Beyond exact keyword matching: optimize your text naturally

Our green bullets are addictive. We get that. While these green bullets help people to optimize their texts for the search engines, we don’t want people chasing only our bullets and losing track of their texts. We do want to nudge them and help them get that text as SEO-friendly as possible. In this blog post, I’ll tell you about the most pressing frustration that our customers experience and the solution we developed for that problem.

“Yoast SEO does not recognize my focus keyphrase”

Imagine this: You’re trying to optimize your post for the term [guinea pig]. In your text, you’ll probably use guinea pig (singular) and guinea pigs (plural). However, if your focus keyword is the singular [guinea pig], the keyword density check does not recognize your plurals and will punish you with a red bullet! That’s so annoying and unfair!  

In this text snippet, I use guinea pigs three times and guinea pig only one time. That means I get a red bullet…

Yoast SEO Premium analysis

In the premium analysis, plurals and past tense are recognized as the same keyword and treated as such in our analysis. Also, when you use your keywords in a different order, like ballet shoes and shoes for ballet, our analysis still recognizes them as well. In the premium analysis, both guinea pigs and guinea pigs are highlighted:

The premium analysis recognizes both the singular and plural versions of my keyword: no red bullet!

What does the premium analysis do? 

Our SEO analysis -in the premium version – automatically detects whether or not you use different word forms of your focus keyphrase. It’ll recognize singular and plurals, but also different tenses of verbs, and adjusts your keyword optimization scores accordingly. What’s more, it’ll find your keywords, even if a few function words separate them.

Let’s look at yet another example. If your focus keyphrase is [playing with your cats], it will recognize that keyphrase in the sentence ‘You can use toy mice to play with your cat‘. Or, if you want to optimize for [games for cats] it will recognize it the sentence, ‘Another game your cat will love …’ as well.

At Yoast, we have a team of linguists working on this functionality. As you can imagine, recognizing past tenses and plurals works very differently in different languages. The word form functionality is currently available in English and German. But we are working on Dutch and Spanish, too.

What about synonyms and related keywords?

Focusing on exact matching keyword feels a bit outdated. Google is able to recognize different word forms and synonyms too. We know that Google even understands related concepts. If you add synonyms and related keywords to your focus keyphrases, the Yoast premium analysis will take these into account as well. Read more about this in our post about how to use synonyms and related keywords.

Write naturally

The whole idea behind our premium analysis is that you can write naturally and still optimize for the search engines. Our plugin will give you little nudges to optimize your text a bit more, without tempting you to chase the green bullets with exact keyword matching. This means: no more awkwardly rewriting your sentences, so the SEO analysis picks up on your keyword. No more wondering if you really didn’t use your keyword often enough, or if the plugin simply doesn’t recognize every instance. 

Why is this a premium feature?

Recognizing plurals and past tense isn’t easy. And it’s different for all languages. It is a lot of work. That’s why we have an entire team of linguists working on it, making sure we’re adding more and more languages.

This does not mean that the free version is ‘wrong’ in any way. It’ll help you to focus on the correct focus keyphrases. However, it is not able to recognize the different word forms. Luckily, you are. So, if you’re using the free version, feel free to ignore the keyword density check if you’re mixing plurals and singulars of your keyword.

Read more: “Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”- 6 common misconceptions about Yoast SEO »

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When is your blog post ready for publication?

There is a subtle line between a crappy post and a perfect one. If you want to, you can endlessly tweak and improve upon your writing. So, how do you decide if your blog post is ready? When is a post good to go? In this blog post, I’ll share a checklist you can use to help you decide when to hit the ‘publish’ button!

1. Is your blog post long enough?

A post should contain at least 300 words. If you write posts that are shorter, you’ll have a hard time ranking with it in the search engines. In general, long posts will rank a bit more easily than short posts. However, long posts also require strong writing skills. Your article will need to have a kick-ass structure if you write something really lengthy. If you’re wondering how long a blog post should be, please read our article on text length.

☑ Is your post longer than 300 words? You are good to go!

2. Is your post free of grammar and spelling mistakes?

Before hitting publish, always check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Use a tool like Grammarly to make sure you’re writing in proper English (or in proper Dutch, German or Portuguese). Let someone else check your writing if grammar isn’t your strongest suit. Of course, you can alter mistakes after publishing an article and you will be forgiven for a small error. But, an article filled with typos and errors just isn’t a good read.

☑ Is your spell checker satisfied? Go ahead!

3. Is your blog post readable?

Reading from a screen can be difficult, so if you want people to read and understand your blog post it must be easy to read. This will get you more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. Easy to read means that you use rather short sentences, clear paragraphs, and transition words. In Yoast SEO we offer a readability analysis. If the overall check in the readability analysis is green, your blog post is readable enough to hit publish!

☑ Is the bullet in the Yoast SEO readability analysis green? You have the green light!

4. Is your blog post SEO-friendly?

Before you publish your blog post, you should always make sure it is SEO-friendly. A green bullet in our SEO analysis is good enough. Before optimizing your post, make sure to put some effort into choosing the right focus keyword. Optimizing your blog post for a keyword nobody is searching for will not result in much traffic.

☑ Is the bullet in the Yoast SEO analysis green! Publish that post!

5. Is your message clear?

Why did you write this blog post? What do you want your readers to know or do after they’ve read your text? The purpose of your blog post needs to be clear. The message of your blog post, the thing you want to tell your readers needs to be clear. Think about the purpose, think about your message and read your blog post once again. Is your message clear? Will readers understand that message? If your not sure, let someone else read your blog post. Ask them!

☑ Is your message clear? You’re good to go!

6. Did you add internal links?

If people like your post, they should have enough opportunity to navigate to similar awesome posts. Make sure to link to posts that are of interest. Perhaps you’re selling some fantastic products on your website. Make sure to add links to those product pages!

☑ Did you add some amazing internal links? You’re all set!

So, when is your blog post ready?

If you’re a perfectionist, your blog post will never be ready. You can always improve and tweak to make it a little bit better. And, even after publication, you can make corrections and small (or bigger) tweaks. The question ‘ when is it good enough’ can be a hard one to answer. Check the 6 things I talked about in this blog post. Did you do all these things? Can you answer all these questions? If so, go ahead and hit publish! Good luck!

The post When is your blog post ready for publication? appeared first on Yoast.

It’s not enough to ‘write content’. You have to publish resources.

Sometimes, having a great website with great content isn’t enough. Even if you’re doing everything right, you might still fall behind a stronger, faster, better-resourced competitor. In almost every niche, SEO is about more than just improving your site — it’s about beating every other site. If you want to win, you have to do more than put words on pages. To beat your competitors, you have to publish resources. Here’s my take on why, how, and what happens next.

SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum

To succeed in search, you need to make sure that your website, content, and brand is the best possible fit for your audience’s needs. You need to be discovered, and be chosen. That takes time, effort, and resources.

But you’re not the only one trying to improve your content. Your competitors are also working to improve their websites, pages, and brands. Depending on your niche, and your location, there might be dozens of other companies who can meet your audience’s needs. Or hundreds. Maybe thousands.

Many of those competitors have goals, targets, and teams. Some of them have livelihoods tied to their success. Some of them are huge businesses. None of them are sitting still. They’re all hungry to win.

But when a user in your niche searches, Google will only surface content from a tiny fraction of those businesses. An even smaller number of results will get clicked. In many cases, there’ll only be one winner.

So, even if you follow all of the best SEO advice in the world, you may still lose to competitors who have better websites, better content, and stronger brands. Perhaps they spend more time, money and resources on improving their SEO than you ever could. And if that’s the case, then the gap is only going to get wider over time.

In competitive niches, SEO is about more than just improving your site – it’s about beating your competitors. It’s a fight for survival.

To win, you have to stand out from the crowd. You have to do more than just write more posts, and optimize more pages. To win, you have to publish resources.

Good content might not be good enough

Since the early days of online marketing, we’ve had a relatively level playing field when it came to content. One of the great things about the internet is that small businesses can compete with giants in the search results, just by writing compelling, relevant, useful information around their areas of expertise.

In some cases, small, local, independent site owners can beat a big business and national chains by writing authentic, passionate, content about their craft. We see lots of examples where users (and therefore Google) reward their compelling product information, detailed how-to guides, and blog posts, over the often generic information produced by larger or less personable companies.

