If you take your SEO – and users – seriously, you’ll be working on a kick-ass site structure. Setting up a decent site structure is rather hard. Maintaining a solid site structure if your site is growing is even harder. Mistakes are easily made. In this post, I will share 5 common site structure mistakes people often make. Make sure to avoid all of these! 

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#1 Hiding your cornerstones

Your most important articles – your cornerstones – should not be hidden away. Cornerstone articles are the articles that your most proud of, that most clearly reflect the mission of your website. Some people forget to link to their most precious articles. If an article receives no or few internal links, search engines will find it less easily (as search engines follow links). Google will regard articles with few internal links as less important, and rank them accordingly.

Solution: link to those cornerstones

Ideally, you should be able to navigate to your cornerstone articles in one or two clicks from the homepage. Make sure they’re visible for your visitors, so people can easily find them.

Most importantly, link to those cornerstone articles. Don’t forget to mention them in your other blog posts! Our internal linking tool can really help you to remember your cornerstones at all times!

#2 No breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are important for both the user experience and the SEO of your website. And yet, some people do not use them. Breadcrumbs show how the current page fits into the structure of your site, which allows your users to easily navigate your site. They also allow search engines to determine the structure of your site without difficulty.

Solution: add those breadcrumbs

No excuses here! Just add those breadcrumbs. Yoast SEO can help you do that!

#3 HUGE categories

Categories should be relatively similar in size. But without even noticing it, people will sometimes write about one subject much more than about another. As a result, one category can slowly grow much larger than other categories. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a very large category.

Solution: split categories

If you’ve created a huge category, split it in two (or three). You should check the size of your categories every now and then, especially if you write a lot of blog posts.

#4 Using too many tags

Don’t create too many tags. Some people want to make tags really specific. But if every post receives yet another new unique tag, you are not structuring anything, because posts don’t become grouped or linked. So that’s pretty much useless.

Solution: use tags in moderation

Make sure that tags are used more than once or twice and that tags group articles together that really belong together. You should also ensure that your tags are in fact available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.

Read more: ‘Using category and tag pages for SEO’ »

#5 Not visualizing your site structure

A final site structure mistake people make is forgetting to visualize the site structure. Visitors want to be able to find stuff on your website with ease. The main categories of your blog should all have a place in the menu on your homepage. But don’t create too many categories, or your menu will get cluttered. A menu should give a clear overview and reflect the structure of your site. Ideally, the menu helps visitors understand how your website is structured.

Solution: dive into UX

In order to create a good and clear overview of your site, you should really dive into some aspects of User eXperience (UX). Think about what your visitors are looking for and how you could help them to navigate through your website. You could, for instance, start with reading our blog posts about User eXperience (UX).

Fix your site structure mistakes!

Site structure is an essential aspect of an SEO strategy. The structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. With your site’s structure, you can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engine. So, it’s important to do it right. Especially if you’re adding a lot of content, the structure of your site could be changing quickly. Try to stay on top!

Did we forget a site structure mistake that you encounter often? Please share it with us in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

If you own a website, you have to think about the structure of your site, whether it’s a blog or a shop. Site structure is essential to help users find their way on your site and it helps your site to rank. So your site’s hierarchy needs to make sense to both users and search engines. When you’re creating one, you might wonder if your structure is too deep or too shallow. Let’s take a look at an example.

Milada Sejnohova, emailed Ask Yoast with the following question:

“How deep can I make the site structure of my blog? Can I make it for instance:

  • Elemis
    • products
      • anti-aging?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Depth of your site structure

In the video, I answer Milada’s question:

Well of course you can!

First of all, if you have a products section, then it’s not a blog, it’s a website.

And two, your structure (products and then anti-aging) is a perfectly reasonable way of setting up your site. As long as it’s useful to users and it makes sense, you’re okay. It has to make sense for someone who has never been on your site.

What you really should be thinking about is: if I come to your site and I’m on any page on your site and I know that something should be there, do I know how to get there easily? Because that’s determined in large by your site structure. So make it as easy to understand as possible! 

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: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

David Mihm is a local SEO legend. He’s been a leading figure in the SEO world for years. Recently, he started a new firm called Tidings, that helps businesses achieve success in local markets. We’re honored to present you his fantastic answers to five pressing questions on local SEO. Find out what you should focus on if you want to be successful in your area!

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You’ve been in the – local – SEO business for a long time now. You’ve seen many trends come and go, but what was the most striking change you’ve encountered in local SEO in recent years?

