Last week, Google announced a new feature in their knowledge panels. You’re now able to verify your branded or personal panel and add or change some of the information in it. But what exactly are knowledge panels? Are these useful? Should your company have one?  I’ll tell you all about it in this post!

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training Info

What is a knowledge panel?

Knowledge panels contain information about businesses or people. Such a panel appears on the right in the desktop search results. It contains information about the company, for instance when the company was founded and where the company is situated. A panel also contains pictures.

There are two types of knowledge panels: local panels and branded/personal panels. Google calls both of these knowledge panels, but the process of verifying them is totally different. For the local panels, verification was already possible through Google My Business. The new feature actually only applies to the branded/personal panels.

Why should we care about knowledge panels?

If you want to be found on your brand or business name, a knowledge panel is really useful! If Google decides to show your knowledge panel,  you pretty much dominate the search results on the right side of the screen in desktop search. In mobile, the knowledge panel will appear between other results but is pretty dominant as well. A knowledge panel will thus make sure your company or brand will stand out in the search results when people are specifically searching for it. That’ll give you lots and lots of clicks. And this makes sense too: if people are searching for your brand name, they want to find your website.

How do you get a knowledge panel for your business?

As with other types of search results, Google will decide whether or not it’ll show a knowledge panel in the search results. If you’re a local business, you can do some things to increase your chances to rank with a knowledge panel. For the branded and personal panels, it is much harder to obtain such a knowledge panel.

Local panels

If you want a chance of Google displaying a local panel for your business, the first step is to open a Google My Business account.  You’ll then be able to verify that you are the owner of your business. After that, you can add or edit all relevant information about your business, such as address information, opening hours and photos.

In the end, Google will decide whether or not to show a knowledge panel. Relevance, distance, and the prominence of the business are all important aspects for Google in determining if it’ll show knowledge panels. Making sure your website is really awesome and working on a high-authority domain could enhance your chances.

Read more: ‘Improve your local SEO with Google My Business’ »

Branded/personal panels

It is not possible to apply for a branded or personal panel. Google will decide whether or not your brand is worthy of a knowledge panel.  If your brand has enough authority, a knowledge panel will appear. Brands and people who have Wikipedia pages, often have knowledge panels as well. For Yoast, we do have a knowledge panel.  Joost de Valk also has a personal knowledge panel. I do not have a knowledge panel. I’ll keep working on that level of authority.

How to verify your panel

So, Google’s news from last week was that people could now verify their brand or personal knowledge panel. Verifying is not all that hard. If you have a knowledge panel, make sure to verify it. Follow the steps Google has outlined for you in this article. You need to log in to your Google account and sign in to one of your official sites or profiles to get verification for your business. For Yoast, it was pretty easy.

Once verified, you’ll be able to make changes in the knowledge panel and make sure it looks the way you want it to look.

Conclusion on knowledge panels

Knowledge panels are a great asset to have in the search results. For local panels, you should make sure you’re doing everything you can to get a knowledge panel. For branded or personal knowledge panels, it is much harder to influence your chances of getting one. It all depends on your level of authority, and that’s something that probably won’t be fixed overnight.

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

The post All about Google’s knowledge panels appeared first on Yoast.

You might have heard the term before: mobile parity. With, as a subset of that, content parity. Perhaps “One Web” triggers some kind of recognition? It all comes down to one thing: is your mobile site equal to your desktop site? In this article, I’ll give you some pointers on why you should check that and a number of things that influence the presence or absence of mobile parity.

What is mobile parity?

We talk about mobile parity when we compare a desktop site to a mobile site. Are both similar, or even better, basically the same? Does your mobile site resemble the desktop site, or are there differences? Think about the goal of your website and why it matters so much to have this parity. Let’s go over a number of things that relate to this mobile parity.

Content is king

Yes, content is king. And it doesn’t matter if someone is visiting your mobile site or desktop site. They are looking for specific information or a specific product, so you better make sure content is the same on both. It’s common use to hide some larger images on a mobile device or put some more content behind tabs (which is OK for Google, don’t get me wrong). It speeds up rendering of the mobile content, which will only help both users and Google. But the end result of that mobile optimization should not interfere with the end goal of your desktop site. It’s the same. So in regards to content, mobile parity matters. 

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training Info

Consistent branding on all devices

Looking at the design of your website, you need to make sure if it sends the same “message” on every device. We’ve seen fantastic desktop sites that have a mobile version that has been very toned down. As with AMP, I don’t mind removing clutter and focusing on what needs focus (top tasks), but both websites need to share the same “look and feel”.

