Another week, another roundup! We saw WordPress’ growth hit an important milestone last week, and an interesting proposal was made concerning available blocks in the editor. Let’s see what that’s all about! In this edition of my roundup, I also share a few more tricks about the Block Editor itself. And, last but not least, I have a bonus link for you again. Of course I do!
WordPress now powers one-third of the web!
Last week, Joost published an article on the WordPress.org site about WordPress now powering ⅓ of the web. Well, technically it’s ⅓ of the top 10 million sites, but still, that’s a staggering amount of WordPress sites out there now. Go check out his post to learn more.
An interesting proposal for a Block Directory was published on the Make WordPress Core blog that has the potential of being big:
If you’d like to find out more about what this proposal is about, go on and read Alex’ post.
Gutenberg tips and tricks
In a previous roundup, I shared some tips on using Gutenberg. Today I have a few more tips to share on how to best make use of the new Block Editor.
The WordPress Block Editor comes with a feature that’s called ‘Reusable block’. This feature allows you to define one specific block or a combination of blocks to be saved and reused anywhere else on the site.
When would you use that, you ask? Maybe you want to highlight one of your products on several pages. Or you have certain posts that need some sort of disclaimer at the bottom. Instead of having to write that same paragraph from scratch every single time, you write it once, save it as a reusable block and select it where needed.
You can save a block to your reusable blocks by clicking ‘More options’ (the icon with three dots in the bar directly above your block) then ‘Add to reusable blocks’. Once you’ve done that, you can find the reusable block when adding a new block. It’ll be at the end of the list under the tab, ‘Reusable’, with the name you gave it.
Use your reusable blocks on other sites
Now that you know how to create reusable blocks, it’s time we make this a bit more exciting! Did you know you can export your reusable blocks from one site and import them on another? Yes, you can! This is how: to access your blocks, click on the icon with the three dots in the top-right corner. Then, select Manage All Reusable Blocks and you’ll be taken to an admin interface where you can export your blocks into a JSON file.
You can import that same JSON file in another site via the same admin interface screen. Isn’t that neat?
Line break, but no new paragraph in Gutenberg?
Here’s a complaint I hear a lot: “Whatever I do, I can’t add a line break without creating a new block”. Sometimes you just want to go to a new line without creating an entirely new block. Just like I did at the beginning of the previous sentence. It may feel like that’s impossible, but it isn’t. Hitting Shift+Enter creates a line break without a new block. It’s that simple.
Maybe I’m talking to the wrong crowd here, but even if I’m helping just one of you out there, I’m a happy man :)
So, this one is for those of you who develop plugins on Github, but have to jump through all kinds of fancy hoops to have those plugins committed to the WordPress.org repo. Our friends at 10Up have released a wonderful solution that allows you to publish your code on Github and only Github.
Their solution makes use of Github’s Action. Once you’ve set up your action and added your WordPress.org credentials, it will actually publish your newly created tag to the WordPress repo. I call that a win! So, if this is for you, go and check out Github Actions for WordPress.
On Yoast.com, we talk a lot about writing and readability. We consider it a very important part of good SEO. Your text needs to satisfy your users’ needs. This, in turn, will help your rankings. However, we rarely talk about how Google and other search engines read and understand texts. In this post, we’ll explore what we know about how Google analyzes online text.
Are we sure Google understands text?
We know that Google understands text to some degree. Think about it: one of the most important things Google has to do is match what the user types into the search bar to a search result. User signals alone won’t help Google to do this. Moreover, we also know that it is possible to rank for a phrase that you don’t use in your text (although it’s still good practice to identify and use one or more specific keyphrases). So clearly, Google does something to actually read and assess your text in some way or another.
What is the current status?
I’m going to be honest. We don’t really know how Google understands texts. The information simply isn’t freely available. And we also know, judging from the search results, that a lot of work is still to be done. But there are some clues here and there that we can draw conclusions from. We know that Google has taken big steps when it comes to understanding context. We also know that it tries to determine how words and concepts are related to each other. How do we know this? On the one hand, by analyzing some of the patents Google has filed over the years. On the other hand, by considering how actual search results pages have changed.
One interesting technique Google has filed patents for and worked on is called word embedding. I’ll save the details for another post, but the goal is basically to find out what words are closely related to other words. This is what happens: a computer program is fed a certain amount of text. It then analyzes the words in that text and determines what words tend to occur together. Then, it translates every word into a series of numbers. This allows the words to be represented as a point in space in a diagram, a scatter plot, for example. This diagram shows what words are related in what ways. More accurately, it shows the distance between words, sort of like a galaxy made up of words. So for example, a word like “keywords” would be much closer to “copywriting” in this space than it would be to “kitchen utensils”.
Interestingly, you can do this not only for words, but for phrases, sentences and paragraphs as well. The bigger the data set you feed the program, the better it will be able to categorize and understand words and work out how they’re used and what they mean. And, what do you know, Google has a database of the entire internet. How’s that for a dataset? With a dataset like that, it’s possible to create reliable models that predict and assess the value of text and context.
