terms. You should make a similar dichotomy should 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.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

Practical tips on improving one’s site structure

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

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. Haven’t put any thought into which are your most important articles yet? Well, start thinking about that today. Make these articles the best ones on your site. Give them extra TLC and update them regularly.

Read on: ‘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, you’ll tell Google which articles to rank highest. Read all about this in our article about incorporating cornerstones in 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’ll group your articles about similar topics. Don’t overdo it, though. Some people use more tags than they write articles. Using too many tags will lead to less structure on your website.

Always avoid duplicate content

The same content can turn up at multiple places on your site. As a reader, you don’t mind: you’ll get the content you came for. But a search engine has to pick 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 were all linking 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. In the advanced tab of Yoast SEO, you can configure the canonical URL.

Remove old content

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

Redirecting pages is not that hard. Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin 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 last resort, your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore.

Solve orphaned content

The term ‘orphaned content’ refers to articles that don’t get any links from your other articles or posts. As a result 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). Link to that specific article from other (similar) content. Read more about orphaned articles and how to solve the problem 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.

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Copywriting

The third and final aspect of a successful content SEO strategy is copywriting. You should write texts that are attractive to read. Texts that’ll make your audience want to stay on your website. At the same time, you want to make your content attractive for Google. But some people go a bit overboard and optimize their texts so bluntly that they become terrible to read. At Yoast, we propose a strategy in which you optimize your text for the search engines, without making any concessions to neither the originality of your idea nor 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. Content that people will want to read.

If you did your keyword research right, you ended up with a long list of terms you want to be found for. This list can function as 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 content doesn’t necessarily mean new content. Of course, if your story is totally new, that’ll automatically mean it’s original. However, giving your (professional) opinion on a particular topic also counts as original content. Your 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. Who are they? What do you want to tell your audience? What’ll be the main message of your article? And what is the purpose? 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.

Copywriting requires readable content

A second requirement for writing high-quality content is to write content that’s readable. Your article should be nice and easy to read. Readability is important for your audience and Google. After all, people read your text, but Google reads texts too.

If your text is well structured and clearly written, readers will understand the message of your text. It will also help Google understand the message of your text. If the main message of your post is clearer to Google, it’s also more likely that your post will rank in the search engines.

Readability has to do with text structure, sentence length, writing clear paragraphs and much, much more. Read all about it 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 should be optimized for the search engines

The final requirement for writing high-quality content is to make sure the content is optimized for the search engines. You want your content to be findable. Findability has to do with maximizing the likelihood Google picks 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 can help you tweak your text just a little bit better. 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 will indicate which aspects of your findability need a little bit more attention. Our plugin could suggest using your focus keyword a little bit more often. Maybe you should put it in the first paragraph or one of the headings. Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. These tweaks can improve your chances to be picked up by the search engines. Read much more about optimizing your post in our article on how to use the content and SEO analysis. 

Conclusion on Content SEO

Content SEO is a huge part of SEO. It contains all the aspects that have to do with writing and structuring content on your website. Content SEO is essential. Google reads and scans text. Google’s algorithm decides the ranking of your site largely based on the texts you offer Google. And we all know content is king. So, you need to write awesome 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’ »

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If you’re serious about your SEO, you’ve probably set (implicit) goals on what you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to rank in the top ten search results for a specific keyword. Maybe you want your organic traffic to rise with a certain number. But what do you do if you are unable to meet your goals? Simply reset your goals? Or do you adapt and improve your SEO strategy? And how should you do that? In this post, I’ll talk you through the most important and effective tactics in content SEO strategy that’ll help you to achieve your SEO goals.

Why set SEO goals at all?

If you set SEO goals, chances are much higher your content SEO strategy will be successful. Specifying your goals will give you the motivation to meet those goals. They will give focus to your strategy. Also important, you’ll be able to measure the success of your SEO strategy, if you make your goals specific.

You could set goals for ranking top 10, top 5, top 3 or taking the number 1 position in the search engines for specific terms. You can also set goals for the amount of traffic you want to attract from the search engines. Make goals specific and put deadlines on them. That’ll help you become extra focused and determined to achieve your SEO goals.

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Not meeting your goals isn’t that bad…

It can be disappointing if you’re unable to meet your SEO goals, especially if you put a lot of effort into your content SEO strategy. No worries, though. The next step is to analyze what went wrong. If you analyze and evaluate properly, you’ll uncover valuable information. That information will help you to set realistic new goals and to improve your SEO strategy on all fronts.

Are all technical SEO aspects taken care of?

Make sure your technical SEO is in order. Yoast SEO takes care of these things for you. Still, you won’t be the first to accidentally have a noindex/nofollow tag in the wrong place. If you’re blocking – perhaps even without knowing it! – crawlers from your site, you’ll never rank high in Google.

Read more: ‘Technical pointers’ »

Evaluate your keyword research

A common mistake in content SEO is to aim for keywords that are simply too competitive to rank for. It’s understandable that we all want to rank for terms that generate the most traffic. Competition on those terms is killing, though. We can’t all rank for the same terms. If you are unable to meet your goals for certain keywords or keyphrases, you might be aiming too high.

Consider ranking for long tail keywords. The longer and more specific your keywords are, the less competitive they’ll be. If you focus on many of those long tail keywords, you can generate lots of traffic with those. And, after a while, you’ll be able to rank for more head terms as well, as your authority in your domain will increase.

Ranking for competitive search terms is always a longterm SEO strategy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals to enter the top 5 in Google on a competitive term. I’m just saying that you should give yourself some time to achieve those goals. In the meantime, set goals on entering the top 5 in Google on more long tail and less competitive keywords. You’ll be able to celebrate successes while working towards your ultimate ranking goal.

Keep reading: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

Evaluate your content

Another reason you’re not ranking (yet) could be that your site lacks awesome and SEO-friendly content. A successful SEO strategy requires lots of great quality content. A few thin-content sales pages will not get you in Google’s top 10. You need to incorporate several awesome, informative cornerstone content pages. Besides that, writing informative, unique and well-optimized articles and blogposts will do the trick.

When tackling your content to achieve your goals, check the following things: Did you write multiple lengthy articles or blogposts? Are they optimized for the right search terms? Did you update old content? Writing SEO friendly content is a lot of work. It’ll pay off, but you need to make an effort. No shortcuts here.

Learn how to write engaging copy and how to organize it well on your site: Combine our SEO copywriting and Site structure training. »

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Update that site structure

A third reason why you’re not ranking well or attracting as much traffic as you’d like could be that your site’s structure isn’t up to scratch. If your website is about ballet shoes, you’re probably writing many related articles about ballet shoes. But you want to tell Google which of these articles is the most important. Otherwise, you will end up competing with your own content in the search results. That could result in lower rankings for all of your articles.

The best way to improve your site structure is to choose a cornerstone approach. Determine which article on each main topic you’re writing about is most important. Link from all other blogposts on that topic to your most important one. Our Yoast SEO plugin has several features to help you improve your site’s structure. Using these will do wonders for your SEO!

Conclusion

Whether you reach your goals or not isn’t the main issue; you just need to set them. If you don’t manage to reach those goals, it’s a good starting point to look for the reasons you did not meet them. And that’ll allow you to improve your SEO strategy.

Read on: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

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