If there’s one thing I’m known for among my colleagues, it’s for my obsession with notebooks and planners. I have not one, but a total of three planners in my bag. Three, ladies and gentlemen. Is this insane? Yes, it is. Is it too much? No, you can never have too many planners. And oh my gosh, did they launch new bullet journals? Because I swear, I need a new one, even though my old one isn’t half filled yet. Today, I’ll fill you in on my blog planning habits.

My struggles and habits

I love planners. So it’s only natural I get asked a lot what my blog planning looks like. There are weeks that I answer: ‘I post daily in this exact order’ and there are weeks that my answer is: ‘Planning? Pff, who needs planners!’ while looking at the stack of papers on my desk. Today, it’s time to say: I’m still figuring it out. I want to share my struggles and my habits that come with growing your blog and this little thing they named ‘blog planning.’ Quick fun fact: I wrote this post exactly an hour before it was due. Another quick fun fact: this probably isn’t as fun for my colleagues from the blog team. I’m sorry.

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Update whenever I want or plan my posts?

For a long time, I’ve been blogging whenever I wanted to. I had weeks where I posted daily, and months where I published only one or two posts. You can imagine that it shows in my statistics. As you get more serious about blogging, you might want to become more serious about upping your frequency as well. I’m always an all or nothing kind of person. So when I decided I wanted to grow big, I decided I wanted to post daily. Seven times a week. It went well for two weeks. And then I didn’t blog for a few days, because my toddler decided that he only wanted to nap for 20 minutes and I decided I’d rather watch Pitch Perfect than work on my blog in the evenings.

Priorities: check.

As I’m in a competitive niche, apparently everyone owns a mommy blog nowadays (just kidding) and have insane goals to reach; I want to update frequently. I decided I wanted to publish a post every weekday, so that’s Monday through Friday. During the weekends, I usually write my posts for Monday and Tuesday. My Wednesday post is written during the toddler’s nap, as I’m not in the office on Wednesdays. On Wednesday night I write and schedule my post for Thursday. Usually, I get cranky doing so, as the lighting is never right for photos. And on Thursday I either finish my post for Friday or manage to squeeze one out right after dinner time. Did you get dizzy following my sort of schedule? I got a headache too. It’s driving me insane. I need planning. And more hours in a day, please!

Planning a blog

I’m currently struggling to find the perfect post schedule. As many of my fellow bloggers out there probably already know, there are days where you can write five perfectly good posts. But there are also days where you cannot get even one remotely good post. You don’t want your readers to know your struggle, so ideally you might even want to have around ten posts that are ready to be scheduled for those off days.

And then there’s a thing called balance. I might have seven posts ready about Disneyland Paris, but my readers who don’t like Disney (the horror) might not visit my blog for a week or decide to ditch visiting altogether. So I made Mondays my Disneyland Paris and travel related posts. On Fridays, I post recipes and the other days I go by YOLO! Or is there another new buzzword, because YOLO is already outdated again?

Balance is key. Structure as well. But you might not get happy doing a travel post every Monday, a DIY post on Tuesdays, a personal post on Wednesdays, a shoplog on Thursdays and recipes on Fridays. If that’s your thing: go for it, but I know for one I don’t thrive on strict rules I’ve set myself.

My conclusion? Every blog planning is personal. You need to figure out for yourself what you and your visitors expect from you. You might be one of the few that gets tons of hits because you write an epic, 5000-word post every month. Or you might be the one that updates twice or even three times a day.

I know what I’m missing right now. I need a proper editorial calendar. I’ve tried Trello, and I’ve tried various editorial plugins, but none worked for me. So I’ll be signing off now to go to the nearest stationery store.

I need a new paper planner for my blog.

Read on: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

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I love to look at my statistics in Google Analytics. I like to watch the numbers creep up slowly towards the goal I’ve set for this month, and I love to see my hard work paysoff. But there’s one thing I like even more than looking at my numbers: looking at the stats of the competitors in my niche. Today, however, instead of lurking on other people’s blogs, looking for their numbers, I’ll share my goals and statistics.

Pinterest must know my behavior, as my feed is filled with bloggers who show off their numbers and how they did it, claiming overnight success and going viral with easy steps. I’ve not been able to implement their tips for overnight success. This might have to do with certain circumstances or niches, but something tells me I’m spending too much time on reading how others do it than focusing on my growth.

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Setting goals

In March, I started to get more serious about my blog. This is, quite coincidentally, the same time I started blogging for Yoast.com. I wanted to blog more and grow as well — both as a human as well as a blogger. I’ll be honest: I want to be the best. I’m competitive like that. But I know that won’t happen. Or at least, I won’t become big with just waiting; I have to work for it.

You’ve heard me say it in my previous blogs: I’m a small blogger. But how small is small? There are bloggers out there who claim they are small when they have 5000 visitors a month. There are also bloggers out there who feel like they own the world with 1000 pageviews in half a year. Your definition can differ from someone else’s — and that’s okay.

Without further ado, I present to you, my monthly users in March 2018 on my blog about motherhood:

257.

No. You’re not missing a ‘K’ or a few zeroes after that number. It’s 257. That’s not whopping. And you’re getting blogging advice from me. Hah, got you there! Don’t worry though; I’ve been lazy up until then. And I’ve learned that when you go for it, you can see tremendous growth.

I decided that I wanted to double my users in April. I tried to reach 500 users and 1000 page views.

On May 1st, I checked my analytics to see if I made my goal. Just kidding, I already knew I made it. I’m addicted to Google Analytics. I have the app installed on my phone. And whenever I have my phone in my hand, my husband doesn’t ask me if I’m reading the news or received a message. He asks me if I’m rechecking my stats. I spam my blogger friends with my stats as well. Yep, guilty of obsessing over my goals and statistics. But hey, it works for me because I reached my goals in April! I had 505 users and 1088 page views. Nailed it, I’d say!

