It can happen to you: other people copy content from your site and republish it on their own site. You have gone the extra mile to write an awesome article for your website, when, all of a sudden, another website takes possession of it. It can be frustrating to see this happen, and it happens more often than you think. If your website reaches a certain number of visitors and stands out from the crowd, there will be people that try to benefit from your content for their own gain.

Simple example: after this post is published, it will appear in our RSS feed. And this will cause other websites to publish the article automatically on their own website. They fully automated that process. Not the nicest way to express appreciation, right? But it happens.

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In this article, we’d like to show you a number of ways that people can copy your content. We’ll also show you what possible actions you can take, without directly asking your lawyer to take action.

People copy content via your RSS feed

Most content management systems publish an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed for your website. Being the fossil that I am, I still use these feeds in my RSS reader (I’m using Feedly) so I can read up on a number of websites at once.

However, some websites use RSS to include news from other websites on their website. That can be done by including a list of your latest article titles that link to your website. You’ll probably have no problem with it if someone does this. But if it’s done to republish your content on their website without that link to you, it’s a different story. This is one of the reasons our Yoast SEO plugin allows you to add an extra line to your feed items. That line could say “The article (article title) was first published on (your URL)”. There is a line like that included by default, by the way. This ensures that, if people copy content from your website via your RSS feed, there will always be a link back to your website. Google will find that link and understand you are the original source.

Make sure there is a link back to the original article in the RSS feed. That way, the website that copies your content won’t get all the credits for your article.

Manually copying your content

If someone manually copies your content or removes that line directing the reader and Google to your website from your RSS feed, chances are you won’t even notice they copied it. But if you do, first, try to get them to add that link back to your article in there. Just send an email and hope that the ‘thief’ is willing to add that link.

We have had people telling us that the only reason they copy content from our website was that they felt their readers should know about that specific issue or tip as well. There didn’t appear to be bad intentions and the link was added immediately after our email.

The best way: canonical link

The best way to make sure search engines understand that your content is the original source for the content is by adding a canonical link back to your website. If the other website is willing to do so and is running our Yoast SEO plugin, this is easy as pie. If the website at hand has no bad intentions, they will be willing to add that link.

What if people copy content from your site? Canonical urls as a solution for duplicate content

Get rid of that copy altogether

It’s trickier when people have less good intentions for stealing your content. If they copy content from your website only for their own benefit, they might not even respond to your email. In that case, you may have to use your copyright as the original author to have that content removed. Google suggests contacting the host of the website and filing a request at Google as well (see the last paragraph of that article).

Translating your content

There is another way that websites can copy your content. If this article, for instance, gets translated into Italian, we might not find even out about it. But usually, articles like that do surface on Twitter. And you obviously have a saved search for your brand on social, right? Or one of the internal links that you added could remain in the translated article and show up in Google Analytics. You might find a Google Alert in our inbox showing that article. There are ways to find a translated article.

Do you want to be associated with that website?

Now I hear you think “If a canonical would help to link duplicate content cross-domain, I need hreflang here.” But you probably don’t. There is no use adding that hreflang tag if the other site isn’t linking back to you using the same method. And you have no control over the translation whatsoever, so you might not want to be linked to that domain anyway.

If the translation makes sense in your book, I would ask the other website to add a link in the article, stating that the original article appeared on your website, in English (or whatever language you originally wrote it in). If the translated article is for an audience that you’re not targeting, I wouldn’t even put too much effort into it.

Artwork

I’d like to wrap up this article with a small remark about artwork. We use artwork heavily in our publications (and branding). Every single illustration we have on our website is our own.

What if people copy content from your site? Use the copyright on your own artwork for instance

In case a website, Youtube video or social media publication uses that artwork, we have the option to have that publication taken down because of that. Usually, using this copyright angle is the easiest way to get rid of non-responsive thieves of your content. Simply send the website an email first, and ask the hosting company to take action if you get no response. Another reason to stay away from stock photos and use your own media to enhance your website!

Good luck!

Read more: DIY: Duplicate content check »

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By SEO for boring products, we mean SEO for products that are impossible to write exciting content for. Products that need a thousand words to describe all tiny details and small print, but are, in the end, just car insurances, paper clips or emergency exit signs. We have all had or have been that customer that just could not come up with the right, engaging content. Sometimes it’s just hard to write something that makes sense about a product, from your own perspective. In this article, we’ll explain how to approach SEO for boring products!

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First: get the basics right

Regardless of what product you’re selling, you always need to make sure that the basics of SEO for your site are right. That means that you’ll have to put some decent effort into:

  • keyword research
  • site structure
  • technical SEO

You’re in luck. At Yoast, we offer SEO courses for every one of those aspects. Or you could start out with our Basic SEO training and take it from there. And if you are using WordPress, install our Yoast SEO plugin and we’ll cover a lot of these basics for you. So far for commercial messages.

Are your products boring, to begin with?

Sometimes we feel like a product is boring, but in the end, it really isn’t.  We’re not selling insurance; we’re selling safety. You’re not selling paper clips; you’re cleaning up or organizing a messy office desk. A hammer isn’t used to drive in a nail; we’re using it to hang a painting.

