In this new Ask Yoast case study we’ll focus on an Australian real estate company: Building Properties Inspections Melbourne. This company specializes in building and pest inspections and provides its customers with reports, containing all the details of those inspections. What kind of customer makes use of these services? You could think of people who consider buying a property and therefore want to know if it’s in good condition. Or people who have already bought a new home and discovered timber pest afterward.

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People search online first

Of course, services like these are offline services. After making an appointment, someone of the company will actually come to your house for the inspection. However, to make this appointment, people need to find the company first. Some visitors may find the company thanks to the advice of a friend who has already used their services. People that don’t know this company will probably use an online search engine to find a business providing these services. This is where SEO comes in: if a website is at the top of the search results, people will be more likely to click on that website. In the end, this will result in more actual clients and more business for the company.

What page should rank for your keywords?

The next step is thinking about what page should rank at the top of the search results. Probably one of the most important services of Building Properties Inspections Melbourne is the ‘Pre Purchase Inspection’. When someone is about to purchase a property, this service can be used to make sure the building is in good condition.

Searching for a service like this using a search engine such as Google, people might insert a keyword like ‘Pre Purchase Inspection’ or ‘Pre Purchase Inspection Home’. When your website ranks high for such keywords, lots of people will visit your website and call in your services. When your website is on the 3rd page of the search results, nearly no one will even see your website.

Adding sufficient content

It’s important to have one specific page for every keyword or keyword group: the cornerstone content page. When someone searches for a query such as ‘Pre Purchase Inspection Home’ in Google, you don’t want your page about pest inspection to rank first. That’s why you need to make sure that Google understands what page contains the best, most relevant information for a specific keyword.

Looking at the ‘Pre Purchase Inspection’ page on the website of this company, we noticed there is too little textual content:

Pre purchase inspection

The textual content on the service page.

The current text consists of nearly 100 words. You might understand that it’s hard for Google to rank this page as the best result when only such a small amount of content can be found on the page. Make sure you add a minimum of 300 words to all of your posts and pages. For a cornerstone content page -like this page should be- we even recommend a minimum of 900 words. Tell everything about the specific service, how you operate, why people should choose you (your USP) and of course, use the keywords you want to rank for with that page in the text.

Calling to the next action

Finally, add a call-to-action to the page to give your visitors the opportunity to contact you easily. There is already a contact form on the current service page, but, because of the dark background, it looks like a footer. Visitors could skip the content in the dark block altogether because it looks like it’s not relevant for the actual page itself:

Call to action on the inspection website

The testimonials and the current call-to-action

However, the testimonials and the call-to-action in the block are important. We recommend adding a button below the textual content which says ‘Book an Inspection’ and link that button to the contact page of the website. Below the button, you can show the testimonials. Showing this content on a white background just like the other textual content will help visitors understand that it belongs to the page.

The homepage as a landing page

Not all visitors enter your website on one of the service pages: most of the other visitors will probably enter the website on the homepage. This is why it’s important to make sure your homepage is clear and easy to understand.

The current homepage contains a slider at the top of the page:

homepage as a landing page

Readers who regularly visit our blog know that we’re not a big fan of sliders. Nearly nobody actually clicks on any of the slides and it often has a negative effect on the loading times of a website. We recommend removing the slider and adding some introductory content instead. This introduction needs to tell your visitors what your website is about and what your USP is. Below the introduction, we recommend adding a clear call-to-action in a color that’s not in your color scheme yet. There already is a call-to-action as you can see in the screenshot above: the ‘Click here to book online’ button. However, this button doesn’t stand out as it is a so-called ghost button. Make sure it does. On their mobile website, they’re already doing this better, as you can see on the image below.

Mobile homepageWe recommend switching the orange and white colors, so the button has an orange color instead of the complete bar, this would make it stand out more. Add some introductory content above the button, and the top of this mobile homepage would look great!

Lastly, on both desktop and mobile, the homepage contains a lot of textual content. Since it’s mostly the service pages that need to rank for specific keywords, it’s not necessary to add this amount of textual content to the homepage.

In our opinion, the homepage should above all tell your visitors what the website is about and guide them to your main pages. We recommend reducing the textual content on the homepage, especially for the mobile version of the website.

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The importance of local SEO

Since the services of this company are offline, it’s important for them to rank locally. You want visitors that live nearby to find your website in their search results. You’ll understand that it’s less beneficial when people at the other side of the country see your website in the search results. Those people will probably exit your site quickly because your company is too far from their area. To rank locally, there are 3 things to keep in mind: structured data, Google My Business and ratings and reviews.

Structured data

Structured data can be beneficial for lots of different pages but for local SEO you should at least add structured data to your contact page. The Yoast Local SEO plugin could help you with that. The plugin will add Google Maps to your contact page. Besides that, you can add your business address and opening hours. The plugin will automatically add structured data to that information and Google might show this directly in the search results as a rich result.

Google My Business

The second thing you need to optimize is your Google My Business account. Having such an account can also lead to a rich result, such as a knowledge graph. When people in your neighborhood search for your services, this knowledge graph might appear. Local SEO expert David Mihm tells you all there is to know about it in this Google My Business post.