But that’s not always the case. Words can be bought. Money can be spent, at scale, to shortcut the challenges of writing and publishing quality content. Mass-production and outsourcing of content production is a common practice for larger, well-resourced organizations. It’s often the case that the larger the company, the more resource they have to write pages (even if they outsource the work), and they drown out other websites.

That means that whether you’re a blogger, a baker, a beekeeper, or even a big business, it’s not enough to ‘be good’, or to ‘do SEO’. Your pages, your posts and your content has to compete with everyone in your sector, and you have to beat all of them.

To win, you must solve searcher problems

It’s a helpful mental model assume that each keyword (or keyphrase) you want to rank for represents at least one question, and that many of those questions represent needs, desires or problems.

To be discovered, and to win for that search, you need to have the best page on the internet for helping users to solve their particular problem.

But what does that mean? How is that different from normal SEO advice, which tells you to “write great content”?

To make this practical, we’re going to need an example.

Introducing Emily

Emily runs a local, independent interior design business. She wants to grow her audience and her sales, so she uses SEO as a marketing channel.

A woman sitting on a sofa, holding a laptop, looking at and smiling into the camera.
Emily, our imaginary interior design expert and website owner.

For the last year, she’s spent a few hours per week writing blogs post about her latest projects, and describing her products and services. Traffic to her site has grown steadily, because of the hard work she’s done optimizing her site and her content.

But now her growth is starting to plateau. She’s sees bigger competitors outranking her, and, she’s not sure what she needs to do to move the needle.

A problem of saturation

The core of her problem is that she’s already reached everybody in her addressable market. She’s already ranking for local searches (like “interior design company [city]“), and, for people who look for her business specifically. But she’s nowhere to be seen for broader or more generic searches around her products and services (like for the keyphrase, “living room layout advice“).

To understand why, we need to think about the intent behind the way in which her audiences search, and the problems those people have.

Let’s take the keyphrase “fitted cupboards“, for example. A searcher who has typed this into Google may actually mean “how much do fitted cupboards cost?“, or, “what’s the difference between a fitted cupboard and a normal cupboard?“, or even, “what kinds of fitted cupboards are there, which might work in my home?“. All of these questions represent a singular problem — that the searcher isn’t an expert in the market, and they don’t know what their options are.

In the real world, it’s rare for people to just decide to buy some furniture, then act. It’s more likely that they’ll start by searching with questions about types, colors, materials, and other topics. They do research, and try to understand their options.

A mismatch between her content, and her audience’s needs

The product pages and blog posts which Emily has been writing are designed to showcase her products and her experience; they’re not designed to answer those kinds of questions. They’re probably not “the best pages on the internet” for users who’re trying to understand their options.

Most of the people searching in this ‘research phase’ aren’t ready to buy yet, so Google is unlikely to show many product pages or stores in its results. It’ll favor informational resources, guides and media.

Emily’s pages are unlikely to be discovered by people who are asking those kinds of questions. Google will return the websites of competitors, household furniture chains, or media giants like Pinterest — sites which either spend more time and money on SEO and content than her, or, which provide types of content, advice and media which she doesn’t.

When those people do know what they want or need, and are ready to spend, it’ll be too late for Emily. Many will already have found inspiration, solutions, or other businesses in the sites and channels they moved through. They’ll have solved their problems without ever getting as far as searching for a specific local business, or encountering Emily’s website.

So, how can she compete?

As an expert in her subject, she’s better positioned to answer the questions — and solve the problems — of her audience better than many her competitors. But to do this, she’ll have to produce a different type of content. She’ll need to make something much deeper, more interesting, more engaging, and more useful than her current pages.

For example, the simplest version of this might be a guide which answers all of these questions, and which does so better than any other competing resource. That might mean writing long-form content, producing videos, creating an interactive tool, or some combination of each of these.

A resource like this is much much more likely to get the links, shares and engagement — which she needs to grow her visibility — than her day-to-day content.

The best version of this, most likely to transform her visibility, rankings and business, would be a piece of ‘10x content‘ — a resource at least ten times better than the current best result for her target keywords. In Emily’ interior design niche, that might be a rich, interactive, media-heavy browsing experience — something much more than just a textual product guide.

A chart visualising the effort vs quality ratio of 10x content, depicting that the minimum effort required to rank highly is somewhere between "professional writer over a day or two" and "The best thing we can create".
Image credit: ceralytics.com

Of course, regardless of the scale of her ambition, she still needs to think about SEO. The content production process should start with keyword research, and still needs to get all of the basics right. But, unlike her day-to-day content, she needs to go above-and-beyond in making sure that it comprehensively answers all of her audience’s questions.

If she creates something genuinely good, useful and helpful, then it stands a chance to earn the links, social amplification, and positive user signals that it needs in order to outperform the competition.

She must create content with different objectives

Until now, most of Emily’s content has been written with the intent to rank for a relevant keyword, then to try and convince the visitor that her products and services are the best choice for them.

But the objective of this new type of content isn’t to convince people to buy — it’s to make a resource which users will bookmark, link to, and share with their friends when they have problems. Remember, the majority of this audience isn’t ready or willing to buy — they’re still asking questions and learning about their options.

So, for this different kind of content, she needs to be much more impartial. Answering the questions of her audience means not trying to sell to them, and not trying to convince them that her products the best answer to their questions.

Instead, she has to genuinely help her audience, and provide them with the best answers. Sometimes that might mean helping them to solve their own problem without her, or, even sending them to competitors.

It doesn’t matter that those visitors don’t buy from her, or even if they’re not her core audience. Because over time, the links and citations she her content gets not only help her SEO, but they also grow her brand awareness. Then, when users reach the point when they’re ready to buy, they’re much more likely to think of her, or recommend her.

Solving problems is resource intensive

Creating this kind of content takes huge amounts of time, research, energy and expertise. It might mean that, instead of spending an hour writing a page, you need to spend ten, or a hundred hours. Maybe even more.

That’s a big ask, and not just in terms of the hours of writing. It’s not enough just to write more, because an enormous wall of text likely isn’t a good answer for your audiences. Creating something truly useful and valuable means doing more than writing a page.

To win, you must craft and publish a resource, like one of these examples of 10x content.

An image of the https://www.howacarworks.com/ homepage.
This incredible, multi-page guide to how cars work is a great example of ’10x content’

Because, chances are, at least one of your competitors already has. They’re already winning the hearts and minds of consumers in your niche — consumers who’ll no longer search for, and find your website. And they’re getting links, social shares and traction which pushes them further and further ahead in the search results.

If you want to grow, you have to create this kind of content.

If you represent a small business, or independent site owner, this undoubtedly sounds like an unrealistic requirement – especially given that these pieces are often the work of more than one person. You’ll need input from designers, developers, writers, subject matter experts and more, otherwise, you content might fall flat.

That’s a lot of work, right? Well, maybe not.

It’s only a lot of work if you’re doing it from scratch

In the examples I’ve referenced, one of the common themes is that these pieces often don’t look, feel, or behave like conventional text-on-a-page content. They have structure, layout, and design components.

That’s often one of the scariest, and most resource-intensive requirements for publishing these kinds of pages.

blur pattern line paper close up brand designer font focus sketch drawing design logo diagram handwriting detail document wireframe mockup
10x content often requires complex, sophisticated layouts and page structures

Until recently, this was one of the largest barriers which prevented smaller and independent content creators from taking on their better-resourced competitors.

But as the tools available to us continue to become more powerful, intuitive and accessible, this kind of content can become a lot less challenging to produce.

The continued evolution of WordPress is making it easier for content producers to construct more complex, sophisticated layouts, without needing development resources.

You still need to do the hard work thinking up and authoring the content, but the construction part of the process is getting easier and easier. In fact, we may not be away far from a time when the technical resource required to publish 10x content goes away entirely, and the playing field between small and large business becomes just a little bit more level.

Cue, Gutenberg

WordPress’ new ‘block editor’ has caused waves and divisions within the community.

The premise is that, rather than writing in a big content editor, you compose your content from blocks. Blocks structure and contain content, and can also have styling/presentation settings.

