Headings play an important role in structuring text, whether it’s on paper or online. Since reading from a screen is already quite difficult, you should make sure you make proper use of headings. There’s a hierarchy in heading tags, with <h1> being the most important, and <h6> the least important. This will help both your visitors (whether they’re reading or using a screen reader!) and search engines understand what’s most essential on a page. But what if your theme only allows the use of one type of heading? Is that bad for your SEO, and what does it mean for your visitors? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into that.

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Nikola emailed us her question on WordPress themes and heading structure:

My theme has no H1 headings on the homepage (or category and archive pages). All headings are H2. My developer says it isn’t bad for SEO, it’s worse to use multiple H1s on a single page. Is he right?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

A logical order in your heading structure

Is he right? Well he is and he isn’t…it really depends. If you’re using HTML 5, you can have multiple H1s, depending on how your page is structured. At the same time, not having an H1 at all in your page sounds very weird.

On a post page the title of that post should be in the H1. On an archive page the title of that archive should be in the H1. On your homepage your brand name should probably be in the H1. So, I’m not entirely sure that he’s right. I would prefer that he does it right in terms of using one H1, then some H2s, etc.

This is more of an accessibility issue than it is a specific SEO issue. But it’s important for people who are blind, or otherwise have a hard time reading your page, because they can actually follow the structure of the headings on your page. So do think about the headings on your page and make them follow a logical order. Good luck!

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘SEO Basics: How to use headings on your site’ »

 

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When I go to WordCamps, I get this question a lot: “Why do you have the PHP Code Widget still in the directory?”

There’s a good answer for that, but first let me explain why I made the thing in the first place.

If you examine the history of that plugin, you’ll find that it was submitted almost 10 years ago. Back then, widgets were new. Most people using WordPress had hardcoded sidebars in their themes. Changing the sidebar meant changing the theme. Widgets aimed to replace that with draggable objects. The Widget plugin was still a plugin, and not in core, but headed there.

The PHP Code Widget was created to make it easy and simple and fast to migrate from a hardcoded sidebar to a widget based one. You could take your existing code in the sidebar file, paste it into the widget, and then you had a movable widget that you could easily use.

Obviously, this was not meant for long term usage. The goal was to get widget support rapidly in your theme, with the expectation that as new widgets came out, you could replace your old code with newer, shinier, well supported, widgets.

The reason the plugin is still in the directory is because it still fills a need for some people. If I removed it, then they would fulfill that need in worse ways. It does not take much searching to find snippets of code, with bad advice saying to just pop it into your theme’s functions.php file, and voila, now all your Text Widgets run PHP code. That snippet actually exists. It’s a terrible idea, for obvious reasons.

The PHP Code Widget is less terrible than the alternatives.

But it’s still terrible.

And yes, it bothers me that it is one of the top 150 plugins. Storing PHP code in your database and then running it is just dumb. Don’t do that. Code should live in the right place, and that place is not the database.

So, in an effort to reduce the usage of the PHP Code Widget, here’s one way to stop using it, if you still are.

Getting rid of the PHP Code Widget

Step 1:

Get the PHP Code that you are using from the Widget, copy it into a text editor, save it somewhere for safe keeping.

Step 2:

You’re going to make a new plugin. You can call it whatever you like, but I recommend naming it specific to the site you’re making it for. If I was making a plugin for this site to hold widgets, then I’d call it “Ottopress Widgets” or something to that effect.

How to make a new plugin:

(Note: You can use Pluginception for this instead, if you like. That one I’m not ashamed of, it’s a very handy tool.)

a. Make a directory in /wp-content/plugins named after your plugin, like /wp-content/plugins/ottopress-widgets

b. Make a PHP file in there named the same. Like ottopress-widgets.php.

c. Edit that file, and add this header to the top of it:

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Ottopress Widgets
*/

Lovely. We’ve made a new plugin. It doesn’t do anything, yet, but here’s some more code to add to the plugin. This is largely copy-paste, and then you edit it to fit your specific circumstances

Step 3:

add_action( 'widgets_init', 'ottopress_widget_register' );
function ottopress_widget_register() {
	register_widget( 'Ottopress_Widget' );
}
class Ottopress_Widget extends WP_Widget {
	function __construct() {
	
		$class = 'widget_ottopress';
		$name = 'Ottopress Widget';
		
		$widget_ops = array('classname' => $class, 'description' => $name);
		$control_ops = array('width' => 400, 'height' => 350);
		parent::__construct('', $name, $widget_ops, $control_ops);
	}

	function widget( $args, $instance ) {
		extract($args);
		echo $before_widget;

		echo '<h2 class="widget-title">Ottopress Widget</h2>';
		echo "<div>Here's my custom stuff.</div>";

		echo $after_widget;
	}
}

I named this widget “Ottopress Widget” by way of example. In the first few lines of code, you’ll want to change these to your own naming scheme. It’s important that names be unique, which is why I recommend naming things using your site’s name. Unlikely for there to be interference that way.