The same goes for, for instance, your page titles. If you have different page titles on your mobile site and your desktop site, make sure they align. If your site is responsive, this will be no problem, but there are still a lot of websites that maintain a separate mobile site (why!?). The same will go for Progressive Web Apps and similar developments. If the content structure aligns with your desktop website, make sure other things align as well. There’s more.

Mobile-first!

If you have no clue what mobile-first means, read up first. If Google starts to rank your website based on your mobile website in the first place, there might be work to do. A lot of website owners, web designers, web agencies etcetera have been creating and selling mobile sites as an extra to a desktop site. “See how this website looks on your computer screen and how it gradually slims down to your mobile device”, will be a sentence of the past.

Mobile parity is important, especially with the mobile-first index just around the corner.

We need to set up a mobile site that folds out to a desktop site instead. Quality matters, contents matters, design, and branding matter. In Dutch, we have a saying “the soup isn’t always eaten as hot as it is served“, meaning that measures might be less severe than announced. Perhaps Google’s mobile first “threat” isn’t as strict as it may seem, but you’d better be prepared, right. So make sure your mobile website covers all bases your desktop site covers, with the same quality look and feel. Ask yourself: If you wouldn’t have a desktop site, would you still be able to get the same conversion/traffic/engagement results on your website as you currently do?

Internal links

In everything that relates to mobile parity, internal links seem to surface in my mind as a point of attention. We hide things, remove things, change things when making our website responsible. We kill a sidebar, reduce the number of footer links, might even change our menu. All these actions have an effect on the number of internal links a page has.

Internal links influence SEO, just like external links to your website do. They play an important part in setting up cornerstone content and most other content strategies. It’s your site structure that you change with every one of those changes. When Google flips the switch and your mobile site becomes most important, you might ruin that entire structure just because of the fact that your site lacks mobile parity.

It’s not just the visual stuff

Especially when your website isn’t responsive, other issues may arise. How about a 301 redirect on your desktop that is forgotten on your mobile site? I can’t stress enough that I’d still prefer a responsive website over other solutions. It simply makes sure things like this are handled properly. Think canonical links, robots meta tags, etc. You don’t want to go wrong here.

I hope I have given you some food for thought for your own website. Mobile parity is something you need to check every now and then, but definitely now as well, to make sure your mobile visitors and Google aren’t missing out on anything. Prevent that your focus on desktop doesn’t ruin your rankings.

Mobile parity audit

Moz has written a nice article that guides you through the process of a mobile parity audit. Read that article as well and see how similar your mobile and desktop websites really are!

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

The post Mobile parity: are your desktop and mobile site equal? appeared first on Yoast.

Off-page SEO is about everything that doesn’t happen directly on your website. Optimizing your website is called on-page SEO and includes things like site structure, content and speed optimizations. Off-page SEO is about, among other things, link building, social media and local SEO. Or in other words, generating traffic to your site and making your business appear like the real deal it is. In this post, we answer the question: What is off-page SEO?

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training Info

Creating exposure, trust and brand awareness

When focusing on on-page SEO, you’re doing everything in your power to make your site awesome. You write great content, have a solid site structure and your mobile site loads in just a couple of seconds. All is well in the world. Off-page SEO on the other hand, helps you to bring in those hordes of visitors and potential customers. Both are important pieces of the puzzle.

By writing quality content you can rank in search engines, but by getting a few great, relevant sites to link to that content, you’re increasing the chance that you’ll end up a couple of spots higher. The same goes for building your brand and creating trust. This doesn’t just happen on your site, but mostly off-site. Take reviews for instance, these can make or break your company. You need them, but they most often appear on external sites. These are all factors that contribute to your rankings.

It’s not only important for you to rank high for your search term, but also to create trust and a sense of authority. You must appear to be the best search result, not just in technical and content sense, but also in reality. Popularity, quality and relevance are everything.

A lot of it comes down to link building

Links are the glue that keeps the web together. Search engines use links to determine how valuable a piece of content or a particular site is. Getting quality links has always been a great tactic if you’re serious about ranking. And who isn’t? Recently, however, some people seem to debate the relevance of links. We firmly believe in the importance of links. Of course, you need the good ones. Don’t buy stuff, and keep a close eye on where and how you’re being linked to. We’ve written several guides on how to get quality links for your site and what you shouldn’t do when link building.

Social media helps to a certain extent

By itself social media is not essential for ranking well in search engines. It does, however, give you a unique opportunity to get in touch with customers and potential visitors.