Love it or hate it, it’s important to understand that Gutenberg is rapidly becoming the backbone of a new era of structured content publishing. Even beyond WordPress, Gutenberg is being adopted as the de-facto content editing experience on the web.

Why is this relevant to us? Because, Gutenberg is (the early stages of) a framework which will make the production of 10x content cheap enough, fast enough, and easy enough to enable everybody to compete on equal footing.

The 'Row Layout' tool in WordPress' block editor
Block editor features like the column selection tool enables authors to structure their content more easily

One of the most common objections to adopting WordPress’ new editor is that people say they like to just write. The added complexity of thinking about blocks, structure and layout – of composing a page, rather than just writing it – is an imposition.

That’s fine, if you’re writing just for enjoyment.
But if you want to grow your visibility, grow your audience and rank higher in the search results, then your content needs to compete.

If you’re going to beat everybody else in the search results, you need to do more than just ‘write pages’. You have to use every opportunity, and structuring your content with blocks is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.

Instead of just writing, you must compose. You must consider the structure, layout, design and flow of the stories you tell, and publish resources. Gutenberg gives you the tools to do this (and when it doesn’t, chances are that there’s a block plugin which will).

What about other page builders?

Gutenberg isn’t the only tool which allows you to structure content. Other extremely popular page builder plugins (like Site Builder and Elementor) provide similar functionality.

But each of these (and many other) products will increasingly find themselves ‘reinventing the wheel’, as the WordPress editor’s core capabilities begin to deliver the same kind of functionality.

At some point, these tools will likely need to reinvent themselves, and become an interface layer on top of Gutenberg. That’ll be necessary if they want their content and structure to integrate seamlessly with other plugins, and, if they want to produce the kinds of structured data which will power the search engine results pages of the future.

It won’t matter which design tools you’re using to compose and lay out your content; the back-end will all be powered by the block editor, and you’ll need to shift from writing to publishing with blocks.

Changing roles and workflows

Switching from writing to publishing is a big leap. It means changes to processes, mindsets, and skill sets.

It won’t be enough to just write, to ‘just be a writer’. If you’re trying to grow your visibility, you’ll need move out of your comfort zone and consider layout, user experience and design.

Your writing environment will need to shift from starting in Microsoft Word or Google Docs (then pasting your content into WordPress), to working directly into the editor. Because you’ll need to compose the structure and layout of the content as it’s written, as part of a combined, iterative process. It’ll be hard to produce a 10x resource if either the structure or the content is added an afterthought. Your words, and how you present them, need to be considered in parallel.

All of this represents a difficult shift in workflow; most good writing happens when a person is ‘in the zone’, and distraction-free. Having to write and consider layout together is a complex process; but it’s what it’ll take to beat your competitors. We’ll need to re-train ourselves to take advantage of these new opportunities.

All of this may feel understandably uncomfortable. It’s a huge disruption to how we currently write and publish content. But competition will drive change; as other site owners take advantage of these tools, you may be left behind if you choose not to.

“This isn’t fair”

If you just want to write great content, that’s fine. You’ll still be able to reach, help and convert your audiences.

But if you want to grow your reach in a competitive market, but really don’t want to think about blocks and layout, you’ll have to over-invest heavily in other areas of SEO in order to attract, convince and convert audiences — because your website and content will feel comparatively bland to your audience, when held up against your competitors’.

This isn’t necessarily fair. If you have the best product or service in the market, but you can’t (or choose not to) invest in creating rich, ‘top of funnel’ problem-solving content, then, you’re going to struggle to compete against people who do.

In a perfect world, you’d rank first, automatically. But Google is an imperfect system, and it relies on content — and the ways in which users interact with it — as a proxy for quality. That’s unlikely to change any time soon; so for now, you must play by their rules.

What’s next?

If you’re reading this post, you have an advantage over many of your competitors. Chances are that you have a WordPress website, and that you’re familiar with the Gutenberg editor.

That gives you a head start.

Take this opportunity to think about what publishing resources might mean for your content, website or business.

Master the block editor, using advanced layout tools like groups and columns.

Explore new approaches to writing and content production, which bake the design of the piece into its ideation and production.

Surprise and delight your audiences with rich, interactive, problem-solving content, which makes them remember, prefer and recommend you.

Grow your visibility, your rankings, your traffic, and your revenue.

Get there first, because if you don’t, your competitors will.

Let us know how you get on?

The post It’s not enough to ‘write content’. You have to publish resources. appeared first on Yoast.

Duplicate content: Causes and solutions

Search engines like Google have a problem – it’s called ‘duplicate content’. Duplicate content means that similar content appears at multiple locations (URLs) on the web, and as a result search engines don’t know which URL to show in the search results. This can hurt the ranking of a webpage, and the problem only gets worse when people start linking to the different versions of the same content. This article will help you to understand the various causes of duplicate content, and to find the solution to each of them.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is content which is available on multiple URLs on the web. Because more than one URL shows the same content, search engines don’t know which URL to list higher in the search results. Therefore they might rank both URLs lower and give preference to other webpages.

In this article, we’ll mostly focus on the technical causes of duplicate content and their solutions. If you’d like to get a broader perspective on duplicate content and learn how it relates to copied or scraped content or even keyword cannibalization, we’d advise you to read this post: What is duplicate content.

Let’s illustrate this with an example

Duplicate content can be likened to being at a crossroads where road signs point in two different directions for the same destination: Which road should you take? To make matters worse, the final destination is different too, but only ever so slightly. As a reader, you don’t mind because you get the content you came for, but a search engine has to pick which page to show in the search results because, of course, it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.

Let’s say your article about ‘keyword x’ appears at http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and the same content also appears at http://www.example.com/article-category/keyword-x/. This situation is not fictitious: it happens in lots of modern Content Management Systems. Then let’s say your article has been picked up by several bloggers and some of them link to the first URL, while others link to the second. This is when the search engine’s problem shows its true nature: it’s your problem. The duplicate content is your problem because those links both promote different URLs. If they were all linking to the same URL, your chances of ranking for ‘keyword x’ would be higher.

If you don’t know whether your rankings are suffering from duplicate content issues, these duplicate content discovery tools will help you find out!

Causes of duplicate content

There are dozens of reasons for duplicate content. Most of them are technical: it’s not very often that a human decides to put the same content in two different places without making clear which is the original – it feels unnatural to most of us. There are many technical reasons though and it mostly happens because developers don’t think like a browser or even a user, let alone a search engine spider – they think like a programmer. Take that article we mentioned earlier, that appears on http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and http://www.example.com/article-category/keyword-x/. If you ask the developer, they will say it only exists once.

Misunderstanding the concept of a URL

No, that developer hasn’t gone mad, they are just speaking a different language. A CMS will probably power the website, and in that database there’s only one article, but the website’s software just allows for that same article in the database to be retrieved through several URLs. That’s because, in the eyes of the developer, the unique identifier for that article is the ID that article has in the database, not the URL. But for the search engine, the URL is the unique identifier for a piece of content. If you explain that to a developer, they will begin to get the problem. And after reading this article, you’ll even be able to provide them with a solution right away.

Session IDs

You often want to keep track of your visitors and allow them, for instance, to store items they want to buy in a shopping cart. In order to do that, you have to give them a ‘session.’ A session is a brief history of what the visitor did on your site and can contain things like the items in their shopping cart. To maintain that session as a visitor clicks from one page to another, the unique identifier for that session – called the Session ID – needs to be stored somewhere. The most common solution is to do that with cookies. However, search engines don’t usually store cookies.

At that point, some systems fall back to using Session IDs in the URL. This means that every internal link on the website gets that Session ID added to its URL, and because that Session ID is unique to that session, it creates a new URL, and therefore duplicate content.

URL parameters used for tracking and sorting

Another cause of duplicate content is using URL parameters that do not change the content of a page, for instance in tracking links. You see, to a search engine, http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and http://www.example.com/keyword-x/?source=rss are not the same URL. The latter might allow you to track what source people came from, but it might also make it harder for you to rank well – very much an unwanted side effect!

This doesn’t just go for tracking parameters, of course. It goes for every parameter you can add to a URL that doesn’t change the vital piece of content, whether that parameter is for ‘changing the sorting on a set of products’ or for ‘showing another sidebar’: all of them cause duplicate content.