If you look closely at the goal of your product for the end user, you might find that, even though your technical specs might be boring, there is still an engaging story to tell. SEO for boring products could be less about the product itself, focusing instead on the purpose of the product. That’s just the first step. Don’t be modest about your products, but look at them from your customer’s angle.

The product category, not the product

Even with the purpose of your product in mind, we understand that it’s incredibly hard to write engaging content for every one of your 1,500 types of screws. Yes, some may have other uses than others, but in the end, a screw is a screw. When it’s hard to optimize every single product page (I’m not saying it’s impossible), you could take a closer look at your category page instead. The same rules apply: look at your product category’s purpose, not at the actual products. We’re knitting a scarf, not selling threads of wool here.

Content ideas for boring content

Content used for SEO for boring products could be just informative. But it should also be content that people want to link to and share on social media. So, perhaps you could also think along the lines of more entertaining content, like a funny product video. We see a lot of these nowadays, right? Besides that, keep in mind that your product page isn’t the only place on your website that’s suitable to inform people about your product. You could have general pages about your company that are suitable for product promotion. And what about your blog? Your blog is an excellent spot to talk more in-depth about your products, like we do on our blog about our courses and plugins. A blog is obviously awesome to help with SEO for boring products.

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Here are some content ideas

The input for these pages can be found everywhere. And can be quite diverse.

  • Check social media for ideas – what is the competition doing? You are not the only one in your niche or industry, so you’ll probably get some good ideas on what to do and what not to do. See what the competition is doing, see if something similar fits your brand and create your own stories, blog posts, product pages based on that. Learn, but don’t imitate. Improve what your competitor is doing.
  • Talk to your users and get their stories, so people can relate to that. Recognition is always a trigger for me. If I can relate to a story about a product – not necessarily because the product appeals to me, but the person telling the story is someone that I can relate to- the product already becomes more appealing. Think similar social groups, age categories, etcetera. Talk to your users, tell their story about your product. What have they gained by it, what did it bring them? How did their lives become better after purchasing your product or reading your website?
  • Write an extensive how-to or manual – people are always looking for how-tos, right? If you are selling travel insurances, your visitor wants to know what they have to do when they actually need that insurance. Will it be hard to reach you and talk to you? I can imagine a lot of them want to know how to do that upfront. And why not go overboard: how to make an elephant out of a paper clip. I’m sure it can be done. But that’s a whole different angle.
  • Add videos. Perhaps even more than written howtos, people watch videos. When I’m looking for a product that will set me back a certain amount of money, usually certain gadgets and other stuff I think I really need, I watch unboxing videos, people using the product and preferably live reviews. I want to see other people sharing their stories, so feel free to create that video after talking to your users as mentioned before!
  • Create a user story and start storytelling. Storytelling is hot, you see it more and more. ‘Create’ users and share their experiences online. Social media is excellent for this, but your blog also provides a solid base for storytelling. We mentioned before in an article about testimonials that “stories have a positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand, as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can affect behavior, given that the story resonates with your visitor.” And you can craft that story to your own needs, as long as you keep it natural. Create a story people can relate to.
  • Top 10 tips and other awesome ideas with your product. I just wanted to mention this separately. The paper clip elephant could easily grow into a top 10 paper clip animals – great for social sharing. Emergency exit signs are boring, but I’m sure a few of those appear in leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters. On a more serious note, in the case of the insurances, the top 10 tips for travels to <insert country> and that travel checklist are great ideas that will attract visitors. Again, check the competition and learn from them.

SEO for boring products is about making a product less boring by focusing less on the product and more on the visitor/customer and the reason they need your product. These stories, combined with a solid SEO base and an engaging social media strategy will help you a lot.

Good luck optimizing

The last thing that I would like to mention, is that there is a real opportunity here. If you manage to make your SEO for boring products work, if you manage to create engaging content for products that you thought were dull and uninteresting, this is going to give you an edge on your competitors. You are not alone in finding it hard to come up with that content. All your competitors are probably struggling as well. Get creative! Good luck optimizing.

Read more: Product page SEO »

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If you’re serious about your WordPress website, you have run a page speed test at some point. There are many variations of these tests out there. Some more convenient and true to your target audience than others. But they all will give you a pretty decent idea of where you can still improve your site. 

Certain speed optimizations may come across as “technically challenging” for some of you. Luckily, you have set up a WordPress website. And one of the things that make WordPress so awesome is the availability of WordPress plugins. Some free, some paid, but they all will help you to simplify difficult tasks. In this article, we’ll first show you a couple of page speed tests so you can check your page speed yourself. After that, we’ll go into a number of speed optimization recommendations. And show you how to solve these using just plugins.

Running a page speed test

Running a page speed test is as simple as inserting your website’s URL into a form on a website. That website then analyzes your website and comes up with recommendations. I’d like to mention two of those, but there are much more tests available.

  1. Pingdom provides a tool for speed testing. The nice thing is that you can test from different servers. For instance, from a server that is relatively close to you. Especially if you are targeting a local audience, this is a nice way to see how fast your website for them is.
  2. Google Lighthouse is a performance tool that lives in your browser. Click right on a page, choose Inspect and check the Audits tab in the new window that opens in your browser. Here, you can test speed for mobile device or desktop, and on different bandwidths for example. The test result looks like this:
    Google Lighthouse test result
    Small remark: most sites appear slower in Lighthouse. This is because Lighthouse emulates a number of devices, for instance, a slow mobile/3g connection. (see the second bar in the screenshot above). With mobile first, this is actually a good thing, right?