Well, I’m going to cheat a little. I’d say there are two very important trends. These are far more important for the average local business than any given algorithm update over which so many SEOs obsess. These are 1) Google’s increased monetization of local SERPs, and 2) Knowledge Panels. I wrote about both of these pretty extensively in my 2017 predictions post.

Google is showing more Adwords than ever above the fold; that won’t be news to anyone. What might be news are some of their hybrid ad/local units. We’re seeing them now in the hotel space and some home services verticals on the U.S. West Coast. Within a couple of years, these hybrid ad formats will roll out to every category, and every geographic market in the world. The availability and visibility of organic inventory will decrease.

In parallel, Google has been moving into a world of answers, not websites. They want to present as much information as they can about a local business directly in the search result. This way the need for searchers to click through to a business’s website will decrease. We’re seeing more and richer information like photos, reviews, busy times, critic lists on which the business is included. There’s also an increase in the ability to transact with the business right from the SERP. Especially in the hospitality, restaurant, and personal care industries. Of course, websites still play a crucial role in helping Google determine the relevance and authority of your business. But you’re going to get fewer clickthroughs from Google. Even if the number of customers they send you remains consistent.

Why is there this distinction between Local SEO and regular SEO? What are the main differences between the two?

There are two prongs to the differences. The first is that since the Venice update in ca. 2011, Google has been localizing organic search results to the geographic area of the searcher. If I search for something like “bankruptcy lawyer,” Google interprets that search as inherently local. I’m looking for a bankruptcy lawyer near me, not in New York or Hong Kong or London. So they sprinkle in websites from local bankruptcy attorneys for this “global” query via some local filter on their traditional algorithm. I didn’t specify “Portland, Oregon” in my search, but Portland bankruptcy lawyers appear right alongside the largest websites in the world like Yelp, Avvo, and Findlaw. Optimizing a website and backlink profile to have a strong local scent is a different skill set than optimizing an eCommerce or media website.

The second prong (one with an even greater difference than traditional SEO) is that there is a fundamentally different algorithm at work that ranks the business listings included in what we call the 3-pack: the visual unit that appears between the ads and organic website results. This algorithm is built largely on ranking factors that aren’t in play for a typical organic market: business listing data, user reviews, proximity to the searcher, and many others.

example of a 3-pack local seo

The 3-pack shown between the ads and organic results after a local search query

 

It’s hard to rank in a neighboring area or town. So what can you do when your business is not close to the center? Or when you live in a small town? Can your business compete with those in a larger city?

It’s going to be hard. You’re probably better off trying to win business on social media than you are in local search at Google — at least for keywords in the major city — in this instance. The best chance you have is to compete organically by targeting specific pages at the larger city. The best/easiest kind of content to populate these pages is usually case studies from customers who live in the larger city.

Beyond that, it’s going to take an overwhelming review profile (as in 10x the number of reviews of the most-reviewed big city competitor) to get noticed in the 3-pack. And that takes a LOT of time and a lot of effort.

So my general advice would be to dominate your small-town market. Get as many customers from your “backyard” as you can. Then start to gradually expand to the bigger city using word-of-mouth, targeted offline business partnerships and referrals, and eventually social media.

Let’s say you have limited resources available to work on your local SEO. You can focus on a maximum of three things. What would you advise?

Glad you asked!  I’ve got a graphical resource which I hope answers this question perfectly :)

Thinking about the longest-term benefits for local search, I’d say you should focus first on your website.  Make it mobile-responsive, answer the most common questions your customers have, showcase customer stories and case studies, and make sure you convert people who are already clicking through to it.

Next, I’d focus on building offline relationships in your community (but make sure they’re represented online as well).  Think about relevant non-profits to which you can donate time or money, get involved in community events, and figure out how you can network with and support complementary local businesses to your own.

And then I’d implement a really great review acquisition platform. Getting happy customers to talk about your business on prominent review sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook is not only an increasingly important ranking factor, but it helps convert prospective customers who see all of your great ratings.

The great thing for local businesses is Local SEO should get less-technical over time. Things like title tags, citations and backlinks are certainly still important, but I see their relative value diminishing as Google collects more and more engagement signals from individual customers.

Today’s marketing landscape seems to revolve in large part around social media. How important is social media for Local SEO? Should every local business have and maintain a Facebook business listing? If so, how?

Social media is important for a holistic digital presence and does have some value for Local SEO. All kinds of studies show that customers are more likely to buy from a business that shows some engagement on social media — an active presence gives people a better feel for your business before they decide to purchase from you.

Every local business should maintain a Facebook business page — not least because Facebook, at some point, will decide to leverage the huge amount of data they have around local businesses and launch a local search engine of their own. You’ll want to have a strong presence out of the gate when that happens.

Beyond that, Facebook pages regularly rank well for your business name, so they’re great for reputation management. And we routinely see Facebook reviews pulled into the Knowledge Panels for local businesses in virtually every industry. So from that standpoint, we know Google is at least able to assess your volume of Facebook reviews (if not the content of the reviews themselves).

(Local businesses should know that unless they pay to Boost or otherwise advertise their Facebook presence, though, very few fans will see it (likely somewhere between 2 – 6%). Helping bridge the gap between expected performance on Facebook and the actual performance of email marketing is the rationale behind my new product, Tidings.)

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that improve your local SEO’ »

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 big fun. For some of you, blogging can be quite a challenge as well. What should you write about? What to 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 all important aspects of blogging. 

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Why blog?

If you have a website, you should blog. At least every now and then. Blogging is great for SEO and it’s a valuable marketing tool. On top of that, it can be great fun!

Blogging for SEO

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

Blogging as a marketing tool

A blog is a great marketing tool for every website. In your blog, you can tell readers about your brand, your products and perhaps even about yourself. Maintaining a blog also allows your readers to get more acquainted with your brand and your products.

Read more: ‘To blog or not to blog’ »

Setting up a new blog

If you’re just starting a new blog, it pays off to think a little bit before you start. Just take some time to contemplate about your niche and to do some proper keyword research. And don’t forget to structure your blog in a smart way. It will save you a lot of work later on, if you first think through how you want to set up your blog.

Keep reading: ‘How to start a blog’ »

What to blog about?

You can’t blog without ideas. And you’ll need a lot of ideas to maintain a successful blog. But how do you come up with all these ideas?

Keyword research

You’ll have to decide what terms you want to be found for before you start writing content. To decide that, you’ll have to get inside people’s heads and find out what words they use while searching. Eventually, you can use exactly these terms in your content and make sure you start ranking for them. Keyword research is the first step in SEO copywriting and an essential part of any 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 you’ll be writing content about. A word is not yet a topic though. Besides a keyword you’ll need an angle or a specific story around a keyword to write a blog post.

Inspiration for your post?

Current events, your own work, and comments of your readers can give you inspiration for new blog posts. Reading a lot is also a good idea to find inspiration. Read magazines, newspapers, and other blogs. Tip: keep a list of ideas for new blog posts on your mobile phone. Inspiration comes 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. For some people, writing is really hard, while for others it just comes naturally. Below we’ll provide some tips to make the writing process easier. But first, we’ll describe two important aspects of high-quality blog post, originality and readability:

Original content

Your blog post should always contain original content. It should be fresh, new and original. Your post should be different from all the other blog posts and articles about the same topic that are already on the internet. 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 it’s readable too: your article should be easy to read. Readability is important for your audience. If your text is well structured and clearly written, people will understand the message of your text. On top of that, readability is also important for SEO. People read your text, but Google reads texts too. If your text has the characteristics of a text that is easy to read, like a clear structure with subheadings and logical paragraphs, it’ll have a higher chance to rank in the search engines.

Read on: ‘Does readability rank?’ »

Practical tips on how to write awesome blog posts

Think before you write

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

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

Write clear paragraphs

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

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

Get help and ask feedback

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

In addition to 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 getting typos corrected and you’ll know if someone else understood everything you wanted to say in your article.

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

Optimize blog posts for the search engines

After you’ve written a blog post that’s both original as well as readable, you should make sure your content is optimized for the search engines. You should maximize the likelihood Google picks up your content. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written an original and readable post. SEO should never compromise the originality of your idea nor the readability of your text though.

content analysis yoast seo

Yoast SEO can help you tweak your text. The red and orange bullets will indicate which aspects of your findability need some more attention. Our plugin perhaps suggests using your focus keyword a little bit more often. Maybe, you should put it in the first paragraph or in one of the headings. Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well.

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 notice 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, this will definitely lead to more traffic.

An essential aspect of blog engagement is handling the comments on your blog. You should reserve some time to handle those comments. Answering questions and providing correct responses in a discussion can take a lot of time. Handling positive feedback and answering questions is relatively easy, while negative feedback can be a bit harder. 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 want an audience. Nobody wants to perform in an empty room! Ranking high in search engines by doing your SEO flawlessly will, of course, help. But you can do more.

Social media and newsletters

Social media are important marketing instruments for your blog. Definitely set up a Facebook page and create a Twitter account. If you’re focussing on a young audience, you’ll need Instagram and Snapchat as well.

Also, think about newsletters. Try to collect an audience that wants 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 is also growing. For many bloggers, making money is not the primary goal. Still, you can make money with a blog. Advertising, affiliate marketing, and writing promoted posts are the most well-known strategies to make money with a blog. But you could also think about selling 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. That way, your audience will know what to expect from you. Blogging requires some discipline.

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

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Site structure of a growing blog

When your blog is growing, you have to analyze the structure of your blog on a very regular basis. 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 of 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 work together. 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. Blogging is also an important and effective marketing tool. Use our tips to get started and to maintain your blog effectively. Happy blogging!

It can be really hard to come up with a topic for a blog post. When you finally found the perfect subject, you probably want to start writing immediately. But to write that perfect blog post, you should take some time to prepare it properly. Today, I’ll give some tips on how to begin your writing process. If you take some time and prepare your blog post adequately, your writing will be so much better! 

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Preparing takes time

The writing process can be divided into three phases. The actual writing is the second phase of your writing process and only takes up about 20% of the time. That is, if you’ve done the preparing phase properly.

Process of good writing explained in a picture: 40% prepaparation, 20% writing, 40% correcting

In my opinion, the preparing phase is the most fun! You can brainstorm, try out things and be creative in this phase. So, although it may seem like this preparing-stuff is just holding you back from the actual writing, you should think of it as the most creative and fun phase. And the most important phase!

Brainstorm

Always start a blog post with a brainstorm. Once you’ve decided on the topic of your post, you should make a list of all the things you would like to address in your post. Don’t be critical in this phase. Just write down anything you come up with. You always can cross off the ‘not so good ideas’ later on.

What is your message?

What is the one thing you want your readers to remember after they’ve read your post? What’s the most important thing you want to say? The answer to these questions is the message of your post. You should write that message down. This is the key information of your blog post. That message should eventually come in the first paragraph of your blog post.

Write a little bit

Although the actual writing comes in the second phase of the writing process, you should definitely write some sentences. Try to find the right words for your topic and for your audience. Try to write some beautiful sentences. I wouldn’t advise you to try to write the first sentence of a blog post in this phase, but you could write a few sentences of an important paragraph. Playing around with words will help you to find the tone of your blog post.

Structure, structure, structure

The most important thing you should do in the preparing phase of writing a blog post is to come up with the structure of your text. At the end of the preparing phase, you should end up with the skeleton of your blog post. What subjects will you address in what order?

After you’ve brainstormed about the topic, you’ll probably end up with a long list of things you would like to address in your blog post. Read through your list, cross of the things you’re not totally sure about and try to see whether or not topics resemble each other. Bundle similar topics. After that, you should think about the order you want to discuss your topics. Make sure you discuss things in a way people understand. Subjects and paragraphs should follow each other in a logical order.

Before I start the actual writing process, I usually have a list with paragraphs. For every paragraph I also have a short description of the things I would like to discuss and the examples I would like to use. In some cases, I already formulated some nice sentences for every paragraph as well.

Hit that keyboard!

Preparing your blog post can be real fun. I really enjoy this phase the most. If you’ve thought your post through it’s time to turn to the next phase and hit that keyboard. Go write your post!

After writing your post, you’re inevitable going to end up in the correcting phase. Very important. Totally hate that phase.

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

Cornerstone articles should be the best and most complete articles on your website. That means that you should make an effort to make this article as awesome as possible. Raise your normal standards and write extraordinary cornerstones. To help you create excellent cornerstone articles, we developed a special cornerstone analysis. 

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Why do you need a separate analysis?

Of course, our default SEO and readability analysis already helps you to write awesome articles. So why do you need a separate analysis for cornerstones? The answer to this question is that for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar. Your cornerstones should be the best. They should be better than your other articles and the demands on your writing should be higher. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to it). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all important things right!

What does the cornerstone analysis do?

You know our green bullets, right? In our default analysis, we check whether or not your post is readable and SEO-friendly. The cornerstone analysis is an adaptation of the default SEO analysis. In the cornerstone analysis we’ve set higher standards. A number of checks in both the readability analysis as well as the SEO analysis has been adapted in Yoast SEO 4.8.

How does it work?

If you’re working on a cornerstone, you should indicate so by checking the cornerstone box. If you checked the box, the default analysis will automatically change into the cornerstone analysis.

cornerstone analysis yoast seo

Which checks are adapted?

We adapted 2 readability checks and 8 SEO checks to come to the cornerstone analysis. You’ll need to use enough subheadings and make sure to write in rather short sentences to receive a green bullet in the readability analysis. Cornerstone articles are usually long and therefore a bit harder to read. Subheadings and short sentences will help people to read all the way through the end.

Most important adaptation in the SEO checks is the demand for a lengthy article. Cornerstones should be informative and complete. They just need to be long. In order to score a green bullet on text length, you’ll need to write an article of at least 900 words.

The other checks we adapted for cornerstone articles are:

  • keyword in subheading;
  • meta description length;
  • title width;
  • images;
  • links;
  • URL keyword;
  • URL links.

We’re just a bit stricter concerning these checks. To score a green bullet, you need get all of these right: use keywords in the subheadings, write an awesome meta description, use your keyword in the URL and make sure your images are optimized properly. For cornerstones you just need to go all the way. These are the articles you would like to rank with, so make sure you give them the very best chances.

Check out the internal linking tool

Cornerstone articles are an essential aspect of your SEO strategy. You should make sure to embed these articles correctly into your site structure to get the most out of a cornerstone approach. The Yoast SEO premium plugin can help you do this. Our internal linking tool suggests which articles you should be linking to when you’re writing a new post. Cornerstone articles actually get a priority in the internal linking tool as these are the articles you want to be linking to:

Priority cornerstone articles yoast seo premium

Optimize your cornerstones!

So go ahead and start optimizing your cornerstone articles to make them rank higher. Use the new free cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO as a guide to find out which aspects of the article you could improve. And if you want to take it a step further, get Premium to help you do some sophisticated internal linking. Good luck!

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

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, the most important thing I have to say to you is: go for it! Start your blog! Just do it! Blogging is a great SEO strategy, it’s a wonderful marketing tool and blogging is lots of fun! A new blog will allow you to make smart and strategic choices. Just take a little time to think about how to set up your blog before you begin, so you’ll have less work later on. Let me share some tips with you on how to start a blog.

Choose your niche

You should always write about what you know. But you should not write about everything you know. Pick a niche. Decide upon a main topic and write posts related to that topic. It’s more likely that your audience will come back and read your other posts if you’re writing about similar topics. People will know what to expect. Starting a mom blog implies that you write about all things concerning your children and family life. Starting a travel blog implies you write about traveling. You can write about something slightly off topic once in a while of course, but try to stick to your niche. An audience of a travel blog doesn’t expect a blog post about gardening. 

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Do your keyword research

Once you’ve chosen your niche, you should do some solid keyword research. Try to find out what people are searching for. What words are they using when they want to read about your niche and your topic? You should really get inside the heads of your potential audience. If you do your keyword research properly, you should end up with a long lists of keywords you would like to be found for. Try to come up with competitive, head keywords as well as with less competitive long-tail keywords.

Read more: ‘How to start your keyword research’ »

Think about site structure

This is the best time to think about site structure. What categories are popular in your niche? What are the most important head keywords you’d like to rank for? You should write a long, kick-ass article about each of these keywords. Those will be your most essential articles, or in other words, your cornerstone content. You should give those articles a prominent place on your site.

After you’ve written those beautiful cornerstone articles, write lots of blog posts on sub topics of that main topic and always link to your cornerstones. That way, you’ll be telling Google exactly what the most important articles on your website are.

Keep reading: ‘What is cornerstone content?’ »

Write that first post

Take some time to do keyword research and to think about site structure. But don’t take too much time. Just write that first post! Put pen to paper and just do it. Your blog starts with the very first post. That post doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be published. Need some help to get started? Check out our 10 tips on how to make your post awesome.

Pictures and videos

Writing blog post is more than writing a nice story; a successful blog has pictures and videos as well. Every post should show at least one image. Taking nice photos yourself is a great way of creating images and making short videos is a really good blogging strategy as well. Especially if you’re blogging about (aspects) of your own life, photos of it are a necessity.

Read on: ‘Images for blogs’ »

Optimize for the search engines

Before publishing your post, optimize it using Yoast SEO (on WordPress of course, but on Magento and TYPO3 now too!). Don’t forget to create an awesome SEO title and a decent snippet. Finetune your text. Make sure your text is both readable as well as SEO-friendly.

Read more: ‘How to use the content & SEO analysis of Yoast SEO’ »

Promote your blog

Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. That’s why your blog should have a Facebook page. Sharing your posts on Facebook is a good marketing strategy. Don’t forget Instagram and Twitter either!

In addition to the use of social media to promote your blog, we advise you send out a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.

Keep reading: ‘Marketing your blog’ »

Stick with it!

The most important thing to start a blog – besides setting up your new blog – is to write that very first blog post. Once you’ve written that first post, your blog has started. You should keep on writing blog posts to make it successful, so try to determine a frequency to publish new posts. You don’t have to blog every day, once a week or maybe even once in every two weeks would be a nice frequency to start with. Find a frequency you can stick with! Your audience will know what to expect, if your blogging frequency is stable.

Read on: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »

You would think this post would be redundant by now: people know that the meta keyword tag is useless nowadays, right? The truth is that we still see site owners using meta keywords on their website. In addition to that, people are still searching for meta keywords according to Google Trends, although there seem to be less queries than 5 years ago. That’s why we republish this post about the uselessness of meta keywords for SEO once again.

Let me give you the full history of the meta keywords tag’s demise. Already in September 2009, Google announced officially what was true for years back then: “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking”. Matt Cutts explained it in a video:

Do Yahoo! and Bing use meta keywords?

In October of that same year, 2009, at SMX East, Yahoo! announced they no longer use the meta keywords tag anymore either. This turned out to be not entirely true, as they do index them, but they won’t help you one bit.

Bing also stated in 2014:

“Today, it’s pretty clear the meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value. Sure, it might have value for contextual ad systems or serve as a signal to bots plying the web looking for topics to target, but as far as search goes, that tag flat lined years ago as a booster.”

Earlier, they even implied that using them – the wrong way – could work against you, because it’s rather seen as a spam signal than a ranking signal.

So don’t waste your time on the meta keywords tag. Instead of thinking about which keywords to put in that silly tag for 5 minutes, think about your content for 5 minutes longer. Really. It’s worth it.

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But I want meta keywords!!!

By default, there is no meta keywords input field in our Yoast SEO plugin. If you use Yoast SEO and you really can’t live without them, you can turn it on though. You’ll first need to enable the advanced settings before you can change this. For a detailed explanation on how to do this, check out ‘how to enable meta keywords in Yoast SEO‘.

turn on meta keywords in yoast seo

Don’t expect me to think you’re cool though. The reality is, that if you’re trying to rank for any term that’s even only a little competitive, meta keywords won’t help. You should write engaging, meaningful content on a technically well optimized platform and get good links and social engagement. That’s what builds great rankings, meta keywords have nothing to do with it.

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

If you’re using Yoast SEO to optimize your posts and pages, it’ll ask you to fill out a focus keyword. This is the search term you want your content to rank for. Deciding on a focus keyword can be challenging. For example, if you want to optimize your content for a long tail keyword – existing of multiple words –  what is the exact key phrase you should use? Does word order matter? In this Ask Yoast, you’ll learn how to use Yoast SEO when optimizing for long tail keywords.

Stefan Junestrand has emailed us asking:

“For long tail keywords that will be searched for with equal frequency with the words in different order, which would be best practice?
a. Use one long tail focus keyword
b. Use 5 different focus keywords with one focus keyword”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Word order of your focus keyword

In the video, we help you decide on the word order of your long tail focus keyword and how to use the multiple focus keyword functionality of Yoast SEO Premium.

” So you mean for example ‘WordPress SEO’ and ‘SEO WordPress’. Which one would be best practice to use? One focus keyword for each page? Or should you combine them all into one page?

You really should combine them into one page. SEO for WordPress and WordPress SEO are basically the same thing. Of course, if you’re writing naturally, you’ll probably use both combinations already. So just write one longer page and use different word orders.

If you have Yoast SEO Premium you can have up to 5 focus keywords: try and optimize for the most common variants in word order of your long tail keyword. But don’t overdo the optimizing! It might even be better to not get green bullets for all 5 combinations, if you’re optimizing for similar combinations with just a different word order. Because then your copy would become pretty hard to read. So write a natural text, make sure that you use different versions a couple of times and you should be good.

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: ‘Why should you focus on multiple focus keywords’ »