Ratings and reviews

Adding ratings and reviews to your site will increase the trust of visitors. Furthermore, they’re a sign for Google that your company can be valuable to others looking for the same services. If you also add structured data to those ratings and reviews, Google might show them in the search results and the CTR to your website could increase because of that rich result.

To sum it up

It was great reviewing the website of Building Property Inspections Melbourne. We think it’s a clear website and with some SEO improvements, the rankings should increase. The first thing is creating cornerstone content pages of the services pages. Adding sufficient textual content to those pages, it will be easier for Google to rank them higher in the search results. The second thing we recommend is optimizing the homepage to make sure visitors immediately understand what your website is about. After that, they should be guided to the main pages of the website. With clear calls-to-action, you’ll create a clear path for your visitors. Lastly, optimizing the website for local SEO can be very beneficial since you want to focus on the people nearby. Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Using cornerstone content to make your site rank’ »

The post Ask Yoast case study: SEO for a property inspector appeared first on Yoast.

With our Ask Yoast case studies we help clients with their SEO by reviewing the website and giving clear advice and hands-on tips. Those clients send us their website because they’re curious what improvements can be made to improve the overall rankings. This time, we reviewed the website of a high-quality sun protection brand: Calypso. The brand started many years ago in the UK but is nowadays sold all around the globe. Let’s dive into the website to see what they’re doing well and what things need improvement. 

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A clean entrance

On entering the website, we immediately see a clean and inviting homepage. The homepage makes sure visitors can easily navigate to the most important content of the website: the actual products. However, we also see things that can be improved.

First of all, we see the slider on top of the homepage. We’re not a big fan of sliders because different studies show that only around 1% of your visitors would actually click on a slide. Besides, sliders often slow down your website a lot, and there are a lot more reasons which you can find in the post linked above.

We think the slider on Calypsosun.com is even more confusing because it contains a video. When a visitor presses the play button within the video, he or she is sent to the video on YouTube:

Slider image link to video

The play button which sends visitors to YouTube

This means that you say goodbye to your visitors in an early stage of their visit. Try to keep them on your website and send them to your content.

What is the best practice in this case? In our eyes, another image, which is now below the fold on the homepage, would be a great top image:

Sun Protection banner

This banner would be a great top image for the homepage

The image contains some introductory content which tells your visitors what’s on the website. Adding a clear call-to-action below this image would be great. Think of a button with a text such as ‘See all products’ to guide your visitors to the product overview page. Below this call-to-action, you can still show the top sellers as you do now.

What are the site’s pages about?

Google needs to understand what a website’s pages are about before the pages can rank for certain keywords. Of course, textual content tells Google what a page is about. An important part of your text are the headings. Headings are meant to tell Google what the main subject of a page is and what other relevant subjects are on the page. This means that the main subject of a page should always be an H1 heading. Subheadings in the text should be H2 or H3 and less important headings should be H4, H5, etc. We recommend using H4 and higher for headings in a sidebar or footer because Google shouldn’t use those to determine what the page is about.

For example, checking one of the product pages of Calypso, we noticed there is no H1 or H2 heading.

The headings on a product page

The name of the product is an H3 heading, but this should be the H1 heading. The subheading ‘Directions of Use’ doesn’t tell so much about the subject of this page so this could indeed be an H5. When the subheading is relevant to the text, it should be an H2 of H3 heading.

Another way of telling Google what a page or post is about is optimizing your site’s metadata such as page titles and meta descriptions. We noticed that Calypso uses great page titles and meta descriptions so they’ve already understood how important this can be for SEO.

Making your pages stronger

It’s clear that every website needs content to rank for certain keywords. If content is well-structured with headings, and page titles are optimized, it’s time to make your most important pages stronger. For Calypso, their product pages are most important because these reflect the products the company is based on. In this case, the product overview page could benefit from a little more SEO-optimized copy.

You might think that blog posts on the website are less relevant. However, blog posts can be valuable in another way, which we’ll explain in the next paragraph. You’ll always have important content and less important pages and posts, but even those have their purpose.

Let Google know what’s important

How do you let Google know what pages are more important? By adding internal links from all relevant pages to the most important pages, you make those pages stronger. When a certain page has lots of links from relevant other pages, Google understands that this page might contain the most important content around a keyword. Make sure you add relevant anchor texts to the internal links to make Google understand for what keywords the most important pages of your website should rank.

For example, when you write a blog post about the best sun protection for kids, you should add internal links to the actual products. If you use anchor text such as ‘Sun protection for kids’, it will be clear to Google what the relevancy between the pages is. Doing this consistently, your product pages will get more and more links and will become the strongest pages of your website.

The ‘Be Sun Ready’ page could be a great cornerstone article for ranking on relevant keywords. This page, however, could benefit from a few optimizations: they could add links to relevant products in the content and a call-to-action-button to the products page. Doing keyword research should provide them with enough keyword suggestions to make this great page SEO-proof.