From word embeddings, it’s only a small step to the concept of related entities (see what I did there?). Let’s take a look at the search results to illustrate what related entities are. If you type in “types of pasta”, this is what you’ll see right at the top of the SERP: a heading called “pasta varieties”, with a number of rich cards that include a ton of different types of pasta. These pasta varieties are even subcategorized into “ribbon pasta”, “tubular pasta”, and several other subtypes of pasta. And there are lots and lots of similar SERPs that reflect the way words and concepts are related to each other.
The related entities patent that Google has filed actually mentions the related entities index database. This is a database in which concepts or entities, like pasta, are stored. These entities also have characteristics. Lasagna, for example, is a pasta. It’s also made of dough. And it’s a food. Now, by analyzing the characteristics of entities, they can be grouped and categorized in all kinds of different ways. This allows Google to better understand how words are related, and, therefore, to better understand context.
Now, all of this leads us to two very important points:
If Google understands context in some way or another, it’s likely to assess and judge context as well. The better your copy matches Google’s notion of the context, the better its chances. So thin copy with limited scope is going to be at a disadvantage. You’ll need to cover your topics exhaustively. And on a larger scale, covering related concepts and presenting a full body of work on your site will reinforce your authority on the topic you specialize in.
Easier texts which clearly reflect relationships between concepts don’t just benefit your readers, they help Google as well. Difficult, inconsistent and poorly structured writing is more difficult to understand for both humans and machines. You can help the search engine understand your texts by focusing on:
Good readability (that is to say, making your text as easy-to-read as possible without compromising your message).
Good structure (that is to say, adding clear subheadings and transitions).
Good context (that is to say, adding clear explanations that show how what you’re saying relates to what is already known about a topic).
The better you do, the easier your users and Google alike will understand your text and what it tries to achieve. Especially because Google seems to basically be trying to create a model that mimics the way us humans process language and information. And yes, adding your keyphrase to your text still helps Google to match your page to a query.
Google wants to be a reader
In the end, the message is this: Google is trying to be, and becoming, more and more like an actual reader. By writing rich content which is well-structured and easy to read and is clearly embedded into the context of the topic at hand, you’ll improve your chances of doing well in the search results.
It’s been in production for many months, capped off with two months of beta testing, and now it’s finally here: Yoast SEO 10.0! Yoast SEO 10.0 features a new SEO analysis, based on thorough research and fine-tuned with your feedback. More than 100.000 people helped us test this release to make it our best yet. Thanks, everyone! Please welcome to the stage: Yoast SEO 10.0 and its state-of-the-art SEO analysis.
We’d like to celebrate the release of Yoast SEO 10.0 with you. Get 10% off Yoast SEO Premium — today only!
Why change the SEO analysis?
SEO is never done. SEO changes constantly. While the basics keep fairly static, a lot of the playing field is different from years ago. We’ve learned a lot over the years about SEO in general, the importance of language, information extraction, and content analysis, among other things. One thing we learned, was that we should put more effort into researching our recommendations. Turned out we could improve communication about why we do what we do. That’s one of the things we wanted to fix in our new SEO analysis.
Almost a year of research went into Yoast SEO 10.0. We turned every nook and cranny of the SEO analysis upside down and inside out. We combined the insights of many SEO experts, linguists, developers and content specialists with research and common sense to come up with a set of improvements. All this lead to this moment, the release of a new SEO analysis in Yoast SEO 10.0. As of today, optimizing your content with Yoast SEO 10.0 is a lot more realistic.
What changed in Yoast SEO 10.0?
There were so many findings that we spread the development of features. One of the main focus points was improving the way we analyze and handle languages. Yoast SEO had to get smarter. These were no easy fixes, so these were developed separately by our team of linguists. That’s why we launched parts of the new SEO analysis earlier, like keyword distribution, word form and synonym support in Yoast SEO 9.0. The bulk of the changes coming from this project, however, are in this release, Yoast SEO 10.0.
Here are some of the changes you’ll notice once you start optimizing content with the new SEO analysis:
A new single H1 assessment: The single H1 assessment checks whether the body of the text contains an H1 at any position other than the very beginning.
Changes to the SEO assessments:
Keyphrase density. This assessment now takes the length of the focus keyphrase into account, because it can be much harder to use a longer keyphrase in your text. In the new version, you’ll need to use your longer keyphrase less often in the text than a shorter keyphrase to get a green bullet. In addition, if you write in English, Yoast SEO Premium recognizes various word forms of your focus keyphrase — for instance, [dog], [dogs] or [doggie]. Naturally, your keyword density becomes higher. This is not because you are trying to over-optimize your text, but just because the plugin became smarter. We adjusted the formula so that you do not get penalized.
Outbound links. We now show a red bullet instead of an orange one whenever we find no external links in a text. The web is built on links and you can help sustain that by adding relevant outbound links wherever it makes sense.
Image alt attributes. As of now, the plugin not only looks at the number of images with alt text on a page but also whether the number of images with the keyphrase in the alt text falls within a certain percentage when you have multiple images, preventing you from over-optimizing.
Keyphrase in title. For various languages, we’ll now filter out function words that precede the keyphrase in the title. This means that if you use words like [the], [on] or [what] before your keyphrase in the title, it won’t affect your score. The analysis will understand that you use your keyphrase at the beginning of your title and you’ll get a green bullet.