As David Mhim wrote in his epic Ranking your local business post series: “”Being active” on social media isn’t really going to help with your local search visibility. And even if you’re wildly popular on social media, it’s unlikely that popularity will translate directly into higher local search rankings. You should primarily focus your social media efforts on engaging your customers with interesting content, promotions (if relevant), and polls and conversations that will increase their affinity for your brand. You can promote your website to a degree, but generally speaking, improvements in your local rankings will come from other factors.”

Local SEO is also off-page SEO

Local SEO is essential if you’re business is locally oriented. For local businesses, part of the off-page SEO is really in-person SEO. Word-of-mouth marketing plays a big role in getting people to your business. Not just that, happy customers can leave reviews online that Google – and potential other customers – can use to see how well you are doing.

Off-page SEO is an integral part of your SEO strategy

As we’ve shown, off-page SEO supplements on-page SEO. Both go hand in hand. You need to focus on your link building, branding and appearance efforts to make the most of your SEO. You can optimize your site all you want, but if isn’t perceived as a quality destination for people, you won’t do well.

Read more: ‘The ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

The post SEO basics: What is off-page SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

SEO is important for every website that wants to attract traffic. SEO for non-profits, in that regard, isn’t that different from SEO for other businesses. For non-profits -often struggling to make ends meet- it can be a cheap and effective way of attracting traffic. Making sure your website is findable in the search engines increases the chance that people will find their way to your non-profit organization. So, what SEO challenges are the most urgent for non-profit organizations? I’ll tell you all about those in this post.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

SEO is a must for a non-profit organization

It’s important for your non-profit organization to rank well in Google. Why? You want your audience, the people you’re aiming to help, to find their way to your website. When you’re findable, it’s much easier for them to get in touch and receive your information. Also, you want potential donators to find your website. Their sponsorship could help you to grow your non-profit business, expand your mission and help more people.

SEO is relatively cheap. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lot of work. So, you need lots of time, writing skills, and some technical help with our plugin. Provided you have those at your disposal, ranking in the search engines is doable and will get you more traffic and visitors.

What SEO aspects to focus on?

There are a few SEO tactics that are especially important for non-profit organizations. SEO for non-profits isn’t essentially different from SEO for other companies. However, due to the distinct nature of (most) non-profit organizations, there are a few SEO tactics that’ll prove to be extra beneficial.

Content: write about what you do!

The first SEO aspect to focus on as a non-profit organization should be your content. While many businesses have trouble coming up with topics to write about, for most non-profits finding inspiration won’t be the problem. On the contrary, every non-profit organization has stories, a mission, a reason to exist. Translating those stories into awesome content is a great SEO strategy. Write about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and why that’s such a great thing. You’ll probably write content around your most important keywords without knowing it.

A good strategy is to write a few great lengthy cornerstone articles, which truly reflect your main mission. Other (smaller) posts should link to those cornerstone articles.

Optimize for your brand

Make sure that people find you when they search for the brand name of your non-profit organization. Lots of non-profits are known for their name. You want to be found on your brand name, when people search for it. So you’d better ensure you rank number one for that name. This shouldn’t be that hard if you focus on decent writing and make sure your site structure is in order.

Read more: ‘Low budget branding’ »

Get the Local Premium bundle and fully optimize your local site! »

Yoast Local Premium bundle Info

Local SEO

Lots of non-profit organizations focus on a specific location or have multiple locations. You want people in your area to find you. If that’s the case for your organization, make sure that your website is findable on Google maps. Enter the information about your organization via Google Local Business Center. Check out our local SEO plugin if your non-profit organization focuses on multiple or specific locations. That’ll really pay off!

Keep reading: ‘Ranking your local business: introduction’ »

Mobile

Mobile search is becoming more and more important. Google announced that in 2018 the rankings in the search engines will be based on the mobile index. So it’s very important that your website is mobile friendly. Lots of people will search for and visit your website on a mobile phone. The design should be responsive and your site speed on mobile should be in order. Check out Google’s mobile friendliness test to see whether or not your site is mobile friendly.

Conclusion on non-profit SEO

SEO for non-profits isn’t that different from SEO for businesses, blogs or online shops. SEO should be part of the online marketing strategy of every non-profit organization, as Google is the most important channel for information for most people. Ranking high in Google is the way to reach your audience.

Non-profits should have no problem coming up with ideas for content. Focusing on writing awesome content will probably be the best and most effective SEO strategy. Top that off with great technical excellence and good site structure and there’s no doubt your non-profit organization will be on the (search) map!