The products overview

Navigating to the product overview page, we noticed that the categories are visible in tabs above the products:

Product overview Calypsosun

The categories are shown in the tabs above the products

We recommend adding narrow signs to make sure visitors understand that more content can be found clicking on those tabs. Think of a drop-down sign like we use in our main menu:

Screenshot of the main menu of Yoast.com

The drop-down signs after each menu item

You’ll see that these signs will make it clearer to your visitors that they can click on the tabs. Make your site as user-friendly as possible, because the signals users provide are precious as Google uses these as well in their algorithm. Since SEO and UX are increasingly tied, it’s important to improve those user signals.

Using buttons to guide your visitors

Clear buttons can have a positive effect on the page path visitors take. You can guide your visitors to the pages you want them to go to next page. For example, you could add a button below each product which says ‘More information’. Doing this, you guide the visitors to the specific product pages and you make sure visitors understand that they can find more content related to the product by clicking on it. Now, the only way visitors see that there is a link behind the product on the current overview is by hovering over the image.

The product pages already have clear calls-to-action added: buttons which say ‘Where to buy’:

The ‘Where to buy’ button is a clear call-to-action

However, there is a way to increase the number of clicks on this button. We recommend changing the color of the button into a color that’s not in your color scheme. Doing this, the button will stand out more and might get more visitors to click on the button. Don’t you think the button catches your eye when it’s in another color?

We’ve changed the color of the button to make it stand out more

Of course, if you have a sufficient amount of traffic you can – and should – do A/B tests for these kinds of things. After an A/B test, you can easily conclude what color works best.

The last tip we want to give for the product page is related to the ‘Where to buy’ section. After clicking on the button, a screen pops up with the names of all the different resellers of the products. However, the only supplier which contains a link is Amazon and this logo is placed at the bottom of the popup screen. When visitors come to your website, they are already online, and they might immediately want to buy your products online. This means that it could be a good idea to guide them to Amazon first to give them the opportunity to buy your products directly.

Make sure your website loads fast

An important issue on the website of Calypso is page speed. Page speed is crucial in the eyes of Google and is considered to be a ranking factor in the future mobile-first index. The longer it takes to load a page, the less user-friendly the page is. Probably you’ll agree that it can be annoying if you have to wait too long for a web page to load. Visitors will bounce because of the loading times and this is a negative user signal, like we mentioned before.

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Testing the website of Calypso in the Google PageSpeed Tool we noticed a very low score: 18/100. This means you’ll have to start working on the loading times of the website. All possible improvements regarding speed are listed in the Google PageSpeed tool. We recommend starting with enabling compression and with optimizing images. Resolving those two issues probably results in the quickest and easiest increase in the page speed score.

To sum it up

We really loved reviewing the website of your well-known sun protection brand. You’ve created a very clean and clear website and with a couple of changes, you can improve your site’s SEO as well.

For your homepage, we recommend removing the slider and instead, add a clear image which reflects the website. Some introductory content will tell your visitors what the website is about and with a clear call-to-action you can guide your visitors to the most important pages.

To make those crucial pages even stronger, we recommend setting up an internal linking strategy. Make sure your internal linking reflects the hierarchy of the website to help Google understand the site structure. Besides that, using the right headings will improve the site structure as well.

And last, but definitely not least, working on your site’s loading times can be very beneficial. Increasing the page speed score will be valuable for both your visitors as for your site’s SEO. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Ask Yoast case study: SEO of an online shop’ »

In our Ask Yoast case studies we give SEO advice for websites in a specific market or industry. This time: the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects, the business site of an architect duo. The architects told us that they get great responses from their clients, but is their website optimized for search engines as well? We’ll dive into this architectural website to see what improvements can be made to enhance their site’s SEO.

First impression

The first page we land on is the homepage. We see lots of full screen images of the great work these architects deliver on top of the homepage. Though impressive, the images are shown in a slider. Loyal readers of our blog know that we’re not a big fan of sliders. Many experiments show why you shouldn’t use a slider on your website. Only 1% of your visitors will actually click on a slider, they slow down your website and lots of visitors ignore sliders because of banner blindness. Just to name a few.

Looking at this specific website, the slider images are very big as well. The textual content of the homepage is pushed down. We recommend showing some smaller images on top of the site, instead of the slider, and adding some clear introductory content just below these images. Try adding your USPs to the introductory content: Why should visitors choose you as their architect?

Lastly, by adding a clear call-to-action just below the introductory content you’ll make sure visitors can easily navigate to your most important pages. For example, you could think of a button which says ‘Get inspired by our projects’ or ‘Our services’: decide what the main goal of your homepage is. Just to show you the difference, we’ve created a mock-up of how the homepage could look like after following our advice:

Homepage example of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Beautiful images, too little text

On the ‘The Studio’ page, we notice a tab ‘What we do’. This tabbed content tells visitors what kind of work you do and what type of services you offer. Because of the relevancy of this content, we think these services deserve their own menu item. Visitors who want to know more about your team and your company may click on ‘The Studio’. However, they might not expect to find the services you offer there.

