How does Google understand text?

On Yoast.com, we talk a lot about writing and readability. We consider it a very important part of good SEO. Your text needs to satisfy your users’ needs. This, in turn, will help your rankings. However, we rarely talk about how Google and other search engines read and understand texts. In this post, we’ll explore what we know about how Google analyzes online text.

Are we sure Google understands text?

We know that Google understands text to some degree. Think about it: one of the most important things Google has to do is match what the user types into the search bar to a search result. User signals alone won’t help Google to do this. Moreover, we also know that it is possible to rank for a phrase that you don’t use in your text (although it’s still good practice to identify and use one or more specific keyphrases). So clearly, Google does something to actually read and assess your text in some way or another.

What is the current status?

I’m going to be honest. We don’t really know how Google understands texts. The information simply isn’t freely available. And we also know, judging from the search results, that a lot of work is still to be done. But there are some clues here and there that we can draw conclusions from. We know that Google has taken big steps when it comes to understanding context. We also know that it tries to determine how words and concepts are related to each other. How do we know this? On the one hand, by analyzing some of the patents Google has filed over the years. On the other hand, by considering how actual search results pages have changed.

Word embeddings

One interesting technique Google has filed patents for and worked on is called word embedding. I’ll save the details for another post, but the goal is basically to find out what words are closely related to other words. This is what happens: a computer program is fed a certain amount of text. It then analyzes the words in that text and determines what words tend to occur together. Then, it translates every word into a series of numbers. This allows the words to be represented as a point in space in a diagram, a scatter plot, for example. This diagram shows what words are related in what ways. More accurately, it shows the distance between words, sort of like a galaxy made up of words. So for example, a word like “keywords” would be much closer to “copywriting” in this space than it would be to “kitchen utensils”.

Interestingly, you can do this not only for words, but for phrases, sentences and paragraphs as well. The bigger the data set you feed the program, the better it will be able to categorize and understand words and work out how they’re used and what they mean. And, what do you know, Google has a database of the entire internet. How’s that for a dataset? With a dataset like that, it’s possible to create reliable models that predict and assess the value of text and context.

Related entities

From word embeddings, it’s only a small step to the concept of related entities (see what I did there?). Let’s take a look at the search results to illustrate what related entities are. If you type in “types of pasta”, this is what you’ll see right at the top of the SERP: a heading called “pasta varieties”, with a number of rich cards that include a ton of different types of pasta. These pasta varieties are even subcategorized into “ribbon pasta”, “tubular pasta”, and several other subtypes of pasta. And there are lots and lots of similar SERPs that reflect the way words and concepts are related to each other.

The related entities patent that Google has filed actually mentions the related entities index database. This is a database in which concepts or entities, like pasta, are stored. These entities also have characteristics. Lasagna, for example, is a pasta. It’s also made of dough. And it’s a food. Now, by analyzing the characteristics of entities, they can be grouped and categorized in all kinds of different ways. This allows Google to better understand how words are related, and, therefore, to better understand context.

Practical conclusions

Now, all of this leads us to two very important points:

  1. If Google understands context in some way or another, it’s likely to assess and judge context as well. The better your copy matches Google’s notion of the context, the better its chances. So thin copy with limited scope is going to be at a disadvantage. You’ll need to cover your topics exhaustively. And on a larger scale, covering related concepts and presenting a full body of work on your site will reinforce your authority on the topic you specialize in.
  2. Easier texts which clearly reflect relationships between concepts don’t just benefit your readers, they help Google as well. Difficult, inconsistent and poorly structured writing is more difficult to understand for both humans and machines. You can help the search engine understand your texts by focusing on:
    • Good readability (that is to say, making your text as easy-to-read as possible without compromising your message).
    • Good structure (that is to say, adding clear subheadings and transitions).
    • Good context (that is to say, adding clear explanations that show how what you’re saying relates to what is already known about a topic).

The better you do, the easier your users and Google alike will understand your text and what it tries to achieve. Especially because Google seems to basically be trying to create a model that mimics the way us humans process language and information. And yes, adding your keyphrase to your text still helps Google to match your page to a query.

Google wants to be a reader

In the end, the message is this: Google is trying to be, and becoming, more and more like an actual reader. By writing rich content which is well-structured and easy to read and is clearly embedded into the context of the topic at hand, you’ll improve your chances of doing well in the search results.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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The stale cornerstone content filter: keep your core content fresh!

Sometimes it’s the little things that count. The new SEO analysis introduced in Yoast SEO 10.0 also comes with a new feature for Premium users: the stale cornerstone content filter. This handy little tool monitors the posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content and warns you if they haven’t been updated for six months. As you know, cornerstone content is extremely important and keeping these up to date imperative. That’s why we remind you to do so!

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It’s your most important content — treat it so!

Cornerstone content forms the heart and soul of your site. This is your crucial content that you want to rank in search engines. This content should show how authoritative you are on your chosen subject. You should give cornerstone content extra special care and keep it updated so it doesn’t lose its edge or valuation.

But we get it — it’s easy to forget things like this. There’s always so much work do on your site. That’s exactly why we introduced this stale content filter. It helps you keep essential content on your site fresh and updated. As you’ve marked specific articles as cornerstone content — thus being very important to you and your audience —, we treat them differently. Thanks to the cornerstone analysis, we grade them stricter and now also keep track of whether you keep them updated or not. If you haven’t done that in six months, we show a notification reminding you to do that. Easy, right? If not, read our article on how to keep your content fresh.

How does the stale cornerstone content filter work?

The stale cornerstone content filter is incredibly easy to use as you don’t have to do anything! If you’re anything like us, you’ll never notice it as we try to keep our ultimate guides — our cornerstone content — updated at all times. But if one should slip through the net, we’ll now see it in the post overview of our WordPress dashboard. Just to the left of the cornerstone content filter you’ll find the stale content filter. Does it have a number next to it? Then you have one or more articles that haven’t been updated in at least six months. Click on the filter to see the posts in the post overview.

See the screenshot below:

The stale cornerstone content filter unearths all cornerstone content that hasn’t been updated in over six months

Then what? Well, that’s up to you! It’s high-time to start working on that post. The least you can do, is read it again critically to see if it is still factual, accurate and relevant. If so, and nothing has changed in your company, market or niche that could warrant an update process, just make some small changes and save the post — the notification will be gone. But in most cases, there’s a lot that can happen in six months and it will be a good idea to reevaluate your content and add, delete or rewrite parts of it. It’s also a good idea to come up with a strategy for your cornerstone content.

Always strive for the best!

If you want to rank, you need to put your heart and soul into your work. Your site must be of impeccable quality, full of high-quality, engaging and relevant content. And that’s a lot of work. We know, because we are in the same position as you. Sometimes, we too find ourselves struggling to keep up and making sense of this never-ending stream of content. Luckily, little helpers like the stale content filter helps to keeps us on our toes!

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How to use storytelling in a blog post

People like reading stories. Stories are a great way to captivate your audience. But how do you use stories in a blog post? And, how do you come up with ideas? In a previous post, I wrote about why you should use storytelling. In this post, I’ll give you 6 tips on how to start using storytelling in your blog posts.

But first, let’s start with a little story: 

Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name was Mary. Mary was a copywriter. She wrote wonderful content for travel agencies and several magazines. Mary used a lot of storytelling in her work. She was very good at it. But last week, her inspiration was terribly low. She was a bit ill. Nevertheless, her deadlines were approaching. Mary felt stressed. To meet her deadlines, she added some stories from her own experience to one of her articles. She was afraid her editor would frown upon that, but he actually loved it. And, so did her readers.

Tip 1: Use stories as examples

If you do not know how to start with storytelling, then start using stories as examples. Of course, you don’t have to start every story with ‘once upon a time’. You can use short anecdotes or stories from your readers to make a blog post more entertaining. Examples make your blog post lively and nice to read.

Tip 2: Get inspiration from your own world

Coming up with ideas for stories can be difficult. So, use the world around you for inspiration. A little talk with a neighbor, a funny thing your daughter did, something that happened during your lunch break: these are all little stories. Lots of the stories I use in my posts come from my own experiences. Mary, in the story I wrote at the beginning of this post, is actually me. The story about Wende, from my previous post about storytelling, really happened. Wende is my daughter. You don’t need to do extensive research for every story. Stories are everywhere.

Tip 3: Make sure your story aligns with the message of your post

If you use a story in your blog post, you need to make sure that the story aligns with the message of your post. Stories are fun and nice to read, but they only become powerful if they actually mean something. Every story has a meaning, something you want people to learn from that specific story. The meaning of the story should align with the message of your post.

The story about Mary I used in this post is about someone who is using storytelling. This post is about storytelling. Mary has a hard time coming up with ideas for a story. She decides to get inspiration from her own world and writes a personal story, which turns out nicely. In this post, I’m advising you to get inspiration from your own world and make sure to add a personal touch to a story. The story about Mary aligns with the message of this post.

Tip 4: Use the 4 elements of storytelling

A good story needs 4 elements: a character, a problem, an action, and a solution. If you write a story, try to put these four elements in it. You’ll probably do that without giving it much thought. Let’s look at the four elements of storytelling in a bit more detail:

You need to introduce a character. In my story that’s Mary. A main character that is perfectly happy does not make for a good story. The character should aspire to something or solve something. The character needs a problem. Mary’s problem was her lack of inspiration. The third thing you need is action. A story requires the main character to do something to solve the problem. Mary took a chance and added some personal stories to her copywriting. The last thing in a story is a solution. The solution is the end of the story. The problem or conflict should be solved. The readers liked her personal stories; Mary was successful.

Tip 5: Make it personal and relatable

Try to make your stories personal. Write a story about someone people can relate to. People like people. Stories are more powerful if people are able to emotionally relate to the main character. Add details, make your character into someone readers understand and relate to.

Tip 6: Add images

My last tip for powerful storytelling is to add images to your stories. If you tell a story about a person who is using your product, add a picture of this person. That’ll make the person easier to relate to. Add an illustration to your story. Illustrations will make the story easier to grasp. It will make your message more clear. And, it will make it more fun.

Conclusion on how to use storytelling

Storytelling doesn’t have to be a ‘grand thing’. There are many ways to implement it. Draw inspiration from your own experiences and write stories that fit the message of your post well. Using interviews is also a good way of telling a story. You’ll get a personal story through an interview. And if you would like to make your blog a little more personal or more fun, try to use anecdotes. Little stories. Things that happened to you. These little anecdotes, examples, personal experiences will just add that personal touch to your blog that makes it so much more enjoyable to read.

In the next post in this series about storytelling, I’ll give tips on how to use storytelling on an eCommerce website.

Read more: Blogging: the Ultimate guide »


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What is storytelling and why should you use it?

Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was 9 years old and her name was Wende. Wende was incredibly intelligent, yet she had a hard time learning things by heart. No matter how hard she tried, she just could not memorize the planets of the solar system. It just did not stick in her head. One day her teacher told her a story about all the planets. A story about how the sun was lonely and Mercury was his first friend. How Mercury fell madly in love with Venus and how Planet Earth got jealous. After telling her the story, Wende was able to remember all of the planets in the right order. Why? Because of the magic of storytelling. Wende could remember the story and with that, she could remember the planets.

In this blogpost, I will tell you what storytelling is and why it is an important tool to use in the texts on your website. This post will be the first of a series of blog posts about storytelling.

What is storytelling?

The word storytelling pretty much speaks for itself. Storytelling is about telling stories. It is about using stories to engage your audience, or to make something more clear. Photos, pictures and film of course really help to tell a good story too.

Stories have always been a way to communicate. Before people learnt how to write, they would tell each other stories. Stories are much easier to remember than simple facts. That’s why Wende from the story remembered the planets. Also, stories are enjoyable, they stimulate your imagination. That’s why parents tell their children stories. That’s why we like to see movies and read books. People love stories, people are addicted to stories.

Some examples of (great) storytelling

In 2017 I visited a conference and I saw David JP Phillips on stage. He talked about the magical science of storytelling. I was blown away. His tolk was such an inspiration for me. Two weeks later, I had to speak at a WordCamp and I was so very inspired by David’s talk, that I did some storytelling of my own.

Next to using storytelling in presentations, you can use it in writing. Lots of travelblogs, personal blogs or momblogs use storytelling throughout all of their posts. Geraldine de Ruyter has a really funny blog about travel and many other things. Every post is a little story on her blog. But even informational blogs could use storytelling by adding an anekdote or an example. In my post about site structure and why it is important I used the exact same story as in my presentation at the WordCamp.

Storytelling

Why use storytelling?

Using storytelling in your blog post will – if you do it the right way – make your post a more engaging one. Your blog post will become something people want to read. Stories increase the attention of your audience.

If you use stories the right way, stories will help you to make your message more clear. Stories can help you to provide proof for your argumentation. They can add clarity. My story about Alice (screenshot above) is written in order to help people understand the importance of a clean site structure. This is a rather difficult subject to grasp. A story adds clarity.

Most importantly, people will remember your story, and with that, they’ll remember the message of your post or even your brand. If you use stories in a good way, you could even inspire people to take action. Maybe you’ll inspire people to clean up their website or to get started with storytelling in their blog posts and presentations.

Up next in this series

If you Google ‘storytelling’ you’ll see amazing things. Lots of online storytelling is about brand storytelling. Perhaps I’ll write a blogpost about that in the future. For this series, I’ll be focussing on using storytelling in your writing. And, I will also focus on the topic of storytelling and SEO.

In the next post in this series about storytelling, I want to focus on how to use storytelling in a blogpost. I want to start off by discussing the elements that are necessary for a good story. Also, I will share some practical tips and examples of how to start using storytelling in your blogposts.

If you have nice examples of your own use of storytelling, I would love to see those! Maybe I can even share a few of your examples in one of my next posts!

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

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Why you should try out the new Yoast SEO analysis

In next couple of months, Yoast SEO 10.0 will see the light of day. In it, you’ll find a brand new SEO analysis. One that’s based on thorough SEO research. Last year, we evaluated all existing assessments and added new ones to make the analysis reflect the search engines of today. You can now try out this brand new analysis! In Yoast SEO 9.4 you can easily switch from the current to the new analysis (and back). So, go ahead and see if your content meets the SEO standards of today! We’d love to hear your feedback.

Why a new analysis?

Search engines evolve. What used to be important a decade ago might not be relevant today. As search engines become smarter, our SEO analysis should too! That’s why we decided to test if all our checks are still relevant.

A multidisciplinary team, consisting of SEO experts, linguists and developers, scrutinized the SEO analysis: Are some SEO assessment redundant nowadays? Should we add new ones? Or change the weight of certain factors? We checked all of them, removed some, added a new assessment and adapted the calculations. For details on the changes in the new analysis, please check the release post of Yoast SEO 9.4.

This video shows why and how we changed the Yoast SEO analysis:

Why try it out?

This is your chance to find out if your content stands the test of time! Try the most advanced SEO analysis out there. See what happens to your posts’ scores. Are they still optimized, do you still get an overall green bullet for your post?

Of course, we tested this new version extensively. But before we push this change to millions of Yoast SEO users, we like to see how it works with your content. Your feedback will help us fine-tune the analysis before we release Yoast SEO 10.0.

What happens if you test?

First of all: don’t fret! Nothing will happen to your posts or their rankings. It’s just the SEO scores that will be recalculated. And that’s what we’re interested in. Did your scores change? Did you get more green or red bullets? How do you feel about the new assessment? Do you think the feedback you get on your content makes sense?

If you participate, we’d like to ask you some questions about your experiences. So, if you switch to the new analysis, you’ll receive two short questionnaires we’d like to ask you to fill out: one a couple of weeks after you switched, and one after you’ve been using it for a while. Please share your thoughts, because we value your feedback!

How do you participate in this test?

Switching is easy. Go to the Yoast SEO settings in the sidebar of your WordPress dashboard. Click on General and select the features tab. You’ll see this screen:

recalibration toggle yoast seo 9.4

Here you use the toggle to turn on the new Yoast SEO analysis. That’s it! Now your content will be analyzed according to the latest standards in SEO. Don’t like it? You can easily toggle back to the old analysis too!

Make sure that you are updated to Yoast SEO 9.4 in order to try the beta!

Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments!

Read more: Yoast SEO 9.4: Help us beta test the new Yoast SEO analysis »

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Copywriting for mobile

Mobile traffic is important. People are searching and reading on their mobile devices more than ever. What does that mean for your copy? Do you need to write differently if you’re aiming at a ‘mobile’ audience? How do you tackle copywriting for mobile? Here, I’ll share some useful tips on how to write awesome texts that can be read on both desktops and mobile devices.

Why is copywriting for mobile different?

Reading on a mobile device is different from reading on a desktop, mainly because the screen is much smaller. Texts appear stretched on a mobile device, as people have to scroll much more. Besides that, people reading from a mobile device can be anywhere. Lots of people use their mobile device ‘on the go’, while also doing other things. Their attention span and their concentration are very limited. That’s what makes writing for mobile challenging. 

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Tip 1: Always focus on your audience

The mobile phone will not read your post, but your audience will. And perhaps your audience likes reading from their phones. In that case, you can improve their reading experience a lot with the tips in this blog post. But the first thing to keep in mind is that your content should always be focused on what your audience wants and expects from you. That does not change if you start writing for mobile (too). By focusing on the question ‘how can I write best for mobile,’ you should never lose track of the most important issue: ‘what does my audience like?’.

Tip 2: Make your fonts large enough

Font size is important for the mobile UX of blogs. You can’t just use all your desktop font sizes on your mobile website, without checking how they look on a mobile device.

It’s important that people can read your base font – your paragraph font – without having to pinch and zoom. Also, make sure there’s sufficient white space between sentences. Mobile websites are usually browsed with a thumb. Your visitors should be able to click on elements with that thumb.

Be aware that your mobile site will look messy when you use more than three font sizes. The size differences will be much more visible. That’s why we advise limiting the number of font sizes to two, maybe three.

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

Tip 3: Write short sentences

A sentence of 25 words takes up two lines on an average desktop screen. For a mobile screen, this will be four lines. Longer sentences will be spread over even more lines, and that makes remembering words in the short term memory even harder. So don’t use too many long sentences. It’ll make reading your text much more difficult. This is true for desktop as well, but it’s even more important when you write for a mobile audience.

Tip 4: Check your subheadings and white space

Paragraphs will quickly appear very long because they get stretched out on a mobile screen. You should limit the number of sentences in a paragraph and use sufficient white space. That’ll make a text much easier to digest. Informative subheadings that reveal what a paragraph is about will help people understand your text. Good subheadings will also increase the chance your audience will stay engaged, even if a lot is going on around them.

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Tip 5: Keep an eye on text-structure

The structure of your text should be just flawless. In a well-structured text, paragraphs follow in a logical order. Within paragraphs, sentences also connect to each other. So make sure to use lots of transition words. These words will help people understand the meaning of your text.

If your text is well structured, people will more easily understand the main message of your post. If your audience is unable to grasp that main message, they will get lost and tune out.

Conclusion: readability is of the utmost importance on mobile

Copywriting for mobile is not that different from writing for a desktop. In both cases, you need to write for a real audience. ‘Mobile’ texts do demand an even better readability than ‘desktop’ texts. That’s because reading from a mobile screen is more challenging than reading from a desktop. But, if you make sure your readability is top-notch, your texts will have loads of readers, on both mobile devices and desktops.

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

Improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps

Optimizing your site structure should be an important aspect of your SEO strategy. Structuring your site is of crucial importance for your SEO. But how does one improve a site’s structure? Where do you start and how do you keep an eye on the structure of your site if your site is growing? In this post, I’ll teach you to improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps. 

Learn how to structure your site well with our Site structure training! »

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Yoast SEO site structure features

We spent the past year thinking about how to translate the advice we give on improving your site’s structure into useful features for our plugin. This resulted in three new features (and we’re already thinking about new ones). The first feature we released was the internal linking feature. The internal linking tool helps you to figure out which articles you should be linking to. Our second feature on site structure, the cornerstone content analysis, will help you write awesome cornerstone content articles and get those articles in a central position in your linking structure. And the third feature, the text link counter allows you to check which articles need more internal links. Combined, these three site structure features are a powerful toolset for improving your site structure.

Step 1: Update and improve your Cornerstones

Your cornerstone content consists of the most important articles on your site. The ones you want people to read. The ones you want to rank with in Google. For all cornerstones, you should check the box in the snippet preview meta box.

Once you’ve checked that box, your content will be assessed more strictly by our readability analysis. You may wonder why we’re being so fussy about cornerstone content. The answer to that question is this: for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar, because they’re very important! They should be better than your other articles and therefore, demand more of your writing skills. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to them). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all important things right!

Step 2: Link to those cornerstones!

The second step to improving your site’s structure is to ensure that blogposts surrounding a certain topic all link to your most important article about that topic. Use the text link counter to see whether your cornerstones have enough links. In your post-overview, you can select your cornerstone articles.

In our example, the Ultimate guide to small business SEO has fewer links than our other two ultimate guides. You should open the cornerstone post with few links and check the Yoast internal linking feature.

The articles our internal linking tool suggests are great suggestions to link from to your cornerstones. You should go to these articles one by one and add links to your cornerstones (that’s a bit of work!).

If you aren’t using Yoast SEO premium (and do not have access to our internal linking feature), use your internal search function and search for the keyword of your cornerstone article. The post that’ll come up in this search query should be linking to your cornerstones.

Step 3: Improve the structure of orphaned articles

Once you’ve improved your cornerstone articles and made sure you’ve added links from all of your posts to those cornerstones, it’s time to make sure that there are no orphaned articles on your site. Orphaned articles are posts or pages that hardly any other posts link to. They are hard to find on your site, both by your audience and by Google. In order to identify orphaned articles, you can use our text link counter. Sort the posts by the number of internal links linking to the post.

Posts with fewest links will appear at the top of the list. Open these posts and (again, if you use Yoast SEO Premium) check the suggestions of the internal linking tool. Using the tool, you can make a list of posts that should be linking to your orphaned posts. After that, you can open those similar posts and add links to your orphaned posts. You can also use the search function to find posts to link to your orphaned article.

Step 4: Improve those dead ends!

Every post should have suggestions for further reading. After all, you want people to stay on your website. Suggestions should always be on topic. People reading about ballet shoes are probably interested in ballet shoes. So, offer them more reading material on ballet or on ballet shoes, but don’t bore them with karate.

Open your post overview and sort your posts by the number of internal links in the post, using our text link counter.

Open the posts with fewest internal links. Add links to similar posts using our internal linking tool, in the same way as described above. It’s so easy and it will increase the time people spend on your site considerably.

Read more: ‘Internal linking for SEO: why and how’ »

Conclusion

Agreed, it is a bit of work. But if you set to mind to it, follow these 4 steps and use the Yoast SEO site structure features, you’ll be able to improve your site’s structure significantly. And that is most definitely going to result in longer visits by your readers and in higher rankings in Google.

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

Ask Yoast Case study: SEO for architects

In our Ask Yoast case studies we give SEO advice for websites in a specific market or industry. This time: the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects, the business site of an architect duo. The architects told us that they get great responses from their clients, but is their website optimized for search engines as well? We’ll dive into this architectural website to see what improvements can be made to enhance their site’s SEO.

First impression

The first page we land on is the homepage. We see lots of full screen images of the great work these architects deliver on top of the homepage. Though impressive, the images are shown in a slider. Loyal readers of our blog know that we’re not a big fan of sliders. Many experiments show why you shouldn’t use a slider on your website. Only 1% of your visitors will actually click on a slider, they slow down your website and lots of visitors ignore sliders because of banner blindness. Just to name a few.

Looking at this specific website, the slider images are very big as well. The textual content of the homepage is pushed down. We recommend showing some smaller images on top of the site, instead of the slider, and adding some clear introductory content just below these images. Try adding your USPs to the introductory content: Why should visitors choose you as their architect?

Lastly, by adding a clear call-to-action just below the introductory content you’ll make sure visitors can easily navigate to your most important pages. For example, you could think of a button which says ‘Get inspired by our projects’ or ‘Our services’: decide what the main goal of your homepage is. Just to show you the difference, we’ve created a mock-up of how the homepage could look like after following our advice:

Homepage example of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Beautiful images, too little text

On the ‘The Studio’ page, we notice a tab ‘What we do’. This tabbed content tells visitors what kind of work you do and what type of services you offer. Because of the relevancy of this content, we think these services deserve their own menu item. Visitors who want to know more about your team and your company may click on ‘The Studio’. However, they might not expect to find the services you offer there.

In addition to that, your services are great subjects to write about. Writing nice informational copy about your services will increase your chance of ranking for keywords related to these services. When you add sufficient relevant content, Google will understand that your website has content for people looking for services like yours. This means those people will easily find you. The more your content seems to fit to the needs of people who search for these keywords, the higher you’ll rank in the future.

Make sure you optimize one specific page or post for one subject/keyword. When you optimize one page for more keywords that are too different, it’s unclear for Google what the main subject of the page is. Pages that contain a lot of information about the keywords you really want to rank for, should become your cornerstone content pages. This blog post about cornerstone content explains in detail what cornerstone content means and this blogpost shows you how to incorporate cornerstone content into your website.

Lastly, we think you can improve your content as well by adding more copy to your project pages. Consider writing a nice text about the planning stage of the project, the building stage and the delivery stage of the project, for instance. In this copy you can add relevant keywords for your business. In addition to that, this allows you to internally link to your cornerstone content pages from your project pages. 

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

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Structure your text

When you decide to write more copy for your website in the future, make sure the pages and posts have a great heading structure. On your current pages and posts, we noticed that your logo is an H1 heading. However, the H1 heading should describe the main subject of a particular page on your site to help Google understand what the subject of that specific page or post is.

For example, checking ‘The studio’ page, we see the following headings on top of the page:

Headings Slemish Design Studio Architects

Your company name/logo has an H1 tag now, which means that your company name would be the main subject of this page. While in fact, ‘The studio’ is the main subject of the page. So you should change the H2 heading of ‘The studio’ into an H1 heading. Just remove the H1 heading from the logo on every page of the website. We’d advise to check all of your pages and posts and only add one H1 heading, that describes what can be found on there, on each page.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use headings on your site’ »

The right metadata

You’ll need to add relevant keywords to your page titles to help Google understand what your pages are about. Since page titles are still one of the most important ranking factors it’s important to optimize those to the fullest.

Looking at the page title of your homepage, we think you’ve added too many different keywords to show what your website is about:

Adding all different locations to your page title makes it unclear what your website is about. Moreover, the snippet doesn’t look very enticing to click on in the search results. This might cause a low CTR, or click-through rate. If you want to rank for all the different locations, adding separate pages with unique page titles and content for every location would be a better idea.

We’d advise to create appealing page titles and make sure they describe what can be found on that specific URL. For the homepage, use your USP and add a call-to-action such as ‘See our projects here’ to make people click on your page in the search results. Don’t you think a snippet like this will be more appealing to potential visitors?

On top of that, it’s important to be consistent in your branding. Add your company name to every page title. If you do that, people will recognize your page in the search results more easily, because of the brand name in every page title.

Add more relevant content to your blog

Having a blog can be very beneficial for SEO. Adding posts regularly makes it easy to add content about relevant keywords to your website. It helps you to start ranking for new keywords and to keep ranking for the keywords you already rank for.

Slemish Design Studio Architects have a blog and they add new posts regularly, which is great. However, it seems that lots of posts have little textual content. For example, this post only has two sentences:

Blog post of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Google could consider this post as a thin content page, which could hurt your website’s rankings. Since pages like these don’t add much value to your website, you’d better add more content or remove them from your website.

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Create strong cornerstone content

Besides the benefits of adding more content about relevant keywords to a blog, a blog also gives you an opportunity to add more internal links to your most important pages and posts. For example, when you’ve created a separate page for the service ‘Sun Rooms’ you could write a blog post about new innovations for sun rooms. From that post you can add an internal link to the page about the ‘Sun Rooms’ service. Doing this consistently, that service page – which could be a great cornerstone content page if you add sufficient content – will become a better search result, according to Google.

In addition to internal links within a text, you can add a popular, recent or related posts section to the blog. The sidebar is often used to add sections like these. These links in the sidebar will give the posts they link to some extra link value.

Lastly, adding your blog’s categories to the sidebar will give your category pages some more link value too. Consider doing this if you want to rank with your category pages.

A fast loading website

The longer visitors have to wait for your website to load completely, the more likely it gets that some of them will ‘bounce’ back to the search results. A long loading time frustrates visitors, so they might leave your website before seeing any relevant content. Google uses bounce rate, among other things, to determine if a website provides visitors with a good result. When lots of visitors bounce back to Google’s search results quickly, that isn’t a good sign. You might understand that this can harm your rankings.

On top of that, page speed is an actual ranking factor. Google understands that a website with bad loading times probably isn’t the best result. Similar websites that load faster are likely to end up higher in the search results.

We’ve tested the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects and we found a score of 24/100. The score is in red and this means that there’s work to do! Just follow the advice Google gives in the page speed tool as this leads to both a better user experience, as well as better rankings. 

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To sum it up

It was a pleasure analyzing the website of this architect duo. You show some amazing work in the images on the website! Adding a cleaner homepage with a clear call-to-action could result in more conversions, so more actual clients. Also, specific pages for all your services could be valuable for both Google and visitors.

Basically, our most important SEO advice is: make sure Google understands what your website is about. This means you’ll need to write relevant content about keywords you’d like to rank for. Furthermore, optimizing your site’s metadata – like titles and meta descriptions – and headings would be beneficial. With internal links you can connect your content and give your most important pages extra value.

And last, but definitely not least, making your website load faster will really improve your site’s SEO and user experience!

Read on: ‘How to optimize your real estate site’ »

SEO for a new website: the very first things to do

How does a new website start ranking? Does it just magically appear in Google after you’ve launched it? What things do you have to do to start ranking in Google and get traffic from the search engines? Here, I explain the first steps you’ll need to take right after the launch of your new website. Learn how to start working on the SEO for a new website!

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First: you’ll need to have an external link

One of my closest friends launched a birthday party packages online store last week. It’s all in Dutch and it’s not WordPress (wrong choice of course, but I love her all the same :-)). After my friend launched her website, she celebrated and asked her friends, including me, what they thought of her new site. I love her site, but couldn’t find her in Google, not even if I googled the exact domain name. My first question to my friend was: do you have another site linking to your site? And her answer was ‘no’. I linked to her site from my personal site and after half a day, her website popped up in the search results. The very first step when working on SEO for a new website: getting at least one external link.

Why do you need an external link?

Google is a search engine that follows links. For Google to know about your site, it has to find it by following a link from another site. Google found my friend’s site because I put a link to that site on my personal site. When Google came around to crawl my site after I put the link there, it discovered the existence of my friend’s site. And indexed it. After indexing the site, it started to show the site in the search results.

Read more: ‘What does Google do?’ »

Next step: tweak your settings…

After that first link, your site probably will turn up in the search results. If it doesn’t turn up, it could be that the settings of your site are on noindex or is still blocked by robots.txt. If that’s the case, you’re telling Google not to index your site. Sometimes developers forget to turn either of these off after they finished working on your site.

Some pages are just not the best landing pages. You don’t want people landing on your check out page, for instance. And you don’t want this page to compete with other – useful – content or product pages to show up in the search results. Pages you don’t want to pop up in the search results ever (but there aren’t many of these) should have a noindex.

Yoast SEO can help you to set these pages to noindex. That means Google will not save this page in the index and it’ll not turn op in the search results.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to the robots meta tag’ »

Important third step: keyword research

My friend’s site now ranks on her domain name. That’s about it. She’s got some work to do to start ranking on other terms as well. When you want to improve the SEO for a new website you have carry out some proper keyword research. So go find out what your audience is searching for! What words do they use?

If you execute your keyword research properly, you’ll end up with a long list of search terms you want to be found for. Make sure to search for those terms in Google yourself. What results are there already? Who will be your online competitors for these search terms? What can you do to stand out from these results?

Read on: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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And then: write, write, write

Then you start writing. Write about all those topics that are important to your audience. Use the words you came up with in your keyword research. You need to have content about the topics you want to rank for to start ranking in the search results.

Read more: ‘How to write a high quality and seo-friendly blog post’ »

But also: improve those snippets

Take a look at your results in the search engines once you start ranking (the so called snippets). Are those meta descriptions and the titles of the search results inviting? Are they tempting enough for your audience to click on them? Or should you write better ones?

Yoast SEO helps you to write great titles and meta descriptions. Use our snippet preview to create awesome snippets. That’ll really help in attracting traffic to your site.

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it?’ »

Think about site structure

Which pages and posts are most important? These should have other pages and posts linking to them. Make sure to link to the most important content. Google will follow your links, the post and pages that have the most internal links will be most likely to rank high in the search engines. Setting up such a structure, is basically telling Google which articles are important and which aren’t. Our brand new text link counter can be a great help to see if you’re linking often enough to your most important content.

Read on: ‘Internal linking for SEO: why and how’ »

Finally: do some link building

Google follows links. Links are important. So get the word out. Reach out to other site owners – preferably of topically related websites – and ask them to write about your new site. If Google follows multiple links to your website, it’ll crawl it more often. This is crucial when you do the SEO for a new website, and will eventually help in your rankings. Don’t go overboard in link building for SEO though, buying links is still a no-go:

Read more: ‘Link building: what not to do?’ »

How to use the text link counter‎

In the latest release of Yoast SEO, we’ve added a text link counter. It consists of two counters, the first counts the number of internal text links you’ve put in your post. And the other counter counts the number of internal links to a post. These counters can be a huge help in improving the structure of your site. I’ve already explained why you should use the text link counter. Here, I’ll show you how to use our new text link counter.

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Where do I find the text link counter?

From now on, checking the number of internal links in a post and the number of links to a certain post is very easy. You can find the two counters in your post overview:yoast seo 5.0 text link counter
Look a bit closer:

text links counter

This functionality is very actionable. If you want to improve your site structure and your SEO, the text link counter will help you do that. You can go through your post with few links and improve your site’s structure step by step. We’re already thinking of ways to make this experience even smoother.

Find and resolve: ‘Orphaned articles’

Some articles don’t get many links from other posts; we often refer to them as ‘orphaned articles.’ These pages are hard to find, both by Google as well as the user. With the help of our text link counter, these articles are easy to detect. If you want to check which articles don’t receive many links, you can sort the articles by number in the second link counter column. Articles with 0 posts linking to them, will appear on top of the list.

The next step is to open those posts or pages with few links. Is it a page you don’t find useful anymore? Just delete and redirect it to another relevant page. If you do think it’s still a valid page on your site, figure out which other posts could link to it. Our internal linking tool (only for Yoast SEO premium) could help you to figure out which posts are linking candidates. Go to those similar post and insert links from these posts to your ‘orphaned’ post. That strategy could very well result in a small boost in your rankings.

Improve site structure by adding links

The other counter – the first column – counts the number of text links to other posts and pages on your website. You’ll want your post to link to other posts and pages with similar content, as it helps your readers to figure out other posts to read. If you link to similar content, the time people spend on your website will go up.

To find blog posts with few links to other posts, order the posts by the number of links. The posts with the fewest links will appear on top of your list. Adding links is incredibly easy with our internal linking tool. In our internal linking tool, we’ll suggest which post to link to based on similar content. You can add the suggestions, and you’re ready to go to the next blog post with few links.

Improve those cornerstone articles

An excellent way to use the text link counter is to use it for the cornerstone content articles. These are your most important articles. You’ll need to have your other posts linking to these particular relevant posts. To check whether you’re linking sufficiently to these cornerstones, you should select your cornerstone articles in your post overview. You can indicate which posts are your cornerstones in the Yoast SEO meta box (just beneath the snippet preview).  If one of your cornerstones has very few links, you’ll have work to do! Our internal linking tool will help you to figure out which articles to start linking to.

Conclusion on the text link counter

The new text link counter is a beneficial tool to improve your site’s structure actively. It’ll show you which posts need linking. If you combine this text link counter with our internal linking tool and the cornerstone content check, you’ll be able to bring your site’s structure to the next level. That will instantly increase the time people spend on your page and eventually will result in higher rankings in Google.

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