Read on: ‘SEO for everyone: Yoast’s mission explained’ »

The post SEO for non-profits appeared first on Yoast.

Those used to tabbed browsing know why favicons are important. Your site will stand out from the rest if your favicon is recognizable. After all, a picture says more than a thousand words. Personally, I often find myself pinning websites in Google Chrome, still my browser of choice. As a to-do list, or simply because I want Gmail at hand anytime. Or that specific spreadsheet in Sheets. Or Facebook. That little favicon is the only reference to what site is hidden in that tab. You simply need a good favicon for your website.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Make your favicon stand out

You should make sure your favicon stands out from that long list of tabs. Check if it matches your logo and website well. Especially when you are not one of the big brands, you want people to recognize your favicon. Two tips directly related to that are:

  • avoid too many details in your favicon,
  • and please use the right colors, so the favicon doesn’t blend in with the gray of your browser tab.

Both are closely related to branding. Your brand should be recognizable in your favicon. Although we’re able to use more colors and more depth in our favicons nowadays, the fact is that the space available on that browser still hasn’t improved from the small 16×16 pixels it used to be in the early days. It doesn’t look like 16×16 pixels anymore, but that’s because we have better screens, not because that space increased. The main improvement is that lines are sharper and you can use all the colors you want.

Proper branding is making sure people will relate your favicon to your website immediately. I listed a number of favicons for you to test. Drop me a line in the comments about what favicon belongs to what brand:

favicons quiz

Too easy? In that case, these brands did a good job on translating their brand to their favicon.

SEO benefits of favicons

Are there real SEO benefits to favicons? Tough one. Besides branding, probably not, though opinions may differ on this a bit. One might argue that you can now add an image of 1MB as a favicon and that this will slow down loading times. You could say that a proper favicon highlights a bookmark and might increase return visitors. I have even found a story where someone stated that some browsers automatically look for a favicon and return a 404 if it’s not there.

My 2 cents? If there is an SEO benefit, it’s so small that all other optimization, like proper site structure or great copy, should always have priority. Does that mean you don’t need that favicon? Hey, didn’t you read that part about browser tabs? You do need it, even if it’s just to stand out.

WordPress just made your day: favicons in the Customizer

If you use WordPress, you might already know that there’s been a favicon functionality in WordPress core since version 4.3. So you can use this default functionality, without hassle. It’s located in the Customizer and is called Site Icon. In fact, WordPress recommends using this option to add a favicon. You don’t even need to create a favicon.ico file, like you used to, years ago. Just use a square image, preferably at least 512 pixels wide and tall. That seems to contradict with the recommendation to keep it as small as possible. But if you optimize your image, it won’t slow down your site :)

More information on how to go about this in WordPress is in the WordPress Codex. Go read and add a nice favicon to your own site!

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

Way back in 2014 we promised you in our post on local SEO that we’d write more about local and small businesses. As local SEO is basically about optimizing for local search engine results, it’s fair to say that local SEO and small business SEO are closely-related, which is why we’ll cover both in this article.

We’ll discuss a variety of related topics in this article:

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show your opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress plugin Info

As long as Google’s local search result pages continue to grow and improve, we’ll never be done with this subject. But in the meantime, here’s our ultimate guide to local and small business SEO. Let’s start at the beginning of your SEO process.

Finding your niche

Determining your niche is vital for local or small businesses. When you know your niche, you can emphasize what makes your brand or products unique, therefore improving your chances to rank well for them. If you have a clear niche, you can compete locally with large national brands – despite their multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

Find out who your customers are and which words they use to describe your product or service because people will use the same terms to find your website. These terms can really help you optimize your local business SEO when you turn them into long-tail keywords and these keywords should be as specific as possible. Once you’ve done all of this, remember to regularly assess your niche as it evolves with the growth of your company.

Find your shop’s niche

Low budget branding

We have talked about this time and again: branding is very important for SEO. Branding means stuff like your logo and tagline. Do they represent your company without further explanation? What do your logo and tagline reveal about your values and your field of expertise? It’s all about recognition.

Read more: ‘Low budget branding tips for small businesses’ »

Here’s a tip for branding: share your expertise! You can do that in blog posts and on social media. We’ll talk more about this later on.

Start writing great content

Your small business SEO will get a significant boost from the right content. Too many small business owners just put their products and contact details on their website and leave it at that. But there is so much more to tell and share!

Focus on making an awesome first impression on your potential customer. Write about your business, your business goals, how great your products are and things like that. You could also discuss market developments or events that relate to your business. These are just a few tips for your local SEO content strategy.