Scrapers and content syndication

Most of the reasons for duplicate content are either the ‘fault’ of you or your website. Sometimes, however, other websites use your content, with or without your consent. They don’t always link to your original article, and therefore the search engine doesn’t ‘get’ it and has to deal with yet another version of the same article. The more popular your site becomes, the more scrapers you’ll get, making this problem bigger and bigger.

Order of parameters

Another common cause is that a CMS doesn’t use nice clean URLs, but rather URLs like /?id=1&cat=2, where ID refers to the article and cat refers to the category. The URL /?cat=2&id=1 will render the same results in most website systems, but they’re completely different for a search engine.

Comment pagination

 In my beloved WordPress, but also in some other systems, there is an option to paginate your comments. This leads to the content being duplicated across the article URL, and the article URL + /comment-page-1/, /comment-page-2/ etc.

Printer-friendly pages

If your content management system creates printer-friendly pages and you link to those from your article pages, Google will usually find them, unless you specifically block them. Now, ask yourself: Which version do you want Google to show? The one with your ads and peripheral content, or the one that only shows your article?

WWW vs. non-WWW

This is one of the oldest in the book, but sometimes search engines still get it wrong: WWW vs. non-WWW duplicate content, when both versions of your site are accessible. Another, less common situation but one I’ve seen as well is HTTP vs. HTTPS duplicate content, where the same content is served out over both.

Conceptual solution: a ‘canonical’ URL

As we’ve already seen, the fact that several URLs lead to the same content is a problem, but it can be solved. One person who works at a publication will normally be able to tell you quite easily what the ‘correct’ URL for a certain article should be, but sometimes when you ask three people within the same company, you’ll get three different answers…

That’s a problem that needs addressing because, in the end, there can be only one (URL). That ‘correct’ URL for a piece of content is referred to as the Canonical URL by the search engines.

canonical_graphic_1024x630

Ironic side note

Canonical is a term stemming from the Roman Catholic tradition, where a list of sacred books was created and accepted as genuine. They were known as the canonical Gospels of the New Testament. The irony is it took the Roman Catholic church about 300 years and numerous fights to come up with that canonical list, and they eventually chose four versions of the same story

Identifying duplicate contents issues

You might not know whether you have a duplicate content issue on your site or with your content. Using Google is one of the easiest ways to spot duplicate content.

There are several search operators that are very helpful in cases like these. If you’d want to find all the URLs on your site that contain your keyword X article, you’d type the following search phrase into Google:

site:example.com intitle:"Keyword X"

Google will then show you all pages on example.com that contain that keyword. The more specific you make that intitle part of the query, the easier it is to weed out duplicate content. You can use the same method to identify duplicate content across the web. Let’s say the full title of your article was ‘Keyword X – why it is awesome’, you’d search for:

intitle:"Keyword X - why it is awesome"

And Google would give you all sites that match that title. Sometimes it’s worth even searching for one or two complete sentences from your article, as some scrapers might change the title. In some cases, when you do a search like that, Google might show a notice like this on the last page of results:

This is a sign that Google is already ‘de-duping’ the results. It’s still not good, so it’s worth clicking the link and looking at all the other results to see whether you can fix some of them.

Read more: DIY: duplicate content check »

Practical solutions for duplicate content

Once you’ve decided which URL is the canonical URL for your piece of content, you have to start a process of canonicalization (yeah I know, try saying that three times out loud fast). This means we have to tell search engines about the canonical version of a page and let them find it ASAP. There are four methods of solving the problem, in order of preference:

  1. Not creating duplicate content
  2. Redirecting duplicate content to the canonical URL
  3. Adding a canonical link element to the duplicate page
  4. Adding an HTML link from the duplicate page to the canonical page

Avoiding duplicate content

Some of the above causes for duplicate content have very simple fixes to them:

  • Are there Session ID’s in your URLs?
    These can often just be disabled in your system’s settings.
  • Have you got duplicate printer friendly pages?
    These are completely unnecessary: you should just use a print style sheet.
  • Are you using comment pagination in WordPress?
    You should just disable this feature (under settings » discussion) on 99% of sites.
  • Are your parameters in a different order?
    Tell your programmer to build a script to always put parameters in the same order (this is often referred to as a URL factory).
  • Are there tracking links issues?
    In most cases, you can use hash tag based campaign tracking instead of parameter-based campaign tracking.
  • Have you got WWW vs. non-WWW issues?
    Pick one and stick with it by redirecting the one to the other. You can also set a preference in Google Webmaster Tools, but you’ll have to claim both versions of the domain name.

If your problem isn’t that easily fixed, it might still be worth putting in the effort. The goal should be to prevent duplicate content from appearing altogether, because it’s by far the best solution to the problem.

301 Redirecting duplicate content

In some cases, it’s impossible to entirely prevent the system you’re using from creating wrong URLs for content, but sometimes it is possible to redirect them. If this isn’t logical to you (which I can understand), do keep it in mind while talking to your developers. If you do get rid of some of the duplicate content issues, make sure that you redirect all the old duplicate content URLs to the proper canonical URLs.

 Sometimes you don’t want to or can’t get rid of a duplicate version of an article, even when you know that it’s the wrong URL. To solve this particular issue, the search engines have introduced the canonical link element. It’s placed in the <head> section of your site, and it looks like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/" />

In the href section of the canonical link, you place the correct canonical URL for your article. When a search engine that supports canonical finds this link element, it performs a soft 301 redirect, transferring most of the link value gathered by that page to your canonical page.

This process is a bit slower than the 301 redirect though, so if you can just do a 301 redirect that would be preferable, as mentioned by Google’s John Mueller.

Keep reading: rel=canonical • What it is and how (not) to use it »

Linking back to the original content

If you can’t do any of the above, possibly because you don’t control the <head> section of the site your content appears on, adding a link back to the original article on top of or below the article is always a good idea. You might want to do this in your RSS feed by adding a link back to the article in it. Some scrapers will filter that link out, but others might leave it in. If Google encounters several links pointing to your original article, it will figure out soon enough that that’s the actual canonical version.

Conclusion: duplicate content is fixable, and should be fixed

Duplicate content happens everywhere. I have yet to encounter a site of more than 1,000 pages that hasn’t got at least a tiny duplicate content problem. It’s something you need to constantly keep an eye on, but it is fixable, and the rewards can be plentiful. Your quality content could soar in the rankings, just by getting rid of duplicate content from your site!

Read on: Rel=canonical: The ultimate guide »

The post Duplicate content: Causes and solutions appeared first on Yoast.

How to start with SEO?

You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running. 

So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!

  1. Install Yoast SEO

    Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.

  2. Get that first link

    Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!

  3. What do you want to rank for?

    Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? And what’s their search intent, what kind of content are they looking for? Find out as much as you can about your audience.

    SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. It’s also important to analyze what you’re seeing in the search results pages when entering your keywords. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.

  4. Set realistic goals

    For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.

    If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.

  5. Internal linking

    As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking. 

    If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.

  6. Start writing

    In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.

    While you’re writing, make sure to use the words you want to be found for. Use them in headings and in the introduction and conclusion of your text. After writing your text, you should optimize your SEO title and your meta description. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you to do all these things.

  7. Get those links!

    External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.

    Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.

And then what?

The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!

Read more: WordPress SEO the definitive guide »

The post How to start with SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

Update or delete? Cleaning up old content on your site

Sometimes, content on your website becomes irrelevant or out of date, and you need to decide whether to update it or delete it. It’s part of your regular content maintenance activities. There are several ways to go about this and this article helps you decide what’s the best solution for your old content!

Update old content that is still valid

Let’s start with an example: On our blog, we have an article on meta descriptions that needs constant updating to keep it relevant. We just have to make sure it stays up to date with all the changes Google keeps making to the way it handles meta descriptions. Sometimes it seems they can be a bit longer and sometimes they seem to go back to the old length again.

Our post helps writers and editors to write meta descriptions, even though the advice changes over time. Although the article itself might be what we call cornerstone content, its content must be updated to keep up with the latest standards – constantly.

