A linguistic approach to creating content that ranks

Search engines are trying to understand language: they want to understand what users are searching for, and they want to be able to provide them with the best results. Before I started working at Yoast, I studied linguistics: the scientific study of language. During my years at Yoast, I’ve noticed that linguistics and SEO have a lot of overlap. In this article, I want to give you some SEO insights from a linguistic perspective. Let’s dive in!

Different aspects of language

Before we can go into the linguistic approach to SEO, we first have to understand what language is. Language consists of many different aspects. Think about it: we make speech sounds or write letters, which together form words. We put these words in a specific order, so they form sentences and phrases. And these sentences mean something to us.

Sometimes we also want to achieve something with language. For example, when we say “it’s cold in here,” we might not only want to express we’re cold, but we could mean it as a request to close the window. To study all of these aspects, we distinguish different levels of language in the field of linguistics.

Linguistic levels of language

The most basic level is the level of sounds and letters, which we call phonology (when it comes to speech) and graphology (when we talk about writing). Then, there’s the morphological level, which studies how these sounds and letters together make words and different word forms. For example, the word “house” can be combined with “tree” to make “treehouse” and with “dog” to make “doghouse,” but we can’t really combine it with “banana.”

The next level, syntax, describes the rules we have for creating sentences. There are a million words we can choose from that we could use to form an infinite number of possible sentences. But these syntactic rules allow us only a small number of ways in which these words can be combined.

The level of semantics studies the meaning of different elements of language. What do we mean when we say something, and how do we understand others? Finally, pragmatics looks at meaning within a context. For instance, someone could say: “I’m getting hot, will you crack open the door?” Semantically, “crack” would mean “to break,” but pragmatically, we know that they don’t actually want us to break the door; they want us to open the door to let in some fresh air.

Level of languageField of linguistics
Sounds and lettersPhonology (speech) & graphology (writing)
Words and word formsMorphology
Sentences and rulesSyntax
MeaningSemantics
Context and language use Pragmatics
Sources: Crystal (1987), Hickey (2005)

Which levels of language can Google understand?

Okay, but what does this have to do with search engines? Well, search engines are trying to understand language the way humans do. And they’re getting better and better at it. A couple of years ago, search engines could only understand basic elements of language: they could recognize keywords in your content. Because of that, it was common practice to optimize just for keywords.

But times have changed. Search engines are becoming smarter and smarter, and they are getting better at understanding more levels of language. Google is now trying to understand language at the level of syntax, morphology, semantics, and even pragmatics. How? Let’s find out.

Understanding what characterizes high-quality content

With every update, Google tries to get closer to understanding language like the human brain. The Panda update (2011) addressed thin content and keyword stuffing. People could no longer rank high with low-quality pages filled with keywords. Since this update, Google is trying to understand language at the semantic and pragmatic levels. They want to know what people deem high-quality content; content that genuinely offers information about the search term they used.

Read more: Google Panda »

Understanding the meaning of phrases

A few years later, with the Hummingbird update (2013), Google took a deeper dive into semantics. This update focused on identifying relations between search queries. It made Google pay more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole search phrase is taken into account, rather than just particular words. They wanted to be capable of understanding what you mean when you type in a search query.

Google took that even further. Since they rolled out the RankBrain algorithm in 2015, they can interpret neologisms (words that have not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language, like “coronacation”), colloquialisms (casual communication, like “ain’t” and “gonna”), and they can process dialogues.

Read more: A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates »

Understanding different word forms

Google also has become a lot better at understanding different forms of a word or phrase. You no longer have to stuff your articles with the same keyword over and over again. If you’re writing an article about [reading books], Google will recognize various forms of these words, like [read], [reads], and [book]. What’s more, Google also understands synonyms. Write about [novel], [chronicle], and [volume], and Google will still rank you for [book]. Using some variations in your wording makes your texts nicer to read, and that’s what Google finds important, too.

Read more: What is keyword stemming? »

Understanding pragmatics

But Google is not just trying to understand content by analyzing text. To identify which results are useful for people, they also use user signals, like the bounce rate, click-through rate, and the time people spend on a website. They are even researching users’ emotions to adapt their search results based on, for example, the choice of wording for a search query.

Understanding context

You might have heard about the most recent big update, BERT (2019). With their latest innovation, Google is again becoming closer to understanding language at a human level. BERT is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) model that uses the context and relations of all the words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. With this update, Google can figure out the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. This helps them provide their users with even more meaningful and fitting results.

Read more: Google BERT: A better understanding of queries »

A linguistic approach to SEO

So, what does this mean for how you should optimize your content? Google is trying to understand language like we do. And with every update, they are getting closer to understanding language at a human level. They want to provide their users with high-quality search results that fit their goals.

Simply put, this means you should write for your audience, and not for search engines. Research your audience, try to get to know them, and provide them with the information and solutions they are looking to find!

Write naturally and mix things up

Moreover, try to write naturally. Don’t just stuff your text with the keyphrase you’re trying to rank for. That’s not only unpleasant to read for your visitors, but also bad for your rankings. Google can understand synonyms, different word forms, and the context of words, so make use of that! If you’re trying to rank for [cat], don’t just use [cat] over and over in your text. Use synonyms, like [kitty] or [puss]. Mix things up and use the plural form, [cats], and related phrases, like [litter box] or [cat food].

Yoast SEO Premium can help you with this. Our plugin also recognizes synonyms, different word forms, and related phrases, and helps you optimize your content for these words. This allows you to write in a more natural way, so you can satisfy your users and rank high in the search results!

The post A linguistic approach to creating content that ranks appeared first on Yoast.

Learn about the three Core Web Vitals: LCP, FID & CLS

Some time ago, Google caused quite a stir by announcing a new ranking factor for 2021: page experience. User experience has always been a essential part of building the best site out there, but now, it will play an even bigger role in helping you build awesome sites for your customers. All this is powered by new metrics, with at the centre: the Core Web Vitals. Time to meet LCP, FID and CLS!

Table of contents

The Google page experience update powered by Web Vitals

We’ve talked about this page experience update before, but in this post, we’d like to take another look at those Core Web Vitals. In general, site speed metrics tend to be hard to understand and confusing. Plus, they tend to change somewhat each time you test your site. You don’t always get the same scores. So, it’s easy to say that you just have to look at some metrics in the hope they turn green. 

Of all the possible metrics, Google now identifies three so-called Core Web Vitals. These are the focal point for Google in the coming year. Every year, Google might add or change these metrics as they evaluate these over a longer period of time. 

Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.

web.dev/vitals/

The three pillars of page experience

For now, the three pillars of page experience are:

  • Loading performance (how fast does stuff appear on screen?)
  • Responsiveness (how fast does the page react to user input?)
  • Visual stability (does stuff move around on screen while loading?)

To measure these essential aspects of user experience, Google chose three corresponding metrics — aka the Core Web Vitals:

  • LCP, Largest Contentful Paint: This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on the screen. This could be an image or a block of text. A good grade gives users the feeling that the site loads fast. A slow site can lead to frustration.
  • FIS, or First Input Delay: This measure how long it takes for the site to react to the first interaction by a user. This could be a tap on a button, for instance. A good grade here gives the user a sense that a site is quick to react to input and, therefore, responsive. Slow, again, leads to frustration.
  • CLS, or Content Layout Shift: This measure the visual stability of your site. In other words, does stuff move around on screen while it is loading — and how often does that happen? Nothing more frustrating than trying to click a button when a slow-loading ad appears in that spot.