When writing your content, be realistic about the chances of getting that content to rank in search. If you are in a highly competitive market, content works very well as a marketing tool and as input for social media, but it probably won’t get you that number one spot in Google, and that’s OK. Manage your expectations.

Picking the right keywords to optimize for is very important. Usually, it’s a good idea to pick mid-tail keywords, including the local area you are targeting. It really doesn’t matter if you add this content to your site as a page or blog post. Just make sure that you write about things that people want to talk about or things that make people talk about your business in a positive way.

Keep reading: ‘Improve your small business SEO today’ »

Share your content on social media

While you can actually sell your products on social media platforms, in most cases we recommend using social media for brand awareness or to lead potential customers to your website for a sale. Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, your company, and your products to establish your image and to get the right traffic to your company website. When used in this way, social media can really help small business SEO.

I like to compare social media to a market where all the stall owners know each other and customers browse the products. At some point, someone will tell other visitors where to go to for a product: “The cheese over there is delicious”, “you should really check out the fruit over there”, that kind of thing. So make sure people start talking about you. And start talking about yourself online, to make others start talking to you on social platforms. Lastly, actively engage in social media conversations, to let people know you are listening.

Use Social Media to increase your sales

Local ranking factors that help your small business SEO

There are many things that influence your local rankings, but there is one very obvious one: your address details or NAP, which stands for Name, Address, Phone number. Be sure to add these in the correct formatting (in code), using schema.org details – our Local SEO plugin can help with that. Also, ask your web developer to look into AMP, as Joost says in this Ask Yoast article on AMP for small businesses. As well as this, it may help to add your city, and perhaps your state, in the title of your pages for easier recognition as well.

Also, if you want to start optimizing your website in order to rank better, but you are not sure where to start, you might want to have a look at our new, free SEO course for beginners!

Google My Business

Make sure you use the exact same NAP details on both your website and your Google My Business listing and include your website link to your listing too. This is the only way for Google to understand the relationship between them. Add these details – for example in your footer – and of course, on your contact page. Google My Business really is your friend if you want to rank in your specific geographical area, so get your details right!

Improve local SEO with Google My Business

Add ratings and reviews

Google My Business, like Facebook, allows others to leave a review of your company. If your company has a good rating, people will be more likely to click through to your website from either of these two platforms. Make sure you monitor and maintain these reviews.

If you get a negative review for any reason, react by responding and solving your customer’s problem. Then, once you have, ask them to change their review afterward. In other words, turn that dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador!

It’s easy to make use of these reviews and ratings. If you need some tips, find out more in this article:

Read on: ‘Get local reviews and ratings’ »

Links from related small businesses

Social ‘proof’, like the ratings and reviews mentioned above, should be backed up with a few links from local directories, such as:

  1. Yelp
  2. SuperPages
  3. YP.com
  4. ReferLocal.com
  5. Bestoftheweb

You should get a listing on these sites, for the obvious reason that this means you also get a link to your website. If you can get some links from other related local websites in that directory, that will also help your site’s findability. Note that links from other local websites should be from sites that are in a related profession. It’s of no use to have your bakery website linked from an accountant’s website.

Want to optimize your WooCommerce shop for local shopping? You need Local SEO for WooCommerce! »

Local SEO for WooCommerce Info

If your small business is closely related to other businesses that are not located in the same area, you should definitely also ask those businesses for a link. Google spiders the web link by link, so if your business is linked to from a website in the same field of business, that link is extra valuable to you.

Near me searches

When talking about local rankings, we also have to mention near me searches. These are searches and search suggestions that include words like “near me”, “closest”, “open” and “nearby”. Optimizing for these searches is similar to optimizing for local, but applies for global brands as well (“buy Lego near me”). So you’ll have to think outside the box – there’s probably more to optimize for. Google really focuses on search terms like these, as you can read here:

Is that a Possum near me?

In conclusion

As we’ve seen, there are many things you can do as a small business to improve your site and rank better. You should start by focusing on your niche and emphasizing your uniqueness. Think about how you present your brand: logos and taglines are important to give your customers an idea of who you are as a business.

You can increase your visibility by creating great content on your site, optimized for the most appropriate keywords. Also, it always helps if you are active on social media. There are several factors related to local SEO that help small businesses. Make sure Google My Business has the right details, keep track of your ratings and reviews, and try to get links from related small businesses. Finally, try to optimize for ‘near me’ searches.

Read more: ‘5 questions: Talking local SEO with David Mihm’ »

The post Ultimate guide to small business SEO appeared first on Yoast.