I set new goals on May 1st for my blog. I wanted to reach 1000 users and 1500 pageviews. Again, this is doubling my goal of last month. I can say that I’ve achieved both my goals this month.

As I’ve reached both goals the past months, you’re probably wondering what my new goal will be. But I have to admit: I’m not sure. The increasing numbers feel amazing, but aiming for something high, makes my inner critic take over again.

One of my colleagues pointed out that if my growth continued like this, I would break the 100k mark in December. I scoffed and said: ‘yes, well, that would be highly unlikely.’ He shrugged, asked me: ‘why?’ and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Because why would it be highly unlikely? It’s an insane number, that’s why. But I can try. Dream big. Aim high, shoot low. Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. And whatever motivational words there are out there.

So my new goal will be 2000 users in June and 3000 pageviews, doubling last month’s goal. And I’ll continue like that. In December, I’ll write an update to let you know if I reached the 100k.

How to reach these goals

You’re probably wondering how I nearly doubled my traffic two months in a row. As I explained in my Pinterest post, most of my traffic comes from Facebook. This hasn’t changed yet.

My top three sources of traffic are Facebook, Google, and Pinterest. I’ve been focusing a lot on Facebook and Pinterest lately, though I am not a fan of the new Facebook algorithm either. I reached most of my visitors through Facebook advertising.

My biggest advice for reaching these goals is not Facebook advertising. It’s not focusing on organic growth, and it’s not concentrating on Pinterest either. It’s writing your goals down in a notebook. Look at it often and think of a strategy how to reach this. For me, it’s a combination of a daily blog post, one or two sponsored posts on Facebook and heavily obsessing over my stats.

As I’m writing this, I’ve got my analytics open and am refreshing it every once in a while. This is an obsession, I know, and it’s not something I would recommend. I might need to write a blog post on how to stop checking my stats every second of every day. Whatever you do and whatever your goals are: set them, create a plan and work for it.

Overnight success hardly ever happens.

Read more: ‘SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

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I bet you’ve reread the title at least several times. Did I really just announce a blog post on why you should quit your blog? Yes. Yes, I did. Who am I to tell you to quit blogging? And before you tell me that I should be the one to quit my blog, let me tell you: no, I’m not. In this post, I will share five reasons why you should quit blogging.

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Reason number 1: You can’t write

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Unless…

… you love to write. Unless it’s just your inner critic talking. In most cases, it’s just not true. And even if it’s true, how can you grow to be a great writer if you don’t try? We somehow have forgotten that to learn, we have to try. We have to fall and stand up again. No child ever just stopped trying to get up after it fell again and again. It just got back up to try again. The first baby steps couldn’t have been successful if the child thought it couldn’t do it after failing the first time. So grab your notebook or your laptop and get to it. Make mistakes. And then find a way to do it right and improve.

Reason number 2: You don’t have an audience

Who are you writing for if you don’t have any visitors? Honestly, what a waste of time. You could spend your time doing something useful, such as making money by getting a real job. Maybe you should do chores around the house, get the groceries or do some cleaning.

I hope you’re writing for yourself. I hope you’re writing to ease the writer inside of you. And I hope you write because you have a story to get out of there. Above all, I hope you realize that if you keep your writings to yourself, no one will ever read it. And if you don’t have an audience yet, you could try and work on your SEO. Whatever the reason is you do not have many visitors just yet, find out what it is and get that audience.

Even more important: cherish the small audience you might have right now. If it’s your spouse, your mother, your best friend or someone you don’t know: if they take the time to tell you they like it, you’ve got an audience. It starts with just one reader.

Reason 3: There are a lot of blogs already, yours is nothing new

My younger sister told me this when I started my blog about life as a mother. She said: ‘Aren’t there already a lot of blogs like yours out there? Why do you think you’re so special?’ She hadn’t even seen my blog yet, hadn’t even read my articles. And I doubt she even remembers she told me this because last week she told me: ‘Oh, I read this and that on your blog. That’s insane!’

I remember feeling insecure when she told me I wasn’t unique, but I continued to blog anyway. I told her she knew nothing. And no, I’m not the biggest blogger out there (if only), I’m not even mildly average. My blog isn’t even big enough to be considered for so-called ‘influencer programs.’ And although I have goals to become big, my goal to be authentic is bigger. So my blog is something new because it’s mine. Your blog is just as special and authentic.

Reason 4: It’s lonely

You’re just sitting there, behind your computer, writing stuff no one reads for a blog that makes no money. You must be so incredibly lonely.

I’ve met a lot of bloggers the past year. On blogger conferences, through Twitter, through Facebook groups, through Pinterest and blogs of bloggers I admire. If you feel alone as a blogger, find a local (WordPress) meetup, join Facebook groups, Twitter discussions or just send an email to a blogger you admire. Writing can be a lonely hobby, but it’s not necessary.

Reason 5: You’re giving away your information. For free

Are you out of your mind, or what? Are you just giving all your information away, for free? How will you make money? I mean, why would you give stuff away for free?

I don’t know why we do this either. It must be in our nature to help people.

And if you didn’t already know, bloggers can surely monetize their blog.

I love to write. I write a lot. Therefore I am a writer. I’m not making money with my blog. I’m losing money on advertising, hosting, a theme and premium plugins, but I don’t care for now. It’s my hobby. It’s almost volunteering, but on my terms.

Honestly, did you think I was serious about quitting blogging? I’ve started this series to encourage you to pick up blogging too. I’m encouraging friends to start blogs and we have written guides how to start or continue blogging. So, if anyone ever tells you again you should quit blogging, tell them: Nope. And throw this page in their face.

Read more: ‘Caroline’s Corner: Finding inspiration for your next blog post’ »

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A little over a month ago I started looking at my Pinterest profile more seriously in regards to my blog. I didn’t use Pinterest for my blog yet and never even thought of pinning my blog posts to Pinterest. I used the website to keep my wishlist up to date and had tons of hidden boards full of inspiration for future projects that I would probably never do.

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Facebook is my biggest source of traffic currently, but with Facebook’s announcement on the new algorithm, I want to rely less on Facebook. Or spread my traffic source at least. At the end of March, I received a newsletter from a blogger I follow. She claimed she receives over 15,000 visitors from Pinterest every month. She started blogging last year and hasn’t written a new blog post since January. Yet her blog is ever growing, and so is her bank account. 15k for a website that’s not regularly updated raised one main question with me: HOW?

We emailed for a while and she explained she started to treat Pinterest as a search engine instead of a social medium. People are not on Pinterest to see what their friends like, they are looking for a solution for a problem they have. The difference with Google? You have a personal feed when you open Pinterest. And it is visual.

Skepticism

I was skeptical. I don’t like promoting my website, due to my inner critic who thinks it’s necessary to tell me no one wants to read my blog posts and I should not be bothering them on Facebook or anywhere else. Also, I dislike scheduling my social media to promote my blog and I definitely do not like to make the graphics for my blog. I am a writer, but as a blogger you have to be all-round, unless you’re as lucky as me and you can blog for Yoast where there’s an entire team who will create graphics and do the promotion for you. Unfortunately, they won’t do promotion for my personal blog. I should’ve negotiated that at the beginning of my contract.

Still skeptical about Pinterest, I walked into Joost’s office last month and asked him what he knew about Pinterest. He explained to me that there are mom blogs, especially in the US, that get ten thousands of visitors through Pinterest. The statistics can get bizarre. He told me I was definitely in the right niche to grow through Pinterest and should give it a go.

That night I sat down and started creating graphics for my blog. Pinterest suggests vertical pins instead of the horizontal scaled images for Facebook.

What Pinterest did to my statistics

I would love to say that I woke up the next morning, opened Pinterest and saw that my pins went viral. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Your exposure will slowly climb and the more active you are on Pinterest, the faster you will get rewarded.

If you have a business account with Pinterest, you can look at your statistics. I saw that one of my pins had been shown over 400 times in just a few days. So I squealed and told everyone how amazing Pinterest was. I then showed my statistics to everyone who wanted to see, and even those who didn’t know they wanted to see.

But out of those 400 impressions on Pinterest, not one person had repinned my pin. And no one had clicked the link. Facebook advertising sounded a lot more appealing right now. And less work. And easier to understand.

It took me a week to understand and find the mix that started getting me visitors. I can now say that after one month, 10% of my traffic to my blog is Pinterest. 10% in just one month! My stats are surprising me each and every day and I actually love looking at Google Analytics and my Pinterest statistics. I’ve created a board for my blog and created boards that are close to my niche. I’ve repinned pins from others and pinned my own blog posts.

How you can start to grow

To start growing, the first important step is that your image should be appealing and of high quality. Pins with the message in bold letters across the image, work wonders. People want to know what your post is about in one glance. Writing compelling titles is already important for SEO, so dust up those skills and get them to use for Pinterest!

Another important factor of getting seen is collaborating with others in group boards. By pinning your content to group boards, your content will be seen by the others who contribute to the board.

But balance is key: don’t just pin from your own website. Repin as well. Don’t be afraid to repin a blog post from a competitor if it fits one of your boards. For example: one of my best performing boards is about self-care. I have only written two blog posts on this subject yet, but funny enough, these two blog posts generate the most traffic to my blog.

There’s no easy fix to gain visitors fast. It’s much like Google, Facebook or your other sources of traffic: you need to solve a problem for you visitor by creating content your visitors are looking for.

Read more: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Caroline’s Corner: How to use Pinterest to grow – my experiences appeared first on Yoast.

After (re)defining the niche of my blog and creating a proper site structure with the needed categories, I felt as if I had reinvented my blog. I decided I wanted to publish at least three articles each week. This meant I would have to write 156 blog posts a year. That number sounds extremely daunting, as there have been times the past year I was struggling to come up with just a single blog post idea. How would I ever come up with enough ideas for cool blog posts? It’s all about finding inspiration. Today, I want to share my best tips so you can keep generating useful ideas.

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Tips and tricks for finding inspiration

I’m always amazed at bloggers who have a few hundreds or thousands of blog posts on their site. Where do they get their inspiration? How do they know what to write? I dove in, had a lot of fun, worried about my niche again, worried about the health of the people who inserted certain search queries and ended up with a list of blog post ideas. Let me show you how I did that.

Performance report in Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you more than your crawl errors. Only recently I learned about the Performance report in GSC. It was once again my coworker Patrick who showed me this, although I could’ve known, as we have blog posts on this very subject. No wonder I heard my colleagues laugh when I kept staring at my screen in amazement and uttering: ‘Wow, this is so cool. This is awesome. I had no idea. This is brilliant! Thank you!’

The Performance report shows you the search queries people use that your site ranks on. There could be queries on the list that you have never even thought about writing about.

After looking at my list, I saw someone searched for [milkshake during pregnancy]. I’ve written about pregnancy and milkshakes, but not in that combination yet. This means that an article on milkshake recipes you can make at home that are safe to consume during your pregnancy could be a good idea. Another search result is [time capsule baby]. I don’t even know what it is. It got me worried at first, but now I’m excited to find out what it is. I’m sure the person who searched for this, didn’t want to put a baby inside a time capsule because that’s weird.

Content Idea Generator

Content Idea Generator won’t give you ready to go article ideas. At best it will point you in the right direction, at worst it will provide you with a few laughs. For example, I entered the term [baby]. As a mom, this is something that’s apparently on my mind all day — it’s not, by the way. The subject most on my mind is probably sleeping. And wine. Content Idea Generator gave me the following title: ‘Why babies are scarier than dating Taylor Swift’. I’m not sure what dating Taylor Swift is like, but I do know babies can be quite scary.

A content idea about [wine] gave me ’17 unexpected uses for wine’. I’d think it’s to drink, all other 16 uses would be a waste of good wine to me, but what do I know? Perhaps there are other ways than just to drink it!

Entering the [sleep] subject just left me kind of sad, because I ended up with ‘Why you’ll never succeed at sleep’. That’s disappointing. And accurate at the moment.

While the Content Idea Generator won’t give you immediately what you want, it’s sure to get your creativity flowing. If we take the last subject I entered, which is [sleep], I ended up with the following blog ideas in under two minutes:

  • How to fall asleep faster.
  • How to sleep like a baby — hah, see what I did there? I combined two subjects!
  • The definite guide to get your baby to sleep through the night — oh yeah, did it again!
  • Sleep problems? Try these six tips – and perhaps combine this with wine and link this to the ’17 unexpected uses for wine’. Double win!

Days Of The Year

I am in love with Days Of The Year. This site collects all the funny, bizarre and nice holidays the world has. Browsing their calendar gave me a list of close to thirty post ideas and that was only because I was being extremely picky. For example, today, April 5, is both caramel and deep dish pizza day. I didn’t even know deep dish pizza was a thing.

It’s also ‘Tell a lie day’ today. I could twist this one into a blog post for my niche and could write an article about all the lies I tell my son each day, or the lies I tell myself. You can easily lose a couple of hours while scrolling through that site. Keep your pen and notepad at hand, though, because it is bound to give you tons of inspiration. There are days available for every niche. Are you a fan of mythical creatures? April 9th is unicorn day. There’s also a leprechaun day and a howl at the moon day.

May 25th is towel day, which can give travel bloggers and lifestyle bloggers ideas for posts. Think of blog posts such as: ‘How to keep your towels soft’ or ‘With this information you will never buy the wrong towel again’. Or throw the word [towel] in the Content Idea Generator I described above, which will lead to hilarious posts such as: ’17 facts about towels that will impress your friends’. Or this one: ’18 things Spock would say about towels’; brilliant, as Towel Day is on the same day as Geek Pride Day.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a beautiful source of inspiration, especially for bloggers! I rediscovered Pinterest a few weeks ago. I had abandoned my account for quite some time, but after I read article after article about why Pinterest is important to bloggers, I got active again. I’ll cover my journey on Pinterest in another blog post, as I’m still trying a lot of things to see what it can do for me as a blogger.

Pinterest can help you find enough input for your next subjects. Search for keywords such as [blog post ideas], [blog ideas], or [what to blog about]. To get even more inspiration fast, include your niche in the search results. For example: [blog post ideas for moms], or [blog post ideas for lifestyle bloggers]. Bloggers like you and me write these guides, so often you can learn what works and what doesn’t. But please, be cautious as well. In my opinion, Pinterest is clickbait heaven. Falling into the trap of quantity over quality is easy. Keep your focus or you’ll lose track of time.

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Other ways to generate ideas

This is not the definitive list for generating ideas of course. There are a lot more ways to find inspiration, for example:

  • Find bloggers that inspire you. Make sure you do not copy their ideas, though. And give credit where credit is due.
  • Join Facebook groups that are related to your niche.
  • Join Facebook groups for bloggers.
  • Follow the ideas described in these posts:

What’s next?

With the above lists, I generated over 70 blog post ideas, and it took me only ten minutes of brainstorming. While not all of them are ready to turn into blog posts just yet as I need to do research, the goal to write at least three blog posts a week won’t be dependent on lack of ideas. The only way this could fail, is with the wrong planning.

Read more: ‘Why a blogger should focus on SEO’ »

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Allowing people to comment on your content is a great way to increase engagement and get in touch with your audience. So, it pays off to choose a good comment system that works for you. Besides the standard WordPress comment system, there are several other systems out there you can implement on your website so your readers can directly respond to your posts.

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It’s good to keep some things in mind when selecting what comment system you want to use. Do you want integration with social media, for example? Do you want to be able to keep your comments if you ever need to change your comment system, and what features do you need? You may want more functionalities than WordPress’ standard comment system provides and therefore choose another system. But are there really no downsides to that, keeping the importance of site speed in mind? What about comment systems and SEO? Let’s get into this dilemma in this week’s Ask Yoast!

Max sent us his question on comment systems:

There is no question that the Disqus service takes a little while to load on a webpage. So, do these blog commenting services, like Disqus, affect SEO in some way?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

The impact of comment systems on SEO

“Do they affect SEO? Well, yes, they do. Because, in fact, they’re so slow to load that most of the time, what you see is that Google doesn’t load the content of those comments, and doesn’t use them to rank that page. Which might be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how good your comments are and whether your comments have a lot of content or not.

I personally don’t like these services because they slow down the page load so much and because they make it slower for people to be able to repond to your content, which is why, on yoast.com, we use the plain vanilla WordPress commenting system with some added features that are in the Yoast Comment Hacks plugin, which we’ve released for free on the repository. So that’s why we use that, and not any service like Disqus. But I know there’s a lot of fans of services like Disqus because of all the other features they have. So it’s a trade-off. We made our choice, you have to make yours. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

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Here at Yoast, we’re very good at SEO. We’re also very good at telling you why you should focus on SEO: because you want to get the most out of your site. But what if you’re a blogger writing about things you love without the intention of making money? You want to entertain people with your blog posts and hope they’ll come back next time to read about either your new travel adventures, an awesome DIY project you’ve tried or a personal update. The last thing you think you need is something like keyword research or Yoast SEO’s green bullets — especially since Yoast SEO always seems to hate your writing style.

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Introducing: Caroline’s Corner

Hi, my name is Caroline. I’m 29 years old and a technical product specialist at Yoast. In my spare time, I write and maintain a blog about life as a mother. In September 2014 I joined the company as a software developer and to be honest, I had no idea what the Yoast SEO plugin even did — but don’t tell Joost and Marieke I said that. Something with SEO, sure. But who needs that as a blogger? That’s for the big companies out there that are only in it for the money. O, how wrong I was.

In a new blog series on Yoast.com, I will take you by the hand and show you how to make the most of your blog. I hope you’ll join me on my travels! But first…

Six reasons why you should focus on SEO

A lot of bloggers start their blog as a hobby. They don’t focus on SEO at first and who could blame them? You want to write, not worry about Google and their unfathomable rules on how to rank. But as your blog starts attracting more visitors, you might think of the possibility of making a bit of money. You could use it to cover the cost of running the site, for instance. Or you want to keep it a hobby, but would love to get an even bigger audience. Just as there are a million reasons to start blogging, there are lots of reasons to focus on SEO — especially if you want to reach that next level as a blog. Not entirely convinced yet? Below you’ll find six reasons why you could focus on SEO with your blog.

Currently, you only reach readers via social media

Perhaps you have an active Instagram and Facebook account with a couple of hundred followers or more. You’re aiming for your readers to visit your blog through the links you share on your Facebook page. However, social media optimization is a thing too and to do this right, you need to focus on your SEO as well. SEO-optimized content can bring in new traffic from search engines.

You want to get to know your readers

Your readers are probably a fan of your blog and without them, you don’t have an audience. To cater them, you need to get to know them. By getting to know them, you know what drives them to your website, what gets them to stay on your blog and what makes them leave. You’ll be able to write more relevant blog posts and get more in touch with your blog.

To get and stay inspired

When you know how well you rank for certain keywords, you might find your most popular blog post is one you’ve written over a year ago. There might be a series hidden in that blog post that you can expand. You’ll never suffer from writer’s block again.

Additionally, if you want to grow, you need to know what keywords you need to focus on. If you want to become an expert on a certain topic, you’ll need to do keyword research.

You’re not depending on mouth-to-mouth

While off-page SEO is important to grow too, handing out your paper business cards and telling your family and friends you have a blog, probably won’t get you to exceed a thousand unique visitors a month, unless you have a very large family, of course. While my mom is my biggest fan and she tells everyone they should visit my blog, I doubt she actually gets more than ten people to visit my blog. While mouth-to-mouth will get you to grow just a tiny bit, it will not help you grow hugely. That’s another reason why you need SEO.

To acquire collaborations

There are several things that matter for companies that want to collaborate with you. From domain authority and page authority to the total amount of visitors and from your Facebook like count to the amount of Instagram followers. To make money blogging, your blog and each aspect is your business card, treat it as such.

Brings structure to your blog

Last but not least: to grow, your blog needs a clear structure. You wouldn’t be the first to end up with dozens of categories and hundreds of tags. Your users need a structured website to navigate and Google uses this as well. This means your website will become better by spending time on SEO.

Let’s get started!

Feeling inspired to start? Great! Feeling worried? I can imagine. Don’t worry, this is just the first post in a blog series where I’ll take you through the daunting jungle of SEO to show you (and myself) that it’s not a big bad world out there.

I would love to hear from you what you find hard about SEO for your blog so I can possibly touch that subject in a next blog post.

Read more: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Caroline’s Corner: Why should a blogger focus on SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

Why do so many eCommerce sites have a blog? Is that because online shop owners love to write posts? Or perhaps they have a lot of spare time on their hands? Probably not. Although blogging is lots of fun, it also is a great marketing and SEO strategy. And because of that, eCommerce site owners start a blog. Here, I’ll explain why blogging is such a great marketing and SEO strategy. On top of that, I’ll give some practical tips on how to set up blog on a eCommerce site. 

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Why blog on an eCommerce site?

Inform your audience about you and your products

Blogging is a great way to inform your audience about your product. In a blog post, you can show how to use a product and why people should buy it. You can also tell your audience about yourself and your company. And you’ll be able to tell the story of your products from your perspective. If you’re, for instance, selling baby clothes on your site, a blog about children and children’s fashion is a great idea.

Stay top of mind

If you blog on a regular basis and post your blog posts on social media, you’ll stay top of mind of your audience. You want your audience to remember you, even when they’re not going to buy anything just now. If a visitor encounters one of your posts on how to dress children on a hot day, for instance, this visitor may not immediately want to buy new clothes for his or her children. But, they got to know you and your eCommerce site through your post. That way, you increase the chance people think about you when they DO need new clothes for their children.

Blogging is a great SEO strategy

Maintaining a blog contributes to SEO as well. Every time you write a new blogpost, you’re adding fresh content, which Google likes. In addition to that, maintaining a blog will allow you to start writing content related to those keywords you would like to rank for.

Practical tips for your blog on an eCommerce site

What to blog about?

You can write about all kinds of things on your blog, but make sure to do proper keyword research first. You need to know what search terms you want to be found for. These keywords should be leading when you choose what to blog about. A keyword, however, is not a topic yet. You need an angle, a story around such a keyword.

A great way to come up with ideas for blog posts is by referring and writing about current events. Keep an eye on different news sites, and write posts in which you incorporate your views on the news in your niche. Another way to get ideas is to invite your audience to leave comments on your blog. It may take a while to get them, but you could receive some questions or feedback that are excellent starters for your next post.

Read more: ‘6 tips for coming up with blog ideas’ »

Blog in the menu

The menu or top navigation of your site helps visitors understand what your website is about and what you’re offering. It should reflect the structure of your website. If you add a blog to your eCommerce site, you should make sure it also appears in your menu. A blog should be in your main menu.

I would advise you to set it apart from the categories of your eCommerce site. Put it all the way left (next to home), or all the way right in your menu, for instance. You should be able to click through to your blog from your homepage. After all, you want visitors to find your blog easily. And linking to your blog from your homepage will indicate to Google that your blog is important, which can increase the ranking of your blog. Also, make sure your blog is on the same domain as your eCommerce site, this way both your eCommerce site and your blog will profit from each other’s rankings.

Use of tags

If you have a blog on your eCommerce site, you’d probably write a lot on topics related to your products. Maybe about events where you use them, or what to use them for, how to use them best, comparisons between different products etc. Therefore, it makes sense that your tags will partly overlap with the product categories and subcategories of your shop. This is OK. Because in the end, you’d like to rank with those posts to draw people to the products you sell. And, if you group products, whether that’s in categories or tags, it’s easier to make them rank.

Social media and newsletters

If you start a blog on your eCommerce site, make sure to share these posts on social media as well. In addition to that, you should definitely send out a newsletter promoting your latest blog posts to your audience. People need a reminder of the existence of you and your blog once in a while.

Conclusion

A blog is a great marketing and SEO tool for eCommerce sites. In your posts, you can tell readers about your brand and products, and perhaps also about yourself. No excuses here, just start blogging!

Keep reading: ‘How to start a blog’ »

Writing about SEO is easier than implementing best practices on a website yourself. Every site is different and every type of site presents its own challenge. We know that, and that’s why we started our Yoast Case studies, in which we scrutinize an existing site and give the owner practical advice on how to optimize it. In this third case study: SEO of a photographer’s site.

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Photography and SEO

In this case study, we dive into the site of a photographer: geoffwilkings.com. Geoff is curious what he could do to improve his website’s SEO. He’s told us he’s 100% about photography and photos but knows he needs textual content to rank. He does have a blog and he wonders if he is writing clear enough for prospects and search engines. Let’s have a look at different aspects of his photography website to see what’s good and what needs improvement.

Of course, a website is a work in progress, so while we reviewed his site, Geoff already made some changes to it. This means that what you see on his site might differ a bit from the screenshots below. But we’ll keep them here because we think they serve as nice examples!

Every website needs content to rank

Photos vs. textual content

It makes sense that photographers want to present their work on their website. The photos show their style and by adding lots of photos, they try to convince visitors of the quality of their work. Displaying great photos will, of course, increase the chances of people wanting to hire you, as a photographer. But what does it mean for SEO?

Adding content is one of the main things you need to do to make your website rank, as you might know. The content shows the search engines what the website is about and for what queries it should rank.

Content can consist of textual content but also photos, images and videos. For search engines, textual content is the most valuable content; it helps them determine what the website is about. So, for a photographer’s website, it’s essential to make sure there is enough textual content for the search engines to understand what every page is about.

Geoff’s site

If we look at Geoff’s website, we are in awe of his skills as a photographer: such beautiful pictures! You might just want to get married to get some fairytale-like photographs like that ;-)

There are things he could do though, to make his photos better findable. If we look at this gallery page, for example, we only see one photo on the URL:example of a gallery page with just one photo

Although Geoff added a great filename to the photo, a clear alt text and all the other meta data, it’s still hard for search engines to determine why this page should rank above other pages. Besides that, this gallery page contains only one photo, and therefore Google probably considers it a thin content page, leading to lower rankings. Lastly, since every photo is on a new URL, it’s harder to make all these different URLs rank.

To make these URLs rank there is a need for textual content, so we recommend adding relevant information about things like location, the couple, the theme and other nice things about the specific wedding. By adding textual content, it’s also possible to add an H1 heading to every page which is beneficial for SEO. Lots of pages don’t have an H1 heading at the moment.

After providing this feedback to Geoff we understood that there was some content, but it’s hidden. You can find it if you click on the comment icon on the right side of the photo. Unfortunately, we can’t view this content in the source code, which means Google can’t see it either. So we’d recommend to add it below the photo. Using keywords like wedding photography and the location might help him rank locally.

Improving User Experience for more conversions

Usability and SEO

Improving user experience is increasingly important and should go hand in hand with working on SEO because Google uses ‘user signals’ to determine the relevancy of a website:

If visitors leave your website very fast, search engines consider this a negative signal, because the website probably doesn’t show the information the visitor is looking for. On the other hand, spending lots of time on a page is a positive signal and search engines might rank you higher. This kind of data helps Google to determine the relevancy of a website for a specific search term. Google wants to show the best result on top of the search result pages and if your website is user-friendly, Google will notice this in the user data.

Geoff’s homepage

Looking at the homepage of Geoff’s site – again, such a beautiful picture! – we think a clear call-to-action is missing. It could be that the ‘Enter here’ is meant as a call-to-action, but the ghost button makes it very hard to read:

no clear call to action on the homepage

On top of that, ‘Enter here’ is not the best text for a call-to-action and if you click on it, you’ll end up on a gallery page. We recommend adding a call-to-action button with a text such as ‘Hire us’ or ‘Check if we’re a good match’ or ‘Contact us’, which leads the visitor to the respective page with more information.

Another improvement for the homepage is the formatting of the text. At the bottom of the homepage, we noticed a lot of text and the font of this text seems to be quite small. We recommend using a minimum of 16px to make sure it’s easy to read for visitors. Also, Geoff might want to use copy like this on other pages than his homepage, because ranking with other – more specific – pages than a homepage might be a more feasible strategy.

Geoff’s menu

Looking at the menu of the website, we believe there are too many options. To provide a good user experience, visitors need to find in a few seconds what they’re looking for. Offering too many choices makes this harder. Geoff could, for instance, consider cutting down the number of sub items in the drop down menu of ‘Info’.

to many sub items in the menu
Value of a blog

Blogging and SEO

Having a blog can be beneficial for your site’s SEO because it’s a possibility to add new content regularly, which Google likes. On top of that, it enables you to add more relevant content with internal links to your other pages which makes it easier to rank. Lastly, when other websites think that your blog posts are valuable and relevant to their websites, they’ll probably add a link to your blog. Increasing the amount of backlinks to your site helps a lot when you want your site to rank.

Geoff’s blog

Since we’re blogging a lot at Yoast, we’re always curious to see blogs of other websites. We were so excited to find out that Geoff’s website has one! Clicking through to the blog, however, tempered our excitement: the blog opened on another domain. This, unfortunately, means that the value of the blog doesn’t add much value to Geoff’s main website. We advise Geoff to move his blog to his main domain, a better URL to use would be, for instance, geoffwilkings.com/blog.

Read more: ‘Separate domains or not?’ »

In addition to moving the blog to the same domain, we’d advise choosing a different layout for the blog’s main page. Now it just shows just a large video above the fold. But when visitors navigate to your blog, they want to see what kind of posts you write and probably get inspiration. We recommend showing some excerpts of Geoff’s blog posts above the fold to make sure visitors know immediately that they landed on his blog.

When clicking through the blog posts, we did like what we see! For instance, some nice atmospheric posts about shootings for an engagement and a wedding, and a good explanation about retouching photos (we love the slider effect).

Technical SEO improvements

Let’s dive into the technical SEO aspects. We’ve crawled the website to check whether there are huge problems. We need to say that the website is doing a pretty good job! The only thing we’d like to mention is the use of canonicals. We noticed that most pages don’t have a canonical. At Yoast, we prefer to have a canonical on every page, so we’d advise having self-referencing canonical URLs. Joost explained this very well here: rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Is it possible to have a fast loading website if you have lots of high-quality photos?

Speed is often an issue on photographer’s websites. Because of the file size of the images, those websites tend to load quite slow. Since page speed is an actual ranking factor, it’s important to make the website as fast as possible. Analyze your website with the Google PageSpeed Tool and if the tool tells you that you need to optimize images, do so. This can be beneficial for your site’s SEO.

We did this check for Geoff’s site and we were pleasantly surprised! The website has a score of 73/100. Of course, Geoff can improve this score, but we can tell you, we’ve often seen photographer’s websites with scores below 50. The tool recommends to ‘Optimize images’, but it only mentions one image mentioned, so good job!

Are you a photographer as well and are there more images mentioned in the tool? In this post about image optimization, we’ll explain how to reduce the file size of your images, but maintain the same quality.

Lastly, there are some improvements to make regarding the use of JavaScript and CSS, in optimizing browser caching and enabling compression. We recommend Geoff to work on these issues (perhaps together with a developer) to make his website lightning fast!

Finding a photographer on a mobile phone

Imagine you’re getting married. Right after you decided to get married, you probably grab your phone for some inspiration and ideas! This means that as a photographer, you need to make sure your website works just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop.

Checking the website of Geoff on a mobile phone, we noticed that no content is visible above the fold – the part of the website that is visible without scrolling. This means that the website looks like this:

on mobile

You probably understand that this view isn’t very attractive to visitors who visit the website for the first time. Grab the attention of the visitor immediately by adding some introductory content and a call-to-action. Or a stunning photo with a call-to-action. We recommend checking your website on mobile regularly to see whether you can use the same content as on the desktop.

We provided this feedback to Geoff and we’re really happy to hear that he already changed this! You’ll now see a much better version of his homepage on mobile!

Our summary for Geoff

We enjoyed checking your website, Geoff. You have some stunning photos on your site, and that’s, of course, the best basis for a photographer. On top of this, you run a blog! Our most important recommendation is to move your blog to your main domain, so the value of it contributes more to your site.

Furthermore, you could improve the call-to-action on your homepage, simplify your menu a bit and add more (textual) content to your gallery. And last but not least, try to give your mobile users an awesome experience too. For the rest, keep up the great work!

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Writing blog posts can be great fun. But for some of you, blogging can be quite a challenge as well. What should you write about? What do you do if you’re out of inspiration? How do you get engagement on your blog posts? And how do you market and monetize your blog? This ultimate guide covers everything you need to know about blogging.

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Why blog?

If you have a website of any kind, you need to blog, at least occasionally. Blogging is the best thing you can do for SEO and it’s a valuable marketing tool. Plus of course, it can be great fun!

Blogging for SEO

Adding content on a regular basis should be a part of every sustainable SEO strategy. It allows you to rank for new keywords and to keep ranking for those you’re already being found for. If you blog regularly, Google will see your site as active, alive and relevant – and that will definitely help your overall rankings.

Blogging as a marketing tool

A blog is a great marketing tool for every website. You can use it to tell your readers about your brand, your products and perhaps even about yourself. Maintaining a blog also allows your readers to get to know your brand and your products better.

Read more: ‘To blog or not to blog’ »

Setting up a new blog

If you’re just starting a new blog, it pays to do some prep before you start. Take some time to think about your niche and to do some proper keyword research. And don’t forget to structure your blog in a smart way. If you give some thought to how you want to set up your blog before you start writing, it will save you a lot of work later on.

Keep reading: ‘How to start a blog’ »

What should you blog about?

You can’t blog without ideas, and you’ll need lots of them to maintain a successful blog. But where do you look for inspiration?

Keyword research

You’ll have to decide which terms you want to be found for before you start writing your content. To decide that, you need to get inside people’s heads and find out which words they use while searching for your type of business. When you write, you’ll use these exact terms in your content to make sure you start ranking for them. Keyword research is the first step in SEO copywriting and an essential part of any successful SEO strategy.

Read on: ‘Keyword research: the Ultimate Guide’ »

If you’ve done your keyword research properly, you’ll end up with a long list of keywords to write content about. A keyword is not yet a topic though. As well as a keyword you’ll need an angle or a specific story around a keyword in order to write a decent blog post.

Where do you get inspiration for your posts?

Current events, your own work, and comments from your readers are just some ways you can get inspiration for new blog posts. Reading a lot is also a good idea for finding inspiration. Read magazines, newspapers, and other blogs. Hot tip: keep a list of ideas for new blog posts on your mobile phone. Inspiration strikes when you least expect it.

Read more: ‘5 tips to get inspiration for your blog’ »

How to write a high-quality blog post

Writing requires some skills – it’s more difficult for some people than for others. We’ll give you some tips to make writing easier for you later on, but first we’ll discuss two important aspects of high-quality blog posts: originality and readability.

Original content

Your blog posts should always be fresh, new and original. Each one should be sufficiently different from all the other blog posts and articles about the same topic already on the web, and it should be something that people will want to read.

Keep reading: ‘The importance of original content for SEO’ »

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Readable content

After you’ve written a post with original content, you should make sure your article is easy to read. Readability is vital for your audience. If your text is well structured and clearly written, people will understand your message, but readability is also crucial for SEO. Not only do people read your text, but Google does too. If your post is easy to read, with a clear structure with subheadings and logical paragraphs, chances are it’ll rank higher in the search engines too.

Read on: ‘Does readability rank?’ »

Practical tips on how to write awesome blog posts

Think before you write

Before you begin, take a little time to think about what you want to write. Who is your audience and what do you want to tell them? What do you want them to know/understand/do after they have read your blog post? Which topics do you want to cover in your blog post and in what order? Answering these questions before you write will help you to write better articles.

Read more: ‘How to start writing a blog post’ »

Write clear paragraphs

We advise that you always start each paragraph with the most important sentence, then explain or elaborate on it. That way, a reader will be able to grasp the most relevant content from your article, just by reading the first sentence of each of your paragraphs. Don’t make your paragraphs too long; 7 or 8 sentences is quite long enough. Think about the order of your paragraphs and remember they should follow each other logically.

Keep reading: ‘Practical tips to set up a clear text structure’ »

Get help and ask for feedback

Our Yoast SEO plugin helps you to write readable posts. For example, our readability analysis checks whether you’re using too many long sentences and whether you’re using enough transition words. This can be a great help in writing readable blog posts.

As well as using a writing tool like our readability analysis, you should always make sure that someone proofreads your blog post. A fresh pair of eyes will at least help correct typos and you’ll know whether someone else can understand everything you want to say in your article.

Read on: ‘5 tips to write readable blogposts’ »

Optimize blog posts for search engines

After you’ve written a blog post that’s both original and readable, you should make sure your content is optimized for search engines. You should maximize the likelihood that Google will pick up your content. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written your post, though. SEO should never compromise either the originality of your idea or the readability of your text.

yoast seo focus keyword content analysis

Yoast SEO can help you tweak your text. The red and orange bullets will indicate which aspects of your findability need attention. For example, the plugin might suggest using your focus keyword a little more often, perhaps by putting it in the first paragraph or in one of the headings. Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. In short: don’t just set the plugin and then forget about it, but use it to your advantage!

Read more: ‘Use Yoast SEO to make your content findable’ »

Blog engagement

Blog engagement is an important factor for SEO. If your audience leaves comments on your blog (and you respond to these comments), Google will see that your blog is very much alive and active. And of course, mentions on social media will also help with your blog’s ranking. If people share your post on social media, or talk about it online, that will definitely lead to more traffic.

Replying to comments is an essential aspect of blog engagement and answering questions and providing appropriate responses in a discussion can take a lot of time. Handling positive feedback and answering questions is relatively easy, while negative feedback can be more challenging. Read our post about how to handle comments for more information and practical tips.

Marketing your blog

If you’re writing posts for your blog, you need an audience. Nobody wants to perform to an empty room! Ranking well in search engines through flawless SEO will, of course, help. But there is always more you can do.

Social media and newsletters

Social media is an important marketing instrument for your blog. You definitely need to set up a Facebook page and create a Twitter account. If you’re focusing on a young audience, you’ll need Instagram and Snapchat as well.

Also, consider starting a newsletter. Collect subscribers who want to stay informed and email them regularly.

Keep reading: ‘Marketing your blog’ »

Monetizing your blog

If your audience is growing due to great SEO and marketing strategies, this doesn’t necessarily mean that profit (if you’re making money with your blog) from your blog will also grow. For many bloggers, making money is not the primary goal. Still, you can make money from a blog. Advertising, affiliate marketing, and writing promoted posts are the most common strategies for making money with a blog. But you could also use the blog to sell your own stuff.

Read on: ‘Monetizing your blog’ »

Maintaining a blog

Starting a blog is easier than maintaining a blog. It can be a lot of work to write blog posts on a regular basis. You don’t have to blog every day, but you should decide on a frequency and stick to it so your audience will know what to expect from you. Blogging does require some discipline.

As your blog starts to grow, you’ll probably face new SEO problems. How do you keep coming up with new content and keep your old content up to date? How do you manage different authors? What do you do when traffic to your blog is decreasing? And how will you keep the structure of your blog in shape?

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Site structure of a growing blog

While your blog is growing, it’s important to regularly analyze the structure of your blog. Organize your categories, subcategories and tags well. As your blog is growing, the structure will change and evolve. As long as you stay on top of that, your structure will remain SEO-friendly!

Content planning for a growing blog

As your blog gets bigger and attracts a larger audience, content writing becomes content planning and content managing. On larger blogs, a team of authors usually works together. Blogs are written by individual authors, but these authors still have to coordinate. Otherwise, a post with the exact same topic could appear twice. Or, authors could use a totally different style and tone of voice.

Read more: ‘Managing a growing blog: content planning’ »

Conclusion

Blogging is great. It can boost your rankings in Google, especially when you combine it with an in-depth keyword research strategy, and is also an important and effective marketing tool. Use our tips to get started and to maintain your blog effectively. Happy blogging!

Interested in blogging? Follow the adventures of our colleague and blogger Caroline, she regularly writes about her struggles and successes as a blogger.

Keep reading: ‘SEO Copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

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