Keyphrase length. In the new Yoast SEO analysis, languages without function word support can have longer focus keyphrases, because there might be function words like the or for between your content words.
Keyphrase in subheading. Depending on whether we’ve already added support for your language, different rules apply when it comes to checking if you used the focus keyphrase in the subheading or not. For supported languages, you need to use all content words in your subheading for it to be recognized as reflecting your topic. For non-supported languages, we will check if you used at least half of the words from your keyphrase within a subheading.
Text length. We’ve upped the word limit for taxonomy pages to a minimum of 250. This gives you more incentive to write enough, good quality content on your tag and category pages, making it easier for search engines to rank these pages.
Gone from the SEO analysis:
We’ve deprecated the assessments that check the length of your URL and whether your URL contains stopwords.
The rest of the assessments of the SEO analysis remain unchanged. You can find all the different checks in Yoast SEO on the assessment overview page.
New Premium feature: Stale cornerstone content filter
Yoast SEO Premium users also get a new feature: the stale cornerstone content filter. We already offered the possibility to mark your most important posts as cornerstone content, but we’re adding a feature that helps you keep that content fresh. The stale cornerstone content filter helps you keep these updated. It gives you a notification in the WordPress post overview once a cornerstone content article hasn’t been updated in over six months. Here’s how you can use the stale cornerstone content filter.
People love the new SEO analysis
We’ve been beta testing the new SEO analysis with you, our valued user. Many of you gave us very detailed feedback on their experiences with the new SEO analysis. Of course, there are always improvements to be made, but in general, users are positive about the new SEO analysis. Here are a few of the reactions we got, republished with permission:
Yoast has continued to improve the way they help content producers like myself achieve better SEO with respect to our articles and reviews. I’ve grown to trust their prowess in staying up to date with changes in best practices as it relates to Google and other search engines. As a result, my SEO writing has improved, and I tend to trust their opinions when it comes to subtle shifts in content and formatting recommendations. Their newest SEO analysis changes are no exception.
Clint DeBoer, Lakeland, USA
I thought the previous version was good in that it improved the way I wrote and presented my webpages and blogs. However, in my opinion, the new version is more user-friendly and produces better results. I rate it 5 stars.
Jurie Fourie, Pretoria, South Africa
I think Yoast SEO analysis is an awesome tool that has helped improve my online writing immensely. I can’t imagine doing what I love to do without the help of Yoast’s SEO analysis. Yes, it’s a pain in the behind at times. But at the end of the day, SEO analysis is that omnipresent, yet silent content editor and writing coach we all need. Thank you Yoast for building such an outstanding product.
Rod Thomas, Lake Forest, USA
Yoast is constantly analyzing their processes to help me optimize my content. I like that they don’t waste my time with unnecessary analysis. Everything is on point and relevant.
Keith Lauby, Gainesville, USA
I think especially the live marking of text areas is a really good thing. For instance for transition words or keyword distribution, the analysis a tremendously helpful. When I change something, I see the effect it has in real time with no save or refresh necessary. It’s demanding but fun to work with Yoast!
Jacqueline Pohl, Berlin, Germany
It was a great tool before, now it feels more polished and more helpful.
Julia Kaldenhoff, Versailles, France
Keeping the SEO analysis updated
You might think we’d rest on our laurels for a bit after all this hard work, but that’s very far from the truth. Part of the why of this project was to fully update the SEO analysis and to make it easier to keep it up to date. SEO is never done, so we’re never done improving the best SEO plugin out there! We keep researching, testing and tinkering until the end of our days. And, of course, there are a couple of search engines we closely follow that sometimes like to shake things up. We’re ready for that!
How did this come about?
Want to know more about the background of this project? We’ve made a documentary about the process, which you can view below. Or you can read Marieke’s behind the scenes post — she was the project’s lead.
That’s Yoast SEO 10.0 for you. We’ve revamped the SEO analysis and made it more relevant and helpful for you. We’ve enriched the feedback you get, so you can improve your content in a more natural, realistic way. Enjoy this new release! As always, we’re open to feedback and we’ll continue to fine-tune our releases based on user feedback.
We’d like to thank all participants in our beta test and, of course, you, for using Yoast SEO!
Sometimes it’s the little things that count. The new SEO analysis introduced in Yoast SEO 10.0 also comes with a new feature for Premium users: the stale cornerstone content filter. This handy little tool monitors the posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content and warns you if they haven’t been updated for six months. As you know, cornerstone content is extremely important and keeping these up to date imperative. That’s why we remind you to do so!
Need help keeping your cornerstone content in tip top shape? You’re in luck! While celebrating the release of Yoast SEO 10.0, you get 10% off Yoast SEO Premium! Now is the best time to get access to all awesome features.
It’s your most important content — treat it so!
Cornerstone content forms the heart and soul of your site. This is your crucial content that you want to rank in search engines. This content should show how authoritative you are on your chosen subject. You should give cornerstone content extra special care and keep it updated so it doesn’t lose its edge or valuation.
