Supporting older versions of WordPress

As soon as WordPress 5.3 comes out, Yoast will only support WordPress 5.2 and WordPress 5.3, and not versions before that. This means we’ll end our support for WordPress 4.9, which we’d kept alive for a little bit longer than usual to allow people to transition to WordPress 5.0 and the classic editor. I’d like to explain why we have this policy and why we’re deciding to go back to it.

Building software for WordPress can be incredibly complex. We work in a world where there are always a couple of versions of WordPress around. Next to that, plugins can do almost anything (which they do), which also means they can interfere with each other. Every site has a different combination of plugins, leading to tens of thousands of different combinations.

Modern code

At Yoast we pride ourselves in using the best tools available to build solutions for our users. With WordPress 5.2, the WordPress core team upped the minimum PHP requirement for WordPress from PHP 5.2 to PHP 5.6. We always want our software to work on the minimum requirements for WordPress, which means we could only use functionality from PHP 5.2 up until then.

Note: I know these version numbers and the fact that they’re so alike can become confusing. We’ve certainly had some confusion around that internally. I apologize for that in advance, but as you’ll understand, I can’t change these version numbers.

PHP is the language that most of the WordPress backend is built in. PHP 5.2 was released in 2006, while PHP 5.6 was released in 2014. As you can see, that’s 8 years apart, and 8 years is an incredibly long time on the internet.

By going back to our policy of only supporting the current and previous version, and thus only supporting WordPress 5.2 and 5.3, we allow ourselves to develop using PHP 5.6. Because we can use PHP 5.6 now, we can develop faster and more securely.

What does “support” mean?

When we say we don’t support an older version of WordPress it means we’ve stopped testing with it, and things are likely to break. It also means you won’t see Yoast SEO updates until you’ve updated your WordPress to a supported version.

My site doesn’t work with the classic editor

For a small portion of sites, I know this leaves them in limbo, which we hate. If you have a custom WordPress solution, built with old versions of plugins like Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), you might be “stuck”. Even though ACF has done an incredibly good job of migrating to Gutenberg, that might not “save” you.

While we think that sucks, we don’t really have any option for you other than to go to your website developer and explain them that this isn’t a state you want to stay in. You really should move to newer versions of WordPress. We will keep on supporting the Classic Editor for a few more years, so if they make it work with that, you’re good.

I don’t see any Yoast SEO updates

There are a couple of different reasons why you can’t see Yoast SEO updates. As said above: if you’re on an old version of WordPress, you will not see them. So update your WordPress first. If that’s not the case, please reinstall the plugin, simply delete it and install the latest version manually. That won’t delete any of your data, don’t worry.

Go and update your site!

So, if you’re on an old version of WordPress, go and update. Of course, before doing anything like updating plugins or WordPress, always make sure to test and back up your site!

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Yoast SEO 11.2: Schema enhancements and more

Today, we’re releasing Yoast SEO 11.2 into the wild. This release contains several enhancements to our Schema structured data implementation, plus a number of community contributions and general bug fixes. In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about Yoast SEO 11.2, so dive in!

More Schema improvements

These past couple of weeks saw quite a bit of development in the structured data department. In Yoast SEO 11.0, we launched a structured data implementation that automatically generates a graph for any given website and its pages. In Yoast SEO 11.1, we improved the way we handle images in structured data, among other things. We said we wouldn’t be done on the Schema front for some time. Well, Yoast SEO 11.2 brings even more structured data goodness.

Image improvements

As mentioned in the release post of Yoast SEO 11.1, we’ve been working on a better way to pick images correctly for use in the generated structured data. In this release, we’re introducing a new way to make sure we always include an image in the structured data. Now, we pick the first image in the content for the Schema output if you haven’t set a featured image.

Tailor the Schema output

Of course, it’s possible that you’d like to incorporate your own Schema pieces into our graph. We already have the wpseo_schema_graph_piecesfilter to help you extend the Yoast SEO Schema. This way, you can tailor the implementation to your own needs. In addition, we’re now introducing a new filter that will help you control what Yoast SEO outputs. The new wpseo_schema_needs_<class_name> filter helps you disable or enable specific pieces of the graph.