The $class and $name variables you should also change. The class is used in the HTML that the widget produces, so you can refer to it via CSS. The name is simply used for display purposes on the widgets editing screens.

Step 4:

Finally, the meat of the code you want to edit is here. I’ll point it out specifically.

function widget( $args, $instance ) {
	extract($args);
	echo $before_widget;

	echo '<h2 class="widget-title">Ottopress Widget</h2>';
	echo "<div>Here's my custom stuff.</div>";
	
	echo $after_widget;
}

This is the code that shows the widget on your site itself. Now, this one is just hardcoded to show the normal before and after code (these are set by the theme, so these should always be there), and then it has a little hardcoded bit there where it echo’s out a title and a div that says “Here’s my Custom Stuff”.

If you’re migrating from the PHP code widget, well, here’s where you migrate it to. You can drop your code from the PHP Code widget here and, you know, do whatever you were doing in the widget before, just now in an actual custom widget, in your own custom plugin. No more storing the code in the database. Just activate the plugin and replace the PHP Code widget with this one.

If you need more widgets because you were using it in multiple places, then simply repeat the process. Paste that whole class in there, only give it a different class name and other info, then put in your other code. You can have as many widgets as you like, they just have to all be named differently. Simple.

Note that this widget has no settings screen of any kind. Why would it? You’re controlling the code directly, no need for settings, presumably. If you want to go on and make your widget smarter and more complex and have settings, well, there’s other tutorials for that.

If this reduces the usage of the PHP Code Widget, well, I’ll be a happier person.

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

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Perform an SEO audit: Site speed

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

Combine and minify CSS and JS files

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

SEO Audit: PageSpeed Insights

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

Browser caching

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

Enable compression

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

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

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

Engagement

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

Social media

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

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

Newsletter

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

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

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You’ve just done your (first) SEO audit

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

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

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

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

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

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General SEO

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

Page titles

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

SEO audit - Screaming frog - page titles

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

Meta description

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

SEO Audit: meta description

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

Canonical URLs

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

SEO audit: canonicals

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

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

Quick Panda & Penguin check

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

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

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

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

Template code

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

Schema.org / JSON-LD

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

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

Breadcrumbs

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

The mobile version of your website

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

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

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Heading structure

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

Part 3 is next: Site speed & Engagement

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

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

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

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Steps in the SEO audit

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

  • General SEO –> Tomorrow

Part 3:

  • Site speed –> Thursday
  • Engagement –> Thursday

User experience

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

Colors

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

Use of images and videos

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

There is a fold

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

Reassurance

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

Content SEO

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

Keyword research

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

Site structure

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

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

Introductory content

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

Duplicate content

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

Internal search

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

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Related posts and products

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

Coming up in part 2: General SEO

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

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

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A new release doesn’t always have to bring incredible features, as it can silently set the stage for bigger things to come. Yoast SEO 5.9, released today, is such a release. While this release doesn’t contain groundbreaking new features, it does provide an important new piece of the Yoast SEO puzzle for the future: we’ve rebuilt the content analysis in React.

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More accessible content analysis results

While the content analyses itself haven’t changed, the way we present the results has changed in Yoast SEO 5.9. To improve the user experience and accessibility of the results, we’ve decided to group these into several groups: Good, Considerations, Needs improvements and Problems. These follow roughly the colors of the bullets from green to red. This allows you to focus on your most important SEO issues first.

By grouping the results this way, colorblind users, for instance, can easily discern the difference between the results. Also, every header is collapsible. You can get the green bullets out of the way to focus on the red ones.

Thanks to this new grouping of the results you get a more structured overview of the SEO of the piece you’re working on. Before, it was one big list that became more cluttered with every added check. Now, we’ve added a new focus to the analysis, making it easier to use. You’ll fix your SEO in no time!

new content analysis yoast seo 5_9

Reactify all the things

Rebuilding stuff in React probably doesn’t mean much to you but is an important part of making Yoast SEO futureproof. React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. By using React, we can break up Yoast SEO into several parts so we can more easily maintain it and significantly improve it. Not only that, by dividing everything into blocks, we make it easier to adapt Yoast SEO to that new challenge called Gutenberg.

Gutenberg forces us to rethink our product and the way we build said product. It brings us loads of challenges, but also opportunities to bring Yoast SEO to new heights. But before we can do cool new stuff, we need to format our work in such a way that we can easily adapt it to the new Gutenberg editor environment. We’ve already rebuilt several parts of Yoast SEO, like the Configuration Wizard and the Help Center, in React. This process will continue for a little while until every visual aspect of Yoast SEO is ‘reactified.’

So, what else is new?

Besides fixing a load of bugs in Yoast SEO 5.9, we’ve also added several enhancements that make the plugin easier to use. We’re also adding a new focus on our onboarding wizard that has helped so many first-time users set up their Yoast SEO install in record time. We’re now showing a notice nudging users to open the onboarding wizard when the plugin is installed for the first time. We’ve also made the ‘Next’ and ‘Back’ buttons in the onboarding wizard focusable, to improve accessibility.

We’ve also introduced the wpseo_add_opengraph_additional_images filter so you can add additional OpenGraph Images with a lower priority. The order in which you place OpenGraph images determines which one  Facebook shows, which is usually the first one. This led to issues with WooCommerce SEO as their Gallery images always appeared on top. With the new filter, you can add additional images to the OpenGraph image list. These should not be shown as the default image, but you could use these for more advanced purposes. Some sites allow you to pick any image found in the list.

Update now!

That’s Yoast SEO 5.9 for you! With this new release, we’re continuing the renewal of our foundation to make sure we can build an awesome new house in the future. We’ve also fixed loads of bugs and enhanced some parts of the plugin to make sure you can do work in the best possible fashion. Happy updating!

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

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Online reviews are important for any local business. They’ve become essential in local search strategies. Having positive reviews and ratings will help in attracting traffic, both to your website as well as to your local business. Should you respond to positive reviews? And what about the negative ones? Here, I’ll give you lots of tips on how to respond to online reviews of your business.

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Importance of online reviews

For customers, online reviews are critical. Every one of us would check out reviews before booking that expensive holiday home in the south of France. Online reviews are also important for your SEO. There’s an overall consensus among SEO experts about reviews being a ranking factor for local search. You should read the article David Mihm wrote for Yoast for more information on the impact of reviews on your local rankings. Or learn how to grow your business with ratings and reviews.

Why should you react to reviews?

Reviews tell what other people, your customers, think of your product. If you respond to reviews, you show your (potential) customers that you care about their opinion. And that’s something your customers will appreciate. Apart from that, responding to reviews will make your business stand out from other companies, as a lot of them do not make an effort to respond to their reviews.

If you write a response to a review, you’ll not be only writing to the person who wrote the review. Your response will be out there for all potential customers. Handling reviews with grace, gratitude and a little bit of wit, can have a huge impact on the way people perceive your brand.

To which reviews should you respond?

Reacting to reviews appears to be a wise thing to do. That does not mean you should respond to every single review. In my opinion, you should react to negative reviews. Responding to negative reviews will show potential customers how you handle problems and solve solutions to dissatisfied customers.

I would also react to very positive reviews, especially if the response it elaborate and detailed. Responding to positive reviews will give the opportunity to promote your brand and to show your passion for your company. Responding to positive reviews is not that hard to do. It’s the negative ones that need a strategy.

How to respond to reviews?

How do you respond to those negative reviews? What should you do and which pitfalls should you avoid? I’ll share seven tips on how to handle those negative reviews!

1. Keep Calm

It’s never easy to get a negative review. In some cases, it can feel unfair. Perhaps the tone of the review is harsh, personal or condescending. Your first reaction will most likely be an emotional one. Perhaps you’ll get angry or very frustrated. In such a case, it’s wise to take a moment before you write your response.

2. Have a plan

Negative comments and reviews will always come up at one point in time. It’s a good thing to prepare yourself for it. You could have some standard replies ready. Be careful never to use the same answer more than once. Always adapt a reply to the specifics the situation requires. Having some nicely drafted sentences ready can help you to formulate the response in the heat of the moment.

3. Own the problem

A negative response means that someone has had a negative experience with your business. Maybe they didn’t like the food you served in your restaurant. Of course, this could be due to their lack of taste, but such a response will not be satisfying to your potential audience. In most cases, start with apologizing for their negative experience, even if it’s not (entirely) your fault. You are sorry that they had a negative experience. You are sorry the food did not taste good.

If something went wrong because of a mistake on your site, tell people that, own up to your mistake and apologize for it. If someone did not get their dessert and is pissed off about that, investigate the specifics of the situation. Did you, in fact, forget about their dessert? Admit to your mistake, apologize and try to fix the problem. In this case, invite them back to have dessert another time.

Everyone makes mistakes and people are really forgiving if you are willing to show your human side. Own up to your mistakes, apologize and try to come up with a solution.

4. Let someone proofread your response

You’re never an objective author of responses to reviews. You’re involved; what might sound reasonable to you, might sound crazy aggressive to someone else. If you’re not sure about your response, letting someone else read it first (someone objective) can be a good idea.

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5. Short and sweet

Don’t write responses that are too lengthy. Make them short and sweet. Nobody wants to read through a reply of thirteen paragraphs. Even if someone personally insults you in a review, you should never get personal. Try to remain professional and polite, at all times.

6. Don’t get trapped in long discussion

Never get trapped in lengthy discussions. Reply once, maybe twice if necessary, but stop replying after that. Nobody wants to read a complete discussion between a dissatisfied customer and a business. Or maybe some people do like to read such a thing, but it does not reflect well on your business.

7. Take the discussion offline

Someone had a bad experience with your business and you can solve it? Try to contact them outside of the review-channel. Ask them to get in touch with your sales department, or invite them over to your restaurant. Did people not get their dessert? Invite them over to your restaurant. People can’t get in touch with your support department? Help them to make a connection.

After the response?

If you have had some negative responses, you’ll probably want to bury them underneath a big pile of positive ones. Maybe you’ll encounter customers that have positive experiences. By all means, invite them to leave a review. Research shows that a lot of people are willing to do that!

If you can solve the problem with a dissatisfied customer, you can also ask if they can edit or remove their review. You should only do that if the air is clear between the customer and your business.

Read more: ‘How to get local reviews’ »

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Branding plays a vital role in the success of your business. We’ve written about branding several times on this site, for instance, the 5 tips on branding and Low-budget branding for small businesses articles. Your domain name should also be a part of your brand. But should you buy one of those fancy new TLDs like .amsterdam or .guru to enhance your branding? Watch Joost answer a readers question about this.

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Andrew emailed us this question:

“Now that there is a wide range of top level domain name options, is it possible to use the TLD as part of your brand? I have a site which focuses on Oakland tourism and oak.land would be cool. Or should I just go for something like visit-oakland.com?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Can you use a TLD as part of your brand?

“Well yes, of course. We sometimes use Yoast.com instead of just Yoast, because Yoast is actually a last name in the US as well. So, you can definitely do that. You could use .tourism or .land; there are so many options out there. Of course, you can use these in your branding. In fact, I’d encourage that.

But you have to keep in mind that not everyone might realize that they are looking at a domain name. Let’s take oak.land. Would everybody in your target audience realize that’s a domain name? Most people that are slightly older might not realize that’s something they can type in. At that point, it would be a good idea to add www or http:// in the branding when you put it on a poster or show it somewhere so people realize they can type in oak.land. Ok, good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

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

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The WordPress project recently released WordPress 4.9, “Tipton” — a new major release named in honor of musician and band leader Billy Tipton. Read on to find out more about this and other interesting news from around the WordPress world in November.


WordPress 4.9 “Tipton”

On November 16, WordPress 4.9 was released with new features for publishers and developers alike. Release highlights include design locking, scheduling, and previews in the Customizer, an even more secure and usable code editing experience, a new gallery widget, and text widget improvements.

The follow up security and maintenance, v4.9.1, has now been released to tighten up the security of WordPress as a whole.

To get involved in building WordPress Core, jump into the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group, and follow the Core team blog.

Apply to Speak At WordCamp Europe 2018

The next edition of WordCamp Europe takes place in June, 2018. While the organizing team is still in the early stages of planning, they are accepting speaker applications.

WordCamp Europe is the largest WordCamp in the world and, along with WordCamp US, one of the flagship events of the WordCamp program — speaking at this event is a great way to give back to the global WordPress community by sharing your knowledge and expertise with thousands of WordPress enthusiasts.

Diversity Outreach Speaker Training Initiative

To help WordPress community organizers offer diverse speaker lineups, a new community initiative has kicked off to use existing speaker training workshops to demystify speaking requirements and help participants gain confidence in their ability to share their WordPress knowledge in a WordCamp session.

The working group behind this initiative will be meeting regularly to discuss and plan how they can help local communities to train speakers for WordCamps and other events.

To get involved in this initiative, you can join the meetings at 5pm UTC every other Wednesday in the #community-team channel of the Making WordPress Slack group.


Further Reading:

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

The redirects manager in Yoast SEO Premium is a real lifesaver. It’s a feature we at Yoast use many times a day. Once you used it for a while, you wonder how you ever lived without it. The redirects manager makes everyday website optimization and maintenance a piece of cake. It takes care of all redirect tasks, so you don’t have to think about that as much. In the end, it will save you lots of time and money. Here, we’ll shed some more light on the invaluable redirects manager in Yoast SEO.

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What is a redirect?

Before we get into the awesomeness of the Yoast SEO redirects manager lets take a brief look at redirects. A redirect happens when a particular URL is deleted or changed and the browser gets served another URL in exchange. If a site owner deletes a page and does not redirect that old page, visitors to that page will see a 404 error message/page. So, to send visitors to a substitute URL or another relevant page, you need a redirect.

There are loads of reasons for why you would need a redirect:

  • When you delete a post or page;
  • When you change an URL structure;
  • If you move from HTTP to HTTPS;
  • Whenever you move a domain;
  • If you edit the slug of a category;
  • Etc.

Historically, deleting a page and making the correct redirect was a nasty chore. You had to do it manually in the .htaccess file or with scripts on the server-side, like Apache’s mod_rewrite or ngix rewrite module. In all cases, there was code involved. Not something anyone was remotely comfortable doing. Today, with Yoast SEO Premium that process is dead easy. If you are in need of a WordPress redirect plugin, give this one a try!

What does Yoast SEO do with redirects?

Using Yoast SEO Premium, making a redirect becomes a straightforward process. It takes just a couple of quick steps. Let’s say you want to delete a post:

  • Open the post that needs to be deleted
  • Move it to trash
  • Choose if it should receive a 410 content deleted redirect or a redirect to another page
  • Hit OK and you’re done!
  • Easy peasy, right?

redirect deleted post redirects manager

As you can see, the redirects manager in Yoast SEO Premium is an incredibly simple tool to work with redirects. It asks you what you want to do with an old URL whenever you change or delete a post or page. This process takes place in the redirects manager or the post editor. The tool asks you if you want to redirect the post to another URL or to serve a 410 content deleted header, for instance.

Correctly redirecting pages keeps your site usable, fresh and healthy. Visitors won’t stumble upon dead links and neither would Google. Google loves sites that are perfectly maintained. The cool thing is that everyone can do this and you won’t even need to call in your developer to fix it for you.

Not sure how the redirects manager in Yoast SEO works? Check this video and it becomes much clearer:

Types of redirects

The redirects manager supports the most essential redirects. Below you can find the supported redirects. If you need more information about these different redirects, please read the Which redirect post. Want to know the difference between a 302 and a 307? We’ve got you covered which this post on HTTP status codes.

  • 301 – Moved permanently
  • 302 – Found
  • 307 – Temporary redirect
  • 410 – Content deleted
  • 451 – Content unavailable for legal reasons

Inside the redirects manager in Yoast SEO

The redirect manager can do a lot more cool stuff. You can bulk edit your existing redirects to, for instance, change them from a 307 to a 301. Or you can filter for redirects to see which ones need changing or you can find a specific redirect on an article and change it to something else.

edit redirect redirects manager

Integrates with Google Search Console

If combined with the power of Google Search Console, you’ll get the ultimate in site maintenance power at your fingertips. Let Yoast SEO Premium access your Search Console account and you’ll see all the crawl errors appear. After that, you can use the redirect manager to create redirects of all 404 errors instantly. Spring cleaning, anyone?

Michiel did an excellent job explaining how you can connect Yoast SEO to Search Console and how to fix crawl errors. Read that if you want to know more about the combined power of these two killer site maintenance tools.

redirects search console yoast seo

edit redirects search console yoast seo

REGEX redirects

Not for the faint-hearted, but for the true redirect kings. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to use it as well because you should. Making redirects with regular expressions is different because you have to determine what should happen and how it should happen. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can do crazy smart stuff and is your go-to tool if you need to do very specific or large-scale redirects.

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WordPress redirect plugin

(The redirects manager in) Yoast SEO Premium is an excellent tool, not just as an SEO tool but as a site maintenance tool as well. But don’t just take our word for it. As writer Jody Lee Cates told us:

“I hesitated to pay for Yoast Premium because I am a new blogger without much income yet. But I’m so, so happy I did! The time the redirect manager is saving me is priceless! And it’s giving me the freedom to change URL’s to improve SEO without worrying about creating redirects on my own.”

How’s that for an endorsement?

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

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