During one of our recent projects, we noticed something odd. The website at hand, a shop / blog selling organic products, had over 50% of all pageviews coming from Google Pinterest.

Social traffic from pinterest larger than google analytics referrals

Is this really as odd as we felt it was? If you come to think about it, social search has been stealing ground from Google search for years, which gave us Google+, which we didn’t embrace as we had already gotten used to Twitter and Facebook.

When I was at a camping site in France this summer, I asked some of the younger people if they were still using Facebook. These boys and girls must have been around 10 to 14 years old, and none of them were using it. They all used Instagram instead. Now I do know that the age policy for Facebook is to allow ‘children’ from 13 years and older, but we all know the minimum age requirement on Facebook is not always abided by. Tons of younger people already use the network, but there seems to be an ongoing shift (of teenagers) towards Instagram.

Somehow it seems that photos are the new blog posts. Of course we need text to explain things and start discussions, like in this article. But the ease of just taking a picture and posting it, with the main goal to share and get ‘props’ or comments for it, seems to be more attractive for these youngsters.

Social engagement and communication

Social networks could be considered ‘extensions’ for your website. Where a website usually is about sending information, the social platforms are used as marketing tools for that website. Besides that, these also allow for support and discussion. A lot of people are browsing Facebook and seeing your posts in their timelines on a daily, if not hourly basis, where the frequency of visits to your website is most probably much lower. It’s an easy way to connect and communicate to your target audience.

With the rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter (who remembers Myspace?) the question arises whether it would be possible to build that social network solely around your website as well. So without the use of social platforms like Twitter and Instagram. I think only a few sites have been able to do so sofar. IMDB for example seems to have a solid base of frequent visitors. Several online news sites have, and perhaps a number of technology and gossip blogs.

With the expected ongoing growth of social networks as a whole, the entire internet is becoming more and more personal and as a result of that, so should websites. Some websites are able to make that happen on the website itself, but the majority of websites simply need social networks to take their site to the next, user focused level.

My gut feeling tells me it all depends on if you are able to find kindred spirits among those that comment. Or just having a huge audience so coffee table chats involve topics discussed on your website. Perhaps Yoast.com articles are discussed at WordPress conventions, WP Meetups or WordCamps. We surely hope so.

Social engagement seems to grow as we up our blogging frequency, send out our weekly newsletter and actively engage in conversations on social platforms. Social engagement for your website is just not necessarily (or only) built in comments, but involves all other communication platforms as well.

Just the other day, I was discussing some general online marketing issues with some online friends, only to realize after 15 minutes we were using the in-game chat for Clash of Clans for that…

Building an audience

As social communication or social marketing has been and still is gaining importance next to, or perhaps as a part of search engine optimization, we will do a series of posts with our thoughts about social marketing over the next months.

We have thought of a number of subjects to address, but if you feel there is a subject we must discuss in this series, please let us know in the comments of this article, or reach out on twitter, @michielheijmans. If we pick your subject (and you were the first to mention it), we will send you a free copy of our new ebook!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

At Yoast, we’re known for giving you numerous tips to improve your site’s SEO. However, how do you know whether those tips are actually working for you? There are a number of tools out there that can help you track your SEO, but most of them will cost you money. And, in the end, it’s obviously just about increasing your website’s traffic. There’s this great free tool that gives a lot of insight in how your website’s traffic is doing: Google Analytics! Almost everyone uses it – but perhaps not to its full potential. That’s why, in this post, I’ll explain how to keep track of your SEO using Google Analytics.

I’ll give you a step by step instruction on how to find the data that will help you track your SEO using Google Analytics. The videos in this post (without sound so you can watch them everywhere) show you exactly which steps to take. Please note that the post is quite long, but hey! it’s about your SEO so it’s probably worth your while.

Tracking your overall SEO

One of the first indications of how your website’s SEO is doing is looking at the amount of traffic coming to your website. In Google Analytics, you can find the overview of your traffic in the Audience section. This tells you how many sessions there were on your website in a given time period.

However, this doesn’t tell you which part of that traffic results from your SEO efforts. It just shows you all traffic to your site. To find the traffic that’s coming directly from search engines (called ‘organic’ in Google Analytics), you’ll need to go somewhere else. These steps are all taken in the video below. If you go to Acquisition > All Traffic, you’ll see a list of sources where your traffic comes from. Usually, the traffic from search engines (more specifically, Google) is somewhere to be found in the top 3. Find the search engines you want to know the volume of traffic for – recognizable as medium=organic – and select those check boxes. If you hit “Plot Rows” after that, you’ll get a nice graph showing you the total traffic and lines in other colors for the sources you’ve selected.

If you want a view that’s a bit more precise, you can click the pie chart icon to see exact numbers and percentages of the total. And if you want to see all the organic traffic combined into one, simply click the medium tab. Of course you can again plot the row for the line graph here as well. 

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Unfortunately, the organic keyword tab that’s listed under the campaign tab doesn’t do much anymore nowadays. Apart from showing (not set) it just shows you where people end up and doesn’t provide many keywords (np = not provided).

What does organic traffic say about my SEO?

Now you know what to look at in Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re getting from search engines. If you’re not getting a lot of traffic from search engines, then that tells you that you need to work on your SEO. There’s a lot of potential traffic you may be missing out!

If you notice the number of organic traffic is declining, then you need to work on your SEO as well. Especially if the decline is large. Perhaps you’ve got a crawlability or another technical SEO issue. If the decrease is drastic, all alarm bells should go off. Dive into your Google Search Console and check if you can find what’s causing the decline.

If you’re noticing an increase in organic traffic, well done! Think about what you’ve been doing lately that might have caused this increase. You want to know these kinds of things, because it’ll help you understand your own SEO better.

The above only tells you how your overall SEO is doing. However, most times, you’d want to focus on something more specific than your entire site. You’d want to focus on a specific page or post.

Page-specific SEO monitoring

If you want to see your analytics at a per page level, you have to go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Here you’ll see your site’s top 10 pages, ranked on amount of pageviews. If you have a specific page you want look at, you can simply fill in the URL (without domain name) in the search bar. You’ll now be able to see that page’s data. However, these are still all the pageviews, not specified to traffic coming from search engines. To find the traffic originating from search engines there are two ways to go.

The first one is via filtering the data in the table: you have to click the “Secondary dimension” dropdown and click Acquisition > Medium. Additionally, you can click Source/Medium if you want to specify per search engine. Clicking the check box for “Organic” medium and hitting “Plot Rows” again, will give you the line graph for your total and organic traffic. It’ll also show you other traffic sources, which is always interesting.

Again, if you want a more specific view, click on the pie chart icon. Comparing the percentages of organic traffic for your specific page to your total organic traffic can also give you a good idea of how your page is doing. And obviously, ideally, you’d want to see a line that’s moving up (or at least not downward).

Tip: To make the data even clearer, you can add another filter (using the search bar) to only include medium containing “Organic”. This will give you just the organic traffic data for every page.

The second way to go is creating a segment that only includes ‘Organic traffic’. I absolutely adore segments, because it makes Google Analytics so much easier to use. You can read more about my love for segments in the ‘Why use segments in Google Analytics‘ post. Google Analytics offers you a ready-made segment called ‘Organic traffic’. Choose that segment from the list and voila, you’ll only see traffic coming from search engines. Now you can analyze all pages in the Behavior section and check if you see an upward trend (or not).

Obviously, everything I mentioned here is related to monitoring your SEO and not actually finding issues that might be related to your SEO. To find possible issues we always look at a lot of things, a few of which I’ll explain now. These things will help you find issues that might be related to your SEO.

Bounce rate

If you click on Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, you’ll get a list of pages through which people enter your site. Landing pages are important, because they’re the first thing your visitors will see. They’re literally pages people land on coming from a traffic source. An important metric on this screen is the ‘Bounce Rate’. This metric gives you the percentage of people that left your landing page without having done anything on that page. And although Google doesn’t take the Google Analytics bounce rate into account as a ranking factor, it does look at how quick people hit the back button and return to the search results page. So you want visitors to spend more time on your pages and, preferably, even engage with your site.

To get a good idea of which pages have a high bounce rate, click the Comparison icon. In the last column, select bounce rate. This will give the bounce rate compared to the site average for all your pages starting from the most visited page. Any page that has a red bar is below your site’s average bounce rate. Anywhere between 0-10% in red is basically fine, but anything above 20-30% should definitely be looked at. Especially, if it concerns pages in the top 10.

The bounce rate is important because it tells you something about the quality of your traffic and/or the quality of the page. It has an indirect influence on your SEO. If people quickly jump back to the search results after a glimpse on your page, that means they probably haven’t found what they’re looking for. Google takes this to mean your page isn’t relevant enough for the keyword the person has searched for, and rightfully so.

Internal site search

If you click on Behavior > Site Search > Overview, you’ll find a list of search terms people have searched for on your site, using your site’s search. This is always a good dataset to keep track of as well since it can give you a good idea of what your audience expects to find on your site. If there are any search terms there that you haven’t created a page for yet, it’s probably a good idea to try and fit a page on that subject in. Plus, it gives great insight in the words people are using. Do they match the keywords you’re using?

Obviously, you do need to have your Site Search set up the right way. You have to enable site search and fill in the right query string for searches. You can check this Google Analytics documentation for more information.

Mobile traffic

Perhaps you’ve heard about “Mobilegeddon“? Is a Google mobile update; if your website isn’t mobile-friendly then chances are it won’t rank in mobile search results. Especially if a large portion of your audience visits your site using a mobile phone, optimizing for mobile is key!

If you go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, you’ll get a dataset that shows you how many people are entering your site using a desktop, a mobile phone or a tablet. Once again, click on the pie chart icon to get a good view of how many mobile visitors you have. If that’s more than 10%, you should definitely make sure your website looks good and works fine on a mobile phone. Also, if you’re noticing your bounce rate on mobile is significantly higher than on desktop, this can indicate that your mobile site isn’t all that mobile-friendly.

As said before, Google is taking responsiveness of websites more and more seriously and it has become a true ranking factor in mobile search results, so it’s really imperative that you improve your mobile site as much as possible and keep tracking this for your SEO. 

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Site speed

Next to mobile-friendliness is site speed a ranking factor as well. Not only is it a ranking factor, it has its impact on conversion and the usability of your site as well. Checking speed performance of your pages and improving it, is a big win for your entire site. Google Analytics has a special Site Speed section which you can find under Behavior > Site Speed. If you click on Page Timings, you can see the Average Page Load Time compared to the site average. Additionally, you’ll get a quick overview of pages that are ‘slow’ so this immediately gives you a to-do list of pages you need to optimize first. There are a couple of site speed tools that can help you with optimizing your site’s speed.

Have I missed anything?

Do you think I’ve missed anything? Or do you have some other great tools you use to track your SEO? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: ‘Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics’ »

Version 4.0 of WordPress, named “Benny” in honor of jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, is available for download or update in your WordPress dashboard. While 4.0 is just another number for us after 3.9 and before 4.1, we feel we’ve put a little extra polish into it. This release brings you a smoother writing and management experience we think you’ll enjoy.


Manage your media with style

Media LibraryExplore your uploads in a beautiful, endless grid. A new details preview makes viewing and editing any amount of media in sequence a snap.


Working with embeds has never been easier

Paste in a YouTube URL on a new line, and watch it magically become an embedded video. Now try it with a tweet. Oh yeah — embedding has become a visual experience. The editor shows a true preview of your embedded content, saving you time and giving you confidence.

We’ve expanded the services supported by default, too — you can embed videos from CollegeHumor, playlists from YouTube, and talks from TED. Check out all of the embeds that WordPress supports.


Focus on your content

Writing and editing is smoother and more immersive with an editor that expands to fit your content as you write, and keeps the formatting tools available at all times.


Finding the right plugin

Add plugins

There are more than 30,000 free and open source plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. WordPress 4.0 makes it easier to find the right one for your needs, with new metrics, improved search, and a more visual browsing experience.


The Ensemble

This release was led by Helen Hou-Sandí, with the help of these fine individuals. There are 275 contributors with props in this release, a new high. Pull up some Benny Goodman on your music service of choice, as a bandleader or in one of his turns as a classical clarinetist, and check out some of their profiles:

Aaron D. Campbell, Aaron Jorbin, Adam Silverstein, Alex Mills (Viper007Bond), Alex Shiels, Alexander Rohmann, Alison Barrett, Allan Collins, Amit Gupta, Amy Hendrix (sabreuse), Andrea Fercia, Andres Villarreal, Andrew Mowe, Andrew Munro (sumobi), Andrew Nacin, Andrew Ozz, Andy Skelton, Ankit K Gupta, Anton Timmermans, Arne Brachhold, Aubrey Portwood, Austin Matzko, Ben Dunkle, Bernhard Kau, Boone Gorges, Brady Vercher, Bram Duvigneau, Brandon Kraft, Brian Krogsgard, Brian Layman, Brian Richards, Camden Segal, Caroline Moore, Charles Fulton, Chouby, ChriCo, Chris Olbekson, chrisl27, Christian Axelsson, Christopher Finke, Christopher Spires, Clifton Griffin, Corey McKrill, Corphi, Daisuke Takahashi, Dan Griffiths, Daniel Bachhuber, Daniel Husken, Daniel Jalkut (Red Sweater), Danny de Haan, Darin Kotter, Daryl Koopersmith, Daryl L. L. Houston (dllh), David A. Kennedy, David Herrera, David Naber, DavidTheMachine, DeBAAT, Dion Hulse, Dominik Schilling, Donncha O Caoimh, Drew Jaynes, Dustyn Doyle, Eddie Moya, Eduardo Reveles, Edwin Siebel, ehg, erayalakese, Eric Andrew Lewis, Eric Binnion, Eric Mann, Evan Anderson, Evan Herman, Fabien Quatravaux, Fahmi Adib, feedmeastraycat, Frank Klein, garhdez, Gary Cao, Gary Jones, Gary Pendergast, garza, gauravmittal1995, Gavrisimo, George Stephanis, Graham Armfield, Grant Mangham, Gregory Cornelius, Gustavo Bordoni, harrym, hebbet, Hinnerk Altenburg, Hugh Lashbrooke, iljoja, imath, Ipstenu (Mika Epstein), issuu, J.D. Grimes, Jack Lenox, Jack Reichert, Jacob Dubail, JanHenkG, Janneke Van Dorpe, Jared Wenerd, Jason Coleman, Jaza613, Jeff Stieler, Jeremy Felt, Jeremy Pry, Jeroen Schmit, Jerry Bates (jerrysarcastic), Jesin A, Jesper Johansen (jayjdk), Jesper van Engelen, Jesper van Engelen, Jesse Pollak, jgadbois, Joan Artes, Joe Dolson, Joe Hoyle, Joey Kudish, John Blackbourn, John James Jacoby, John Zanussi, Jon Cave, jonnyauk, Joost de Valk, Jordi Cabot, Josh Eaton, JOTAKI Taisuke, Julio Potier, Justin Sainton, Justin Sternberg, Justin Tadlock, K.Adam White, Kailey (trepmal), kapeels, Kelly Dwan, Kevin Langley, Kevin Worthington, Kim Parsell, Kirk Wight, kitchin, Kite, Knut Sparhell, Konstantin Kovshenin, Konstantin Obenland, Kurt Payne, Lance Willett, Lee Willis, lessbloat, Lew Ayotte, lritter, Luke Carbis, Luke Gedeon, m_i_n, Manny Fleurmond, Manuel Schmalstieg, Marius (Clorith), Mark Jaquith, Marko Heijnen, Matt Banks, Matt Martz, Matt Mullenweg, Matt Wiebe, Matthew Boynes, Matthew Denton, Matthew Eppelsheimer, Matthew Haines-Young, mattyrob, meekyhwang, Mel Choyce, Michael Adams (mdawaffe), michalzuber, midxcat, Mike Auteri, Mike Hansen, Mike Jolley, Mike Little, Mike Manger, Mike Nelson, Mike Schroder, Mikey Arce, Milan Dinic, Morgan Estes, Mr Papa, mrmist, Mustafa Uysal, MuViMoTV, nabil_kadimi, Namibia, Nashwan Doaqan, nd987, Neil Pie, Niall Kennedy, Nick Halsey, Nikolay Bachiyski, Nils Schonwald, Ninos, Nowell VanHoesen, Patrick Hesselberg, Paul Bearne, Paul Clark, Paul Schreiber, Paul Wilde, pavelevap, Peter Westwood, Philip Arthur Moore, Philip John, Piet Bos, Piotr Soluch, Pippin Williamson, purzlbaum, Rachel Baker, RC Lations, Richard Tape, Ricky Lee Whittemore, rob1n, Robert Chapin, Robert Dall, RobertHarm, Rohan Rawat, Rouven Hurling, Ruud Laan, Ryan Boren, Ryan McCue, Sam Brodie, Samuel Wood (Otto), Sathish Nagarajan, Scott Reilly, Scott Taylor, ScreenfeedFr, scribu, Sean Hayes, Sean Nessworthy, Sergej Muller, Sergey Biryukov, shanebp, Sharon Austin, Shaun Andrews, Simon Pollard, Simon Wheatley, Slobodan Manic, solarissmoke, sphoid, Stephane Daury, Stephen Edgar, Steven Jones, Sumit Singh, t4k1s, Takashi Irie, Taylor Dewey, Thomas van der Beek, Till, Tim 'Eli' Dalbey, tmeister, TobiasBg, Tom J Nowell, Tom Willmot, Topher, torresga, Tracy Levesque, Travis Smith, treyhunner, Umesh Kumar, Vinod Dalvi, vlajos, voldemortensen, Weston Ruter, winterDev, Wojtek Szkutnik, Yoav Farhi, Zack Katz, Zack Tollman, and Zoe Rooney. Also thanks to Michael Pick for producing the release video, and Helen with Adrián Sandí for the music.

If you want to follow along or help out, check out Make WordPress and our core development blog. Thanks for choosing WordPress. See you soon for version 4.1!

Google Analytics by YoastWe’ve been working hard on our Google Analytics plugin and are proud to release version 5.0, with universal support, today. With all the changes Google had made to Analytics and with our improved development experience we decided we’d be better off with a full rewrite. We’ve redone some of the features, killed a few minor features and added the most requested features. Read on:

Support for Universal Analytics

It seems as though most sites have been “auto-moved” to the new Universal Analytics tracking by Google. If you don’t see a “Universal Analytics Upgrade” button in your Google Analytics admin, all you have to do to switch to the new tracking code is check the box in the admin:

google analytics universal demographics

If you still have to upgrade, read our knowledge base article.

Demographics and Interest reports

One of our most requested features besides Universal support was support for Demographics and Interest reports. It’s as easy as checking a box on our end now, as you can see in the screenshot above.

For a full tutorial, check this knowledge base article.

Coming soon: Analytics Dashboards & Premium

Another often requested feature is for an Analytics Dashboard inside the WordPress Admin. We’ve recently taken over development on the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin and will be merging that into this plugin in version 5.1.

Another feature we’re really looking forward to ourselves is the use of Custom Dimensions and Metrics. Unfortunately, Google has shipped that feature without an API to create custom dimensions, so we’ll be releasing a premium version of Google Analytics by Yoast that has the features needed for these custom dimensions and comes with support so we can help people set them up. This will allow for reports per author, per category, per year, etc. etc. etc.

eCommerce tracking

Google Analytics eCommerce trackingAlso coming soon is an updated version of our eCommerce tracking plugin. This new version will support Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce, and will allow for 99% reliable tracking of eCommerce transactions through Google’s new Measurement Protocol. This allows us to measure transactions server side, so they’ll still be tracked properly if people never reach the success page and even allows us to track refunds.

WordPress 4.0 compatible!

WordPress 4.0 ships today as well, this new version of the plugin has been fully tested with WordPress 4.0 and works well with it!

So, go upgrade now!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Cover of optimize your WordPress site, the book by team at YoastExciting news! Team Yoast has written its very own book! In recent years, we often fantasized about writing a book in which all of our knowledge was bundled. In the last few months, we finally put our pens down to paper! Starting today you can buy our awesome ebook for only $19.

Our book will help you optimize your WordPress site. The book does not solely contain information about SEO, but also gives information about Navigation, Social Media, Google Analytics, Conversion and Site Speed. These different sections can be read in any order you like and gives you the basic of one aspect of optimizing your websites. All sections are written by our very own Yoast experts in the various fields. Design and illustrations are done by our Design Dream Team Erwin and Mijke.

A book for WordPress users

The book is written for all people having a wordpress website. Building a WordPress website isn’t that hard. But after you have installed your theme and put in your text… then what? How do you make sure your site stands out from all of the other ones on the internet? How do you make sure people find your website? And what do you have to do to make people buy your stuff?

Tips to keep your website appealing

Installing your WordPress site is only the beginning. In order to have a website which keeps appealing to your audience, you will have an endless job in keeping your content and design up to date. You will have to do continuous Search Engine Optimization in order to make sure that people find your website on Google and other search engines. You should make sure users of your website can find the information you want them to find. And if you have a shop, you should make sure that people can find and (want to) buy your products. That’s a lot of work! Our book guides you through doing all these things.

A book for all WordPress Users

Our ebook is specifically written for those of you that already have a WordPress site, but need help to turn it into a fantastic WordPress site. It’s not written solely or especially for developers (it’s relatively poor on code) and can be read by (almost ;-)) everyone! Some parts in the SEO and the speed section can be a bit hard without any technical skills, but the larger part of the book is comprehensible for a large audience.

Technical Specifications

Buying our ebook will give you access to a number of files. You can download a PDF, for reading our book on your PC, Mac or tablet. But you can also download our book as EPUB, if you like to read on your ereader. Also, we provide a Kindle-version. You can thus choose the device you like! In our opinion, the ebook is best read in color and on a device connected to the internet. We provide lots of links with examples and further reading material!

Buy our book!

Convinced? Buy our ebook now for only $19 and read our 152 pages of practical information and tips! Turn your WordPress site into a fantastic WordPress site! If you would like to have some more information about the contents and look into the design of our ebook, check out our ebook page.

 

 

 

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Last night Google’s John Mueller announced on Google+ that “authorship” had been removed completely from the search results. Just like Google has recently removed most video snippets, this is another step towards Google’s search result pages going “back” to being 10 blue links.

Brief history of author highlighting / authorship

We were among the very early adopters of author highlighting, building features into WordPress SEO that made this very easy as well as writing tutorials on how to achieve the author highlights. The format went from a picture on the right of the search results (notice the +1 button that appeared in the SERPs at the same time):

rel=me / rel=author search in Google showing my author highlight

to the picture being highlighted on the left, removing the +1 button but adding the number of “circles” the author was in on Google+:

wordpress seo article Google Search 133

to (more recently) it just being the name below the URL, with no mention of Google+ left:

recent author highlight

“no traffic impact”

John Mueller, anticipating flack from SEOs and webmasters worldwide, said this in his post:

(If you’re curious — in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)

Now, that doesn’t surprise me, because they probably tested against the 3rd iteration of author highlights shown above. I’m guessing the impact was quite different when they took away the picture, and the impact might actually have been different for different audiences as well. I know I’ve had my fair share of tweets and mentions of people saying they saw my face in the search results the whole day, as they were working on specific WordPress stuff. It definitely had a branding impact.

Schema.org

In his post, John makes it a point to highlight that they’ll continue to show rich snippets based on Schema.org markup:

Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.

All four major search engines are backing schema.org and they’re used, for instance, in the creation of rich snippets with ratings and prices like these:

wordpress seo plugin rich snippet

As AJ Kohn showed in his excellent post on rich snippets, schema.org data seems to be used for Knowledge Graph results too, for instance for books results. Another area where (the data from) schema.org markup is used heavily is in Local search, our Local SEO plugin does lots of schema.org markup around locations and business type.

Standing out in a crowded search result

Author highlights, video snippets, ratings: they’re all ways to stand out in a result that is otherwise just a “bland” 10 blue links. When we’re being limited by Google in how to stand out, we immediately start looking for new ways.

The third screenshot above shows that we’ve been playing with separators, a recent feature in our WordPress SEO plugin that lets you choose which separator to use:

title separator option

While implementing this I was testing which separators still worked in search results. In the “old” days, you could use diamonds, airplanes and all sorts of other weird characters. This too has been severely limited. A few years ago, 888 used special characters in their titles like this:

888.com result with special characters in the title

They no longer do that as most of those special characters no long work.

So what’s the next step for creative optimization?

With all these changes, a few things remain that allow you to really stand out:

  • rating snippets (though one must start to wonder for how long those will remain, with results like these);
  • news results (for which you have to be included in Google News, in which case our News SEO plugin is awesome);
  • YouTube videos still stand out (it’s no coincidence that we’ve finally gotten a Yoast YouTube channel) – note Google owns YouTube;
  • optimizing for the knowledge graph. AJ Kohn’s earlier linked post is a good starting point for thinking about that. The knowledge graph comes with its own dangers though, if you search for [how to boil an egg] you’ll see what I mean.

Who knows what the future brings?

And of course, there will always be new features in Google. When we were discussing these changes with some SEO friends, one of them said “it’s awesome, it’s a chance to be the first movers on another new thing”. That’s one thing you can be sure of: we’ll be there helping you make the most of it!

 

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

One of the returning questions we get from customers is for better tutorial videos for our SEO plugin. That’s no “simple” thing as we quite regularly update the plugin and add new features to it, changing the interface. So we’ve teamed up with Shawn Hesketh, from WP101, who has created (and will continue to update) a beautiful set of 17 videos. These videos are now included in our WordPress SEO premium plugin:

WordPress SEO tutorial videos as seen in the premium WordPress SEO plugin.

WordPress SEO tutorial videos as seen in the premium WordPress SEO plugin.

These WordPress SEO tutorial videos will be kept up to date with all the changes we make to the plugin. In fact, when we did the initial set of videos, I was smart enough to make so many changes in one update that 4 of the 17 videos had to be redone. Shawn must hate me already ;)

Let me show you the first WordPress SEO tutorial video, which is the first of 17 videos. It highlights how to use the snippet preview and focus keyword functionality:

If you like what you see, upgrade to our Premium SEO plugin and you’ll have this set of videos available (and up to date) all the time!

But you already had WordPress SEO tutorial videos?

We used to have a separate Video Manual plugin; that plugin has been discontinued, as those videos weren’t up to date. It will continue to work for a while longer, but will not be updated. The license holders for that plugin can upgrade to the premium WordPress SEO plugin at a very nice price: we’ll give you the original plugin purchase price as a discount. Email support and we’ll set it up for you.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

The first release candidate for WordPress 4.0 is now available!

In RC 1, we’ve made refinements to what we’ve been working on for this release. Check out the Beta 1 announcement post for more details on those features. We hope to ship WordPress 4.0 next week, but we need your help to get there. If you haven’t tested 4.0 yet, there’s no time like the present. (Please, not on a production site, unless you’re adventurous.)

Think you’ve found a bug? Please post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. If any known issues come up, you’ll be able to find them here.

To test WordPress 4.0 RC1, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the release candidate here (zip). If you’d like to learn more about what’s new in WordPress 4.0, visit the awesome About screen in your dashboard ( → About in the toolbar).

Developers, please test your plugins and themes against WordPress 4.0 and update your plugin’s Tested up to version in the readme to 4.0 before next week. If you find compatibility problems, please be sure to post any issues to the support forums so we can figure those out before the final release. You also may want to give your plugin an icon, which we launched last week and will appear in the dashboard along with banners.

It is almost time
For the 4.0 release
And its awesomeness

While doing our website reviews, we look at sites from all over the world. Most of our clients are from the United States and Europe, but we also have clients from Australia, South Africa and even China. Websites from different countries can differ largely in their choices for color, pictures, navigation and site structure. That made me wonder: are these differences due to cultural preferences? It made me remember a study we executed at Yoast some time ago and it gave me an excuse to do some digging in the scientific search engines as well.

Website review geo stats

Why could cultural differences be of any importance?

As the web is growing and web shops are aiming at an international market, cultural differences and preferences in web design become of importance. Is a web page designed in one country equally appealing to potential customers in other countries? Are these international customers more likely to buy your stuff, if the design of your shop resembles the style of websites in their home country?

It could well be that the Yoast.com design appeals to a western audience, who perceive our avatars as funny or creative, while in China or Japan is our design is considered as childish and unappealing. In that case, we could alter our design in order to do big business in the far east…

Results from our own research

Almost two years ago, we did some research comparing websites from United States with websites from the Netherlands. We executed this research to inspire us to design our own themes. We decided to limit our focus (for reasons I will leave undiscussed here) on websites of dentists in both the United States and the Netherlands.

The most prominent result of our research was the use of pictures. In the United States, it was common for a website to have a so-called ‘smile gallery’ with a number of pictures displaying beautiful white teeth from satisfied customers. In the Netherlands (bleaching of teeth is not common at all, in fact we all have brown teeth here) such galleries do not exist. This cultural difference is only applicable to dentist websites, although one could imagine that this kind of cultural differences could appear in other branches as well.

Our research also shows differences in actual design and navigational elements. In table 1 we show the presence of some content and navigational elements in dentist websites. We display percentages of sites in which an element was present.  We compare between sites of dentists from the USA and sites of dentists from the Netherlands.

Table 1: differences in content and navigational elements in dentist websites (USA versus NL)
USA Netherlands
Testimonials 50,0 25,7
Social Media 41,5 25,7
FAQ 32,1 35,0
Opening hours 67,9 79,9
Search function 13,2 24,8
Footer Bar 65,1 48,1
Headings 79,2 79,5
Slide show 25,5 17,6
Movie 15,1 6,5
Number of websites 106 433

Results from our research show that American sites display testimonials more often and use social media on their website in more cases. In Dutch sites opening hours are shown more often and the search function of the website is present in more cases. American sites more often have slide shows and movies on their website. Headings are used equally in both countries, but a Footer Bar is often absent in Dutch website. These differences in websites could well be due to differences between dentist and dental insurance between the US and the Netherlands.

Color is subjective, of course. But judging from all websites we have analyzed, it’s safe to say that blue and blueish green, combined with a white background, are commonly used for both

American and Dutch websites. The main difference lies in the mood set on the website. Where Dutch websites have a more business-like approach, American websites focus more on location or pictures of happy, smiling people.

From a scientific perspective

A quick search in some scientific search engines (Google Scholar, Picarta) soon gave me a pretty good idea of the scientific view on this subject. Many studies try to explain cultural preferences in web design, content and navigation with the model of Hofstede (e.g. Callahan, 2006). In Hofstede’s model of Culture five dimensions are distinguished, the world cultures vary along these five dimensions (all very interesting, but a bit out of scope for this post, though). Studies using Hofstede’s model for instance show that in more individualistic countries (US, Australia) websites show more pictures of individuals, while in collective societies (e.g. China) more images of groups are shown. Websites from the United States also appear much more personalized compared to websites from Korea or China (Zhao, Massey, Murphy and Fang, 2003). Studies also suggest differences in the preferences of navigational buttons (with or without text) and site structure (Lo & Gong, 2005). Up until now, I haven’t found any study in which cultural differences are linked convincingly to differences in shopping behaviour.

And that remains the real question: does a culturally different design actually lead to less conversion? Does my website convert better in China if I put more pictures of groups on my website? You would certainly think that it will increase your sales. But where is the scientific proof? If anyone of you knows whether such a study has been executed, be sure to let me know!

What am I to do with this information?

If you are focussing on a local market: make sure your website appeals to a local public. That would be enough. Merely living in your local market would already give you enough expertise to investigate whether your website is in fact appealing to your audience. If you are unsure: ask your audience!

If you are aiming at an international public, as we do at Yoast, it could be wise to consider some revisions to your website in order to make it more appealing to an international market. The results of our own research and the scientific literature imply the existence of cultural differences between websites. It thus could be profitable to translate your content to different languages and offer different pictures of navigational options according to culture. Translating our plugins pages to Japanese and altering our avatars to Manga-style could perhaps be a great next step for Yoast (and a nice challenge for Erwin ;-).

But before you go and learn Chinese, I will investigate this topic a bit further and hope to tell you more about the influence of culture on conversion and sales in a few weeks.

 

Literature:

Callahan, E. (2006). Cultural Similarities and Differences in the Design of University Web sites, 11, 239–273. 

Zhao, W., Massey, B., Murphy, J., & Fang, L. (2003). Cultural Dimensions of Website Design and Content. Prometheus, 21(1), 74–84. 

Lo, B. W. N., & Gong, P. (2005). CULTURAL IMPACT ON THE DESIGN OF E-COMMERCE WEBSITES: Part I – Site Format and Layout, VI(2).

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Recently, Google removed, without any warning, the video snippets in the search results for a large group of sites. This followed pretty quickly on Google’s removal of author highlight pictures from the search results. First discussed by Seer on July 16th and slowly becoming more and more visible, we’ve been testing and trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Of course this heavily impacts the benefits of our Video SEO plugin so we wanted to make sure we knew what was happening before making any rash decisions.

It’s now pretty clear what Google has done. For those interested in the deeper workings, AJ Kohn’s post on rich snippets explains it better than I could. The gist of it is simple: video snippets now only show for sites purely dedicated to video or very large sites with clear sections dedicated to video. Which, incidentally, is why some of our clients still have them.

A clear example of the new landscape is this query: [iphone 5 review video], which has 3 videos from YouTube at the top and a video snippet for the Guardian below. As Danny Goodwin shows in his post on SearchEngineWatch, it used to be rather different.

What does this mean for the Video SEO plugin?

This doesn’t mean our Video SEO plugin becomes entirely useless, luckily. It still allows sites to:

  • show up in the video search results;
  • heavily enhances the experience of sharing posts with video in them on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest;
  • allows you to make videos responsive through enabling fitvids.js.

It does, however, mean that the direct traffic impact from Google will be less for our users and that we should focus more on the social sharing aspect.

We’re very close to releasing a major update of Video SEO that we’d been working on for months, actually from before we saw this happen, but it actually lies a better foundation for all the social stuff. We’ll probably end up renaming the plugin to “Video SEO & Social Sharing”, but that shouldn’t affect anyone.

If you bought the plugin in between June 16th (a month before it happened) and now (August 22th), and no longer want to use the plugin, we’ll give you a full refund. Just let us know through our plugin support and we’ll take care of it.

Feel free to ask your questions in the comments!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!