But we get it — it’s easy to forget things like this. There’s always so much work do on your site. That’s exactly why we introduced this stale content filter. It helps you keep essential content on your site fresh and updated. As you’ve marked specific articles as cornerstone content — thus being very important to you and your audience —, we treat them differently. Thanks to the cornerstone analysis, we grade them stricter and now also keep track of whether you keep them updated or not. If you haven’t done that in six months, we show a notification reminding you to do that. Easy, right? If not, read our article on how to keep your content fresh.
How does the stale cornerstone content filter work?
The stale cornerstone content filter is incredibly easy to use as you don’t have to do anything! If you’re anything like us, you’ll never notice it as we try to keep our ultimate guides — our cornerstone content — updated at all times. But if one should slip through the net, we’ll now see it in the post overview of our WordPress dashboard. Just to the left of the cornerstone content filter you’ll find the stale content filter. Does it have a number next to it? Then you have one or more articles that haven’t been updated in at least six months. Click on the filter to see the posts in the post overview.
See the screenshot below:
Then what? Well, that’s up to you! It’s high-time to start working on that post. The least you can do, is read it again critically to see if it is still factual, accurate and relevant. If so, and nothing has changed in your company, market or niche that could warrant an update process, just make some small changes and save the post — the notification will be gone. But in most cases, there’s a lot that can happen in six months and it will be a good idea to reevaluate your content and add, delete or rewrite parts of it. It’s also a good idea to come up with a strategy for your cornerstone content.
Always strive for the best!
If you want to rank, you need to put your heart and soul into your work. Your site must be of impeccable quality, full of high-quality, engaging and relevant content. And that’s a lot of work. We know, because we are in the same position as you. Sometimes, we too find ourselves struggling to keep up and making sense of this never-ending stream of content. Luckily, little helpers like the stale content filter helps to keeps us on our toes!
It’s time* again for a new roundup of WordPress news! Today I’m sharing a new commenting plugin for WordPress, the release of a new book about Object Oriented Programming in WordPress. The WordPress Project also crossed an imported milestone this week. Keep on reading and you’ll learn all about it!
New commenting plugin option
For a very long time when you, for whatever reason, wanted to replace the default WordPress commenting you basically only had Disqus as an option. We used to have IntenseDebate as well, but even though the site is still up, that really doesn’t look like a modern and solid solution.
Luckily, we have a new option again in the shape of ReplyBox. It’s a super lightweight solution and does a wonderful job delivering a robust commenting system. How lightweight you ask?
If you’re in the market for a smarter commenting system, you should definitely check them out!
Gutenberg expands on block editor location
Gutenberg 5.2 was released last week and it introduces a new @wordpress/block-editor module that allows building block editors to live outside the post editor context and even outside the WordPress Admin context. Meaning, we’ll be able to use the Gutenberg editor interface in other places besides the actual place where you craft your content. You can read more about in the release post for Gutenberg 5.2.
WordPress book on object-oriented programming
One of the advantages of WordPress moves towards updating its minimum PHP requirement is the opportunity to make better use of smarter coding. Object-oriented programming (OOP) is one of those things. To help you learn OOP, Carl Alexander published a book last week that will teach you the fundamentals of object-oriented programming using WordPress concepts, as well as getting familiar with the terminology.
People like reading stories. Stories are a great way to captivate your audience. But how do you use stories in a blog post? And, how do you come up with ideas? In a previous post, I wrote about why you should use storytelling. In this post, I’ll give you 6 tips on how to start using storytelling in your blog posts.
But first, let’s start with a little story:
Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name was Mary. Mary was a copywriter. She wrote wonderful content for travel agencies and several magazines. Mary used a lot of storytelling in her work. She was very good at it. But last week, her inspiration was terribly low. She was a bit ill. Nevertheless, her deadlines were approaching. Mary felt stressed. To meet her deadlines, she added some stories from her own experience to one of her articles. She was afraid her editor would frown upon that, but he actually loved it. And, so did her readers.
Tip 1: Use stories as examples
If you do not know how to start with storytelling, then start using stories as examples. Of course, you don’t have to start every story with ‘once upon a time’. You can use short anecdotes or stories from your readers to make a blog post more entertaining. Examples make your blog post lively and nice to read.
Tip 2: Get inspiration from your own world
Coming up with ideas for stories can be difficult. So, use the world around you for inspiration. A little talk with a neighbor, a funny thing your daughter did, something that happened during your lunch break: these are all little stories. Lots of the stories I use in my posts come from my own experiences. Mary, in the story I wrote at the beginning of this post, is actually me. The story about Wende, from my previous post about storytelling, really happened. Wende is my daughter. You don’t need to do extensive research for every story. Stories are everywhere.
Tip 3: Make sure your story aligns with the message of your post
If you use a story in your blog post, you need to make sure that the story aligns with the message of your post. Stories are fun and nice to read, but they only become powerful if they actually mean something. Every story has a meaning, something you want people to learn from that specific story. The meaning of the story should align with the message of your post.
The story about Mary I used in this post is about someone who is using storytelling. This post is about storytelling. Mary has a hard time coming up with ideas for a story. She decides to get inspiration from her own world and writes a personal story, which turns out nicely. In this post, I’m advising you to get inspiration from your own world and make sure to add a personal touch to a story. The story about Mary aligns with the message of this post.
Tip 4: Use the 4 elements of storytelling
A good story needs 4 elements: a character, a problem, an action, and a solution. If you write a story, try to put these four elements in it. You’ll probably do that without giving it much thought. Let’s look at the four elements of storytelling in a bit more detail:
You need to introduce a character. In my story that’s Mary. A main character that is perfectly happy does not make for a good story. The character should aspire to something or solve something. The character needs a problem. Mary’s problem was her lack of inspiration. The third thing you need is action. A story requires the main character to do something to solve the problem. Mary took a chance and added some personal stories to her copywriting. The last thing in a story is a solution. The solution is the end of the story. The problem or conflict should be solved. The readers liked her personal stories; Mary was successful.
Tip 5: Make it personal and relatable
Try to make your stories personal. Write a story about someone people can relate to. People like people. Stories are more powerful if people are able to emotionally relate to the main character. Add details, make your character into someone readers understand and relate to.
Tip 6: Add images
My last tip for powerful storytelling is to add images to your stories. If you tell a story about a person who is using your product, add a picture of this person. That’ll make the person easier to relate to. Add an illustration to your story. Illustrations will make the story easier to grasp. It will make your message more clear. And, it will make it more fun.
Conclusion on how to use storytelling
Storytelling doesn’t have to be a ‘grand thing’. There are many ways to implement it. Draw inspiration from your own experiences and write stories that fit the message of your post well. Using interviews is also a good way of telling a story. You’ll get a personal story through an interview. And if you would like to make your blog a little more personal or more fun, try to use anecdotes. Little stories. Things that happened to you. These little anecdotes, examples, personal experiences will just add that personal touch to your blog that makes it so much more enjoyable to read.
In the next post in this series about storytelling, I’ll give tips on how to use storytelling on an eCommerce website.
Yoast Academy has just released the All-around SEO training course! This course teaches you how to optimize every aspect of SEO. Content SEO, technical SEO, off-page SEO, image SEO… You name it, it’s included! And we’ll not only teach you the theory, but we’ll give you hands-on tips on how to tackle common real-life SEO problems as well. With this training, you’ll learn how to set up a proper, all-around SEO strategy!
You can get the course for $169, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!
A lot! The All-around SEO training really helps you cover all your SEO bases. Let’s take a look at the topics that are included in this training.
1. Content SEO
In this course, you’ll discover how to determine what keyphrases will drive traffic to your site. This training teaches you how to set up your own keyword research sheet, step-by-step. Moreover, we’ll walk you through all the steps of SEO copywriting. We’ll also show you how to set up or improve your own site structure, so your most important pages have the best chances of ranking. And you’ll learn how to optimize your images, both for your visitors and for search engines.
2. Technical SEO
The All-around SEO training teaches you how to improve your site speed, so your visitors don’t leave before they’ve even seen what you have to offer. Also, you’ll learn what structured data is, so you’ll know how to get those coveted rich results. In addition, you’ll learn how to make sure your site is secure, so your site won’t get hacked!
3. Off-page SEO
This course also teaches you to look beyond your own site. You’ll learn how to make sure other siteslink to your pages, so search engines see you deserve a higher ranking. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to keep your audience engaged with email marketing. You’ll also discover how social media can get you even more traffic.
4. Beyond SEO
Finally, the All-around SEO training teaches you how to outsmart your competition by going beyond the usual SEO staples. We’ll teach you how to make sure you offer the best user experience, and how to get more customers or subscribers by conversion rate optimization. In addition, you’ll learn how to improve your site’s accessibility, so everyone is able to use your website, including people with a disability.
How is the course set up?
The All-around SEO training consists of eight modules, which are divided into several lessons. Each lesson contains interesting videos, in which our SEO experts – like Marieke van de Rakt and Joost de Valk – explain everything you should know. We’ve also created reading materials, in which we explore topics more broadly and use different examples from the ones we use in the videos. To complete a lesson, you take a quiz. These quizzes test whether you understand the theory and if you’re able to apply this knowledge to realistic example cases. Once you’ve finished the course, you’ll get a certificate and a badge you can display on your website.
Why should I take the All-around SEO training?
If you want to get a head start in SEO, the All-around SEO training is for you. It teaches you about all SEO aspects – including topics that don’t get covered in the average SEO course, like email marketing, social media, UX and accessibility. The course even goes beyond the theory and teaches you useful and practical skills, so you can quickly improve the SEO of your site. It doesn’t matter whether you run a blog, online store, or another type of website – this course covers it all. If your goal is to make your site rank higher in the search results, the All-around SEO training is the right course for you.
Learn whenever you want, wherever you want
And just like every other Yoast Academy training course, the All-around SEO training is online and on-demand. This means you can do this course whenever you want, wherever you want. It’s all up to you!
Get it before the offer expires!
The All-around SEO training helps you improve all aspects of SEO on your site, so you can make your site rank higher in the search results. You can get the course by clicking the button below. It is temporarily discounted at $169 (that’s $30 off!), so get it before the offer expires!
In this roundup, I’ll discuss what’s going on with the WordPress release schedule. I’m also highlighting a new e-commerce solution for selling downloadable items in WordPress. And of course, I carefully selected some bonus links for your reading pleasure. Let’s dive in!
The Core team is asking for feedback and I would highly recommend you to weigh in if you have an opinion in the matter. The post already lists some pros and cons, but more input is always better!
Selling digital downloads
You can tell that e-commerce is getting more and more important for people with WordPress websites. My favorite plugin for managing downloads in WordPress, Download Monitor, recently saw the addition of a highly requested feature. Namely, the ability to sell downloads. They also recently added full support for the Gutenberg editor, btw!
It’s great to see more lightweight e-commerce solutions coming to WordPress. Of course, we already have plugins like Easy Digital Downloads, but it’s not that lightweight anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But having more options to choose from makes for a thriving ecosphere.
An interesting article I came across, in the shape of a long read, discusses the fact that the Internet was built on the free labor of Open Source developers. And, it asks the question of whether that is sustainable. This quote, in particular, stood out for me:
“I’m looking at you, Fortune 1000 companies, the ones who have never lifted a finger to contribute to the open source community that gave you this gift.”
– Steve Marquess
The article gives a very good insight into the ideas behind Open Source, the principle and license WordPress and many other great software solutions are built on. The article raises a lot of great, critical questions that may help you get a better understanding of the underlying principles. Highly recommend reading!
UTM tags are parameters you can add to links that point to your website that send extra information to Google Analytics. Perhaps you’ve clicked on a link from a newsletter and saw all bunch of weird stuff in the URL.
These things are UTM tags. And people use them to track their marketing efforts so that they can analyze that effort in Google Analytics.
Why should you use UTM tags?
Google Analytics recognizes a lot of traffic and places traffic in buckets. If you explore the source/medium report, you can see how Google Analytics sees this traffic and where it ends up. If you’re wondering how Google Analytics sees traffic from Facebook or your newsletter, grab your mobile phone, make sure you’re on 2G/3G/4G/5G and visit Facebook or your newsletter and click on a link that points to your website. At the same time, check your Real-Time traffic sources report and see if you show up there and how you show up. If you see that Google Analytics recognizes you as direct / none, then Google Analytics doesn’t know where you came from.
Let’s say you have a lovely newsletter. Its content is awesome, there are links to your site. There are upsell buttons, images that link to your site. You’ve got the whole shebang! You’ve put a lot of effort into these emails because you’ve heard that they can really help your business. And you’d like to see if you get any traffic from your newsletters, if your readers buy anything, and you’d like to see which types of content they find interesting and what not. So you go to the place that can help you with these types of questions: Google Analytics! And you’re searching and searching, but you can’t find anything. You know why you can’t find them? The links in your emails weren’t tagged and all that traffic ended up in a bucket called direct / none.
That’s where UTM tags come in. With UTM tags you add extra information about what types of things your audience clicked on from sources that don’t automatically add this type of information. All those items like image clicks, button clicks in your newsletter can be tracked by using UTM tags.
If you don’t tag your emails, your PDF’s and your social efforts, you have no way of knowing what to optimize. Or how to optimize. You wouldn’t have a clue on what works for your business and what doesn’t work.
What UTM tags are there?
You can use 5 UTM parameters to define your traffic more precisely. Let’s go over them one by one.
Open up the Medium report in Google Analytics and see what comes up. Google Analytics recognizes certain mediums by itself, like: organic, referral, cpc. It can recognize email but this doesn’t have to mean it can recognize traffic from your email campaigns. Google support defines medium as: “The advertising or marketing medium”. For me medium is an umbrella term, it’s a general bucket where a lot of things can belong to.
Source is a bit more specific, you can see what I mean when you just look at the Source report in Google Analytics. Here you’ll see types of search engines, websites that are referrers, social media platforms and so on. Google support defines source as: “Identify the advertiser, site, publication, etc. that is sending traffic to your property”. It all comes together when you look at the source/medium report. Here you’ll see which source belongs to which medium. The UTM tag Source is mandatory when tagging your links.
You’re most probably only going to see data in the Campaign report in Google Analytics if you have AdWords campaigns or using UTM tags for campaigns. Google support defines the Campaign tag as: “The individual campaign name, slogan, promo code, etc. for a product”.
Term and Content
There isn’t a standard report in Google Analytics for the Term tag and the Content tag. It’s only possible if you add one of these as a secondary dimension or if you create a custom report. Just like the Campaign tag, you’re only seeing data for these two tags if you used that in UTM tags. Google support’s definition of the UTM Term tag is: “Identify paid search keywords”. That’s specifically for AdWords but later on you’ll learn that you can use the Term tag for anything you’d like. Google support defines the Content tag as: “Used to differentiate similar content, or links within the same ad”.
Channels to use UTM tags for
There are marketing channels where UTM tags come in very handy. Always tag your email marketing efforts. If you use PDFs that people can download or are send to people as an incentive and that PDF contains links to your site, UTM tag those links. That way you can see if people are actually coming to your website using that PDF. And if there are upsells or other conversion goals, like a make an appointment button, you can check in Google Analytics if your PDFs are converting or not. Google Analytics can recognize traffic from Facebook and Twitter and such but you can only analyze that traffic on a source/medium level. And apart from that, you don’t know if you’ve gotten traffic from other people sharing links to your site on a social platform. If you want more information about your social media efforts, use UTM tags.
How to set up a UTM protocol?
This is actually the hard part. You need to think about a constructive, sustainable UTM protocol you can use for your channels which can be scalable. You must think about a strategy that can deal with change because you never know where your business is headed. Important to know is that Medium and Source are related to each other, all other tags don’t necessarily have to be related to each other. Each step adds more information to your data. It’s a way of classifying your traffic.
The Medium UTM tag is the most general UTM tag of them all. This is a big bucket of data that is collected by the same medium. And since we’re talking about ways that drive traffic to your site, we’re going to use an analogy to make things more clear. You can see UTM tags as if it was a way of transportation. A medium can be a car, a plane, a boat and so on. And I can compare mediums to know which type of transportation is working for my website at the moment.
Source is a smaller bucket, but still a pretty large one. The source is related to the medium. If we take the analogy of a car, a source can be the brand of the car. By looking at the source, we know if we can better spend money on trying to get more traffic from brand X or on brand Y.
We’re narrowing our data with campaigns. We don’t only want to know which brand of car drives more traffic and converts better but also which type of car is most successful. If Yoast was a car brand (that would be awesome), we want to know if Yoast sedans convert better than Yoast SUVs.
And because we can, we send more information about our data to Google Analytics. By adding a content and term UTM tag. We can distinguish purple and green Yoast cars with the content UTM tag. And we can add more information like green gear change Yoast SUVs and compare that to automatic green Yoast SUVs. Gear change information can be send with the UTM term tag. See how much information about one specific type of traffic I can gather just by using UTM tags?
As I hope this example tells you, is that you can use UTM tags to give you more information about your data. The challenge is to think of especially mediums and sources that last. Thinking about on which level you want to see data and compare data can be quite the challenge. What kind of information do you need to improve your marketing further?
When I was setting up a UTM protocol for Yoast, I was dying to see some examples I could use for Yoast. But the frustrating thing was that each of the sources I consulted saying different things. And I understand why; it’s about what works for you as an analyst and what works for your business. Here’s how WE use UTM tagging for our emails.
We have different types of email, for instance our standard newsletter that contains our latest updates. And we have Sales emails that we only send to our subscribers when we have a sale. They both belong to the same medium which is email. And I’m using source to distinguish the type of email. For our standard newsletter I use the date on which the newsletter is send on. But if you’re more interested in the day of the week or the time you send the newsletter, use that as a campaign. It all depends on what kind of information you’d like to see in Google Analytics. We could also add term and content tags for our regular newsletter but decided we don’t need to see more specific data.
For our Sales email we use the name of our sale for the UTM campaign tag. The cool thing is that if you use that campaign tag for everything you’re doing to promote your sale, like Facebook posts, you can later on analyze which marketing channel worked best during the sale.
We use the UTM content tag to distinguish buttons from text links so we can figure out if people are more inclined to click on a button or on a text link later on. If you have more than one button, you can use content tags like: button-1, button-2 etc. etc.
We use the UTM term tag to identify the page the link points to. This last one isn’t really necessary because you can also tell this by looking at the landing page in combination with the campaign. But of course, you can add other information in the UTM term tag like the color of the button or the category the page of the link belongs to.
But in the end, it’s all about what YOU, as an analyst, would like to see in Google Analytics! It’s about gathering information about the behavior of your audience, about how to get more insight into your audience.
How to create a UTM protocol yourself
Write down all your marketing efforts on a piece of (digital) paper. What are you doing with email? What types of email do you have? And what kind of things are you doing on social? And perhaps other channels. Are you running campaigns? Map it all out. And then just write down possible UTM tags for all of them and check if it’s useful for you or not. Keep trying different ways of UTM tagging till you finally have a structure that works! And try to visualize how it will look in Google Analytics. So get familiar with the source/medium and campaign report.
There are Google Sheets out there that help you, like this one from Annie Cushing:
When you’re done creating the UTM protocol it’s vital that everyone in your team that has to deal with UTM tagging is aware of this protocol. And of course, it’s very important that everyone uses it in a consistent manner.
How to find UTM tags in Google Analytics?
All this time we’ve been talking about UTM tags, we’re talking about traffic sources. If you want to know how to find each tag in Google Analytics, you need to be in the Acquisition section.
The utm_medium corresponds with the Medium variable in Google Analytics. And utm_source corresponds with the Source variable. If you click on ‘Source’ right above the table, you only see the Source. And if you want a more general view, click on Medium.
In the Acquisition section you can find an item called ‘Campaigns’. Here you can find your data about the utm_campaign tag.
If you want to find the utm_content and utm_term tag, you need to do a small extra effort. You can only see these if you add a Secondary dimension in the standard reports in Google Analytics:
In Google Analytics the utm_content is called ‘Ad Content’. The utm_term is called ‘Keyword’ and you can add these variables as a secondary dimension to your reports. If you want all of your UTM tags in one report, you need to create a custom report.
UTM tag don’ts
1. Use UTM tags on your site for internal links
There’s no need to add UTM tags on links that are on your site. If you do use tags on internal links, you’ll overwrite the original source of your traffic. So for instance, if someone from a paid Facebook post comes to your site and clicks on a link in the menu that’s UTM tagged and buys a product, there’s no way of knowing that your paid Facebook ad was the source that lead to a conversion.
2. Using Campaign tags that are too general
Tags that are completely the same, end up in the same bucket in Google Analytics. If you’re using a campaign that is specifically for email, but someone else in your team is using the same campaign for a completely different thing on social, these will end up in the same bucket. But they’re both completely different things! You don’t want to draw the wrong conclusions so you want to be sure that you’re not mistakenly receiving data from a different campaign with the same name. For sales campaigns I suggest to add a date. For channel specific campaigns, add something that relates to the source, like utm_campaign=fb-daily-post.
3. Not consistently using UTM tags
Every time you misspell a tag or use an uppercase tag instead of a lowercase tag, a new tag is created. Why is that a bad thing? Well because of this:
Rows 5 and 6 are examples of tagging gone wrong and as you can see, traffic from these UTM tags get a separate row. But it’s traffic that belongs to row 1, the sales/email source. Now these numbers are small but what if that number is bigger?
4. Not using the utm_source tag
This one is mandatory. And if you want to be completely safe, use the Medium, Source and Campaign tags to avoid tracking errors.
5. Tagging guest posts
If websites have links that point to your site, they’ll be easy to recognize in the referral section in Google Analytics. The same goes for if you write a guest post for someone’s website. You can see this traffic in your referral report.
6. Create too specific Medium tags
As said before, you want your Medium tag to be as general as possible. If you create too specific Medium tags then you’re missing the meta view of all efforts that belong to that medium. You don’t want utm_medium=facebook because how can you measure all of your social media efforts in Google Analytics?
7. Using sensitive information in tags
You don’t want to share business sensitive information in your UTM tags, information you don’t like others to know. Because with UTM tags, that’s publicly visible. The same goes for personal information, don’t store data which can be traced back to a specific person.
8. Use tags that aren’t recognizable in Google Analytics
If you don’t know what it means just by looking at it, it’s not very suitable as a tag. You make your life a whole lot easier if you can tell what it is without having to go to the link. It really helps you to analyze your Google Analytics data.
Link building means, in short, that you’re getting links from other websites to your own blog. It helps your posts to rank. Link building is not an easy task, as you are depending on third parties to link to your website. And not only that, you don’t want a link from every website. Spammy websites or websites that have little to do with your niche, are not valuable at all. I’ve tried link building, the holistic SEO way, and will share my experiences here. If you want to learn more about this, read this article Marieke wrote about link building from a holistic SEO perspective.
Asking for relevant links
To get relevant backlinks, you should know the websites you would like to get a backlink from. Send them a polite email requesting to place a link to your content, if it’s relevant to their audience as well. Please note that often, you will not get a reply at all. To improve your chances of getting a link to your website, your content should really be unique. Trying to get a link for a blogpost that is extremely basic and could’ve been written by anyone, is less likely to succeed than when you provide some very good content: content people can only find on your website. If you, for example, are a planner guru or the nation’s funniest mom blogger, it’s way easier to get a link to your website than if you just started out.
Do your hands get sweaty by the idea of having to email your fellow bloggers to ask for links? Fear not! Luckily, there are a lot of Facebook Groups, where bloggers post they might be working on a blog post that, for example, collects the best recipes for Easter, the best bullet journal tips or something different. You can often drop your link in the comments if you’ve written about the topic requested and with a little bit of luck, you’ll be featured in a blog post. It depends on your country which Facebook groups could be suitable, so ask your fellow bloggers or look around on Facebook.
Another option to get links to your website, is through guest blogging for other blogs. Often, blogs are looking for input from fellow bloggers and in return will let you link to your own content. You’ll not only get a link to your website from a relevant website, you’ll get attention from the readers of that particular blog as well. Visit your favorite blogs and check to see if they accept guest submissions. They’ll usually mention this on their contact page or their collaboration page. Please note that a website could have certain guidelines before they accept your guest blog. It has to be unique content, but it also has to be in line with that website.
Do your thing
Link building for bloggers can be hard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When you’re already working on optimizing your posts, finding your voice and creating original blog posts, you might not want to add another massive project to your list. Because that is what link building is: it is not something you do just once. That’s why I’ve decided to quit my attempts at link building. I find it removes the focus from my blog entirely and turns into a popularity contest, at least in my mind. Not only that, I am not someone who finds it easy to reach out to other bloggers to request links in their content.
Instead, I’ve decided to focus on my own website and on helping others. I’ve found that I’ve received backlinks whenever I give a talk at a conference or after I helped someone with their website. This is not something that I take for granted, but when it happens, I realize why I’ve spent a few hours helping a blogger out with a bug on her website. For me, this means that I stay true to my own beliefs without having to focus on an entire strategy that is not my thing. And I found out that this is a link building strategy in itself: it helps my reputation as a blogger in the Dutch community. Find whatever works for you. And if you are actively building links, could you tell me your strategy?