We often get questions from people asking about the influence of domain names on SEO. Is there any relation at all? Does it help to include keywords like product names in your domain name? Is the influence of domain names different per location? And what’s the use of using more than one domain name for a site? In this article, I’ll answer all these questions and more.

What’s a domain name?

Let’s start at the very beginning. A domain name is an alias. It’s a convenient way to point people to that specific spot on the internet where you’ve built your website. Domain names are, generally, used to identify one or more IP addresses. So for us, that domain name is yoast.com. When we are talking about www.yoast.com, which we rarely do, the domain name is yoast.com and the subdomain is www.

Note that I deliberately included “.com” here, were others might disagree with that. In my opinion, most common uses of the word “domain name” include that top-level domain. 

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Top-level domain (TLD)

Where “yoast” is obviously our brand, the .com bit of our domain name is called TLD (or top-level domain). In the early days of the internet:

  • .com was intended for US companies,
  • .org for non-profit organizations,
  • .edu for schools and universities and
  • .gov for government websites.

We’re talking 1985. Things have changed quite a bit. For the Netherlands, we use .nl, but lots of companies are using .com instead, for instance, when the .nl domain name they wanted was already taken. Things have gotten quite blurry. These days, TLDs like .guru and .pro are available. Automattic bought .blog a while back. And what about .pizza? We call these kind of TLDs generic TLDs.

Country code TLD (ccTLD)

I’ve already mentioned the .nl TLD. We call these kinds of TLDs country code or country specific TLDs. Years ago, Tokelau – an island in the Southern Pacific Ocean – started giving away their .tk TLD for free, and thousands of enthusiasts claimed their .tk. If I would have claimed michiel.tk, there would have probably been nobody in Tokelau who could have pronounced my domain name well. It’s like .cc, which you might have heard of, because it was once promoted as the alternative to .com. It’s actually a country specific TLD belonging to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, although the people of Cypres might disagree.

This brings me to the first statement about domain names and SEO:

ccTLD or subdirectory?

If your website is available in multiple languages, you might be wondering what the best solution is: domain.com/uk/ and domain.com/de/ (subdirectories or subfolders) or domain.co.uk and domain.de (ccTLDs).

For SEO, the subdirectory makes more sense. If you use a subdirectory, all links will go to the same domain. Marketing is easy because you have one main domain. If there are language differences per subdirectory, use hreflang to tell Google about that. If you include all in one (WordPress) install, maintenance is easier. Just to name a few advantages.

Note that a subdomain, like the “www” I mentioned, is something totally different than a subdirectory. Google actually considers kb.yoast.com to be a different website than yoast.com, even though I’m sure they can connect the dots.

Age of a domain

These days, the age of a domain – referring to how long your domain already exists – doesn’t matter as much as it did before. It’s much more about the content, the site structure and basically how well your website answers the query people used in Google. To become the best result and rank top 3 for a query, you’ll have to be the best result.

As a matter of fact, John Mueller of Google confirmed just a few weeks ago that domain age doesn’t matter:

Is it that black and white? No, it’s not. Domain age as such might not influence ranking, but older domains probably have a nice amount of backlinks, pages in the search result pages etc. And obviously, that might influence ranking.

Exact Match Domain (EMD)

BuyCheapHomes.com is probably an existing domain name. This is an example of an Exact Match Domain name. In 2012, Google introduced what we now call the EMD Update. Google changed it’s algorithm, so websites that used domain names like that wouldn’t rank just for the simple fact that the keyword was in the domain name. And yes, that used to be the case, before the update.

So, after this update, does it still pay off to use a domain name that includes a keyword? Only if the rest of your website adds up. Homes.com works pretty well :) And in the Netherlands, the Dutch equivalent of cheaploans.com, goedkopeleningen.nl, probably gets a decent amount of traffic. But that’s because Google is better in English than Dutch (but catching up on that).

My advice: if you managed to build a brand around that EMD, and you still get lots of traffic, keep up the good work. If your money is still on BuyCheapHomes, please make sure your branding is absolutely top notch. You’re in the hen house and a fox might be near.

More on EMD in Moz’s The Exact Match Domain Playbook: A Guide and Best Practices for EMDs.

Branding

Following the EMD update, branding became even more important. It makes so much more sense to focus on your brand in SEO and your domain name – as opposed to just putting a keyword in the domain name – that a brand name would really be my first choice for a domain name. LEGO.com, Amazon.com, Google.com. It’s all about the brand. It’s something people will remember easily and something that will make you stand out from the crowd and competition. Your brand is here to stay (always look on the positive side of things).