Different tools use different metrics

Every page experience tool uses a number of Web Vitals, gathered from a variety of sources. As every tool has a different purpose, the metrics used differ per tool. The common denominator, however, are the Core Web Vitals as Google uses these in every page experience tool it has.

But what do all these numbers mean? What do you have to look for on your site? And when is your site fast enough? When do I have a good grade? There are a million questions you could ask about this metrics. And while Google is trying to close the gap between understanding and improving, this continues to be a complex topic. Measuring site speed and user experience is hard — there are so many things to factor in.

What are these Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals don’t work in isolation, as there are a whole lot of other metrics. Some are based on controlled lab tests, while others are metrics that only work with field data. After doing a lot of research, Google determined a new set called Web Vitals. These are a combination of metrics we already know, plus a set of new ones. The three Core Web Vitals are the most important ones and Google is specifically asking site owners to keep an eye on these scores and improve them where you can.

LCP: Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint measures the point at which the largest content element appears on the screen. Keep in mind that it doesn’t measure the time it takes for your page to fully load, but it simply looks at when the most important part loads.

If you have a simple web page with just a piece of text and a large image, that large image will be considered the LCP. Since this is the largest piece of content to load in the browser, it’s destined to make an impression. By getting that to load quicker, your site can appear much faster. So, sometimes, it might just be as simple as optimizing that image itself. 

In the past, there were metrics like First Meaningful Content, which measured time when the first piece of content appeared on screen that meant something to the user. But, unlike the name suggests, the FMC metric often couldn’t figure out what was the most meaningful thing that appeared on screen. Complex metrics lead to useless data.

Largest Contentful Paint is easy to understand: it is simply the time it takes for the largest element to appear on the screen. These elements might include images, videos or other types of content. 

What you need to know

Now you know what the LCP is you can start optimizing for it. According to Google, you should aim for the LCP to happen within the first 2.5 seconds of the page loading. Everything under 4 seconds needs improvement and you can consider everything over that as performing poorly. 

An overview of the scoring for LCP

The LCP is also dynamic, as the first thing that loads might not immediately be that large image. The LCP shifts to that large image when that appears on screen. 

Here’s an image from Google that explains how the works:

This image from Google gives you a good idea of how the LCP is measured

On the left, you first see the logo and ‘Visual stories’ line appear. In the second screen, the large headline appears as a candidate for LCP. In the last screen, however, you see that big image overtakes the header as LCP. If you have just one big piece of content, that might be the LCP the whole time.

If you look at the loading process in the image, you can easily see why this is such a handy metric. You can easily spot what the LCP is and optimize the loading of that element. 

Google offers several tools to help you find all these elements. PageSpeed Insights, for instance, offers a wealth of data on Web Vitals, plus a whole lot of advice to improve your page. If we run yoast.com on PageSpeed Insights, we get a number of scores and below that score, advice. In our case, the LCP was average and that’s due to it being a large image. In the screenshot below, you can see that PageSpeed Insights correctly identified that element. Now you now what to improve!

PageSpeed Insights identifies the large header image as the LCP on on our site

According to Google, the LCP is affected by a number of factors: 

  • slow server response times: so optimize your server, use a CDN, cache assets, et cetera.
  • render-blocking JavaScript and CSS: so minify your CSS, defer non-critical CSS and inline critical CSS.
  • slow-loading resources: so optimize your images, preload resources, compress text files, et cetera.
  • issues on client-side rendering: so minimize critical JavaScript, use server-side rendering and pre-rendering. 

Google has more documentation on the background of LCP and how to optimize for it.

FID: First Input Delay

The First Input Delay measure the time it takes for the browser to respond to the first interaction by the user. The faster the browser reacts, the more responsive the page will appear. If you are looking to offer your users a positive experience — who isn’t? —, then you should work on the responsiveness of your pages. 

Delays happen when the browser is still doing other work in the background. So, it has loaded the page and everything looks dandy. But when you tap that button, nothing happens! That’s a bad experience and it leads to frustration. Even if there’s just a small delay it might make your site feel sluggish and unresponsive.

A browser has to do a lot of work and sometimes it needs to park certain requests, only to come back later to them. It can’t do everything all at once. As we’re building ever more complex sites — often powered by JavaScript — we’re asking a lot from browsers. To speed up the process between getting content on screen and making it interactive, we need to focus on the FID. 

The FID measures all interaction that happen during the loading of the page. These are input actions like taps, clicks and keypresses, but not interactions like zooming and scrolling. Google’s new metrics call for an FID of less than 100ms to appear responsive. Anything between 100ms and 300ms needs improvement and you can view anything above that as performing poorly.

After testing the FID you get a score and you can work from there

What you need to know

One of the things you need to remember is that you cannot measure the FID if there is no user interaction. This means that Google can’t simply predict the FID based on the data they have from the lab — they need data from real users, or so-called field data. This also means that this data is less controllable as lab data as it collects data from users will all kinds of devices and who uses in different ways and environments. This is one of the reasons why you sometimes see data change.

If you are looking to improve your scores, you will often find JavaScript to be the culprit of bad grades. JavaScript helps us build awesome interactions, but it can also lead to slow websites with complex code. Often, the browser cannot respond to input while it is executing JavaScript. If you work on improving your JavaScript code and the handling of it, you are automatically working on improving your page experience scores.

This is the hardest part, though. Most sites can gain a lot by reducing the time it takes to execute JavaScript, breaking up complex tasks or removing unused JavaScript.

For instance, yoast.com has a pretty good score but it’s not perfect. There are still processes that prohibit us from getting perfect scores. Some of these are complicated to fix or we simply need this code for our site to function properly. You should look at your scores and determine what you can do. Try to find the improvements that are easiest to do or result in the biggest performance jumps.

There are always improvements to make, but you have to decide if that’s worth it — or even possible

Read Google’s documentation on FID and how to optimize FID.

CLS: Content Layout Shift

The third Core Web Vital is a brand-new one: Content Layout Shift. This metric tries to determine how ‘stable’ stuff loads onto your screen. It looks at how often stuff jumps around while loading and by how much. You can imagine that sometimes a button loads on the screen, inviting users to click it. In the background, however, there’s still a large content area being loaded. The result? When the content finally fully loads, the button pushes down a bit — just as you want to hit that button. Again, frustration mounts!

These layout shifts happen a lot with ads. Now, ads are a lifeline for many sites, but these are often loaded so poorly that they frustrate users. In addition, many complex sites have so much going on that these are heavy to load and content gets loaded whenever it’s ready. This can also result in content or CTAs that jumps around on screen, making room for slower loading content. 

Take CNN.com, for instance. News websites are typically very complex and slow to load, and CNN is no exception. It scores really badly on a PageSpeed Insights test. If you look at the issues and the corresponding tips further down the page, you’ll notice that no less than five moving elements were found at the time of writing. When loading this page, it leads to a lot of elements jumping around, and it takes a while for it to stabilize and be useful. And because users aren’t always that patient, they try to click a button at the moment it appears on screen — only to miss it because a big ad appears in that spot.