You can easily create new, valuable content from your old posts if you update it and make it current again: old wine in new bottles, as the saying goes. You could, for example, replace older parts of that content with updates, or you could merge three old blog posts about the same subject into one new post. If you do this, please remember to redirect the old post URLs to the new post, using a 301 Redirect. More on that later.

Read more: Keep your content fresh and up to date »

Delete irrelevant posts or pages

It’s likely that you have old posts or pages on your site that you don’t need anymore. Think along the lines of a blog post about a product you stopped selling a while ago and have no intention of ever selling again, an announcement of an event that took place a long time ago or old pages with little or no content – so-called thin content pages.

These are just some examples, but I’m sure you know which posts and/or pages I’m talking about. This old content adds no value anymore, now or for the foreseeable future. In that case, you need to either tell Google to forget about these old posts or pages or give the URL another purpose.

When I talk about deleting old content, I don’t mean just pressing “delete” and then forgetting about it. If you do that, the content might show up in Google for weeks after deletion. The URL might actually have some link value as well, which would be a shame to waste.

So, what should you do? Here are two options:

“301 Redirect” the old post to a related one

When a URL still holds value because, say, you have a number of quality links pointing to that page, you want to leverage that value by redirecting the URL to a related one. With a 301 Redirect you’ll tell search engines and visitors there’s a better or newer version of this content elsewhere on your site. The 301 redirect automatically sends people and Google to this page.

Say you have an old post on a specific dog breed. You need to delete it, so the logical next step would be to redirect that post to a newer post about this dog breed. If you don’t have that post, choose a post about the closest breed possible. If that post isn’t available, you could redirect it to the category page for these posts (e.g. “dog breeds”) and if that is also not an option, redirect to the homepage. That last one might be about “pets”, for example. It’s a bit of a last resort though, there probably are better options on your site.

Creating a 301 Redirect (for instance in WordPress) isn’t hard, but doing it with Yoast SEO Premium is easy as pie. If you don’t have it yet, find out about all the extras that are in Yoast SEO Premium here.

Tell search engines the content is intentionally gone

If there isn’t a relevant page on your site you can redirect to, it’s wise to tell Google to forget about your old post entirely by serving a “410 Deleted” status to Google. This status code will tell Google and visitors the content didn’t just disappear; you’ve deleted it with a reason.

When Google can’t find a post, the server will usually return a “404 Not Found” status to the search engine’s bot. You’ll also find a 404 crawl error in your Google Search Console for that page. Eventually, Google will work it out and the URL will gradually vanish from the search result pages. But this takes time.

The 410 is more powerful in the sense that it tells Google that the page is gone forever, never to return. You deleted it on purpose, period. Google will act on that faster than with a 404. Read up about the server status codes if this is all gibberish to you.

Keep reading: How to properly delete a page from your site »

Do you have old content to deal with?

Cleaning up old content should be part of your content maintenance routine. If you don’t go through your old posts regularly, you’re bound to run into issues sooner or later. You might show incorrect information to visitors or hurt your own rankings by having too many pages about the same topic, increasing chances of keyword cannibalization, which is a lot of work to fix later on. Therefore, go through your old posts, and decide what to do: update, merge or delete!

Good luck cleaning up your site.

Read on: Should you keep old content? »

The post Update or delete? Cleaning up old content on your site appeared first on Yoast.

Engaging your online audience: 8 practical tips

Before I started working at Yoast to develop our Yoast Academy training courses, I worked as a high school teacher. After starting my job at Yoast, I quickly realized that the educational principles I came across in my previous job were really powerful tools in the online world as well. In this article, I’ll explore three areas to help you engage your online audience: knowledge gaps, memory overload, and creating a connection. I’ll also give lots of practical tips to help you do better yourself.

The curse of knowledge

One problem that you’re likely to run into when maintaining a site or product is the so-called ‘curse of knowledge’. The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that suggests it’s more difficult for experts to explain things to beginners. The Wikipedia entry does a good job of rounding up some key research into the bias. Remember those times you had no idea what the teacher was trying to say and a classmate seemed way better at explaining those things? That’s most likely due to the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is everywhere. And you’re very likely to suffer from it.

The problem: the more you know, the more difficult it is to create something that is clear and intuitive to your users.

Tip #1: Do user research

Before you can solve any problems, you have to identify them first. Get users
without any previous knowledge together in a room. Let them use your product or navigate your site. Find pain points and eliminate them. If getting people into a room is difficult for you, surveys can help as well. Ask people what parts of your product they found difficult to use and use that knowledge to improve it.

Tip #2: Add scaffolding

Actively providing extra context and bridging the knowledge gap between you and your users is crucial. ‘Scaffolding‘ is everything a teacher uses to help someone do something that they can’t do on their own. An essential part of scaffolding is thinking about what another person already knows and using that to help them do something new. That’s exactly what you should do as well. Some things you may consider adding:

  • Clickable question marks that clarify difficult terms; 
  • Internal links to articles that explain a concept you use in a more difficult article; 
  • Images that clarify what you’re trying to say;
  • Tutorial videos;
  • Live chat or email support;
  • Documentation / lessons / articles that your users can use to understand;
  • Step-by-step plans / flowcharts / instructions
  • An indication of the level of an article so users can make an informed choice to read or not to read an article. 

Always try to make this scaffolding as little invasive as possible. You don’t want to annoy more advanced users.

Tip #3: Audit your materials periodically

Often, it helps to look back on something you made at a later time. When you review something you wrote three months ago, you’ve already lost some of the context and perspective you wrote it with. Which, in this case, is a huge advantage!

When you audit your materials, make sure to consider:

  • Your intended message: do the materials convey it effectively?
  • The use of jargon
  • Assumptions about previous knowledge users have available to them
  • Scaffolding 
  • Readability

Minimizing cognitive load

When humans do things, they use a cognitive system called working memory. This memory saves information in our brains for a few seconds to a few minutes. It allows us to make sense of what we’re doing. Unfortunately, working memory is limited. It’s easily overstimulated. When it is, people get frustrated or distracted. This leads to them clicking away or growing tired of your product. Managing working memory is key to keeping your audience engaged. 

Tip #4: Less is more

As creators, we like to get fancy. We want what we make to be cool and fun. Sometimes, this leads to fluff features or content. Carefully consider: does what I’m adding make the whole better? If it doesn’t, remove it. Addition by subtraction is a very powerful tool for engagement. 

Tip #5: Pay a lot of attention to readability

One of the most common problems on websites is readability. Most copy is much more difficult to read than it should be. Writing shorter sentences and using fewer difficult words can help your usability tremendously. Even if your audience is smart, easy-to-read copy is very working memory friendly. It simply costs less energy to read. This energy can then be spent on more important things. One way to improve readability is by ruthlessly editing your copy. Ideally, you should spend more time editing your text than writing it.

Read more: How to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO »

Tip #6: Break everything down into bite-size chunks

The working memory struggles with large blocks of information. The human mind needs focus, and it’s up to you to create this focus. Don’t write 30-word sentences or 20-sentence paragraphs. Don’t crowd your menu with 20 categories. Don’t stuff 20 options into one tab. It’s overwhelming. Break your materials down into bite-size chunks that are easy to oversee, so your users can focus on what really matters.

Creating a connection

I knew all the theory when I started teaching; that wasn’t the problem. But it wasn’t until I really started connecting with my students that I became a good teacher. One of the most powerful ways to engage your online audience is by creating that fuzzy feeling of comfort, familiarity and connection. And most sites and products don’t do a good enough job of this. Of course, the first requirement is a usable product or site. There are lots of extra things you can do, though, to help reinforce your relationship with your user.

Tip #7: Invest in design and branding

It’s tough to overstate the power of consistent design and branding. Our Yoast avatars are a great example. All over the WordPress community, our avatars are immediately recognized as they stand out from the crowd in e.g. lists of speakers at conferences. The same goes for the images we use in posts and presentations. Providing your users with a similarly positive experience over all the different places where they interact with you, helps you get recognized and valued.

Tip #8: Use the power of storytelling

Stories can be an incredibly powerful medium to make a connection with your audience. Most people remember one or more teachers who were always able to get them on the edge of their seat with great stories which helped them remember what the teacher was trying to explain. Stories and narrative are how people connect and communicate with each other. And storytelling isn’t necessarily about writing a large piece of fiction. You can just as easily hide little nuggets of storytelling in your blog posts or product pages. Yoast CEO Marieke has written a great series on storytelling that you should definitely check out.

Conclusion on engaging your online audience

The tips listed are a collection of insights I gained through my experience as a teacher, product owner and online writer. There are lots and lots more things you can do to make sure your online audience stays engaged. But honestly, if you get all of this right, you’re probably a fair number of steps ahead on almost everyone. Good luck! 

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to content SEO »


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How to use WordPress: Answering 12 common WordPress questions

WordPress is huge. According to the latest stats, WordPress powers almost 35% of the web — and growing quickly. With so many sites using the CMS and so many new sites bursting onto the scene, there’re a lot of new users taking their first steps in the wonderful world of WordPress. People from all walks of life and many of them are bound to ask the same questions about using WordPress. That’s one of the reasons why we launched a free WordPress for Beginners course. In addition, you can quickly get answers to common WordPress questions in this big guide.

New to WordPress? Don’t worry! Our FREE WordPress for beginners training is here to help. Find out how to set up your own site, learn the ins and outs of creating and maintaining it, and more. Soon you’ll be able to do it all by yourself!

Table of contents

1. How to start a WordPress site?

So you’ve decided to start your own blog. Hooray! Before you start blogging away, you’ll have to take some steps, like setting up your own WordPress site. But there’s more to starting your own blog! Here, we’ll give you some more pointers on how to hit the ground running.

A purpose, niche, but don’t forget to have fun!

While years ago you’d follow blogs because of the person behind them, nowadays it’s all about answering people’s questions, a purpose for your blog and link building. Or that’s what it might look like. Don’t forget that blogging should be fun, as it is fun! There’s no such thing as too many blogs, as there’s no one like you. It’s cliche, but it’s the truth. 

Before you start your blog, you need to decide whether you just want to write for fun or to help others and get high rankings. In the first case, you can start a personal lifestyle blog with everything you love. In the second case, you might need to find yourself a niche as this will increase your chance of ranking tremendously.

When you know who you’re writing for and what to write about, you can start working on your first blog posts! Want to make sure this post will be awesome? Then read this step-by-step guide on how to craft the perfect blog post.

Read more: How to start a blog »

2. How to choose a host for your WordPress site?

What to look for in a WordPress host? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of WordPress hosts. How to pick one that’s perfect for you? Check out this curated list of WordPress hosts that we’ve gathered, and consider the following aspects when making a decision.

Speed and stability

Are you going for a small travel blog? Or are you planning to cater to the clothing needs of half a country? Based on what you’re planning to do with your website, you should pick a host that has reliable uptime and keeps running during busy hours. Make sure they can provide a seamless way for you to grow. Because as you gather more daily visitors, you will need to upgrade your hosting at some point.

Accessibility and services

It is good to know if your host provides a support crew that is willing and able to help you with both your financial and technical questions. The following services might also be useful:

  • Alternative ways to access your data in case your WordPress website breaks.
  • A user‑friendly control panel that suits your needs.
  • The service to register and/or maintain domain names.

Security

Even if you don’t know much about the internet and security, you want your websites’ visitors to be safe. Go for a hosting provider that, at the very least, offers the following:

  • (Installation of) Paid or free SSL certificates.
  • Up‑to‑date server software.
  • Continuous malware/virus scans.

Optionally, check for:

  • The option for a 1-click staging environment: this makes building and maintaining a  site much easier.
  • Data retention and regulation protocols: based on your country’s laws, make sure you know where the data is stored and how it is handled.
  • Backup services: if something breaks, you will want to be able to restore it quickly.

A decent firewall (sometimes provided as an additional service, like CloudFlare).

3. How to get to the WordPress dashboard

The WordPress dashboard is the first thing you see when you log into WordPress. From there, you see an overview of various dashboard widgets with relevant information. For instance, our Yoast SEO dashboard widget gives you a quick overview of the SEO health of your site. 

But if you’ve never logged into your WordPress dashboard before, finding it can be a little tricky. When you installed WordPress, you were guided into the WordPress dashboard automagically after the installation process. However, if you haven’t saved the URL of your WordPress dashboard, logging back in is not that easy. 

Luckily, there’s a solution that works for all WordPress sites. When you add /login/ or /admin/ to the URL of your site, you will be sent to the login screen. Upon logging in, you’ll be sent to your WordPress dashboard. So what does that look like? If your domain, for example, is everydayimtravelling.com, the login URL would become everydayimtravelling.com/admin/ and this will prompt you with the login screen. For future convenience, bookmark that page as soon as you’re logged in so you’ll even have a quicker way to log in.

4. How to install and activate a WordPress theme 

A theme governs the layout of your WordPress site. That includes, among other things, the appearance of your posts and pages, and the location of the menus and sidebars. Not surprisingly, finding the right theme is quite important for your website as it makes your site stand out from the masses. But, with so many choices out there, that may be harder than it seems. So, make sure to spend some time and effort and choose the best WordPress theme for your site.

Once you have chosen a theme, installing and activating it is easy. There are two ways to install a new theme in WordPress.

A. Installing a theme from the WordPress directory:

You can install a theme from the WordPress repository. In addition, it is also possible to buy premium themes from a variety of sellers. To install and activate a theme, follow these steps or check out the free WordPress for beginners course.

  1. Open the Themes overview screen
    In the admin menu in your WordPress Backend, click on Appearance, then Themes. The Themes overview screen will open. 
  2. Click the Add New button or the Add New Theme area
    At the top of the screen, you’ll find the Add new button. Alternatively, in the themes overview area, there is an Add New Theme square. Click on either one, to open the screen with available themes.
  3. Preview the theme
    Before you install a theme, it is a good idea to see how it looks on your site. You can do this by hitting the Preview button. Note, this is not an exact match of your site, but it does give you a really good idea if the theme fits your goals.
  4. Install the theme
    Hover over the theme you want to use and click Install. The Install button will transform into an Activate button.
  5. Activate the theme
    Click the Activate button. The theme will be activated, and it will change the appearance of your website. 
  6. Go check what your site looks like on the front end!

B. Upload a theme

You can also add a theme that you’ve downloaded from outside the WordPress directory, this could be from one of the many online theme shops out there. The theme will have to be in a .zip format! To install and activate it, follow these steps or check out the free WordPress for beginners training

  1. In the Themes overview screen, click Add New
    Once you have accessed the Themes overview screen through the admin menu, you’ll see the Add New button at the top of the screen as well as the Add New Theme square in the area below. Click either one to open the screen with available themes. 
  2. Click the upload theme button
    At the top of the screen with available themes is the Upload Theme button. Click the button. You’ll see the new option to upload a .zip file.
  3. Click the Choose file button
    Once you click the button, a dialogue box will appear, that will allow you to choose files from your computer. Find and select the .zip file that you previously downloaded.
  4. Install the theme
    Click the Install Now button. Your theme will be installed and added to your themes overview.
  5. Activate the theme
    In the themes overview screen, hover over the theme, and click Activate. The theme will activate, and it will change the appearance of your website.
  6. Go check what your site looks like on the front end

Curious for more? Check out this lesson on themes of the free WordPress for beginners course.

5. How to install a WordPress plugin

Plugins can change or improve the functionality of your site in various ways. As a WordPress user, you’ll surely need to install a plugin at some point. How do you do that? Easy. You can do it in two ways. Either install a plugin from the WordPress plugin directory or upload a plugin you have downloaded from a third-party. Please note that only free and approved plugins are featured in the WordPress plugin directory.

A. Install a plugin from the WordPress directory

Let’s start by installing a plugin from the WordPress directory. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Access the WordPress plugin directory
    In the WordPress backend, go to the admin menu. Hover over the Plugins menu item, and select Add New from the fly-out menu. The WordPress plugin directory will appear.
  2. Find the plugin you want
    Use the filter tabs in the toolbar, or search for plugins by typing in a keyword, author, or tag in the search box.
  3. Check the quality of the plugin
    Each plugin is featured in a box with basic information. A good quality plugin will have good reviews, a high number of active installations, frequent updates, and it will be compatible with your version of WordPress.
  4. Install the plugin
    Click the Install Now button in the plugin box. Once the installation is complete, the Activate button will replace the Install button. In addition, the plugin will appear on the Installed Plugins screen.
  5. Activate the plugin
    Clicking Activate is crucial for the plugin to work. You can activate the plugin in the plugin box by clicking the Activate button when the installation is complete. Alternatively, you can click the Activate link in the Plugins overview screen.