Make sure your brand is unique and the right domain name is available when starting a new business. By the way, this might be the reason to claim yoast.de even if you’re mainly using yoast.com – just to make sure no one else claims it ;)

By the way, I mentioned that a (known) brand is usually easier to remember. For the same reason, I’d prefer a short domain name over a domain name like this. Pi.com was probably already taken.

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

More than one domain name for the same website

Does it pay off to claim multiple domain names and 301 redirect all the domains to the main domain name? In terms of branding: no. In terms of online ranking: probably not. The only valid reason I can think of to actively use multiple domain names for the same website, is offline and sometimes online marketing. If you have a specific project or campaign on your website that you’d like to promote separately, a second domain name might come in handy to get traffic straight to the right page on your website.

“Actively” is the main word in that last paragraph. As mentioned, feel free to register multiple domain names, just make sure not to confuse Google. Besides that, actively using multiple domain names for the same website will diffuse the links to your website. And that isn’t what you want, as mentioned at the subdirectory section as well. 

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Domain Authority (DA)

I feel I have to mention domain authority here as well, as you hear a lot about it nowadays. Domain Authority is a score that predicts how well your website will rank on the search results pages. It’s based on data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank and MozTrust scores, and dozens of other factors (more than 40 in total). Source: Moz.com. It’s Moz-specific, so if you are using Moz, go check it out. And if you are a heavy user of domain authority, please elaborate why in the comments, as it’s not a metric I use, to be honest :)

Keep reading: ‘SEO friendly URLs’ »

A website of a larger company often represents multiple divisions. If one division outgrows the others, or if expectations for one division are very high, the need for a separate website or domain may arise. What’s best to do for SEO in such a case? Set up a new domain for that division? Or build it on a sub-domain? In this Ask Yoast, we help you determine the best solution in case a division wants its own website.

Brooke Brown of smartbridge.com emailed us with this question:

“One division of our company is getting more presence, so they want to build that division its own website. What’s the best option?

1. Build it on a new domain like smartbridgemobility.com;
2. Build it on a totally separate domain;
3. Build it on a sub-domain like mobility.smartbridge.com.”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Division on separate domain

In the video, we help you decide what’s best for SEO if you want to give a division a separate website:

“Well Brooke, first of all I consider myself pretty good at branding and if your brand “Smartbridge” is strong, I would consider doing something much simpler. I would make it smartbridge.com/mobility. Give it its own look and feel, but keep it on one domain.

If you don’t want to do that, but you want to separate the two, then I would give it an entire brand for itself. Because that probably is best in the long run to sell or whatever you want to do with it. I’m not a big fan of sub-domains because they lead, or can lead, to all sorts of technical issues. And they’re a bit of nothing really. It’s not its own brand, it’s far too attached to your main domain.

So I would probably choose a sub-folder and if you can’t do that I would choose a completely different brand. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Content marketing consists of all marketing activities that focus on creating and sharing information. It should be part of every SEO strategy, but it’s also crucial for branding. The idea of content marketing is that sharing valuable information is a great way to attract an audience and to build a brand. Blogging is one of the most well-known ways of content marketing. In this post, I’ll explain what content marketing is, why content marketing is important for SEO and how you should set up a content marketing strategy.

What is content marketing?

Sharing valuable information for free is the very essence of content marketing. Your audience will benefit from the information and will perceive you and your company as experts in a particular field. In the end, your expertise will be the reason why people will buy your products or services.

At Yoast, content marketing is one of the main things we do. We share our knowledge. We write about SEO on our blog and share this on Social Media and in our newsletter. And although it might feel contradictory, giving away our knowledge has a very positive effect on the sales of our eBooks and courses. Our audience perceive us as experts (probably through all the blog post we write) and are willing to pay money to get more of that knowledge.

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training€ 199 - Buy now » Info

Why is content marketing important for SEO?

Writing content is a key aspect of Search Engine Optimization. Google reads your text, indexes the text and ranks it. If you do your content marketing correctly, you will write a lot of copy related to the terms your audience is searching for. Your website will pop up more and more often, as you write more blog posts. Overall, your rankings will go up, when you start doing content marketing. And, all of these new visitors are potential buyers. So, in addition to increasing the traffic, content marketing could increase your sales as well.

How do you set up a content marketing strategy?

Make sure to think about cornerstone content when you are setting up a new content marketing strategy. You should have about 4 or 5 articles that are invaluable to you, your company and your audience. These articles should be informative posts or pages. When you have written these articles (and of course, you can add stuff and change them over time!), you should write tons of other blog post about topics similar to these cornerstone articles. Make sure though, you write each of these new blogpost from another angle or about another subtopic. And don’t forget to link to your cornerstone articles from these blogposts.

