Page experience: a new Google ranking factor

A couple of weeks ago, Google announced Web Vitals — a new set of metrics to measure the speed and user experience of websites. Last week, Google announced that these metrics will make its way into a core algorithm update as new ways of judging and ranking sites based on the page experience they offer. This update is due to arrive some time in 2021.

UX matters, for real now

In 2010, Google announced that it would take site speed into account while determining rankings. In 2018, Google followed up with the page speed ranking factor in the mobile search results. Now, Google announces a new update that looks at a variety of new or updated metrics — combined with other user experience factors, to form the page experience update.

Page experience you say? In an ideal world, you’d click a link in the search results and the corresponding page would appear instantly. But we all know that’s a pipe dream. Over the years, pages have only increased in size and the popularity of JavaScript made them ever more complex and harder to load. Even with lightning-fast internet connections and potent devices, loading a web page can be a drag. For users, waiting for pages to load can be stressful as well. Not to mention the maddening on-site performance that some websites offer that lead to miss-clicks and the like.

For years, optimizing the performance of websites mostly meant optimizing for speed. But loading times are only part of the equation and the other part is harder to define and measure. This is about how a user experiences all those optimizations. The site might be fast according to the metrics, but does it feel fast? Thus, it’s high time to take a drastic look at page experience.

According to Google, “Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page.”

Enter Web Vitals

Early May 2020, Google announced Web Vitals — a thoroughly researched set of metrics to help anyone determine opportunities to improve the experience of their sites. Within those new metrics, there is a subset of metrics every site owner should focus on, the so-called Core Web Vitals. According to Google, “Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.”

Each Core Web Vital looks at a specific piece of the page experience puzzle and together they help both Google and yourself make sense of the perceived experience of a site. Core Web Vitals are available in all Google tools that measure the page experience.

The Core Web Vitals will evolve over time and new ones might be added in due time. For 2020, Google identified three specific focal points:

  • Loading,
  • Interactivity,
  • Visual stability.

These focal points correspond with three new metrics:

  • LCP, or Largest Contentful Paint: This metric tells how long it takes for the largest content element you see in the viewport to load.
  • FID, or First Input Delay: The FID looks at how long it takes for a browser to respond to an interaction first triggered by the user (clicking a button, for instance)
  • CLS, or Cumulative Layout Shift: This new metric measures the percentage of the screen affected by movement — i.e. does stuff jump around on screen?
The new Core Web Vitals are aimed helping you improve the page experience of your site (image Google)

As you see, these core metrics don’t simply look at how fast something loads. They also look at how long it takes for elements to become ready to use. The Cumulative Layout Shift is the most forward-thinking of the bunch. This has nothing to do with speed, but everything with preventing a bad user experience — like hitting a wrong button, because an ad loaded at the final moment. Think about how you feel when that happens? Pretty infuriating, right?

Combining new metrics with existing ranking factors

The launch of Web Vitals was noteworthy on its own, but Google took it up a notch this week. Google is going to use these new metrics — combined with existing experience ranking factors, to help with ranking a pages. Keep in mind, Google uses an unknown number of factors to judge sites and rank them. Some factors weigh a lot, but most have a smaller impact. Combined, however, they tell the story of a website.

The new Web Vitals join several existing factors to make up the page experience ranking factors:

  • Mobile-friendliness: is your site optimized for mobile?
  • HTTPS: is your site using a secure connection?
  • Interstitial use: does your site stay away from nasty pop-ups?
  • Safe browsing: is your site harmless for visitors?

These are now joined by real-world, user-centred metrics, like the LCP, FID and CLS mentioned earlier. Combined, these factors take into account everything a user experiences on a website to try to come up with a holistic picture of the performance of your site, as Google likes to say.

The Core Web Vitals are combined with existing ranking factors to form the page experience factors (image Google)

Of course, this is just another way for Google to get a sense of how good your site is and it might be easy to overstate the importance of this particular update. It’s still going to be impossible to rank a site with a great user experience but crappy content.

While the quality of your content still rains supreme in getting good rankings, the performance and perceived experience users have now also come into play. With these metrics, Google has found a way to get a whole lot of insights that look at your site from all angles.

Our own Jono Alderson and Joost de Valk talked about the recent news in the latest instalment of SEO News, part of the premium content in our Yoast SEO academy subscription. Sign up and be sure to check that out.

Google page experience update in 2021

Google has often been accused of not communicating with SEOs and site owners. In the past, we have seen many core algorithm update happen without a word from a Googler. Today, however, Google appears more upfront than ever. In the case of the page experience update, Google warns us twice: one with the announcement of the page experience ranking factors and once six months in advance of rolling out the update in 2021.

By announcing this way ahead of time, Google gives site owners, SEOs and developers ample time to prepare for this update. There are loads of new tools to come to grips with how these metrics function and how you can improve your site using these insights. There’s a lot of new documentation to sift through. And you can start right now. Sometime next year, Google will give you a heads up that the update will be rolling out in six months time.

No more AMP requirements for Top Stories

You can find another interesting tidbit regarding the page experience update. Google will no longer require AMP for getting your news pages in the Top Stories section. Now, any well-built, Google News-validated site can aim for that top spot. Page experience will become a ranking factor for Top Stories, so your site better be good.

New page experience tools? You got it!

Google went all out for to get every site owner to adapt to the page experience changes. New or updated tools help you get the insights you need. They also help you to make sense of what it all means.

Start testing, start improving!

In the past, optimizing your site for user experience and speed was a bit like flying blind — you never had truly good insights into what makes a site fast and what makes one feel fast. Over the years, Google saw the need for good metrics and heard the cries of users in need of usable, safe and fast sites. By announcing these metrics — and by announcing them as ranking factors —, Google makes page experience measurable and deems it helpful enough to judge sites by.

Remember, the update won’t roll out until sometime in 2021, but the tools are there, so you can start testing and improving. Good luck!

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Searching without result: Insights from zero result searches

When users search on your website and find no results, that’s usually a bad experience. But if you track these “zero result searches”, you might find yourself with data that can help you identify new content and service opportunities. It might also tell you a lot about the difference between how you see your website and how your users see it.

The gap between brand identity vs. brand perception

Almost every website owner can explain in a few sentences what their website is about, and why people should visit it. This is the identity of your website. Separately to that, each visitor creates their own impression of your website (influenced by your design, content, tone, and so on). This is brand perception.

If you’re doing a great job with your marketing and your messaging, there should be little difference between your identity and your brand perception. That way you’re building a consistent brand for your business.

But that’s a hard balance to strike. And if you get a lot of visitors to your site, it’s likely that they’ll all have slightly different opinions of and experience with your pages. They might have diverse expectations, backgrounds, and cultural influences. That’ll make it harder for you to ‘land’ your stories and messaging.

That creates a gap. The wider that gap, the harder it’ll be for you to convince users to take action. You haven’t convinced them, helped them, or made them believe.

In our experience, most websites aren’t always successful in achieving this harmony of brand and brand perception. But how can you determine whether this is the case on your site? Well, your on-site search can provide some helpful insight.

Insight from zero result searches

A search query with no results can have quite a few different meanings, all of them useful information to help you improve your website. The most common ones are:

1. Right content, wrong visitors?

Perhaps your visitors are expecting to find a certain piece of information on your website, but shouldn’t have been on your website in the first place (a discrepancy between your identity and the brand perception of your visitor).

Maybe you’re attracting the wrong kind of visitors for what you’re offering (or in the wrong stage of a buying process). Take a look at the traffic source in order to determine if you’re ranking on the proper keywords or targeting the right terms with your campaigns.

Or, perhaps you’re attracting the right kinds of visitors, but they’re going to the wrong content – and they’re getting mixed signals about what products or services you offer (or don’t).

Aligning the right types of people to the right pages and content might mean that they never have to search in the first place. A good way to ensure this is by optimizing your site structure.

2. Missed opportunities

The other way to view this problem is to see it as an opportunity. If you’re attracting visitors who’re engaging with your site but searching for products/services/information you don’t have, perhaps you can meet that need.

Imagine your website is for a bakery which sells cupcakes. You may find that lots of people search your site for ‘donuts’, but they get no results.

Maybe, instead of working to change your brand perception and all of your campaigns, you could start to sell donuts. In fact, you already have some great data to help you to understand the market demand and consumer behaviour. And the customers are already on your site.

Of course, real-world production, marketing and logistics challenges are never ‘simple’, but zero result searches can be a great way to spot the next big thing you should pivot into.

3. Keyword choices

The words used by the visitor when searching for something are different from the vocabulary used on the website. For example; your visitor searches for “VAT” but the website only contains a section about “goods and services tax”. So they don’t find what they’re looking for.

This situation is a great chance to improve your website. You will be presented with a list of quickly fixable “issues”; keywords used by your visitors which are not present on your website at the moment. If you can work out what those searchers wanted, you can go back to your content and diversify your language and phrasing to match their vocabulary and tone.

That’ll help you to solve their problems, and, to close the gap between brand identity and perception.

Read more: The ultimate guide to keyword research »

4. Your internal search engine isn’t good enough

In some cases, it may be that you already have all of the right content you need to solve your users problems – but that they’re not finding it when they search. Perhaps the results aren’t in a great order, or, some pages aren’t showing up at all? It’s important to have an internal search engine that functions properly.

If your site is running on WordPress, and you’re using the default settings, then you may find that your results prioritize recency over relevance, which isn’t always a good fit for searchers. You might consider using a plugin that alters WordPress’ search behavior, and makes it more configurable (like Relevanssi).

How do I set up the tracking?

If you’re one of the many people who use Google Analytics (and/or Google Tag Manager), then this guide should give you a great starting point to set up your tracking.

You may find that the details differ a little for you, depending on a few variables. If you’re using a different analytics package, or, if your on-site search isn’t ‘normal’, then you might need to do some work to get everything set up properly.

In conclusion: 0 results can be very useful

Yes, zero result searches can be a bad experience for your users. But by tracking them you can turn these experiences into useful information to improve your site.

By analyzing these searches you can figure out whether the right people are visiting your site or whether your audience is able to find their way around your site. You can also use the search queries as inspiration in the products and services you offer. Or find out whether you’re focusing on the right keywords, the ones your audience uses. It can also give you insight into your internal search engine and if it’s functioning the way you want it to.

Enough reasons to set up the tracking through your Analytics, right?

Keep reading: More on website optimization: 6 daily SEO tasks »

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Celebrating 10 years of Yoast: 20% off everything!

Woohoo! Yoast’s 10th birthday is coming up on the 28th of May 2020! You might have seen our celebration calendar over the last month, where we’ve taken a trip down memory lane. And we’re so happy that you’re along for the ride. As a thank you, we’d love to give you a gift: for the next few days, you’ll receive a 20% discount on ALL Yoast products!

My personal recommendations

1. Yoast SEO Premium

Joost created the original WordPress SEO plugin back in 2010. And to this day, it’s our most popular plugin. It’s even the #1 WordPress SEO plugin out there! We’re super proud of all the amazing things this plugin can do for your site. You’ll be able to:

  • Optimize your site for the right keywords
  • Avoid dead links in your site with the redirect manager
  • Get previews for sharing on social media
  • Receive content quality and link suggestions – as you write!

This is a limited-time offer, so get it while it lasts!

2. Yoast SEO: readability analysis

Our mission at Yoast is “SEO for everyone”, which is why I want to highlight one of my favorite features of the free version of Yoast SEO: the readability analysis. This analysis makes sure that your text is easy to read for your readers. Why?

Readability determines whether people understand the message you’re trying to get across with your text. And trust me, this is important for your SEO and sales. So make sure to use this feature in Yoast SEO to write excellent, SEO-proof copy!

Install the free version of Yoast SEO ▸

3. Yoast SEO academy Premium subscription

In 2015, we launched the Yoast SEO Academy, which was sort of my Yoast-baby at the time. The online SEO training courses in Academy teach you vital SEO skills you can apply right away. Do you want to learn everything there is to know about SEO? Our Premium training subscription includes:

  • All content SEO training courses
  • All technical SEO training courses
  • The latest SEO news from our experts

This is a limited-time offer, so get it while it lasts!

4. Yoast SEO academy Content subscription

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m crazy about content. Trust me, content SEO should be a key part of your SEO strategy! Because without content, it’s impossible for your site to rank in search engines. That’s why we’ve created the Yoast SEO academy Content subscription, which focuses on content SEO. The courses in this subscription teach you everything you need to know to create awesome SEO content. This subscription includes:

  • Keyword research training
  • SEO copywriting training
  • Site structure training
  • All-around SEO training
  • The latest SEO news

Get the Content SEO training subscription ▸

These are my personal favorites and I hope that they’ll become your favorites too! But, there’s more! Have you heard about our local SEO plugin? Or the Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin? Check out our overview of all products that you can now purchase with a 20% discount!

This is a limited-time offer, so get it while it lasts!

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Yoast SEO 14.2: Russian word forms in beta

Our linguists are busy bees lately. Over the last couple of releases, we’ve launched word form support for Yoast SEO Premium users writing in Spanish and French. These languages follow the languages that already had word form support: English, German and Dutch. In Yoast SEO 14.2, we’re adding yet another language: Russian! And, once again, this is a beta release and we’d like to ask you to help us improve it.

Russian word forms, now in beta

High-quality content is essential for getting your site noticed by readers and search engines alike. Making your content awesome can be hard, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-optimizing your articles by using your focus keyphrase over and over again. Writing like this leads to content that’s hard to read. Since adding our readability analysis, Yoast SEO helps you to circumvent these problems and improve your writing. Yoast SEO Premium takes that to another level and enables you to turn into a lean, mean writing machine.

The Premium analysis makes the writing process much more natural. It’s flexible and smart, helping you improve your articles without having to go to great lengths to fit in your focus keyphrases awkwardly. As of 14.2, Yoast SEO Premium is much better at finding your focus keyphrases in Russian, even if the words are in a different grammatical form — and spread across a sentence. Of course, this is a beta release, so there might be instances where Yoast SEO doesn’t correctly find a word. If you encounter this — or if you have any suggestions for improvements — please contact us.

The Yoast SEO Premium analysis also comes with support for synonyms and related keyphrases. Using synonyms in your text makes the content come alive and reduces the need for repetition of your main focus keyphrase. By also adding related keyphrases, you can paint a complete picture of your subject, making the text rich and authoritative.

Getting good feedback on your Russian writing is now much easier

Yoast employs several Russian colleagues. One of them works on the team that develops the language part of the plugin, so we thought it would be awesome if she introduces the Russian word forms feature for our Russian audience.

Help us improve language support

As a reminder, we’d like to ask you once again to help us improve word form support for new languages. The launch of Russian word forms — like the release of French in Yoast SEO 14.1 — consists of a beta version that we’re improving and expanding as we go. We use this first release to get Russian up and running. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in Russian much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find things like this, we’d like to know!

To help us collect your insights and experiences, we’re working on a unique language feedback system inside the plugin. That’s not done yet, so until then, you can send us your improvements via email.

While sending us your feedback, please include the following:

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

Our team of linguists will do the rest. Thanks for your help!

Improvements in Yoast SEO 14.2

Among other things, we’ve fixed several issues with breadcrumbs. One of these bugs turned the order of breadcrumbs on its head, which is not something we like. Things should work as expected now. We’ve also changed how we check if a focus keyphrase was used before. We currently run this against our indexable table, making the process more efficient.

Update now to Yoast SEO 14.2

We’ve added a new language to Yoast SEO Premium: Russian. Now, those writing in the Russian language can enjoy a more flexible, natural way of improving their posts. We have many more languages coming up! Remember, if you have feedback on these beta language releases, please let us know. We want to make everything work flawlessly, so we need your help.

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What is keyword cannibalization?

If you optimize your articles for similar terms, your rankings might suffer from keyword cannibalization: you’ll be ‘devouring’ your own chances to rank in Google! Especially when your site is growing, chances are your content will start competing with itself. Here, I’ll explain why keyword cannibalism can be detrimental to SEO, how you can recognize it and what to do about it.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization means that you have various blog posts or articles on your site that can rank for the same search query in Google. Either because the topic they cover is too similar or because you optimized them for the same keyphrase. If you optimize posts or articles for similar search queries, they’re eating away at each other’s chances to rank. Usually, Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for a specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get 3.

Why is keyword cannibalism bad for SEO?

If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the exact same topic. In that case, Google can’t distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. In addition, important factors like backlinks and CTR get diluted over several posts instead of one. As a result, they’ll all probably both rank lower. Therefore our SEO analysis will give a red bullet whenever you optimize a post for a focus keyword you’ve used before.

But, keyword cannibalism can also occur if you optimize posts for focus keywords that are not exactly, but almost the same. For instance, I wrote two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. The post ‘Does readability rank?‘ was optimized for [does readability rank], while the post ‘Readability ranks!‘ was optimized for the focus keyword [readability ranking factor]. The posts had a slightly different angle but were still very similar. For Google, it is hard to figure out which of the two articles is the most important.

Update: Did you see the same article? That’s correct, by now we’ve fixed this cannibalization issue, but we’ve kept this example for the sake of illustration.

How to recognize it?

Checking whether or not your site suffers from keyword cannibalism is easy. You simply do a search for your site, for any specific keyword you suspect might have multiple results. In my case, I’ll google site:yoast.com readability ranks. The first two results are the articles I suspected to suffer from cannibalization.

Googling ‘site:domain.com “keyword” will give you an easy answer to the question of whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism. You can check your findings by typing the same keyword into Google (using a private browser or local search result checker like https://valentin.app/). Which of your pages do you see in the search results, and what position do they rank? Of course, if two of your pages for the same keyword are ranking #1 and #2, that’s not a problem. But do you see your articles, for example on positions 7 and 8? Then it’s time to sort things out!

Solving keyword cannibalization

We have an extensive article written by Joost that explains how to find and fix cannibalization issues on your site. It clearly describes the four steps you should take to solve these kind issues:

  1. Audit your content
  2. Analyze content performance
  3. Decide which ones to keep
  4. Act: merge, delete, redirect

The first two steps will help you to decide which articles to keep and which ones to merge or delete. In many cases, the acting part will consist of combining and deleting articles, but also to improve internal linking on your site:

Merge/ combine articles

If two articles both attract the same audience and basically tell the same story, you should combine them. Rewrite the two posts into one amazing, kickass article. That’ll help your rankings (Google loves lengthy and well-written content) and solve your keyword cannibalization problem.

In fact, that’s exactly what we did with our two posts on readability being a ranking factor. In the end, you’ll delete one of the two articles and adapt the other one. And don’t forget: don’t just press the delete button; always make sure to redirect the post you delete to the one you keep! If that’s something you’re struggling with, Yoast SEO Premium can help: It makes creating redirects easy as pie!

Improve internal linking

You can help Google to figure out which article is most important, by setting up a decent internal linking structure. You should link from posts that are less important, to posts that are the most important to you. That way, Google can figure out (by following links) which ones you want to pop up highest in the search engines.

Your internal linking structure could solve a part of your keyword cannibalism problems. You should think about which article is most important to you and link from the less important long-tail articles, to your most important article. Read more about how to do this in my article about ranking with cornerstone content.

Keyword cannibalization and online shops

Now, if you have an online shop, you might be worried about all those product pages targeting similar keywords. For online shops, it makes sense that there are multiple pages for products that are alike. It’s very important to give site structure some thought in this case. A good strategy is to link back from every product page to your category page – the page you should optimize to rank. And keep an eye on old product pages that could potentially cannibalize more important pages, and delete and redirect those – Yoast SEO Premium could help make that easier with its handy redirect manager!

Keyword cannibalism will affect growing websites

If your site gets bigger, your chances increase to face keyword cannibalism on your own website. You’ll be writing about your favorite subjects and without even knowing it, you’ll write articles that end up rather similar. That’s what happened to me too. Once in a while, you should check the keywords you want to rank for the most. Make sure to check whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism. You’ll probably need to make some changes in your site structure or to rewrite some articles every now and then.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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Optimize for rich results with the Rich Results Testing Tool

Google has loads of interesting free tools, but two important ones for helping you improve your site are Search Console and the Rich Results Testing Tool. Search Console helps you get a general feel for how your site is doing in the SERPs, plus to keep an eye on any errors to fix and improvements to make. The other one, the Rich Results Testing Tool, helps you see which of your pages are eligible for rich results. Rich results are those highlighted search results like FAQ listings and event listings. 

What can you do with this tool?

Rich results are incredibly important in today’s world. Once you add structured data to your site, you get a chance of a highlighted listing in the SERPs. This gives you an edge over your competitor as these tend to get more clicks. For many sites and types of content, it can make sense to target rich results.

The FAQ is a recent example of a rich result. Yoast SEO helps you build these with structured data content blocks.

In this post, we won’t go into detail on how to get structured data on your site. If you’d like to dive into that, please read our ultimate guide to schema.org structured data. Or find out how Yoast SEO automatically applies a lot of structured data to your site.

Here, we’d rather take a look at how to verify your eligibility and what you can do to improve on that. Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool helps you check your pages to see if they have valid structured data applied to it and if they might be eligible for rich results. Not only that, but you’ll also find which rich results the page is eligible for and get a preview of how these would look for your content.

How to use it the Rich Results Testing Tool?

Using the Rich Results Testing Tool is very easy. There are two ways to get your insights: enter the URL of the page you want to test or enter the piece of code you want to test. The second option can be a piece of structured data or the full source code of a page, whichever you prefer.

While testing, you can also choose between a smartphone and a desktop crawler. Google defaults to the smartphone crawler, since we’re living in a mobile-first indexing world, people! Of course, you can switch to desktop if needed. 

Enter a URL or a piece of code to get going. You can also choose between a smartphone or desktop crawler.

There is a difference, of course. It is a good idea to use the URL option if your page is already online. You’ll see if the page is eligible for rich results, view a preview of these rich results, and check out the rendered HTML of the page. But there’s nothing you can ‘do’ in the code. The code option does let you do that.

This particular page has a valid FAQ and is, therefore, eligible for rich results — which you can see in the first screenshot.

Working with structured data code

If you paste a piece of JSON structured data into the code field and run the test, you get the same results as the URL option. However, you can now also use the code input field to edit your code to fix errors or improve the structured data by fixing warnings.

Did you know?

Do you know Yoast SEO comes with awesome free structured data blocks for how-to and FAQ content?

So, how do you go about this?

  1. Find and copy the code you want to test
  2. If it’s minified, unminify it for better readability
  3. Paste the code in the code field of the Rich Results Testing Tool
  4. Run the test

You’ll get a view similar to the one below.

Code input on the left, rich results test on the right. You can now edit the code and quickly run the test after making those edits to see the changes.

Editing an event page

The page you see above is an event page and you’ll notice a warning in orange. Now, remember: red is an error and orange a warning. An error you have to fix to be valid, but a warning is a possible improvement to make. Because this concerns a free event, the page misses an offers property. I could, however, add one to make the warning disappear and round out this structured data listing.

Take a look at Google’s documentation about events and find out how they’d like the offers to appear in the code. To keep it simple, you could copy the example code and adapt this to your needs. Find out a good place for it in your structured data on the left-hand side of your Rich Results Testing Tool screen and paste the code.

You could add something like:

"offers": {
        "@type": "Offer",
        "url": "https://www.yoast.com/yoastcon/tickets/",
        "price": "30",
        "priceCurrency": "USD",
        "availability": "https://schema.org/InStock",
        "validFrom": "2020-04-21T12:00"
      },

Run the test again and it should all turn green. If not, you might have to check if you’ve correctly applied and closed your code.

Added the correct code and the warning is gone. The structured data is entirely valid!

Once you’ve validated your code and you know it’s working, you can apply it on your own pages. Keep in mind, I’ve described a very simple way of validating your code and there are other ways to scale this into production. But that’s not the goal of this article. Here, I’d like to offer you a quick insight into structured data and what you can do with the Rich Results Testing Tool.

See a preview of your rich results

One of the coolest things in the Rich Results Testing Tool is the preview option. This gives you an idea of how that particular page or article will appear on Google. There’s a number of rich results that you can test, like breadcrumbs, FAQs, job postings, recipes, and many more.

For some, like the how-to, Google even shows multiple previews. There are two different mobile how-to rich results, plus a preview of how that how-to would look on a screen-based Google Assistant. Cool right?

The how-to online works on mobile and screen-based Google Assistant devices. Use Yoast SEO how-to content blocks to make a valid how-to article.

These previews aren’t just to show off — you can use the previews to improve the look of the rich results. In the case of the how-to, maybe the images look weird or some steps are unclear or maybe the title is not very attractive. Use these insights to your advantage and try to get people to click your listings!

Introducing the Rich Results Testing Tool

This was a short overview of what you can see and do in the Rich Results Testing Tool. Don’t forget, if everything is green in the Rich Results Testing Tool and there are no errors to be found, your content is eligible for rich results. This does not — I repeat —, this does not guarantee Google will show rich results for this page. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Read more: Rich results are rocking the SERPs »

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3 SEO quick wins to implement right now

We all want to increase our sales, lift engagement, and get the best possible result out of our website. That’s why it only seems right to give you a three-step rocket of SEO quick wins to kick-start your website. In this post, I will show you three things you can do right now to improve your website for your visitors, and for Google in the process. Let’s dive right in with number one.

#1 Optimize speed

It doesn’t matter whether you want to improve your mobile website or your desktop website, speed is something you need to monitor and improve all the time. These are fast times, and speed is definitely what you want to optimize for.

In a simple breakdown of speed optimization, we have images, browser caching, and script optimization. Both PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom will tell you that. Another factor that plays a role in speed optimization is text compression with GZIP. But in my opinion, that should be enabled by default. Let’s have a look at the other three:

Image file size optimization

Optimizing your file size can increase the speed of your site and is also an important part of image SEO. So let’s start there. Here are a few steps you can take to optimize your file size:

  • Optimize the image file size in Photoshop (or any other image editing program you use). Usually, just exporting the image in a lower quality will do the trick. I usually check whether reducing the quality to around 80% of the original still gives me a crisp image.
  • Download an application like ImageOptim or use a web app such as Squoosh and further optimize your file size before uploading.
  • Last but not least, make sure that the image dimensions of your image fit the image ‘space’ that you reserved for it on the page. Don’t display a 1200×400 pixel photo as a 300×100 pixel image by adding CSS or whatever.

Browser caching

Browser caching is the way your browser stores files of a website, so it doesn’t have to load them from the internet every time you visit another page of a site. An example on our own site is the logo you see at the top of the site. Storing these files obviously saves time.

There are many ways to go about this, but if you have a WordPress site the easiest way is probably using a plugin. Most speed optimization plugins support browser caching and set them to the right time for you. Among some of my favorite speed plugins are WP SuperCache, which is free, and WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin and awesome.

Optimize script handling

You can load a gazillion JavaScript (JS) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files to enhance your website, but in the end, all these extra files just slow your website down. Please ask yourself the following questions to optimize your script handling:

  1. Are you sure you need that enhancement? JS and CSS usually target design and user experience. In some cases, you just don’t need that enhancement. Like JS and CSS loaded for sliders, for instance. There are alternatives to sliders that work better and don’t require extra files.
  2. Is there a way to reduce the file size of your scripts/styles? We call this process ‘minifying’ and explain this further in an Ask Yoast video. Google has some great pointers on how to approach this. Simple scripts and handy websites can help you minify your files, for instance by stripping comments. Most platforms have plugins or extensions that help with this. To give an example, Magento has the Fooman Speedster (free and paid) for that.
  3. Is it possible to combine a number of these scripts into one file? That way, there only has to be one call to the server to retrieve all the scripts. Again, there are plugins for that, but if you have small pieces of JS, you might as well combine these yourself. Of course, HTTP/2 changed some of these optimization practices. Make sure to test this!

Read more: Improving site speed: Tools and suggestions »

#2 Mobile optimization

It’s quite tempting to copy our ultimate guide to mobile SEO here, but let’s focus on the quick wins. An important reason to focus on mobile SEO these days is Google’s mobile-first index. Since July 2019, Google determines rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of a site instead of your desktop version. So, let’s get that mobile version up and running, right?

Task-based design

Have a look at your mobile website. Imagine you are a fresh, new user of your website. What would that user want to do here and is your site ready for that? Focus on a task-based design. If someone visits a mobile website, they might need opening hours or an address. Just a while ago, I purchased tickets for the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on my mobile phone. Saved a buck and didn’t have to get in line for tickets. I did this, walking from my car to the entrance. One needs to be able to complete these basic tasks without any problem. Ask yourself what the four, perhaps five, main goals of a visitor on your site are and make sure these can be achieved on your mobile website.

Performance-based design

Are you loading any huge images on your site? Do people have to scroll for ages to read what you have to offer them? On a mobile website, we want to find what we need and get out as fast as possible – unless it’s, for instance, a news website. Loading time is a factor on mobile sites, especially with mobile connections usually being slower than most desktop connections. Make sure your design and content don’t depend on large images too much. And yes, of course, there are exceptions to that rule. If I visit a photographer’s website, I can assume that I’m in for longer loading times. When visiting this type of website, I want crisp images and that’s the price I pay. So be sure to optimize to an acceptable level for your target audience.

Write great content

This goes for the mobile and desktop version of your site: they need great content. A quick win for mobile content is to add a to-the-point first paragraph on every page. If you tell your visitor what’s on your page, they can decide for themselves if they want to scroll down or not. This is easily done and definitely benefits the experience of your visitor.

And of course, the content that comes after this first paragraph needs to be awesome as well. To tackle that, you’ll need to do keyword research, set up a great site structure and decide on cornerstone content. But you can imagine that this is a slightly lengthier process, and we’re talking quick wins here :)

#3 Serve your content in the right format

There are so many ways to serve your content to Google, Facebook and your visitors. Your task is to investigate which formats you should invest in. Some take a bit more time to implement; others can be added to your website by the push of a button, like with a plugin. Let’s go over a few important ones.

Better social sharing: Open Graph

Forget about Twitter Cards for now, as Twitter has a fallback to Open Graph. So, add Open Graph to your website if you haven’t done this already. It’s like a social summary of your website. To give you an example, for our homepage it reads (among other things):

<meta property="og:locale" content="en_US" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:title" content="SEO for everyone &bull; Yoast" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Yoast helps you with your website optimization, whether it be through our widely used SEO software or our online SEO courses: we're here to help." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://yoast.com/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Yoast" />
<meta property="article:publisher" content="https://www.facebook.com/yoast" />
<meta property="article:author" content="https://www.facebook.com/jdevalk" />
<meta property="article:modified_time" content="2020-02-18T13:24:20+00:00" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://yoast.com/app/uploads/2018/03/SEO_for_everyone_FI.png" />
<meta property="og:image:width" content="1200" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="628" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@jdevalk" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@yoast" />

There’s a page/site title and a summary plus link, which tells Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter all it needs to know to create a great post on your visitor’s timeline. The og:image creates a richer experience. Be sure to add this. Again, use a plugin like Yoast SEO for TYPO3 to automate the process (and add these Twitter Cards along with Open Graph in no time).

Keep reading: Social media optimization with OpenGraph in Yoast SEO »

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP, aim to strip your website to the bare necessities to deliver your reader the best mobile experience they can get. If they want to read your article, AMP will give them just your article in basic design. If you want to check a certain product, AMP will strip much of the heavy loading stuff from the store to deliver something more focused. Is this a bad thing? I think not. Every way you can help your visitor get a better experience increases the chance of them coming back to your content and site. It might even increase sales because it’s so focused. I suggest reading up on AMP and getting your site ready — if you want. Again: plugins will help you out with this!

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

I will end this list of quick SEO wins with something we’ve been telling you about for quite some time: add Schema.org to your website. Structured data, like Open Graph and Schema.org, create a convenient summary of your website for every other site or search engine that wants to use your content. Schema.org data is one of the main types of structured data. JSON-LD gives us a convenient way of adding it to our website.

Yoast SEO does a lot of work behind the scenes and automatically adds a broad spectrum of Schema.org structured data. In addition, the free structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO help you build FAQ pages and how-to articles with valid Schema.org structured data. Our Local SEO plugin adds the right Schema.org so that Google can add your company to Google Maps as well, for instance. Add Schema.org data to your website and see your company appear in the knowledge graph as well.

Serving your content in the right format is essential in delivering it to other ‘places’ on the website. Be sure to use it. And if you’re not sure what structured data you should use to optimize your pages, be sure to enroll in our structured data training which is part of our Technical SEO training.

Bonus tip! Don’t forget internal linking

I know I said 3 quick wins, but I have another bonus tip that I want to share with you. Internal linking makes your site easier to understand for users and search engines. That’s why the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO. And an easy and quick way to improve your internal link structure is by using our internal linking suggestion tool, which gives you suggestions for related internal links on every page or post!

Recap: the 3 SEO quick wins

There’s a lot you can do that benefits SEO. And this article gets you started with a few quick wins to increase your chances of ranking high in Google. Let’s summarize what we discussed.

First of all, you can improve the speed of your site by optimizing your (image) file sizes, being smart about browser caching and optimizing script handling. Secondly, it’s important to focus on your mobile site by having a task-based and performance-based design and writing great content for your mobile version. Thirdly, make sure to serve your content in the right format by using Open Graph, making good use of AMP and adding Schema.org to your site. Lastly, a bonus tip is to get started with internal linking. That’s it, you’re all set. So let’s get optimizing, good luck!

Read on: Must-reads for higher rankings »

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Yoast SEO 14.1 adds French word forms in beta

Yoast SEO uses sophisticated language analysis tools to help you optimize your texts. Most checks work for any language, but our Premium analysis relies on word recognition functionality, which we develop custom for every language. It takes a lot of time to get this perfect for every language out there. Starting with French in Yoast SEO 14.1, we decided to try something new and just ship what we have. This way you can already benefit from better keyphrase recognition, and we’ll allow you to give us feedback to help improve support for your language faster!

Yoast SEO Premium: Better analysis for French

Over the last couple of releases, we’ve talked a lot about word form support for different languages. Thanks to the Premium SEO Analysis, the plugin recognizes your focus keyphrase in a text, even if that word is in a different form. In French, that means we will be able to detect all these word forms, which helps you quickly improve your content. Today, we’re launching a beta version of the word form feature in French. We’ll allow users to help us improve it, more on that below.

The Yoast SEO Premium analysis makes it easier to improve your text. It helps you write a perfect blog post, and it does so in a much more transparent way. Combine this with the synonyms and related keyphrases feature, and you have an excellent tool that is intensely satisfying to work with!

Check out the video, featuring our good friend and renowned SEO expert Jason Barnard!

Now available for five languages

We now support word forms in the following languages:

Of course, we have more language on the way. We collected all the supported languages in our SEO analysis on our features per language page.

Help us improve language support

The launch of French word forms consists of a beta version that we’re improving and expanding as we go. We use this first release to get French up and running. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in French much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find things like this, we’d like to know!

To help us collect your insights and experiences, we’re working on a special language feedback system inside the plugin. That’s not done yet, so until then you can send us your improvements via email.

While sending us your feedback, please include the following:

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

Our team of linguists will do the rest.

In Yoast SEO 14.1, we’ve not only added a new language to our word forms roster but also improved the Dutch language version. Another language-based improvement is an updated list of Hungarian transition words.

Improving on Yoast SEO 14.0

Curious about what happened with Yoast SEO 14.0? Read Joost’s post Yoast SEO 14.0.x; or “Why you should never bypass wpdb”.

Despite weeks and weeks of testing Yoast SEO 14.0, there were still some people running into issues. In Yoast SEO 14.1, out today, we’re improving things to help stabilize the plugin.

Among other things, we’re making several changes regarding the indexables. In the backend, we’re making it clearer what the process actually does and what you as a user can expect. We’ve also made it possible to show debug information that gives an idea of what went wrong in the indexing process in case you run into issues.

We’ve made several improvements to the indexing process itself. For instance, we’re preventing duplicate indexables to enter the database table. Plus, we’re no longer building indexables from taxonomies that aren’t public. We’ve also added the option te reindex a site’s content from the CLI.

In addition, we fixed several bugs regarding the publication and presentation of breadcrumbs, in Schema and elsewhere. In addition, we fixed several bugs regarding the publication and presentation of breadcrumbs, in Schema and elsewhere. In the changelog for Yoast SEO 14.1, you’ll find a list of all the fixes and enhancements.

Yoast SEO 14.1: update now

That’s Yoast SEO 14.1 for you! In this release, we’ve fixed a number of bugs and made several improvements concerning the indexable release. In addition, we made several enhancements that’ll make the current version of Yoast SEO more stable and easier to use.

That’s not all, because we’ve also added another language to our ever-expanding list: French! Premium users who write in the French language can now enjoy a more flexible and natural writing and optimizing environment thanks to word form support. More languages on the way, so stay tuned. And don’t forget you can help add or improve your language!

The post Yoast SEO 14.1 adds French word forms in beta appeared first on Yoast.

Complete beginner’s guide to SEO

In this guide, we will list our best SEO basics categorised by subjects regarding SEO.

Table of contents

Before you’re going to start building a website, we would advise you to draft up your SEO strategy first. A good SEO strategy touches quite some topics that you would need to think about before you can start building. But in reality, we see lots of site owners start looking for SEO once their website is already up and running. Luckily it’s never too late to join the party, and this complete beginner’s guide to SEO is here to get you up and running.

There’s a whole lot that you, as the owner of a website, could and actually should do to attract visitors to your site. One of these things is optimizing your website for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yandex. This is Search Engine Optimization. Because we have already written so much great content about the basics of SEO, the time has come to unite the best knowledge we have to offer in one beginner’s guide to SEO.

SEO and search in general

If you don’t want to spend money on advertising in search engines but do want to increase traffic to your website, then by now, you should realise SEO is the way to go. In the articles listed below, we have written everything you need to know about SEO and Search in general. So you will find out what Google does, what SEO is, how it affects the search result pages and our beliefs on practising good SEO.

Yoast SEO: the ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress

When you’ve come up with a holistic SEO strategy, you’re going to need the tools on your website that can help you achieve your goals. This is where Yoast SEO comes into play. We offer both free and premium solutions for you to work with. That’s why we’d like to explain what our plugin can do but also what you should do yourself.

User eXperience (UX)

User experience is an essential part of the puzzle. Just when you thought your website was finished, we tell you to have a good look at it again. But then take into account all the posts listed below. Most importantly, we advise you on what UX is and why it influences SEO. Without prior knowledge of UX, don’t you agree you would instead visit a website that loads quickly, is easy to navigate and looks trustworthy instead of one that takes ages to load and where you can’t find the menu?

Site structure

When creating a new website, site structure is one of those elements that you should start thinking about early on in the process. Although in a CMS like WordPress, you can easily make changes afterward; it’s good to define a good site structure at once. In the following articles listing in this beginner’s guide to SEO, we will guide you through the most important topics on the subject.

Copywriting

Do you need more help to take your SEO copywriting to the next level? In our SEO copywriting training, which is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription, we’ll teach you how to write copy that ranks!

Pro tip: Fine-tuning the readability of your copy is more important than (over-)optimising it for Google. You are writing content for your audience, not for Google.

Content

Why do people visit your website? Because of your excellent content, of course! Through the next posts, you will learn all about writing and optimizing your content. But first things first, before you start writing, you should do some keyword research. Find out what your audience is searching for online and adapt your keyword strategy to your new-found knowledge. Only now, you can focus on what your audience wants to read and write content that answers all of their questions.

Link building

Google uses links to find your website and its content. If you haven’t got links, it can be hard to get your site noticed by robots and your site might not get indexed as quickly. If your website is already indexed, you can link to your new content from a page that has already been indexed. This is what we call internal linking. If another website links to your website or the other way around, that is what we call external linking. Read all about it in the next posts and put this knowledge to use.

Mobile

Google announced that by September 2020, it would make mobile-first indexing the default. Google will do this because just more people use the web on their mobile devices than on any other device. Your website must be responsive, meaning it displays correctly on mobile phones, tablets, and other handheld devices. In the following blog posts, we will tell you what you can do to optimize your website for mobile use.

Technical SEO

While the Yoast SEO plugin handles a lot of the technical SEO details for you, these articles are definitely worth your while. If you don’t know whether your website lives up to the standards it should, as we describe in the linked articles below, you should contact your developer or website host to have your questions answered. If you’re wondering how to get your website to be one of those unique results on the search engine results page (SERP), the posts on structured data and rich snippets are a must-read!

Analytics

By the time you are reading this part of the beginner’s guide to SEO, you probably already know what Google Analytics is. If not, no problem, we’ve got you covered. If you know the basics, we will elaborate on some practical information about using Google Analytics. Next to Analytics, there is Search Console. Everyone maintaining a website should be using Google Search Console. It gives a lot of insight into how your website performs and what you do to improve its performance.

If you want to learn more about using social media and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-Around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it’ll help you put these skills into practice!

Social

Did you know your presence on social media also affects your SEO? Therefore our CEO Marieke van de Rakt wrote an excellent post on how to use social media. Find out how and why it could benefit your SEO strategy.

Open Source

Collaboratively working on software while it’s source code is open for all to see, and improve! At Yoast, we just love open source. WordPress is open source and even our plugins our open source. We actively encourage people to help us improve our plugins. In return, we devote 5% of our developers’ hours to working on the WordPress core.

Ready to become a pro after reading this beginner’s guide to SEO?

If you’re reading this and read every article listed in this beginner’s guide to SEO, you may call yourself a newbie no more. Now you’ve come to a basic understanding of SEO; you probably have a massive to-do list for your website. Some of the things on your list should you let your developer or website host handle, but there’s so much you can start doing yourself to improve your website’s chances to rank in search results. If not, here’s an idea of what your to-do list might look like:

To-do list

  • Define a holistic SEO-strategy
  • Install the Yoast SEO plugin on my website
  • Check if my website’s accessibility is good
  • Check my site speed and try to improve it
  • Re-evaluate my site structure
  • Implement breadcrumbs in my website
  • Define a keyword strategy
  • Do keyword research
  • Optimize available content for SEO
  • Write great content for appropriate keywords and keyphrases
  • Try building links from other sites to yours
  • Re-evaluate if your website is mobile-friendly
  • Address your developer and website host to get your technical SEO up to par
  • Use Yoast SEO Premium to speed up your work and get awesome features
  • Try and get a rich snippet on the SERP
  • Set up Google Search Console and work on its recommendations
  • Work on your social media page(s)
  • Last but not least: keep reading our blog for the latest tips and tricks

Here you have an extensive list that will keep you occupied for many hours. But we promise that it’s worth it! Some things might be quick wins, while others may seem ineffective. Please keep in mind everything you do will affect your chances to rank. After all, it should be part of your holistic SEO-strategy. Now, you’re ready for more in-depth SEO content, so why not check out our 16 Ultimate Guides to higher rankings?

Feel like you’re ready for the next step in becoming a SEO-professional?

The post Complete beginner’s guide to SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Why we love WordPress: User-friendliness

At Yoast we love WordPress for multiple reasons. That’s why we decided to make a series of articles about the reasons we love WordPress, starting with an important one: user-friendliness. I’ve tried my share of closed and open-source content management systems. From simple text file based systems 20 years ago to in-house developed closed source solutions. But never before have I felt the ease of the five minute WordPress install. Let alone that a whole bunch of WordPress hosts now offer 1-click WordPress installs.

Regardless of how you feel about block editors, politics, and front-end editing, even you must admit that WordPress is very user-friendly. No matter what customers ask for, there is a solution to be found for it in the WordPress eco-system. Be it a template, a plugin, or a small piece of code.

Even for people that are not tech-savvy at all, installing and customizing a website is just not that hard. And to help you along the way you can find tips, tricks, and manuals on every WordPress related website.

Countless design options in WordPress

Currently, there are thousands and thousands of free designs (themes) available for your website. Convenient filters help you pick the right template. But that’s not all. These themes can easily be altered using a so-called Child theme. Even starting web developers can create tailor-made websites this way, while still benefiting from the updates that are available for the original theme they chose.

If you’re lazy, like me, tweaking a design using a plugin like Simple Custom CSS is even simpler. Provided that you know your way around CSS.

The option for anyone to create a fully tailored, awesome design is absolutely one of the features that make WordPress so user-friendly.

There’s a plugin for that

For me personally, plugins were the single reason to dive into WordPress back in 2011. Because I’m not a developer. HTML and CSS are my game, I can read and copy a bit of JS and PHP and that’s basically it. But WordPress and all its plugins made creating and selling full functional websites “easy” for me.

I worked from my attic and served a bunch of local and nationwide customers. A friend of mine, who had a morning show on a local radio station, asked me to create an answering machine for his website. A way for people to talk into their computer’s mic and send him an audio file per email. I was really lost, as I did not know how to code. But then I remembered the thousands of plugins. Could it be..? After a 5 minute setup, the answering machine button on his website was up and running.

That’s the usability of WordPress. It’s what we, the plugin developers, all make possible on that wonderful platform that WordPress is.

Creating and publishing content

All the links in this article show that help is always a click away. The reach and “size” of WordPress still baffles me. At this moment 34% of the top 1 million websites are built with WordPress. That literally means that thousands and thousands of people work with WordPress, contribute to WordPress, share knowledge about WordPress. Perhaps even on a daily basis. But let’s get back to creating and publishing that content.

After all the fun stuff of setting up your website, it needs content. Creating that content is probably the toughest job for every website owner. It’s writing that content in the amazing block editor, but also just coming up with ideas, collecting these in a content planning, writing the right way, and optimizing this content for SEO.

WordPress is used by websites great and small. No matter if you publish a blog post every day, or have a static website that needs updating every other year, WordPress is your go-to tool. Without any technical knowledge, WordPress allows you to do everything mentioned above, or just change that one line stating “copyright 2019” into “2020”.

In my years of working with WordPress, I think I was asked twice to explain how to write a page and publish it in WordPress. Both times, it took the customer less than 5 minutes to say “never mind, I get it”. It wasn’t WordPress that triggered that question, it was the fear of a new system. I think that the block editor makes getting to know a new system even more intuitive. And hey, you may have a different story. But this post is about why I believe WordPress is such a user-friendly platform ;-)

Shout-out to the WordPress Community

There is so much more friendliness in WordPress, and that’s why I want to do a special shout-out to the WordPress community. Besides talking about the user-friendliness of WordPress, it’s important to highlight the user-friendliness in WordPress.

WordPress has such an open and welcoming community. It’s a pleasure to meet friendly users during WordCamps and e-meet these people on Twitter and Slack whenever you feel like reaching out. At Yoast, we have an integrations channel where we collaborate with other plugins and even in this COVID19 time, we regularly reach out to other members in the WordPress space to talk about business, websites, software development, marketing opportunities, and our personal life. And that’s user-friendliness at it’s best.

Recap of WordPress user-friendliness

This article gives you an insight into why I believe WordPress is such a user-friendly platform. To summarize, WordPress makes installing and customizing a website possible for everyone. Not only can you customize your design by choosing your own theme, but there are also plugins for almost any website feature you can think of. Furthermore, WordPress makes it easy to publish content and provides plugins to help you optimize your content. Lastly, because WordPress is such a widely used platform, you can always find support and friendliness within its worldwide community of users. So if you’re new to the community, or thinking of joining, welcome! Perhaps I’ll talk to you soon on Slack or Twitter!

Read more: A beginners guide to WordPress »

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