CNN.com doesn’t score too well in PageSpeed Insights. You can see it found five moving elements that contribute to the CLS

What you need to know

The Cumulative Layout Shift compares frames to determine the movement of elements. It takes all the points at which layout shifts happen and calculates the severity of those movements. Google considers anything below 0.1 good, while anything from 0.1 to 0.25 needs work. You can consider everything above 0.25 as poor. 

The scores for CLS

Of course, the score only looks at unexpected shifts. If a user clicks the menu button and a fold-out menu appears, that doesn’t count as a layout shift. But if that button does call a big change in design, you should make sure to keep that clear for the user.

I’ve already mentioned that ads are one of the main culprits of this. They are often in JavaScript and not well-optimized, plus they are served from an external server. Slowness is added in every step and you have to work hard to get your ads to appear in the right spot at a moments notice. But there’s another element that’s responsible for large layout shifts: images.

Developers don’t always specify the width and height of an image in the code and leaving it up to the browser to figure out how the image should appear on screen. On a page with some images and text, the text will appear on screen first, followed by the images. If the developer hasn’t reserved space for these images, the top part of the loading page will be filled with text, prompting the user to start reading. The images, however, load later and appear in the spot where the text was first. This pushes the text down, getting the user agitated. So, always specify the width and height of images in the CSS to reserve a spot for the images to load.

Google has a lot of background documentation on CLS, plus on how to optimize for CLS.

Tools to measure Web Vitals

There are loads of tools to help you monitor Web Vitals and improve the performance of your site. I’ve mentioned a lot of them in the first Page experience post I wrote some time ago. You can see them listed there. Here, I’d like to highlight the most important ones:

  • PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights has turned into a full-service measuring tool with both field as well as lab data. In addition, you get advice on what to improve.
  • Lighthouse: Google built Lighthouse as a tool to audit PWAs, but now it’s a great tool to monitor performance. It has several audits that PageSpeed Insights doesn’t have and it even has some SEO checks.
  • Search Console Core Web Vitals report: You can now get insights from your site straight from Search Console! Great to get a feel for how your site is performing.

These are the Core Web Vitals

Sometime in 2021, Google will update their algorithms to incorporate a new ranking factor: page experience. To measure page experience, Google developed a new set of metrics called the Web Vitals. Within these Web Vitals, you can find three core metrics: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Content Layout Shift. These stand for performance, responsiveness and visual stability — the three pillars of Google’s page experience update.

Keep focusing on your users and build an awesome site!

The post Learn about the three Core Web Vitals: LCP, FID & CLS appeared first on Yoast.

Which pages to noindex or nofollow on your site?

Some of the pages of your site serve a purpose, but that purpose isn’t ranking in search engines or even getting traffic to your site. These pages need to be there, as glue for other pages or simply because regulations require them to be accessible on your website. If you regularly read our blog, you’ll know how noindex or nofollow can help you deal with these pages. However, if you are new to these terms, please read on and let me explain what they are, and what pages they might apply to!

What is noindex nofollow?

noindex means that a web page shouldn’t be indexed by search engines and therefore shouldn’t be shown on the search engine’s result pages. nofollow means that search engines spiders shouldn’t follow the links on that page. You can add these values to your robots meta tag. The robots meta tag is a piece of code in the head section of a web page. It tells search engines how to crawl and whether to index a page.

Our ultimate guide on the robots meta tag is a great read if you want to take a bit of a deeper dive into this subject.

In short:

  • The robots meta tag looks like this in most cases:
    <meta name="robots" content="[VALUE1,VALUE2]">
  • VALUE1 and VALUE2 are set to index, follow by default, meaning the page at hand can be indexed by search engines and links on that page can be followed to crawl the pages they link to.
  • VALUE1 and VALUE2 can be set to noindex, nofollow or another combination like index, nofollow .

But don’t let this code scare you away. Yoast SEO helps you out! If you want to know how to noindex a post in WordPress, in a super-easy way, you should read this post: How to noindex a post in WordPress: the easy way.

But when should you use which value?

Pages to set to noindex

Author archives on a one-author blog

If you are the only one writing for your blog, your author pages are probably 90% the same as your blog homepage. That’s of no use to Google and can be considered duplicate content. To prevent this kind of duplicate content you can choose to disable the author archive entirely. Here’s how to enable or disable it easily with Yoast SEO. If, for some reason, you’d like to keep it on your site, but out of the search results, you can noindex it. Fortunately, with Yoast SEO, this is not very difficult either; just check how to noindex an author archive.

Certain (custom) post types

Sometimes a plugin or a web developer adds a custom post type that you don’t want to be indexed. At Yoast, for example, we use custom pages for our products, as we are not a typical online store selling physical products. So, we don’t need a product image, filters like dimensions and technical specifications on a tab next to the description. Therefore, we noindex the regular product pages WooCommerce outputs and are using our own pages. Indeed, we noindex the product post type.

Relatedly, we’ve seen eCommerce solutions that added specifications like dimensions and weight as a custom post type as well. These pages are considered to be low-quality content. You’ll understand that these pages have no use for a visitor or Google, so need to be kept out of the search result pages too.

Thank you pages

That page serves no other purpose than to thank your customer/newsletter subscriber/first-time commenter. These pages are usually thin content pages, with upsell and social share options, but no value for someone using Google to find useful information. Therefore, those pages shouldn’t be in the search results pages.

Admin and login pages

Most login pages shouldn’t be in Google. But these are. Keep yours out of the index by adding a noindex to it. Exceptions are the login pages that serve a community, like Dropbox or similar services. Just ask yourself if you would google one of your login pages if you were not in your company. If not, it’s probably safe to say that Google doesn’t need to index these login pages. Luckily, if you are running WordPress, you’re safe as the CMS noindexes your site’s login page automatically.

Internal search results

Internal search results are pretty much the last pages Google would want to send its visitors to. If you want to ruin a search experience, you link to other search pages, instead of an actual result. But the links on a search result page are still very valuable, you definitely want Google to follow them. So, all links should be followed, and the robots meta setting should be:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">

Yoast SEO makes sure your internal search pages are set to noindex by default. It’s one of Yoast SEO’s hidden features. This is not an editable setting, because it’s simply how it should be done according to the Google Guidelines, and we fully agree with them on this.

For developers only: If you do want to change this, this can be done by using one of our filters. An example can be found here.

Pages to set to nofollow

For all the examples mentioned above, there is no need to nofollow all the links on these pages. You don’t want to show them in the search results, but you do want Google to follow the links on the page. Now, when should you add a nofollow to your robots meta tag?

If you set a page to nofollow with a robots meta tag, none of the links on that page will be followed. Google came up with nofollow to be able to distinguish links to untrusted content (or, later on, paid for, like advertisements). On a regular website, there are probably very few pages you’d want Google not to follow any link.

An example: if you have a page that lists SEO books, with a surplus of Amazon affiliate links, these could be of value to your site for your users. But I’d nofollow that entire page if there’s nothing else that matters on the page. You might have it indexed, though. Just make sure you cloak your links the right way.