Last but not least, we’ve also added a filter called wpseo_schema_person_social_profiles for adding or deleting social profiles to show. Read our Schema API documentation to find out how our Schema implementation works and how you can tailor it to your needs.

Community help

Yoast SEO 11.2 is a community-driven effort. We love getting outside help, so thanks everybody. In this release, David Tolnem and Saša Todorović came up with a filter for adding posts with a custom post statuses to the sitemap: wpseo_sitemap_post_statuses. This means you can now use the custom post statuses made in tools such as Edit Flow and add these to the sitemap. Saša also helped fix a bug together with Jessica Zehavi. This one was a bug where URLs with a non-Yoast SEO related xsl query string parameter would result in a blank page.

Rami Yushuvaev helped us make translating the plugin easier by merging near identical strings and he fixed a bug concerning an incorrect URL leading to Pinterest’s claim page.

Better sitemap debugging

To help you debug your sitemaps, we’ve decoupled the sitemap debug information from the general WP_DEBUG flag. Instead, we now offer the YOAST_SEO_DEBUG_SITEMAPS flag to better control this functionality. Now, we can output more specific debug information on the sitemap pages.

Update away!

Yoast SEO 11.2 fixes several bugs and enhances the Schema implementation. Thanks to our highly valued community, we have a number of fixes and improvements. We always enjoy seeing so many people contribute to our open source plugin. Interested in contributing? Please read our contribution guidelines on GitHub.

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WordPress 5.2 has arrived, ACF 5.8, and new Translate WordPress site editor

Today’s roundup contains information about the WordPress 5.2 release. And, yet again, some ACF news. I’m also highlighting the launch of the new Translate WordPress site editor and some very cool WPMU DEV news. Let’s dive in!

WordPress 5.2 is here!

You may have noticed in your WordPress Dashboard already, but WordPress 5.2 is here!

We’ve covered the most important features here before, but as a reminder, WordPress 5.2 introduces the Site Health check, PHP Error Protection along with Accessibility Updates, New Dashboard Icons, and Plugin Compatibility Checks.

As much as I love nice and shiny new features, the one thing I’m most excited about in WordPress 5.2 is the PHP version bump. It will not only push WordPress to a faster and more secure PHP version – though, truth be told, you should really already want to be on the 7.2 or 7.3 version even – but it will allow for many “new” functions and functionalities to be used in WordPress itself. On to a better and brighter future!

ACF 5.8

In my previous roundup, I mentioned ACF, the popular custom fields plugin releases ACF Blocks. And I got pretty excited about that, but ACF had even more news this week. They released their 5.8 version adds the foundation for the ACF Blocks and it aims to radically change the perception of block development in Gutenberg. It does this by reducing learning time with JavaScript knowledge to an absolute minimum. And I am a big fan.

If you haven’t checked them out yet, you really should if you’ve ever wondered about how to create Gutenberg blocks without having to dive into JavaScript.

Translating WordPress just got a lot smoother

If you’ve ever helped out translating WordPress into your own language on translate.wordpress.org, you were greeted by an interface powered by GlotPress. This interface recently saw an update over the Translate WordPress site and I’m liking this new and smoother experience a lot. I’m pretty sure all the people helping out translating WordPress last Saturday at the WP Translations day got a kick out of it!

WPMU DEV releases 90% of their plugins for free

James Farmer of WPMU DEV fame published a blog post on their site where he explained that 90% of their premium plugins were going to be released for free. This is actually quite a big turn around for the company as James states:

But today marks perhaps the most significant change we’ve made as a company, because as of today, we’re embracing and focusing on what the vast vast majority of our members care about and saying farewell and good luck to the over 90% of our plugin catalogue, which you can now find freely available on our GitHub.

James Farmer

Check out his full post on why they’re being released on Github instead of the WordPress.org repository and more in-depth reasoning behind this big switch.

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Announcing a new integration: Yoast SEO for Neos CMS

As you might know, Yoast SEO isn’t exclusive to WordPress. Together with our partners, we’re looking to bring our popular SEO plugin to more open source platforms. After releasing Yoast SEO for Magento 2 and TYPO3, together with MaxServ, we’re now launching a new integration: Yoast SEO for Neos CMS! Sebastian Helzle, core developer in the Neos team and freelance consultant, built it with help from us.

Neos: a flexible, innovative content management system

Neos began many years ago as a proposed follow-up to TYPO3, but has been moving in its own direction since 2015. It is a fully React based CMS offering many innovative features to manage content. The system is highly flexible and allows for some impressive options to custom build high-profile sites.

neos logo

For content managers, working with Neos is a dream. Due to this flexibility, there are many ways to work with and maintain content. One of these options is to let content managers edit content directly from the front-end or use the writer mode to focus on getting those articles written in the first place. In addition, you’ll also find a fully customizable, personal workspace. The workspace is a copy of the website you’re working on and lets multiple editors work on a part of the site or a piece of content at once. It can also be used to draft and fine-tune pages before publishing them.

In that workspace, users will now find the Yoast SEO analysis to help them improve the SEO-friendliness of their content.

Thanks to our Yoast SEO JavaScript package, porting the SEO analysis to other platforms is doable as this package has everything you need. We’ll keep it updated with our regular plugin releases and these changes will also end up in integrations with other platforms like Neos.

You can find more information on Yoast SEO for Neos on GitHub. Or download Yoast SEO for Neos CMS in the Neos Package Center.

You can find Yoast SEO for Neos right where you need it most — in the Inspector

What can you expect from Yoast SEO for Neos CMS

Neos recently received a powerful native SEO module called Neos.SEO 3.0, which handles the most important SEO options, like XML sitemaps, canonicals and hreflang natively. The integration of Yoast SEO in Neos, therefore, focusses mainly on the content analysis part. It will also help users visualize how their content will appear in the search results and on social media channels. Together, these tools help site owners and editors publish awesome content on a well-optimized site powered by Neos.

In Yoast SEO for Neos 1.0, you can expect the following features:

  • Top-notch SEO tools right inside the Neos Inspector: helping you improve your posts and pages.
  • Readability analysis: making sure that content is easy to understand for your audience.
  • SEO analysis: by entering your focus keyphrase, this helps you to improve the overall quality of your content.
  • Snippet preview for Google search results: see how your post appears in the search results and make it stand out.
  • Social previews for Facebook and Google: this is how social media will see your post.
  • Available in workspaces: Yoast SEO for Neos will work inside your workspace, giving you everything you need at your fingertips.

Of course, everything is powered by JavaScript and uses web workers to make sure that the backend of the site doesn’t have to wait for processes to finish. Everything works in real-time —  no saving necessary! Go try it.

Yoast SEO for Neos also features a welcome overview page that shows all feedback in one go

Supporting open source platforms

For years, we’ve been big fans of the open source community. Yoast SEO itself is open source and we owe a lot to this way of thinking and working. We want to support open source wherever we can, by giving back to the community. This also means that we’re actively looking for partners who can bring the incredible value of Yoast SEO to other platforms and communities.

Everybody needs to stand a chance in the search results — SEO for everyone, remember?

If you have suggestions or if you think you can help us, please reach out to us. Visit our Yoast SEO for your platform page to find out more.

Tell us what you think

The first version of Yoast SEO for Neos gives editors everything they need to improve their content for both readers as well as search engines. We’re looking forward to seeing the platform and our integration with it evolve. As always, your feedback is welcome.

Thanks for trying out Yoast SEO for Neos!

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“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can be addictive, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished.

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets’ feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. It has also shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

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What’s technical SEO? 8 technical aspects everyone should know

An SEO Basics post about technical SEO might seem like a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, some basic knowledge about the more technical side of SEO can mean the difference between a high ranking site and a site that doesn’t rank at all. Technical SEO isn’t easy, but here we’ll explain – in layman’s language – which aspects you should (ask your developer to) pay attention to when working on the technical foundation of your website.

What is technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to improving the technical aspects of a website in order to increase the ranking of its pages in the search engines. Making a website faster, easier to crawl and understandable for search engines are the pillars of technical optimization. Technical SEO is part of on-page SEO, which focuses on improving elements on your website to get higher rankings. It’s the opposite of off-page SEO, which is about generating exposure for a website through other channels.

Why should you optimize your site technically?

