“SEO is more about being in ALL the right places at the right time.” That’s how SEO and internet marketer Roy Huiskes describes the importance of a complete online presence. He has worked in the business since 2003 and consulted for several big brands. With loads of experience in CRO, analytics and all aspects of online marketing, he’s one of the best SEO experts in Europe. So it goes without saying that we’re delighted to announce he’ll be joining our panel discussion at YoastCon. To top it off, he’ll also give a hands-on workshop on keyword research!

Want to take your own keyword research to the next level? Sign up for his workshop! Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
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You’re an SEO and online marketer. Do you feel these are still two separate areas, as SEO is becoming more and more about optimizing your complete online presence (including social media etc)?

I never felt these were separate domains. From the first days, I’ve always seen SEO as understanding the consumer’s needs and creating value around that. Google only caught on to this later on, so tactics might have changed a bit, but the strategy of understanding the consumer’s needs is still the same.

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So, to answer the question: Yes, SEO is more about being in ALL the right places at the right time to get better results. There are quite a few cases that prove that the searches themselves and the connection between ‘brand’ and ‘top keyword’ are very relevant to increase your organic traffic. This can only be achieved by being a bigger brand.

You’ve once predicted the rise of local SEO. Nowadays, optimizing for local is very important. Any tips for local entrepreneurs on what to focus on?

Yes. It’s a very natural factor for Google to consider, especially with an 80%+ market share in the mobile market. People are looking for this information. In the English language, the ‘near me’ query is critical. While this could also work in the Netherlands, we don’t see similar behavior that often. Opening hours is quite remarkable though.

So, make sure you do your keyword research very well and not ‘globally’, but understand how the consumer searches in each country or culture. This is getting even more important if you consider the use of devices like Google Home, Cortana, Amazon Echo or Siri. This will probably result in a huge shift in the type of search terms people are using. Since these kinds of queries are on 20% already, this transition is something to focus on.

As a consultant working for major brands, you’ve seen lots of websites in your career. What’s the biggest mistake you think website owners make when it comes to SEO?

I’m not sure. It could be two things:

  • Not training the development teams well and in a more technical, advanced way
  • The lack of keyword/intention research and the unwillingness to make UX changes on this.

I think I’ll go with the UX though. I’ve seen a lot of quality, easy to understand SEO stuff be put away, in favor of all kinds of fancy-pants UX that nobody needed, often because of some CRO goal setting that wasn’t backed up by data.

SEO of the future: what should website owners focus on if they want to rank now AND in the future? Are there any important changes coming up that we should know about?

Well, I don’t believe in the mantra: ‘create for the user, and they will come’, although I do think you should put user behavior first. The users won’t come automatically after a reasonable amount of time. We need to do more work. Market your website properly, making sure people know what they can find, do and buy on your site, and what your brand stands for.

But it all starts with being clever about your target audience and their needs. So proper user research that focuses on intentions and keywords will teach you a lot about your consumers. Then start experimenting, learn more about your customers in A/B tests and help them in your journey to a better product that attracts even more happy users.

Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?

Well, how nice of you to ask, good question. The answer to the previous question is what I’m going to provide. Or at least how I’m doing that for my clients. I’ll teach you how to do proper keyword research, focus on intentions and gather all the useful data to make smart decisions.

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This is the seventh post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking, discussed how to get the most out of Google My Business, covered best practices for on-site optimization. I’ve also given you some ideas for building inbound links and how to build citations and explained the importance of reviews. Here, I’ll focus on what impact social signals have on local results (if any). 

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Those of you who have been following along with this series since we started probably feel like you’ve drunk from a firehose. There are a lot of angles from which to attack Local SEO!

Generally speaking, though, social media is not one of them, so this will be the shortest post of the series. Marcus Miller of Bowler Hat Marketing, a long-time participant in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, sums up the place of social media brilliantly: “Do the basics, don’t overthink it, and move swiftly along.”

Primarily, “the basics” have to do with optimizing your social media profiles, as opposed to your social media activity.

Want to know how to reach your goals with SEO? Come join us at YoastCon 2017, the hands-on SEO conference! Read more »

Social-Local Basics

At a minimum, every local business should claim a business profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, even if you don’t plan to use some or all of those profiles.

Customers may look for you on those sites, and you don’t want them to come up empty, or worse: discover another business with a similar name and think it’s you. And you never know when you might decide to engage with customers on those social platforms – in which case it’ll be nice to have an existing profile as a jumping-off point.

Social profiles offer some of the easiest inbound links and citations you can acquire, and it makes sense to utilize all relevant fields that major social media platforms offer you.

At a minimum, use a high-quality logo (or if more appropriate, personal photo). Pick a high-resolution photo or graphic representation of your business that you can use as a “cover” image. Hubspot produced this handy guide of the sizes you’ll need for each social platform. For more advanced readers, Facebook now offers the ability to use video for your cover.

social-local profiles

social local profiles linkedin

Fundera has compiled a great list of compelling local business Facebook pages here, for more inspiration.

Because each of these social profiles can (and should) act as a citation, you’ll want to maintain a consistent business name across all platforms. This helps Google (and customers) associate these profiles with you.

Where possible, add your location information to your profile, even if it’s just a city and state. This helps Google make that connection even more strongly.

local social location information local social profile location information

social local profile location information twitter

If you don’t plan to use one or more of these profiles actively, pin a post to the top of that profile. That way, you can let customers know where they can find you. It doesn’t matter if that’s your website, your email newsletter, or a different social channel that you do manage actively.

local social profile facebook

Social-Local Longer-Tail

With the exception of Twitter, with whom it has a direct contractual relationship, Google has a hard time getting visibility into what’s happening on social platforms. So “being active” on social media isn’t really going to help with your local search visibility. And even if you’re wildly popular on social media, it’s unlikely that popularity will translate directly into higher local search rankings. 

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One way, in which it might translate, is if your social profile is frequently linked-to by other websites as a result of your popularity. The link you’ve added from your profile to your own website then passes additional authority to your website. But that’s a fraction of a fractional increase in authority. Not one that’s worth getting hung up on.

There’s some evidence to suggest that viral social media posts (and even social media ads) that drive traffic to your website may increase your rankings, but it’s rare that a local business achieves virality. And if you do, what’ll really increase your rankings are the citations and links from news articles mentioning that your business has gone viral.

You should primarily focus your social media efforts on engaging your customers with interesting content, promotions (if relevant), and polls and conversations that will increase their affinity for your brand. You can promote your website to a degree, but generally speaking, improvements in your local rankings will come from other factors.

The Outlier: Google+

I mentioned five of the most popular channels above, and intentionally excluded Google+. Millions of pixels and gallons of ink have been expended on chronicling the failure of Google+ as a social network. Those chronicles are largely accurate.

chart impact google+ on rankings

But in a recent Steady Demand case study, featuring Buffalo jeweler Barbara Oliver, Mike Blumenthal found that creating shareable content on Google+ appeared to have a direct positive impact on Barbara’s local rankings. There’s a lot of work involved in building the kind of Google+ community that Barbara has built. Let alone in coming up with content that this community will find interesting. But if you’re primarily interested in using social media to increase your local search rankings, Google+ is (surprisingly) the social platform on which you should focus.

The Real Place of Local-Social Media: Conversations

As this terrific guide from the Perch App suggests, it’s far more productive to treat social media as an engagement channel rather than a means to ranking better.

Making yourself available to your customers and responsive to their questions on the platforms above — as well as the locally-focused NextDoor — helps create the positive association for your brand that social media is best-designed for.

To the extent that words become the new links, Google may begin to weigh social media activity more heavily in its algorithm in the future. But for now, utilize your social media channels for brand awareness, customer engagement and loyalty, not rankings.

Summary

  • Overall, social signals have limited impact on local search rankings.
  • Nonetheless, every business should create a well-branded Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn Business page.
  • Include links and citations for your business on these profiles.
  • Google+ is the social platform on which activity seems to increase rankings the most.
  • Your primary goal in using social media should be for customer engagement and loyalty, not rankings.

Read on

Other parts in the Ranking your local business series:

  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

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The developers at Yoast HQ are quite the busy bees. In the past few weeks, we’ve released Yoast SEO 5.3 – with some pretty cool features -, helped build a plugin that provides the ‘glue’ between two of the biggest WordPress plugins out there and launched an innovative new customer portal called My Yoast. After the dust has settled, it’s time to release the next version of our flagship plugin: Yoast SEO 5.4. Find out what’s new and what’s fixed.

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Redirects in Yoast SEO Premium

The redirects manager in Yoast SEO Premium is pretty awesome, if I may say so. It helps you with everyday redirect tasks, so you don’t have to worry about this. So, whenever you deleted a post or change a URL, the redirects manager will ask you if it should redirect the old content to the new content. This way, visitors will never stumble upon pages that don’t exist anymore, resulting in the dreaded 404 error message.

In Yoast SEO 5.3, we added the possibility to export all your redirects in a CSV file. This file gives you a complete overview of all the redirects on your site. In Yoast SEO 5.4, we’ve made it possible to import a redirects CSV file. Now, you can make (bulk) changes to your redirects within that CSV file and import it again when you’re done. Changes will take place immediately. There are loads of scenarios where this will come in handy, for instance, when you’re rebuilding a site and want to replace the same redirects. You’ll find the import and export features in the Tools section of Yoast SEO.

If you want to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of Yoast SEO, you should join us at YoastCon. YoastCon is a hands-on conference that teaches you the ins-and-outs of SEO. Read more »

Technical improvements

Today’s releases mostly feature improvements that make sure that Yoast SEO runs like a well-oiled machine. To increase the performance of the plugin, we’ve replaced the use of `get_posts` and `get_children` by `WP_Query`. This release’s community input came from Saša Todorović – who has been very active lately – and Pete Nelson. The first proposed a fix to exclude archive pages from the sitemap, based on the noindex setting. The latter suggested a hook to disable the Twitter card.

Happy updating!

The updated Yoast plugins are now available, so go get them! We’re working around the clock to bring you a helpful product that makes SEO easier for everyone. We hope you enjoy working with Yoast SEO and value the improvements the plugin brings. Happy updating!

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

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He’s been active in the SEO industry for over 14 years, and founded one of the UK’s most wanted Digital Marketing agencies, Bronco. With a proven ability to achieve great results, even in the most competitive of fields, Dave Naylor can rightly call himself an SEO genius. So it goes without saying that we’re thrilled to announce that Dave will be at YoastCon this November, to join us for an exciting panel discussion! To give you all a sneak peek, we asked him about SEO challenges, ranking number one, and online success.

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Dave, you’ve been in the SEO industry for a long time now. You founded your company, Bronco, 14 years ago. In your bio, you mention that the search engines sometimes call you to teach their personnel about how they work. What was the last question someone from a search engine asked you?

LOL – As much as I’d love to answer that, I’m pretty sure that the non-disclosure agreements we all sign up to would stop me from being able to. A lot of the most common questions are actually available in open forums. So if you’re really dedicated to finding out the answer to the vast majority of search engine structure questions, you’ll be rewarded!

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SEO has matured. It is a serious business, and most brands invest a lot of time and effort into it. In working with clients, what is the first thing you ask them when they want to achieve online success?

Working with any client is a two-way street, so what I’m looking to find out straight away is how much time and effort they are willing to put into a successful campaign. Of course, we’re not going to find clients as passionate about SEO as we are. We’re not asking for that, but they need to show they’re keen and willing – that’s what makes a truly great SEO campaign and a really productive agency-client relationship. There’s not just the issue of what they will do, it’s also about what they can do. For example, if the client has no way of improving the technical side of SEO on their site, that can become a game changer real quick

You often said that it’s no use to have a site when it doesn’t rank number one. That, however, is quite the challenge for most site owners. Is it still possible to rank number one and which steps should you follow if you want to stand a chance?

That’s a tough one. The SERP landscape is constantly changing, with Local listing and OneBoxes popping up everywhere. Ranking number one has obviously never been a walk in the park. But now we’re dealing with a much more complex environment.

I think that ranking number one these days, is more about market share and visibility than just ranking number one for an industry term. If you’ve got the appetite needed to gain market share and visibility, you should pick up a few number one positions along the way.

There are quite a few challenges ahead for SEOs, like the mobile-first index and the rise of voice search. What do you think will be the number one focal point for the next year?

I think the focus will still be on mobile-first. That’s something I see Google pushing hard for the foreseeable future – until the world catches up.

That said, I would love to see them revisiting the idea of discounting inbound links signals again, but we will have to wait and see!

These days, there’s a lot of focus on creating great content. Understandable, because that’s what makes you rank. The technical aspects of SEO, however, are still incredibly important. In your regard, which technical parts should always get a lot of attention?

Site speed is an essential element of any campaign and for good reasons. You’ve also got to prioritize index and site structure when reviewing your technical SEO – obvious choices but absolutely paramount.

Also with regards to content, from a technical perspective, you need to watch out for duplicated, thin and badly structured content!

We assume this interview has convinced people to go see your discussion panel at YoastCon on November 2! In the unlikely case someone is still in doubt, what’s the main reason they shouldn’t miss the panel?

Personally, I’m looking forward to a really interesting discussion, and I will make sure I answer any question honestly and openly!

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Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

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Ranking signals or ranking factors are characteristics of a website that determine the position in the search engines. All ranking signals combined form the algorithm of a search engine. How this algorithm works is a secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the order of the search results.

Google’s algorithm isn’t static. It changes regularly. The factors that determine the order, and the importance of these different factors change very often. Although the algorithm is secret, Google does tell us what’s important. Testing and experimenting give us a relatively good feel for the important factors and changes in these factors. In this post, I’ll talk you through the most important categories of ranking signals.

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Content

The content on your website is one of the most important ranking factors. Google reads the content of a site and determines what it’s about, and for what terms it should appear in the search results, based on the content. So make sure your texts use the keywords you would like to be found on. Texts on your website should always be of sufficient length -more than 300 words is usually Yoast’s advice. And, it’s important that your readers are able to understand your writing. So keep an eye on text structure, use transition words and make sure your text is as good as it can be! Our plugin helps you to write content that’s optimized for both your visitors and the search engines.

Links

A second important factor for ranking well has to do with links. To rank well, your site should have links from other sites, also known as ‘backlinks’. The number of backlinks is important, as well as the quality of these backlinks. Links from high quality, trusted websites (for example university sites) will have more impact than links from low-quality sites (such as gambling or porn sites).

Links from other sites are important, but setting up an internal linking structure that makes sense is also a great way to improve your rankings. Because if you have a clear internal linking structure, search engines will be able to understand your site’s structure, and your important pages will rank better.

UX

Your website should be user-friendly. Sites that allow and stimulate their visitors to easily navigate through their site, have a higher chance of ranking. If people instantly click back to Google after entering your site, this will result in lower rankings. Because if people can’t find what they are looking for, they will quickly return to Google, and Google will pick up on this.

Your website should also be fast, as site speed is another ranking signal. A slow website will result in a slower crawl rate. This means that Google will index pages on your site at a slower rate. New posts will take longer to show up in the search results. Making your website faster can, therefore, help you get organic traffic for new posts faster, and lead to better rankings.

Read more: ‘Site speed: Tools and suggestions’ »

Mobile

The importance of mobile SEO shouldn’t be underestimated. This was made even more clear by Google’s recent announcement. Sometime in 2018, Google will switch to a mobile-first index. This means that Google will crawl your mobile site and analyze its performance and content. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, other sites will be rated higher and outrank you. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile, you’ll still be judged on your mobile site, so now is the time to take action!

Google’s mission

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They want to build the perfect search engine and help people find what they are looking for. While Google has changed its algorithm numerous times over the years, their mission remains the same. Ranking signals are all determined with that mission in mind. So ensuring your website and your marketing strategy fit this goal is always the way to go.

Keep reading: ‘SEO Basics: what does Google do?’ »

Holistic SEO

If you want to rank high in the search engines, the best thing to do is to make a website that belongs high in the search results. Our advice always is: you just have to make sure your site is the best! Don’t use any ‘tricks’. While these may get your site ranked quickly, they usually don’t work in the long run, and could even backfire.

Permanently ranking well in Google requires an extensive SEO-strategy, focused on every aspect of your website. The technical stuff, the user experience, the content on your website and even the security of your website need to be in order. To keep ranking well in Google, you should develop — what we call — a holistic SEO approach. This approach can be a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run!

Want to know how to put holistic SEO into practice? Come join us at YoastCon 2017, the hands-on SEO conference! Read more »

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His name is Joeke-Remkus de Vries, but you can call him Remkus. You might know him by his online handle DeFries and you could have run into him at one of the many WordCamps around the world. Remkus is a well-known and respected figure in the WordPress community and we’re glad to offer him the possibility to do more awesome work in the community. We’ve asked Remkus five questions and these are his answers.

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You and Joost/Yoast go way back. Recently, Yoast started sponsoring you part-time to do WordPress community work. What kind of community efforts will you be working on thanks to Yoast? Could you tell us more about that?

Yeah, I know Joost from before there was a Yoast company. Joost and I co-organized some of the first WordCamp Netherlands editions and we’ve always remained friends. I’ll be focussing my efforts on participating in the Community team with validating meetup and WordCamp requests as well as helping out where needed. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reacquainting myself with everything happening at the WordPress Community Make site in order to help out as best as I can.

The time and energy I spent being part of the organizing team for the previous WordCamp Europe and Netherlands editions, was not where I wanted them to be. But with Yoast sponsoring me part-time, I’ll be able to spend significantly more time in the organization. I’ll help organize the 2018 edition of WordCamp Europe in Belgrade as well as the next WordCamp Netherlands which will probably be held in 2018 as well. Additionally, I’ll visit WordCamps around the globe on behalf of Yoast and represent them in any way I can. Not a bad situation if you ask me ;)

That’s great news! So, how did you start out in the WordPress community?

I started developing sites with WordPress since before we had such niceties as pages. Soon, my hobby became work. Today, I run a couple of WordPress related businesses, Forsite Media and WP ServicePoint being the most prominent.

In 2008, I entered the WordPress community. I discovered that the WordPress project in the Netherlands was in a pretty sorry state. At that time, new Dutch versions of releases came out months after the default one. In addition, the quality of the translations was very inconsistent and, quite frankly, all over the place.

I didn’t want to be embarrassed when handing over a site to a customer. The only way to improving this product to an acceptable level of quality was to take matters into my own hands. So, with the help of Zé Fontainhas – who at the time was handling all things Rosetta and Polyglots – I took over the translations, set up a consistent team, started releasing a Dutch WordPress version within 24 hours and started cleaning up the Dutch WordPress forums with the help of newly found moderators.

In 2009, I co-founded WordCamp Netherlands and have been the lead organizer from 2010 till 2016. Those first editions were all about “activating” the Dutch community. At the same time, I started going to WordCamps abroad and found many kindred spirits and ultimately, friends. Together with the same Zé Fontainhas, I co-founded WordCamp Europe in 2013. You can learn more about how that went on WordPress.tv.

You’ve been very active in the WordPress community for many years now. In these years, WordPress became increasingly popular, leading to an ever-growing community. What’s your view of the current state of the WordPress community?

It’s amazing to see where WordPress is now coming from just a small blogging platform. In my opinion, the current state of the WordPress Community is very healthy. More and more people are going to and organizing WordPress Meetups and WordCamps and more and more communities are starting to flourish. This ultimately brings in, even more, people into the WordPress project and that’s obviously a good thing from where I’m standing. Couple this with the ever growing list of available locales, in which WordPress is available, and I have no doubt we’re going in the right direction of democratizing the web.

The WordPress community is huge. You focus mostly on organizing meetups and WordCamps. Why did you pick that particular part and why do you love it so much?

I’m not sure I specifically picked that part, that kind of happened. I saw ways of improving the WordPress project and I went out of my way to do it. Doing this while meeting people; making friends made it very easy to continuously put energy into it. I get a lot of joy out of the fact we have such strong Dutch and European WordPress Communities.

You often hear that anyone working, developing or building with WordPress could also play a part in getting WordPress to the next level by participating in the community. What advice would you give people wanting to lend their hand to the WordPress project?

Simple. Go to meetups, get involved, go to WordCamps and especially the Contributor Days. It’s a great way to learn about the larger project and find your place within it. Once you’ve found your place, it becomes a lot easier to find out in which area you’d like to contribute most. Be it helping out on the forums, doing translations, improving WordPress’ core or any of the other subjects you can help out with.

Read more: ‘There’s only one model: the open source model’ »

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It’s important to have breadcrumbs on your website. They show users how a page fits into the structure of a site, and allow search engines to determine the site’s structure. But how do you go about implementing breadcrumbs when you have many products that fit into more than one category? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll discuss the best way to handle breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories.

Niall Diamond emailed us an interesting question:

“When you have a product within multiple categories each page will have a canonical URL that is the same, but what about the breadcrumb for the canonical URL page?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

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Handling breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories

“Well Niall, there is one primary category for that product and if you use our Yoast SEO breadcrumbs then it will always show that primary category in the breadcrumbs. If you use another system of using breadcrumbs……well, don’t. Because most systems can’t handle this in a proper way. So switch to using Yoast SEO breadcrumbs and this will be fixed for you. Good luck!”

Read on: ‘What are breadcrumbs and why are they important for SEO?’ »

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

 

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While there haven’t been any major events or big new developments in the WordPress world this past month, a lot of work has gone into developing a sustainable future for the project. Read on to find out more about this and other interesting news from around the WordPress world in August.


The Global WordPress Translation Day Returns

On September 30, the WordPress Polyglots team will be holding the third Global WordPress Translation Day. This is a 24-hour global event dedicated to the translation of the WordPress ecosystem (core, themes, plugins), and is a mix of physical, in-person translation work with online streaming of talks from WordPress translators all over the world.

Meetup groups will be holding events where community members will come together to translate WordPress. To get involved in this worldwide event, join your local meetup group or, if one is not already taking place in your area, organize one for your community.

You can find out more information on the Translation Day blog and in the #polyglots-events channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

WordPress Foundation to Run Open Source Training Worldwide

The WordPress Foundation is a non-profit organization that exists to provide educational events and resources for hackathons, support of the open web, and promotion of diversity in the global open source community.

In an effort to push these goals forward, the Foundation is going to be offering assistance to communities who would like to run local open source training workshops. A number of organizers have applied to be a part of this initiative, and the Foundation will be selecting two communities in the coming weeks.

Follow the WordPress Foundation blog for updates.

Next Steps in WordPress Core’s PHP Focus

After last month’s push to focus on WordPress core’s PHP development, a number of new initiatives have been proposed and implemented. The first of these initiatives is a page on WordPress.org that will educate users on the benefits of upgrading PHP. The page and its implementation are still in development, so you can follow and contribute on GitHub.

Along with this, plugin developers are now able to specify the minimum required PHP version for their plugins. This version will then be displayed on the Plugin Directory page, but it will not (yet) prevent users from installing it.

The next evolution of this is for the minimum PHP requirement to be enforced so that plugins will only work if that requirement is met. You can assist with this implementation by contributing your input or a patch on the open ticket.

As always, discussions around the implementation of PHP in WordPress core are done in the #core-php channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

New Editor Development Continues

For a few months now, the core team has been steadily working on Gutenberg, the new editor for WordPress core. While Gutenberg is still in development and is some time away from being ready, a huge amount of progress has already been made. In fact, v1.0.0 of Gutenberg was released this week.

The new editor is available as a plugin for testing and the proposed roadmap is for it to be merged into core in early 2018. You can get involved in the development of Gutenberg by joining the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group and following the WordPress Core development blog.


Further reading:

  • On the topic of Gutenberg, Matt Mullenweg wrote a post to address some of the concerns that the community has expressed about the new editor.
  • A new movement has started in the Indian WordPress community named JaiWP — the organizers are seeking to unite and motivate the country’s many local communities.
  • Merlin WP is a new plugin offering theme developers an easy way to onboard their users.
  • Ryan McCue posted an ambitious roadmap for the future of the WordPress REST API — many contributions from the community will be needed in order to reach these goals.
  • Want to know what you can expect in the next major release of WordPress? Here’s a look at what the core team is planning for v4.9.
  • To help combat the difficulties that Trac presents to WordPress Core contributors, Ryan McCue built an alternative platform dubbed Not Trac.
  • v1.3.0 of WP-CLI was released earlier in the month, adding a whole lot of great new features to the useful tool.

If you have a story we should consider including in the next “Month in WordPress” post, please submit it here.

This is the sixth post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking, discussed how to get the most out of Google My Business, covered best practices for on-site optimization. I’ve also given you some ideas for building inbound links and how to build citations. Here, I’ll focus on another core local search ranking factor: generating reviews about your business. Learn why and how to do that!

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Although they weren’t part of the initial release of Google Maps, reviews have been a fixture on Google’s local properties for over a decade. The reason is obvious: frankly, consumers love reviews.

BrightLocal consumer survey data suggests that over 90% of consumers use reviews to evaluate local businesses. 84% of them trust reviews just as much as a personal recommendation! So it’s no wonder that Google features them so prominently.

It stands to reason that if consumers love reviews so much, Google’s ranking algorithm does too. Businesses with robust review profiles on Google – and beyond – tend to be rewarded with higher rankings.

Reviews create a virtuous cycle. More reviews lead to better visibility, which leads to more customers, which result in more reviews. Quite simply, gathering and encouraging customer reviews is one of the most sustainable marketing techniques your business can engage in.

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How Google evaluates reviews

Only Google engineers know for sure, but local search experts have theorized for years that Google primarily evaluates reviews across the attributes below. I’ve listed them in order of importance for competitive searches, according to the experts surveyed for the Local Search Ranking Factors project.

Volume

Google designed its entire local algorithm to represent the offline world online in the most accurate way possible. In Google’s ideal world, popular businesses rank near the top of search results. Less popular businesses rank further down. Reviews are one of the easiest ways for Google to assess popularity.

All other factors being equal, popular businesses tend to serve more customers than less popular ones. But remember as I said earlier in this series, Google can only “see” what’s represented online.

So if your customers leave reviews of your business at a higher rate than your competitors’ customers do, your business will appear more popular and stands a good chance at outranking the competition.

Content

The area in which Google’s algorithm has arguably improved the most over the past 3-4 years is in semantic analysis. In fact, one of the earliest datasets on which Google trained its semantic algorithm was local business reviews. As early as 2009, Google highlighted key terms and phrases that it found consumers using to describe local businesses.

So not only is Google looking at the number of reviews when assessing the popularity of local businesses, it’s looking at what people are saying about local businesses in those reviews. For example, doctors whose patients frequently mention a particular kind of treatment in their reviews are likely to rank better for searches for that treatment. Contractors whose customers mention the kind of projects they execute, such as “kitchen remodel,” are likely to rank better for searches for those kinds of projects.

Google’s ability to semantically analyze reviews includes a sentiment filter. Adjectives like “great,” “terrific,” or “best” are likely to move the ranking needle for your business more than reviews with adjectives like “mediocre,” “average,” or “OK.”

The content of your customers’ reviews isn’t necessarily something you can control. But prompting your customers to think about particular questions as they write their review (“What service did we perform for you?” e.g.) can help improve the effectiveness of those reviews with respect to your rankings.

Diversity

A common misconception – compounded by misleading testimony from Google executives – is that Google does not use third-party reviews to rank local results. This could not be further from the truth. In some cases, reviews on third-party sites can improve your rankings even more than comparable reviews left directly at Google.

It’s not only a best-practice, but it’s also essential to earn reviews from your customers on some sites beyond Google. (More on this below.)

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Star / numerical rating

You may be surprised to see star ratings listed this low as a ranking factor. Generally speaking, Google’s algorithm seems to value volume and sentiment much more strongly than the star rating that customers leave for a business. With nearly 80% of reviews being three stars or above (even on Yelp!), it’s not particularly useful for Google to split hairs between a 4.2 and a 4.4-star business, for example.

Where rating may play a larger role is in consumer choice. According to BrightLocal, a majority of consumers see the rating as the most important review factor in choosing a business.

The reviewer

Google’s review spam filter leaves much to be desired. There is, however, some evidence to suggest that the account of the reviewer may have some positive influence on how much weight his or her review carries.

In much the same way that Yelp Elite (essentially, highly-active Yelpers) reviews carry extra weight in Yelp’s algorithm, it’s likely that reviews from members of the Local Guides Program carry extra weight in Google’s.

Velocity

The velocity or frequency with which customers leave reviews may also impact a business’s rankings. The BrightLocal survey referenced above found that 73% of consumers think that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. While Google’s “review expiration date” is considerably longer than three months, especially in less-frequently-reviewed industries like DUI law or addiction treatment, it’s likely that business with a steady stream of new reviews will outrank those with a stale review profile.

Where to get reviews

As I touched on in the Diversity section above, you don’t want to focus your review acquisition efforts solely on Google. In fact, reviews on prominent sites like Yelp have been proven to single-handedly increase rankings for businesses in smaller markets with limited competition. See this empirical study by Mike Blumenthal showing the impact of Yelp reviews on dive bar rankings in Mike’s hometown of Olean, NY.

Just as with citations, you want to have reviews on the sites where Google expects popular businesses to have reviews. The only difference between the sites where you should acquire citations vs. the sites where you should acquire reviews is that data aggregators don’t offer reviews as a feature.

Consumer directories

It nearly goes without saying that you should do your best to acquire customer reviews on Facebook and Yelp. These two platforms are used to research local businesses by tens of millions of consumers every month. Yelp syndicates its reviews to Apple Maps. This way, even more consumers will read them. And of course, Facebook is Facebook. It’s the app in which we spend one out of every 5 of our mobile minutes.

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Industry-specific and local reviews

Beyond these two giants, you should look at the sites that show up in Knowledge Panels for your competitors. Also look at other high-ranking businesses similar to yours in other geographic markets.

google reviews

 

Sites like the ones listed in the ‘Reviews from the web’ sections of Knowledge Panels likely have direct relationships with Google to feed them reviews.

Also, take a look at the review sites that show up for searches matching the pattern

[your keyword] [your city] [reviews]

Note the review sites that appear in the top 20 (or so) organic results. Pay close attention to the ones with gold stars in the organic results.

Critic reviews

In a limited set of categories related to dining and nightlife, Google also displays Critic reviews from well-known editorial sites in those categories. It’s likely that businesses reviewed by these lists have an advantage over businesses that don’t appear here. I expect we’ll see Google rolling out Critic reviews to more categories in the future.

How to get reviews

I can’t emphasize this point enough: implementing an intentional review acquisition process has become an essential element of success in local search.

Knowing the importance of customer reviews, you might be tempted to blast all of your customers at once, asking them to leave reviews. Or worse, you might be considering simply buying your way to the top with a bunch of fake reviews from Fiverr or similar sites. These techniques will likely lead to success in the short-term but also lead to dramatic pain in the long-term. Google and other review platforms get better about cracking down on this kind of behavior. This is fairly trivial to spot algorithmically.

Instead, a steady drip of reviews is what will lead to sustained long-term success. Depending on your industry, this could be a handful per month or a handful per week.

There are plenty of affordable software companies that can help you implement this intentional review acquisition process. I recommend GetFiveStars, run by a team of local search experts, but do a little research and see which service is right for your business.

How review services work

The diagram below, used by permission of GetFiveStars, shows how their platform works (and other similar platforms work).

In a nutshell, review services automate the process of collecting feedback from your customers and prompt happy customers to leave reviews on third-party review sites. Importantly, they can also help you determine your Net Promoter Score, and identify areas for improvement within your business.

Far beyond the ranking benefits that a stream of positive reviews can have, review services can help you get out in front of bad reviews with a controlled feedback mechanism. They enable you to capture complaints and act on them before they spread around the internet.

Getting Yelp reviews

Getting Yelp reviews can be a challenge, thanks to Yelp’s overaggressive review filter and historically asinine policy on review solicitation. (Most review services don’t include Yelp in the list of sites on which they solicit reviews.)

My opinion is that it’s well worth the (minimal) risk to ask for reviews on Yelp, though, if you’re able to identify prospective customers who already have a Yelp account, and provided you’re emailing customers individually, one at a time, instead of a mass solicitation.

Check out this excellent post by Phil Rozek on how to pre-identify potential Yelp reviewers for your business.

You can also do a little research on Facebook using the Intelligence Software tool I’ve mentioned in previous installments in this series. Just select Like and enter the name of your business, and add another line for Likers of Yelp.

Voila, you have a list of fans of your business who are also likely to be active on Yelp. Letting them know how much a Yelp review can help your business increases the chances they’ll leave that elusive Yelp review.

Under no circumstances should you offer an incentive to leave a review on Yelp (or any other platform, for that matter). This is a violation that will get you blacklisted. If the incentive is not disclosed, it may violate United States FTC guidelines or similar laws in other countries.

Responding to reviews

As Mike Blumenthal of GetFiveStars likes to say: “There are two kinds of businesses in the world. Businesses that have gotten a bad review, and businesses that will get a bad review at some point.” No matter how great your business is, it’s bound to happen.

Many sites, including Google and Yelp, allow for you to respond to that bad review as the business owner. The important thing to keep in mind is that the real audience for that response is not this particular customer, but the dozens or hundreds of prospective customers who read your response and evaluate your empathy for the reviewer and attempt to resolve the complaint.

See this excellent guide on responding to complaints for more best practices for review responses.

Repurposing reviews

Another benefit of subscribing to a review acquisition service is that many of these services include an embeddable testimonials widget as part of your subscription. This gives you compelling, keyword-rich content that can improve your website’s position in organic search results. It also provides social proof to prospective customers who visit your website. Even if you don’t subscribe to a review acquisition service, you can replicate this process by copying-and-pasting snippets from some of your favorite customer reviews onto your website. Make sure you get the permission of the person who left the review before doing so.

This technique works particularly well for the reviews of your business that Yelp has filtered. To find them, scroll down to the bottom of your Yelp page. Look for a link similar to this one:

Click that link to open an accordion-style window. Ignore the propaganda from Yelp at the top. Scroll down to find another link that looks like this one:

This will give you a complete list of filtered reviews, which no search engine has indexed. Many times the customers who left them are incredibly frustrated that Yelp has hidden their comments. They are more than happy to give you permission to promote their comments in full on your website.

What’s next for reviews

As I brought up in my last column, words may be becoming the new links. This trend portends even more ranking power for reviews.

The reality is that reviews are a far more democratic ranking signal than inbound links or even citations. They more accurately reflect the popularity of a business than either of these prominent local ranking factors.

Half of the consumers who’ve been asked by a local business for a review have left one. This is an exponentially higher fraction than the number of consumers who operate websites, let alone have given a local business a link from those websites!

While Google still clearly has a long road ahead of it in fighting review spam, its team of Ph.D.’s will surely shut down the most egregious spammers within the next couple of years. And as long as consumers continue to make decisions at least partially based on reviews, they’ll be a fixture in local search results (and rankings) for years to come.

Summary

  • The volume of reviews for a local business, and the content included in those reviews, are two of the most important local ranking factors.
  • Reviews on Google are important, but local businesses should get reviews on other prominent sites as well. Facebook and Yelp are important regardless of your business category or location. Also, seek out key industry and local sites that show up in the Knowledge Panels of your competitors.
  • Review acquisition services are a great way to automate your review process and make it sustainable. They can help you get out in front of complaints before they spread across the Internet, and improve your Net Promoter Score.
  • Research existing friends and fans who use Yelp to minimize the risk that their reviews will be filtered.
  • Extend the power of reviews by posting them on your site as testimonials, with permission from the reviewer.

Read on

Other parts in the Ranking your local business series:

  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

The post Ranking your local business part 6: The impact of reviews appeared first on Yoast.

Today we’re launching My Yoast, a new customer environment where you can view and manage the purchases you’ve done at yoast.com. These last few months, our development team worked very hard to create this easy-to-use user portal. Read here how My Yoast will make your life as a Yoast customer easier.

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What is My Yoast?

My Yoast is an easy-to-use interface to view and manage your Yoast purchases. At a glance, you can see your order history; which products you’ve bought and what the status of that product is. In addition, you can manage your plugin subscriptions and download your eBooks now. In the future, we’ll gradually expand the functionalities of My Yoast so that it will be the go-to place where you can access all your Yoast products, including SEO courses.

Since we now have a fully functioning WooCommerce store with multi-currency support, at some time, we will be accepting more of the world’s most important currencies. For now, we’re only accepting Euro’s and Dollars.

Watch this video and see how it works! If you have any more questions about My Yoast, please see our knowledge base.

Plugin overview

Forget about copy pasting your plugin license key or going through your email archive to retrieve it. From now on, you can activate your Yoast plugins directly on my.yoast.com, so you won’t need a license key anymore. If you log in to My Yoast you can:

  • access your downloads;
  • manage your subscriptions (previously known as licenses);
  • find your order history.

On top of that, you can indicate which plugins run on which of your websites. Just enter the URL of your website and set a plugin to active if you have it running on that site. This way, you’ll enable updates for the Yoast plugins on your site, and, in case you own multiple site subscriptions of one plugin, you’ll always know how many subscriptions you have left for other sites.

sites overview My Yoast

No more renewals

Did you ever forget to renew your license? That won’t happen anymore. We’ve transformed licenses into subscriptions, which means that, from now on, you’ll get a subscription to a plugin. This entails that you won’t have to go through the entire payment process again once you’ve bought a plugin.

subscription overview My Yoast

Existing licenses have been converted to subscriptions which will remain valid until the original license expires. We’ll ask you to setup a new subscription for those before they expire.

Sounds great! So how do I get in?

New customers

From now on, if you purchase on yoast.com, you’ll receive an account on My Yoast where you can access your downloads and manage your subscriptions. You’ll need this account to receive updates for your Yoast plugins.

Existing customers

In case you’re a Yoast customer, you’ll receive an email to access your My Yoast account in the upcoming week. When you first log in to My Yoast, a screencast will guide you through this new environment, to make sure you’ll understand how everything works.

Can’t wait until next week to get access? Go to my.yoast.com and get access to your account now. You can do so by filling out the email address you’ve used when you’ve purchased a product and by clicking ‘reset my password’. After verification of your email address and resetting your password, you’ll be able to access your account.

Go to My Yoast »

The post Introducing My Yoast: our brand new customer portal appeared first on Yoast.