In addition to that, your services are great subjects to write about. Writing nice informational copy about your services will increase your chance of ranking for keywords related to these services. When you add sufficient relevant content, Google will understand that your website has content for people looking for services like yours. This means those people will easily find you. The more your content seems to fit to the needs of people who search for these keywords, the higher you’ll rank in the future.

Make sure you optimize one specific page or post for one subject/keyword. When you optimize one page for more keywords that are too different, it’s unclear for Google what the main subject of the page is. Pages that contain a lot of information about the keywords you really want to rank for, should become your cornerstone content pages. This blog post about cornerstone content explains in detail what cornerstone content means and this blogpost shows you how to incorporate cornerstone content into your website.

Lastly, we think you can improve your content as well by adding more copy to your project pages. Consider writing a nice text about the planning stage of the project, the building stage and the delivery stage of the project, for instance. In this copy you can add relevant keywords for your business. In addition to that, this allows you to internally link to your cornerstone content pages from your project pages. 

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Structure your text

When you decide to write more copy for your website in the future, make sure the pages and posts have a great heading structure. On your current pages and posts, we noticed that your logo is an H1 heading. However, the H1 heading should describe the main subject of a particular page on your site to help Google understand what the subject of that specific page or post is.

For example, checking ‘The studio’ page, we see the following headings on top of the page:

Headings Slemish Design Studio Architects

Your company name/logo has an H1 tag now, which means that your company name would be the main subject of this page. While in fact, ‘The studio’ is the main subject of the page. So you should change the H2 heading of ‘The studio’ into an H1 heading. Just remove the H1 heading from the logo on every page of the website. We’d advise to check all of your pages and posts and only add one H1 heading, that describes what can be found on there, on each page.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use headings on your site’ »

The right metadata

You’ll need to add relevant keywords to your page titles to help Google understand what your pages are about. Since page titles are still one of the most important ranking factors it’s important to optimize those to the fullest.

Looking at the page title of your homepage, we think you’ve added too many different keywords to show what your website is about:

Adding all different locations to your page title makes it unclear what your website is about. Moreover, the snippet doesn’t look very enticing to click on in the search results. This might cause a low CTR, or click-through rate. If you want to rank for all the different locations, adding separate pages with unique page titles and content for every location would be a better idea.

We’d advise to create appealing page titles and make sure they describe what can be found on that specific URL. For the homepage, use your USP and add a call-to-action such as ‘See our projects here’ to make people click on your page in the search results. Don’t you think a snippet like this will be more appealing to potential visitors?

On top of that, it’s important to be consistent in your branding. Add your company name to every page title. If you do that, people will recognize your page in the search results more easily, because of the brand name in every page title.

Add more relevant content to your blog

Having a blog can be very beneficial for SEO. Adding posts regularly makes it easy to add content about relevant keywords to your website. It helps you to start ranking for new keywords and to keep ranking for the keywords you already rank for.

Slemish Design Studio Architects have a blog and they add new posts regularly, which is great. However, it seems that lots of posts have little textual content. For example, this post only has two sentences:

Blog post of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Google could consider this post as a thin content page, which could hurt your website’s rankings. Since pages like these don’t add much value to your website, you’d better add more content or remove them from your website.

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Create strong cornerstone content

Besides the benefits of adding more content about relevant keywords to a blog, a blog also gives you an opportunity to add more internal links to your most important pages and posts. For example, when you’ve created a separate page for the service ‘Sun Rooms’ you could write a blog post about new innovations for sun rooms. From that post you can add an internal link to the page about the ‘Sun Rooms’ service. Doing this consistently, that service page – which could be a great cornerstone content page if you add sufficient content – will become a better search result, according to Google.

In addition to internal links within a text, you can add a popular, recent or related posts section to the blog. The sidebar is often used to add sections like these. These links in the sidebar will give the posts they link to some extra link value.

Lastly, adding your blog’s categories to the sidebar will give your category pages some more link value too. Consider doing this if you want to rank with your category pages.

A fast loading website

The longer visitors have to wait for your website to load completely, the more likely it gets that some of them will ‘bounce’ back to the search results. A long loading time frustrates visitors, so they might leave your website before seeing any relevant content. Google uses bounce rate, among other things, to determine if a website provides visitors with a good result. When lots of visitors bounce back to Google’s search results quickly, that isn’t a good sign. You might understand that this can harm your rankings.

On top of that, page speed is an actual ranking factor. Google understands that a website with bad loading times probably isn’t the best result. Similar websites that load faster are likely to end up higher in the search results.

We’ve tested the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects and we found a score of 24/100. The score is in red and this means that there’s work to do! Just follow the advice Google gives in the page speed tool as this leads to both a better user experience, as well as better rankings. 

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To sum it up

It was a pleasure analyzing the website of this architect duo. You show some amazing work in the images on the website! Adding a cleaner homepage with a clear call-to-action could result in more conversions, so more actual clients. Also, specific pages for all your services could be valuable for both Google and visitors.

Basically, our most important SEO advice is: make sure Google understands what your website is about. This means you’ll need to write relevant content about keywords you’d like to rank for. Furthermore, optimizing your site’s metadata – like titles and meta descriptions – and headings would be beneficial. With internal links you can connect your content and give your most important pages extra value.

And last, but definitely not least, making your website load faster will really improve your site’s SEO and user experience!

Read on: ‘How to optimize your real estate site’ »

A good XML sitemap is a roadmap to all important pages of a website. This roadmap guides Google to all main content on a website. Having an XML sitemap can be beneficial for SEO, as Google can retrieve essential pages of a website very fast, even if the internal linking of a site isn’t flawless. Here, we’ll explain what XML sitemaps are and how they help you with your rankings.

What are XML sitemaps?

You want Google to crawl every important page of your website. But it can happen pages don’t have any – internal – links to them, which will make them hard to find. You can use an XML sitemap to make sure Google can find and crawl all pages you deem essential on your website. An XML sitemap contains all important pages of a site to help Google determine the structure of it:

XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast.com

 

The XML sitemap above shows the XML sitemap of the Yoast website, which the Yoast SEO plugin created. If you read further down the article, we’ll explain exactly how our plugin helps you create the best XML sitemaps. If you’re not using our plugin, it could be that your own XML sitemap looks a bit different but it will work the same.

As you can see the XML sitemap of Yoast shows several ‘index’ XML sitemaps: …/post-sitemap.xml, …/page-sitemap.xml, …/video-sitemap.xml etc. This categorization makes a site structure as clear as possible. If you click on one of the index XML sitemaps, you’ll see all URLs in that specific sitemap. For example, if you click on ‘…/post-sitemap.xml’ you’ll see all the post URLs of Yoast.com (click on image to enlarge):

XML Post Sitemap Yoast

The post XML sitemap of Yoast.com

The date at the end of each line tells Google when we’ve last updated the post. This is beneficial for SEO because you want Google to crawl your updated content fast. When a date in the XML sitemap changes, Google knows that there is new content to crawl and index.

Sometimes it’s necessary to split an index XML sitemap because of the number of URLs in it. The limit to the number of URLs in one separate XML sitemap is set to 50.000 URLs. This means, for example, that if your website has over 50.000 posts, you should add two separate XML sitemaps for the post URLs. So, you’re actually adding another index XML sitemap. We’ve set the limit to 1.000 URLs in the Yoast SEO plugin to keep your XML sitemap loading fast.

What websites need an XML sitemap?

If we look at Google’s documentation, they say that XML sitemaps are beneficial for “really large websites”, for “websites with large archives”, for “new websites with just a few external links to it” and for “websites which use rich media content”.

We agree that these types of websites will definitely benefit from having an XML sitemap. However, at Yoast, we think an XML sitemap is beneficial for every website. On each website, you want Google to easily find the most important pages and to know when you’ve last updated those pages. That’s why we’ve added this function to the Yoast SEO plugin. 

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Which pages should be in your XML sitemap?

How do you decide which pages you need to include in your XML sitemap? Always start by thinking of the relevancy of a URL: when a visitor lands on a specific URL, is it a good result? Do you want visitors to land on that URL? If not, that URL probably shouldn’t be in your XML sitemap. However, if you really don’t want that URL to show up in the search results you’ll need to add a ‘noindex, follow’ tag. Leaving it out of your XML sitemap doesn’t mean Google won’t index the URL. If Google can find it by following links, Google can index the URL.

Example 1: a starting blog

Let’s take the example of a new blog. The owner wants Google to find new URLs of the blog fast to make sure his target group can find his blog in Google. So it’s a good idea to create an XML sitemap right away. The owner has created some describing categories for the first posts and he has written the first posts. He has also set up some tags to start with. However, he doesn’t have enough content yet to fill the tag overview pages with. Since these tag overview pages contain “thin content”, it’s not valuable to show them to the visitors yet. It’s, therefore, better to leave the tag’s URLs out of the XML sitemap for now. In this case, the tag pages could also be set to ‘noindex, follow’ because you don’t want people to land on those URLs from the search results.

Example 2: media & images

Another example of an unnecessary XML sitemap – in most cases – is the ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap. Since your images are probably used within your pages and posts, the images are already included in your ‘post’ sitemap or your ‘page’ sitemap. Adding a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap would be redundant. We recommend always leaving this one out of your XML sitemap. Only when images are your main business you can make an exception. When you’re a photographer, for example, you probably do want to show a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap to Google.

How to make Google find your XML sitemap

If you want Google to find your XML sitemap fast, you have to add it to your Google Search Console account. You can find the sitemaps in Search Console by navigating to ‘Crawl’ and then clicking on ‘Sitemaps’. You’ll immediately see if your XML sitemap is already added to Search Console. If not, click on the ‘Add/Test sitemap’ button which you see on the right of the arrow in the image below.

Google Search Console XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast is added to Google Search Console

 

As you can see in the image, adding your XML sitemap can be helpful to check whether all pages in your sitemap are really indexed by Google. If there is a big difference in the ‘submitted’ and ‘indexed’ number of a certain sitemap, we recommend analyzing this further. Maybe an error prevents some pages from being indexed or perhaps you should just add more content or links to the content that’s not indexed yet.

Yoast SEO and XML sitemaps

Because of the importance of XML sitemaps, we’ve added this functionality to our Yoast SEO plugin. XML sitemaps are available for both the free and the premium version of the plugin.

Yoast SEO creates an XML sitemap for your website automatically. You can find it by clicking on ‘XML Sitemaps’ in the sidebar of your WordPress install:

Yoast SEO tabs in WordPress backend

The XML Sitemaps tab in Yoast SEO

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the screen that follows you can enable or disable the XML sitemaps of your website. In addition to that, you can click on the ‘XML sitemap’ button to check your XML sitemap in your browser:

XML Sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

XML sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

In the tabs below the ‘enabled’ or ‘disabled’ toggle, you can find the different sitemaps you can in- or exclude from your XML sitemap: Users/Authors, Post Types and Taxonomies. On top of that, you can also exclude specific posts from the XML sitemap if you think the content of that post isn’t valuable enough.

Check your own XML sitemap!

Now you’ve read this complete post, you know it’s important to have an XML sitemap, because having one can help your site’s SEO. Google can easily access your most important pages and posts if you add the right URLs to your XML sitemap. In addition to that, Google can also find updated content easily, so they know if a certain URL needs to be crawled again. Lastly, adding your XML sitemap to Google Search Console helps Google find your sitemap fast and, besides that, it allows you to check for sitemap errors.

Now go check your own XML sitemap and see if you’re doing all of this correctly!

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO tutorial: definite guide to higher ranking’ »

Writing about SEO is easier than implementing best practices on a website yourself. Every site is different and every type of site presents its own challenge. We know that, and that’s why we started our Yoast Case studies, in which we scrutinize an existing site and give the owner practical advice on how to optimize it. In this third case study: SEO of a photographer’s site.

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Photography and SEO

In this case study, we dive into the site of a photographer: geoffwilkings.com. Geoff is curious what he could do to improve his website’s SEO. He’s told us he’s 100% about photography and photos but knows he needs textual content to rank. He does have a blog and he wonders if he is writing clear enough for prospects and search engines. Let’s have a look at different aspects of his photography website to see what’s good and what needs improvement.

Of course, a website is a work in progress, so while we reviewed his site, Geoff already made some changes to it. This means that what you see on his site might differ a bit from the screenshots below. But we’ll keep them here because we think they serve as nice examples!

Every website needs content to rank

Photos vs. textual content

It makes sense that photographers want to present their work on their website. The photos show their style and by adding lots of photos, they try to convince visitors of the quality of their work. Displaying great photos will, of course, increase the chances of people wanting to hire you, as a photographer. But what does it mean for SEO?

Adding content is one of the main things you need to do to make your website rank, as you might know. The content shows the search engines what the website is about and for what queries it should rank.

Content can consist of textual content but also photos, images and videos. For search engines, textual content is the most valuable content; it helps them determine what the website is about. So, for a photographer’s website, it’s essential to make sure there is enough textual content for the search engines to understand what every page is about.

Geoff’s site

If we look at Geoff’s website, we are in awe of his skills as a photographer: such beautiful pictures! You might just want to get married to get some fairytale-like photographs like that ;-)

There are things he could do though, to make his photos better findable. If we look at this gallery page, for example, we only see one photo on the URL:example of a gallery page with just one photo

Although Geoff added a great filename to the photo, a clear alt text and all the other meta data, it’s still hard for search engines to determine why this page should rank above other pages. Besides that, this gallery page contains only one photo, and therefore Google probably considers it a thin content page, leading to lower rankings. Lastly, since every photo is on a new URL, it’s harder to make all these different URLs rank.

To make these URLs rank there is a need for textual content, so we recommend adding relevant information about things like location, the couple, the theme and other nice things about the specific wedding. By adding textual content, it’s also possible to add an H1 heading to every page which is beneficial for SEO. Lots of pages don’t have an H1 heading at the moment.

After providing this feedback to Geoff we understood that there was some content, but it’s hidden. You can find it if you click on the comment icon on the right side of the photo. Unfortunately, we can’t view this content in the source code, which means Google can’t see it either. So we’d recommend to add it below the photo. Using keywords like wedding photography and the location might help him rank locally.

Improving User Experience for more conversions

Usability and SEO

Improving user experience is increasingly important and should go hand in hand with working on SEO because Google uses ‘user signals’ to determine the relevancy of a website:

If visitors leave your website very fast, search engines consider this a negative signal, because the website probably doesn’t show the information the visitor is looking for. On the other hand, spending lots of time on a page is a positive signal and search engines might rank you higher. This kind of data helps Google to determine the relevancy of a website for a specific search term. Google wants to show the best result on top of the search result pages and if your website is user-friendly, Google will notice this in the user data.

Geoff’s homepage

Looking at the homepage of Geoff’s site – again, such a beautiful picture! – we think a clear call-to-action is missing. It could be that the ‘Enter here’ is meant as a call-to-action, but the ghost button makes it very hard to read:

no clear call to action on the homepage

On top of that, ‘Enter here’ is not the best text for a call-to-action and if you click on it, you’ll end up on a gallery page. We recommend adding a call-to-action button with a text such as ‘Hire us’ or ‘Check if we’re a good match’ or ‘Contact us’, which leads the visitor to the respective page with more information.

Another improvement for the homepage is the formatting of the text. At the bottom of the homepage, we noticed a lot of text and the font of this text seems to be quite small. We recommend using a minimum of 16px to make sure it’s easy to read for visitors. Also, Geoff might want to use copy like this on other pages than his homepage, because ranking with other – more specific – pages than a homepage might be a more feasible strategy.

Geoff’s menu

Looking at the menu of the website, we believe there are too many options. To provide a good user experience, visitors need to find in a few seconds what they’re looking for. Offering too many choices makes this harder. Geoff could, for instance, consider cutting down the number of sub items in the drop down menu of ‘Info’.

to many sub items in the menu
Value of a blog

Blogging and SEO

Having a blog can be beneficial for your site’s SEO because it’s a possibility to add new content regularly, which Google likes. On top of that, it enables you to add more relevant content with internal links to your other pages which makes it easier to rank. Lastly, when other websites think that your blog posts are valuable and relevant to their websites, they’ll probably add a link to your blog. Increasing the amount of backlinks to your site helps a lot when you want your site to rank.

Geoff’s blog

Since we’re blogging a lot at Yoast, we’re always curious to see blogs of other websites. We were so excited to find out that Geoff’s website has one! Clicking through to the blog, however, tempered our excitement: the blog opened on another domain. This, unfortunately, means that the value of the blog doesn’t add much value to Geoff’s main website. We advise Geoff to move his blog to his main domain, a better URL to use would be, for instance, geoffwilkings.com/blog.

Read more: ‘Separate domains or not?’ »

In addition to moving the blog to the same domain, we’d advise choosing a different layout for the blog’s main page. Now it just shows just a large video above the fold. But when visitors navigate to your blog, they want to see what kind of posts you write and probably get inspiration. We recommend showing some excerpts of Geoff’s blog posts above the fold to make sure visitors know immediately that they landed on his blog.

When clicking through the blog posts, we did like what we see! For instance, some nice atmospheric posts about shootings for an engagement and a wedding, and a good explanation about retouching photos (we love the slider effect).

Technical SEO improvements

Let’s dive into the technical SEO aspects. We’ve crawled the website to check whether there are huge problems. We need to say that the website is doing a pretty good job! The only thing we’d like to mention is the use of canonicals. We noticed that most pages don’t have a canonical. At Yoast, we prefer to have a canonical on every page, so we’d advise having self-referencing canonical URLs. Joost explained this very well here: rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Is it possible to have a fast loading website if you have lots of high-quality photos?

Speed is often an issue on photographer’s websites. Because of the file size of the images, those websites tend to load quite slow. Since page speed is an actual ranking factor, it’s important to make the website as fast as possible. Analyze your website with the Google PageSpeed Tool and if the tool tells you that you need to optimize images, do so. This can be beneficial for your site’s SEO.

We did this check for Geoff’s site and we were pleasantly surprised! The website has a score of 73/100. Of course, Geoff can improve this score, but we can tell you, we’ve often seen photographer’s websites with scores below 50. The tool recommends to ‘Optimize images’, but it only mentions one image mentioned, so good job!

Are you a photographer as well and are there more images mentioned in the tool? In this post about image optimization, we’ll explain how to reduce the file size of your images, but maintain the same quality.

Lastly, there are some improvements to make regarding the use of JavaScript and CSS, in optimizing browser caching and enabling compression. We recommend Geoff to work on these issues (perhaps together with a developer) to make his website lightning fast!

Finding a photographer on a mobile phone

Imagine you’re getting married. Right after you decided to get married, you probably grab your phone for some inspiration and ideas! This means that as a photographer, you need to make sure your website works just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop.

Checking the website of Geoff on a mobile phone, we noticed that no content is visible above the fold – the part of the website that is visible without scrolling. This means that the website looks like this:

on mobile

You probably understand that this view isn’t very attractive to visitors who visit the website for the first time. Grab the attention of the visitor immediately by adding some introductory content and a call-to-action. Or a stunning photo with a call-to-action. We recommend checking your website on mobile regularly to see whether you can use the same content as on the desktop.

We provided this feedback to Geoff and we’re really happy to hear that he already changed this! You’ll now see a much better version of his homepage on mobile!

Our summary for Geoff

We enjoyed checking your website, Geoff. You have some stunning photos on your site, and that’s, of course, the best basis for a photographer. On top of this, you run a blog! Our most important recommendation is to move your blog to your main domain, so the value of it contributes more to your site.

Furthermore, you could improve the call-to-action on your homepage, simplify your menu a bit and add more (textual) content to your gallery. And last but not least, try to give your mobile users an awesome experience too. For the rest, keep up the great work!

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Your content needs links to be able to rank. Google can only find your posts and pages when they’re linked to from somewhere on the web. In addition to that, internal links connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. They can establish hierarchy on your site, which enables you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other, less valuable, pages. This means that the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO!

Internal links vs external links

Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website and external links connect your page to other websites. In this post, we’ll focus on internal links and what they mean for SEO. Want to get more external links to your site? Read our posts on link building.

Why are links important to Google?

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot: Google bot. This bot first enters the homepage of a website, starts to render the homepage and follows the first link. By following links Google determines what the relation is between certain pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site are topically related.

In addition to understanding the relation between content, Google divides link value over all links on a website. Often, the homepage of a website has most link value because it has most backlinks. This link value will be spread over all the links found on that homepage. The link value that is passed to a following page will be divided over the links on that page, and so on.

If you understand this, you’ll understand that having lots of (internal) links to a page, will pass more link value to that page. Because Google deems a page with lots of valuable links more important, you’ll increase the chance of ranking for that page. 

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Setting up an internal linking strategy

It’s crucial for SEO to evaluate and improve your internal linking strategy on a regular basis. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands the relevance of pages, the relationship between pages and the value of pages.

The ideal structure

We always advise website owners to imagine their website to be a pyramid with the most important content on top. We call those articles cornerstone content. There should be lots of links from topically related pages in the pyramid to that most essential content. By doing that, most link value is passed to those pages. On the other hand, you should also link from those top pages to subpages about related topics. Linking internally to related content shows Google what pages hold information about similar topics.

The ideal site looks like a pyramid

Linking your cornerstone content: an example

We’ve written a cornerstone content article, called ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’. We want this post to rank for all related search queries about [keyword research] in Google search results. By adding internal links from other relevant articles, like ‘How to start with keyword research’ and ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘ to the main article, Google will start to understand that the cornerstone content article holds most information about this keyword. So after a while, Google will rank the cornerstone content above the other, smaller posts about keyword research.

Don’t forget to link from the top too

Besides linking from topically related posts and pages, it’s possible to make your cornerstone content more authoritative by adding links to it from the homepage or the top navigation. If you do this, the most important posts or pages will get a lot of link value and will become stronger in the eyes of Google.

Linking to taxonomies

If you run a blog it could be beneficial to add internal links to the taxonomies the post belongs to. Adding links to the category and tags, helps Google to understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors to easily navigate to related posts. At Yoast, we always link to the matching categories and tags in the sidebar of the specific post:

taxonomies for internal linking

Linking to taxonomies helps Google and users to understand your site

Linking to related posts

Linking to related posts helps Google to understand your site structure, as mentioned before. To read more about a certain subject you can link to one or more related posts at the end of your article. There are plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use such a tool, we do recommend testing whether the related posts are actually the best related posts. When you’re not sure, linking to posts manually (or using our internal linking tool – more on that later) would probably be a better solution. In this post about linking to related posts, Michiel tells everything about it.

Linking to popular or recent posts

The last option we want to mention is linking internally to the most popular or to the newest posts on your website. This section could be added to the sidebar of your blog or the footer of your website to show it on all pages and posts.

The benefit of creating such a popular or recent posts section, is that link value passes to the linked posts from lots of pages and posts. Moreover, visitors will easier visit the posts and getting more traffic is a positive sign to Google as well.

More on internal links

No-follow links

Probably you’re also showing links on a page that aren’t important for SEO. If you have a login link for your clients on the homepage, for example, you don’t want that link to leak link value to your login page: that page doesn’t need to rank high in the search results.

In the past, you could prevent losing link value to such links by giving them a ‘no-follow’ tag. A ‘no-follow’ tag means that Google shouldn’t follow the link to the target page: so no link value would pass through this link. Now you might think: “I’m going to ‘no-follow’ less important links to give the most important links more link value.” This used worked in the past indeed, but Google has become smarter. It seems that the link value now just completely disappears when you add a ‘no-follow’ tag to a certain link. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of ‘no-following’ some of the links.

Please not that adding a ‘no-follow’ tag doesn’t mean that people can’t find those target pages in Google’s search results. If you don’t want pages or posts to show up in the search results you should give them a ‘no-index’ tag as well. The ‘no-index’ tag means that Google shouldn’t render the page and shouldn’t give the content a place in the Google index to show up in the search results.

Anchor texts

If you have decided which links should be on a page and which pages should get link value, it’s important to use the right anchor text. The anchor text is the text that visitors see and where they can click on, so the link is added to this part of the text. For example, the anchor texts of the two internal links in the text below are ‘link schemes’ and ‘paid links’:

Anchor texts

You can see the anchor text containing the link in this image

It might hurt your website if you over-optimize anchor text. With over-optimizing we mean keyword stuffing. In the past, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that specific keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor text is telling more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text itself. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: you can definitely use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to each and every one of your anchor texts. 

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Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps to improve your internal linking structure. The plugin contains an internal linking suggestion tool which helps you to find related posts to link to. When you’re writing a post, you can immediately link to a related post by dragging the link into the editor. On top of that, there is an option to mark your most important articles as cornerstone content in the plugin. If you do this, the suggestion tool will show those cornerstone content articles on top, so you’ll never forget to link to those!

Go link your content

Without links your content can’t rank! With a solid internal linking strategy you can show which content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable. If you follow the guidelines in this post both Google and users will understand your site better, which will increase your chance of ranking.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »