We’re all ready for a new year of increasing sales, lifting engagement and giving our website the best effort possible. It only seems right to give you a three-step rocket of SEO quick wins, to kick-start your website for 2018. In this post, I will show you three things you can do right now to improve your website for your visitors, and for Google in the process. Let’s dive right in with number one.

#1 Optimize speed

No matter if you want to improve your mobile website or your desktop website, speed is something you want to monitor and improve all the time. These are fast times, and speed is definitely what you want to optimize for.

In a simple breakdown of speed optimization, we have images, browser caching, and script optimization. Google PageSpeed will tell you that, Pingdom will tell you that. Gzip Compression is the fourth one, but that should be enabled by default in my book. More on compression here. Let’s look at the other three.

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File size optimization

Optimizing your file size is an important part of image SEO, so let’s start there. There are a few ways to approach this:

  • Optimize the image file size in Photoshop (or any other image edit program you use). Usually, just exporting the image in a lower quality will already do the trick. I usually check whether reducing the quality to around 80% of the original still gives me a crisp image.
  • Download an application like ImageOptim or any of these applications and further optimize your file size before uploading.
  • Last but not least, make sure that the image dimensions of the image you use, fit the image ‘space’ that you reserved for it on the webpage. Don’t display a 1200×400 pixels photo as a 300×100 pixels image by adding CSS or whatever.

Browser caching

Browser caching is the way your browser stores files of a website, for instance the logo you see at the top of our website, so it doesn’t have to load them from the internet every time you visit another page of our website. This obviously saves time. There are many ways to go about this, but the easiest is probably (if you are using a WordPress site) using a plugin. Most speed optimization plugins support this browser caching and most set them right time for you. Among some of my favorite speed plugins are WP SuperCache, which is free, and WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin. For more on browser caching, visit this page.

Optimize script handling

You can load a gazillion JavaScript (JS) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files to enhance your website, but in the end all these extra files just slow your website down. Please focus on these steps to optimize your script handling:

  1. Are you sure you need that enhancement? JS and CSS usually target design and user experience. In some cases, you just don’t need that enhancement. Like JS and CSS loaded for sliders, for instance. There are alternatives to sliders that work better and don’t require extra files.
  2. Is there a way to reduce the file size of these scripts / styles? We call this process ‘minifying’. We have an Ask Yoast about it. Google has some great pointers on how to approach this. Simple scripts and handy websites can help you minify your files, for instance by stripping comments. Most platforms have plugins or extensions that help with this. For instance, Magento has the Fooman Speedster (free and paid) for that.
  3. Is it possible to combine a number of these scripts into one file? That way, there only has to be one call to the server to retrieve all the scripts. Again, there are plugins for that, but if you have small pieces of JS, you might as well combine these yourself. Of course, the advent of HTTP/2 changes some of these optimization practices. Test this!

#2 Mobile optimization

It’s tempting to copy our ultimate guide to mobile SEO here, but let’s focus on the quick wins. You need to focus on mobile SEO these days, to be ready for Google’s mobile-first index. Google will start to determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of a site, only taking your desktop site into account after that. So, let’s get that mobile version up and running, right?

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Task-based design

Open your mobile website. Imagine you are a fresh, new user of your website. What would that person want to do here and is your site ready for that? Focus on a task-based design. If we are on a mobile website, we might need opening hours or an address. Just the other day, I purchased tickets for the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on my mobile phone. Saved a buck and didn’t have to get in line for tickets. I did this, walking from my car to the entrance. One needs to be able to do these basic tasks without any problem. Ask yourself what the four, perhaps five main goals of a visitor on your website are and make sure these can be done on your mobile website.

Performance-based design

Are you loading any huge images on your site? Do people have to scroll for ages to read the good stuff you offer them? On a mobile website, we want to get in and get out as fast as possible – unless it’s, for instance, a news website. Loading time is a factor on a mobile site, especially with mobile connections usually being slower than most desktop connections. Make sure your design and content don’t depend on large images too much. And yes, there are exceptions to that rule. If I visit a photographer’s website, I know beforehand that I am in for longer loading times. I want crisp images and that is the price I pay. Optimize to an acceptable level for your target audience.

Write great content

This goes for mobile and desktop versions of your site: they need great content. A quick win for mobile content is to add a to-the-point first paragraph. If you tell your visitor what’s on your page, they can decide for themselves if they want to scroll down or not. It helps user experience to do this.

And of course, you’ll need to write awesome content after that paragraph as well. You still need to do keyword research, set up a great site structure and decide on cornerstone content. But you can imagine that to be a slightly lengthier process, and we’re talking quick wins here :)

#3 Serve your content in the right format

There are so many ways to serve your content to Google, Facebook and your visitors. Your task for 2018 is definitely to investigate which formats you should invest in. Some take a bit more time to implement; others can be added to your website by the push of a button, like with a plugin. Let’s go over a few important ones.

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Better social sharing: Open Graph

Forget about Twitter Cards for now, as Twitter has a fallback to Open Graph. So add Open Graph to your website if you haven’t done this already. It’s like a social summary of your website. For our homepage, it reads among other things:

<meta property="og:title" content="SEO for everyone • Yoast" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Yoast helps you with your website optimization, whether it be through our widely used SEO software or our online SEO courses: we're here to help." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://yoast.com/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Yoast" />

There’s a page / site title and summary plus link, which tells Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter all they need to know to create a great post on your visitor’s timeline. You can add an og:image to create a richer experience. Be sure to add this. Again, use a plugin like Yoast SEO for TYPO3 to automate the process (and add these Twitter Cards along with Open Graph in no time).

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

Facebook links to your AMP article if possible. Ever found yourself reading an article in Google? Might be AMP as well. Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP, aim to strip your website to the bare necessities to deliver your reader the best mobile experience they can get. If they want to read your article, AMP will give ’em just your article in a basic design. If you want to check a certain product, AMP will strip the store to deliver a focused design. A bad thing? I think not. Every way you can help your visitor get a better experience, increases the chance of them coming back to your content / site. It might increase sales, because it’s so focused. Go read up on AMP and get your site ready. Again: plugins.

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

I will end this list of quick SEO wins with something we have been telling you about quite often in the past year: add schema.org to your website. Structured data, like Open Graph and schema, create a convenient summary of your website for every other site that wants to use your content. Schema.org data is one of the main types of structured data. JSON-LD gives us a convenient way of adding it to our website. Our Local SEO plugin adds the right schema.org so that Google can add your company to Google Maps as well, for instance. Add schema.org data to your website and see your company in the knowledge graph as well.

Serving your content in the right format is essential to deliver it to other ‘places’ on the website. Be sure to use it. And if you are not sure what structured data you should use to optimize your pages, be sure to enroll in our Structured Data Training. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution? Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Search and SEO in 2018’ »

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The article you are about to read is probably one of the easiest posts I have written in a long time, as its subject is right there next to the edit screen in WordPress: the internal linking tool, which is a part of Yoast SEO Premium. I have only written three lines right now, but I already have some general suggestions of posts to link to, like the one with our 12 most read posts of 2017. Makes sense. As I continue to write this article, the suggested posts will change to match what I am writing about.

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Internal linking is one of the most important ways to optimize your pages. Internal links contribute to a better site structure, easier crawling, and indexing of your pages, and might increase your time-on-site in Google Analytics. It’s a way to point Google to your main pages about a topic (cornerstone content).

Getting started with the internal linking tool

First things first, as always. We need to determine what your posts are about, and we do that by scanning your content. We would like you to help us a bit here, by starting that process for us in the settings of Yoast SEO:

Click the Analyze button to start analyzing and building these internal linking suggestions. That’s step one. No need to do that again, unless you have a specific reason for it. We will learn from each newly published posts what it is about.

What does the internal linking tool look like?

Now that we have analyzed your content, we can give you internal linking suggestions. It’s a convenient sidebar item in WordPress. It looks a bit like this, depending on your WordPress setup:

Internal linking tool yoast seo

On the left, you see “me” writing this article in WordPress, on the right you see a nice long list of articles we have written before. It’s divided into two sections:

  1. Cornerstone content
  2. Regular content

In our plugin, you can mark a specific article as cornerstone content right below the spot where you have been inserting the focus keyword for years:

Mark as cornerstone content

Checking that box will add it to the cornerstone content articles in our linking tool. These are the articles you want to link to most. These are the articles you want to rank for more general topics, like our Ultimate guide to content SEO. It makes sense to use these the most in your internal linking.

You have probably guessed that the other section contains all your related posts. To calculate these related posts, we use what we call a prominent words algorithm. No need to elaborate here, but trust me: it works. We will suggest the appropriate articles to link to in the current post you are writing.

The ease of adding internal links

In the internal linking tool, we use two icons:

  1. A checkmark for all the posts you have already linked to in your article
  2. A copy/paste icon. Click that icon, and we’ll add the link to your clipboard.

Now, how easy is that? That’s not all. There is a drag-and-drop functionality in there as well, which makes internal linking even easier. Simply click a link and hold your mouse button. Move to the spot where you want the link and release the button. Done!

Internal linking tool: drag & drop link

With this drag-and-drop option, you can create a related post block on the fly, just to name one of the possibilities. Now go and have fun with it, because this is all you need to create better internal links!

Oh, and just so there’s no confusion: the internal linking tool is indeed a feature of our paid plugin. It’s one of those extra features of our Yoast SEO Premium plugin that make it worth your while.

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

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When my colleagues asked me to name two of my favorite products for my birthday sale, I didn’t hesitate. Yes, our flagship product Yoast SEO is awesome, but I’ve always had a thing for small businesses and helping them optimize for Google. Two of our products that every small business owner should purchase, in my book, are our Local SEO plugin and our Technical SEO training. Let me explain why I think these two products should be in the online toolkit of every small business owner.

Local SEO plugin

Our Local SEO plugin is a necessity for every business owner that relies on visitors coming to a shop or showroom, office building or has other local ties. So, if your address matters for your business, you should definitely use this plugin.

When you install the Local SEO plugin, you can serve your address details to Google in the most convenient way possible (schema markup). In that same schema markup, you can display your opening hours. You can add Google Maps for your business in the blink of an eye, including the option to show directions. And, as the icing on the cake, you can setup and add a store locator to your website.

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Technical SEO training

The thing that annoys me most in the whole web agency world, is when companies sell their clients services that their client probably won’t understand. SEO can get pretty technical at some point, and you, the customer, might come across terms that dazzle you. If you’re lucky, your web partner will tell you what it all means and why they have to spend billable hours optimizing it. But I have seen my share of website owners that simply assume the web agency is right. That stops now.

If you take our technical SEO course, you’ll be able to recognize all the technical ‘gibberish’. You’ll understand why these things are needed and might even be able to see if these are needed in the first place.

Of course, this course is also for you when you’re a web developer wanting to improve your technical SEO knowledge. Most customers expect you to take that role and to understand the things that are dealt with in this training. And with the 19% discount we offer today, chances are that your customer will otherwise outsmart you after taking this course :)


Save 19% on our Technical SEO 1 training

Small business bundle

So, for my birthday, I basically picked a small business bundle that you will surely find beneficial. If you are serious about your website, and you should be, go and check out all the details and improve your website and SEO knowledge today.

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In this article, I’d like to highlight the snippet preview in our Yoast SEO plugin. What is it, how does it work and what should you pay attention to? First of all, I have to point out that Google makes the final selection of content for your mention in the search result pages. No matter how much effort you put in optimizing your meta description, if Google feels that another snippet of your pages answers their visitor’s search query better, it will use that snippet instead of your meta description. Is that a problem, you think? I think it isn’t. It’s Google helping people understand your page better.

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Let’s look at that snippet preview

You can find the snippet preview in the so-called meta box, right below the edit field in WordPress:

Yoast SEO's snippet preview - How to make your site stand out in search results

As you can see, the meta description needs optimizing and the title is perhaps a bit long. Now, where do we change all these things?

Your site’s title

If you want to make your site stand out in search results, this will always have to be optimized one page at a time. Branding should be consistent on all pages, by the way. Looking at a single search result, the page title is the thing that gets the most attention in the search result pages. It’s in the largest font, the blue color pops. It’s usually also the most consistent thing in there. Your titles look like this by default (due to settings in our plugin): ‘page title’ – ‘site name’. Now if that is something you’d like to change for this specific post, simply click ‘Edit snippet’ and you’ll get this screen:

Edit Yoast SEO snippet preview

As you can see, the template of the title is displayed here. %%page%% will give you the number of the page is you have spread the article over multiple pages, %%sep%% is the separator or divider you can pick in our plugin as well. If you want to adjust the title, you can do that here. For tips on how to set that title up, please read Crafting good titles for SEO.

Read more: ‘Titles and meta variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Meta descriptions

We have written quite a lot about that meta description. It’s the only ‘tool’, besides the title, that Google gives us to optimize our invitation to our website. In the meta description, you highlight what your page is about and why the user should visit it.

Note that the meta description is a suggestion for Google, as I mentioned earlier. If Google doesn’t use the meta description you enter or edit here; some reasons could apply:

  • Your meta description doesn’t match the search query of the user. If you optimize your meta description for a certain keyword, which differs from the query, Google might decide to pick some sentences that fit the query better instead. Again, that might be a good thing.
  • Your meta description is over-optimized for a certain keyword, or considered to be too focused on sales/spam. Sometimes you may manage to squeeze in an emoji or icon of some kind, most of the times Google prefers text. I think most users do, by the way. It allows for more characters if you leave the fluff out, so your sentences are easier to read.

The length of that meta description

Now let’s discuss the length of that meta description. At the moment, we stick to approximately 160 characters, but times they are a-changing. Just recently, Google mentioned longer meta descriptions. This means we can squeeze in a few extra lines of text. However, Google will display this in some cases, not all. It might be just the meta descriptions that Google creates for us.

Longer meta descriptions also means that the first result will get some more attention, which fits Google’s aim of showing you the best result right away. And, think along the lines of voice search as well. MOZ’s example of our meta description post aligns nicely with the voice search example Joost used here. It’s consistent this way. Not sure if that’s the thought behind it, but it came to mind.

At Yoast, we keep a keen eye on what’s going on here and if we find the logic behind this new length, or Google tells us, we will find a way to incorporate this in our plugin. For the time being: results are still perfectly fine in the current length!

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Optimizing your slug

Last but not least, you can also alter your slug. That’s the post-related part of the URL for that post. In our snippet preview editor, you can change that slug. Remove some clutter, make sure there’s focus. If possible, add the preferred focus keyword in there. Google could change that slug into ‘breadcrumbs’ a lot of the times, by the way. But if your URL is in the results, it’s nice to have the focus keyword in bold there as well.

One more thing: site links

Last but not least: site links. Site links are the links that you sometimes find below your main mention:

Site links for Yoast

As you can see, it’s one mention, with multiple extra site links below it. Now, this isn’t in our plugin or snippet preview, since we as site owners can’t control or suggest these. Google even removed the option to demote any links here last year. So it’s out of our reach, to be honest. Just wanted to clarify that :)

In conclusion

That’s it. You can easily optimize your mention in the search result pages if you use the snippet preview, and editor, in our free and premium Yoast SEO plugin. It’s an easy, convenient way to present Google with a ready-to-use, optimized snippet for their search result pages. Now go and optimize :)

Keep reading: ‘The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO’ »

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This week, we’ve been showing you how to perform an SEO audit on your website. By regularly auditing your – or your client’s – sites, you can get a good feel for what you still need to do to improve SEO. In part 1, I talked about user experience and content SEO and in part 2, I’ve touched on general SEO issues. Here, I’ll round off this series with a look at site speed and engagement.

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Perform an SEO audit: Site speed

Let’s not forget the speed of your site, not just because we all browse the web a lot more on our mobile devices, over not-so-broadband networks, but also because a fast site makes Google and in most cases your conversion rate happier.

Combine and minify CSS and JS files

The first and easiest check would be to open the source of your website in a browser and do a search for “.js” or “.css”. If the amount of results scares you, you know there’s work to do. I can’t give you an exact number for this, but multiple lines of JavaScript files or CSS files, usually indicate there’s a large change that you can speed up your site by minifying JS or CSS files and combine them. Google Page Speed Insights will also tell you if this is an area you can improve in, and guide you a bit in the process:

SEO Audit: PageSpeed Insights

Click the “Show how to fix links” in there for more information. Another Google tool to help you check your site speed is Google Lighthouse.

Browser caching

Browser caching is about how a browser remembers / stores your website for faster visiting the next time you come to that website. There are plenty of plugins like WP Rocket or WP Super Cache that can help you with this. If you’re not sure if you need to optimize your browser caching, simply check how you are doing in the Google PageSpeed Insights we mentioned earlier, or websites like WebpageTest.org. It will tell you among other things how if your browser caching is optimized. These websites will also tell you if there is room for improvement regarding compression.

Enable compression

Compression is making your files as small as possible before sending them to the user’s browser (where they indeed might/will end up in your browser caching). As Google itself puts it:

Enabling gzip compression can reduce the size of the transferred response by up to 90%, which can significantly reduce the amount of time to download the resource, reduce data usage for the client, and improve the time to first render of your pages.

The same tools as mentioned at browser caching work for compression, but as I feel compression should be on for every website, I really liked to mention it separately. Check your compression yourself. In addition, there’s no need to compress files when your site is on a HTTP/2 connection. Read more about performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world.

Engagement

Google will bring people to your website, but engagement can help return visitors and for instance sales promotions.

Social media

The obvious engagement related thing is social media. Check some social platforms, starting with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to see if your desired audience is present on these platforms. If you haven’t created a profile there, please do so and start building your audience.

If you are doing this, please check if these social profiles are listed on your website, and how they are listed. Would you subscribe yourself, or do you have to go on a search quest to find these buttons? Monitor clicks on these buttons, because a lot of people just look for your company on Facebook instead of clicking those. If nobody uses these buttons, replace them with a footer link or something like that. How to approach this depends on how popular your social profile is / will become.

Newsletter

We changed our newsletter approach for the better a while back when we switched from two to three newsletters a week. That seems like a lot, I know. Our main goal is to deliver something extra in every newsletter. Of course, we want to keep you up-to-date regarding SEO, our newest articles and promotions, and events. But we keep a keen eye on that newsletter and strive not to repeat ourselves.

If you are ready to start sending that newsletter, please add the subscription option for that newsletter on a nice spot on your website, not hidden from your audience, but in plain sight. Don’t ask you, subscribers, a ton of information about themselves, but simply have them fill out their email address and start sending that newsletter.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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You’ve just done your (first) SEO audit

If you have reached the end of this article series, you have intentionally or unintentionally, done your (first) SEO audit. I am sure that during the reading of this article, you have gone over your site, beit in your mind or actually over your site, and you have found something to work on.

If you perform an SEO audit now and then, you make sure your website’s up-to-date. It should be part of your frequent site maintenance cycle, I think. Good job!

Any additions for quick checks of your site’s SEO health? Love to hear from you!

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO: the Definitive Guide’ »

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In my previous article, part 1 of the How to perform an SEO audit series, I showed you the steps you could take to evaluate the SEO of your own – or someone else’s – site. The first steps were all about content SEO and user experience. In part 2, I’ll dive deeper into the general SEO part of the audit. Later, I’ll conclude the series with part 3, where I’ll look at site speed and engagement. Enjoy auditing!

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General SEO

There are several things that you can check quite easily in your SEO audit, without any effort – if you use the right tools. Keep in mind that tools are here to help, not replace your common sense and your product/brand knowledge. One of my go-to tools is Screaming Frog SEO spider. Yes, there are a lot of alternatives, like Ryte, but for a quick check-up, Screaming Frog SEO spider suffices. It’s a handy tool that can do a lot of relevant checks, even its free version.

Page titles

Page titles should focus on a specific topic and be branded at the end. That’s what I would primarily focus on here. In Screaming Frog:

SEO audit - Screaming frog - page titles

Check for duplicates, missing page titles, and if these are indeed constructed as ‘page title – branding’. Walmart does a nice job at this, as you can see. Read up on page titles here.

Meta description

The meta description is your invite to your website. SEO value? Well, a good meta description will attract more people to your website from Google or Bing, for instance. Now, please note that your meta description is a suggestion for that search engine, not something it will copy every time your site is shown in the search result pages. It has to be focused and clear, and align with the search query. More on meta descriptions here.

SEO Audit: meta description

In Screaming Frog, it’s easy to see if meta descriptions are duplicate, like in this screenshot, or missing. Walmart had only a few duplicate meta descriptions, to be honest, in my quick check. Most pages have a unique description.

Canonical URLs

The canonical URL tells you / Google what the source of a page is. If you copy this page to your website, please set the canonical URL of your copy to this page and Google will understand it has to rank my page, while still very much informing your site’s visitor.

SEO audit: canonicals

Again, Screaming Frog comes in handy. Check for missing canonical URLs and see (if your site has a ‘processable’ number of pages) if the canonical URLs align with the regular URL for a page.

Screaming Frog can do so much more, but let’s leave it at that for now.

Quick Panda & Penguin check

Panda and Penguin are algorithm updates by Google, focused on serving more quality websites in their search result pages. Panda focuses on thin content and banners, among other things, where Penguin checks if the links to your website are natural links that make sense.

In your SEO audit, a quick check for Panda would be to step back from your computer screen and look at your website. Is there a surplus of banners? Is your sale filling up all the space all the time, before any interesting content? Make sure there is a good balance. I’d say four banners above the fold is a lot.

For Penguin, use for instance Majestic’s SEO tool to do a quick check of backlinks, and see if you find any shady websites linking to your website. Disavow these websites in your Google Search Console.

More on Panda and Penguin here. Note that Google says these are ongoing updates these days.

Template code

A lot of SEOs will tell you to fix the foundation of your website, meaning the template. I think content is the foundation of the website and your template(s) should serve that content. I read a comment by someone just last week stating that these template code related things are the only things you need for SEO – think again. As mentioned over and over, we believe in a holistic approach, taking a lot more into consideration. But that doesn’t mean that your template can be crap. Far from it.

Schema.org / JSON-LD

Structured data is essential these days. It’s your page summary in re-usable chunks of content that Google loves. Add schema.org data via JSON-LD, we have written about that before. If you want to check schema.org data for a certain page, use a schema validator. Google that, there is a variety of them. If you want to add structured data, please use JSON-LD as Google prefers that. Google will also inform you about structured data in Google Search Console.

Want to know more about structured data? We have a course on structured data as well – go check it out.

Breadcrumbs

I could have mentioned breadcrumbs when discussing site structure as well, but they are part of your template, right? Add breadcrumbs to make sure people know where in your site structure they ended up, and realize these are also valuable internal links for Google. In your SEO audit, check for breadcrumbs, and see if these are also returned when checking for structured data, so you know they are served to Google the best way possible.

The mobile version of your website

Mobile-first. It’s coming. And I still feel that a responsive website, in addition to all the AMP and so, is essential. One site to maintain. To start off, simply reduce your browser screen’s width and see what happens. Then, open your mobile browser on your phone and visit your website. Click to your main product page, click to your contact form. How does your homepage look? Does everything work like it should? Does it load fast? Make sure you get the mobile experience you want.

We have written a lot about mobile websites, feel free to browse these other articles for more information:

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Heading structure

This might be the least of your worries these days, to be honest. HTML5 allows you to add an H1 to every block element and Google will probably figure out your main heading in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, a good heading structure helps you structure your page’s content and allows Google and your visitors to scan your page and grasp the general storyline. Check if your heading structure makes sense, both visually and in semantics. More on headings here.

Part 3 is next: Site speed & Engagement

This concludes part two of the SEO audit series. In this part, you’ve learned how to analyze the general SEO of your site using several tools as well as your judgement. If you followed along, you’ve probably found several issues on your site that you could improve on. That’s exactly what an audit is meant to uncover, so all is well. Make a to-do list and start working! In part three, we’ll go over site speed and engagement. Stay tuned!

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

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A couple of years ago, we did about 40 to 60 SEO audits a month. Although consultancy has not been in our product range for some time now, we do occasionally perform these audits, for instance when a friend asks us to have a quick look. An SEO audit like that is not as elaborate as the ones we used to present our clients, but do give a nice overall view of how your SEO is doing. In the coming three articles, I’ll give you a condensed overview of how to go about this yourself.

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Steps in the SEO audit

In this SEO audit, we’ll use our holistic SEO approach. That means we will address some content SEO issues, technical SEO issues and more. The entire website needs to be right for your SEO to be right. In the coming posts, we’ll go over these steps:

Part 1:

Part 2:

  • General SEO –> Tomorrow

Part 3:

  • Site speed –> Thursday
  • Engagement –> Thursday

User experience

The first things I do when reviewing a website is simply looking for low-hanging fruit. What are the obvious improvements? How can we make things easier for our readers?

Colors

Are the colors on the website appealing and do they match the brand? I like my websites to use a certain color scheme that keeps the focus on the content. So, headings should stand out as such, and it needs to be clear what links are. Contrast is an issue I’d check at this point as well.

Use of images and videos

Images and videos are great to present a product, direct visitors to the right spots on your pages or set a mood. In all cases, these should support the written message you have for the visitor. In your SEO audit, you should check if there is a nice balance between textual and visual information. I also have an opinion on sliders and video backgrounds, by the way. Note that a video background isn’t the same as adding a video to your text: the latter can be beneficial.

There is a fold

Yes, there is a fold and I would like to see your primary call-to-action and your central message (what is your added value for the visitor?) above it. If your primary call-to-action is much lower on the page, or just not there, I would fix this asap. Especially on your homepage, where your main goal is to direct people to the different sections of your website, it should be clear immediately where you want them to go.

Reassurance

Social proof, security signs and testimonials all contribute to a pleasant user experience. They will reassure the visitor of how well your products are, and how good your company is. They will tell the potential buyer that your website is safe and they can purchase without having to worry about security, for instance. Of course, this depends mainly on the type of website.

Content SEO

The basis of any SEO strategy is writing good content. You need a killer content SEO strategy. In the end, your content needs to answer any question a user ‘asks’ Google. Good content starts with keyword research, so the content part of your SEO audit starts there as well.

Keyword research

As you are doing this SEO audit yourself, there is a trap you might fall into. If you are renting holiday homes, but tend to call these cottages yourself, please consider what your visitor would be looking for first and check if your site is optimized for that. That’s a quick check that is very valuable. When you have determined the main keyword for your website, check if you have one main page to rank for that keyword. If so, check if you used any related keywords to optimize other pages as well. If you want to deep dive into keyword research, please check our ultimate guide to keyword research.

Site structure

The next thing I would check is site structure. Does it make sense, to begin with? Does the menu include the main pages of the website, and are these perhaps accessible from a footer menu and the homepage? Is there a sitemap that tells me more about the site structure, in XML or HTML?

We like to think of that site structure as a pyramid, in which the main articles are supported by other, pages that target, for instance, long tail keywords. This process, and more, is explained in our guide to site structure. Be sure to read that. After reading this article, it’ll be so much easier to understand and check your own site structure, and find things to improve.

Introductory content

Another quick and valuable check is a check for introductory content. Regardless of the type of site you have, there will be pages that have large collections of other content. Think along the lines of product categories, blog archives, landing pages of some kind. The important thing is to make clear to both your visitor and Google, what it is that this collection has in common. Usually, approximately 200 words will do as an introduction, if you want a guideline for your SEO audit.

Duplicate content

I’m not going to explain here why you don’t want duplicate content. Go read about that here. Bottom line is that you want to prevent it. A fast way to get at least some insight into your duplicate content is CopyScape. It will tell you were (snippets of) your content is found anywhere else on the web. I also like their SiteLiner product, which checks for internal duplicate content. Go try for yourselves.

Internal search

The one thing that annoys me the most on a website, especially on large ones, isn’t when Google directs me to the wrong page (fix that using cornerstone content, for instance), but when a website that’s over, say, 20 pages has no decent internal search option. People add that option, and forget to optimize the internal search result pages. It’s a common thing with WordPress sites, really. It’s improving, but you might need to give it some TLC on your own site. Just do an internal search on your site and see for yourself.

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Related posts and products

On your pages, for instance for blog articles, or product pages, is there an ‘escape’ to the next page available at the end of your main content? Do you direct people to the next page, if they decide not to buy yet, for instance? Just check if it’s there, if for instance your WooCommerce install provides this, or if your theme builder has an option for that. It provides a better user experience, will keep people on your page and creates valuable internal links in the process.

Coming up in part 2: General SEO

This concludes the UX and content SEO part of the SEO audit. Since combining all the parts of an audit in a single post would lead to a behemoth, we’ve split it in three parts. Tomorrow, we’ll publish part two of the SEO audit series in which we’ll dive deeper into the general SEO checks you should perform to determine the SEO quality of a website. See you tomorrow!

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

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In our plugin, you can connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO. This verifies your website for your Google Search Console account and allows you to view your crawl errors. Especially when you have a large site, the number of crawl errors might scare you. In this post, I’ll explain a bit more about crawl errors and show you how to fix them, using Yoast SEO Premium.

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What are crawl errors?

Google uses so-called Googlebots to crawl and index your page. Crawling, in layman’s language, is the process of Googlebot going over your pages, one link at a time. When crawling, its goal is to get to every important page on your site by following links on pages, in sitemaps, etc. Indexing, on the other hand, is what Googlebot does to take in all the content on your pages, to include it in its search result pages.

There are two types of crawl errors:

  • Site errors that affect your entire site. Think along the lines of connectivity issues with your web server, and problems fetching your robots.txt file.
  • URL errors that affect a specific page on your website. Googlebot tried to crawl the URL but did not succeed somehow. It was able to resolve your DNS, connect to your server, fetch/read your robots.txt file, and then request the URL. But after that, something went wrong.

Viewing crawl errors in Yoast SEO

In our Yoast SEO plugin (free and paid), you can view the crawl errors that Google came across on your website. All you have to do is connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO. In our plugin, we guide you through that process. Let me explain the steps here as well.

Connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO

To connect Google Search Console to the Yoast SEO plugin, all you have to do is navigate to this page in WordPress: SEO › Search Console.
Connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO

The next step is to connect them. In our plugin, just click the ‘Get Google Authorization Code’ button:Search Console - Yoast SEO

It’ll take you to Google Search Console. There, you’ll be asked to confirm that you want to connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO and let our plugin view and manage the data for your sites. Click ‘allow’:Search Console - Yoast SEO

Lastly, you’ll get a key to include in our plugin:GSC copy paste code

Now simply copy-paste that code and insert it into the box in our plugin, hit ‘Authenticate.’
Google Search Console pick profile

Choose the profile you’d like to connect and save it. Done! Now, you can continue in the first tab of that same section in our plugin (Desktop). Be sure to check the other tabs as well to find specific crawl errors.Yoast SEO crawl errors

Here, you will find the information we collected from your Google Search Console. In this table, you see the URL that gave an error, the date Google crawled it last, the date when Google detected the error first and the response code Google sent. In the screenshot, all response codes are 404 Not Found.

So, if you connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO, you will have a great overview of how many crawl errors Google finds on your website. Now, you can go and create redirects for these 404s, or simply change them to 410s if that page is of absolutely no use to you anymore. More on status codes in this article. When you have ‘fixed’ the error, hover over the URL in Yoast SEO and click ‘mark as fixed’.

Is there an easy way to create that redirect?

Yes! There is an easier way to complete this process, and it is called Yoast SEO Premium. Besides a lot of extras that plugin has to offer, it allows you to immediately create your redirect in our plugin:create redirect in Yoast SEO Premium

Simply click ‘Create redirect,’ and, unlike in our free plugin (which will prompt that it’s only featured in our premium plugin), you’ll get this screen:
redirect and fix crawl errors in Yoast SEO

Our plugin will give you the option to create a redirect, or add another status code (301, 302, 307, 410, 451 are all possible). In case of a 301 redirect, like in the example, simply insert the URL you’d like that ‘old’ URL to redirect to. If you want to tell Google Search Console about this fix, simply leave the check ‘Mark as fixed’ as is and hit ‘Create Redirect.’ It’s as simple as that. In tomorrow’s article, we’ll shine a light on the redirects manager.

Now go and connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO!

I hope this sheds some light on why you want to connect Google Search Console to Yoast SEO. You’ll be able to monitor crawl errors in our free plugin, and for a few bucks a year, our premium plugin will even help you fix them!

If you by any chance have already used this feature in our premium plugin, I’d love for you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Read more: ‘Which redirect should I use?’ »

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“I just love those video backgrounds and we need them on our new website.” No, you don’t. “They are so engaging and set a friendly mood.” No, they don’t. “It’s an amazing new feature and it helps conversion.” No, it doesn’t. Besides that, the conversation is annoying me. Video backgrounds suck big time. Our good friend Karl Gilis of AGConsult said it perfectly: “Video backgrounds are the new sliders. They’re a distraction.” And just like sliders suck and should be banned from your website, so do video backgrounds.

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Why do you need that video background?

I dare to state that video backgrounds were invented by web agencies trying to convince customers of a particular design:

  • Hey, this will make you stand out!
  • Now this really sets a mood on your website, don’t you think?
  • Of course we can create that video for you at a mere x dollars extra
  • Video backgrounds will keep your visitors’ attention, so time on page goes up and that’s good for Google.

What!? You’re not maintaining that site for Google, but for your users. The second reason for video backgrounds is that we all have said at one point in time: well, that looks nice. We should have thought about it before saying that. Our customers have seen that video background as well and now they want it.

Video Backgrounds: you don't want one

This GIF file probably got your attention already, but background videos are worse, IMHO. I honestly can’t think of any additional benefit of that background video for your visitor.

Why video backgrounds suck

Think about it:

  • Video backgrounds increase loading time for a page (source: common sense).
  • They distract from the primary message/call-to-action on a page. Even if that button or whatever is bright orange and your design is monochrome, a video is distracting!
  • Video backgrounds usually use videos not hosted by you. But if it doesn’t load, you’ll get the blame anyway and your design will look like crap.
  • ‘Cover the entire screen with video and set white text on top of it as the homepage’ probably is a trend. Let’s all put an end to this trend.
  • Autoplay sucks, and how on earth would it be logical to have a start button for a background video!? A call-to-action for your background? C’mon!
  • Video backgrounds only might perhaps work on very specific landing pages in very specific niches, most of the times you’ll just hurt conversion #alwaysbetesting
  • The things that go for informative products videos do not apply to video backgrounds. It’s a different thing! Really! Sigh.
  • Why do you think successful sites on the web don’t use video backgrounds? Right!

Video backgrounds suck and should be banned from your website. Even with all the nice looking examples in this article: Dos and Don’ts for Using Background Videos on Your Website, I still think the don’ts outweigh the dos. And that post is two years old. How come we haven’t put an end to that trend yet?

And what about mobile data plans and such?

Yes! Now that we have established that you just don’t need that video background for any reason, think about how much data you will have left at the end of this month! You’ll be able to watch another episode of The Ranch while commuting.

No, seriously. On your mobile website, that video background simply makes even less sense. We talked about mobile UX in this post, and video backgrounds don’t fit in with recommendations like ‘tone it down’ and ‘optimize for speed’. It’s a bad idea. Period.

The world doesn’t need video backgrounds

We have to start somewhere to eliminate the evil that is video backgrounds. Heal the world, start at your own home. Convince your customer that there are little upsides to video backgrounds. Show them a dozen websites that either support your claims or that fail to convince the visitor to use a video background. And please, please stop recommending them. On behalf of the entire internet, I thank you.

Read more: ‘Sliders suck and should be banned from your website’ »

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Over the last couple of months, I attended some events, for instance, our own YoastCon, which was awesome! The thing that kept echoing in my head was the vast misunderstanding a lot of people have about websites and Google. One of my firm beliefs is that Google is becoming more and more ‘human,’ and should be treated that way. This means that in all your SEO efforts, you should consider the use for us human visitors first, and then check if that aligns with any SEO recommendations. Make your websites for humans, not Google. Or in other words: stop pleasing Google!

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SEO from the internet stone age

What you see in most ancient websites, is huge white blocks without content at the bottom of every page. If you press CTRL/CMD+A, a pile of words appears. By using the same text color as the background color of the page, words were only available for the search engine that was reading the code instead of the page. Hidden words, that serve no other purpose than luring Google. Or rather Altavista, in that era. I hear you: nobody does that anymore. Oh, how wrong you are:White on white

I took that screenshot last week of a live site. The page actually says “site updated daily” and I think we even purchased our pinball machine there. It just lists a sh*tload of pinball machine names there. This will never work in the US . It’s spammy, it’s not serving anyone, but it solely served Altavista back then. To be honest, I think this has already or will eventually ruin your rankings and traffic due to that. It’s just that there aren’t that many pinball machine vendors in the Netherlands. This one just happened to have the pinball machine we wanted (Indiana Jones, with the revolver-shaped ball shooter).

Indiana Jones

Although GIF images might be back to stay, this same-color-text-on-background practice should vanish from the present-day internet. Again, stop pleasing Google. Write for humans.

Panda and Penguin changed SEO

Most SEO consultants have said goodbye to spammy, shady optimization techniques because Google actively penalized you for it since 2011. Panda, focused on quality content, ruined your rankings for the use of thin content (short copy, usually over-optimized for a keyword, use of too many banners, things like that). Penguin threw you out of the search result pages because your website had so many bad links from casino / p0rn / v1agra sites, blog networks or simply any other sites that were created to deliver links.

Google Panda and Penguin

We never practiced techniques that touched Panda or Penguin, by the way. It’s all short-term win, and we want to help you optimize for the long run. The thing the internet learned from Panda and Penguin shouldn’t be “stop trying to fool Google,” but “focus on your human visitors.” To be the first result, be the best result. Stop pleasing Google with your rubbish optimization.

And now, 2018 is just around the corner, and we’re still not focusing on our primary visitor.

2018: please your visitors, not Google

If you are like me, New Year’s resolutions are set in May next year, so you know what is achievable. But this one is easy. Let’s all start focusing on our non-automated visitors, starting now, continuing in 2018.

Welcome!

That means, among other things:

  • Include the right rich snippets, don’t add schema.org markup just to inform Google about all the other stuff you do.
  • Realize that meta keywords are only used by your competitor to see what you want to rank for. Google still doesn’t use them.
  • Don’t stuff your footer with all kind of irrelevant links. Keep it focused, make sure these links are helping your visitor. Google will find all relevant pages if you focus on a good site structure anyway. We have a course for that.
  • Prevent duplicate content. Don’t confuse Google with almost similar pages. Those serve no one.
  • Again, no white-text-on-white-background nonsense. Google recognizes it quite easily and will penalize you for that shady, ancient technique.
  • Stop buying links in an attempt to fool Google and get more low-quality traffic. Write quality content instead, trust humans to find it and have them link to your pages because you are worth it.
  • The same goes for trying to insert that automated comment on a gazillion blogs. a) most comment links are or should be nofollowed and b) you are not helping other visitors. Google is capable of filtering the main content <div> anyway.
  • Scraping feeds to create automated content for your website is plain stupid. Either for affiliate gain or just to add content to your website, this type of content, to lure Google to your site, doesn’t add any value to the internet, Google or any human. It just slows down Google, as it has to decide on whether this content is of any value to its visitors. It’s not most of the times. The source is.
  • Keyword stuffing: just keep a keen eye on the keyword density. This is something that we are actively working on for our Yoast SEO plugin. With for instance the rise of voice search, longer keyphrases become more and more common. Using a long keyphrase five times in your 300-word-article will look so unnatural, that it’s not a good practice at all, where using a certain keyword five times might fit there.
  • And what about synonyms? Google recognizes these, at least in English. Did you know our premium plugin supports multiple keywords? Use that to balance synonyms, for instance.

So, stop pleasing Google!

Start focusing on your visitors, on the people that want to buy your product or services. All the developments in Google that took place in the last years focus on one thing: quality websites for your users. That goes for Panda, but also for UX, responsiveness, speed optimization, etc. Mobile-first? Yes. And equally important user-first as well. So, please, stop pleasing Google! On behalf of the internet, I thank you.

Read on: ‘Content SEO: How to analyze your audience’ »

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