Before Lighthouse, Google PageSpeed Insights already showed us a lot of speed improvements. They even let you download of optimized images, CSS and JS files. As you are working with WordPress, it might be a hard task to replace your files with these optimized ones though. Luckily, WordPress has plugins.

There are many, many more speed testing tools available online. These are just a few that I wanted to mention before going into WordPress solutions that will help you improve speed.

Optimizing your page speed using WordPress plugins

After running a page speed test, I am pretty sure that most website owners feel they should invest some time into optimizing that speed for their website. You will have a dozen recommendations. These recommendations differ from things you can do yourselves and some things that you might need technical help for.

Image optimization

Your speed test might return this recommendation:image optimization for speed
Images usually play a large part in speed optimization, especially if you use large header images. Or if your site is image-heavy overall. It’s always a good idea to optimize these images. And it can be done with little quality loss these days. One of the things to look for is, like in the page speed test example above, images that are in fact larger than they are shown on your screen. If you have an image that covers your entire screen, and squeeze that into a 300 x 200 pixels spot on your website, you might be using an image of several MB’s. Instead, you could also change the dimensions of your image before uploading. And serve the image in the right dimensions and at a file size of some KB’s instead. By reducing the file size, you are speeding up your website.

Setting image dimensions in WordPress

WordPress comes with a handy default feature, where every image you upload is stored in several dimensions:Settings > Media
So if you want all the images in your posts to be the same width, pick one of the predefined ones or set your custom dimensions here. Images that you upload scale accordingly to these dimensions and the image in the original dimensions will also be available for you.

If you load, for instance, the medium size image instead of the much larger original, this will serve an image in a smaller file size, and this will be faster.

Image optimization plugins

There are also a number of image optimization plugins (paid and free) for WordPress available, like Kraken.io, Smush or Imagify. These might, for instance, remove so-called Exif data from the image. That is data that is really interesting for a photographer and will contain information about what settings the camera used to make that photo. Not really something you need for the image in your blog post, unless perhaps if you are in fact a photographer. Depending on your settings, you could also have these plugins replace your image with an image that is slightly lower in quality, for instance.

Some of these aforementioned plugins can also help you resize your images, by the way. Test these plugins for yourself and see which one is most convenient to work with and minifies your image files the best way. For further reading about image optimization, be sure to check this post about image SEO.

Browser cache

Another issue that comes across a lot in page speed tests is browser cache optimization.
Pingdom browser cache recommendation
Browser cache is about storing website files, like JS and CSS, in your local temporary internet files folder, so that they can be retrieved quickly on your next visit. Or, as Mozilla puts it:

The Firefox cache temporarily stores images, scripts, and other parts of websites you visit in order to speed up your browsing experience.

Caching in WP Super Cache

Most speed optimization plugins help you to optimize this caching. Sometimes as simple as this:
WP Super Cache
The Advanced tab of WP Super Cache here has a lot of more in-depth configuration for that, but starting out with the set defaults of a plugin is usually a good start. After that, start tweaking these advanced settings and see what they do.

Note that WP Super Cache has an option to disable cache for what they call “known users”. These are logged in users (and commenters), which allows for development (or commenting) without caching. That means for every refresh of the website in the browser window, you will get the latest state of that website instead of a cached version. That last one might be older because of that expiration time. If you set that expiration time to say 3600 seconds, a browser will only check for changes of the cached website after an hour. You see how that can be annoying if you want to see, for instance, design changes right away while developing.

Other WordPress caching plugins

I mention WP Super Cache here because it’s free and easy to use for most users. But there are alternatives. WP Fastest Cache is popular as well, with over 600K+ active installs. It has similar features to optimize caching:
WP Fastest Cache
A paid plugin that I also like is WP Rocket. It’s so easy to configure, that you’ll wonder if you have done things right. But your page speed test will tell you that it works pretty much immediately straight out-of-the-box. Let me explain something about compression and show you WP Rockets settings for that.

Compression

Regardless of whether your page speed test tool tells you to:

  • Try to minify your CSS files,
  • minify the JS files of your site,
  • minify your HTML files or
  • enable (GZIP) compression

These recommendations are all compression related. It’s about making your files as small as possible before sending them to a browser. It’s like reducing the file size of your images, but for JavaScript or CSS files, or for instance your HTML file itself. GZIP compression is about sending a zipped file to your browser, that your browser can unzip and read. Recommendations may look like this:
Minify recommendation Lightspeed
In WP Rocket, the settings for compression look like this:
WP Rocket - Compression
Again, a lot is set to the right settings by default, as we do in Yoast SEO, but even more can be configured to your needs. How well compression works, might depend on your server settings as well.

If you feel like the compression optimization that is done with any of the plugins mentioned above fails, contact your hosting company and see if and how they can help you configure compression for your website. They will surely be able to help you out, especially when you are using one of these WordPress hosting companies.

Serving CSS and JS files

One more thing that speed tests will tell you, is to combine (external) CSS or JavaScript files or defer parsing scripts. These recommendations are about the way these files are served to the website.

The combine option for these files is, like you can see in the WP Rocket screenshot above, not recommended for HTTP/2 websites. For these websites, multiple script files can be loaded at the same time. For non-HTTP/2 sites, combining these files will lower the number of server requests, which again makes your site faster.

Deferring scripts or recommendations like “Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content” are about the way these scripts are loaded in your template files. If all of these are served from the top section of your template, your browser will wait to show (certain elements of) your page until these files are fully loaded. Sometimes it pays to transfer less-relevant scripts to the footer of your template, so your browser will first show your website. It can add the enhancements that these JavaScripts or CSS files make later. A plugin that can help you with this is Scripts-to-Footer. Warning: test this carefully. If you change the way that these files load, this can impact your website. Things may all of a sudden stop working or look different.

We have to mention CDNs

A Content Delivery Network caches static content. With static content, we mean files like HTML, CSS, JavaScript and image files. These files don’t change that often, so we can serve them from a CDN with many servers that are located near your visitors, so you can get them to your visitors super fast. It’s like traveling: the shorter the trip, the faster you get to your destination. Common sense, right? The same goes for these files. If the server that is serving the static file is located near your visitor (and servers are equally fast, obviously), the site will load faster for that visitor. Please read this post if you want to know more about CDNs.

There are many ways to optimize page speed in WordPress

Page speed tests will give you even more recommendations. Again, you might not be able to follow up on all of these yourself. Be sure to ask your expert in that case, like your web developer or agency, or your hosting company. But in the end, it’s good that you are using WordPress. There are many decent plugins that can help you optimize the speed of your website after a page speed test!

Read more: Site speed: tools and suggestions »

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Keyword density is the number of times your focus keyword occurs on a web page, compared to the total text of that page. If you write a post for your blog, you should have thought about what keyword you want to rank that post for. In our Yoast SEO plugin, that keyword is what we call the focus keyword. If you have a text that is 100 words and 5 of those are your focus keyword, your keyword density is 5%. Is it that black and white? In a very strict world, that would indeed be the case. But Google is smarter than that. In this post, we’ll discuss a number of things you need to take into account when checking keyword density for your pages.

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Keyword density in Yoast SEO

In Yoast SEO free, we encourage you to aim for a keyword density of 2.5%. If 2.5% of your post is your desired focus keyword, your text will still be fairly natural to read. It won’t look over-optimized. The thing is, that in the end, you want to make sure your text is written for humans, not Google. If the keyword density of your text exceeds 5%, it will already start to look a lot like spam, or what we call keyword stuffing. It’ll start to look like it’s written for search engines more than your human visitors. Just don’t do that. This is why a keyword density of 2.5% is a nice indication of natural, yet optimized text as well.

Multiple keywords

Often, you’ll find yourself optimizing a text for more than one keyword. Especially long pages or articles can be used perfectly for multiple keywords. It’s usually hard to write two or three articles about similar keywords, so it makes sense to group these. Think along the lines of:

  • “SEO” and “search engine optimization”
  • “Review” and “Testimonial”

But also words that are a tad bit more unrelated. You might find yourself writing about a “forest” and want to include “trees” as well, for instance. The plural of a word is also something you could add as a focus keyword for your page.

Did you know that adding multiple keywords is a breeze in Yoast SEO Premium? You can add up to 5 (!) focus keywords instead of the single keyword you are used to in our free plugin! Get Yoast SEO Premium here.

When talking about keyword density, SEO and search engine optimization obviously mean exactly the same. Therefore, you should take this into account when checking keyword density for your post. If the keyword density for SEO is already at 2.5%, it would be unwise to add another 2.5% for search engine optimization. You are probably wondering how to check if Google considers two words the same or not: that’s simple. Google one word, and see if the other one is bold as well:
Keyword density: bold in Google

In this example, it’s clear that Google treats “SEO” the same as “search engine optimization”.

Synonyms

We’re so excited to let you know that synonyms are coming to Yoast SEO Premium! In one of the upcoming releases, we’ll allow for synonyms to be used to accompany your focus keywords. So, that means that besides the actual focus keyword, we’ll also let you to insert a number of synonyms, and we will adjust the keyword density calculation accordingly.

Imagine you are writing about forests. You might also want to use the word ‘woods’ to refer to the same thing. You can set ‘forest’ as a keyword and ‘woods’ as a synonym. In addition, you can also use the synonym field to add the plural ‘forests’. To set multiple synonyms, just separate them with commas.

Note that this does differ from the multiple keywords option. That option allows you to optimize for totally different words, whereas we will take the synonyms into account for keyword density and other checks in our plugin. For instance, synonyms are also used when we calculate topic distribution (more on that below).

Keyword versus topic

The terms we use in our plugin to refer to these checks, will differ, depending on which version of Yoast SEO you use. We’ll use the terms ‘keyword density’ and ‘keyword distribution’, as long as you don’t have Yoast SEO Premium and the synonyms feature. As soon as you have that feature, we will no longer refer to the ‘keyword’, but to the ‘topic’, being the keyword and the synonyms, when checking density and distribution. That brings us to the next new feature in Yoast SEO Premium: topic distribution.

Topic distribution

We will also add topic distribution to Yoast SEO Premium in that release! This is actually something we’ve been planning to add for a while. We can tell you that your page has 2.5% keyword density, but if your 2,500 words article uses your focus keyword and synonyms 62 times in just the first two paragraphs, your text will still look strange, right? If your article is about ‘plugins’, you’ll want to use that word throughout the article, not just at the beginning or end. That is why topic distribution is so important.

Just to be clear: we’re talking about topic distribution when you have included synonyms because we calculate the distribution of keywords as well as synonyms. When you don’t have synonyms, we simply calculate the keyword distribution for your keyword or keyphrase.

Keyword density is the basis

You’ll understand by now that keyword density is the basis of how well your post or page is optimized for a certain focus keyword. Keyword density, in our plugin or in one of the many tools available on the internet, will tell you if you’re over-optimizing your text or just not optimizing it enough. If you want to take it a step further and get closer to how Google sees your copy, synonyms and topic distribution will definitely be something to take into account too. Now go optimize!

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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You should update or delete old content on your site that has become irrelevant over time. It really doesn’t matter if that is due to new insights or truths that align better with your current business, or because you, for instance, stopped selling that specific service. Consider it spring cleaning. Update or even just get rid of these old posts and pages. There are multiple ways to go about this. In this article, I’ll give you some pointers on how to decide what the best solution is for your old content.

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Content still valid? Update your old content.

So we have this article on meta descriptions that needs updating all the time lately. We just have to make sure it keeps on track with all the things Google is doing with these meta descriptions. Sometimes it seems they can be a bit longer –we researched this– and sometimes they seem to be back to the old length again. We try to guide webmasters in writing the meta description that works best at that moment. Although the article itself might be what we call evergreen content, the content of it is adjusted to the most recent standards all the time.

You can easily create valuable, new content from your old posts if you can update it and make it current again: old wine in new bottles. You could, for example, replace older parts of that content with updates, or you could merge three old blog posts about the same subject into one new post. If you consider doing so, please keep in mind to redirect the posts that will be gone after this to the new post, using a 301 Redirect. More on that later.

No need for these old posts or pages anymore? Delete them.

It’s always possible that you encounter old posts or pages on your site that you really don’t need anymore. Think along the lines of a blog post about a product you stopped selling years ago and have no intention of selling ever again or a page about a supplier that you never want to work with again. These are just examples, but I’m sure you know what posts and/or pages I mean. This old content adds no value as such anymore, now or in the foreseen future. In that case, you want to tell Google to forget about these old posts or pages or give the URL another purpose.

By deleting old content, I don’t mean just pressing “delete” and then forgetting about it. The content might surface in Google for weeks after deletion. The URL might actually have some link value as well, which is a shame to waste.

“301 Redirect” the old post to a related one

If the URL still holds value, for instance, because you have a number of quality links pointing to that page, you want to leverage that value by redirecting the page to a related one. Say you have an old post on a specific dog breed. You want to delete it, so the logical next step would be to redirect that post to a post about the closest breed possible. If that post isn’t available, redirect it to the category page for these posts (“dog breeds”?) and if that is also not an option, redirect to the homepage. That last one might be about “pets”, for instance. It’s related, but there might be better options on your site.

Creating a 301 Redirect (f.i. in WordPress) isn’t hard, but doing this in Yoast SEO Premium is easy as pie. If you don’t have that plugin yet, find out about all the extras that are in Yoast SEO Premium here.

Tell search engines the content is gone deliberately

Another option is to make sure Google forgets about your old post entirely by serving a “410 Gone” status to Google. When Google can’t find your post, like after deletion, your server will usually return a “404 Not Found” status to the search engine’s bot. You will find a 404 crawl error in your Google Search Console for that page. That’s until you redirect the page like explained earlier. Google will find it, and the URL will gradually vanish from the search result pages. But this will take some time. The 410 is more powerful in the sense that it’ll tell Google it’s gone never to return. You deleted it on purpose, period. Google will act on that faster than on a 404. Read up about the server status codes if this is all gibberish to you.

Have any old content you want to delete?

There you have it. Three ways to get rid of old content on your site:

  1. Update the old post or page and publish it again.
  2. Redirect the old content to related content.
  3. Get rid of it entirely if there is no value to the content anymore whatsoever.

Good luck cleaning up your site.

Read more: ‘How to properly delete a page from your site’ »

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If you want to keep your page out of the search results, there are a number of things you can do. Most of ’em are not hard and you can implement these without a ton of technical knowledge. If you can check a box, your content management system will probably have an option for that. Or allows nifty plugins like our own Yoast SEO to help you prevent the page from showing up in search results. In this post, I won’t give you difficult options to go about this. I will simply tell you what steps to take and things to consider. 

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Why do you want to keep your page out of the search results?

It sounds like a simple question, but it’s not, really. Why do you want to keep your page out of the search results in the first place? If you don’t want that page indexed, perhaps you shouldn’t publish it? There are obvious reasons to keep for instance your internal search result pages out of Google’s search result pages or a “Thank you”-page after an order or newsletter subscription that is of no use for other visitors. But when it comes to your actual, informative pages, there really should be a good reason to block these. Feel free to drop yours in the comments below this post.

If you don’t have a good reason, simply don’t write that page.

Private pages

If your website contains a section that is targeted at, for instance, an internal audience or a, so-called, extranet, you should consider offering that information password-protected. A section of your site that can only be reached after filling out login details won’t be indexed. Search engines simply have no way to log in and visit these pages.

How to keep your page out of the search results

If you are using WordPress, and are planning a section like this on your site, please read Chris Lema’s article about the membership plugins he compared.

Noindex your page

Like that aforementioned “Thank you”-page, there might be more pages like that which you want to block. And you might even have pages left after looking critically if some pages should be on your site anyway. The right way to keep a page out of the search results is to add a robots meta tag. We have written a lengthy article about that robots meta tag before, be sure to read that.

Adding it to your page is simple: you need to add that tag to the <head> section of your page, in the source code. You’ll find examples from the major search engines linked in the robots meta article as well.

Are you using WordPress, TYPO3 or Magento? Things are even easier. Please read on.

Noindex your page with Yoast SEO

The above mentioned content management systems have the option to install our Yoast SEO plugin/extension. In that plugin or extension, you have the option to noindex a page right from your editor.

In this example, I’ll use screenshots from the meta box in Yoast SEO for WordPress. You’ll find it in the post or page editor, below the copy you’ve written. In Magento and TYPO3 you can find it in similar locations.

How to keep your site out of the search results using Yoast SEO

Click the Advanced tab in our Yoast SEO meta box. It’s the cog symbol on the left.
Use the selector at “Allow search engines to show this post/page in search results”, simply set that to “No” and you are done.

The second option in the screenshot is about following the links on that page. That allows you to keep your page out of the search results, but follow links on that page as these (internal) links matter for the other pages (again, read the robots meta article for more information). The third option: leave that as is, this is what you have set for the site-wide robots meta settings.

It’s really that simple: select the right value and your page will tell search engines to either keep the page in or out of the search results.

The last thing I want to mention here is: use with care. This robots meta setting will truly prevent a page from being indexed, unlike robots.txt suggestion to leave a page out of the search result pages. Google might ignore the latter, triggered by a lot of inbound links to the page. 

If you want to read up on how to keep your site from being indexed, please read Preventing your site from being indexed, the right way. Good luck optimizing!

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Local SEO is about how to optimize your website to rank better for a local audience. A website gives you the opportunity to target the entire (online) world. But if the target audience for your business is actually located in or near the city you have your office or shop, you’ll need to practice at least some local SEO as well. You need to optimize for your city name, optimize your address details. In short: you need to optimize so people know where you are located and are able to find you offline (if required). In this post, we will try to explain what local SEO is, so you can optimize your local site as well! 

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What is local SEO?

If you have a local business, like a shop, or have people visiting your office frequently, optimizing your website is also about making sure people are able to find you in real life. But even if your not actively getting visitors in your building, but are targeting an audience that is located in the same geographical area as you are, you need to optimize for that area. This is what we call “local SEO”.

Ground-rule these days is that it’s by far the easiest to optimize if you have a proper address in a region/city. The thing is that if you want to optimize for, for instance, a service area that you are not located in physically, your main tool for optimization is content. You should simply write a lot about that area. We found that oftentimes, this leads to forced articles or pages that have little to do with the business at hand, and are clearly there for SEO reasons.

Mentioning all the areas

Just recently, I heard someone say that he just mentioned a number of neighboring towns and that got him visitors from these towns.

What is Local SEO? Local SEO is about optimizing your site for better rankings for a local audience

Depending on the niche you are in, that might have some effect, to be honest. But I wouldn’t call it proper optimization. For the majority of companies, that strategy won’t work that well. It’s not really an optimization, it’s just that no-one else mentions that area and that product on his website. If there is competition, please use other methods as well.

Local SEO explained in detail

In our series on local SEO, David Mihm mentions a number of things you can do to really optimize your website for a certain geographical area:

  1. An introduction to ranking your local business
  2. The importance of Google My Business
  3. How to optimize your website for local search
  4. Why inbound links are so important and how to get them
  5. Citations for local search
  6. The impact of reviews for local ranking
  7. Social media and local SEO
  8. The impact of behavioral signals

That indeed is quite a lot to digest, but if you are serious about optimizing for your local audience, you should read all 8 articles.

Local SEO isn’t just about search engines

Yes, there is a lot you can do online to optimize your website for a local audience. But if you are running a local business, things like word-of-mouth and a print brochure etc also contribute to local SEO.

If you mention your website and social profiles on your offline communication/promotion as well, your Facebook likes might go up, your Twitter followers could increase and the direct traffic on your website will get higher. One way or another, this will be visible to Google as well, beit indirect perhaps.

So, local SEO consists of a number of factors that help you address your local audience by better rankings in search engines. It’s not just optimizing your address or your social media strategy, it’s all these things combined that we call local SEO. Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

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Keyword research is your first step in optimizing your website for certain keywords. Without keyword research, you might find yourself lost in your own lingo and battling giants in your industry that can’t be beaten in the search result pages just like that. There is a variety of factors you have to take into account when doing keyword research and setting up your keyword strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss your mission, your audience and your competition. 

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What makes your company unique?

Before you do anything, and this is key, you need to know what makes your company unique. You need to have a clear concept of the mission of your company. You need to determine exactly what you have to offer. Because that’s what’s going to make you rank. It’s that simple. SEO is just like regular business. If you’re doing everything on the same or inferior level as your competition, you’re not going to stand out. If you’re not the best result, why should people want to find you? Why should Google rank you? This seems simple, but this factor is often forgotten.

Meaningful keywords

We often hear people say: we can’t come up with meaningful keywords. If you struggle with that too, take a step back and look at your business at large:

  • What do you have to offer?
  • What is your mission?
  • What are your core values and strengths?
  • How can you branch out from your core selling points to very specific bits of information or service? Use these to stand out from the crowd.

You don’t have to be better than your competition at everything, as long as you identify enough things to build a keyword strategy around. For smaller companies, this means that you probably have to be better at the things bigger fish haven’t thought of. Or at the things, these companies aren’t actively looking to do. If you can’t come up with anything, you have a bigger problem than just coming up with keywords…

The role of your audience in your keyword research

Once you’ve determined what you have to offer, it’s time to consider your audience. In the end, SEO is all about making sure your users are able to find you. So the first thing you have to do is find out what words your potential audience uses to find the information they’re looking for.

Let’s consider an example. At Yoast, we think of our courses platform as “Yoast Academy”. So at first sight, it seems very logical for us to optimize for the keyword “Yoast Academy”. However, when we analyze traffic data, it turns out that our audience uses “Yoast courses” way more. So it makes much more sense to optimize for that term instead. Every company has its own internal vocabulary, which often doesn’t match the vocabulary of its audience. Therefore, you should always choose your keywords from the perspective of your audience. You can use Google Trends to research how often search terms are used compared to other terms.

What about your competition?

Lastly, you simply can’t devise a proper keyword research strategy without taking your competition into account. Too often, websites optimize for terms they have absolutely no chance ranking for. So you need to research your competition.

You can go all overboard and make a thorough analysis of all the competitors in your field, and that can certainly be worthwhile. But let’s stick to the basics for now. It’s actually quite easy to get a general idea of your SEO competition. Just google some search terms you would like to rank for! See what companies show up and where you rank. How big are the companies you are competing with for top three rankings? Would your company fit between these results? This is all quite easy to determine using just the Google search results.

But be wary! You can’t just trust the search results because Google tailors them to your search history. So logically, your site is going to come up higher for you than for others that perform the same search. You can use an incognito screen to circumvent this, although there’s still a local search component even in an incognito screen. If that is a problem for you, you should consider using VPNs to mask your location.

Expanding your strategy step-by-step

Big sites can rank for the most general terms. Smaller sites within a very specific niche can do the same. Of course, it’s also easier if you’re writing in a language that is not spoken all over the world. For most smaller sites that are writing in English, however, the general rule of thumb is this: start with a big set of long tail keywords which have little traffic but you can rank for more easily. Then, work yourself up the rankings step-by-step. Once you’ve gained some SEO authority, start optimizing for more general keywords. And in the end, maybe you will even be able to rank for your head keywords!

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

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Crawl errors occur when a search engine tries to reach a page on your website but fails at it. Let’s shed some more light on crawling first. Crawling is the process where a search engine tries to visit every page of your website via a bot. A search engine bot finds a link to your website and starts to find all your public pages from there. The bot crawls the pages and indexes all the contents for use in Google, plus adds all the links on these pages to the pile of pages it still has to crawl. Your main goal as a website owner is to make sure the search engine bot can get to all pages on the site. Failing this process returns what we call crawl errors.

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Your goal is to make sure that every link on your website leads to an actual page. That might be via a 301 redirect, but the page at the very end of that link should always return a 200 OK server response.

Google divides crawl errors into two groups:

  1. Site errors. You don’t want these, as they mean your entire site can’t be crawled.
  2. URL errors. You don’t want these either, but since they only relate to one specific URL per error, they are easier to maintain and fix.

Let’s elaborate on that.

Site errors

Site errors are all the crawl errors that prevent the search engine bot from accessing your website. That can have many reasons,  these being the most common:

  • DNS Errors. This means a search engine isn’t able to communicate with your server. It might be down, for instance, meaning your website can’t be visited. This is usually a temporary issue. Google will come back to your website later and crawl your site anyway. If you see notices of this in your Google Search Console at crawl errors, that probably means Google has tried a couple of times and still wasn’t able to.
  • Server errors. If your search console shows server errors, this means the bot wasn’t able to access your website. The request might have timed out. The search engine (f.i.) tried to visit your site, but it took so long to load that the server served an error message. Server errors also occur when there are flaws in your code that prevent a page from loading. It can also mean that your site has so many visitors that the server just couldn’t handle all the requests. A lot of these errors are returned as 5xx status codes, like the 500 and 503 status codes described here.
  • Robots failure. Before crawling, (f.i.) Googlebot tries to crawl your robots.txt file as well, just to see if there are any areas on your website you’d rather not have indexed. If that bot can’t reach the robots.txt file, Google will postpone the crawl until it can reach the robots.txt file. So always make sure it’s available.

That explains a tad bit about crawl errors related to your entire site. Now let’s see what kind of crawl errors might occur for specific pages.

URL errors

As mentioned, URL errors refer to crawl errors that occur when a search engine bot tries to crawl a specific page of your website. When we discuss URL errors, we tend to discuss crawl errors like (soft) 404 Not Found errors first. You should frequently check for these type of errors (useGoogle Search Console or Bing webmaster tools) and fix ’em. If the page/subject of that page indeed is gone never to return to your website, serve a 410 page. If you have similar content on another page, please use a 301 redirect instead. Make sure your sitemap and internal links are up to date as well, obviously.

We found that a lot of these URL errors are caused by internal links, by the way. So a lot of these errors are your fault. If you remove a page from your site at some point, adjust or remove any inbound links to it as well. These links have no use anymore. If that link remains the same, a bot will find it and follow it, only to find a dead end (404 Not found error). On your website. You need to do some maintenance now and then on your internal links!

Among these common errors might be an occasional DNS error or server error for that specific URL. Re-check that URL later and see if the error has vanished. Be sure to use fetch as Google and mark the error as fixed in Google Search Console if that is your main monitoring tool in this. Our plugin can help you with that.

Very specific URL errors

There are some URL errors that apply to certain sites only. That’s why I’d like to list these separately:

  • Mobile-specific URL errors. This refers to page-specific crawl errors that occur on a modern smartphone. If you have a responsive website, these are unlikely to surface. Perhaps just for that piece of Flash content you wanted to replace already. If you maintain a separate mobile subdomain like m.example.com, you might run into more errors. Thing along the lines of faulty redirects from your desktop site to that mobile site. You might even have blocked some of that mobile site with a line in your robots.txt.
  • Malware errors. If you encounter malware errors in your webmaster tools, this means Bing or Google has found malicious software on that URL. That might mean that software is found that is used, for instance, “to gather guarded information, or to disrupt their operation in general.”(Wikipedia). You need to investigate that page and remove the malware.
  • Google News errors. There are some specific Google News errors. There’s quite a list of these possible errors in Google’s documentation, so if your website is in Google News, you might get these crawl errors. They vary from the lack of a title to errors that tell you that your page doesn’t seem to contain a news article at all. Be sure to check for yourself if this applies to your site.

Fix your crawl errors

The bottom line in this article is definitely: if you encounter crawl errors, fix them. It should be part of your site’s maintenance schedule to check for crawl errors now and then. Besides that, if you have installed our premium plugin, you’ll have a convenient way in WordPress and/or TYPO3 to prevent crawl errors when for instance deleting a page. Be sure to check these features yourselves!

Read more: ‘Google Search Console: Crawl’ »

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Tags and categories help us structure our content. You can often find these in the visual metadata at for instance blog posts, or in a list of clickable links in the sidebar of a website. Tags are sometimes represented as a tag cloud, although most websites refrain from using that element these days. There is a clear difference between tags and categories, but a lot of users mix them up. Now in most cases, that won’t matter for the end user. But for instance, in WordPress, there are some benefits by using categories for certain segmentations and tags for others. Here, I’d like to explain the difference between tags and categories.

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WordPress taxonomies

WordPress uses taxonomies for content grouping. The most common, default taxonomies in WordPress are categories and tags, but it’s also possible to create a custom taxonomy. We have written about these custom taxonomies before, so for background information, please read the post “What are custom taxonomies?

A taxonomy can be defined as “orderly classification” (Source: Merriam Webster). This indicates some hierarchy or structure, which often goes into categories. In WordPress, categories can be parents or children of each other. Often, tags in WordPress don’t have that structure and are often used quite randomly. If you don’t control how you add tags to posts, you will probably end up with a huge number of tags on your website. The downside of this is that a lot of tags are used only once, which makes the tag page the same as the post where you added the tag. This may create duplicate content or at least thin content.

The difference between tags and categories

Back to our original questions: what’s the difference? In an ideal world, we would use categories to group the content on your website into — say — eight to ten global segments. On our blog, these segments are for instance Analytics, Content SEO, eCommerce and Technical SEO. By maintaining a limited set of categories, you can keep your website, and your content focused. Now, of course, you can dissect the content even further, going to more particular groupings. For that, you should use tags.

WordPress describes the difference exactly like that:

  • Categories allowed for a broad grouping of post topics.
  • Tags are used to describe your post in more detail.

The fact that categories can be hierarchical means that there’s a bit more content structure to be made with just categories if that’s what you are looking for. You can have a group of posts about trees, and have a child category or subgroup about elms. Makes sense, right? It also means that you can have URLs like /category/trees/elms, which displays that structure right in the URL already. You can’t do this with tags. The tag in this example could be “Boston”. It’s unrelated to the tree’s characteristics but could indicate where for instance a photo of an elm in that post is located.

At least one category per post is required

There is one more difference between tags and categories in WordPress: you need to add at least one category to a post. If you forget to do so, the post will be added to the default category. That would be “Uncategorized” unless you set a default category in WordPress at Settings > Writing:

tags and categories: set a default post category

Please do so, as you will understand the default “Uncategorized” makes no sense to your readers. It looks like poor maintenance, right? With tags, you don’t have this issue, as tags are not obligated at all. You could even decide to refrain from using tags until you need them and even then perhaps use a custom taxonomy instead. In that case, you will have that second layer of segmentation without the limitation of tags. I hope that clarifies the difference between tags and categories!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: (The importance of) site structure’ »

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