Nofollow single links

If you have a post or page with multiple links you might want to help search engines qualify them. Nowadays, you can nofollow a single link to, or even set it to sponsored or UGC. Adding the right rel attributes to your link allows you to do so. For instance, a link to an advertisement would look like this:  <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">example link</a>. With Yoast SEO adjusting these rel attributes is super easy, as you can see in this video:

Conclusion

As we have seen, whether or not to noindex a page or nofollow a link boils down to two questions: do you want this page to show up in the search results pages and should search engines follow the links on this page? For ‘thank you’ pages or login pages, for example, the answer to the first questions is “no”. For a page with loads of affiliate links, the answer to the second question is “no”. Keep the examples from this post in mind and you shouldn’t have any more trouble deciding the answers for your own site!

PS. Did you noindex a post or page while you didn’t mean to? No worries, as you can fix an accidental noindex easily!

Read more: How to noindex a post »

The post Which pages to noindex or nofollow on your site? appeared first on Yoast.

What are sponsored, nofollow and ugc links, and why use them?

Links are an important part of SEO. Without links, Google (or other search engines) may not discover your pages, or might not think that they’re important. Sometimes, though, you might want Google not to follow a link. Or you might want to tell them a particular is sponsored, or added to your page by a user. Why’s that? And how do you implement this on your website? Learn all about sponsored, nofollow and ugc links here!

Links and SEO

When you link to another website, search engines may count that as a ‘vote’ for the page you’re linking to. Pages which have many such ‘votes’, from authoritative and trusted websites, may rank higher in the search results as a result (as they, in turn, become more authoritative and trustworthy). That makes links a kind of currency.

That’s why a good SEO strategy should always consider how the types of content, marketing and PR that you do will encourage other websites to link to you. If you’re not already thinking about how your site can earn links from others, our guide to link building tips and tactics is a good place to get inspiration on where to start.

Link building

In the past, but still even today, people try to game the system by buying links. Obviously, that’s not the way to go; Google’s penguins might come after you! That’s why we recommend holistic link building, which boils down to creating great resources for your audience and reaching out to get the word out, eventually leading to more links.

But, what happens if you want to link to a page, without voting for it? And, what stops people from finding ways to cheat the system, such as posting links to their site on your website; on comment forms, forums, or social media profiles?

In these cases, we need to use a special type of link, to tell search engines that it shouldn’t be trusted.

The nofollow attribute

In the early days of SEO, many unscrupulous marketers realised that they could easily get hundreds of links to their pages by leaving spam comments on other blogs, by buying links from webmasters, or from placing links on any site which allowed user-submitted content.

To combat this, in 2005 Google introduced a way to mark a link as untrusted; specifically, a way of saying “don’t follow this link”. By adding a nofollow attribute to your links, they’d no longer count as votes. It also became Google’s policy that any link which is paid for (typically an advert, paid placement, or similar) should use a nofollow attribute to indicate that it shouldn’t affect their ranking calculations.

That’s because paid links are the same as a ‘vote’ for a page. For instance, if someone pays you to put an ad on your website, you might send some visitors to the advertised page or product. Since it’s not a natural endorsement, link value shouldn’t pass on to this particular page; search engines shouldn’t rank it higher because you’ve received some kind of compensation for that link.

This also made it possible to link to a page which you don’t endorse, but you still want to use it as an example in your copy (e.g., “I tried this product, but it was horrible”).

Today, almost all comment systems and social media platforms automatically add a nofollow attribute to user-submitted content.

What does that look like?

Let’s take a closer look at a link. In HTML, a plain link looks like this: <a href="https://www.example.com">example link</a>. You probably use these types of links a lot throughout your content. You use them to point readers to interesting, related content on your own site or someone else’s website.

If you want to indicate that you don’t trust the site you’re linking to, or that it’s a paid placement, including the nofollow attribute would look like this: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>.

Internal links

So far, we’ve only considered whether external links should be nofollow’d. In some cases, it might also make sense to mark an internal link with a nofollow attribute. In Yoast SEO, we automatically add a nofollow attribute to internal links which point to your login or registration pages. This prevents Google from wasting resources crawling and evaluating those pages.

Nofollow doesn’t always mean “don’t follow”

It’s important to understand that most search engines treat nofollow as a ‘hint’, and might follow them whilst still ‘devaluing’ them. An announcement from Google in September 2019 clarified this:

Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.

Danny Sullivan, Google

What are sponsored and ugc links?

In September 2019, Google announced two new types of link attribute. It’s now possible to mark links as sponsored or ugc (short for ‘user-generated content), as well as nofollow. They explained that:

  • The sponsored attribute should be used to identify links which are specifically the result of paid placement; e.g., sponsored placements, advertorials, paid links, and similar.
  • The ugc attribute should be used to identify links which are created by users (e.g., author links in a comment form), which therefore aren’t necessarily trusted or endorsed by the page’s author.

In both cases, these work similarly to the original nofollow attribute – they tell Google note to count the link as a ‘vote’. We don’t know precisely how Google uses this data internally, but they’ve hinted that it’ll help them understand more about the link. That might improve how they count ‘votes’ and evaluate pages.

What does that look like?

That means that we have four different types of HTML markup for links:

  • A normal link, with no rel attribute
  • A nofollow link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>
  • A sponsored link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="sponsored">example link</a>
  • A user-generated content link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="ugc">example link/a>

Combining attributes

Whilst each of these attributes describe different types of links, it’s possible to combine various rel attributes in one link. For instance, a sponsored and nofollow attribute can exist in one link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">example link</a>.

This is useful, because not all search engines support the two new rel attributes, so it’s best practice to use the nofollow attribute along with the sponsored and ugc attribute.

So, now you know what these links and rel attributes look like. But why and when should you use them?

When should you use which attribute?

The sponsored attribute

An advertisement or link you get paid for or in any other way should use the sponsored attribute. The reasoning behind this is that Google sees links to a page as an endorsement; you link to an article because it’s a valuable resource you’d like to point your users to. When you get paid to place a reference to another website your motivation is different. It might be something you wouldn’t link to without compensation. With the sponsored attribute Google can differentiate these “unnatural links” from normal links.

As other search engines won’t recognise this sponsored attribute (yet), we do recommend to add the nofollow attribute to this type of link as well.

The UGC attribute

You should use the ugc attribute whenever users of your website are able to create content or links on it; e.g., in the comment section on your site. If you’re on WordPress, there’s no need to worry about this attribute; WordPress automatically adds a ugc attribute, as well as a nofollow attribute – a specific request from our team – to the links in the comment section on your site.

The nofollow attribute

As not all search engines support the sponsored or ugc attribute (yet) you should still add the nofollow attribute to both these type of links as well.

Creating sponsored or nofollow links in WordPress

While this might sound a bit complicated when you’re not an HTML native, qualifying links is simple with the WordPress block editor and Yoast SEO. Since Yoast SEO 14.4 we’ve added an option to easily add a sponsored or nofollow attribute to a link in your content.

If you want to nofollow a link or qualify it as sponsored (and nofollow at the same time), click on the link icon, paste your link and you’ll see these options:

Adjust a link setting in Yoast SEO: add nofollow or sponsored to you link with a slider

Select the option of your choice by moving the slider and you’re done!

Rather watch a video? Check this out:

You’ll find more about this on our help page on link settings. Good luck!

Read more: Do outbound links matter for SEO? »

The post What are sponsored, nofollow and ugc links, and why use them? appeared first on Yoast.