Google and other search engines want to present their users with the best possible results for their query. Therefore, Google’s robots crawl and evaluate web pages on a multitude of factors. Some factors are based on the user’s experience, like how fast a page loads. Other factors help search engine robots grasp what your pages are about. This is what, amongst others, structured data does. So, by improving technical aspects you help search engines crawl and understand your site. If you do this well, you might be rewarded with higher rankings or even rich results.

It also works the other way around: if you make serious technical mistakes on your site, they can cost you. You wouldn’t be the first to block search engines entirely from crawling your site by accidentally adding a trailing slash in the wrong place in your robots.txt file.

But it’s a misconception you should focus on technical details of a website just to please search engines. A website should work well – be fast, clear and easy to use – for your users in the first place. Fortunately, creating a strong technical foundation often coincides with a better experience for both users and search engines.

What are the characteristics of a technically optimized website?

A technically sound website is fast for users and easy to crawl for search engine robots. A proper technical setup helps search engines to understand what a site is about and it prevents confusion caused by, for instance, duplicate content. Moreover, it doesn’t send visitors, nor search engines, into dead-end streets by non-working links. Here, we’ll shortly go into some important characteristics of a technically optimized website.

1. It’s fast

Nowadays, web pages need to load fast. People are impatient and don’t want to wait for a page to open. In 2016 already, research showed that 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn’t open within three seconds. So if your website is slow, people get frustrated and move on to another website, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

Google knows slow web pages offer a less than optimal experience. Therefore they prefer web pages that load faster. So, a slow web page also ends up further down the search results than its faster equivalent, resulting in even less traffic.

Wondering if your website is fast enough? Read how to easily test your site speed. Most tests will also give you pointers on what to improve. We’ll guide you through common site speed optimization tips here.

2. It’s crawlable for search engines

Search engines use robots to crawl or spider your website. The robots follow links to discover content on your site. A great internal linking structure will make sure that they’ll understand what the most important content on your site is.

But there are more ways to guide robots. You can, for instance, block them from crawling certain content if you don’t want them to go there. You can also let them crawl a page, but tell them not to show this page in the search results or not to follow the links on that page.

Robots.txt file

You can give robots directions on your site by using the robots.txt file. It’s a powerful tool, which should be handled carefully. As we mentioned in the beginning, a small mistake might prevent robots from crawling (important parts of) your site. Sometimes, people unintentionally block their site’s CSS and JS files in the robot.txt file. These files contain code that tells browsers what your site should look like and how it works. If those files are blocked, search engines can’t find out if your site works properly.

All in all, we recommend to really dive into robots.txt if you want to learn how it works. Or, perhaps even better, let a developer handle it for you!

The meta robots tag

The robots meta tag is a piece of code that you won’t see on the page as a visitor. It’s in the source code in the so-called head section of a page. Robots read this section when finding a page. In it, they’ll find information about what they’ll find on the page or what they need to do with it.

If you want search engine robots to crawl a page, but to keep it out of the search results for some reason, you can tell them with the robots meta tag. With the robots meta tag, you can also instruct them to crawl a page, but not to follow the links on the page. With Yoast SEO it’s easy to noindex or nofollow a post or page. Learn for which pages you’d want to do that.

Read more: https://yoast.com/what-is-crawlability/

3. It doesn’t have (many) dead links

We’ve discussed that slow websites are frustrating. What might be even more annoying for visitors than a slow page, is landing on a page that doesn’t exist at all. If a link leads to a non-existing page on your site, people will encounter a 404 error page. There goes your carefully crafted user experience!

What’s more, search engines don’t like to find these error pages either. And, they tend to find even more dead links than visitors encounter because they follow every link they bump into, even if it’s hidden.

Unfortunately, most sites have (at least) some dead links, because a website is a continuous work in progress: people make things and break things. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you retrieve dead links on your site. Read about those tools and how to solve 404 errors.

To prevent unnecessary dead links, you should always redirect the URL of a page when you delete it or move it. Ideally, you’d redirect it to a page that replaces the old page. With Yoast SEO Premium, you can easily make redirects yourself. No need for a developer!

Read more: https://yoast.com/what-is-a-redirect/

4. It doesn’t confuse search engines with duplicate content

If you have the same content on multiple pages of your site – or even on other sites – search engines might get confused. Because, if these pages show the same content, which one should they rank highest? As a result, they might rank all pages with the same content lower.

Unfortunately, you might have a duplicate content issue without even knowing it. Because of technical reasons, different URLs can show the same content. For a visitor, this doesn’t make any difference, but for a search engine it does; it’ll see the same content on a different URL.

Luckily, there’s a technical solution to this issue. With the so-called, canonical link element you can indicate what the original page – or the page you’d like to rank in the search engines – is. In Yoast SEO you can easily set a canonical URL for a page. And, to make it easy for you, Yoast SEO adds self-referencing canonical links to all your pages. This will help prevent duplicate content issues that you’d might not even be aware of.

5. It’s secure

A technically optimized website is a secure website. Making your website safe for users to guarantee their privacy is a basic requirement nowadays. There are many things you can do to make your (WordPress) website secure, and one of the most crucial things is implementing HTTPS.

HTTPS makes sure that no-one can intercept the data that’s sent over between the browser and the site. So, for instance, if people log in to your site, their credentials are safe. You’ll need a so-called SSL certificate to implement HTTPS on your site. Google acknowledges the importance of security and therefore made HTTPS a ranking signal: secure websites rank higher than unsafe equivalents.

You can easily check if your website is HTTPS in most browsers. On the left hand side of the search bar of your browser, you’ll see a lock if it’s safe. If you see the words “not secure” you (or your developer) have some work to do!

Read more: SEO Basics: What is HTTPS?

6. Plus: it has structured data

Structured data helps search engines understand your website, content or even your business better. With structured data you can tell search engines, what kind of product you sell or which recipes you have on your site. Plus, it will give you the opportunity to provide all kinds of details about those products or recipes.

Because there’s a fixed format (described on Schema.org) in which you should provide this information, search engines can easily find and understand it. It helps them to place your content in a bigger picture. Here, you can read a story about how it works and how Yoast SEO helps you with that.

Implementing structured data can bring you more than just a better understanding by search engines. It also makes your content eligible for rich results; those shiny results with stars or details that stand out in the search results.

7. Plus: It has an XML sitemap

Simply put, an XML sitemap is a list of all pages of your site. It serves as a roadmap for search engines on your site. With it, you’ll make sure search engines won’t miss any important content on your site. The XML sitemap is often categorized in posts, pages, tags or other custom post types and includes the number of images and the last modified date for every page.

Ideally, a website doesn’t need an XML sitemap. If it has an internal linking structure which connects all content nicely, robots won’t need it. However, not all sites have a great structure, and having an XML sitemap won’t do any harm. So we’d always advise having an XML site map on your site.

8. Plus: International websites use hreflang

If your site targets more than one country or countries where the same language is spoken, search engines need a little help to understand which countries or language you’re trying to reach. If you help them, they can show people the right website for their area in the search results.

Hreflang tags help you do just that. You can define for a page which country and language it is meant for. This also solves a possible duplicate content problem: even if your US and UK site show the same content, Google will know it’s written for a different region.

Optimizing international websites is quite a specialism. If you’d like to learn how to make your international sites rank, we’d advise taking a look at our Multilingual SEO training.

Want to learn more about this?

So this is technical SEO in a nutshell. It’s quite a lot already, while we’ve only scratched the surface here. There’s so much more to tell about the technical side of SEO! If you want to take a deep-dive into technical SEO, we’d advise our Technical SEO training or Structured data training. With these courses, you’ll learn how to create a solid technical foundation for your own website.

PS You’re the ambitious type? Get both training courses together and save $59!

Read more: https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo/

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Why you should actively avoid the passive voice

Are you aware of the risks of overusing the passive voice in your writing? In the readability analysis in our Yoast SEO plugin, we recommend using the passive voice in a maximum of 10% of your sentences. But why? In this post, I will discuss a couple of key questions about the passive voice. I’ll start by explaining what it is. Then, I’ll explain why it is usually best to avoid using the passive voice in your writing. To cap it off, I’ll describe some situations in which using the passive voice makes perfect sense. 

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

What is the passive voice?

The passive voice is a grammatical construction. The easiest way to explain the passive voice is by contrasting it with the active voice. The active voice is the standard English sentence structure. The simplest possible sentences feature an actor (the subject), who does (the verb) something to either a person, animal or thing (the receiver).

WordMomhuggedme
Semantic functionactordirect verb receiver

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around. The receiver becomes the grammatical subject. Note that the meaning of the sentence stays exactly the same. The only difference is the word order.

WordIwas huggedby mom
Semantic functionreceiverdirect verbactor

In some passive sentences, you can omit the actor. ‘I was hugged’, for example, is a perfectly sensible passive sentence, although it provides less information.

Why should I avoid the passive voice?

Let’s cut to the chase: using the passive voice almost always makes your writing more distant and your message less clear. There are two main reasons for this.

Wordy

First of all, the passive voice is wordy. The passive alternative to an active sentence is simply longer. Consider these two sentences:

1. The passive voice almost always makes your message less clear.

2. Your message is almost always made less clear by using the passive voice.

You convey the same message by using the passive but add three words. When overusing the passive voice in your text, this can really add up.

Sentence structure

In addition, the passive voice uses a sentence structure which requires more cognitive effort. Your reader will spend valuable working memory on making sense of the sentence. This decreases the likelihood of you getting your message across.

Let’s explore why the passive voice demands more effort. As I told you before, the basic active sentence structure is quite consistent and logical in English. The passive voice turns this all the way around. You first read what was affected. Then you read what happened to it. Lastly, you learn how it was affected. You discover who or what was responsible only at the very end. This sequence differs from how we usually make sense of events.

Moreover, we expect the actor to be in the subject position, so we are slightly disoriented. This means constructing an image of what happens takes a tiny moment longer. Again, these moments can easily add up if you overuse the passive voice.

In the example I gave, there is no added benefit to using the passive: the active sentence conveys the same information. Whenever you use passive voice, always consider whether a better, active alternative is available.

What are the exceptions?

Sometimes, using the passive voice can be the only logical way to word a sentence. Mostly, this occurs when the actor is unknown or irrelevant. Let’s look at an example I used in the first paragraph of this very text:

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around.

There is no identifiable actor here, nor would he or she be relevant. After all, we’re talking about a general action here, not a specific one. Any alternative active sentence would be less clear and concise than the passive sentence I wrote, so it’s the best option available.

Alternatively, you may want to use a passive sentence to focus on the receiver. This works when the object is more central to the topic than the actor:

J.F. Kennedy was killed in 1963 in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

This means that we’re not here to tell you to avoid the passive voice like the plague. If it beats the active alternative, by all means: use it! Rules about style are hardly ever set in stone, so don’t make the mistake of following the rule of thumb too strictly. Do what seems right to you and what makes your text flow nicely. A maximum of 10% generally suffices. You should be able to achieve numbers even lower than that by following our advice.

Conclusion

Using the passive voice is generally a bad idea. After writing your text, scan it for passive voice constructions. Always ask yourself: is a better, active alternative available? If there is, use it. If not, use the passive voice.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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All-new and improved: the SEO copywriting training!

As of today, you can get your hands on a completely overhauled version of the SEO copywriting training. We’re very proud to present a much more hands-on training, which will really take you by the hand, and guide you through every step of writing an SEO-friendly blog post. It’s chock-full of real-life examples and practical exercises, so you can get the skills and confidence to write excellent content yourself!

You can get the course for $129, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!

Why should I be excited about the new SEO copywriting training?

Good writing is essential for SEO. If your site is full of copy that your visitors want to read, they’ll enjoy your site and they’ll want to come back. And helping search engines understand your text is crucial for your rankings as well. That’s why, in this course, we’ll introduce you to the wonderful world of SEO copywriting. We’ve created a new course that takes you by the hand, and walks you through the process of writing a blog post that is optimized for ranking in the search engines.

In each module, experienced copywriters provide you with theory, best practices, and tips. All of this is accompanied by lots of practical learning aids: examples, exercises, screencasts, and assignments. After doing the assignments, you’ll have your own, ready-to-publish blog post. If you follow this hands-on course, you’ll master the art of copywriting before you know it!

What will I learn?

We’ll start this course by explaining how Google understands text and what good SEO copy looks like. Then, we’ll cover the essential first step of SEO copywriting: picking the keyphrases your text should rank for in Google. In the last three modules, we’ll explore the three phases of a solid writing process:

1. Preparing your text

It’s important to prepare your text thoroughly. We’ll teach you how to consider your message, audience, angle, and purpose to tailor your copy to your audience.

2. Writing your text

The fun part: the actual writing! You’ll learn why readability is so important and how to write texts that are a breeze to read. Paragraphs, transition words, subheadings – these terms will no longer hold secrets for you.

3. Editing your text

A big part of the actual work lies in editing your text. In this module, we’ll teach you how to craft your text to capture the hearts of your visitors and the search engines. You’ll learn how to rewrite passive sentences and how to avoid spelling and grammar errors.

Get personal feedback on your blog post

The assignments in this course offer you a step-by-step template to write the optimal SEO blog post. When you’ve completed your blog post, you may want to confirm you’re on the right track. If so, you can look to our experts for advice. If you choose the feedback package, a Yoast expert will check your blog post and provide feedback on your copy. We’ll point out missed opportunities and give you ideas to improve your text!

Start writing copy that ranks before the offer expires!

The SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write awesome copy that ranks, so you’ll attract more visitors. And like every other Yoast Academy training course, the SEO copywriting 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!

You can get the course by clicking the button below. But don’t wait too long: it’s temporarily discounted at $129, so get it before the offer expires! If you have a Yoast training subscription, the new course will automatically be added to your account.

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Theme news, tutorials, ACF, and WordPress update

Today’s roundup focuses on some theme related news items, as well as some tutorials and a lot of ACF goodies. But, don’t worry, I’m also bringing you up to speed on WordPress 5.2 and the new Gutenberg update. Would be weird if I didn’t, right? 😏

Genesis 2.10

The Genesis framework saw a nice update to version 2.10 last week. The most important features that were added in this update were WP-CLI commands, improved navigation, increased visibility into Genesis plugins, and easier access to the settings and features. Check out the 2.10 release post for more in-depth information about this release.

Disable Genesis schema markup

If you’ve been using Genesis because of its rich schema markup alongside our Yoast SEO plugin, you may now want to disable Genesis’ schema markup altogether so Yoast SEO can provide everything instead (see the Yoast SEO 11.0 update post for more information about why). To disable Genesis schema, Bill Erickson released a small but effective plugin that does exactly this for you. You can learn all about it in Bill’s post.

Exhale with Justin Tadlock

Justin Tadlock is probably the one I learned from the most about building themes. He’s been around since 2008 and has always produced solid content in the shape of tutorials. Justin recently released a new theme called Exhale which he is using to base a couple of child themes on.

What I really like about Justin’s approach is that he immediately teaches you what he has learned through his blog posts. He has already posted a couple of tutorials on ThemeHybrid’s blog that show you what you can do with a theme that’s making good use of Gutenberg. For instance, how to create an app sales landing page, a cafe landing page, or a business landing page.

Justin’s looking for inspiration to create more of these kinds of landing pages, so if you have an idea, go and respond to his tweet:

ACF and flexible content

Speaking of landing pages. Bill Erickson, yes, the same guy I mentioned earlier in this post, wrote a nice tutorial on how to use ACF to create more flexible landing pages when Gutenberg blocks just don’t cut it.

Bill does a great job explaining in great detail how to approach this. I’m a big fan of Bill’s tutorials as he (just like Justin Tadlock) really takes the time to explain everything step by step.

But there are even more options with ACF.

ACF Blocks

ACF makes it super easy for you to create blocks, and if you prefer not to touch code, you’re in luck. ACF just released ACF Blocks, which is a collection of Gutenberg Blocks. It helps you speed up website creation in the Gutenberg editor. ACF Blocks is built on-top of Advanced Custom Fields Pro. Do note, that this plugin requires the ACF Pro version of the ACF plugin to function correctly.

WordPress 5.2 RC2

If everything goes according to plan, the WordPress Core Team will release WordPress 5.2 this week. They’ve already released the second Release Candidate, so if there are no more blockers, it will be released this week.

Gutenberg 5.6

The work on improving the Gutenberg editor is continuing relentlessly. We saw the release of version 5.6 last week. With the most important updates being a number of improvements, including to the button block focus states, theming, and block mover controls with full- and wide-aligned blocks. Per usual, you can learn more about it here.

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Where did my Search Console errors go?

If you’ve noticed that your Yoast SEO Search Console report looks surprisingly empty, it’s because Google have shut down the system which provides data about their crawl errors.

There’s no need to worry, though – we knew this was coming, and we have plans for the future. Your Search Console report won’t show any information for now, but nothing on your site will break, and you don’t need to take any special action.

The good news is that we’re already building our own, brand new systems for error reporting and management. We think it’ll be even better and more useful than the old Google Search Console integration.

What happened?

If you actively manage your website’s SEO, then you’re probably familiar with Google Search Console. It’s a great way to discover and manage any errors which Google may have encountered when crawling and reading your site.

A snapshot from yoast.com’s own Google Search Console account. We should fix those errors!

Until recently, Google provided us with a way to extract information from their systems. That meant that we could show you Google’s crawl errors and issues right inside your site’s admin area, via the Yoast SEO plugin.

Help! What is an API?

An API is a system which allows software to talk other software. The Google Search Console API allows websites to connect to Google’s systems, and to request information about your website. It used to provide information about crawl errors, but no longer does so.

Having those issues listed inside your side admin area made it easy for you to fix those issues ‘on the fly’. You could set up redirects, tweak pages, and mark individual issues as resolved – without ever leaving your website.

Unfortunately, Google have removed the API which powered this system.

That means it’s no longer possible for us – or anyone else – to get information about your crawl errors. The only way to get this information (at the moment) is for you to manually visit your Google Search Console account.

What does this mean for me?

Nothing will break on your website, and you don’t need to take any action. You’ll just find that if you visit your Search Console admin page in your WordPress website, you won’t see any errors. You’ll see something like this empty table:

You won’t find any errors in your Search Console report, as it’s no longer possible to retrieve them from Google.

That empty table doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have any errors – it just means that we can’t fetch or show them to you.

If you want to go and check your errors and issues, you’ll need to go directly to your Search Console account. If you’re not sure where to start, you can follow this handy guide to using Search Console.

Creating and managing redirects

We know that many of our premium users rely on our Search Console integration to create redirects for broken pages and URLs.

If you’ve set up redirects through the Search Console section in the past, don’t worry – nothing’s been lost, and your redirects still work.

In the future, you’ll just need to use the ‘Redirects’ section to create them, instead.

You can create redirects for broken pages or URLs in Yoast SEO premium, via the Redirects system

We knew this was coming, but we expected a replacement system

We’ve known that Google planned to remove support for error reporting from their Search Console API for a while. It provided data from the ‘old’ Search Console system, which has been gradually replaced or removed as they moved people to the ‘new’ Search Console system. As such, we knew it had a short lifespan.

We’d hoped and assumed that they’d replace the API, in the same way that they’d moved or replaced other functionality from the old system.

What we didn’t expect was for them to simply ‘turn it off’, without providing an alternative or updated solution. We’re a little disappointed about how this has been handled by Google, but, we have some options.

What happens next?

For now, you don’t need to do anything.

We’re chasing Google for updates, and once we hear more from them about what they have planned – if anything – we’ll update our information to reflect that.

Their documentation and communications have hinted at planned future capabilities and support, but there’s nothing out there yet. So we’re waiting, watching, and asking questions about what’s in the pipeline (we’ve particularly high-hopes for Google’s SiteKit WordPress plugin, which is currently in beta).

In the meantime, we’re considering alternative options, processes, and ways in which we can replace or supplement this data. We already have some exciting plans:

In the short-term: We’ll be building an import tool, which lets you upload error reports which you’ve manually downloaded from Google Search Console. We’ll also support uploads from some other tools, which we’re excited about. We’ll share more news that soon.

In the mid-term: We’ll be looking to partner and integrate with a wide variety of your favourite SEO tools and platforms, so that we can import their data about your website’s errors and crawl issues. That’ll give us much richer, more diverse, and more interesting data than ever.

We’ll keep you updated with our progress, and we’ll let you know if we hear back from Google about their plans.

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