B. Upload a plugin

The WordPress plugin directory has a lot of plugins, but it does not have all of them. You can also find some cool plugins on third-party sites like, for example, Yoast SEO Premium. But no worries, you can still easily add these plugins to WordPress. To upload a plugin to WordPress, follow these steps:

  1. Download the plugin from the third-party site
    Note that you will need to download the plugin in a .zip format. Otherwise, the upload may fail. If the plugin is not available for download in that format, contact the plugin provider.
  2. Access the WordPress plugin directory
    In your backend, go to the admin menu. Hover over the Plugins menu item, and select. Add New from the fly-out menu. The WordPress plugin directory will appear.
  3. Upload the plugin
    In the WordPress plugin directory, click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the screen. A new option will appear to add a file. Click the Choose file button, which will trigger a dialogue box to open. Find and select the file from your computer and click Open.
  4. Install the plugin
    Click the Install Now button, and the plugin will be installed.
  5. Activate the plugin
    Remember, you always need to activate a plugin after installing it. Go to your plugins overview, locate the plugin, and click the Activate link.

6. How to change the site title in WordPress

Setting your site title is an important step when creating your website. Your site title is the name that will show up at the top of the browser window, in bookmarks, and when people share your site on social media or via messaging apps.

To set your site title, select Appearance > Customize from your admin dashboard menu. 

This will open the Customizer, which offers a lot of options to customize your site — as you may have guessed from the name. The option we need is right at the top, under Site identity > Site title. 

Enter the name you have chosen for your website, and if possible, try to keep it short. You’ll want to have plenty of space left in the search results to also display the title of your post or page. You can learn about why titles are important here.

And, while you’re there, make sure that you change your site’s favicon, which is called a site icon in WordPress. Find out how to do this in our step-by-step guide on changing your favicon.

7. How to add a page to WordPress

Pages form the backbone of your site structure. Naturally, it is quite important to know how to add a page in WordPress. Luckily, it’s quite easy. Just follow our instructions, and you’ll be adding pages to your WordPress site in no time.

To add a page, do this or check out the free WordPress for beginners training:

  1. Access the Page editing screen
    To access the page editing screen, hover over the Pages menu item in the Admin menu and choose the Add New tab from the flyout menu.
  2. Add a title
    In the editing screen, you will see a block with the text Add title. Add the title of your page there. Click enter to create a new block.
  3. Add content
    Add the content of your page by choosing the appropriate block. If you want to add text, choose the Paragraph block. To add a subheading, choose the Heading block. Choose an appropriate new block for each new type of content you want to add. For example, add an Image block for an image, or a Video block to add a video to your page.
  4. Preview the page
    When you’re done adding content to the page in the editor, we’d advise previewing what the page will look like on your site. To do that, click the Preview button in the top right corner of the screen.
  5. Publish the page
    When you’re satisfied with the preview, all you need to do is click on the Publish button. Your page will be published.

Curious for more? Check out this lesson on creating pages in WordPress of the free WordPress for beginners course.

8. How to delete a page in WordPress

You might think deleting a page from your site is as easy as just hitting that delete button. But with deleting a page, you’ll also delete one or more URLs. This usually results in a ‘404 not found’ error… Which isn’t great, neither for visitors, nor Google. 

So, think before you delete a page. You have two valid options after deleting a page: redirecting it to another page or showing search engine spiders a 410 header, which indicates the page is deleted intentionally. Redirecting a deleted page is the best choice when you have other content on your site that is similar to the deleted content. The goal still is to provide the user with the information he or she was looking for. If there’s no other page that answers the user’s question, you need to decide if you want to improve the existing page or show a 410 header instead. You can set such a header in code, but it’s much easier to do with one of the many redirect plugins for WordPress.

Redirect a page
There are different kinds of redirects, but a 301 redirect is what you should use when you redirect the deleted page to another one. This redirect, called a permanent redirect, makes sure the link value of the old page will be assigned to the new URL. You can redirect posts or pages easily with the Yoast SEO redirect manager, as it will ask you what to do with a URL when you delete a page. Just enter the replacing URL and you’re done!

Show a 410 Content deleted header
Is there no other page on your site that will give the reader the information he or she is looking for? Then it’s better to delete or improve that page. In case of deleting, you’ll need to send a ‘410 content deleted’ header. By using this HTTP status code, you’ll let Google know that you removed the URL on purpose and that Google can remove the URL from its index faster. In the  Yoast SEO redirect manager, you can also choose the option to show a ‘410 content deleted’ page after you’ve deleted a page.

9. How to change the font size in WordPress

What if the WordPress theme you’ve chosen is perfect — except for one little thing? The font size is just a little bit off. Do you need to find yourself a completely new theme because of this? Of course not! Changing the font size in your WordPress theme is relatively easy, but it does involve a little bit of CSS coding. We’ll help you! These are the steps you need to take to change the font size in WordPress:

  1. First, you’ll have to identify what the current font size is. You can do this by opening the Inspector of your browser. When you right-click on the text you’d like to see in a different font size, you’ll be greeted with a menu that will have a direct link to your browser inspector tool. They look different from browser to browser, but they all work in a similar fashion. In Chrome, the menu item is called Inspect and in Firefox Inspect Element. Go ahead and click on that.
  2. Next up is finding the relevant CSS code that dictates the current font size. You’ll be looking for a section inside the Inspector you’ve just activated on the right-hand side of the screen called Styles. 
  3. Below that, you’ll see lines of code that match the element you’ve clicked on. You’ll see a line that has something like font-size: 14px or font-size: 1rem. 
  4. You can manually change the value of that line of code to, for instance, font-size: 16px. You’ll immediately see that change reflected in the open screen of your website. This is how you can check which value works best for you. 
  5. Once you’ve made up your mind on what you’d like to change it to, it’s time to write that down. You’ll also have to save the CSS element in which you changed the value. Most of the time this will be either a p or an h2 or h2 if you’ve selected a title.
  6. You’ll need to entire CSS code snippet for our next step, but it will look like something like this: p {font-size: 16px;}
  7. The next step is to navigate to your WordPress dashboard and find the Customize menu option inside the Appearance menu. 
  8. Click that and you’ll see a preview of your site on the right-hand side of your screen and a menu on the left-hand side. Inside this menu, you’ll find the Additional CSS menu. 
  9. Click on that menu option and you’ll see an input field. Here, you can paste the CSS snippet you saved earlier. As soon as you’ve pasted it, you’ll see the effects reflected on the right-hand side of your screen. 
  10. If it has the desired effect, go ahead and save your settings by clicking the Publish button inside the Customizer section. Afterwards, you click on the plus ( + ) sign in the top left-hand side of the Customizer to close the customizer screen. That’s it — you’ve now successfully changed the font size of your WordPress site.

Many themes have a so-called footer. The footer at the bottom of your pages is a good location to add some links to the less prominent content on your site, such as your address and contact information, terms of service and privacy policy. Not every theme has one, and the ones that do, often have different ways of activating and filling the footer. The Genesis theme, for instance, uses the Customizer settings to get this done, while other themes have a different setting for it. So, you best look around in the settings to find it. Here’s one of the most used ways of adding a footer to your theme.

  • Go to Appearance > Widgets from your admin dashboard.
  • On the left of this page are widgets that you can add to various places in your site’s theme. Those locations are listed on the right.
  • Find the widget that you want to add, and drag it to the location called “Footer”.
  • That’s it!

11. How to embed Youtube videos in WordPress

To really engage your audience, making your content visually appealing is key. One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding some images, or even a video. Embedding video hasn’t always been easy, but thanks to the block editor in WordPress 5.0, it is now! When you are editing a post or a page on your site, here’s how to do it:

  • Go to Youtube and find the video you want to add to your content.
  • Click the Share icon and copy the URL it displays.
  • Open the post or page on your site you want to add the video to.
  • Press the + icon where you want the video to appear to add a new block.
  • Paste the URL of the Youtube video, and it should automatically convert to an embedded video!
  • If you want, you can change the styling of the video to make it stand out.

12. How to do SEO on WordPress

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your site and content to reach a high position in the search results of Google or other search engines. WordPress itself is already pretty SEO-friendly, but it still pays off to do WordPress SEO. Let’s look at a few important SEO aspects.

Technical SEO

An important first step to take when optimizing your WordPress site, is to make sure everything ‘under the hood’ of your website is in good shape. Technical SEO encompasses many things, such as:

Content SEO

Besides working on your site’s technical side, you should also optimize your content. There are three pillars of content SEO:

Holistic SEO

At Yoast, we believe in holistic SEO: ranking by being the best result. That’s why, in our opinion, flawless user experience (UX) should be part of your SEO strategy. We also believe that websites should be usable for everyone, which is why accessibility matters.

There are also outside factors that affect your (WordPress) SEO, such as link building, social media, and local SEO. We call this off-page SEO. While it can take some effort, working on this aspect of SEO for your WordPress site is also part of a holistic SEO strategy. 

Yoast SEO

As you can see, there are several sides of SEO, and it’s a lot of work to keep everything on track. Luckily, the Yoast plugin will help you work on many aspects, from site structure to content optimization to technical settings. That’s why every website needs Yoast SEO!

Keep reading: WordPress SEO: the definitive guide »

The post How to use WordPress: Answering 12 common WordPress questions appeared first on Yoast.

Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it!

Some of the things Yoast SEO does are pure magic. Lots of things are just taken care of after you’ve installed the plugin. You don’t have to do anything about that. Simply installing Yoast SEO will fix a lot of important technical SEO things for you. The content side of SEO, though, is something you should always do yourself. Yoast SEO will help you, but you’ll need to make an effort. So there’s a lot of work in it for you. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the things you need to do yourself, in order to make your SEO strategy successful.

Configure Yoast SEO properly

First of all, you need to configure Yoast SEO correctly. You should be aware that the plugin can’t perform to its full potential if the settings of Yoast SEO aren’t optimal for your specific website. So, make sure that the configuration of Yoast SEO is, in fact, in line with your website. The configuration wizard helps you take care of a lot of these settings.

Keyword research – always

The second thing you need to make sure of is doing your keyword research right. You need to know that you’re focusing on the words that people actually search for. If you’re optimizing for a term nobody uses, you can rank number one, but you still won’t have any traffic. And, if you’re optimizing for a term that’s so competitive that you won’t ever be able to rank for it, then you won’t get any traffic as well.

Doing your keyword research means that you need to get inside the heads of your audience. It also means that you should know your competition and estimate your chances to rank for a certain keyword. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your content for your keywords, but figuring out what the right keywords are, is your job.

Read more: How to choose keywords that’ll attract traffic »

Write awesome content

The third thing you need to do yourself is to write awesome content. And that’s something you have to do manually. Of course, you can outsource this, but it’s something somebody has to do. Yoast SEO actually helps you to write both SEO-friendly, as well as readable texts with the content and SEO analysis. So, make sure you use this feature in order to make your text well-optimized for the search engines. But adding great content is still something you need to do yourself; it won’t happen magically.

Internal linking

Another thing you’ll need to do yourself is to take care of your internal linking structure. This is very important because a proper internal linking structure will make sure that Google understands your website. And, you want Google to understand your website. Otherwise, you will be competing with your own content for a place in the search results.

Yoast SEO (Premium) will help you to do that, with our internal linking feature. But it’s still something you need to be actually doing yourself. Yoast SEO will make suggestions for articles you could link to, but you still have to put them in your article.

Social previews and redirects

Social previews and redirects are features in Yoast SEO that’ll help you improve your SEO. Your effort is needed in order to gain an SEO advantage from these features. Part of your SEO strategy will be a strategy on social media, so Facebook and Twitter. And Yoast SEO can help you make those posts on Facebook, but you still have to hit that button and write the content. Same goes for the redirects. If a page is outdated, you want to redirect it to another page. But it won’t happen just magically; you have to create those redirects yourself.

Don’t forget your competition

Even if they’ve done all the things I talked about, some people are unable to rank for a specific term. Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with competition. Some search terms are so competitive and dominated by high-authority brands that it’s terribly hard for a starting out blog to rank between them. If you want to rank for ‘holiday home Florida’ and you’re just starting out as a blog, you’re probably not going to rank right away. You need to have a whole strategy, in which you focus on long-tail search terms first. So, part of why you’re not ranking has to do with the competition.

On top of that, SEO sometimes takes a long time. Don’t despair if you’re not ranking overnight. It can take a little while before you start ranking for specific search terms. It’s a process that requires a strategy, and it takes some time before you see the results.

Conclusion

SEO is a lot of work. Yoast SEO takes care of most of the technical SEO stuff. The content side of SEO is a different story, though. You’ll need to make an effort to set up a successful content SEO strategy. There are a lot of things you should work on, in which Yoast SEO can actually help you and take you by the hand. And don’t forget: whether or not you rank for specific terms also depends on your competition in your specific niche. 

Keep reading: What does Yoast SEO do? »

The post Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it! appeared first on Yoast.

How to become a better writer

Content is essential for SEO. As Google reads and understands content. And, reading and understanding content is easier when a text is well written. Both for humans and Google. Some people are blessed with great writing skills. Others are struggling a bit more. However, if you’re bad at writing now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get better! There are many aspects of a good blog post that you can learn to do well.

In this blog post, I’ll share 5 tips that’ll help you become a better writer. 

1. Preparation is everything

Especially if you’re not an experienced writer, you should always start with proper preparation. And, proper preparation means that you have to think a lot. Think about questions like: why am I writing this article? Who are my readers? What do I want my readers to know, understand, or do after they have read my article? What’s the topic of the article? What is the main message I want to send to your audience?

Read more: Preparing your blog post »

2. Structure, structure, structure

Always make sure your text has a good structure. That’ll make all the difference for your audience (and for Google for that matter). If paragraphs follow each other in a logical order, it will be much easier to grasp the main message. Think about the different things you want to discuss in an article. Think about what order you should address these issues. And, then write that down. Write a few words about every paragraph you’d like to write.

Structuring your text means helping your reader grasp what your text is about. Help your reading by adding subheadings and images. Make sure paragraphs aren’t too long. And, make sure that you use transition words.

Keep reading: Practical tips for setting up a clear text structure »

3. Write short sentences

Don’t write sentences that are longer than 20-25 words. If you’re not the best writer (yet!), make sure that you write short sentences. Longer sentences are just so much harder to read. People are capable of handling 20 to 25 words in their minds. If you write sentences longer than that, people need much more cognitive power to digest it. In order to truly understand, your audience will need to reread sentences or read at a much slower pace. Above that, writers tend to make more grammar mistakes as sentences become longer. For every writer that is starting, my advice would be: make those sentences short and sweet.

Short sentences are just one aspect of readability. There are some other things you can do in order to make a text easy to read. Try to limit your use of passive voice, write short paragraphs, and make sure to use transition words.

Read on: 5 tips to write readable blog posts »

4. Add examples and little stories

Adding examples, fun facts, and little stories to your article will make it much more appealing for your reader. Using stories in an article may sound daunting for many writers because it might seem like next-level writing. But adding examples is an excellent way to make an article nicer to read. If you’re writing about a product, make sure to add some user stories or give examples on how people use the product. Examples help people to understand what you mean and make your text more fun to read.

Keep on reading: What is storytelling and why should you use it? »

5. Round things up!

Try to get back to the main message of your text in your conclusion. That’s a way of rounding your text up. It’ll make it more probable that the message of your text will resonate with your audience.  If you use an example in your introduction, try to use that same example (slightly different is the best) in your conclusion. 

Read more: Obtain an attractive writing style! »

Conclusion

Everybody can learn how to write better. Everyone can improve their writing skills. You just need a little practice. Start with making sure to write readable texts. The Yoast SEO readability analysis will help you to achieve that. We’ll give feedback and make sure your sentences aren’t too long, that you’re using transition words and you’re not using too much passive voice. The feedback will improve your writing for sure! Combine our plugin with some effort on preparation and structuring your text and you’ll be drafting great content in no time. Good luck!

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

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