Yoast SEO 14.4: An improved publishing flow

Sometimes, you have releases that start out small and end up with a substantial improvement. Yoast SEO 14.4 is one such release. Initially plannend as a bug fix release, this turned into something that markedly improves the publishing workflow in WordPress. Plus, you can now mark your external links as nofollow or sponsored. You see, Yoast SEO 14.4 is a chockfull release!

A new flow for your SEO-optimized content

Yoast SEO helps you optimize your content to make it awesome for readers as well as search engines. Over the years, Yoast SEO quickly turned into one of the most used writing tools in the world. We’re very proud of that, but we felt there were a couple steps missing from the publishing flow. Plus, we noticed people struggling to find our sidebar in the block editor. Our CTO, Omar Reiss, came up with the concept for improving this and built most of it himself — we even dubbed this The Omar Release internally. Thanks to him, we now have a flow that gives you more SEO insights throughout the publishing process.

One of the most important parts of Yoast SEO is the feedback you get from the SEO analysis and readability analysis. These tools make sure that your content is up to scratch. Now, we make sure that these scores are visible in a number of additional steps. In short, here are the three steps:

  • See how your content scores straight from the Document sidebar in the block editor.
  • Ready to publish? Get reassurance about the quality of your post and make adjustments if you’re not happy yet.
  • Done? Publish the post and immediately share it on Twitter and Facebook via our new sharing buttons.

Here’s how that looks:

By adding SEO scores to these steps, we give you a better handle on your content quality. This is very helpful — sometimes you just need a little positive feedback to hit that publish button!

CTO Omar Reiss on the publishing flow

Did you know we have a sidebar in the WordPress block editor? No? Well, you’re not alone. Omar Reiss, had this to say on that topic: “We’ve noticed for a while that users new to the block editor have trouble finding our sidebar. In the Classic Editor, we’ve always been visible in the publishing screen, but for the block editor, we made an entire sidebar for Yoast SEO. To reach this, you needed to click the big Y logo on the top of the screen. In Yoast SEO 14.4, we’re making it much easier to find by integrating it in the Document sidebar. Now, you immediately see the familiar bullets once you open a post.”

We’re not just making Yoast SEO easier to find, but we’re also guiding people more. Omar: “SEO is crucial in the content publication process. We believe in holistic SEO and SEO plays a part in every step of the process. I’m happy that we can help people remember to work on that. Every post benefits from looking at it with an eye for SEO and the publication flow helps you do that. In addition, that final check makes sure that you can publish you content without hesitation!”

Omar didn’t just came up with the idea of these improvements, but he also built them himself. Omar explains: “I’ve been getting back into programming and for this project I had the chance to work with a couple of interesting Gutenberg APIs. These helped me to get everything going pretty quickly. I have to say, from an extensibility perspective, Gutenberg is maturing quickly! Soon, I’ll publish a blog post about my experiences with these Gutenberg APIs.”

Mark outgoing links with nofollow/sponsored

The second addition is an easy way to block search engines from following outgoing links by setting them as nofollow or even sponsored. It has always been a good idea to mark external links as nofollow — especially if these lead to pages you don’t really endorse. In addition, you can use these signal that these links might have been commercial and you don’t want search engines to follow these.

Recently, Google announced a new way to mark commercial links as such: sponsored. It is not mandatory to mark links you paid for with this new attribute, but it helps Google get a better sense of what happens with links on the web.

In the WordPress block editor, you can now easily mark links as nofollow. In addition, you can also mark these as sponsored in Yoast SEO 14.4. When you mark a link as sponsored, it automatically also applies a nofollow to that link. This is according to Google’s guidelines.

See it in action below:

More background in our help documentation on which link setting you should use. Tomorrow, we publish a new post on our SEO blog that goes into this in more detail.

Sharing on social media

You can see third new feature as part of the publishing flow mentioned above, but I’d still like to highlight it separately. In Yoast SEO 14.4, we made it much easier to share your freshly published post on social media like Twitter and Facebook. After you’ve hit Publish, you will be greeted with a new Share your post setting. Simply click the Facebook or Twitter icon to publish your new masterpiece to the corresponding platform.

Published your brand-new post? Make sure to let your audience know about it by directly sharing it on social media

Yoast SEO 14.4: More SEO insights

That’s Yoast SEO 14.4 for you! This release comes with a better workflow for publishing SEO-proof articles, including a new way to share your content on social media. In addition, we made it a lot easier for you to discourage search engines from following external links.

The post Yoast SEO 14.4: An improved publishing flow appeared first on Yoast.

The welcoming community of WordPress

“I came for the software and stayed for the community.” In this episode of our series Why we love WordPress, I’ll show you what’s behind the software we love. Software isn’t writing itself (yet), and behind WordPress is a great number of volunteer teams working on the software and everything around it. These people are the driving force behind WordPress. Together they form a big (online) family, one that I hold very dear. And today, I want you to meet my family!

WordPress is more than software

Usually, when we speak about WordPress, we’re referring to the software. We’re referring to the code that you can install and use to build your website on. This nifty piece of software is also called ‘WordPress Core’ because it’s at the core of everything we do. Core is built by hundreds of developers. But the WordPress project isn’t limited to the Core. It isn’t limited to the code. It’s a lot bigger than that!

When you went to download WordPress over at wordpress.org, you visited the main platform for WordPress. It’s built and maintained by people on the Meta team. Or, maybe you’re Dutch and went to nl.wordpress.org, which is the same platform but translated by people on the Polyglots team.

Then, after downloading and installing WordPress you probably decided that you want a custom theme for your brand new website. So, you go over to the themes section on wp.org and pick one of the free themes listed. All of these themes are built by people and companies who offer them for free, and all are reviewed by the people on the Theme Review Team before they’re offered to you. The same goes for all of the 56,000+ plugins listed. They are all reviewed by volunteers on the plugins team.

Are you getting an idea of the number of volunteers involved with WordPress? Great! Now consider I’ve only mentioned a few of the 18 (!!) teams working on the WordPress project. As you can see, people are at the heart of the WordPress project. People, volunteers, who are willing to put in all this effort to help themselves and each other. For so many people to work together on one project successfully, you need a strong sense of community. WordPress has exactly that.

Who are these people?

In WordPress, you’ll find people from all walks of life, all trades and all levels of expertise. Each and every one of them has their own reason to be involved with the project. Maybe it’s to learn from experts in their field, maybe they love open source, want to improve the web for millions of people worldwide, or to give back to the project that’s giving them a lot. Everyone has their own story to tell, and I can only encourage you to listen to those stories.

What I found they all have in common is a great passion for their area of expertise in the WordPress project. And it’s the positive energy they bring to the project that makes WordPress what it is today. Most contributors to WordPress started out as users of the software, who found a problem and started fixing it. It’s that collective mindset of wanting to make WordPress better for everyone that defines both the people and the project.

Some of them found their job through contributing to WordPress. Others are now employed just to work on the project. Some are building websites and submitting patches to resolve the problems they’re running into. Others have their day jobs in completely different fields but contribute their spare time for the fun of contributing.

Regardless of their reasons, WordPress is thriving because of the passion of its contributors, the WordPress community.

Joining the WordPress community

I know. Reading about the energy the community gives makes you want to join it. And you know what the best part is? You’re most welcome! The WordPress community is a friendly, inclusive, and welcoming bunch that would be happy to have you.

Back in 2013 when I was completely new to WordPress, one of the most experienced contributors to WordPress told me this; “All you have to do to be part of the community is show up. And here you are. Welcome!”.

If you want to be part of this group of amazing people too, all you have to do is find something you’re passionate about, something that’s currently broken you want to fix, or something that you see can be improved in WordPress. Listen to the conversations in teams, especially when you don’t know what to work on yet. Show up, and start doing the work. Talk to the people on the team about your ideas and you’ll find they’ll be the first to welcome you in.

Meeting the community

Much of what’s happening in WordPress is happening online. So you can meet the WordPress community from basically anywhere with an internet connection.

Make WordPress and Slack

Make WordPress is the central location for all the teams in the WordPress community. Each team has its own blog and its own handbook. The handbooks are the ‘playbooks’ for each team. They describe what the team does, how it’s done, and how to get started as a new contributor to the team. So it’s a great place to learn about all the teams.

Day-to-day communication within and between teams happens in Slack. Slack is chat software, based on IRC – for those of you old enough to remember it, like me. Everyone who has a wordpress.org account can join the WordPress Slack. Almost 35.000 WordPressers now have an account on the WordPress Slack. This makes it a great place to meet, have discussions, and share information for everyone involved with WordPress.

Social media

Meeting people who are working with WordPress -obviously- isn’t limited to the official channels. You can find WordPress user groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, check out tutorials on YouTube, and follow WordPressers on Instagram and Twitter. Who knows, you might even find TikTok videos on WordPress. All of these networks allow you to interact with the people behind WordPress.

Is everything happening online then?

Well, the timing for that question is interesting, given the current state of the world with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, under normal circumstances, there are also great opportunities to meet in person. These -mostly local- events come in two flavors; Meetups and WordCamps.

Meetups

WordPress meetups are highly local events where WordPress enthusiasts, users, students, developers, configurations, and everyone who has ever touched or is planning to touch, WordPress can go. They’re mostly free events that are organized in the evening once a month, or every couple of months to talk about WordPress and the things you can do with it. You can find all the official WordPress Meetups on meetup.com. If there’s one near you, I can highly recommend you to go check it out!

WordCamps

The bigger version of a meetup is a WordCamp. They’re usually one or two days long conferences featuring presentations about a wide variety of WordPress-related topics. The conference tickets are kept low-cost with the help of amazing sponsors. Again, if you really want to get involved, this is the place to be! And I’m not just saying that for the (after)parties

You can check out all the upcoming WordCamps on wordcamp.org/schedule. And if you want to know where to go to meet Team Yoast, you can check out our calendar!

The impact of COVID-19 on offline events

Since the COVID-19 virus pandemic started, in-person events worldwide have been canceled. But when you have a community filled with positive energy, anything can happen. Anything will happen. And so, the events that used to be offline, are now moving online through Zoom, YouTube Live, and other video and streaming services.

One of the known effects of the pandemic on people, especially on those who are self-employed, is loneliness. It’s amazing to see how the WordPress community is handling that. I often see people check in on each other, just have a quick chat and keep others involved. It’s absolutely heartwarming. It’s also people from the WordPress community who started Big Orange Heart, a charity focusing on mental health support for remote workers. And while this initiative started well before COVID-19, it’s extra important in today’s world.

Why we love the WordPress community

The WordPress community is a global group of thousands of enthusiasts who share a passion for the WordPress project. Because WordPress is open source, it attracts friendly, open and welcoming people. WordPress is thriving because of the energy these people bring, and that’s why we are actively involved in, and absolutely love the WordPress community!

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Announcement: Duplicate Post joins Yoast

Today, we’re very proud to announce that Yoast has acquired the Duplicate Post plugin. This plugin, with well over 3 million users, is one of the most popular WordPress plugins right now. The reason for that is clear: it does one task simple and well. Also, its original developer, Enrico Battocchi, will join Yoast as a senior developer and will remain one of the leading developers on the plugin.

Why did we acquire Duplicate Post?

We see that there are multiple reasons for using the Duplicate Post plugin. These range from people who use it to republish existing articles with a proper review step, to people who simply don’t want to recreate an entire page layout every time. All of these actions are very useful, and most of them have some impact, either positive or negative, on SEO. We feel that by building better integrations between Yoast SEO and Duplicate Post we can further simplify people’s workflows and help them maintain their site health.

When I started talking to Enrico about this we quickly figured out that we could work together more efficiently if he joined Yoast. Enrico created Duplicate Post well over 10 years ago and he’s taken great care of it so far. We want to thank him for that and certainly not take that out of his hands completely. He’ll still have an important voice in its future development. In fact, some features we suggested, he’d already wanted to build but simply lacked the time and resources to do so. And that’s why this transaction happened.

Enrico shared his thoughts in his own blog post here. But we’ll give you a sneak peek of what he has to say:

“I‘m excited to join them because I’m confident that Yoast will be a great new home for Duplicate Post, and its users will benefit from all the advantages of an inventive company that can provide quality, support, and vision for the future.

So, what are we going to do with it?

I’ll be honest: I don’t like talking about features until they’re done. One of the first things we’ll do is improve on the plugin’s accessibility. One of our other Italian team members, our accessibility specialist Andrea Fercia, has already reviewed the plugin and we’re going to make sure the accessibility is top notch. 

Soon after that, we’ll add some simple integrations between Yoast SEO and Duplicate Post. Such as making sure that the user roles that Yoast SEO adds, SEO Editor and SEO Manager, can duplicate posts.

Currently, we do not have plans to make a premium version of Duplicate Post, nor do we want to take any functionality away from the current plugin. We simply want to make this plugin better and improve everybody’s workflows with it.

We at Yoast, now including Enrico, are really excited about all the current and future opportunities for our plugins that this acquisition brings. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them!

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Checking mobile site speed and SEO with Google Lighthouse

Two words you often hear together are mobile and site speed. And that’s not without reason because these two go hand in hand. Mobile-friendliness and site speed are some of the most pressing matters we have to deal with. Measuring page speed has always been something of a dark art. The site speed tools we use today are fairly adequate, but with the new Web Vitals metrics Google is trying to come at it from a different, more realistic angle, taking page experience into account. Here, I’ll take a closer look at how to check your mobile site speed and SEO with Google Lighthouse.

Table of contents

What is Google Lighthouse?

Lighthouse is a page experience tool built by Google and was initially meant to audit Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The tool executes five audits for accessibility, performance, SEO, Progressive Web Apps and an extended list of best practices. Powered by the new Core Web Vitals, these audits together give you an excellent overview of the quality and performance of your mobile website as well as your desktop site, or web app.

Site speed is all about perception and user experience. Speed in numbers means nothing if your site still feels slow. Loads of users around the world are on rather crappy mobile connections of 3G or less. Even with lightning-fast 5G connections, a site can simply feel laggy and slow. And we all know what a devastating effect a slow site can have on your conversion. Shaving milliseconds of the time needed to load your site could make a world of difference. Not to mention the frustration that happens when a slow-loading ad pushes down the button you just wanted to click.

You can run a Lighthouse audit straight from the Developer Tools in Google Chrome — or install the Chrome extension

While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile site via a flaky 3G connection on a slightly underpowered device. Packets are lost in an attempt to simulate real-world conditions as authentically as possible. These insights are combined with other data. After running the test, you’ll get a report with a score and actionable advice with issues to tackle.

PageSpeed Insights vs. Google Lighthouse

PageSpeed Insights is probably the most used site speed analysis tool out there. It gives you a nice score and a list of possible improvements, plus it gives you an idea of the perceived loading speed of your site. Also, PageSpeed Insights gives recommendations and identifies opportunities to improve the performance of your page. Some of these do tend to be hard implement, so getting a 100/100 is a pipe dream for most sites.

PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse used to be two different tools for the job. They both provided valuable insights, but were hard to combine. With the advent of Web Vitals and the page experience update, Google improved the metrics across the board. Not only did they become easier to understand, they were also shared metrics. Of course, each tool is made for a specific subtask and offers specific metrics. These metrics come from different environments.

Field data vs. lab data

Web Vitals introduced new ways of determining performance. Some of these metrics can be calculated in a lab setting — simulated, so to say, while other metric only make sense if their are tested and collected in the field. In addition, some metrics work well in both settings. Google page experience tools use a variety of the metrics to provide you with the data you need to improve your site.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that some metrics only work in lab tools like the Developer Tools and Lighthouse. The field metrics appear in tools like the Web Vitals report in Search Console and PageSpeed Insights. The Core Web Vitals like LCP, FID and CLS will work everywhere.

Core Web Vitals

The brand-new Core Web Vitals will appear in all Google tools that measure site speed, performance and experience — even in the new Web Vitals report in Search Console. Now, you simply have to understand three basic metrics to get a sense of how your site or specific pages are performing. These Core Web Vitals are:

These new Web Vitals take a much more practical approach and put user experience front and center. The tools visit your site over a throttled connection on an average device so it can emulate what a real visitor in the real world might experience. Instead of just loading your site like the classic speed tools used to do, these Web Vitals-powered tools check how and when it responds to input — and if stuff happens after the initial load. It finds the exact moment when your content is ready to use, so you can try and optimize that when it feels too slow. Plus, you can find annoyances that hinder a good page experience.

Also, keep in mind that Lighthouse not only measures performance, but also checks SEO, various best practices and accessibility. It is a complete tool that helps you improve your site holistically.

PageSpeed Insights gives slightly different scores. You’ll also notice a difference between Field Data and Lab Data

What to look for in Lighthouse results

The whole concept of speeding up your mobile site is two-pronged; your site must be fast, and it must feel fast. You, therefore, need to get your content on screen as fast as possible. Don’t let people wait. Also, users must be able to interact with your content as soon as possible. Since Google announced that page speed and page experience are ranking factors for SEO, you need to fix these issues.

What should your priority be? Load your content first. Awesome graphics and killer animations can wait. Your message – and what people are looking for – is most likely in the content. You can load the rest of the content in the background and ease it on the screen later on.

Performance metrics used by Lighthouse 6.0

While measuring the performance of your site, Lighthouse 6.0 uses the following metrics:

  • First Contentful Paint: FCP measures how long it takes the browser to render the first piece of DOM content after a user navigates to your page. This includes, images, non-white <canvas> elements, and SVGs but excludes stuff inside an iframe.
  • Speed Index: The Speed Index measures how quickly content is visually displayed during page load. 
  • Largest Contentful Paint: The LCP is all about how long it takes for the largest content object (for instance, an image or a block of text) to load. This is one of the most important new metrics. Here, having a good score means users perceive your site as loading quickly.
  • Time to Interactive: TTI measures the time it takes from loading the page to when it is capable of reliably responding to user input quickly. The page might look quick to load, only to find that pushing some buttons doesn’t do anything yet.
  • Total Blocking Time: The TBT measures the time between the FCP and TTI where blockades can happen, preventing responsiveness.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: The CLS looks at the number of layout shifts that happen during the full loading process of the page. Every time an element jumps around on the screen from frame to frame, this counts as a layout shift. Remember those nasty ads that load at the last moment?

You can see how your score is calculated by going to the Lighthouse Scoring Calculator:

The Lighthouse Scoring Calculator shows the weight of the difference metrics

The Lighthouse report also features some opportunities to improve the site speed of your mobile site, including how much loading time they will save. These include reducing render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, properly sizing images and fixing offscreen images.

Lighthouse identifies the largest contentful paint element so you can easily optimize that

All in all, Lighthouse gives you a tremendous amount of insight into the performance of your page. Use these insights to your advantage.

The Lighthouse SEO check

Lighthouse doesn’t do just performance, it also has an accessibility test, suggestions on improving your site based on best practices and a PWA analysis. Another cool Lighthouse features is the basic SEO check. With this check, you can run a simple SEO audit to uncover basic SEO issues a site may have. It gives you suggestions to fix them as well. Since Lighthouse runs locally in your browser, you can run the checks on your staging environment as well.

Currently, Lighthouse checks:

Although basic, the Lighthouse checks will alert you of any SEO problems to fix.

How to install Google Lighthouse

Getting started with Google Lighthouse is very easy as it is built into Chrome’s Developer Tools Audit panel (Mac: Shift+Cmd+I. Win: Ctrl+Shift+J or F12). From there, you can run the test and get the full report. In addition, there is a separate Chrome add-on for Lighthouse that adds a button to your toolbar, though using it stays the same with a few restrictions : you can’t validate sites on your local server and authenticated pages also won’t work.

You can also run Lighthouse as a Node package. This way, you can incorporate the test into your build process. When using the Node package, you will also see that there are a couple of audits that only work in a Node environment and not in the Audits panel of the DevTools.

To install Lighthouse globally from the command line use:

npm install -g lighthouse

If you want to run a test for https://example.com use:

lighthouse https://example.com

The full results of the audit will be available in the terminal, but also in a separate HTML file.

You can fine-tune the test as you see fit

Testing Yoast.com in Lighthouse

It’s time to put Lighthouse through its paces. Let’s see what happens when I shine the spotlight of the lighthouse on yoast.com — as seen by a mobile browser. Today, we’re only focussing on the Performance tab. This tab shows how your site or app performs currently and shows you ways to improve it.

In the screenshot below, you can see the results for yoast.com. The initial loading of the mobile site is visualized by a number of screenshots showing when the content first appears onscreen. The metrics show how long it takes for the content to become visible. The faster, the better.

You get the most important metrics in one screen

In the metrics section, you’ll find the most important information, with a green, orange or red dot to show how good the performance is. When you want to optimize the performance of your mobile site, you need to watch the figures for first contentful paint, largest contentful paint and time to interactive, as mentioned earlier. Also, try to improve the speed index and make sure that nothing jumps around on screen.

From the grades, you can see that yoast.com does pretty well with a 78 overall score. The first contentful paint could be a bit better, but the speed index and total blocking time are good. Luckily, there are no elements found shifting in the layout. There’s still something to gain by eliminating render-blocking resources, like some JavaScript and CSS. In other words, the site appears to be rather fast but still could use some speeding up in the appearance part.

Implementing site speed fixes

There’s a lot you can do to improve your site speed. While explaining all the fixes is beyond the scope of this post, many optimizations can be found in the critical rendering path. The critical rendering path is formed by objects – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. Google’s Ilya Grigorik wrote a great guide on how to understand and improve the critical rendering path. And please, optimize your images! Last but not least, don’t forget to read up on Google’s new Web Vitals.

Try it!

Google Lighthouse isn’t the one site speed tool to rule them all, but it is a very valuable addition to your toolkit. The SEO checks are basic, but welcome nonetheless. Lighthouse is more fine-grained and gives you immediate feedback based on real-world usage. You should definitely use it along with your other page speed test tools, like PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest and GTmetrix.

Are you using Google Lighthouse? How do you find it? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Read more: Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide »

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Yoast SEO 14.3: Italian word forms in beta

The biggest eye-catcher in Yoast SEO 14.3 is word form support for the Italian language in the Premium analysis. This makes it language number seven to make use of this awesome feature. Find out all about it! Plus, Yoast SEO 14.3 comes with improved French word form support and a number of bug fixes.

Another language gets word form support

Over the past months, we’ve been quickly expanding our line-up of languages that support the word form feature in Yoast SEO Premium. For the first four languages — English, German, Dutch and Spanish —, we custom developed the word recognition functionality. This takes a lot of time and effort to get this right for every language.

As of Yoast SEO 14.1, we’re adding languages at an earlier stage and asking our users for feedback to build upon and improve. This way, you can already use the word form recognition features, while we continually make it better.

In Yoast SEO 14.3, we’re adding another language: this time it’s Italian! Again, this is a beta release and we’d like you to help us improve it. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in Italian much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find that happens, let us know!

Yoast SEO Premium: Word form support for Italian

As of today, Italian language users can use Yoast SEO Premium in 14.3 to get a more flexible, natural writing and editing environment. Besides, the possibility to optimize your text with synonyms and related keyphrases should not be understated. All these tools are fine-tuned to help you build the best possible content, without having to think about awkwardly fitting in keywords to get green bullets.

Curious what this all means? Check out this video, that’ll explain everything for you!

As of today, the full list of languages that have word form recognition support in Yoast SEO Premium:

Feedback button is live

The last couple of languages we’ve added word form support form received a beta status. For these releases, we’ll allow users to provide feedback to signal improvements. Once again, we’d like to ask Yoast SEO Premium users in the French, Italian and Russian languages to send us your findings. Together, we make word form support an even better tool for everyone!

If you use Yoast SEO Premium in French, Italian or Russian, you can see the new feedback option just below the focus keyphrase field. Simply click the link, and fill in the fields in the popup. We’re asking you to supply us with the following:

  • The focus keyphrase you’ve used for this specific piece of text.
  • The sentence in which you’ve noticed one of the assessments working incorrectly for the focus keyphrase you mentioned above.

That’s all! We’ll make sure to put your feedback to good use. It’ll help us improve your language. Here’s what that feedback option looks like:

You can now send us your feedback on word form recognition from the post editor

Improved French word forms

The first language for which we released word forms in beta, was French. We’ve received a bunch of feedback for this and — combined with our own research and enhancements —, we made a number of improvements. In Yoast SEO Premium 14.3, we can more easily:

  • recognize keywords in words ending in -is/us/os.
  • recognize keyphrases containing words ending in “ent” in the text.
  • recognize word forms in short French words (e.g. oursour; âmesâme).

Thanks to everyone who sent us feedback and keep it coming!

Bug fixes and code improvements

In every release of Yoast SEO, we fix bugs and find other ways to enhance our code. For instance, we’re always working on quality assurance, code styling and other behind the scenes work. In addition, we fix bugs because they often need fixing. Sometimes they can be as small making sure the itemlist in our FAQ schema output now correctly counts up from one. Find the complete list of changes in the changelog.

Yoast SEO 14.3: get it now!

One of our main goals is to steadily improve language support in Yoast SEO. Over a number of releases, we added word form recognition support for Italian, Russian and French, with more to come.

The post Yoast SEO 14.3: Italian word forms in beta appeared first on Yoast.

10 years of Yoast and SEO: Webinar recap

Last Friday, May 29th, Yoast celebrated its 10th anniversary, and we invited everyone to join us! And what better way to celebrate than with an awesome, interactive webinar? We had multiple talks, Q&As, live site reviews, all with loads of SEO tips, insights and practical advice. Of course, we understand that not everyone could join the live webinar. So, here’s a quick recap of the sessions, plus the links to all the videos, so you don’t have to miss out!

Wondering what you’ll learn from the talks in this webinar? Here’s an example of someone’s takeaway from one of the sessions:

Pretty cool, right? Here are all the videos, so let’s dive right in!

Joost on 10 years of SEO for everyone

Remember what your world looked like in 2010? Joost takes you on a trip down memory lane and shows you some highlights of the past 10 years. What did Google (literally) look like back then? And how did this search engine evolve? But also: what didn’t change? Lots of advice we gave 10 years ago, still stands today. How’s that possible? Joost walks you through 10 years of Google and Yoast!
Plus, if you want to have a peek at Joost’s first official Yoast desk in his attic 10 years ago, you need to watch this video:

Marieke on the importance of readability

In this talk, Marieke explains why we feel readability is important for both your users and your SEO. She gives a few useful tips to improve the readability of your text and gives an insight into the readability analysis of our plugin. So, are you curious about why we would not recommend our plugin to literary heroes such as Dickens and Shakespeare? And what we site owners can all learn from children’s books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Watch the video to find out:

Three parallel live site reviews

Live site review – Technical SEO

Ever wanted to see how experts pick apart websites to offer advice on technical SEO? Here’s your chance! Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson tackle three websites — a horse ranch in the US, a shop making artisan leather bags and a self-help site —, and come up with a boatload of tips to improve these sites. You’ll get insights into international SEO, crawling, site structure, taxonomies, schema improvements and a lot more. Go check it out!

Live site review – User experience (UX)

What do clear call-to-actions, readable fonts, an intuitive design, useful videos, and high-quality copy all have in common? They’re essential for an excellent user experience on your site. In this webinar, Michiel, Thijs, Annelieke, and Judith walk you through a couple of websites and point out some common UX issues that happen on many sites and which you’d want to prevent on yours. Of course, they’ll highlight the great things about these websites too! In need of some examples of what (not) to do when it comes to the usability of your site? Check this out:

Live site review – SEO copywriting

During this review, Marieke, Willemien, Edwin and Fleur, discuss the content of a few different sites. And although the feedback they give is specific to these sites, these can be very helpful for any site owner out there. So watch their review if you want to know why it’s so important to keep a goal in mind while you write, how site structure can help your visitors and what our opinion is on stock photos:

Jono on how to use schema to build your brand and boost authority

Our resident SEO wizard Jono Alderson has been advocating the use of schema structured data for over 10 years. Over the years, structured data has been getting more and more important, but not really easier to implement — although the results of implementing it can get you great rewards. But why is Google pushing this so hard? And how does the Yoast SEO schema structured data framework fit into this story? Listen to Jono explain why this next frontier is now within reach for everyone. You can also learn how Yoast SEO makes implementing structured data a whole lot easier.

That’s it for this webinar – stay tuned!

That’s it for this recap! We hope you enjoyed it and got some great takeaways for your site; we really had an awesome time with all of you! This definitely won’t be our last webinar, so keep an eye on Yoast.com, social media, or just sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know!

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