Read more: ‘What type of content should a cornerstone article be?’ »

Over the last year, we’ve written quite a bit about branding. Branding is often associated with investing lots of money in marketing and promotion. Branding is about getting people to relate to your company and products. Branding is about trying to make your brand synonym for a certain product or service. This can be a lengthy and hard project. It can potentially cost you all of your revenue. However, for a lot of small business owners, the investment in branding will have to be made with a relatively small budget. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on how to go about your own low-budget branding.

Psst… want to learn how to make your online shop a ranking machine? Stay tuned, because next week we’ll launch our Shop SEO eBook!

Brand values

Branding with a limited budget starts with defining your company’s and your brand’s values. You need to think about what you, as a brand, want to communicate to the world. This is obviously totally free, provided you are capable of doing this yourself. It’s a pretty hard task when you think of it. It’s about your mission, the things that make your brand your brand. Brand values relate to Cialdini’s seventh principle, Unity.

My favorite example illustrating that unity is outdoor brands like Patagonia and The North Face, which make you feel included in their business ‘family’. We are all alike, share the same values. By being able to relate to these brands and their values, we are more enticed to buy their products. It’s a brand for us, outdoor people.

Take some time to define your brand values. That way you’re able to communicate your main message in a clear and consistent way. It makes your marketing all the easier. You’ll be able to create brand ambassadors, even on a budget.

Let our SEO experts analyze and improve your site's SEO! »

Yoast SEO Care€ 199 - Buy now » Info

Come up with a proper tagline

Now that you have defined your brand values, it’s time to summarize all of this into one single tagline. WordPress’ mission is to “democratize publishing“. In your tagline, you reflect your values and combine these with your added value for the customer, user or visitor. Again, be consistent. If you set a tagline, your actions and products should relate to that tagline, actually even be based upon it. It summarizes your business.

Rethink your logo

Having a great logo is essential. When designing that logo, you’ll have to keep in mind that it’s probably something you’ll have for years. It’s the main thing – besides yourself – that will trigger (brand) recognition. Not that you will never be allowed to change your logo, but don’t ‘just’ add a logo. Think about how it stands out from other logos, for instance on a local sponsor board. We actually did this with our current one.

Design that logo, print it, stick it on your fridge for a week or so, and see if there’s anything about it that starts to annoy you. If so, back to the drawing board. Feel like you don’t relate to it in terms of business values or even personality? Back to the drawing board. When talking about low-budget branding, designing a great logo is probably your most expensive task.

We still haven’t spent that much money, right? But then, we just designed the basis.

Online low-budget branding

You might be a local bakery with 10 employees, or a local industrial company employing up to 500 people. These all can be qualified as ‘small business’. All have the same main goal when they start: the need to establish a name in their field of expertise. There are multiple ways to do this, without a huge budget. Low-budget branding is facilitated by the surplus of social media. Low-budget branding is possible because of all the blogs that relate to your niche.

Costs?

I do a lot of local networking, because I really like the city we live in, and the huge variety of entrepreneurs that work in Wijchen (our hometown). During network meetings, one of the phrases I often hear is: “Social media is just costing me too much time”. To be honest, it might be wise to stop whining about the costs and start seeing the revenue social media can bring you. It really is the easiest and probably one of the cheapest ways to promote your brand. Basically, it costs you time and time alone (depending on how aggressive you want to use the medium).

Share your expertise

Twitter is used to keep in touch with like-minded business owners. Discover the huge number of Facebook groups in your area, and/or in your field of expertise. Bond with people that share the same values. Feel free to answer questions in your field of business, be sure to do this with confidence. Position yourself as the to-go-to company for these questions. Help people that way and create brand ambassadors.

Scary? No. But you really have to put some effort in establishing your position. It won’t happen overnight. Before we became a business, Joost was already sharing content/expertise and our open source software. He engaged actively in forum and social media discussions about WordPress and SEO. Commenting on other people’s blogs. Time before revenue: 8 years. I’m not saying you need to wait eight years before making money with your passion. But I do think that you should be able to write, comment and take a stand in topics that matter to you from the start.

Make yourself visible

Eventually, it all comes back to business values. Everything you communicate should reflect these values. It’ll give you guidelines and will make sure your message is delivered in the same way, always. Low-budget branding might be just about that: making yourself visible, in a consistent way.

Any additions and your own experiences in this are welcome.

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »