How to make the transition to the block editor (from the classic editor) in WordPress

Are you considering switching from the classic editor to the block editor? That’s great, as the block editor will give you lots of possibilities to create awesome, high-quality and high-ranking content! Not sure how to go about this though? Don’t look any further. Here, we’ll guide you through the process of making the switch to the block editor step-by-step.

Did you know we just released a free online course about the WordPress block editor? If you want to learn all about creating awesome content with the block editor, you should definitely check it out!

Why should you transition to the block editor?

Before we explain how to make the switch to the block editor, let’s see why we think you should make the transition to the block editor. Using the block editor has quite a lot of benefits. For example, the block editor makes it easy to:

  • create user-friendly, high-quality content;
  • give your content a great structure, look, and feel;
  • add structured data to your posts and pages, so your content might show up as a rich result in the Google search results.

Read more: The block editor: Why you should be using it

How to switch to the block editor

Switching to the block editor should go smoothly. Especially, if you follow the steps below.

In this video, which is part of our new and free Block editor training, we explain the steps you should take when transitioning to the block editor. And of course, we’ll also describe them in this article!

Step 1: Test the block editor on your site

When you’ve decided you want to make the switch to the block editor, the first thing you should do is test the block editor on your site. The best way to test the block editor is to use a so-called staging site. A staging site is a copy of your live website that allows you to implement and test changes without affecting your real site.

How to create a staging site

So, how do you create a staging environment for your site? There are two easy ways to get one:

  • Ask your hosting company.
    The first way is to ask your hosting company to create one for you. Most hosts should be able to do create a staging environment for your site.
  • Use a WordPress plugin.
    If, for some reason, your hosting company isn’t able to create a staging site for you, you can use a WordPress plugin and create one yourself. If you search for ‘staging’ in the WordPress plugin directory, you’ll find tons of plugins that can do the trick. However, make sure you pick a plugin that’s trustworthy. That means: check the reviews, active installations, the last time it was updated, and its compatibility with your version of WordPress.

What to test in the staging environment

Once you’ve sorted your staging site, you can update it to the latest version of WordPress, which automatically comes with the block editor. Alternatively, disable the classic editor plugin, if you have that installed. To test the block editor, simply check what effect this has on your site. While testing, it’s important to pay special attention to the following:

  • Plugins
    It’s essential to check whether your plugins work correctly with the block editor. Most plugins have already adapted to the block editor, so make sure you’ve updated all your plugins!

    If you encounter a plugin conflicting with the block editor, the easiest solution is to check for an alternative. Is there a similar plugin available that is compatible with the block editor? Sometimes blocks can even replace certain plugins, so you could check the available blocks and see if you can find what you need. It’s handy to make a list of all the plugins that conflict with the block editor, so you can remove them from your real site before you make the transition.
  • Shortcodes
    Before the block editor came, people used shortcodes to add various features to a website. Shortcodes are like shortcuts to a pre-created and pre-defined code on your website. If you’ve used shortcodes, make sure they display correctly with the block editor. This is especially important if you use plugins that insert shortcodes.

Step 2: Switch to the block editor!

Once you’ve tested everything, you’re ready to make the switch! Make a backup of your site and update it to the latest version of WordPress. This automatically comes with the new block editor. If you’re using the classic editor plugin, simply disable the plugin to enjoy your new block editor experience!

What will happen to old posts and pages?

A question we regularly hear is: will switching to the block editor affect my old posts and pages that were created using the classic editor? The short answer is: no. 

However, the long answer is that the content of your posts and pages made in the classic editor will be converted into a single Classic block in the block editor. If you want the full block editor experience with your existing posts and pages as well, you can convert this Classic block into separate blocks.

How to convert the content of old posts and pages

To convert the content of your existing posts and pages into separate blocks, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Classic editor block in the post editing screen.

    By selecting the block, the top toolbar will appear.

  2. Click on the three vertical dots in the upper right corner.

    As shown in the image, a menu will appear.Converting old posts and pages menu item

  3. Click ‘Convert to Blocks’.

    WordPress will now scan your content for HTML tags to place every piece of your content into a corresponding block.

Send us your awesome block editor content!

Do you want to inspire others with the content you’ve created using the block editor? We want everyone to see the endless possibilities of the block editor, by featuring examples on our blog. Therefore, we’re asking you to send us the awesome content you have created using the block editor! Leave the URL in the comments below and spread that block editor love!

The post How to make the transition to the block editor (from the classic editor) in WordPress appeared first on Yoast.

Yoast SEO 13.4: Word form support for Dutch

In Yoast SEO 9.0, we launched an innovative new way to analyze your English language text using word forms. In Yoast SEO 10.1, we added word form support for the German language. Today, we’re glad to announce word form support for Dutch. Here, you can read why this is such an awesome addition to Yoast SEO 13.4.

Word forms?

Back in the day, Yoast SEO used to be rather picky — sometimes it had a hard time detecting the focus keyphrase in your text. For instance, if your focus keyphrase was [vegan pancakes], the plugin wouldn’t recognise instances of the word [vegan pancake] or [pancakes for a vegan friend]. Today, however, the WordPress plugin is so much smarter.

Now, your focus keyphrase doesn’t even have to be in an identical order. The plugin finds all parts of the keyphrase even if the words are split over a sentence.

Yoast SEO Premium takes it one step further. Using the Premium analysis, something like [How to make the fluffiest pancake that even the most critical vegans love] would count as well.

One of the coolest parts of this is that Yoast SEO Premium recognises all word forms of your keyphrase: [vegan], [vegans], [veganism] and more. This way, you don’t have to keep trying to awkwardly fit your focus keyphrase in your text. Simply write naturally and let Yoast SEO take care of the rest. The goal? To write a better text, while spending less time optimizing!

The same goes that other epic feature in Yoast SEO Premium, the possibility to add synonyms and related keyphrases to your post analysis. This too, makes it easier to write a rich, high-quality post that covers all aspects of your subject.

Word forms: now available in Dutch

As of Yoast SEO 13.4, users in the Dutch language can get in on the action too. For every language we add to the plugin, we need to adapt the analysis. Every language has its own sets of rules, you know? We have a team of linguists working on this and bringing you top notch language support.

How does this work in Dutch? Well, here’s Marieke explain it all for you — in Dutch this time!

Let’s take a look at an example! In the screenshot, you see the Premium analysis at work. The focus keyphrase for this example post is [spelen met katten]. If you look closely, Yoast SEO Premium won’t just find the exact match to that keyphrase, but also several variations.

If we look at the word [kat], or cat in Dutch, the plugin now recognises variants on that word as well. So this means, [katten], [kater] and [katjes], among other things, are correct instances of that keyphrase as well.

In the Premium analysis, you can add a number of related keyphrases to make the text analysis even richer. One of the outcomes of this, is that it helps to determine if you have distributed your keyphrases well across your text. All this helps you write the awesome your audience is looking for!

More information about the Yoast SEO analysis

We’ve written quite a few articles on word forms support and text analysis in Yoast SEO. Find why you need this super smart analysis in your daily life. Learn how synonyms and related keyphrases help enrich your articles. Marieke wrote an article on why you should go beyond exact keyword matching. Keen to learn more about the technology behind this? Read up on keyword stemming!

To cap if off, here’s the Dutch version of our infographic that explains the differences between synonyms, word forms and related keyphrases.

Update now to Yoast SEO 13.4

Yoast SEO 13.4 brings a big feature for all you Dutchies: full word form support! This state of the art analysis helps you write better text with a lot less effort. Writing and editing a great piece of content has now become much more natural.

Writing in English or German? But not familiar with the Premium analysis yet? Try it and tell us what you think!

Thanks for using Yoast SEO.

The post Yoast SEO 13.4: Word form support for Dutch appeared first on Yoast.

Building a brand for your business

At Yoast, we pride ourselves on our branding. I would go as far as saying that it has attributed a lot to our success. I also think that good and consistent branding needs to be talked about more, as it is one of the hallmarks of a great enterprise. Please let me explain why I think it’s important for a business to think about their branding and give some examples of what we did. Hopefully, it’ll inspire you to do better branding for your company!

What is branding?

First, let’s look at some definitions. The American Marketing Association on their site defines a brand as:

A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

Lexico defines branding as:

The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.

On the scientific side, definitions range widely too. David Aaker, called the “Father of Modern Branding” by marketing text book writer Philip Kotler, defines branding as:

“Far more than a name and logo, it is an organization’s promise to a customer to deliver what a brand stands for…in terms of functional benefits but also emotional, self-expressive, and social benefits”

David Aaker in Aaker on Branding

So, branding is the whole package: the name, the images, the advertising, the story. Good branding associates your company and/or product with positive feelings. Some major brands even go as far as only promoting the feelings in their advertisements, because we all know what the product is. If you’re in that stage, you’ve reached true “brand recognition”. If you succeed in making people feel certain feelings because they’ve bought something from you, the way I feel when I drink a Diet Coke, for instance, you’ve hit the jackpot.

How do you measure branding?

As digital marketers, we tend to want to measure everything and we think we can measure everything equally well. I don’t think that’s the case for branding. You might have the budget to do large scale brand research, but only truly big brands usually have that kind of money. And when you’re doing that research, the bigger question is: what do you want to do with the outcome of that research?

To go one step deeper, we probably need to define better what we’d be measuring if we can measure anything. I find this brand knowledge pyramid in this article by P. Chandon from INSEAD very useful:

Brand knowledge pyramid which describes going from brand awareness, to strong, favorable & unique brand assocations to postitive & accessible brand evaluations, to intense & active brnad loyalty.

So, if you see the above pyramid, brand awareness is a pre-requisite for everything else. If people don’t consider you when they’re making a purchase, everything else you do to “charge” your brand is useless. More people searching for you online, which you can see through, for instance, Google Trends, is a good measure of brand awareness. Note that it is always relative to your competition. Comparing searches for “Yoast” with searches for “Coca-Cola” is both non-sensical and mostly just self-flagellation. However, comparing searches for “Yoast SEO” with searches for “WordPress SEO” makes much more sense, and luckily, it shows that we won that battle 5 years ago.

If you really want to measure the impact, I think the smartest thing to do for smaller businesses is just seeing whether more people search for your brand online.

The brand “Yoast”

Given our definitions above, the brand Yoast has two sides to it: the brand image and the “functional” aspects of the brand. The functional aspects are a result of the functionality of our product, the quality of our UX, the usefulness of our features. To be able to build a good brand, having at least one good product is a requirement. Of course, that product can be a news site, or information, or whatever you want it to be, but it has to be great. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that’s a given. The great product is there and exists.

The brand name

Some things get lost in history, and that’s kind of funny. Yoast is how you pronounce my first name (Joost) if you’d pronounce it in English. Basically, toast with a Y. These days, people at conferences who don’t know this, sometimes introduce me as “this is Juiced from Yoast”, which always cracks me up. What’s most important though is that Yoast is short, it’s easy to remember and it’s unique in our space.

For a while, keyword domain names were all the rage in the SEO industry. If you want to include the most important keyword for your business, make sure you stick something on to it that makes it rememberable and unique. This will make it a lot easier for people to search specifically for you. Some examples of this are for instance SearchEngineLand and Search Engine Journal. While they both clearly have the keyword in their brand name, the addition does make it a lot easier to search for them. At the same time, they do have longer brand names because of that. If your company name is long, think of whether abbreviating it is a good idea. Some of the best brands in the world are abbreviations: KLM, IBM, H&M, AT&T. You might not even know the words behind some of those abbreviations!

Building the brand image

Mijke, our brand manager, was one of the very first people I hired when I started hiring people. Erwin, the illustrator behind all of our avatars and a lot of the other images you see on this site, followed soon after. From the very beginning, things like color schemes and logos were important. But, also our positioning on who we are in the world are things that we’ve deemed as very important.

Even before he was a Yoast employee, Erwin drew my avatar. Paul Madden created my very first avatar as a doodle at a conference, and while very nice, Erwin improved upon it quite a bit. Later, when Yoast started growing, we asked Erwin to create an avatar for every new employee. We still endeavor to do this, but admittedly we’re running quite a bit behind at the moment.

If you’re interested in our avatars, this infographic is quite interesting (click to enlarge as it’s rather big):

Logos, but also: so much more

In many ways, our avatars were more important at the beginning of Yoast than our logo was. Our avatars, with their recognizable style, immediately made clear that someone who responded somewhere was a Yoast employee. People remember our avatars while most people do not remember our older logo’s.

Image of the old Yoast logo and the current Yoast logo.
The old Yoast logo vs the current one

You cannot just create a logo and then be done with it, you’ll have to give it some more thought, and depending on how big your company is, sometimes even a lot of thought.

Our branding is in every post image we create. You won’t find a lot of stock photos on Yoast.com, we use custom made illustrations for every important aspect of our site. Illustrations that contain exactly what we want them to contain, and are examples for the world we want to live in. These illustrations also hang in our offices as decoration, and during the COVID-19 work from home episode, we allowed our employees to pick one and we sent them some of these illustrations to hang on their home walls. That’s when you know your branding does bring a sense of community, just as in the pyramid above.

Branding in the search results

One of the things that I’ve always been very keen on is doing proper branding in the search results. It’s really important that when someone is researching a topic and you rank for a lot of the terms in that topic, they see you rank. Even if they don’t click on the first result. This is why I’ve always said it’s very important to include your brand name in titles. This is another spot where a relatively short brand name will help you, as you’ve got just so much more space to add a meaningful title. Usually, it makes the most sense to add the brand name to the end of the title and make it easily distinguishable. This can be as simple as - Brand name, we chose to use • Yoast. I think it stands out just a bit more, but mostly because hardly anybody else uses it, so think about what works for you and pick something!

Another opportunity for branding is the knowledge panel that might show up for your brand. Knowledge panels are a type of rich results in the search engines. They are a great asset to have. Be sure to optimize everything you can in that if you have one!

Conclusion

So, we’ve seen that branding is more than just having a logo. Branding needs to consistent, as it is one of the hallmarks of a great enterprise. But, truly measuring the efforts your branding is hard. That’s why you should focus more on what it is you want to do with the outcome of the research. Branding in the search results is something relatively simple, which can result in a lot of brand recognition. Which steps will you take to do better branding for your company?

Read more: 5 tips to improve your branding »

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Update your cancelled or postponed events with Schema

The outbreak of COVID-19 led to a wave of canceled or postponed events. Some events made the switch from an offline event to an online one. As everyone is scrambling to look up the latest information on events online, it is important to have all the latest details on your website. Search engines can pick up these details and post the correct information in the search results. New Event Schema helps speed up this process.

Events structured data expanded quickly

In last week’s release of Schema.org 7.0, you can find several updates to the Events structured data. You can give your event an eventStatus of EventCancelled when it’s cancelled or an EventPostponed when it’s been postponed. In addition, you can also set a rescheduled event as EventRescheduled.

A new option is available for events that moved online: you can now update the eventStatus to EventMovedOnline. Here, you can also mark events as online-only by setting the location to VirtualLocation and set the eventAttendenceMode to OnlineEventAttendanceMode.

An example for YoastCon 2020

We had a new edition of YoastCon planned for April, 2020. As everything else, we rescheduled that to a date later in the year. I thought I’d let you see how one of these additions could look in code.

Below, you can find a part of the Schema code found on the YoastCon page. I’ve added the eventStatus, plus the corresponding EventRescheduled property. Also, I’ve added the old, plus the new date. Now, search engines know this event was rescheduled to a new date and can update the listing accordingly.

{
        "@type":"BusinessEvent",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoastcon/#yoastcon",
        "mainEntityOfPage": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoastcon/#webpage"
        }
        ,
        "name":"YoastCon",
        "description":"Due to the recent COVID-19 health concerns both locally and among our (international) speakers, we're sad to announce that we're postponing YoastCon 2020.",
        "organizer": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/#organization"
        }
        ,
        "startDate":"2020-09-10T07:00:00+00:00",
        "endDate":"2020-09-10T07:00:00+00:00",
        "eventStatus": "https://schema.org/EventRescheduled",
        "eventAttendanceMode": "https://schema.org/OfflineEventAttendanceMode",
      "previousStartDate": "2020-04-21T19:00",
        "url":"https://yoast.com/yoastcon/",
        "image":"https://yoast.com/app/uploads/2019/10/YoastCon2020-600x338.png",
        "location": {
           "@type":"Place",
            "name":"Theater 't Moza\u00efek",
            "url":"https://www.mozaiekwijchen.nl/",
            "address": {
                "@type": "PostalAddress", 
		"addressLocality": "Wijchen", 	
		"addressRegion": "Gelderland", 
		"addressCountry": "The Netherlands", 
		"postalCode": "6602 HX", 
		"streetAddress": "Campuslaan 6"
            }
        }

Moving the event online

Many events now move to online-only, for the time being or completely. You can now let search engines know that the event has turned into an online event — or a mixed event with both an offline and an online component.

In the YoastCon example, I could move the event by adding an EventMovedOnline property, combined with a new VirtualLocation property with a link to the page where the event is happening online. Code is truncated.

"eventAttendanceMode": "https://schema.org/OnlineEventAttendanceMode",
      "eventStatus": [
        "https://schema.org/EventRescheduled",
        "https://schema.org/EventMovedOnline"
        ],
      "previousStartDate": "2020-04-22T19:00",
      "location": {
        "@type": "VirtualLocation",
        "url": "https://yoast.com/yoastcon/"

Of course, you can combine both online and offline locations of the event. Simply add the MixedEventAttendanceMode to the eventAttendanceMode and set both a virtual as well as a real location for the event. This might look something like this:

  "eventAttendanceMode": "https://schema.org/MixedEventAttendanceMode",
  "eventStatus": "https://schema.org/EventScheduled",
  "location": [{
    "@type": "VirtualLocation",
    "url": "https://yoast.com/yoastcon/"
  },
  {
    "@type":"Place",
        "name":"Theater 't Moza\u00efek",
        "url":"https://www.mozaiekwijchen.nl/",
        "address": {
            "@type": "PostalAddress", 
            "addressLocality": "Wijchen",   
            "addressRegion": "Gelderland", 
            "addressCountry": "The Netherlands", 
            "postalCode": "6602 HX", 
            "streetAddress": "Campuslaan 6"
}
}]

Google has a special page in on its developer website describing how to get your event in the search results correctly.

SpecialAnnouncement for broadcasting announcements

The new SpecialAnnouncement type lets governments announce important happenings, like the closing of businesses and public recreation areas. While the initial offering is focused entirely on the spread special announcements during the Coronavirus pandemic, this will be extended at a further date. Both Bing and Google accept SpecialAnnouncement and will highlight these pages in the results how they see fit. You can find more information on SpecialAnnouncement on Schema.org/SpecialAnnouncement.

We’re working on this as well

As you see, it makes a lot of sense to add this to your event pages. Unfortunately, at the moment Yoast SEO doesn’t have to option to add this code automatically. We’re working on that, though! Our structured data content blocks already let you build great FAQ pages and how-to articles, but we’re also working on blocks for events and recipes, among other things. In a while, you can add events and mark these as online, offline or mixed, while the correct structured data will be applied automatically.

Other things you can do to get provide accurate and up-to-date information

In the current COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial to give people accurate information about your event or business. A lot things have changed, many people sit indoor and have to go online to find out which businesses they can still visit or which events take place when. So, please take a moment to bring all your listings up-to-date.

Please check your listings on Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, TripAdvisor et cetera. Also update your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, it might be a good idea to put a COVID-19 related FAQ page on your website answering the most pressing questions on how your business or event is handling this crisis. The Yoast SEO FAQ content block helps you make such a page in an instant. It also automatically adds valid structured data that makes sure the FAQ shows up in Google. Use it to your advantage.

Also, make sure to read Google’s documentation on how to pause your business online in search during this crisis.

Stay indoors. Stay safe!

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Brand-new free online training: Block editor training

At Yoast, we are huge fans of the block editor. Admittedly -not right from the start-, but we’re now block-editor fanboys and fangirls. That’s why we created an awesome free block editor course! We hope it will help everybody to use the block editor to the fullest!

In this course, you’ll learn how to create awesome content with the new WordPress block editor! It adds thousands of new possibilities for creating posts and pages and it makes editing a lot easier. In the new Block editor training, we take you by the hand and guide you through the process of creating and publishing content with the new block editor. What’s more, we also show you some cool examples and explain how you can make the switch from the classic editor to the block editor. Ready to start learning?

What will you learn in the Block editor training?

In this online course, we teach you everything you need to know about creating well-designed, perfectly structured content with the new WordPress block editor. You’ll learn:

  • what the block editor is, why it was created and why you should be using it;
  • how to use the block editor: how to add, move, transform, group, reuse and edit blocks;
  • how to publish a post using the block editor;
  • how to add more blocks – and thus: functionalities – to the block editor;
  • how to switch from the classic editor to the new block editor and what you should pay attention to when transitioning;
  • everything about the future of the block editor – or project Gutenberg, like the goal of the project and the plans that have been announced.

We’ll take you by the hand and guide you through the process of creating a post with the block editor through practical screencasts, PDFs and assignments. To illustrate the endless possibilities of the block editor, we’ll also show you some awesome examples of content created with the new editor. 

How is the course set up?

The Block editor training is a hands-on and practical training that consists of three modules:

  1. What is the block editor?
  2. Using the block editor
  3. Extras

These modules are divided into several lessons. Each lesson contains interesting videos, in which our WordPress experts – like Marieke van de Rakt and Jono Alderson – explain everything you should know. The practical lessons in module 2 also contain screencasts, so you can see exactly what you should do. We’ve also created reading materials, in which we explore topics more broadly. To complete a lesson, you take a quiz or do a practical assignment. In this way, you’ll know for sure whether you fully understand the theory and whether you’re able to put your knowledge to practice. Once you’ve finished the course, you’ll receive a Yoast certificate and a badge you can display on your website.

Online & on-demand

The block editor training is an online and on-demand training, like every other Yoast SEO academy training course. This means you can learn whenever you want and wherever you want! And did we already mention it’s completely free of charge?

Start creating block-tastic content now!

After the Block editor training, blocks will no longer hold any secrets for you and you’ll be ready to outshine your competition with visually stunning blog posts and pages! Are you ready? Check your Yoast SEO academy courses overview or click the button below to start the course!

Want to take a deeper dive?

Yoast SEO academy offers more in-depth courses about SEO and WordPress too. Want to learn how to write texts that are a breeze to read for readers and search engines alike? We offer classes on SEO copywriting! Or do you want to find out what keywords are most effective for your site? Our keyword research classes will tell you how. With a Yoast SEO academy Premium subscription, you’ll have access to 11 specialist courses created by SEO experts. Check it out now!

The post Brand-new free online training: Block editor training appeared first on Yoast.

How to get your new WordPress site indexed

When you roll out the red carpet on a new website, you might be expecting visitors to start coming eagerly. In reality, before people start visiting your site, search engines need to find, index and rank it. In this article, I share some tips that could help you get your site indexed faster. 

A quick note before we go on. Although in the short term, there are some things you can do to get your site indexed faster, you mustn’t forget the long game. A sustainably high-ranking website depends in large part on creating remarkable content. Why? Because search engines want to find the best answer to the queries their users make. The site with the best content wins the race to the top of the search results. 

How do search engines work? 

To understand how to get your site indexed, it’s useful to know how search engines work. Search engines generate results in three main steps: crawling, indexing, and ranking. 

Crawling is the process of discovery done by crawlers, bots, or spiders. A computer program instructs crawlers on what pages to crawl and what to look for. When crawlers land on a page, they gather information and follow links. Whatever they find, they report back to the search engine servers. Then, the search engine tries to make sense of the page in order to index it. It looks at the content and everything it finds, it puts in a giant database; their ‘index’. 

Finally, ranking begins when you search for something online. So, the search engine algorithm looks through the index and filters the pages to find the best ones. We do not know the exact mechanics of the algorithm. Still, we know that search engines are especially enthusiastic about high-quality content and user-friendly, up-to-date pages.

Read more: What does Google do? »

Crawling, indexing and ranking never stop. As new pages keep pouring in, and as old ones get updated, the crawlers continuously crawl, and the search engines get new and improved ways to gather and display results

So, how can you speed up this process and help search engines find you quicker? An excellent way to start is submitting an XML sitemap in Google Search Console.

How to get your site found and indexed by Google:

  1. Create an XML sitemap with Yoast SEO

    An XML sitemap is a file that contains information about your website. In plain language, it is a list of your most important pages. It is a useful tool that helps Google find and explore your site. Yoast SEO can help you to create a sitemap. All you need to do is enable the XML sitemap option and the sitemap will be automatically generated. It’s quite a time saver!

  2. Set up an account with Google Search Console

    After you’ve created the sitemap, you need to tell Google about it. Google Search Console is a tool that can help you with that. To add your sitemap to the Console, you need to create an account. Yoast SEO can also help you get your site verified with Google Search Console.

  3. Add your sitemap to Google Search Console

    In Google Search Console, you will find the XML sitemap tab. There, you can add the sitemap you created, so that Google will know where to find it. If you update content on your site, your XML sitemap will be updated automatically.

  4. And/or, submit your most important individual pages in Google Search Console

    On top of this, you can ask Google to crawl individual pages too. In Google Search Console you’ll find the URL inspection tool, where you can ask Google to crawl or recrawl a URL. There’s a quota, so think about which pages are crucial for your business in terms of ranking and submit those here.

Why do you need an XML sitemap?

We mentioned that crawlers discover pages by following links. When you have a new website, you may face at least two issues. First, there are likely not that many external sites that point to your website. Second, you probably still don’t have a lot of content, so your internal linking and your site structure are not (yet) stellar. Without links, how can the crawlers come to your site? 

One solution to getting your site indexed is to create a sitemap right from the start and add it to Google Search Console. However, since you might still not have a lot of content, you should be careful with what you include in it. Although you can create sitemaps for videos, images, categories, and tags, it does not mean that you should necessarily do it. For example, you might have already set up some categories. But, for each category, you have just one post. In that case, creating a sitemap for your categories is not so useful, since the content does not give a lot of information, both to visitors and crawlers. 

It is important to note that Google may not crawl and index all the items in your sitemap. Still, we encourage you to create one, as we believe that you will benefit from it.

Getting your site indexed beyond Google

We told you how you could submit a sitemap with Google Search Console. But, it’s not the only search engine out there. So, how can you submit your sitemap to other search engines? It is easy with Yoast SEO. Other search engines also have Webmaster tools, where you can submit a sitemap and follow the performance of your site. Currently, you use Yoast SEO to add your site to:

What’s next? 

After you’ve created a sitemap and connected it to search engines with Yoast SEO, can you finally sit back, relax, and watch as visitors pour in? Not really.  As we said, you will have to continue making high-quality content. Don’t forget that you can also use social media to your advantage and strategically share your content there. Another important thing is getting links from other, preferably high-ranking websites. That means that you will need to work on your link building. Of course, don’t forget to apply holistic SEO strategies to your website to cover all SEO fronts and ensure high rankings.

Keep reading: How to rank high in Google »

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Yoast SEO 13.3: Improving our language analysis

Our current string of releases focusing on improving our code is continuing with Yoast SEO 13.3. In this release, for instance, you’ll find a sizable update to how we work with languages. In addition, we have a Schema structured data addition and several improvements to how Yoast SEO handles URLs. Read on!

Improving the way we handle languages

As you know, Yoast SEO has a very advanced system for working with languages. We analyze your texts and give you tips to improve the readability or the enhance the SEO-friendliness of those articles. Yoast SEO Premium customers get an even more advanced analysis that makes it even easier to optimize your text in a natural way. All thanks to word form recognition, related keyphrases and synonyms.

Getting the analysis so smart is no small feat. Languages are hard to grasp and every language has its own rules and peculiarities. To get these analyses to function properly, we need to finetune these for each language. In Yoast SEO 13.3, we’ve drastically improved this system.

We now break down words to their stems automatically — also called stemming —, but no longer build a complete list of all the different word forms. This was a complex and time-consuming process that made it hard to scale. This new version makes it much easier for us to improve the system — and to roll out a lot more languages in the near future.

Keep in mind, the analysis itself haven’t changed — just the way we come to the end results.

Enhancements in Yoast SEO 13.3

In Yoast SEO 13.3, we’ve improved how the plugin handles URLs. Saša Todorović also submitted a number of improvements to how Yoast SEO works with URLs as well. We made sure that URLs keep human-readable, both in our forms and in the metadata Yoast SEO outputs on the frontend. Of course, they will remain encoded in the Schema structured data, because of the way JSON works with this.

Speaking of Schema, we’ve added a potentialAction entity to the WebPage and Article Schema pieces. This means we can indicate in the structured data that readers of this piece of content have the option of leaving a comment, for instance.

Update now to Yoast SEO 13.3

There you have it, Yoast SEO 13.3. This release bring a better language processing system, plus enhancements to the way Yoast SEO works with URLs. In addition, we fixed several bugs and made improvements to our code. You can find out more in the changelog for Yoast SEO 13.3. Download now!

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Why and how to use the search results to create intent-based content

Search intent is becoming more and more important. Google is getting better and better at guessing exactly what searchers are looking for when they type in their – sometimes cryptic – search terms. That’s why you need to focus on it as well! What is search intent, again? How do search engines approach user intent? And how can you assess if you target the right type of intent with your content? This post is all about that!

Search intent?

Let’s start with a quick refresher on the term ‘search intent’. You’ll recognize from your own online behavior that each search term is entered with a particular intent in mind. Sometimes, you want to find information. Other times, you’re looking to research or buy a certain product. And don’t forget all those times you enter a brand name because you don’t want to type out the site’s entire URL. We generally distinguish four types of searcher intent: informational, commercial, transactional and navigational. If this is new to you, head over to our SEO basics article on search intent, that’ll make understanding this post a bit easier.

Search engines try to predict user intent

Of course, for each of these four categories of user intent, there can still be a lot of variation in what exactly a user is looking for. Search engines use data to interpret what the dominant intent of a query is. They want to present results that match user intent exactly. Before we can use the search results to create our intent based content, we need to understand how search intent works for different queries. 

Search terms with dominant intent

Sometimes, a search term has one dominant interpretation. Those terms can be very straightforward, like [buy King Louie Betty dress] or [symptoms of diabetes]. For the first term, results will mainly show pages offering that particular model of dress for sale, or similar dresses by that brand. For the second, results are filled with answer boxes and websites offering medical information. 

Google also understands the intent behind terms that aren’t as literal. For example, whenever people all over the world enter [white house] as a search term, they’re not looking for information on painting their house white. They want to know something about the residence of the president of the United States, and search engines show results accordingly. 

Search terms referring to several entities 

In many cases, the same term can be used to look for very different things. Let’s take the search term [Mercury]. Some people will be looking for the planet, others for the element, even others for the Roman god of commerce, and a few might actually be looking for the lead singer of the band Queen. The reason for that is that this one word can be used to describe several distinctly different things – also described as entities. The context makes clear which entity a word is referring to. It’s important to be aware of how this works in search engines, so read up on the topic in Edwin’s post about entities and semantics.

All these searches probably have informational intent, but they’re not looking for the same thing. While it’s difficult – especially from one word, like in this example – search engines still try to figure out what their users really want when typing in their search term. So, if, for example, less people click to the ‘mercury-element’ results, than to the ‘mercury-planet’ results, they’ll deduce that more people want information about the planet Mercury, and alter the results pages accordingly. If we take a look at the search results for the term [Mercury], we’ll indeed see that most results relate to the planet. From that, we can conclude from that it’s the dominant intent: most people who type in this term are looking for the planet. 

Google tries to satisfy multiple intents for the search term [mercury]

Search terms without dominant intent

Some search terms don’t have one clear-cut intent, which leaves search engines guessing at what to show. You can recognize these searches when the results pages show many different results. Take the query [tree house], for example. Depending on your exact location, the search results show images of tree houses, information and videos on how to build one, advertisements for buying one, and businesses called ‘Tree house’, including a brewery, restaurants, holiday homes, and a code learning web platform. This variety means that Google has most types of intent behind this query covered. But it may make ranking more difficult.

Why should you use the search results to create intent-based content?

Simply put: because the search results give direct insight into what people are looking for when they’re typing in your keywords. You can easily lose sight of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) as your most direct source of information. But if you focus on your site alone, or only look at things through the eyes of tools, you miss invaluable information about what your audience is looking for. Search results pages not only show you how you and your competitors are doing, but also where new opportunities are and whether you need to adjust your SEO strategy. For instance, if you see a lot of images in the results pages for your keyphrase, and you don’t have any, that’s an opportunity! 

To get the most objective idea of the search results for a query, make sure you use a private browser window. A local SERP-checker, such as https://valentin.app/ can also help you get even more objective results, and find out what the results look like in other cities. 

Creating intent-based content yourself

There are a few steps you can take to attune your content better to user search intent and work towards creating intent-based content.

  1. Choose keywords from your keyword research and enter them in a private browser window or SERP-checker.
  2. Analyze what you see on the results pages. Which type of intent is most common? (informational, commercial, etc?) Is there one dominant interpretation and if so, what is it? Do you see videos? Images? Related searches?
  3. Evaluate whether the content you have – or plan to publish – is in line with the things you found on the results pages. Do the types of intent match? Is your content in the right form?
    1. If yes, great! Perhaps you can find ranking ideas in related searches. And, have a quick peek at the competition, to see what you’re up against.
    2. Do you notice that things don’t match up, and the SERPs show intent that doesn’t align with what you offer in your content? Depending on what you find in the SERPs, you might still be able to rank. For example, perhaps there isn’t a dominant type of intent, in which case your content could still make the cut. However, if you find intent that unanimously doesn’t match what you have to offer at all, ranking will be difficult, unless you’re having a high authority site. In that case, consider whether it’s worth the effort to create your content, or if you need to adjust your strategy a little. A solution could be to target a slightly different related keyword, with better matching user intent, or to adjust your content. 

This all still sounds a bit abstract. So, let’s look at a few examples to give you a better idea of this process in practice!

Examples of research to create intent-based content

Using the right terminology in informational content

Results page for the search term [website maintenance]

Here at Yoast, we write about all aspects of SEO. One of those aspects is keeping your website in good shape. We had an article planned on this topic, and one of the most important terms we used in this article was ‘Website maintenance’. Our article was about keeping your site content fresh and your site’s structure well-maintained in the process. However, when we started looking at the SERPs, we noticed that wasn’t what people were looking for at all when they used that term. The content in the answer box wasn’t really related, and the other results almost exclusively consisted of companies offering services to work on technical site maintenance and hosting, with some results stressing the importance of this.

So, from analyzing the SERPs, we got two important insights. Firstly, many people using the search term [website maintenance] have commercial intent, rather than informational. Secondly, they were actually looking for something completely different. So, while we could write an article about website maintenance, to rank, it needed to be a completely different article. It should discuss things like hosting, technical site performance, etc, as that’s what searchers are looking for. 

We realized we had to make changes to the article, adapt our strategy and target a keyword with better matching intent. We changed some of the wording in this article (and related ones as well) from ‘maintenance’ to ‘keep old content’, ‘update or delete’ and ‘cannibalization’. Of course, you could argue that we didn’t pick the right words here in the first place. The reason for that might’ve been that we got a bit stuck in our own content bubble, and forgot about the user. Looking at the SERPs helped change perspective in this case.

Business case: selling recycled jewelry

Let’s look at another example, one that small business owners might relate to. Say, you run an online shop that sells jewelry made with recycled materials. One of your product groups is jewelry made of recycled nespresso pods. So, you’re thinking of trying to rank for [recycled nespresso pods] with a product page or category page. Is that a good idea? Time to look at the search results pages!

Of course, it somewhat depends on location, but prominent on the results page for [recycled nespresso pods] are results about how the pods are recycled. A few are from Nespresso itself, and you could also find some of their videos on recycling. Other results cover the process of recycling and how consumers can get their pods recycled. There is nothing on using recycled pods as a crafting material. So, now you know that this phrase will be difficult to rank for, as it’s not what users are looking for. 

the search results pages for the term recycled nespresso pods jewelry.
Results page for [recycled nespresso pods jewelry].

What about [recycled nespresso pods jewelry], then? As can be expected, the results align a lot better with what you have to offer. However, most results are geared towards informational intent. While the top result is Etsy -which would be difficult to compete with- other results show lists of ideas and tutorials. This means, again, it would be hard to get your commercial or transactional product (category) pages on this list. However, you could still rank if you’d change your strategy, and wrote a tutorial on crafting a basic piece of nespresso jewelry. In such a tutorial, you could easily refer people to your products if they’re looking for more intricate pieces. It might even be worthwhile to make a video tutorial, as there are video results on the results pages.

Conclusion

This post covers a lot of different aspects of search intent in this post. It deals with which types there are, whether or not there is a dominant interpretation and looking at the SERPs to gauge a query’s intent. The exact steps to take will differ on a case to case basis. A good takeaway, in any case, is to always take a good look at the results pages for keyphrases you’re targeting. Analyze what you see, as it’s valuable, first-hand information. Be realistic and be prepared to put in the work if you find you need to change your strategy. We’ve said it time and again: SEO is a lot of work, and you need to work hard to be the best result – for the right query.

Read more: On-SERP SEO can help you battle zero-click results »

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What is the user journey in SEO?

You’ll probably have heard the term user journey a lot, but what is it exactly? And what does it have to do with SEO? The user journey consists of all the steps a user takes to reach their goal. In buying something, the user journey includes steps like reading reviews, checking prices, comparing shops etc. In SEO, you can map out the user journey and place content on all the points a user comes into contact with you. Let’s take a look.

Your user journey: how do you purchase a product?

The concept of the user journey becomes instantly clear when you are looking to buy something. Let’s say you want to buy a new tv — your 15-year old 42 inch LCD tv doesn’t cut it anymore. You do research and ask yourself some questions: how big should it be? Which screen technology? What about 4k or maybe 8k for future-proofing? Do my friends have any advice? Which shops can I go to to see some screens in action? You go through a whole lot of steps before you are ready to pull the trigger on a new tv.

That proces, from the moment you realise you need a new tv to the moment you turn on the new tv in your home — and even after that fact — is called the user journey. As an eCommerce store selling tv’s you need to know how a user might get from A to Z and prepare useful content for the moments when that user might need that content.

Now, you might think that you can simply think about which steps a user might take in any given situation and put that on some kind of timeline. Well, it’s more complicated than that. If you think about it, your process of buying something might differ completely from someone else’s. You can’t force everyone to follow the same path.

In addition, the user journey is hardly ever a straight line, more often, it’s a squiggly line moving in all directions. Users go from awareness, to research, to checking prices, to research, to talking to friends about it et cetera. Eventually, the user makes a decision — some users take hours, other months.

This also goes for how people behave on websites. They hardly ever arrive neatly via the homepage only to follow the path you want them to follow. In different stages of the journey, people need different kinds of information and they will, therefore, enter your site via different pages — probably the one buried deep in your site. After that, they can move in any kind of direction. That means that every page on a site needs to consider multiple user journeys, and act as a landing page. You can’t assume that there’s a linear/predictable flow through a site.

Mapping the user journey makes it easier for users to find what they need to come to a decision. For site owners, it offers a helpful guide to where what kind of content should be to help speed up this decision making process.

Classic marketing still applies

Thinking about user journeys automatically lets you think about all those classic marketing funnels. The AIDA model — over a hundred years old —, for instance, is a good fit for making user journeys insightful. AIDA stands for:

  • Attention: get your potential consumer to notice you
  • Interest: find a way to hold that attention to build interest
  • Desire: persuade the consumer to make them want your product/service
  • Action: get the consumer to make that conversion 

AIDA is often appended with another letter, the S for Satisfaction — or the R for Retention. This is where you keep your customer once that sale is done, be it in excellent customer service or guiding him or her to their next purchase. You have to try and get some kind of loyalty. For many things, you don’t want to simply convert a sale, but also a customer for life and a champion of your brand. 

Mapping the user journey helps structure the process

Mapping the user journey helps you make sense of what you need to do to turn that potential customer into a loyal returning one. Once you start researching, you’ll probably find a number of holes in your strategy or thought-process. You’ll have missed a couple of entry points and discover thinking that hadn’t occurred to you. Once you find this, you’ll also notice that there is a lot of content missing that should have helped potential customers in their journey towards you.

Mapping done well, you’ll have a solid story for your customer’s process and a guide that helps you take away all pain points.

How to map out a user journey?

The most important thing for mapping a user journey is getting inside the potential customer’s mind. These are the people doing the travelling and they know what they do to get somewhere. Don’t think you can make up stuff by yourself or your marketing team. Talk to people! Also find out what they’re saying on forums and social media like reddit.

What journey does the user take to get to your solution? (c) Rosenfeld Media

Mapping a user journey can sometimes feel like releasing the kraken — it can become unwieldy, like something with a lot of tentacles. It is, therefore, a good idea to limit the scope somewhat. Set clear objectives, know when a task ends and don’t try to fit everything you do into one user journey. Research specific tasks for specific people and go from there. 

Define scope 

Before you start, you need to have the basics questions answered. Who are you? What is your mission? Which problems does your product or service solve? Who is your audience or who do you think your audience is? Know yourself before you jump into a research project with the wrong knowledge.

With that out of the way, it is often a good idea to make a high-level overview of what you want to achieve. Consider how you think the user will behave on this particular journey. Don’t go into detail, but simply make a quick visualisation of the process — this helps you to define the scope of the user journey. Keep in mind, you won’t know the exact user journey until you do the research. Don’t stick to these assumptions, please.

By mapping out a journey from A to Z, you get everything and the kitchen sink but that’s probably not what you need. It’s often better to focus on a sub-journey powered by a specific scenario. This makes it easier to develop, maintain and improve. 

For instance, if you offer SEO training courses, you might want to map a journey for people unaware of SEO that encompasses everything from becoming aware of the plusses of SEO to learning of SEO courses to finding your specific SEO course. That’s a whole lotta journey, so to say. In this case, you could make a high-level overview and fill these in with more detailed sub-journeys. That makes creating and mapping content to them easier as well.

In addition, it is good to think about who you are targeting. Are you targeting everyone? Probably not! By narrowing down the user profiles, you can get more specific in your journeys. This way, you can take the experiences of a user, for instance, into account. 

Start researching what you have

If you’ve been in business for a while, it might be that you’ve done a lot of user research already — both qualitative and quantitative data. Maybe you know your customers inside out. Have you interviewed customers, cool! Asked them how they use your newsletter? Nice. Got a whole bunch of keyword research sheets? Awesome. Did eye tracking tests on your new website? Epic. Go over every bit of research you have done and collect the most valuable insights that can help advance the development of the user journey. 

Take special note of your keyword research. If you haven’t done keyword research properly, you need to get to it. Search volumes and popularity of certain phrases can be helpful insight into what people want/need, and you can react accordingly. In addition, looking at the kinds of sites which rank for those keywords is useful. If the results for a particular keyword are mostly informational, for example, it’s probably worth considering that those searches are from people early on / in research phases, and your content/ui/etc should react accordingly.

Determine what you need

Once you’ve pored over the available research, you get an idea of what you need to form a full picture of your user/customer. You might notice a couple of patches that haven’t been discussed or questions that haven’t been asked by your customer. Make lists of all the questions you still need to answer before you know to fill in the user journey. Don’t assume anything. Don’t fill in the gaps yourself before doing the research.

Perform your research

It’s time to fill in the gaps. Once you’ve written your research plan, you can start your research. To get a good grasp on the way users are behaving, you can use all kinds of ways to get those answers:

  • Conduct customer interviews with specific questions
  • Direct observations
  • Field studies
  • Competitive analysis

You can combine these qualitative insights with quantitative insights, from survey data, Google Analytics, sentiment analysis et cetera. 

Structure the results

Once you’ve gathered all the data, you can start structuring the results. How you do this is up to you, but you could use the following buckets to structure your data and the user’s thoughts and expectations.

  • Actions: which steps does a user take to advance the journey?
  • Motivations: how do they feel about the process?
  • Questions: which questions do users ask themselves while trying to advance the journey?
  • Obstacles: what stops them from advancing?

Combined, you’ll get a clear sense of the user journey. In addition, you’ll also get an idea of the obstacles you need to take down to help the user progress without too much friction. 

Visualize the results

The most recognisable part of the user journey is the visual that supports it. User journey visualizations come in all shapes and sizes. Pick one that you can understand and that fits what you want to achieve. Here are a couple of examples:

Here’s an example by NN Group »
A more complex one by Columbia Road »
Or this one by GatherContent »

Once you’ve built up the user journey, it’s a good idea to try it for yourself. Maybe even let real customers or users do the journey. Ask them if it seems logical? Do the steps jump around? Maybe it’s too narrow or too broad? This all helps to validate the journey and take out any assumptions you might have made.

Map content to journey touchpoint

Now, you’ll have the full scope of the user journey in focus, so you’ll notice all the points where a user or customers comes into contact with you or your product. These so-called touch points are great entrance points for high-quality, and extremely relevant content that answers all the questions the user has at that particular moment in the user journey.

It’s time to start mapping your content to these specific touch points. We’ll explain how to do that in another post. While thinking about your content, keep the old AIDA model in your mind: how do you get attending and arouse interest? And once you have that, how do you get people from visitors to customers — and keep them there? 

SEO is only part of the user journey

The user journey contains, more often than not, almost everything you do as a company. If you want to successfully help a potential customer from A to Z, you need to have everything in order. As users often start their journey by typing a query in a search bar, SEO plays an important role to get them relevant content when they need it. SEO, however, is merely a part of the machinery that forms a successful journey.

This probably goes without saying, but your product or service should be truly valuable and good. There’s no sense in getting people to try a subpar product. Marketing 101, right? The same goes for your branding. It has to be recognisable, genuine, unique and befitting of your company. Your site has to be technically awesome, filled with relevant content and looking incredible and trustworthy. The user experience should be stellar. Practice holistic SEO!

The consumer experience should be impeccable as well. Your potential customer is going to do a lot of research, both online as well as offline. So make sure that your companies profiles are well-tended. Get those five star online reviews and respond to the negative ones. Have active social media accounts that send out relevant content and respond to users’ questions. 

Also, think about what you are doing offline. Are you running ads anywhere? Sponsoring events? Holding your own event? Think about ways to get into the minds of people without having to resort to the internet. Many people will want to form a good picture of how you are, what you do and if you are deserving of their money, so to say.

A primer on user journeys for SEO

This post gives you a solid overview of the use of user journeys for SEO. User journeys help you make sense of how users behave and they help you produce relevant content that answers questions and converts. Even if you don’t launch a full scale research project for this, thinking about how a user behaves and maybe even talking to a couple of them gives you great insights that might further your business. 

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A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates

These days, the way we do SEO is somewhat different from how things were done ca. 10 years ago. There’s one important reason for that: search engines have been continuously improving their algorithms to give searchers the best possible results. Over the last decade, Google, as the leading search engine, introduced several major updates, and each of them has had a major impact on best practices for SEO. Here’s a — by no means exhaustive — list of Google’s important algorithm updates so far, as well as some of their implications for search and SEO.

2011 – Panda

Obviously, Google was around long before 2011. We’re starting with the Panda update because it was the first major update in the ‘modern SEO’ era. Google’s Panda update tried to deal with websites that were purely created to rank in the search engines, and mostly focused on on-page factors. In other words, it determined whether a website genuinely offered information about the search term visitors used. 

Two types of sites were hit especially hard by the Panda update:

  1. Affiliate sites (sites which mainly exist to link to other pages).
  2. Sites with very thin content.

Google periodically re-ran the Panda algorithm after its first release, and included it in the core algorithm in 2016. The Panda update has permanently affected how we do SEO, as site owners could no longer get away with building a site full of low-quality pages.

2012 – Venice

Venice was a noteworthy update, as it showed that Google understood that searchers are sometimes looking for results that are local to them. After Venice, Google’s search results included pages based on the location you set, or your IP address.

2012 – Penguin

Google’s Penguin update looked at the links websites got from other sites. It analyzed whether backlinks to a site were genuine, or if they’d been bought to trick the search engines. In the past, lots of people paid for links as a shortcut to boosting their rankings. Google’s Penguin update tried to discourage buying, exchanging or otherwise artificially creating links. If it found artificial links, Google assigned a negative value to the site concerned, rather than the positive link value it would have previously received. The Penguin update ran several times since it first appeared and Google added it to the core algorithm in 2016.

As you can imagine, websites with a lot of artificial links were hit hard by this update. They disappeared from the search results, as the low-quality links suddenly had a negative, rather than positive impact on their rankings. Penguin has permanently changed link building: it no longer suffices to get low-effort, paid backlinks. Instead, you have to work on building a successful link building strategy to get relevant links from valued sources.

2012 – Pirate

The Pirate update was introduced to combat illegal spreading of copyrighted content. It considered (many) DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests for a website as a negative ranking factor for the first time.

2013 – Hummingbird

The Hummingbird update saw Google lay down the groundwork for voice-search, which was (and still is) becoming more and more important as more devices (Google Home, Alexa) use it. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole search phrase is taken into account, rather than just particular words. Why? To understand a user’s query better and to be able to give them the answer, instead of just a list of results.

The impact of the Hummingbird update wasn’t immediately clear, as it wasn’t directly intended to punish bad practice. In the end, it mostly enforced the view that SEO copy should be readable, use natural language, and shouldn’t be over-optimized for the same few words, but use synonyms instead. 

2014 – Pigeon

Another bird-related Google update followed in 2014 with Google Pigeon, which focused on local SEO. The Pigeon update affected both the results pages and Google Maps. It led to more accurate localization, giving preference to results near the user’s location. It also aimed to make local results more relevant and higher quality, taking organic ranking factors into account. 

2014 – HTTPS/SSL

To underline the importance of security, Google decided to give a small ranking boost to sites that correctly implemented HTTPS to make the connection between website and user secure. At the time, HTTPS was introduced as a lightweight ranking signal. But Google had already hinted at the possibility of making encryption more important, once webmasters had had the time to implement it. 

2015 – Mobile Update

This update was dubbed ‘​Mobilegeddon​’ by the SEO industry as it was thought that it would totally shake up the search results. By 2015 more than 50% of Google’s search queries were already coming from mobile devices, which probably led to this update. The Mobile Update gave mobile-friendly sites a ranking advantage in Google’s mobile search results. In spite of its dramatic nickname, the mobile update didn’t instantly mess up most people’s rankings. Nevertheless, it was an important shift that heralded the ever-increasing importance of mobile.

2015 – RankBrain

RankBrain is a state-of-the-art Google algorithm, employing machine learning to handle queries. It can make guesses about words it doesn’t know, to find words with similar meanings and then offer relevant results. The RankBrain algorithm analyzed past searches, determining the best result, in order to improve. 

Its release marks another big step for Google to better decipher the meaning behind searches, and serve the best-matching results. In March 2016, Google revealed that RankBrain was one of the three most important of its ranking signals. Unlike other ranking factors, you can’t really optimize for RankBrain in the traditional sense, other than by writing quality content. Nevertheless, its impact on the results pages is undeniable.

2016 – Possum 

In September 2016 it was time for another local update. The ​Possum update​ applied several changes to Google’s local ranking filter to further improve local search. After Possum, local results became more varied, depending more on the physical location of the searcher and the phrasing of the query. Some businesses which had not been doing well in organic search found it easier to rank locally after this update. This indicated that this update made local search more independent of the organic results.

Read more: Near me searches: Is that a Possum near me? »

2018 – (Mobile) Speed Update

Acknowledging users’ need for fast delivery of information, Google implemented this update that made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches, as was already the case for desktop searches. The update mostly affected sites with a particularly slow mobile version.

2018 – Medic

This broad core algorithm update caused quite a stir for those affected, leading to some shifts in ranking. While a relatively high number of medical sites were hit with lower rankings, the update wasn’t solely aimed at them and it’s unclear what its exact purpose was. It may have been an attempt to better match results to searchers’ intent, or perhaps it aimed to protect users’ wellbeing from (what Google decided was) disreputable information.

Keep reading: Google’s Medic update »

2019 – BERT

Google’s BERT update was announced as the “biggest change of the last five years”, one that would “impact one in ten searches.” It’s a machine learning algorithm, a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP). The name BERT is short for: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

BERT can figure out the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. In other words, it uses the context and relations of all the words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. This means: a big improvement in interpreting a search query and the intent behind it.

Read on: Google BERT: A better understanding of complex queries »

Expectations for future Google updates

As you can see, Google has become increasingly advanced since the early 2010s. Its early major updates in the decade focused on battling spammy results and sites trying to cheat the system. But as time progressed, updates contributed more and more to search results catered to giving desktop, mobile and local searchers exactly what they’re looking for. While the algorithm was advanced to begin with, the additions over the years, including machine learning and NLP, make it absolutely state of the art. 

With the recent focus on intent, it seems likely that Google Search will continue to focus its algorithm on perfecting its interpretation of search queries and styling the results pages accordingly. That seems to be their current focus working towards their mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But whatever direction it takes, being the best result and working on having an excellent site will always be the way to go!

Keep on reading: Should I follow every change Google makes? »

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the different names and years? Don’t worry! We made a handy infographic that shows when each Google update happened and briefly describes what the purpose was.

Google's algorithm updates 2011-2020

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