You might have a lot of small sites which are topically related to each other. If you want to get more traffic to these sites, how do you achieve this? Do you have to bundle those sites to gain more traffic? And, what’s best for SEO when you want to run a new campaign? Set up a new domain for each site? Or add it as a subdomain to an existing site? Joost helps you out with these questions in this Ask Yoast.

We received a question for this Ask Yoast from Roger da Costa out of New York City:

“We run various sites focusing on public health issues. And we now want to bundle campaign sites that get little traffic under the organizations’ domain to improve SEO. Is this a good idea?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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One domain or multiple domains?

What to do when you run multiple campaigns? Choose one main domain or use a single one for every campaign? Check out the video or read the answer below!

Yes. Usually when you have a lot of small sites, consolidating them into one bare one is a good idea. Because it actually makes it easier for people to click around, to get more engagement with your site and you’ll have more links pointing at one domain, instead of a lot of links pointing at all the separate domains.

So, yes, I would do that. And if you build new campaign sites, try to build them as a sub-directory on your main site, instead of setting up a new domain for everything. Because a new domain for everything, really means that you’re starting fresh with Google all the time and that’s just a waste of your efforts on SEO.

Good luck!

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.

Read more: ‘What to do if the traffic on your blog is decreasing?’ »

Content writing should be a key element of every SEO strategy. How do you make sure your blog posts have the highest chance to rank well in Google? What are the successive steps you’ll need to take? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. How do you optimize a blog post?

Find that keyword

The very first step of every content SEO strategy should be keyword research. You should figure out for what search terms you want to be found. Figuring out the right keyword can be quite daunting though. You really have to get into the heads of your audience.

Read more: ‘Why every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research’ »

A word is not a topic, though. Besides a keyword (or keyphrase), you’ll need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more about that.

Yoast is most famous for the Yoast SEO plugin, of course. Our plugin will really help you in the optimizing process. The first step is to fill out the keyword you want your post to be found for (the focus keyword). After that, the plugin will give you feedback on how to improve the SEO of your blog post. It will, for instance, check your post for these things:

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Use that keyword

If you want to rank high for a certain term, you should definitely use that term quite often in your text. That way, Google will know that your text is about that specific keyword. But don’t overdo it. Google doesn’t like over-optimized text at all. A keyword density of 2 % ( in which one in fifty words is your keyword) is great. It’s best to create a text that’s rather lengthly, we recommend a text of at least 300 words. That way, you’ll be able to use your keyword quite a number of times.

Optimize your headings

Check if your focus keyword is in your headings. The title of your post is really important. You should definitely use your keyword there. Try to use your keyword in at least one of your subheadings as well.

How about that snippet?

The snippet is the thing Google shows in the search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your snippet: it shows you a preview of the snippet and allows you to easily edit the content. This is very important, as it’s the first thing your audience will read. So this piece of text will have to convince them to go to your site.

Unfortunately, we’re never sure whether Google will show that specific snippet. However, creating a kick-ass snippet preview should be part of your SEO strategy. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again!

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it’ »

Don’t forget: write an awesome post!

Optimizing your post for the search engines is something you should definitely do. But more importantly, you should make sure you write an awesome post. The topic of your post should be original, the message of your text should be appealing to your audience. On top of that, your text should be pleasant and not too difficult to read. Without making concessions to the readability of your post, you should use the tips described to optimize your blog post and make it stand out a little bit more!

Read on: ‘10 steps to an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

 

“I came, I puked, I left” is a very famous definition of the bounce rate by Avinash Kaushik. But what does it mean exactly? When does a visitor bounce? Is it purely a visitor that hits the back button or is there more to it? And what can you tell by looking at the bounce rate of a webpage? In this post, I want to show you what it is, what it means and how you can improve your bounce rate. 

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What’s bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of people who land on your website, and do completely nothing on the page they entered. So they don’t click on a menu item, a ‘read more’ link, or any other internal links on the page. This means that the Google Analytics server doesn’t receive a trigger from the visitor. A user bounces when there has been no engagement with the landing page and the visit ends with a single-page visit. You can use bounce rate as a metric that indicates the quality of a webpage and/or the “quality” of your audience. By quality of your audience I mean whether the audience fits the purpose of your site.

How does Google Analytics calculate bounce rate?

According to Google bounce rate is calculated in the following way:

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

In other words, it collects all sessions where a visitor only visited one page and divides it by all sessions.

Having a high bounce rate can mean three things:
1. The quality of the page is low. There’s nothing inviting to engage with.
2. Your audience doesn’t match the purpose of the page, as they won’t engage with your page.
3. Visitors have found the information that they were looking for.

I’ll get back to the meaning of bounce rate further below.

Bounce rate and SEO

In this post, I’m talking about bounce rate in Google Analytics. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor. In my opinion, I can hardly imagine that Google takes Google Analytics’ data as a ranking factor, because if Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly, then the data isn’t reliable. Moreover, you can easily manipulate the bounce rate.

Luckily, several Googlers say the same thing: Google doesn’t use Google Analytics’ data in their search algorithm. But, of course, you need to make sure that when people come from a search engine to your site, they don’t bounce back to the search results, since that kind of bouncing probably is a ranking factor. It might be measured in a different way though, than the bounce rate we see in Google Analytics.

From a holistic SEO perspective, you need to optimize every aspect of your site. So looking closely at your bounce rate, can help you optimize your website even further, which contributes to your SEO.

How to interpret bounce rates?

The height of your bounce rate and whether that’s a good or a bad thing, really depends on the purpose of the page. If the purpose of the page is to purely inform, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing per se. Of course you’d like people to read more articles on your website, subscribe to your newsletter and so on. But when they’ve only visited a page to, for instance, read a post or find an address, then it isn’t surprising that they close the tab after they’re done reading. Mind you, also in this case, there’s no trigger sent to the Google Analytics server, thus it’s a bounce.

A clever thing to do, when you own a blog, is creating a segment that only contains ‘New visitors’. If the bounce rate amongst new visitors is high, think about how you could improve their engagement with your site. Because you do want new visitors to engage with your site.

If the purpose of a page is to actively engage with your site, then a high bounce rate is a bad thing. Let’s say you have a page that has one goal: get visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. If that page has a high bounce rate, then you might need to optimize the page itself. By adding a clear call-to-action, a ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ button, for instance, you could lower that bounce rate.

But there can be other causes for a high bounce rate on a newsletter subscription page. In case you’ve lured visitors in under false pretenses, you shouldn’t be surprised when these visitors don’t engage with your page. They probably expected something else when landing on your subscription page. On the other hand, if you’ve been very clear from the start with what visitors could expect on the subscription page, a low bounce rate could say something about the quality of the visitors – they could be very motivated to get the newsletter – and not per se about the quality of the page.

Bounce rate and conversion

If you look at bounce rate from a conversion perspective, then bounce rate can be used as a metric to measure success. For instance, let’s say you’ve changed the design of your page hoping that it will convert better, then make sure to keep an eye on the bounce rate of that page. If you’re seeing an increase in bounces, the change in design you’ve made might have been the wrong change and it could explain the low conversion rate you have.

You could also check the bounce rate of your most popular pages. Which pages have a low and which pages have a high bounce rate? Compare the two, then learn from the pages with low bounce rates.

Another way of looking at your bounce rate, is from a traffic sources perspective. Which traffic sources lead to a high or a low bounce rate? Your newsletter for instance? Or a referral website that sends a lot of traffic? Can you figure out what causes this bounce rate? And if you’re running an AdWords campaign, you should keep an eye on the bounce rate of that traffic source as well.

Be careful with drawing conclusions though…

We’ve seen loads of clients with a bounce rate that was unnaturally low. All alarm bells should go off, especially if you don’t expect it, as that probably means that Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly. There are several things that influence bounce rate, because they send a trigger to the Google Analytics server and Google Analytics falsely recognizes it as an engagement. Usually, an unnaturally low bounce rate is caused by an event that triggers the Google Analytics server. Think of pop-ups, auto-play of videos or an event you’ve implemented that fires after 1 second.

Of course, if you’ve created an event that tracks scrolling counts, then having a low bounce rate is a good thing. It shows that people actually scroll down the page and read your content.

How to lower high bounce rates?

The only way of lowering your bounce rate is by amping up the engagement on your page. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at bounce rate. From a traffic perspective and from a page perspective.

If certain traffic sources have high bounce rates, then you need to look at the expectations of those visitors coming to your site. Let’s say you’re running an ad on another website, and most people coming to your site via that ad bounce, then you’re not making their wish come true. You’re not living up to their expectations. Review the ad you’re running and see if it matches the page you’re showing. If not, make sure the page is a logical follow-up of the ad or vice versa.

If your page lives up to the expectations of your visitors, and the page still has a high bounce rate, then you have to look at the page itself. How’s the usability of the page? Is there a call-to-action above the fold on the page? Do you have internal links that point to related pages or posts? Do you have a menu that’s easy to use? Does the page invite people to look further on your site? These are all things you need to consider when optimizing your page.

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What about exit rate?

The bounce rate is frequently mistaken for the exit rate. Literally, the exit rate is the percentage of pageviews that were last in the session. It says something about users deciding to end their session on your website on that particular page. Google’s support page gives some clear examples of the exit rates and bounce rates which makes the difference very clear. This comes directly from their page:

Monday: Page B > Page A > Page C > Exit
Tuesday: Page B > Exit
Wednesday: Page A > Page C > Page B > Exit
Thursday: Page C > Exit
Friday: Page B > Page C > Page A > Exit

The % Exit and Bounce Rate calculations are:

Exit Rate:
Page A: 33% (3 sessions included Page A, 1 session exited from Page A)
Page B: 50% (4 sessions included Page B, 2 sessions exited from Page B)
Page C: 50% (4 sessions included Page C, 2 sessions exited from Page C)

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0% (one session began with Page A, but that was not a single-page session, so it has no Bounce Rate)
Page B: 33% (Bounce Rate is less than Exit Rate, because 3 sessions started with Page B, with one leading to a bounce)
Page C: 100% (one session started with Page C, and it lead to a bounce)

Conclusion

Bounce rate is a metric you can use to analyze your marketing efforts. You can use it to measure if you’re living up to your visitors’ expectations. And you can use the bounce rate to decide which pages need more attention. Meeting your visitors’ expectations and making your pages more inviting for visitors all leads to creating an awesome website. And we all know that awesome websites rank better!

Read more: ‘Creating segments in Google Analytics’ »

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in headof your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Posts in this series

Metadata #1: meta tags in the head

Metadata #2: link rel metadata

Metadata #3: Social and international

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

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But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

On November 2, 2017, we’re organizing the second edition of the coolest SEO conference of The Netherlands: YoastCon. Starting today, you can get your hands on an extremely limited amount of early bird tickets for just €249. YoastCon is a hands-on SEO conference where you’ll learn invaluable tactics to enhance your site to get better rankings or results. Be there!

At YoastCon, you’ll get practical with SEO. At the end of the day, you’ll be full of inspiration and ready to start improving your site. You’ll leave with a list of actionable advice that you can use immediately. Choose your favorite workshop and dive deeper into a subject. You can learn more about technical SEO, writing for the web or the deepest secrets of Yoast SEO. At YoastCon, everything is possible.

It will be an unmissable event for anyone wanting to improve the rankings of their sites. The second edition of YoastCon takes place in the beautiful concert hall De Vereeniging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The regular price for this one-day conference will be €299, but starting March 14, we will offer a limited number (50) of early bird tickets for €249.

Tickets

de vereeniging

YoastCon will take place in concert hall De Vereeniging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

 

YoastCon 2017 – Practical SEO

YoastCon is a must-visit conference if you want to learn SEO hands-on and want to hear renowned experts speak about the latest developments in our industry. We will announce the full speaker roster and workshop schedule in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out on our special conference page or subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on YoastCon news.

If you want to join us on November 2, be sure to order a ticket as soon as possible. An extremely limited number of early bird tickets is available for €249 from March 14. When they are gone, the price will jump to €299. If you buy an early bird ticket, you’ll get an exclusive goodie, and you’ll be the first to choose your workshops. What are you waiting for?

Tickets

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017 conference page’ »

If you own a blog for a long time, it could be that some of your old blog posts need to be updated or optimized. Every once in a while, you should go through your archive to check that. When you go through your archive pages, you might see posts with low quality content that you don’t want Google to add to the index temporarily. If you don’t want Google to show certain posts or pages in the search results, you can use the robots meta tag. That’s what this Ask Yoast is about!

Frédérique Lavios emailed us this question:

“We have a lot of old blog posts that need to be optimized. For overall website health, should I set these posts to noindex in the robots.txt file?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

How to noindex a post or page

In the video we explain whether you should use noindex for posts that need an update.

I honestly think you’re mixing up a couple of things here. Noindex is something that you should do on the page and in the robots.txt file you forbid the crawler to come to the page entirely (using the Disallow directive).

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So what you should probably do, if you really think that something is low-quality content, is noindex the page itself for now. So not in the robots.txt, but with a meta tag that you can set in the advanced tab of Yoast SEO and then, you should rework them. But if it’s reasonably quality content and you just want to make it better, I wouldn’t add noindex; I would just go through them and optimize them as you go along.

If you set a blog post to noindex, Google will start crawling it slower. So after you’ve fixed it, it might take a couple of weeks for Google to come back and see the new content. So don’t do that, if it’s not absolutely necessary and just keep the blog post indexed and rewrite them as you go along.

Good luck!

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.

Read more: ‘Website maintenance: clean up old posts & pages’ »

We’ve seen it happen so often. You have a great blog, and at some point, you decide to go for a new look and feel. There are a couple of things you’ll look at, usually in the order: layout / look and feel, usability, and optionally, room for advertising. If the theme meets your needs in all two or three of these points, you might download and install it. If that sounds familiar, this post describes how to find the perfect WordPress theme!

A theme has quite a few things to take care of, and a lot of themes miss out on these. This overview should help to keep you out of trouble when you’re looking for a new theme. If you’re thinking of installing a new theme, please give the following points a thought. Keep in mind; your new theme should be accessible, compatible, customizable, integrable and standards compliant.

Define your needs

Whether you are in the market for a free theme, a premium theme or want to hire a developer to build one especially for you, the first step is always the same: define your needs. Write down what the theme should do, now and in the future. You might not need an eCommerce shop at this time, but what about in a year from now? What should your site look like? Which pages do you need? What types of content are you planning to publish? Once you have a clear picture of the requirements, you have a better chance of finding your dream theme.

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Find a trusted reseller or developer. How’s the support?

Should you build a theme yourself? Or will a general free theme do? The discussion on whether a premium theme is better than a free theme continues to rage on. Both sides have their merits. There are loads of crappy free themes, but there are just as many crappy premium themes. What you should do is find a reseller or developer that you trust. Look for social proof; how many reviews does a theme get? Is there an active message board? When did it receive its last update?

In general, every theme on WordPress.org underwent scrutiny, so they are safe to use. But that doesn’t mean they’re awesome. Theme resellers offer loads of premium themes in varying degrees of awesomeness. But just because you pay for them, doesn’t necessarily make them better than free themes. In addition to that, since you only receive the files when you pay for a theme, there’s no way to check the quality upfront. Despite social proof, it’s still a leap in the dark.

How flexible is the theme?

A static theme won’t do you any good when you want to change the page layout in a couple of months. Make sure to choose a theme that is flexible in its appearance as well as its functionality. Don’t choose a design that screams for full-width images when you only need a well-presented place to write your poetry. Check what happens to a theme when you turn off all massive images; does it still function? And is it possible to change colors, fonts and other visual elements?

Your theme should have ample room for widgets, plus it should support featured images and offer multi-language support. Lots of themes have a page builder on board; these help you construct your bespoke layout. But, this is something you should be careful with because these could generate less than stellar code that hinders your SEO.

Which post and page templates does the theme support?

Another way to keep things flexible is for a theme to offer multiple posts and page templates. That way, you could start off using a basic template with a main content area and a left sidebar, but have the flexibility to change to a full-width content area or one of the many other options. If a theme has only two choices, that might become problematic in the future. Pick a theme with enough sensible templates.

Does it function as a parent/child theme?

Parent and child themes are a great combo. If you use any of the theme frameworks like heavy hitter Genesis, you know how powerful these are compared to regular themes. A child theme gets its functionality from a parent theme. So if you’re making changes to your child theme, the parent won’t see these. You won’t break the parent theme if you make a mistake. The same goes for updates; if you update your parent theme, which happens often, it won’t wipe the changes you’ve made to your theme because it’s a child and doesn’t contain the functionality.

Whether you need a theme framework depends on your needs. Almost all WordPress projects will benefit from a theme framework, but it might be overkill if you only need a tiny amount of its functionality and you know exactly what kind of theme you need.

Watch out for theme bloat

Many themes are bloated, and this will increase loading time. If the developer of a particular theme included everything but the kitchen sink, you might get a feature-complete product but an insanely complicated one as well. Try to find a theme that offers everything you need, instead of everything there is. Your theme should be lean and mean. See the next point.

Check site speed and mobile-readiness

In this day and age, mobile-friendliness is imperative. In addition to that, your site and its theme should load as fast as possible. Choosing a lean and mean theme will certainly help in this regard. Check the responsiveness of a theme and run a Google mobile-friendliness test. You could also enter the address of the theme’s demo site in Google’s PageSpeed tool to see if there are particular loading issues. However, this is just an indication, since you can only judge the real loading speed of your theme when it’s running on your server.

Is the theme’s SEO in order?

While Yoast SEO fixes a lot of WordPress’ SEO issues, a good theme helps a lot. Most WordPress themes will claim SEO-friendliness, but make sure to check it. Find out if the theme’s code is nice and clean or an intangible mess. Has it been updated recently? And will it be supported in the future? How many JavaScript libraries does the theme depend on? Does it support Schema.org structured data? If you’re eyeing a free theme, make sure there are no hidden links to the developer’s website, as this can hurt your SEO efforts. In general, keep Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in mind when hunting for SEO-friendly themes.

Is the theme’s code valid?

Many a theme author is more of a designer than a coder, and thus they sometimes hack around until it finally looks the way they want, without bothering to check whether the code they’ve written is valid HTML. If it’s not, current or future browsers might have issues rendering the content correctly. You can check whether the code is valid by using the W3C’s validator.

Test, test, and test again

Once you’ve chosen your favorite new theme, it’s time to kick it into gear. Start with a development setup to test your new theme through and through. Run every type of test you can think of. This might be a security check with the Sucuri plugin or a theme check with the Theme Check plugin. Load your site with dummy data from wptest.io to see if every element is represented and functioning. Run pagespeed and mobile-friendliness tests to see if problems arise. Fix the issues, or find a new theme.

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Bonus checks

That’s just to get you going. There’s a lot of stuff you can check before you install your brand-new theme. Start with these three checks, if you will:

Hooks

WordPress plugins use so-called “hooks” to be able to perform their designated tasks. These hooks allow for instance to add extra output, tracking codes, etc. A lot of issues with plugins will arise for you when a theme author forgets to add these hooks. This is how to check for them:

1. In header.php, it should have a small piece of PHP code that looks exactly like this wp_head(); or this do_action('wp_head');, usually just before a piece of HTML that looks like this: </head>.

2. In footer.php, it should have another small piece of PHP like this wp_footer();, or this do_action('wp_footer');

3. In comments.php and/or comments-popup.php, it should have a piece of code like this: <?php do_action('comment_form', $post->ID); ?>, just before the </form> HTML tag.

Template files

Another wise thing to do when you’re changing themes is to compare theme files. If for instance, your current theme has an author.php file, which contains the template for your author profiles, and your new one doesn’t have that, that might be an unpleasant surprise when you install the theme. The files you should be checking for in your old and new theme:

  • home.php: the homepage template.
  • single.php: the template for single posts.
  • page.php: the template for pages.
  • category.php: the template for category indexes.
  • author.php: the author template, used when someone wants to find all posts by a certain author.
  • date.php: the date template, used when someone tries to look at for instance a certain month of posts on your blog.
  • archive.php: this template is used when either category.php, author.php or date.php isn’t there.
  • search.php: used when someone searches on your blog, a very important template to look at if you’re concerned about usability, and whether people can find posts on your blog.
  • 404.php: used when WordPress can’t find a certain post or page, this is a very important template file to have!

How is your theme handling titles?

You should check how your current theme is handling page titles in the file header.php. You can find it within the <title> HTML tags. If the title tag differs, you might want to check out why and what happens when you enable your new theme. Sometimes it’s for the better (for instance, because it turns around blog description and page / post title), but you have to make sure up front!

It will probably look something like this:

<title><?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?> <?php wp_title(); ?></title>
If it does, you’ll be a lot better to change it to:

Now Yoast SEO can take care of all the titles. We have a great article that you can read if want to know more about crafting good titles.

If your theme does all of this correctly, you should be quite ok. Good luck with your new theme, and if you have any tips on other things to check, please share in the comments!

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

In the first post of our metadata series, I discussed the meta tags in the <head> of your site. But there’s more metadata in the <head> that can influence the SEO of your site. In this second post, we’ll dive into link rel metadata. You can use link rel metadata to instruct browsers and Google, for example to point them to the AMP version of a page or to prevent duplicate content issues. The link rel tags come in a lot of flavors. I’d like to address the most important ones here.

Use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content

Every website should use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content and point Google to the original source of that content. rel=canonical is one of those metadata elements that has an immediate influence on your site’s SEO. If done wrong, it might ruin it. An example: we have seen sites that had the canonical of all pages pointed to the homepage. That is basically telling Google that for all the content on your website, you just want the homepage to rank.
If done right, you could give props to another website for writing an article that you republished.

If you want to read up on rel=canonical, please read this article: Rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Add rel=amphtml to point search engines to your AMP pages

In order to link a page to its AMP variant, use the rel=amphtml. AMP is a variation of your desktop page, designed for faster loading and better user experience on a mobile device. It was introduced by Google, and to be honest, we like it. It seriously improves the mobile user experience.

So be sure to set up an AMP site and link the AMP pages in your head section. If you have a WordPress site, adding AMP pages is a piece of cake. You can simply install the AMP plugin by Automattic and you’ll have AMP pages and the rel=amphtml links right after that.

If you’d like to read up about AMP, be sure to check our AMP archive.

dns-prefetch for faster loading

By telling the browser in advance about a number of locations where it can find certain files it needs to render a page, you simply make it easier and faster for the browser to load your page, or (elements from) a page you link to. If implemented right, DNS prefetching will make sure a browser knows the IP address of the site linked and is ready to show the requested page.

An example:
<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="https://cdn.yoast.com/">

Please note that if the website you are prefetching has performance issues, the speed gains might be little, or none. This could even depend on the time of day. Monitor your prefetch URLs from time to time.

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What about rel=author?

Rel=author has no effect whatsoever at the moment. It hasn’t had any effect we know of for quite a while actually, as Joost already mentioned this in October of 2015. You never know what use Google might come up with for it, but for now, we’re not pushing it in our plugin. It was used to point to the author of the post, giving the article more or less authority depending on how well-known an author was. At the time, this was reflected in the search results pages as well (it’s not anymore). No need to include it in your template anymore.

Other rel elements include your stylesheets (make sure Google can use these) and you can set icons for a variety of devices. SEO impact of these is rather low or simply not existing.

Is there more?

So we discussed meta tags and link rel metadata in the <head> . Is there even more metadata that affects SEO? Yes there is! In our next metadata post, I’ll explore social metadata, like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards. In addition to that, we’ll go intohreflang, an essential asset for site owners that serve more than one country or language with their website. Stand by for more!

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

Two weeks ago Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either. Of course, a discussion followed. Some SEOs are reluctant to believe him, because in some cases keyword stuffing still seems to pay off. For relatively small languages (like Dutch) this appears to be true. At Yoast however, we really believe in the value of readable texts for SEO. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of writing readable content for SEO. Also, I’ll give some tips on how to write copy that is nice and easy to read.

Hummingbird and readability

After the Hummingbird update, Google became a lot better at recognizing synonyms. Keyword stuffing, in order to let Google know what your text is about, became useless. Keyword stuffing leads to text that is terrible to read. Webpages with this kind of content will (sooner or later) disappear from the search results. Sooner, if Google actively punishes sites that clutter their text with keywords. Later, if visitors get tired of reading bad copy and are less prone to come back or buy from those sites.

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UX and readability

Text that isn’t nice and easy to read will give your audience a bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s boring or stuffed with keywords. All texts should be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the best experience possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors, that’ll bounce back to Google instantly, when they hit your site.

Voice search and readability

As voice search is becoming more and more important, readability of copy becomes more important as well. As people are searching for stuff by talking to their devices, these devices will search for information that they can give to their audience. Information that is a terrible read, will not be comprehended by an audience. Texts should be clear while read from paper, from a screen, from a mobile phone, but also if they are read to you by a device.

How to keep your text readable

Writing readable texts is hard. That’s why we worked so hard on our readability analysis. We’re still working on it, getting it translated in as many different languages as possible. It’s available for free in the Yoast SEO plugin. It helps you to write readable texts. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often, and if the length of your paragraphs is OK.

Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What are you going to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logic order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples, your message?

Read more: ‘Setting up a text structure’ »

Write short rather than lengthy sentences, as lengthy sentences a much harder to process. Try to avoid or to limit the amount of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice.

Keep reading: ‘5 SEO copywriting mistakes you should avoid’ »

Make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard, as not everyone has a talent for creative writing. Make sure to mix it up a little! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word.

Read on: ‘5 tips to write a readable blog post’ »

Conclusion: read out loud!

Let’s be clear: your rankings will not immediately rise if you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you should make sure your copy is easy to read. Posts that are nice and easy to read will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

Read more: ‘SEO copywriting: the complete guide’ »

Let’s say you own the website http://www.some-example.com. At one point, you might like visitors to go to the non-www version instead of the www version of your domain. In addition to this, if you follow security best practices, you might want to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. What should you do if you want to make both these changes? You probably figured out that you’ll have to redirect traffic from your current domain to your preferred domain. But what’s the best way to do this? Is there a preferred order?

We received an anonymous question for this Ask Yoast:

“I want to move my site from www and HTTP to non-www and HTTPS… what should I do?
1. Strip www and then force HTTPS;
2. or force HTTPS and then strip www?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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How to switch from HTTP to HTTPS and www to non-www?

Check out the video or read the answer below!

You should do both at the same time. You should redirect the HTTP link straight to the HTTPS version without the www. Don’t try to do that with two 301 redirects, you should do that in just one 301 redirect.

Forcing HTTPS is something that you need to test really well. There are all sorts of things in your site that probably aren’t HTTPS ready that you should know of upfront. I know it was a lot of hard work to get yoast.com to HTTPS and we don’t even have ads. Especially ad services can be really tough to get working on HTTPS. But you should do it in one go. So it’s really secret option number three: redirect from one to the other straight away, and don’t think about anything else.

If you really can do HTTPS for everything and it works fine, make sure to add an HSTS: ‘Strict Transport Security Header’, which forces everything to be over HTTPS. And then, if the browser sees an HTTP link to your domain in the content somewhere, it will still automatically grab the HTTPS version, thus the right one.

Good luck!

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.

Read more: ‘How to remove www from your URL’ »